Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 10 February 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Dalits to organise panchayat over lack of temple access (2)

Meerut: Dalits living in Meerut villages on Friday decided to organise a panchayat to discuss the lack of access to a Balmiki temple situated on Meerut Baghpat road. This comes a day after about sixty Dalits of Jamalpur village in Meerut threatened to convert to Islam after they were denied access to the temple allegedly by its upper caste priest. The aggrieved Dalits, who were denied permission to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti on October 8, gave the deadline of January 26 for getting access to the temple failing which they will convert to Islam. Meanwhile, the local BJP leaders continued to persuade them on Friday to let go of their wish to convert to Islam. Premnath Dhingar, a local Dalit leader told The Hindu that more than 2 lakhs Dalits who live in Meerut countryside will attend the panchayat. “We will meet tomorrow [Saturday] to fix the date of the panchayat. We will chalk out our future strategy about how to get access to the temple which has been hijacked by upper caste people.” The VHP approached the Dalit families, asking them not to convert to Islam and assuring them access to the temple but activists like Mr. Dhingar remained unimpressed. (The Hindu 10/1/15)

2. Dalit man burnt alive in ‘honour killing’ (2)

Bhopal: A 23-year-old Dalit man and his two friends were allegedly burnt alive in a case of ‘honour killing’ at the border of Balaghat and Seoni districts in Bhopal, police said on Sunday. Chandraboj (41), Deendayal (30), Subham (18) and Vinod (25) were arrested for killing Dipak and his two accomplices on Thursday for having relationship with a minor girl of their family, Balaghat’s Tirodi police station in-charge inspector Harish Yadav told PTI. “The killings were carried out for honour,” he said. Chandraboj, Deendayal and Subham were arrested on Saturday while the fourth accused was nabbed on Sunday, Yadav said. The accused allegedly tricked the victim by sending him an SMS from the girl’s phone asking him to meet her at Dhobi Tola area three days ago, police said. Dipak along with his friends Rajesh (26) and Nihal (18) rushed to meet the girl and were thrashed by the accused, Yadav said, adding that the trio was locked in a jeep and the vehicle was set on fire by the accused. Chandraboj, uncle of the girl was furious after he read some intimate messages sent by Dipak to his niece and thus hatched a plan to kill the youth with the help of other family members, police said. Further probe in the matter is on, they added. (DNA 11/1/15)

3. Bihar court acquits 24 accused in 1999 Dalit massacre (2)

Patna: Citing lack of evidence, a Bihar court Tuesday acquitted 24 people of the 1999 massacre of 22 Dalits, a government lawyer said. Additional District and Sessions Judge Raghvendra Kumar Singh of Jehanabad district civil court pronounced the verdict. Outlawed Ranvir Sena men had allegedly killed 22 Dalits Jan 25, 1999, in Shankar Bigha village in Jehanabad. The Sena was a private army of landed upper caste Bhumihars. The victims were landless agricultural workers and were all Dalits. Police had filed an FIR against 29 accused in the case. Shankar Bigha is located near Lakshmanpur-Bathe where the Ranbir Sena killed 61 agricultural workers belonging to backward communities in December 1997. (Business Standard 13/1/15)

4. Dalit author accused of using abusive language, attacked (2)

TRICHY: A dalit writer and author of ‘Oorar Varaintha Oviyam’ (Painting by Villagers) Durai Guna was allegedly attacked by members of his own community during Pongal celebrations on Thursday in his native village in Pudukottai district. This is the second attack on the author after his book was published last year. In ‘Oorar Varaintha Oviyam’, Durai Guna cites instances of atrocities against dalits in his native village of Kulanthiranpattu in Pudukottai district. Guna lodged a complaint at the Karambankudi police station against five dalits. Guna complained that since the launch of his book in July 2014, he has been facing several threats. “The non-dalits in the village have been instigating dalits to attack me,” Guna told TOI. After several months, Guna had returned to his village to celebrate Pongal when he was attacked. Indicating that it appeared to be a family feud, Pudukottai superintendent of police E S Uma said, “We received two complaints, one from Durai Guna and another from Manickam, one of the five men against whom the author complained. An FIR has been registered against both for using foul and abusive language”.Following an earlier attack soon after the release of his book, the author had moved the Madras high court and sought police protection. Police said when the author arrived in the village on Thursday he was accosted by five villagers, who verbally abused him. But, a couple of policemen, who were on duty as part of his security, prevented any further attack.Durai Guna alleged that the non-dalits in the village had been instigating the dalits against him. Fearing further reprisal, Durai Guna had moved to Chennai after the first incident in August. His father Duraisamy, 65, registered a complaint with the police, alleging discrimination and threat from the village panchayat president. (Times of India 18/1/15)

5. SC, ST students protest, allege discrimination by PU special cell (2)

CHANDIGARH: Members of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) on Wednesday staged a protest outside the Panjab University (PU) vice chancellor office and alleged discriminatory attitude on part of PU’s Special Cell for SC/ST – especially against students coming from Haryana. ASA president Gurdeep Singh said that the SC/ST cell of PU was not following guidelines of the University Grants Commission. “We met the registrar, Col Guljit Singh Chadha, who assured us to redress the problems of SC/ST students within two days,” Singh added. ASA also demanded the transfer of SC/ST cell’s superintendent Chandarkanta. ASA, in its letter to the vice chancellor – a copy of which was sent to the chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes – said that it had been receiving complaints from SC/ST students of harassment by various departments and SC/ST cell, PU. “We have already written to your office on several occasions about the discriminatory action of PU Special Cell for SC/ST but no action has been taken against officials concerned,” it read. ASA claimed that students of Haryana had been submitting post-matric scholarship form to the state’s welfare department since the implementation of scheme, with no help from the PU cell. It said, “This is a big problem because sometimes freshers could not find the welfare office. As per the UGC guidelines, it is the duty of the special cell for SC/ST to advertise information about any scheme meant for SC/ST students and SC/ST cell should collect the scholarship/stipend form from students through their departments and send it to the department concerned.” “We approached the SC/ST cell of PU, but they denied to accept the Post-Matric Scholarship and replied that they have a duty to deal with the students of Punjab and Chandigarh only… due to the discriminatory attitude of the Chandrkanta (suprintendent) of SC/ST Cell SC/ST students are facing problems,” the letter read. (Times of India 22/1/15)

6. NGO wants relief for Dalits attacked by group (2)

PUDUKOTTAI: Evidence, a Madurai-based non-government organisation, has urged the State government to pay compensation to three Dalits allegedly attacked by a group of persons belonging to upper caste at Manganur village near Gandarvakottai near here recently. The three Dalits – Marimuthu (70), Rajasekar (29) and his brother Prabakaran (27) – were attacked by a group of persons belonging to upper caste community near the panchayat union middle school in the village on Saturday. Previous enmity between the two communities was said to be the reason behind the attack, according to police sources. Of the injured, Marimuthu has been admitted to Thanjavur Medical College and Hospital. A fact-finding committee from Evidence, after a visit to the village, said that refusal of the Dalits to beat the ‘thappu’, a percussion instrument, during a funeral procession is said to have triggered the issue. Irked over their decision, the upper caste Hindus took objection to the brothers, Rajasekar and Prabakaran, visiting a temple. Based on a complaint filed by Prabakaran, the police registered a case under Sec. 147 (rioting), Sec. 341 (wrongful restraint), Sec. 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and Sec. 506 (1) (Criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sec.3 (1) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Three persons, R.Marimuthu (23), S.Ganesan (24) and S.Sivamani (23), have been arrested and remanded to custody. The police have also registered a case against a group of Dalits, based on a complaint from Thamaraiselvan, alleging that they had damaged a tea stall in the village. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

7. Dalit man hacked to death in Odisha (2)

Kendrapara: A 40-year-old Dalit man was hacked to death at a village in Aul area of Odisha’s Kendrapara district, the police said Monday. The deceased, identified as Kailash Mallik, was hacked allegedly by fellow villagers in a sudden fit of rage in Khandola village, about 30 km from here, the police said. The profusely bleeding victim succumbed to injuries before he could be hospitalised, police said. About six persons allegedly involved in yesterday’s incident have been identified and search is on to arrest them, police said. (Zee news 26/1/15)

8. Dalits scholarship: State in a fix over Centre’s directive (2)

CHENNAI: The State government finds itself in a tight corner over the latest directive of the Central government to implement the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme with regard to scholarship schemes for Dalit students.As per the Centre’s decision, students covered under the scholarship schemes will, as a matter of rule, receive the amount directly through their bank accounts. Recently, Secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Sudhir Bhargava sent a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K. Gnanadesikan, urging him to issue instructions regarding the DBT implementation for all the scholarship schemes of the Ministry in an “effective and efficient way.” Even though the Centre’s move also covers scholarship schemes meant for the Backward Classes/Most Backward Classes, its applicability to Dalit and Scheduled Tribes students is posing a major challenge to the State government. After the revamp of the post-matric scholarship scheme in 2012, the number of applicants and the amount sanctioned have risen sharply. During 2009-2010, about 5.1 lakh students were benefited and the amount of scholarship released was around Rs.170 crore. In 2012, the scheme’s norms were tuned to accommodate students of professional courses liberally. In 2013-2014, the figure of beneficiaries went up about 6.81 lakh students, registering a 25 per cent rise. The amount of scholarship released was around Rs. 898 crore, about 430 per cent increase. In fact, the State has got cumulative arrears of about Rs. 1,000 crore from the Centre for the scholarship scheme, says a senior official. The issue does not end with figures. Given the nature of the scheme, there is an element of the State’s share in expenditure. The State government has to absorb about Rs. 353.5 crore every year. The Central funding comes into picture when the overall expenditure exceeds this amount. The official says it is not practical to segregate the list of beneficiaries for the purpose of cost-sharing. Even if it is done, the release of the scholarship may vary from one group of students to another, causing confusion and anxiety among the student community. When asked for reaction, a senior official in the Union Ministry says the Centre was conscious of the concerns of the States. A software was being developed by the Department of Information Technology to ensure smooth payment of scholarship to all students, irrespective of the source of funding. The official adds that till now, 22 States have furnished information on beneficiaries and modalities of disbursal of scholarship and Tamil Nadu is not one of them. The Centre’s decision evokes varied response from Dalit activists. K. Bharathi, national secretary of the Revolutionary Youth Association, says: “Even now, not all the eligible Dalit students get the assistance and the State government’s orders are not being implemented in toto. It is immaterial as to which government – Central or State – disburses assistance.  There should be no hassle for students in getting the assistance.” M. Bharadan, State organiser of the Ambedkar Kalvi Nutrandu Iyakkam, says his organisation will oppose the Centre’s move towards DBT in the post-matric scholarship scheme. “Nearly one lakh Dalit students pursuing engineering are benefited now, whereas only about 30,000 students were covered earlier. So, the present system should remain and the role of the State governments should not be reduced,” he emphasises. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

9. Atrocities against Dalits rising in UP: Punia (2)

Kanpur: National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) today said that that cases of atrocities against Dalits are on the rise in Uttar Pradesh during the tenure of the present state government as compared to the last regime. Addressing reporters here, NCSC Chairman P L Punia said, at present several cases of Dalits are pending for a long time and their speedy disposal does not seem to be a priority of the state government. Punia today held a meeting to take stock of the atrocities cases in Kanpur division which was attended by senior administrative and police officials of Kanpur Nagar, Kanpur Dehat, Auraiya, Etah, Farrukhabad and Kannauj districts. “During the tenure of the present government there is no dearth in cases of atrocities against Dalits, but there is an rise in such cases,” he said, adding, this is because preventing Dalit atrocities is not the priority of the government. When asked whether atrocities against Dalits have increased in UP during the tenure of present government as compared to the tenure of last BSP government, he said, “Yes the crimes against Dalits have increased and several such cases are pending.” “One reason for this can be the fact that cases of Dalit atrocities are now registered in police stations. The chief of last BSP government was a dalit just by name but issues concerning Dalit were not priority for the last government,” he claimed. “Incidences of rapes, atrocities against Dalit used to take place regularly when the BSP government was in power, but the government did not pay attention towards such incidences,” he alleged. According to Punia, he is visiting all 18 divisions in the state after which he will meet UP CM Akhilesh Yadav to appraise him about the issue. Punia said, prior to this he has reviewed the situation in Punjab, Kerala and Changigarh. During the review, he said, the matters which are pending for last 2 years are being cleared. He has instructed all District Magistrates and SSPs to appoint an officer of SDM rank for speedy disposal of cases of Dalit atrocities and asked them to deal with such cases more seriously and with priority. According to him, all SSP’s have been asked to instruct the SHOs to immediately register FIR in such cases and asked them to take action against the errant officers. Punia said that 38 out of 66 cases were disposed from Kanpur city, 15 out of 20 cases were disposed from Kanpur Dehat, 13 out of 20 cases were disposed from Auraiya, 2 out of 4 cases were resolved from Farrukhabad and 6 out of 8 cases were settled from Kannauj. (Business Standard 30/1/15)

TRIBALS

10. Police to recruit tribals to end Maoist menace (6)

KOZHIKODE: In a bid to fight the Maoist menace, tribespeople will be recruited directly to the police force, home minister Ramesh Chennithala said here on Friday. Talking to reporters after a meeting with senior police officers in north Kerala, the minister said the decision to recruit adivasis directly – for the first time – was taken after considering the suggestions of tribal organizations. “As many as 200 tribals will be recruited as constables in the first phase,” Chennithala said. The minister said the police would be entrusted with overseeing the implementation of development projects in tribal areas. District police chiefs will hold consultations withdistrict collectors to address issues affecting such areas The government has resolved to take stringent action against Maoists. “Those helping Maoists directly or indirectly will be closely monitored. Strong action will be initiated against them if there is credible evidence,” Chennithala said. Urging the media not to glorify Maoists, he said a meeting of news editors would be held soon. He added that the state would provide protection to cops involved in anti-Maoist operations. Home secretary Nalini Netto, DGP K S Balasubramaniam, ADGP (intelligence) A Hemachandran, ADGP (north zone) N Shanker Reddy, IG Suresh Raj Purohit, DIG (Kannur), Dinendra Kashyap and others attended the meeting. (Times of India 10/1/15)

11. Tribal people press for rights on ‘podu lands’ (6)

KHAMMAM: Hundreds of Adivasis from the tribal pockets in Kothagudem division took out a massive demonstration at Komararam village in Yellendu mandal on Saturday to press for grant of rights over ‘podu lands’ being tilled by them for many years. The demonstration was organised under the aegis of the CPI (ML-New Democracy) district committee and its frontal organisation All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS). Adivasis comprising a significant number of women from different parts of Agency areas in Yellendu and its neighbouring mandals participated in the protest demonstration at Komararam. Addressing the demonstrators, the CPI (ML-ND) district secretary P. Ranga Rao alleged that cases were being foisted against Adivasis engaged in ‘podu cultivation’ in the lands under their possession for decades. He charged the successive governments with handing over thousands of acres of land to the multinational companies and subjecting hapless Adivasis to coercive measures for cultivating ‘podu lands’, their traditional source of livelihood. He demanded that the government should effectively implement the Forest Rights Act and safeguard the rights of Adivasis over ‘podu lands’ under their possession for a long. The party’s State leader V. Venkataramaiah, former MLA Gummadi Narsaiah and others spoke. (The Hindu 11/1/15)

12. Tribal chiefs in Meghalaya to approach National Commission (6)

Shillong: Tribal chiefs in Meghalaya today sought the opinion of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes on the recent judgement by the High Court here prohibiting tribal village headmen to issue NOC or interfere with the administration. “We sincerely request the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to kindly provide its opinion as to the observations of Justice S R Sen, High Court of Meghalaya,” John F Kharshiing, chairman Grand Council of Chiefs of Meghalaya, said in a letter to NCST chairman Rameshwar Oraon. He argued that the opinion was sought since the matter was under scrutiny by the various Ministries and the commission relating to the incorporation and implementation of Instrument ofAccession and Annexed Agreement 17 August 1948 into the Constitution of India. Justice S R Sen observed in his December 10 judgement that a village/locality headman did not derive any right from law, and rule or from the Constitution of India to issue NOC for the purpose of birth/death or for registration of any document as well as for building permission and obtaining loan. (Zee News 16/1/15)

13. Adivasi youth loses leg to December crossfire (6)

Guwahati: Bikash Tigga, a 22-year-old Adivasi who was shot in both legs by police on December 24, lost his severely-infected right leg on Monday after a team of doctors at a Delhi hospital conducted an above-the-knee amputation on him. Tigga, a resident of Monmohini tea estate in Sonitpur district, used to work as a wage labourer. He was shot when police opened fire in Dhekiajuli on December 24 to disperse Adivasis who had gathered to protest against the December 23 massacre by NDFB-S. Tigga was brought to Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) in a serious condition and was immediately shifted to the ICU, his home for the following two weeks. He was moved to a private hospital in Delhi on January 14. “We had no choice, but to amputate his leg. The blood vessels on his right leg were badly infected. It could have turned fatal for the young man,” said Sushil Kumar Jain, senior surgeon at the Delhi hospital. The decision to severe his leg was taken after careful consideration and was accepted by Tigga’s family after much convincing by doctors. “The doctors at GMCH did their best. They took enough care of the young man and their efforts should be appreciated. A senior expert from GMCH contacted me to further Tigga’s treatment in Delhi and I agreed. Mindless violence has robbed an innocent man of his leg,” added Jain. After the procedure, Tigga will be fitted with an artificial limb. He has been shifted to a recovery room after the surgery and will be kept under observation for a while. His other leg is healing properly. “Tigga was not a part of the protest. He was out on work. We are worried about his condition. We pleaded with the doctors to do their best to save his leg, but his luck ran out,” said a member of Adivasi Mukti Sangram Samiti. The December 23 massacre of Adivasis by Bodo rebels and the consequent retaliatory attacks left nearly 80 people dead and thousands homeless. (Times of India 20/1/15)

14. Implementing Forest Rights Act vital: Medha (6)

Kozhikode: Proper implementation of the Recognition of Forest Rights Act and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act is vital to preventing the corporatisation of land resources, environmental activist Medha Patkar has said. Speaking to The Hindu here on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting to form a vigilance committee to ensure that the State government stuck to its promises concerning the Adivasis in the State, she said saving Adivasi land meant saving the Western Ghats. She said the Adivasi movements in Kerala had made a dent in the system that was against them. Ms. Patkar, who played a major role in the success of the Nilpu Samaram in Thiruvananthapuram recently, appreciated the State government as well as the Forest and Social Justice Departments for their support to the Adivasis’ cause. She insisted that the government keep its promise and make sure that the Adivasis actually got the 9,600 acres granted to them. On their part, the Adivasis should take up the regeneration of forestland. There was no point in leaving it to the government, she added. Lashing out at the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, she said, “They are giving nod for anything in the name of development. They are making it easy for business and not common people. Acts are being changed for it. The economy is being opened up for corporates. Our natural resources are being looted,” she alleged. The activist also demanded that the Madhav Gadgil report for the protection of Western Ghats be implemented, as it was very scientific and well-researched. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

15.  ‘Militant was involved in killing of Adivasis’ (6)

BENGALURU: In a joint operation with the Assam police, the West Division police on Friday nabbed a 24-year-old militant belonging to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) from a lodge in Majestic. According to the police, Birkhang Basumatry alias Burlong Buttur, from Chirang in Assam, is a self-styled area commander in Kokhrajar district of Assam. He was allegedly involved in the killing of eight Adivasis at Lungsung on December 23 and six Hindi-speaking persons at Serfanguri in Kokrajhar district of Assam on January 16 last year, and has been on the run since then. Based on a tip-off received from their Assam counterparts, a team tracked him down and arrested him from a lodge in Majestic area. He had checked in just a few hours before he was arrested. “After being tipped off that he was staying in a lodge in the city, we started scrutinising every lodge in Majestic and surrounding areas. We picked up a suspect from one of the lodges. Photographs mailed by the Assam police helped us confirm his identity,” a senior police officer said. (The Hindu 25/1/15)

16. Kani tribal settlements crying for basic amenities (6)

VATTAPARAI (KANYAKUMARI): Over 5,000 Kani tribals in 47 settlements in Kanykumari district are crying for basic amenities, according to S.R. Sekar, district president, Tamil Nadu Tribals’ Association (TNTA). Mr Sekar, also president of Kadayal Town Panchayat under whose control 17 Kani settlements with over 200 families fall, said here on Sunday that the tribal people were living without basic amenities such as protected drinking water, roads, health care facilities and street lights. Vellerukkumalai and Paruthimalai tribal settlements were part of Kadayal Town Panchayat. In spite of this, a majority of the funds from the Western Ghats Development Schemes were diverted to other urban and rural local bodies, said Mr Sekar. The tribal people were forced to drink water from pits dug up on the banks of Chitrar I dam water spread area. A survey was carried out by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board a few years ago to provide protected drinking water to them, but nothing had happened so far, he lamented. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

17. VHP ‘reconverts’ 150 tribals in Bengal (6)

Kolkata: In its largest ever “reconversion” programme and the first public one in West Bengal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a “cleansing” ritual for 150 tribals in Birbhum district on Wednesday. While the event took place in the presence of senior VHP leaders, including Praveen Togadia, Sangh leaders preferred to downplay the event. A livid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has asked the district administration for a detailed report on the matter. With the BJP making inroads into Bengal’s socio-political scenario, the VHP managed a coup of sorts by “reconverting” about 150 people of Khoramdanga village, where most residents are Christians. The event was followed by a rally addressed by Togadia and other VHP leaders. Like in other states, the VHP has called the programme “Ghar Wapsi”, where it claims, those Hindus who have been “forcibly” converted to another religion are being taken back home. “The CM is angry with the district administration. We should have had the information beforehand so that necessary steps could have been taken,” an official said, not willing to elaborate what “necessary steps” means. The Trinamool also reacted sharply against the action. “Bengal has a history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Derek O’Brien tweeted after the news became public. While there have been murmurs of several such programmes having taken place in different parts of Bengal with no official confirmation from VHP, the one at Khoramdanga came to light since the district administration was keeping an eye on the situation due to Togadia’s presence. While VHP leaders refused to come on record after the news spread and led to an uproar by Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, sources confirmed that the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme took place on Wednesday evening. (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

WOMEN

18. Gang-Raped, Burnt With Cigarettes, Her Hope for Justice Now Fast-Tracked (8)

Lucknow:  At 13, she was kidnapped, gang-raped and tortured with lit cigarettes. Nine years on, she is still wading through court hearings, seeking punishment for the man who, along with five others, allegedly sexually assaulted her inside a moving car in Lucknow. A special fast-track court in the city will today take up what came to be known as the Aashiana rape case after the neighbourhood where the incident took place. When her case was transferred to the fast-track court recently, following tougher laws spurred by the horrific gang-rape and murder of a student in Delhi in 2012, the young woman dared to hope again. The rape survivor, now 22, tells NDTV how for years, her life has revolved around court dates and a protracted legal battle that has meant only trauma – physical, emotional and social. “Only when we have a court judgement can I believe in this court, that something good has happened. We have been suffering for so long,” she said. The main accused, Gaurav Shukla, the nephew of a leader of the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party, roams free. He insists he was a minor when the crime was committed, even though the Juvenile Justice Board rejected it in January last year. Three of the six accused were convicted; two others died. “Since January 2013, there have been 36 court dates and arguments have only happened for 30 minutes. They are using delaying tactics,” said Jalaj Gupta, the woman’s lawyer. The woman’s father wants closure. “We want a quick decision so we will know whether there is justice in the country or not.” The woman, who is taking her Class 12 examination, isn’t willing to give up. “The day I get justice, I will have a new life,” she said. (NDTV 13/1/15)

19. Abuse of schoolgirl sparks protests (8)

TIRUPUR: Relatives of a four-year-old girl, studying in a private school here, and the public staged protests and blocked traffic for about six hours near the school premises and on Uthukuli Road. They alleged that the girl, studying at Vidhya Vikas Matriculation School, was sexually abused by the cleaner of the school bus. Tension prevailed at the school on Tuesday as mother of the student and their relatives demanded arrest of the bus cleaner who allegedly abused the victim inside the bus just before the departure of the vehicle to drop the students back home on Monday evening. Superintendent of Police Amit Kumar Singh told The Hindu that the accused, Sankar (60), the bus cleaner, was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on Tuesday. “We have also now taken up cases against the principal and the administrative officer of the school under Section 21 (2) of the POCSO Act for not reporting the matter to the police,” he added. The girl’s mother said that she was witness to the incident and immediately reported the matter to the school authorities. However, the school authorities did not take the matter to the notice of the police even though it was a case of sexual abuse of a minor girl and did not take action against the cleaner, she alleged. School authorities said that as soon as the matter came to their notice on Monday evening, the cleaner was summoned immediately but he ran away from the scene. (The Hinu 14/1/15)

20. Killing, Selling Female Babies Rampant in Chincholi: Report (8)

KALABURAGI: The practice of killing female babies or selling them continues in remote tandas in Chincholi taluk, according to a report. The Kalaburagi District Human Development Report-2014 was prepared by Chaya Degaonkar, the chairperson of the Social Science Department of Gulbarga University. Chaya, an expert member in Hyderabad Karnataka Region Development Board, told Express that the study was conducted on the status of tandas from June to August, 2014, with her research students who stayed in a few tandas. None of the government or private agencies has kept records on the sale or killing of female babies in the tandas of Konchavaram gram panchayat. But one-to-one interaction with residents of tandas by research students revealed the practice of killing or selling female babies. Chaya said her team conducted studies in Chapla Naik Tanda, Jawaharnagar Tanda, Bhikkunaik Tanda, Jilvarsha Tanda, Ontichinta Thanda, Oonliguddin Tanda and Chindanur Tanda. Chaya said a few women admitted that they sold their babies but kept government agencies in the dark due to fear of prosecution. Others said poverty had forced them to starve their babies to death with the help of aayahs. According to the report, the women considered female children a burden since the traditional belief was that only males could work and that they had to pay dowries for girls at the time of their marriage.  Hence, women keep bearing children till they give birth to at least one male child. The report quotes a woman from Chindanur Thanda: “When my fifth daughter was born, my husband was away at work in Mumbai. When I have no money, what can I do with another daughter? Who will pay the dowry? Since the midwife said she would arrange to take care of the baby, I gave her the baby in exchange for Rs 500.” Midwives instigate poor women to sell babies, says Chaya. Due to fear of police, this is carried out secretly, she said. Most of the tandas where the study was conducted were deprived of government schemes. Only girls who benefited from the Bhagyalakshmi scheme were healthy, she said. There is need to generate adequate employment for these families. Displaced families need to be rehabilitated with proper facilities. There is need to educate children, report said. (New Indian Express 15/1/15)

21. 30,000 health workers to save girl child in Haryana (8)

Chandigarh: Over 30,000 health workers in Haryana Friday took a pledge to save the girl child. The pledge was taken across the state at the same time, an official said here. A health department spokesman said the pledge was taken to change the mindset of people to protect girls by stopping female foeticide. Health workers from all levels participated in the pledge-taking ceremony. Haryana has the worst sex ratio among all the states in the country. Haryana’s sex ratio stands at just 879 females per 1,000 males. The move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’ programme from Haryana in Panipat on Jan 22. Haryana has been chosen for the launch of the campaign to save daughters due to its poor record. Modi has, in the past, pointed out that of the 15 worst districts in the country in terms of sex ratio, nine were in Haryana. (New Kerala 16/1/15)

22. Women’s safety a major election issue in Delhi (8)

New Delhi: Women’s safety tops the chart among the major issues confronting Delhi as it readies to vote for a new government Feb 7. Most of the more than a dozen residents IANS spoke to said the safety and security of women in the capital would have to be addressed first by whoever wins the election. Rising food prices, chaotic traffic and the need for uninterrupted water supply and electricity are the other problems people say they are bothered about. Prashant Rao, an art teacher with a prominent school, summed up the majority mood: “Incidents of rape, loot and murders have become common. And women are soft targets in Delhi.” He said with more and more women going to  ”Women should be taken care of. They need to go out for studies, work and other things. But with rapes reported every other day, it scares me.” S.S. Ranga, an officer with All India Radio, and Mukesh Sharma, a Delhi government school teacher, also stressed the need to ensure women’s security in the city of over 17 million. “Rape cases don’t seem to be coming down,” he said, adding infrastructure, especially cheap housing for the common man, and public transport were other important issues. Shalini, a student from Bihar residing in Delhi, says she is vigilant when she steps out because of the security situation in the city, more so at night. There are other issues, including sanitation, which voters say would require the government’s attention. “People defecate in public and authorities should do more to address this problem,” said Deeti Gupta, who is preparing to go abroad for studies. “Otherwise the problem would go out of hand.” Corruption was another issue everyone spoke about, but most felt that women’s safety was the biggest concern. Both the BJP and the AAP admit that women’s safety is indeed a major concern among voters. “Yes, that is true,” said Harish Khurana, a BJP spokesman in Delhi. AAP’s Atishi Marlena told IANS: “Women’s security and unemployment are the most important issues among the people.” So who is best suited to solve Delhi’s problems? Opinion was divided, with those polled seemingly divided between the BJP and the AAP. No one had anything to say about the Congress. Gupta felt the AAP would be best suited to rule Delhi. “Only AAP can do it as (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi cannot take up every local issue.” School teacher A. Sharma echoed the sentiment. “AAP is close to me, it’s close to everybody… They are like us. They successfully controlled price rise and corruption last time. They will do it again.” Ranga, however, feels that the BJP is the better bet for Delhi, more so with Modi in command nationally. “The BJP will form the next government in Delhi. I expect them to do well by addressing concerns of young women.” Autorickshaw driver Ram Kishan, 57, too is for the BJP, saying only that party understands the concerns of the poor. Vegetable vendor Shankar has a unique desire. He wants the new government to ensure the education of poor children. “Any new government must encourage children to study instead of joining their parents at work.” (Business Standard 19/1/15)

23. 2000 Girls Get Killed Inside Wombs Daily: Maneka (8)

PANIPAT: Expressing concern over the adverse sex ratio in the country, Union minister Maneka Gandhi today called for a need to fight the scourge of female foeticide which claims “2000 lives of girls daily Speaking on the occasion of launch of “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign, a nationwide initiative that seeks to improve the sex ratio at birth by ten points every year, the Minister for Women and Child Development said in some states the sex ratio stood at 840 girls for 1000 boys.  She also said that among the 12 districts from Haryana chosen for the campaign, the sex ratio varied between 775 to 837.      “The situation is so alarming that in 70 villages, not even a single girl can be found for the past many years,” she said, adding while in some villages the sex ratio was as low as 500.   She said “female foeticide claims 2000 lives of girls daily on an average across the country.”     Expressing her thanks and gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched the nationwide campaign in the presence of many of his cabinet colleagues including Smriti Irani, J P Nadda, besides Chief Minister M L Khattar and Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, she said it is because of PM’s initiative and thinking that the issue (adverse sex ratio) has come to centerstage.     Panipat was chosen as it is also among the 100 districts across the country with adverse sex ratio She said that the Health and HRD Ministries of the Union Government will also put their collaborative effort to make the nationwide campaign a success.     “This programme can only be successful with everyone’s participation,” she said.  She said that women are very much standing shoulder-to-shoulder with men in different fields and added that late astronaut Kalpana Chawla had not only made Haryana, but entire world proud. She said this initiative of the Centre was a fourth major one after schemes like Jandhan and Make in India. Gandhi said that Anganwadi centres, ASHA workers, Gram Panchayats, besides others should actively be part of BBBP campaign for its success.  With crowds turning restive to listen to Modi’s speech as they were braving rainy and cold weather, Gandhi sensing the mood of the public quickly wrapped up her speech.  Towards the end, she also said birth of a girl child should be celebrated in the same way as it is in some parts of Rajasthan, where ‘ladoos’ are distributed.   (New Indian Express 22/1/15)

24. ‘Beti bachao beti padhao’ tableau will lead parade (8)

New Delhi: The women and child development ministry’s tableau focusing on the girl child in India will lead the tableaux parade on Republic Day. Senior ministry officials said this would be the first time that the WCD ministry’s tableau would be part of the parade. The tableau will be themed around “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”, a key scheme of the ministry aimed at addressing female foeticide. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the scheme on Thursday from Panipat, Haryana. “The direction came from the Prime Minister’s Office. With the government’s thrust on improving the lot of girl child and showcasing women power in the country, the ministry was told that its tableau should revolve around these themes,” said an official who did not want to be quoted. Sources said that showcasing women power, especially safety and education of girl child would be the leading theme of this year’s Republic Day parade. Going with the theme of women power, for the first time the Army, Navy and IAF will also be fielding an all women marching contingent. In all, a total of 25 tableaux would participate in the parade, with 16 of them belonging to states and the union territories and nine from central ministries. (Hindustan Times 25/1/15)

25. Prez Urges Citizens to Work for Women’s Safety in R-Day Speech (8)

NEW DELHI: If the civil nuclear agreement was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama’s meeting on Sunday, Mahatma Gandhi and gender equality were the themes President Pranab Mukherjee focused on in his address to the nation on the eve of the 66th Republic Day.It was, as if, Mukherjee was denouncing attitudes that were chipping away at the tenets of the Constitution and reminding citizens that it was Gandhian philosophy that made “India a role model for today’s world”. The President could well have been making an indirect mention of Obama’s visit to the Rajghat on Saturday, when the latter picked up four of Gandhi’s seminal books. In Gandhian philosophy, Mukherjee said, lay the essence of “democracy, freedom of faith, gender equality; and an economic upsurge for those trapped in the throes of dire poverty”. He said the National Congress had passed the resolution of “Purna Swaraj” that set the stage for India’s independence from the British rule. The President invoked Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Rabindranath Tagore and Subramanya Bharathi and hailed them as the leaders who created the political discourse that eventually led to the independence of a subjugated nation. The second issue the President focused on was violence against women. Raising questions on how India, which once produced path-breaking philosophy, could come to such a pass that it could no longer provide security to its women, Mukherjee said it “pains” him “to see that Mother India is not respected by her own children” and that the safety of the country’s women was comprised. Rapes, murders, harassment, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women feel unsafe even in their own homes, Mukherjee said, asking citizens to take a pledge to protect women. Addressing the nation on the eve of 66th Republic Day, he said “It pains me to see that Mother India is not respected by her own children when it comes to the safety of women”. “Atrocities of rape, murders, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women fearful even in their own homes,” Mukherjee said. The President said only a nation that respected and empowered its women could become a “global power”. “Every Indian must take a pledge to protect the honour of women from violence of any kind. Only a nation that respects and empowers its women can become a global power,” he said. “Where have we failed, as parents, teachers and leaders, that our children have forgotten all tenets of decent behaviour and respect for women?” he said. (New Indian Express 26/1/15)

26. Woman stripped, tied to tree and tortured in West Bengal (8)

Kolkata: Days after a woman was brutally attacked in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, a widow was stripped, tied to a tree and tortured by a group of armed men in South 24 Parganas district. The men are allegedly associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and managed to obtain bail on Monday, within 24 hours of the incident. The victim, a 40-year-old widow with a son – was picked up from her house in Maipith village of Kultali block on Sunday afternoon. The miscreants stripped her and used her saree to tie her to a tree. “She was molested…tortured and went unconscious,” said Latika Thakur, an eyewitness. The women of the village came together to protest and “virtually chased” the miscreants away. Two persons were arrested later at night but managed to obtain bail. Former minister and CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly rushed to the spot and met the woman late on Sunday. “I have seen the video clip in mobile and can tell you that she was most brutally tortured,” said Mr. Ganguly. “The vivtim was not a member of any political party. “She used to protest against the misdeeds in the area and that is one reason why she was tortured by the TMC goons,” he said. Local TMC leaders condemned the incident and also demanded “proper punishment” for the miscreants. The incident comes days after an attack on a woman in Birbhum district. The woman had alleged that a police team accompanied by local TMC leaders had taken her to a nearby forest on January 17 and tortured her to extract information about her nephew, a local BJP leader. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

27. Give underprivileged children the life they deserve (14)

It has been his life’s mission. Last week, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi renewed his demand for a complete ban on every kind of child labour up to 14 years. Seeking the early passage of a pending legislation against child labour, Mr Satyarthi said history “won’t forgive” MPs if they fail in the task. The pending legislation is the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, and, if passed by Parliament, employing children below 14 years in any occupation will become illegal, making it consistent with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The activist also demanded that even children between 14 and 18 years must not be allowed to work in labour activities notified as hazardous. The government banned child labour in 2012, but implementation has been patchy. The reasons for such a demand are not far to seek: According to the 2011 census, there are about 4.35 million working children in the 5-14 age bracket. In the 2001 census, the number was about 12.6 million. However, despite a 65% reduction in the number of working children, India still has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Non-profit organisations estimate there are more than 60 million child labourers, which is 6% of India’s total population. While the passage of the new law would give children’s right a huge fillip, eradicating child labour will not be easy. This is because while everyone tends to talk about child labour, very little focus is put on the socio-economic situation of their families which forces them to send their children out to work. In fact, one of the programmes that Mr Satyarthi’s organisation runs — Bachchpan Bachao Andolan — tries to tackle this issue by helping parents access government funds so that they are not forced to take  their wards out of schools to earn extra money. Along with focusing on the backend (families), there is an urgent need to encourage education, enforce labour laws to abolish child trafficking, promote fair trade and replace child workers with adult workers to ensure that children live the life they are meant to. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

28. Attacks on children setback to securing rights: Kailash Satyarthi (14)

New Delhi: Attacks on children take us back several steps in our actions towards collective progress of securing child rights across the globe, said child rights champion Kailash Satyarthi Friday. He regretted incidents like attacks on school children in Peshawar, kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram and ISIS and the Maoist attack in Assam. In a communication on the eve of the seventeenth anniversary of his organisation – Global March Against Child Labour – Satyarthi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said the new year was not the time to lose hope. “It is a time for us to put in our resources for the betterment of our children,” he said. Giving details about the hardships being faced by children across the globe, he said the Nobel prize has reinforced his belief that working together “we can surely end slavery and change children`s lives for the better”.”From child soldiers to trafficking for labour and sex, from inter-generational bonded labour to girls forbidden to attend school, the list of appalling injustices committed against children is, unfortunately, a long one. Yet, we must remain optimistic and unite with the children to protect their fate and preserve their innocence,” he said. Satyarthi, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, said any big goal set by anybody would be meaningless without addressing the issue of child labour. “I have consistently argued since the Millennium Development Goals were announced that without abolition of child labour, many development goals including education, poverty reduction, health and gender equity could not be achieved. I am glad that the Sustainable Development goals have included child labour, laid emphasis on education and violence against children which we have been struggling for several years,” he said. The Global March Against Child Labour is a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers and civil society organisations that work together for the shared development goals of eliminating and preventing all forms of child labour and ensuring access to free, meaningful and good quality public education for all children. (Zee News 16/1/15)

29. India makes progress in bringing children to schools: UN (14)

United Nations: India has been able to decrease its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2012, driving the progress in South Asia, but it still has 1.4 million children not attending primary school, a United Nations report said. The biggest decrease in the number of out-of-school children was seen in South Asia, where their numbers fell by 23 million between 2000 and 2012, according to a new joint report ‘Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children was produced by UNESCO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’. Much of the global progress since 2000 in decreasing the number of out-of-school children has been driven by a small number of countries, with India alone decreasing its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2011. In relative terms, 42 countries were able to more than halve their numbers of primary out-of-school children between 2000 and 2012, including Algeria, Burundi, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Iran, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia. However, despite such impressive progress in many countries, about nine per cent of all children of primary school age worldwide eight per cent of all boys and 10 per cent of all girls were still out of school in 2012. The majority, 31 million of the 58 million out-of-school children, were girls. India has 58.81 million girls and 63.71 million boys of primary school age.  As of 2011, 1.4 million children of primary school age did not go to school in India, with 18 per cent girls out of school and 14 per cent boys. The other countries with more than half a million out-of-school children include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan. India had 14 per cent of children in the 7-14 years age category involved in child labour. The report said that while India has made significant improvement in primary education enrolment, the figures for children with disabilities are staggering. Out of 2. 9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged 6 to 14 years (34 per cent) are out of school. The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48 per cent), speech impairments (36 per cent) and multiple disabilities (59 per cent). “India has made tremendous efforts to make its education system more inclusive. Under the Right to Education Act, all children have the right to go to school…To accommodate a greater number of children with disabilities, further progress is needed,” it said. The report credited initiatives such as abolition of school fees, cash transfer programmes and school feeding programmes in ensuring more children attend and stay in school. The largest school feeding was implemented in India with 120 million school children benefiting by 2006 and has been credited with a significant positive effect on both school enrolment and attendance rates. The report further said that one in five adolescents worldwide is not in school, which means that some 63 million young people between the ages of 12 and 15 are denied their right to an education, mainly because they are marginalized and poor, the joint UN agency report said as pressure mounts to include universal secondary education in the post-2015 global development agenda. “This report serves as wake-up call to mobilize the resources needed to guarantee basic education for every child, once and for all,” UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said. The data found that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases. One in ten children of primary school age is out of school compared to one in five adolescents. The study also found that in total, 121 million children and adolescents have either never started school or dropped out despite the international community?s promise to achieve Education for All by 2015. The report added that “business as usual” has not worked and there has been almost no progress in reducing the number of adolescents out of school since 2007. Children living in conflict, child labourers and those facing discrimination are most affected. And without major shifts in policies and resources, previous education gains may erode. “If current trends continue, 25 million children 15 million girls and 10 million boys are likely to never set foot inside a classroom,” it said. For a concrete policy shift, the study calls on governments to provide robust information on marginalised children. (Zee News 21/1/15)

30. Crime Patrol to promote Bachpan Bachao Andolan (14)

Known for its riveting concept, this weekend, Sony Entertainment Television’s Crime Patrol will see some heart wrenching stories on child labour and child trafficking. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, will appear as a special guest on this weekend’s episode of the show. Crime Patrol will throw light on the growing phenomenon of child trafficking and exploitation, that has left the people numb. One of the episodes will portray the story of a 16 year old girl named Sakina’ who was rescued by Kailash Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan from the clutches of bride traffickers. Sakina was sold not once but twice as a sex-slave. Another episode will focus on an18 year girl named Reena who was rescued from the clutches of a police constable who was exploiting her in the pretext of welfare. To know how Sakina and Reena were rescued from these cruel crime, don’t miss to watch Crime Patrol this weekend at 11 pm only on Sony Entertainment Television. (Times of India 24/1/15)

31. 250 child labourers rescued in Hyderabad (14)

Hyderabad: As many as 250 children, including 10 girls from Bihar, who were forced to work as child labourers in hazardous industries were today rescued from Old City here, police said. As many as 250 children, including 10 girls from Bihar, who were forced to work as child labourers in hazardous industries were today rescued from Old City here, police said. The children were rescued during a massive cordon and search operation carried out by South Zone police in different areas of Old City, a senior police officer said. “Keeping in view of IB alert ahead of Republic Day we carried out searches to nab habitual criminals. We found these children, aged between 8-13 years kept in rooms of some rowdies. They are being exploited for hazardous industries employmen,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Zone) V Satyanarayana. Most of the children are from districts of Bihar including Gaya and these children were brought to the city after giving an advance ranging between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 from Bihar, the DCP said. The operation was continuing. To keep a check on anti-social elements and to induce a sense of security among people Cyberabad and Hyderabad Police have been conducting massive search operations in different parts of the city for the past several months based on information that few pockets have turned out to be shelters for criminals like property offenders, snatchers and those indulging in other illegal activities. (DNA 24/1/15)

32.  ‘Rehabilitate rescued children’ (14)

HYDERABAD: The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked the authorities concerned to take necessary measures to rehabilitate the children who were rescued from bangle units on Saturday. The city police rescued around 200 children employed at the bangle making units during a search operation. The commission asked the police to register cases under Section 370A of Indian Penal Code while directing social welfare department, Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, National Child Labour Programme to fully engage themselves in the rehabilitation of the children. (The Hindu 26/1/15)

33. 12 child labourers rescued in Thanjavur (14)

TRICHY: Twelve child labourers –all of them boys — were rescued from shops and automobile workshops in Thanjavur on Wednesday. The Child Labour Task Force comprising officials from Childline, labour department, district child protection committee and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) conducted raids at shops in Karanthai, Tholkappiar Sathukkam, Railadi and near Thanjavur Government Medical College. The officials found small boys working in teashops, grocery shops, and automobile workshops. The boys, who were school dropouts, had been working there for more than six months and paid very less. All of them were rescued and their parents were directed to produce birth certificates to confirm their age. “The boys aged below 14 years will be sent to schools thorough the SSA. Likewise, the boys aged above 14 years should also join school according to the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act,” said P Fathima Raj of Childline. Labour department officials were planning to file cases against the shop owners who employed the boys aged below 14 years. (Times of India 29/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

34. Minority students to soon get scholarships through Aadhaar (7)

NEW DELHI: Centre has asked states to ensure full enrolment of students from minority communities under Aadhaar, a move that may provide added impetus to the initiative to allot a unique identity to every citizen to improve the delivery of subsidies. The advocacy for focused registration of minority students under Aadhaar is to enable them to avail of the scholarship schemes run by the Centre for all levels of school education as also for technical and professional courses. Union minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah has shot off letters to all chief ministers saying that post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarships for minorities are distributed through the direct benefits transfer (DBT) method to the bank accounts of beneficiary students. She has informed that another scheme, pre-matric scholarship, would also be added to the DBT mode soon. Given that DBT is being linked to Aadhaar, the minister has stated that inclusion of minority students under Aadhaar be complete. “I would request you to take the necessary initiatives to ensure the full Aadhaar enrolment of all the minority communities’ students in your state so that their bank accounts, already existing or being generated through the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, can be seeded with their Aadhaars,” Heptullah has told the CMs. The missive is likely to provide Aadhaar enrolment an additional focus of key religious groups given its link to the delivery of welfare schemes like scholarships for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. While it may result in pressure from target beneficiaries for unique identity, it may also nudge the state governments to register minority youth. Though the focus of minority ministry on Aadhaar is limited to ensuring the delivery of scholarships, the Aadhaar enrolment, once done, would result in the individual’s full integration in the future scheme of unique identity. The pre-matric and post-matric scholarships are centrally-sponsored programmes, having earlier started on a funding share of 75:25 between the Centre and the states. That states receive welfare funds without any contribution, ensure that these scholarships have a high demand. Heptullah told TOI that she was working to fulfill the government vision of financial inclusion and faster delivery. (Times of India 15/1/15)

35. Maharashtra minorities chief removed (7)

Mumbai: Maharashtra government has removed the state’s minorities commission chairman Munaf Hakim midway through his tenure, days after he announced plans for conducting a survey to ascertain the number of Muslims in jails. Mr Hakim, who belongs to Sharad Pawar’s NCP, said no reason was cited by the government for his removal. “They (government) don’t want any interference. My tenure was for five years and I had completed half of it. I was given neither a show cause notice nor a chance to explain my stance (on the jail survey),” Mr Hakim, who was appointed to the post in August 2012, said. “The government has given autonomy to the Commission not for being submissive to the regime. I should have been give a chance to explain,” he said. Mr Hakim said his successor Aamir Saheb assumed charge at 10 pm on Thursday. “What was the tearing hurry to take charge at night,” he wondered. Sources in the administration, however, defended the decision, saying Hakim was a “political appointee” of the previous Congress-NCP dispensation and that the new BJP-Shiv Sena government had the prerogative to appoint a new head of the panel. “It is a common practice for new governments to fill these positions with their own representatives. The same process has been followed here. The commissioning of the study was just a trigger,” an official said on condition of anonymity. (Asian Age 18/1/15)

36. Minority Commission to set up legal cell (7)

MYSURU: The Karnataka State Minorities Commission will soon set up a cell to provide legal assistance to innocent members of the minority communities arrested by the police. Commission Chairperson Balkis Banu told reporters on Wednesday that the cell, which would be headed by a retired judge, will provide assistance by arranging for lawyers and bearing legal expenditure. Stating that there was a practice among the police to arrest innocent Muslims as a “precautionary measure” whenever there was trouble, Ms. Banu said the Commission will ensure that no innocent person is forced to face trouble and difficulties. She also expressed concern over the increasing instances of arrest of innocent members of minority communities. The Commission is also planning to hold communal harmony meets across the State, particularly in the coastal districts, to remove misunderstandings among different communities. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has agreed in principle to provide judicial powers to the commission that will enable it to summon officials against whom complaints had been made. Judicial powers will also allow the commission to call for official records for documentary evidence. At present the commission’s summons are not binding on officials. In several States, not just the Minorities Commission, even Women’s Commission, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission and Backward Classes Commission enjoy judicial powers. “When the matter was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister, he was surprised. He immediately agreed to ensure that the Commission gets judicial powers,” she said. The Commission was also planning to set up a research centre in the name of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, she said. (The Hindu 22/1/15)

37. ‘Obama should raise issue of minority rights in India’ (7)

Washington: An Indian American Muslim advocacy group has appealed to US President Barack Obama to raise with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue of alleged deterioration in the condition of minorities in India. “In your discussions with Prime Minister Modi and other Indian officials, express concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and other minorities in India. A reference to their plight during your speech would go a long way in highlighting the international community’s cognisance of the ground realities in India,” the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) said in a letter to Obama. In the letter dated January 22, which was released to the press yesterday, IAMC alleged that since the new Indian government took office, over 600 incidents of religious violence against minorities have occurred in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone. “This is a dramatic escalation from previous years and represents a full-fledged assault against the religious and cultural identity of religious minorities launched by militant Hindu nationalist groups,” it said. The letter also urged Obama to call on India’s administration to pursue policies that are equitable, representative of India’s secular constitution and its longstanding tradition of pluralism. Obama will be in India as the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade on January 26 at the invitation of Modi. (Zee News 24/1/15)

38. TN govt orders top bureaucrat to stop preaching religion (7)

CHENNAI: In a move that deepens the debate over freedom of religion, the Tamil Nadu government has directed one of its IAS officers not to go ahead with his “preaching and propagating” activities and warned that if he failed to do so action would taken against him. C Umashankar, a crusader against corruption and an early advocate of the use of free software in e-governance, was born a Hindu dalit but said he changed his faith to Christianity during the stressful times he faced during his battles against politicians. His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. In a letter, TN Chief secretary K Gnanadesikan told the commissioner for disciplinary proceedings, Umashankar: “It has been brought to the notice of government that you are going to take part in preaching and propagating activities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order. You are directed not to indulge in such activities which are unbecoming of a member of the service, failing which, necessary and appropriate action would be taken under relevant provisions of All India Services (conduct) Rules, 1968 read with the All India Services (Discipline & Appeal ) Rules, 1969.” The chief secretary also referred to Umashankar’s previous visit to Kanniyakumari district on January 16 in which “he indulged in activities which created disturbance to public order resulting in registration of two cases in Pudukadai police station in the district”.Umashankar said that, guided by God, he has cancelled seven prayer meetings scheduled in the next few days, but said that he will move the high court against the government’s direction. He said that he was facing a threat to his life and had been attacked several times in the past. “The direction of government is illegal. Article 25 in the constitution of India provides freedom of conscience and freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion. This overcomes all the service rules. The government is using its state power to suppress my fundamental rights,” Umashankar told TOI. Gnanadesikan in his letter said civil service conduct rules say that “every member of the service shall at all times maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and shall do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the service.” And indicated that Umashankar has not fulfilled his obligations. Soon after Umashankar’s visit to Kanniyakumari on January 16 the district police registered a case against 12 persons in connection with an attack on Umashankar’s near Kuzhithurai when he was returning after participating in a prayer meeting there. On the basis of a complaint lodged by driver Samuel, Marthandam police had registered the case. A senior police official in South Tamil Nadu said since Kanniyakumari is vulnerable to communal violence they are worried about Umashankar’s meetings. “He has been preaching in unregistered churches. Many people in the village opposed his visit and we requested him to cancel it. Unfortunately he did not understand the ground reality,” the police official said. (Times of India 26/1/15)

39. Obama promotes religious tolerance in India speech (7)

NEW DELHI: President Barack Obama gently nudged India on Tuesday to fulfill its constitution’s pledge to uphold the “dignity of the individual,” drawing on his own experience as a minority in the United States as he closed out a three-day visit to New Delhi. Speaking to an audience of young people, Obama said that while he has had extraordinary opportunities, “there were moments in my life where I’ve been treated differently because of the color of my skin.” As he touted the importance of religious tolerance, he noted the persistent false rumors that he is a Muslim, not a Christian. “There have been times where my faith has at times been questioned by people who don’t know me, or they’ve said that I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing,” Obama said. India is largely Hindu, with almost 80 percent following the faith. At over 12 percent Muslims are India’s largest minority, with Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists making up the rest. While religious groups largely coexist peacefully, the country has seen several flare ups of violence, primarily between Hindus and Muslims. The US has said some local laws and policies in India restrict religious freedom, with reports of discrimination and organized attacks against religious minorities. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was denied was denied a visa to the US in 2005, three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the Indian state where he was the top elected official. He has denied any wrongdoing and India’s top court has absolved him of any role, but India’s Muslims and Christians are wary of Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party. Equality, across gender and religious lines, is enshrined in India’s constitution. But India continues to remain a deeply misogynistic society with a gender ratio skewed in favor of boys. Despite a law that bars sex selective abortions, the practice continues, with girls often considered a burden. Women also face the risk of harassment and sexual violence, a subject that finally became the subject of public protests after a fatal gang rape on a moving bus in the heart of New Delhi. The protests prompted more stringent laws but critics say more progress is needed. “Every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street, or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves,” Obama said to applause. Since taking office in May, Modi has often talked about women’s rights, urging Indians to treat sons and daughters equally. He recently launched an “educate the daughter, save the daughter,” program to stem sex selective abortions and encourage parents to keep girls in schools. (Times of India 27/1/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

40. Muslim clerics, activists slam Yakub Qureshi’s ‘Rs 51cr reward’ statement (7)

NEW DELHI: Muslim clerics and activists have slammed ex-Uttar Pradesh minister Yakub Qureshi’s statement saying he would reward Rs 51 crore to terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo office. “We condemn Qureshi’s statement and people like him should be put behind the bars,” said cleric Maulana Mohammad Sajid Rashidi. Community leaders say such remarks are made for publicity and defame Muslims. Some are planning to issue a memorandum against politicians who give such statements and do ‘disservice’ to the community. Muslim clerics underlined Islam never allows anyone to kill and instead talks about peace. “It’s a very irresponsible statement and a crime in itself. There is no purpose for the said sensational statement except to gain publicity,” said All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat president Zafarul-Islam Khan. “The government should take notice of this statement and ask Qureshi about the source of such huge amount of money and how the same will be remitted outside the country.”He said Qureshi should be punished as his offer is a crime and seeks to reward and promote another crime. Activist Abdul Khaliq said Qureshi announced a reward for the killers rather than condemning the attack on the French magazine and loss of lives. “Such statements are more atrocious than the attack,” he said. “People who give hate speeches, sensational statements must be boycotted by the community as these are against the basic tenets of Islam.”All India Shia Personal Law Board spokesman Maulana Yasoob Abbas called Qureshi’s statement “childish” and sought strict action against him failing which such elements would feel emboldened. (Times of India 10/1/15)

41. Centre urged to raise govt. quota for Haj (7)

Indi (Vijayapura district): Regretting that many poor Muslims were deprived of affordable Haj pilgrimage owing to a strong lobby of private agencies, Minister for Haj, Infrastructure and Information R. Roshan Baig said he has urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to reduce the private quota and increase government quota for Haj pilgrims. Addressing presspersons after laying the foundation stone for the Post Matriculation Hostel for Boys of Minorities at Indi town on Monday, he said private agents used their influence to keep a major chunk of the Haj quota. “These private agents charge exorbitant fee which only rich people can afford. The government should reduce the private quota to a minimum and add that to government quota, which would enable more poor and middle class people to visit the holy place,” he said. Mr. Baig said he has urged Home Minister and directed the top police officials to register cases of cheating against any private agency found to be cheating innocent pilgrims. The Minister said the State government was ready to share Rs. 50 crore as land-levelling charge for the long-pending development of airport at Vijayapura city if the Airport Authority of India (AAI) started working on the project. He said that during the recent meeting convened by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju in New Delhi, the State government urged the Union government to expedite all airport projects in the State. (The Hindu 13/1/15)

42. Muslim population grows 24%, slower than previous decade (7)

NEW DELHI: The latest census data on the population of religious groups, set to be released shortly, shows a 24% rise in the Muslim population between 2001 and 2011, with the community’s share of total population rising from 13.4% to 14.2% over the 10-year period. While the growth rate of the Muslim population has slowed from around 29% between 1991 and 2001, it is still higher than the national average of 18% for the decade. The data accessed by TOI showed that the most rapid rise in the share of Muslims in the total population was witnessed in Assam. Muslims constituted 30.9% of the state’s population in 2001, but accounted for a 34.2% share a decade later. The state has had a persisting problem of the illegal influx of Bangladeshi immigrants. West Bengal, another state where illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been an old phenomenon, has also registered a rise in the share of Muslims in total population from 25.2% in 2001 to 27% in 2011, a growth of 1.9 percentage points over the 10 years, more than double the national average. Uttarakhand, significantly, has also reported a sharp rise in the share of Muslim population from 11.9% to 13.9%, a growth of 2 percentage points against the countrywide growth of 0.8 percentage points between 2001 and 2011. Other states with a significant rise in the share of Muslims in the total population as per the 2011 census were Kerala (from 24.7% to 26.6%), Goa (6.8% to 8.4%), Jammu & Kashmir (67% to 68.3%), Haryana (5.8% to 7%) and Delhi (11.7% to 12.9%)…. (Times of India 22/1/15)

43. ‘Muslims are not terrorists but proud Indians’ (7)

HYDERABAD: “Muslims are proud Indians. They are neither terrorists nor from different country.” This was the message conveyed by the Telugu Muslim poets on the final day of the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Monday. Taking a different take on what he said was a wrong portrayal of Muslims, Telugu poet Khaja condemned the Centre’s decision to invite American President Barack Obama for the Republic Day. “To invite a man who has worked towards portraying Muslims as terrorists as a chief guest on Republic Day is a matter of huge disappointment for Muslims across the country. We are not terrorists,” Khaja claimed. Khadar Mohiudeen, a poet who has been composing verses against Hindu hegemony, further enhanced Khaja’s point of view with his poem ‘Birthmark’. “Cricket matches weigh and measure my patriotism. Never mind my love for my motherland, what’s important is how much I hate the other land,” he recited with a hint of irony. Representing over 200 Muslim Telugu poets from the city, the bards brought up issues like identity crisis and caste divide amongst Muslims. Throwing light on the struggle within the Telugu Muslim poets, renowned poet Yakoob explained their struggle for identity. “We who call our mothers amma, never knew she was supposed to be called ammijaan. Abba, abbajaan, Papa – that’s how fathers are to be called, we’re told. How would we know – our ayyas never taught us that,” recited Yakoob from his poem titled ‘Awwal Kalima’. Yakoob, a dalit Muslim himself, expounded on the state of lower Muslim castes of Laddafs, Dudekulas, Kasabs and Pinjaris through his poetry. (Times of India 27/1/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

44. Bajrang Dal activists vandalise Christian building in Bihar (7)

Patna: Activists of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu religious group, on Sunday attacked and vandalised a Christian building in Jehanabad district of Bihar and thereafter, blocked the National Highway for some time. The incident has created panic among the small Christian community of the district. Police officials said the Bajrang Dal activists raided the Christian Bhawan during prayer and damaged the furniture along with other things. The reason for their protest is against the alleged conversion ceremony which was going on inside the building at that moment. However, Pastor Kamlesh denied any conversion ceremony going on in the building. “It was regular Sunday, prayer meeting going on inside the building when a group of Bajrang Dal activists attacked and beat all those present in the prayer. They also vandalized furniture of the prayer hall”, he said. The incident happened at Madhav Nagar locality of Jehanabad district town area, which is about 70 kilometres away from Patna. Later, the Bajrang Dal activists blocked the National Highway-83 for some time, alleging the conversion ceremony inside the Christian Bhawan. The police disbursed them from the highway reportedly after mediated with them. “Some people, though, have been injured in the attack inside the Christian Bhawan were discharged later. If they will complain against someone the police will take action”, said the local police station in-charge Nagendra Singh. Meanwhile, a team of Korean cultural group had to hurriedly flee from the Pibodhna village under Daniyawan block of Patna when it was rumoured that they were appealing for conversion to poor dalit inhabitants of the village into Christianity. One of them Shyam Dev Ravidas is said to be Christian. However, when the police officials reached the village, the Korean artistes reportedly had gone from the village and the police. Earlier, few incidents of conversion have been reported from different parts of the state with the Hindu right wing groups alleging that the poor dalit Hindus were being converted into Christianity out of allurement. A Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] leader from Gaya, Manilal Barik recently has declared that they would hold grand ceremony of ghar-wapsi [purification ceremony] in the state in coming months of February-March. (The Hindu 12/1/15)

45. Delhi: Church vandalised, footage on CCTV (1)

New Delhi: Two unidentified men were caught on camera vandalising a church in west Delhi early on Wednesday, a little over a month after a Catholic church in an east Delhi neighbourhood was destroyed in a suspected case of arson, officials said.  Security camera footage shows the men arriving on a scooter before they shattered the Vikaspuri building’s window panes and fled, only to return minutes later to damage some of the statues, said church member Balraj. The incident raises concerns about growing communal violence in India where Christian and Muslims have come under attack since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre last year, analysts said. Hardline Hindu groups allied with the ruling party have conducted a series of ceremonies across the country over the past month to convert members of minority communities to Hinduism, terming it “ghar wapsi”, or homecoming. In another sign of growing religious tensions, a  Catholic church in the Dilshad Garden area was consumed by a mysterious fire last month, sources said. A forensic team found traces of kerosene inside the premises.undreds of Christians peacefully protested outside the police headquarters after the incident, following which the home minister announced a Special Investigation Team (SIT) would probe the case. Analysts say religious minorities in the country, especially Christians, are on edge with increased attacks on them, as several pastors have been arrested on charges of forced conversion and some local governments have made Christian activities illegal in the past six months.​ (Hindustan Times 15/1/15)

46. Why Kerala Dalit Christians are Ghar Wapsi targets (7)

Kochi: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, along with the Arya Samaj, has claimed to have converted nearly 100 Christians to Hinduism in Kerala’s hilly Idukki district. Members of 37 Christian families were “reconverted” at an elaborate ceremony held at a Devi temple close to Elappara, a tea plantation town in the district. The temple priest presided over the ceremony while Arya Samaj leaders helped in conducting the rituals. All the converted belonged to the Pentacostal Mission, a non-Catholic denomination active in the working class communities in the plantation areas of Idukki, Kottayam and Wayanad districts. In another instance of Ghar Waspi, 27 members of five Christian families near Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district were converted at a re-conversion ceremony held at a local temple, the VHP claimed. Last month, a dozen persons had been converted near Kayakulam. Though a few Muslims were also converted, this was denied by Muslim organisations. The Ghar Wapsi campaign in the State is said to be focusing on Dalit Christians, as they had been mostly converted to Christianity from “untouchable” Hindu castes in the past two or three generations. A major section of Dalit Christians belong to non-Catholic denominations, such as the Pentacost and Church of South India, or to the socially-backward Latin Catholic Church. While the majority of the “converted Christians” have gained education, social upliftment, economic progress and personal dignity after conversion from the “untouchable” castes, Dalit Christians complain they are not treated on par with the mainstream “traditional” Christians. There have been reports of Dalit Christians being buried in separate corners of church cemeteries, indicating their lower social standing. Several Dalit Christian organisations have openly rebelled within the Church over this discrimination. Though attempts have been made to integrate them into the mainstream Christian society, the progress has been tardy. Dalit Christians continue to be the poorest, less empowered section within the otherwise prosperous, educated and empowered Christian society in Kerala. Education has been the best means of Christians in Kerala over the past one century to gain empowerment and to get exposure to opportunities. In the case of Dalit Christians, their past continued to weigh them down. Also, though they had belonged to SC/ST communities before conversion to Christianity, they are denied the government’s SC/ST benefits in education and job reservation. The Church has for decades campaigned for SC/ST status for Dalit Christians, but government after government failed to allow this. SC/ST organisations, often with the support of Hindutva organisations, have opposed any move to grant Dalit Christians SC/ST status, on the plea that this would dilute the current quota for Hindu SC/STs in education and jobs. The Sangh organisations are said to be exploiting these two grievances — lower social status than the traditional Christians and the denial of SC/ST status. The Sangh Parivar is said to be promising to get them SC/ST benefits if re-converted. (HBL 19/1/15)

47. Pope says Catholics do not need to breed `like rabbits`(7)

Rome: Pope Francis has said that good Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits”, defending the Church`s stance on artificial contraception and appealing to the world`s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to practise responsible parenting. Speaking to journalists on his flight back from the Philippines, the pope said that he once asked a mother of seven children who was pregnant with her eighth if she wanted to “leave behind seven young orphans”. “She said, `I trust in God.` But God gave us the means to be responsible,” the pope said. “Some think, and excuse the term, that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits.” Francis said creating new life was “part of the sacrament of marriage” and in Manila strongly defended his predecessor Paul VI`s outlawing of artificial contraception for Catholics in 1968. Following the church`s teachings did not mean “Christians should have children one after the other”, he said. His comments came at the end of a trip to the Philippines, the Catholic Church`s Asian stronghold, which last year passed a family planning law after a 15-year battle by the Church to block state-sanctioned contraception. The law allows the government to begin distributing free contraceptives to millions of poor Filipinos. It was a rare loss for the Church, which has for centuries been one of the nation`s most powerful institutions and continues to count more than 80 percent of the nation`s 100 million people as Catholics.The pope said that his predecessor had foreseen the rise in policies restricting childbirth. “Paul VI was worried by the growth of neo-Malthusianism” (which advocates restricting the number of children the poor can have) which tried “put a control on humanity… he was a prophet,” he said. “The key teaching of the Church is responsible parenthood. And how do we get that? By dialogue. There are marriage groups in the Church, experts and pastors,” he added. In 2013, six months after becoming pope, Francis urged the Church to drop its “obsession” with contraception, divorce, gays and abortion, in an interview signalling a dramatic shift in the Vatican`s tone. The Argentine pope has brought a series of fresh perspectives to the notoriously rigid Church since he took over, signalling a strong reformist drive. He stressed at the time that the Church`s official position had not changed, but said that it should “always keep in mind the individual”.Francis` papacy — he is the first Jesuit pope and the first from South America — has marked a series of breaks with Vatican tradition. The pope has become known for his humility and concern for the poor, and has reached out to non-believers and those in other religions. He regularly picks up the phone to call ordinary people who write to him. His latest comments are not the first this month to attract attention for their candour. Last week when discussing the deadly attack by Islamist gunmen angered by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo`s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, the pope said: “If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched.” (Zee News 20/1/15)

48. Ghar Wapsi: More than 100 tribal Christians converted to Hinduism in West Bengal (7)

Kolkata: Several ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremonies have been conducted in Uttar Pradesh (above) in the past few months, but the first such incident was reported from West Bengal on Wednesday.It seems ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion) has reared its ugly head again, and this time, it is in West Bengal’s Birbhum district. More than 100 tribal Christians were allegedly converted to Hinduism in the district on Wednesday. The incident took place at Kharmadanga village near Suri under Rampurhat police station area as members of the adivasi community were reportedly converted following a religious ceremony. Allegation were raised against the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for conducting the ghar wapsi programme. The ghar wapsi was allegedly supervised by VHP leader Jugal Kishore. The conversions reportedly took place immediately after VHP chief Praveen Togadia’s programme at Rampurhat town on Wednesday. Sources said VHP leaders claimed that the adivasis were originally Hindu by faith but were enticed by the Christian missionaries using money. “I condemn the incident. It is not proper. This was never prevalent in Bengal. The BJP is playing such tricks to incite riot and religious conflicts. They are luring away innocent tribal people from one religion to another. They are being misguided,” said Birbhum district Trinamool Congress president Anubrata Mondal. Mondal said the saffron brigade is playing a communal card to get a political toehold in Bengal. The district police officers said they had no knowledge about the conversion programme. Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien later tweeted, “Media reporting that 100+ Adivasi Christians converted to Hinduism alongside a Praveen Togadia VHP rally in Birbhum… I have learnt the state government is ascertaining more details. I will address media when I have more details.” The Rajya Sabha MP further added, “Let me say this, if there is even a hint of coercion or forced conversion the issue will be dealt with in a strong manner possible.” “Bengal has a long history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” O’Brien tweeted. (India Today 30/1/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

49. Refugees Eye India’s Help to Implement 13th Amendment for Returning Home (13)

CHENNAI: Sri Lankan refugees in India may be celebrating the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the elections but the longing to return home is clouded by fear of persecution. “If India along with Tamil Nadu government helps the Sri Lankan government in implementing the 13th amendment and ensure safety and security for Tamils, then the refugees in Tamil Nadu won’t hesitate to return,” said Jayanth, a refugee in India since 2006. After being detained in the Chengalpet camp, the 38-year-old refugee is living only on hope. “We want the Indian government to come forward and initiate talks with the Sri Lankan government to implement 13th amendment,” he says. The 13th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka to establish provincial councils came into being after then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lanka president J R Jayawardne signed the Indo-Sri Lanka accord in 1987. “Sirisena is a Sinhalese and in what way he will be different from Rajapaksa,” asks Rangasamy Somasundram, who migrated from Mannur district. K Kamalan, another refugee who migrated to India in 1990, says that after the ethnic war, one of his relatives went back to Killinochi in SL. “He was picked up for inquiry and he never returned,” he says. The inmates of Anaiyur and Thiruvathavur refugee camps in Madurai district expressed mixed feelings on the outcome of the election. Though the verdict was an emotive issue, no celebration was witnessed as police had upped security to keep refugees from going overboard. A cross-section of the refugees hoped that Sirisena would maintain a stronger relationship with India, as against China and Pakistan, as it would benefit the Lankan Tamils. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

50. SC seeks EC’s reply on plea seeking voting rights for migrants (13)

New Delhi: Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Election Commission on a plea seeking to enable migrants within the country, including those who have left their constituencies for jobs, to cast their votes from their places of residence. A bench of Justice Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri issued notice to EC on an application that the committee, which looked into the issue of extending voting rights to the NRIs, be asked to consider adopting alternate methods to enable migrants within the country itself to exerecise franchise from their current places of residence. The application, filed by NRI Shamsheer VP through advocate Haris Beeran, said “it is the submission of the applicant that the true test of democracy is the inclusion of all persons who have a right in political discourse which leads it. True representation would only be made possible if every attempt was made to make every vote count. “This is seen in countries like Brazil where voting is made mandatory with the defaulter having to pay massive fines. Therefore, it is imperative that true weight is given to the importance of adult suffrage,” the plea said. According to the provisions of the Representation of People Act, when government servants and a class of certain other persons are allowed to vote through postal ballots, then the same right be given to private persons who are forced to leave their respective constituencies for reasons of employment. “There cannot be discrimination between the citizens on this ground on their right to vote,” the plea said. The plea said that the spike in number of potential voters would be tremendous inasmuch as a large number of persons who have migrated would want to cast their vote if it were made possible. (Zee News 12/1/15)

51. Kashmir separatists oppose permanent settlement of Pakistani refugees (13)

Srinagar: The separatists have opposed the Indian parliament’s proposal to permanently settle Pakistani refugees in northern state Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was an attempt to tamper with state’s demography. Separatist leaders met in Srinagar city and discussed recommendations made by the parliament panel to grant permanent resident status to refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Chairman of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said that they had decided to constitute a special group to make people aware about it. “Any step that is likely to impact the provincial legislation (law) and future shouldn’t be undertaken until Kashmir fundamental problem of Kashmir is addressed,” said Farooq. He added that some people want to impose agenda. “The objective behind this policy is that some people are talking about demographic changes in Jammu and Kashmir and some people want to impose their agenda,” added Farooq. Thousands of people from Pakistan-administered Kashmir flocked to Indian side when both the nations went to war in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir immediately after gaining independence from Britain. Both the nuclear-armed nations rule Kashmir in part but claim it in full and have fought three wars over it. (New Kerala 13/1/15)

52. Two-thirds of Jordan`s Syria refugees in poverty: UN (13)

Amman: Two-thirds of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees in Jordan are living in poverty, the head of the UN refugee agency warned Wednesday, calling for “massive” international aid. “The conclusions… are extremely worrying for us all,” Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), told a news conference in Amman at which he presented a detailed report. “Two-thirds of the Syrian refugees living with the community in Jordan are below the Jordanian-defined poverty line which is around three dollars (2.50 euros) per day for each person,” he said. The report was based on 170,000 visits to refugee households, pointing out that 84 percent of the 620,000 UNHCR-registered refugees in Jordan from neighbouring Syria live outside camps. “This report corresponds to the largest survey ever done in the world about living conditions of the refugee community,” he said. The report found that one in six Syrian refugees, rising to one in five for households led by a woman alone, has to survive on Jordan`s “extreme poverty line” of $1.30 a day. “My appeal is for massive support from the international community, massive support for the Syrians and displaced Iraqis also,” said Guterres, adding host communities and governments in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq also needed funding. International donors had provided only around half of the UNHCR`s needs in 2014, he added. More than three million Syrians have fled the civil war in their country which broke out in March 2011, mostly to neighbouring states. (Zee News 14/1/15)

53. SC shocked over govt’s stand on Bru refugees (13)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed shock over the Centre’s contention that thousands of Bru tribals from Mizoram put in relief camp at Tripura were provided only one soap, one T-shirt, and one pant, as giving them further amenities would obstruct them to go back to their place of residence. “Is this how you treat people of this country,” a social justice bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said after going through an affidavit by Ministry of Home Affairs. Over 35,000 Bru tribals are put in six relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar inside  Tripura for about 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following ethnic troubles. The bench found the affidavit “disturbing”which stated, “Efforts now on creating additional facilities in the camp life would only incentivise the Brus to their camp life in Tripura and shift the focus away from rehabilitation in Mizoram to relief measures in the refugee camps.” The court said that the government cannot say it did not want to improve the condition in the camp, because this would affect their going back to their original place of residence. The court asked the government to come up with some concrete plan after discussing the matter with the governments of Tripura and Mizoram. The government’s affidavit said it was extending grant-in-aid to the Tripura government since 1997 to help the Bru families in the six relief camps and the ministry so far had released approximately Rs 231 crore to Tripura government and Rs 35 crore to Mizoram government. The government submitted that it provided a cash dole of Rs 5 per day to each adults and Rs 2.50 to each minors staying in the camp, one T-shirt and one pant piece per adult, one mosquito net and blanket per family once in three years, and one bathing soap per head once in a year. The court told the ministry to file fresh affidavit and put the matter for further consideration on February 27. (Deccan Herald 17/1/15)

54. Tibetan community divided over citizenship rights (13)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission’s recent directive allowing Tibetan refugees to register for voter identity card for Delhi Assembly elections, which will help them acquire Indian citizenship, has not been welcomed by all and created a deep chasm within the exiled community. Those against acquiring citizenship rights argue that the Tibetans living in India must remain refugees as becoming an Indian citizen would “dilute the struggle” for a free Tibet. N. K. Trikha, national convenor of Core Group for Tibetan Cause, a pan-India group which advocates Tibet’s independence from Chinese rule, said, “Acquiring Indian citizenship will knock the bottom out of their reason for living in exile with a determination to return to their motherland or see her become free at some point in time.” He said that by taking any other country’s citizenship in search of greener pastures, the exiled community would lose its sovereign identity as Tibetans for a few “mundane” advantages. “The cost will be too heavy for the overall Tibetan cause,” he warned. Tenzin Tsundue, a well-known Tibetan activist and writer, thanked the Indian Government for granting voting rights to his compatriots living in India but said, “it dilutes the struggle for a free Tibet because it naturally sets in complacency in the life of people and the urgency is lost in the process.” He said the moment Tibetans give up their nationality and swear loyalty to another country, they lose their authority to speak as a Tibetan. Tenzin Lekshay, a media coordinator in the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said that according to the ‘Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile’ by planning commission of Central Tibetan Administration, a total number of 94,203 Tibetans reside in India. When asked how many of them have been accorded citizenship by the Indian government, he said that he did not have an exact number in this regard. PTI (The Hindu 19/1/15)

55.  ‘Refugees should not be forcibly sent back’ (13)

CUDDALORE: Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi founder T.Velmurugan has appealed to the Centre not to adopt any tactic to compulsorily send back the Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka. In a statement here, he said that during the recent meeting of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in New Delhi, the topic of sending back the Tamil refugees to the island nation was said to have figured prominently. Such a focussed approach on the refugee issue had created apprehension among the Tamil diaspora that there might be an element of compulsion involved in sending the refugees back . Mr. Velmuguran underscored the point that the change of regime, following the election of Maithripala Sirisena as President, was yet to instill confidence among the Tamils about their well being on the Sri Lankan soil. The Tamils left Sri Lanka in duress, leaving behind their property and relatives to escape from the ethnic cleansing and sought refuge in Tamil Nadu. But the so-called special camps set up for them in the State were no better than prisons as they lacked basic amenities. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

56. Rohingyas deserve citizenship: U.S. official (13)

Dhaka: Remarking that it is Myanmar’s responsibility to take its nationals back, a senior U.S. official has said that the international community needs to put more pressure on Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard, who wrapped up her four-day visit to Bangladesh, also said the U.S. did not favour settling the Rohingya refugees to a third country. Responding to a question, she, however, said the Rohingya refugees in the two camps in Cox’s Bazar district preferred to stay in Bangladesh despite not having an ideal living condition. The visiting U.S. official on Wednesday commented that Rohingyas deserve Myanmarese citizenship to end their statelessness, which she identified as a root cause of their plight. Speaking at seminar here, Ms. Richard remarked that he Rohingya population remained stateless as “they are not recognised as a distinct ethnic group in the country’s citizenship law”. “Statelessness is… a key reason they flee to neighbouring countries,” she added. Ms. Richard arrived in Dhaka from Myanmar, her first after joining the post in Washington in 2012, “to learn the Bangladesh perspective” of the refugee situation. Bangladesh has sheltered thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled the Rakhine province following sectarian clashes spread over the years. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

57. Special camps for Lankan refugee students earn praise (13)

MADURAI: In a first-ever initiative of its kind, the district administration organised a special education camp for the students living in Sri Lankan refugee camps here who are sitting for public examinations this year. According to the organisers of the camp, it was an initiative by the district collector L Subramanian, who came to know that the students living in camps did not have access to special awareness and guidance sessions usually organised for students sitting for public examinations and gave his nod for the project. The 127 students from three camps in Annaiyur, Utchapatti and Thiruvathavur in the district who are sitting for the public examinations were selected for the camp that was held in Ezhumalai from Jan 16 to 18. They were provided free boarding and lodging in the three days, during which they were given yoga sessions and guidance on how to approach the exams. R Lavanya from the Utchapatti refugee camp, who is sitting for the SSLC examination this year, said this had been a first-of-its-kind opportunity and that she had been among the first from her camp to attend such a session. Her friend Y Rathidevi said that they had benefitted immensely from the camp. Remarking that they will approach the exams with confidence, they expressed hope that the exams would be conducted regularly. S Manikanda Prabu and M Satheeshkumar from the Thiruvathavur camp said they had thought that something like this was beyond their reach, even when their fellow students attended such sessions organized in many places. “It was very helpful and informative,” they said. The parents of the students lauded the efforts of the district administration and S S Sivakumar, special tahsildar of refugee camps, to give their students this rare opportunity. Many NGOs and volunteers helped to make the camp a success, said the tahsildar, adding that this was the first time such a camp had been organised for the refugee students. (Times of India 24/1/15)

58. UNHCR and EU to Help Repatriate Refugees From TN (13)

COLOMBO: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) have undertaken to help the Sri Lankan government repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and resettle them in the island nation, the Lankan Ministry of Resettlement has said. Assurance of aid was given to the Lankan Minister for Resettlement, D.M.Swaminathan, when he met local representatives Gulam Abbas and Igor Ivancic of the UNHCR, and Jaime Royo-Olid and Libuse Soukupova of the EU. here last week, a Ministry statement said. The EU has already built 23,000 houses in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces, and an additional 3000 houses are to be built. The EU has set aside Euro 14 million for this project in 2015. There are still 26,056 internally displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.  Repatriation of the refugees from India and the resettlement of the existing internally displaced persons in Lanka will both be taken up “on a priority basis” as part of the Maithripala Sirisena government’s 100-day program, the  Resettlement Ministry said.   The program to repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu was discussed when Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on January 19. Last week, the Lankan cabinet issued a statement saying the matter will be discussed during Modi’s talks with Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he visits Colombo in mid-March. Both governments have assured that repatriation will be voluntary. “The refugees have to go back to reclaim their lost rights in Sri Lanka. Repatriation is essentially a Mannai Meetpom (Recover our Land) movement,” explained S.C.Chandrahasan of the Chennai-based Organization for Elangai Refugees’ Rehabilitation (OfERR), who has been working hard for repatriation.  “I have submitted to all the three governments concerned, a draft aid package to facilitate repatriation. It can be the basis of an Indo-Lankan MoU on the matter,”  he told Express.According Chandrahasan, there are 65,000 Lankan refugees living in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu. But the Tamil Nadu government says that there are 73,241 refugees in 115 camps, including those in Special Camps for suspected Tamil militants. In addition, 31,802 refugees live independently in rented houses outside the camps. (New Indian Express 26/1/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

59. RTI can be used even if info available through other means: Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The court, in a landmark order which is likely to impact a number of RTI cases of similar nature, allowed a petition seeking disclosure of communication between Urban Development Ministry officials with those of CBI–an exempted organisation–in a corruption case. In a recent order, Justice Vibhu Bakhru also said that section 8(1)(h) of the Act–which allows an organisation to withhold such information that impedes the process of investigation, apprehension and prosecution–cannot be imposed without giving proper reasons to justify the denial. Allowing the petition seeking disclosure of communication between the Ministry and CBI, he dismissed the order given by Information Commissioner M A Khan Yusufi who had agreed with the Ministry to deny information on the grounds that its disclosure would impede the process of prosecution. Justice Bakhru said neither the first appellate authority nor the Central Information Commission considered how the information sought for would impede the process of probe, apprehension or prosecution of the petitioner, an accused. He rejected the Ministry’s argument that during trial, the material relied upon by the prosecution would be provided to the applicant, thereby no prejudice would be caused to him. “In my view this cannot be a ground to deny information to the petitioner. First of all, the question whether the information sought by the petitioner is relevant or necessary, is not relevant or germane in the context of the Act; a citizen has a right to information by virtue of Section 3 of the Act and the same is not condition on the information being relevant,” he said. He said the fact that the petitioner has access to the material relied upon by the prosecution does not prevent him from seeking information, which he considers necessary for his defence. (Business Standard 12/1/15)

60. RTI to fight land struggles (1)

A non-government organisation has taken up the Right to Information route to help landless people in Bhagalpur get free plots from the government to build houses. The scheme, Grihastha Awas Yojana, launched in 2012 is meant for Mahadalits, Dalits and extremely backward classes. According to its norms, the eligible people are given 3 decimals of free land. On Wednesday morning, the Bhagalpur-based NGO Human Rights Organisation helped 800 and odd applicants to prepare their applications to be submitted to the Jagdishpur circle office. At the end of the day, the organisation’s chief executive officer, Ajit Kumar Singh, said: “Around 800 applications have been forwarded to the circle office in the first phase.” The organisation, however, claimed people across the eastern Bihar districts have not been able to enjoy the scheme thanks to the government’s mismanagement. Singh said: “Principal secretary, revenue and land reforms, Vyasji in November last year allotted each block in the state Rs 10,000 for a survey of free land available so that every beneficiary got their plots. If government land was not available in some area, the administration concerned was directed to purchase 3 decimal lands for Rs 20,000. But we doubt if that’s working smoothly, as there is ample evidence of mismanagement in the government machinery.” “If the beneficiaries do not get land in the stipulated time after filling their applications, we would file Right to Information applications. We hope to compel the government to provide the beneficiaries lands,” said chief executive officer Singh. Navin Bhushan, the Jagdishpur circle officer, said steps were being taken to provide plots to the landless residents in the area. (The Telegraph 14/1/15)

61. CIC orders NGT man’s removal for blocking info (1)

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up a National Green Tribunal official for issuing “illegal” orders saying such actions will obstruct furnishing of information and scare away applicants. In response to a complaint filed by RTI activist S C Agrawal, the commission issued a show-cause notice to NGT registrar general Sanjay Kumar recommending that he be replaced from the post of first appellate authority (FAA) under RTI matters at the tribunal. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu asked Kumar, the senior-most officer in NGT, to explain why he passed “such illegal orders, why he spent so much of time without hearing the appeal within the time prescribed by the Right to Information Act and insisted on personal presence and presentation of affidavits”.Agrawal sought to know, through multiple RTI applications, the details of vehicles purchased and sold by NGT, rules and procedures on sanctioning of leave, LTC of the NGT chairman and members besides statistics about RTI applications and first appeals. NGT is the legal body for adjudication of environmental issues. Not getting a response in time, Agrawal approached the commission alleging Kumar caused him serious harassment by insisting on his presence to prove originality of his RTI application, to explain about his RTI applications and prove number of envelops, postal orders and their genuineness. “The commission finds that there is substance in the complaints made by the complainant. Some of the aspects of the interim orders of the FAA are funny and strange. They will definitely impose obstructions in the process of furnishing information according to the RTI Act. It will scare away information seekers,” Acharyulu said. He said Kumar had not “applied his mind” to the facts, law and the circumstances of the case and made the hearing of the first appeal a very elaborate and unnecessary exercise on trivial matters because of which furnishing of information was totally obstructed. (Times of India 16/1/15)

62. 12,062 have perished in Naxal violence so far: RTI (1)

MEERUT: In reply to an RTI query, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has revealed that a total of 12,062 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence till now since 1980. The detail was given in reply to a question filed under RTI (Right to Information) rules by a Meerut-based activist. Interestingly, when the Naxalite movement began in India, only three states were involved – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But by 2014, eight states had got dragged into it. While in 1980, 70 people had died in the violence, in 2010 the number was a far higher 720. The reply also mentions that 3,078 security personnel were injured in Naxal-related violence in the last 34 years. MHA, however, did not disclose the actual number of security personnel dead in the same period. Lokesh Khurana, who had filed the RTI query on December 4, 2014, had asked for information on 10 points. “I had asked information on various points that included the number of citizens killed in the last 34 years, number of security personnel killed, administrative efforts made to restrain Naxalites, reasons for the rise and spread of the Naxalite movement, the annual expenditure incurred on security measures and operations in Naxalite-affected areas. The ministry only gave the details on the number of civilian deaths and security personnel injured.” Violence, the RTI answer says, escalated further in the following years after 1980 and by 2000 had reached alarming proportions. That year claimed 451 lives of citizens, with 97 security personnel injured. It became worse by 2010, with 720 civilians being killed and 285 security men wounded. In the last four years, though, starting from 2011 to 2014, there has been a decline in the violence. That year 468 civilians died and 142 security personnel were injured; in 2014, it came further down to 222 people killed and 87 security men injured. While the Union home minister Rajnath Singh was unavailable for comment on the issue, a senior source in his ministry said, “If you look at the trend since the last couple of years, the violence in Naxalite-hit area has declined to some extent. Meanwhile, the NDA government has taken some constructive steps to further curtail the violence whose impact will be visible in the near future.” (Times of India 21/1/15)

63. RTI reveals highway double standard (1)

Durgapur, Jan. 22: The CPM has decided to move the high court, accusing the Asansol-Durgapur police commisionerate of not registering cases against Trinamul for obstructing highways while slapping non-bailable charges on the Left party for the offence. According to an RTI reply sought by Pankaj Roy Sarkar, a CPM secretary in Durgapur, the local police have registered two cases against the CPM and the BJP’s Babul Supriyo for blocking NH2 and NH60, respectively, since February last year. The local police, however, have not slapped any charges against Trinamul despite the ruling party putting up at least six blockades on highways to protest the arrest of minister Madan Mitra in the Saradha scam in December and the Centre’s land ordinance bill. The police denied allegations of being politically biased. “The police have registered cases against me and 14 other CPM members under the non-bailable National Highways Act, 1956, and non-bailable sections of the IPC,” Roy Sarkar said. “We had blocked NH2 at the Muchipara crossing on February 1 last year, but only for 15 minutes. We were protesting after Trinamul workers tore our party flags and banners. All of us had to obtain anticipatory bail from court. We will move the high court next week, accusing the police of being biased,” he added. Similar charges were slapped on Union minister and Asansol MP Supriyo after suspected party workers blocked NH60 on April 12. “I have nothing to say other than the fact that I am here to win over road blocks,” Supriyo said tonight. Suspected BJP workers had blocked the highway in Raniganj after the singer-politician was allegedly assaulted and prevented from going ahead with a road show by Trinamul workers before the Lok Sabha elections last year. Blocking highways carries a maximum punishment of five years in jail. Raniganj BJP leader Manish Sharma dubbed the police “robots” in the hands of Trinamul. “They work at the behest of the ruling party. If the police can file a case against Babul Supriyo for no apparent reason, what prevents them from doing the same against Trinamul leaders? The ruling party blocked several NH2 crossings in Raniganj, Asansol and Durgapur after Madan Mitra was arrested. We, too, can join the CPM in moving court,” Sharma said. Trinamul rubbished the claims by the rival parties. “The CPM has no right to talk about manipulating the police. They had virtually turned the police into party comrades for three decades. The BJP, as usual, is talking rubbish,” said V. Sivadasan, Trinamul’s organising committee secretary in Asansol. Told about the allegation, additional deputy commissioner of police (central) Biswajit Ghosh said he was not aware of the matter. “We are not politically biased. We usually register suo motu cases for obstructing highways or any other road. I will enquire into the allegation,” he said. (The Telegraph 23/1/15)

64. Centre spent Rs Rs 320 cr on R-Day celebrations last year: RTI (1)

BAREILLY: Ever wondered how much the Republic Day ceremony at Rajpath, with all its smart marches, colourful tableaus and performing artistes, costs to put together? A query under the RTI Act has elicited a response from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) that says the Centre spent Rs 320 crore in the four-hour parade in 2014. Over the years, the expenses on Republic Day celebrations have risen quite substantially. In 2001, the expenditure was Rs 145 crore. Pawan Agrawal, a Moradabad-based RTI activist, had requested the information last year. “I had sought details of the expense incurred on Independence and Republic Day functions at Red Fort from the year 2000 to 2013,” he told TOIon Saturday. The response to his query, however, only contained details of expenses incurred by the Centre on Republic Day celebrations. The Rs 145 crore that was incurred by the Centre in the financial year 2000-01 rose to Rs 226 crore in 2003-04. For the next three years, though, expenditure decreased somewhat, in step with a not-so-healthy economy. In 2006-07, the government spent Rs 149 crore on the celebrations. The budget for the R-Day function was then increased by 34.16% in 2007-08, and the Centre spent Rs 227 crore that year. In 2009-10, it went up to Rs 285 crore. There was slight decrease in the budget in 2011 and 2013, but the Centre ended up spending a robust Rs 320 crore in 2014. In comparison to the amount spent in 2001, the budget for the parade last year shot up by 54.51%. Agarwal had also sought an answer to the security detail ahead of Republic Day and Independence Day functions, and the expense incurred in arrangements for these. “Information on security arrangements was denied, on grounds of national interest,” he said. (Times of Indi 24/1/15)

65. Cost of RTI application doubles (1)

Bengaluru: The cost of seeking information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has doubled during the past few weeks. This is due to the simple reason that there is no stock of the postal order with a face value of Rs. 10 in the city from where a large number of citizens and activists seek information from various government departments. An application under the RTI Act necessitates a fee of Rs. 10, usually made through a postal order, which is available in post offices. However, officials at General Post Office (GPO), Bengaluru say they do not have stock of postal orders of face value of Rs. 10. Activists are being directed to buy a Rs. 20 postal order. RTI activist B.M. Shivakumar said that the problem began about three months ago. “I have been using Rs. 20 postal orders for the past two months. An additional expenditure of Rs. 10 is not the issue. Why should we pay more when the RTI Act stipulates only Rs. 10?” Another RTI activist Ganesh B. Koundinya, said that the whole point of the RTI Act was to bring in accountability, but the postal department is playing truant. “In most post offices, we are directed to buy a postal order of higher denomination without a satisfactory explanation,” he said. Chief Post Master, Bengaluru GPO, A.K. Hanjura told The Hindu that they have run out of Rs. 10 postal orders. “Postal orders can be printed only by India Security Press, Nashik. The Karnataka circle has placed an indent with the press. We are expecting fresh stock by February-end,” he said. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

66.  ‘Census information cannot be revealed to anyone’ (1)

MANGALURU: D. Helen Prema Kumari, Deputy Director, Directorate of Census Operations, Karnataka, said on Thursday that individual information collected under the census was confidential and could not be revealed under Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948. Addressing a workshop on census data dissemination at Mangalore University, she said that an application was filed before the directorate under the Right to Information Act seeking information on the religious status of the Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the 2011 census. The directorate did not reveal it as it was confidential. She also pointed out that there were fewer omission of households during the 2011 census when compared to the previous census. She said that the omission of households came down from 0.002 per cent in 2001 to 0.001 per cent in 2011 in the country. The error of omission in the 1991 census stood at 0.005 per cent, she said. The omission of households comes to the notice during the revision round after the first phase of every census, she said. She said that the directorate has uploaded details of the last three censuses in its website. The directorate also provided DVDs of details of censuses to whoever wanted for academic and research purposes. (The Hindu 30/1/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

67. Lack of Toilets Leading to Rise in Dropout Rate (11)

WARANGAL: The Zaffergadh Zilla Parishad High School (ZPHS), which is located about 40 km away from Warangal city, is one of a few more than five-decade-old schools in the district. Built in a three acres of land on the outskirts of the historic Zaffergadh village, the school has a sprawling playground with a compound built around it and sufficient classrooms for the students. But this co-education school with a total of 405 student strength (205 boys and 195 girls) lacks proper toilet facilities. Though four toilets, two each for boys and girls were constructed recently, the students were unable to use them as there is no water facility in the toiletsThe one toilet at the entrance of the gate with its door locked, is used exclusively  by the teachers that too during ‘emergencies’ by getting water with help of the sweeper. Since the students are not using the toilets, garbage is piling up at these newly constructed toilets and the students were going to nearby bushes on the hillside to relieve themselves. D Nakshatra, a class 10 student, said, “We get about 10 minute time for interval. We have to go to the nearby bushes to relieve ourselves and come back to the classes in time. If we fail to come, we may be given punishment. Due to this, we prefer not attend nature’s call,” she says. “We are unable to use the toilets due to non-availability of water. Though they have been constructed recently, there are stinking as garbage is piled up there,” said K Sirisha, another student. When asked a teacher about the reason behind the failure in providing water to the toilets, he said the borewell dug up long back on the school premises needs a repair and a new motor is arranged to pump the water. ‘’We have sent proposals for repair of the borewell and to fit a motor, but there is no response from the Rajiv Vidya Mission officials,” the teacher added. It is not only the case with Zaffergadh ZPHS alone, several other schools in the district were facing similar conditions. Many schools in the district require borewells or pipeline laid from the common well or a tank used by the gram panchayat to get water. Many schools lack proper toilet facilities with water supply and there is no protected drinking water as mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, according to teacher unions. Lack of proper toilet facilities is also  forcing many girl students drop out half-way through their studies. ‘’While the private schools are equipping themselves for smart classrooms, for a majority of students in Warangal district, proper toilet and drinking facilities are still a distant dream. There are no sufficient benches and chairs in majority of schools,” said Dalit, Girijana Teachers Union district president Bhadraiah. The teacher union leader also said that there are no special funds for the maintenance of toilets. “We have to see that the toilets are maintained through the general funds granted for the school. Unless the general funds are increased, we cannot provide toilet facilities. Finding a scavenger with minimum wages has become a great task in the rural areas,” he said. But, the RVM official sources say there is no fund provision for cleaning of toilets at present. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

68. Enrolment in Rajasthan pvt schools up by 22%: Report (11)

JAIPUR: The enrolment of students in private schools in Rajasthan has jumped from 20% in 2006 to 42.1% in 2014 in the age group of 6-14 years, says Annual Statues of Education Report ( ASER) released in New Delhi on Tuesday. This figure is quite higher than the national average of 31% in the same category in 2014. Rajasthan has 84,000 government schools against 36,500 private schools and the enrolment thus indicates the popularity of the latter due to the former’s failure. This report makes a comparative evaluation when it says that both primary and secondary sections in private schools have gradually taken over state schools in Rajasthan. On the other hand, enrolment in government schools has reduced to 52.2% in 2014 from around 75% in 2006 in the age group of 6-14 years. The decline to some extent is also attributed to the state government’s decision of merging over 17,990 schools leading to mass drop outs. Data says that in 2010, 41% students enrolled in private schools in classes I-VIII which increased to 42.1% in the year 2014. The leading edge of private is a national phenomena with Kerela, Goa and Manipur being the three states that have close to 75% students in private schools. It was followed by India’s populous states Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Meghalaya with close to 60% students in private schools. K B Kothari, managing trustee of Pratham, said, “Private school enrolments are increasing due to poor quality of learning in many public schools. In the absence of qualified teachers, the students migrate to private schools which are more efficient than government ones.” During the same period, government schools grew only 17.86% while private secondary schools rose to 93.78% between 2006-07 and 2012-13. Private secondary schools have 16.2 lakh students enrolled with them as against government schools r=that have registered enrolment of 8.5 lakh students in 2012-13. The figure was almost reversed in 2006-07 with government schools enrolling 11.8 lakh students while private schools admitted 81,000 students in the same year. The fall in secondary schools both in enrolment and imparting education highlights the government’s failure. Some of the policy failures include non-conduction of continuous training for teachers to adapt the challenging curriculum. Moreover, schools require improved level of infrastructure which is missing in many government schools and most of the secondary schools were upgraded from elementary schools without making much change. (Times of India 14/1/15)

69. With 0.85% kids out of school, Nagpur division out of top 10 league (11)

NAGPUR: NGO Pratham’s annual report on school education has revealed that no-fail policy has resulted in huge deterioration in the quality of school education. Class VIII, where the no-fail policy ends, is throwing up a batch of students in whom the majority is unfit to appear for a board exam two years later. At least 1.4% of these students could not identify even a single number, something which is taught at the pre-primary level. The remaining 98.5% were no better as they struggled in various other levels of testing which by any standard would be called extremely simple. One of the division test for a Class VIII student was “824/6″, and 67% students failed in that. In Class VIII where triple digit multiplication and division are commonplace, the failure of students to even handle a single digit denominator was indeed shocking. Nagpur division, which consists of six districts, had its 15 minutes of fame in 2012 when ASER ranked it fourth in the country for having the least number of kids out %of school. This was a remarkable feat considering that the top three divisions were from Kerala, the most literate state in India. Since then it has been a steady slide with the division now getting kicked out of the top 10 league as well. Nagpur with 0.85% kids out of school is placed at number 13 in the country. The rankings would have slipped further had Kerala been included in the survey. The ASER report says it is not publishing statistics where ‘data was insufficient’. Pune division, however, has been seeing a steady rise and now finds itself ranked fourth in the country for the ‘least number of kids out of school category’ with .44% stats. The state’s average is 1.5%.Right To Education (RTE) Act mandates that every child must attend school and the state had gone into an overdrive last year to complete the last mile in this regard. Mahesh Karajgonkar, state project controller for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, said the state would improve the statistics. “The officials are doing their best but they are overburdened with additional charge as permanent officials have not been appointed,” he said. (Times of India 14/1/15)

70.  ‘Saffronisation’: panel to review textbooks (11)

Mangaluru: The State government has set up a committee of experts to review and rewrite textbooks to remove content perceived as an attempt to saffronise them, during the BJP rule. The committee will ensure that the textbooks conform to the National Curriculum Framework 2005 of the NCERT. The committee is scheduled to hold its meeting this week, according to Suresh Bhat Bakrabail, president, Dakshina Kannada unit of Komu Sauharda Vedike, who told The Hindu that he learnt about this from a top government functionary. Mr. Bhat is the chairman of a group, Committee for Resisting Saffronisation of Textbooks (CRST), that protested against the alleged attempts to saffronise textbooks. Congratulating the State government for taking “the right decision to revisit school textbooks”, Mr. Bhat said CRST had campaigned against preparing textbooks on communally divisive lines; using textbooks for “mythification” and glorification of Indian history; projecting Indian history only as a record of the suffering of Hindu rulers under non-Hindu rulers; and continued stereotyping of women, Dalits and other minority groups such as Muslims and Christians. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

71. Education dept targets to fill 100% seats under RTE (11)

DEHRADUN: With an objective to fill all seats reserved for children from economically weaker sections under the Right to Education, the first RTE meeting for the 2015-16 academic session was held in the state capital on Thursday. One of the main concerns during the meeting was that despite several advertisements and awareness programs, the economically weaker sections still didn’t know that their children could study in the finest schools in the city for free. While 32 public schools, both affiliated to CBSE and ICSE boards, from across the state capital were supposed to be part of the discussion with the chief education officer and RTE officials, representatives from 26 institutes turned up for the meeting. TOI has learnt that show-cause notices will be issued to the six schools which did not take part in the event. Education department officials said while 61% of the seats reserved under RTE were filled in 2012-13, 94% were occupied in 2013-14 and 97% in 2014-15. Tripta Sharma, RTE coordinator, said, “There is 25% reservation for unprivileged children in public schools under the Right to Education Act in the lower classes. We wanted to ensure that each school gave us the exact number of seats available with them along with the fee structure.” She added, “The process for final applications for admissions under the RTE quota starts from March, we wish to ensure that by March 31, the screened list of the selected students comes out. If applicants are more than the seats available, admission will be done based on chit system. We received good response last year, but are aiming at 100% this time.” It is learnt that last year, 876 seats in 32 city schools were reserved for underprivileged kids. On an average, the education department receives nearly 1,000 applications every year. Shiv Prasad Khali, chief education officer of Dehradun district, who presided over the meeting, said, “We intend to assist parents with limited means. Since the government pays for these students, we have told the schools that strict action will be taken against them if children kids enrolled under the RTE are asked to pay fees.” (Times of India 23/1/15)

72. 26 schools have less than five students each in Kolhapur (11)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur district administration had closed down 14 of a total of 40 schools in June 2014, before the commencement of the 2014-15 academic year, in remote areas of the district, because these had less than five students, states a recent district primary education department report. The remaining schools are still operational, due to unavailability of alternatives for students, states the report. According to the report, six talukas in the district – Aajra, Shirol, Bhudargad, Karveer, Radhanagari and Shahuwadi – host these schools. “The number of students was very low in these schools, located in remote areas. The 14 schools that had been shut down at the start of this academic year had just 39 students. For these 39 students, the education department had employed 25 teachers,” said Smita Gaud, district primary education officer. In a survey conducted by the education department in 2013-14, it was found that there were over 400 schools in Kolhapur with less than 20 students. Such schools have over 5,000 students and around 800 teachers. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 norms suggest that a standard 1:30 teacher-student ratio should be maintained in primary schools and a minimum of 20 students should be enrolled to operate a school division. Schools that fail to achieve these numbers could face shutdown. Students in such schools can be shifted to ones that comply with the RTE norms and are located within one kilometre of the periphery. In case of non-availability of a school within the given periphery, the government has to grant transportation arrangements for such students. Gaud said that students in schools that had been shut down have been absorbed in nearby schools. For the remaining 26 schools, there were no alternatives. “Students here do not have proper modes of transport and communication. In such cases, the closure of these 26 schools would be disastrous for them. Hence, these schools will keep operating for now,” Gaud said. Gaud said that if the number of students in the schools that have been shut down increases in future, the department may think of re-starting the school operations. Many primary teachers’ associations had expressed concern over shutting down schools with less than 20 students, under the scanner of the education department for the past few years. (Times of India 25/1/15)

73. Committe Decries Commercialisation of Education (11)

HYDERABAD: Eliminating multigrade system, providing qualified teachers and necessary infrastructure and compliance with the Right to Education Act are among the demands made by the Save Education Committee here on Monday. Members of the committee urged the State government to act immediately to improve standards in government schools. “Today, 76% of the government schools are running short of qualified teachers. Most of these schools have only 2 to three teachers who teach five classes,” pointed out K Lakshminarayana, Organizing Secretary, Save Education Committee. Talking about infrastructural needs of government schools, Lakshminarayana said 58% of the schools do not have functional toilets while 52% do not have compound walls and 71% sufficient classroooms. The committee suggested that the government introduce breakfast and evening snacks in government schools on the lines of the Midday meal scheme. “Most of the students in government schools come from poverty stricken families and are malnourished. Hence, the government should take up the responsibility of providing them nutritious food,” opined G Haragopal, general secretary, Save Education Committee. The committee also called for a ban on commercialisation of education, stating that parents are being burdened with exorbitant fee by corporate schools. “We have taken opinions from citizens belonging to different sections of the society. While the middle class sections feel pretty overloaded with the pricey education, people belonging to lower middle class have given up on the idea of private education and are restricting themselves to government schools,” Haragopal explained. “Since primary education is very important, a common platform for all the students from class IV to class VIII is needed. The government has promised free KG to PG education but it needs to look into every minute detail in improving standards in government schools,” he added. (New Indian Express 27/1/15)

74. Kannada as medium of instruction:Govt plans to amend RTEAct (1)

Bengaluru: The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to take the legislation route to ensure Kannada or mother tongue as the medium of instruction in unaided primary schools from classes 1 to 5. DH file photo. For representation pupose The State Cabinet on Thursday decided to take the legislation route to ensure Kannada or mother tongue as the medium of instruction in unaided primary schools from classes 1 to 5. The Supreme Court last year had upheld a Karnataka High court judgment striking down an executive order issued by the State government in 1994 imposing Kannada or mother tongue as medium of instruction in primary schools. The apex court had stated that the order infringed upon the right to freedom of expression and speech. The Supreme Court also rejected a revision petition filed by the Karnataka seeking review of its ruling. A curative petition filed by the government is yet to be heard by the apex court. Now, with the private school managements filing a contempt petition before the Supreme Court, for not implementing its order, the State government has decided to take the legislation route. Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Law Minister T B Jayachandra said that with education being on the concurrent list, the state government can bring amendments to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 ( a Central Act) popularly known as Right to Education Act, to restore the primacy of Kannada in primary education. Sections 19 (7) and 29 (2) of the Act, which pertains to curriculum, would be amended to specifically state that Kannada or mother tongue should be the medium of instruction in schools, Jayachandra said. The amendments would be tabled in the legislature session scheduled to commence from February 2. The amendments would also help the State government in its arguments before the Supreme Court when the curative petition is taken up, the minister added. Jayachandra said that the State government was also trying to evolve a national consensus to ensure mother tongue as the medium of instruction in primary schools. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has written to his counterparts in other states in this regard. In another decision, the Cabinet gave its approval for setting up an Higher Education Academy at Karnatak University at a cost of Rs 166 crore – to be released over the next five years. The Cabinet meeting also decided to release the government’s share of Rs 38 crore for the teacher training programmes at District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs). (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

75. ‘Wrong policies will make 1 bn more people poor by 2030′ (21)

London: Almost one billion more people globally may face extreme poverty by 2030 if world leaders fail to make concrete decision on inequality and climate change at two UN summits to be held this year. The “action/2015″, an international coalition of more than 1,000 organisations, warned that global poverty could rise for the first time in a generation if politicians make the wrong calls, The Independent reported Thursday. The “action/2015″ campaign will target the UN summit in New York in September, which will discuss a new agenda to replace the millennium development goals set in 2000, which expire this year. The new agenda is expected to include ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests. The campaign will also demand tough action to tackle man-made climate change when UN-led negotiations on a new global agreement reach a climax in Paris in December. Research for the campaign by the University of Denver shows that, if world leaders get it right, the number of people living in extreme poverty – less than 82 pence or about Rs.77 ($1.25) a day – could be reduced dramatically from more than one billion to 360 million by 2030. By then, about 4 per cent of the global population would live in extreme poverty, down from 17 per cent today. This would make eradicating extreme poverty achievable for the first time in history. However, if the two summits get it wrong, the number of people living in extreme poverty could increase to 1.2 billion by 2030 –the first rise since 1993, and 886 million higher than if strong action is taken. Under this scenario, one in three of the world’s population would live on under 1.32 pound or Rs.123 ($2.0) a day. The goals of “action/2015″ include an end to poverty in all its forms; ensuring fundamental rights, tackling inequality and discrimination and speeding up the transition to “100 per cent renewable energy”.Nobel laureate and campaigner for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai said: “People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy. Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place. Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part.” The campaign “action/2015″ is supported by more than 120 countries. Queen Rania of Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates, rock star Bono, actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the mobile communications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim have also extended their support to the campaign. British Prime Minister David Cameron, Leader of Opposition in Britain Ed Miliband, and British politician Nick Clegg also have pledged their support. (Business Standard 15/1/15)

76. Poverty isn’t invincible, after all (21)

KOLKATA: Poverty is dismal, dehumanizing and desolate. But, as Meera Mitra shows, it is possible to write positively about poverty without mocking it. A collection of 18 real-life stories penned by her and released on the last day of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF), being held in association with the Times of India, provides an alternative discourse on poverty. ‘Breaking Through — India’s Stories of Beating The Odds On Poverty’ features people from all corners of the country who have overcome the odds and managed to lift themselves out of poverty. But it is more than just a collection of their stories. The book’s subtle narrative, and one that’s perhaps more important, is one that shows how the levers of the system could be worked to struggle for existence. There are stories of Dalits, small traders, marginal farmers and roadside vendors who work the system to climb up the economic ladder. The book, as social theorist Ashis Nandy who released it said, is “beautifully written” and is positive in the sense that it offers hope for the poor and for policy planners and social activists who want to tackle the scourge Meera, a sociologist and development specialist who is also the spouse of state finance minister Amit Mitra, said that during her extensive research over the years, she came across many positive examples of people who managed to beat the odds in India’s villages, towns and cities. Their stories had to be told not only to inspire other poor people but also to show planners and others that there are ethical ways to beat poverty. “Many NGOs are doing fantastic work in the fields of micro-finance, panchayati raj and other sectors. Their stories have to be told and the media has to be asked to do that,” she said. She added that since the liberalization process started, the number of people coming out of poverty “is amazing” and the book shows what ladders they are taking and how they are doing it. The book is a light read on a very heavy subject. Nandy said that since the very beginning of development, there has been dissatisfaction with it. Development in all countries, he pointed out, leads to reduction of poverty in the short and long run, but also leads to many poor people being pushed into destitution. And development, when fast-paced, leads to some degree of authoritarianism by its pilots. Development, said Nandy, also weakens and destroys communities, especially those outside the market. The book, he noted, provides hints on how this can be avoided. A telling commendation of the book came from film director Goutam Ghose. He said that the book offers a ray of hope that people can be lifted out of poverty without destroying their social structures and displacing them. “There are so many exciting and animating stories in this book that I’m tempted to make films out of them,” he said. Sudha Kaul, founder of the Indian Institute of Celebral Palsy, said development’s dark side was that it bypasses people with disabilities. The session, held at The Park, was moderated by AKLF co-director Anjum Katyal. (Times of India 19/1/15)

77. India tops malnutrition chart in south Asia (21)

NEW DELHI: Severe acute malnutrition should be recognized as a medical emergency with one million children under five dying in India due to malnutrition related causes, say activists. A new study in Baran, Rajasthan and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh has found that preventable deaths continue to hit children in the poorest areas of the country. According to UNICEF, every year 1 million children under five die due to malnutrition related causes in India. The statistics are alarming, and far above the emergency threshold for acute malnutrition (as per WHO classification of the severity of malnutrition). ACF India and Fight Hunger Foundation on Tuesday announced the launch of the Generational Nutrition Program. Speaking about the program ACF India deputy country director Rajiv Tandon said that there was an urgent need to recognize severe acute malnutrition as a medical emergency. He also stressed on the need for policies to tackle malnutrition and adequate budgets for implementation. The ACF report says that the number of children affected in India is higher than all the south Asian countries with high burden of wasting or acute malnutrition. “Within India, scheduled tribes (28%), scheduled castes (21%) and other backward castes (20%) and rural communities (21%) have a high burden of acute malnutrition,” the report said. These reports throw light on the malnutrition situation in the two districts analyzing the infant mortality rates and child deaths due to conditions which are preventable… (Times of India 21/1/15)

78. FCI revamp committee suggests lower food security law coverage (21)

New Delhi: The committee constituted by the government on how to reform the Food Corporation of India (FCI) — it gave its report this week — suggested limiting foodgrain distribution under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to 40 per cent as against the current norm of 67 per cent, thus, saving the exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore per year. It, however, wants more to be given to households classified as below poverty line (BPL), seven kg a head instead of five kg in a month. The coverage of 67 per cent would mean a subsidy of Rs 1.3 lakh crore a year and that of 40 per cent would mean Rs 77,000 crore a year, at five kg each of grain. If seven kg is given, the subsidy will be Rs 1.07 lakh crore.   The committee has also suggested that the food ministry should be quick to export grains or sell them in the local market as soon as FCI procures more than the requirement. “The government should defer implementation of NFSA in states that have not done end-to-end computerisation, have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from the Public Distribution System ,” said the committee’s report. Former Union food minister Shanta Kumar, who chaired the committee, said the report was pro-farmer and pro-poor, and followed the Gandhian ideal of Antyodaya (succour to the poorest). “We (Bharatiya Janata Party) had objections to the NFSA while in opposition but had to support it in Parliament due to electoral compulsions. Now, we want to correct the mistakes,” Kumar told reporters. In a related development, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed the food ministry to give its comments to the report, senior officials said they have started the process of implementing some of the recommendations “like increasing the supply of jute bags and computerisation of public distribution system”. Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told Business Standard the department will study all suggestions and consult other ministries before forming a view. The FCI revamp committee had said beneficiaries covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, numbering around 30 million households on the basis of a 1992-93 census, should continue to get foodgrain through the PDS at highly subsidised rates of Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse cereals. Those outside this classification but priority households should get grain at a price which is half the government’s minimum support price. Under the current form of the Act, foodgrain is to be allocated to all beneficiaries at a uniform Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 a kg for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse cereals each month. This price would remain for three years. The panel also suggested the government gradually move to cash transfer of the subsidy in the PDS, starting with the 50-odd cities having a population of more than a million. “This could be extended to the foodgrain surplus states and thereafter the deficit states could be given the option of either cash or physical grain distribution,” its report said. “If the report is implemented in full, it will have a magnificent impact on the poor of this country and add an extra income of Rs 3,000 crore per annum for the poor, helping bringing around 15 crore (150 mn) out of poverty,” said Shanta Kumar. The panel estimates if food subsidy is transferred in cash, it will save the exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore per annum in subsidies, while giving a better deal to consumers. “Our vision of FCI is an organisation which reaches its glorious past,” said Ashok Gulati, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). He was a member of the panel. The committee also suggests FCI hand over procurement of wheat and rice to the state governments in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab. And, concentrate on Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, where farmers resort to distress sales due to poor state procurement and are dominated by small land holdings. (Business Standard 23/1/15)

79. Govt. to focus on improving livelihood in 150 mandals (21)

HYDERABAD: Telangana Minister for IT, Panachayat Raj and Rural Development K.T. Rama Rao stated that the government has plans to spend Rs. 642 crore in 150 mandals that are most backward over the next five years for improving livelihood and human development indices (HDI) under the Telangana Palle Pragathi programme. It was often dubbed that welfare and development schemes such as ‘Aasara’ and restoration of minor irrigation tanks were the only indicators of progress, but there was more to measure HDI, the Minister said. Providing marketing facility, sharing market knowledge and ensuring remunerative price to agriculture produce were also part of the larger development indicators. Speaking after releasing the annual diary of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) Employees’ Association here on Friday, Mr. Rao said the credit for mobilising and organising women during the last 14 years would go to SERP alone. However, the organisation did not publicise its efforts properly, he felt. He suggested the SERP to set up a centre of excellence by documenting its best practices in different fields to inspire line departments and act as a model to other departments. Chief executive officer of SERP A. Murali stated that there were 47.42 lakh women in about 4.17 lakh self help groups in the State and about 20 lakh poor families were getting Rs. 3,000 crore financial linkage through banks and Streenidhi federation. In farming, 11.2 lakh farmers were getting benefited with sustainable agriculture in 20.4 lakh acres, he said. He explained that about 37.5 lakh families in 10,621 villages were expected to get benefited under the Palle Pragathi scheme. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

80. ‘Vicious circles linking violence and hunger’ must end – UN agriculture chief (21)

New York: Agriculture and food security must be treated as essential components of peacebuilding and conflict resolution, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said during a special meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission held at Headquarters today. “Food security is an important foundation for peace, political stability and sustainable development. In the history of humanity, time and time again we have seen vicious circles linking violence and hunger – and these are conflicts that are not restricted by national borders,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said to participants today. In addition to Graziano da Silva’s briefing, the meeting was also expected to hear opening remarks from the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, another briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support as well as an interaction with Member States. In his remarks, the FAO Director-General emphasized that food security can be used as “a conflict prevention and mitigation tool” for the advancement of peace and security. Policies and actions on food security can not only build resilience and resolve conflicts; they can help prevent them, too. “We cannot just wait for an emergency to react. To achieve food security, we need to act before the crisis. We cannot prevent a drought from happening, but we can prevent it from becoming famine,” he added. Hunger kills far more people than war or terrorism, he noted during his speech. For example, between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 55,000 people a year lost their lives as a direct result of conflict or terrorism, while in Somalia alone, between 2010 and 2012 over 250,000 died due to famine caused by severe drought, Graziano da Silva said. Meanwhile, the impact of conflicts in rural areas can be devastating for crop production, livestock and harvests and often causes the destruction of farm assets and household capital. And the impact of conflicts on food security often lasts long after the violence has subsided, Graziano da Silva said. As agriculture continues to be the primary way of life for the majority of people in post-conflict countries, rehabilitation and revival of agriculture in those areas, therefore, becomes crucial to alleviating poverty and ensuring overall development. The FAO Director-General emphasized that “partnerships are crucial,” spotlighting that now more than ever countries need to work together to overcome the multiple, interconnected challenges. It is in this spirit of collaboration that FAO has been able to successfully carry out projects across the globe. Additionally, with the crafting of new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) underway, “improved knowledge and understanding of the possible interplays between food security and human security will help shape more effective interventions and contribute to more lasting results,” Graziano da Silva said. (New Kerala 27/1/15)

81. More bhagya schemes roll out, but no revenue rolls in (21)

Bengaluru: From Anna Bhagya to Bachchilu Bhagya, chief minister Siddaramaiah has been rolling out populist schemes one after another, putting severe stress on public finances. This, despite the fact that the state’s revenue collection has taken a major hit this fiscal and adversely impacted construction projects, infrastructure and road works. In the past week, Siddaramaiah launched two schemes — Vime Bhagya (Rs 1.5 lakh insurance scheme for Above Poverty Line families) and Bachchilu Bhagya (Rs 18,000 subsidy for 1.5 lakh BPL families to construct bathrooms). This at a time when the state is already shelling out Rs 7,000 crore in subsidies for various populist schemes. “Populist schemes are the order of the day for any government to win votes. But in Karnataka, it seems the the policies are extremely pro-poor and less pro-growth. It’s extremely important to balance pro-poor schemes to alleviate poverty and pro-growth schemes to push economy especially in the wake of federal level competition and slowdown in economy,” said Prof G Ramesh, Centre for Public Policy, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru. As a result of more populist measures, resource mobilization has taken a serious hit, raising doubts over the government’s ability to foot the bill for its populist schemes and programmes. “It’s expected to get worse with dipping revenue and more populist schemes planned ahead of panchayat elections,” said a senior official in the finance department. Siddaramaiah recently met officials of revenue-generating departments — commercial tax, transport, excise and stamps and registration – to put pressure on them to meet the Rs 14,500 crore target this fiscal. He reportedly said their promotions would be directly linked to performance in meeting targets. Since then, the commercial tax department has been going all out to meet the target, causing resentment among businessmen. “After the CM’s warning, the commercial tax department conducted raids on traders, creating panic in the business community. This was uncalled for since it has been supportive of the Congress government,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trader-activist. (Times of India 28/1/15)

82. Himachal has succeeded in reducing poverty: World Bank (21)

SHIMLA: Over the years Himachal Pradesh has emerged as one of the states with the best human development outcomes in India. However, there has been a decline in the female child sex ratio as people have developed preference for male child. A World Bank report released on Wednesday has revealed that the state was also facing the problem of malnutrition in children and an ageing population. The report – Scaling the heights: Social inclusion and sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh – is a macro-social account of the state’s achievements over the past several decades and an attempt to understand the factors that allowed Himachal Pradesh to move toward social inclusion and sustainable development. The World Bank report highlights how Himachal Pradesh has effectively balanced economic growth with good human development outcomes and has successfully reduced poverty among different groups in the state. However, it has also captured issues of concern such has decline in the female child sex ratio, under nutrition in children and an ageing population. “Perhaps one of the most worrisome trends, and in many ways a puzzle in Himachal Pradesh, is the stark absence of female children compared to male. Himachal Pradesh has made significant progress in reducing both fertility and infant mortality. Additionally, in a regime where education, health, sanitation, and overall growth are models for others to emulate, the higher mortality of female children comes as a surprise and a conundrum,” the report stated. The report stated that in the late 1990s, Himachal Pradesh had received international kudos because its female-to-male ratio seemed to be approaching parity since 1901, and demographers predicted that this progress would continue. “But, the 2001 census showed an unexpected dip in overall sex ratio for Himachal Pradesh. Much more worrisome has been the sharp decline in female-to-male ratios among children,” it added. The report further stated that from 1981 to 2011, the number of females to every 1,000 males plummeted. Such a sharp decline implicates sex-selective abortions and gross neglect of female children, although not female infanticide, in a fertility regime that is characterized by a preference for small families and sons. “However, it is true that stated preferences for sons seem to have declined from 1992 to 2005, when the first and third rounds of the National Family Health Survey were conducted,” it added. The report stated that the change in attitude seems to have gone hand-in-hand with a slight improvement in the number of female children to every 1,000 male kids between the 2001 and the 2011 censuses, but the state government has to keep a close watch to ensure this trend continues to improve. (Times of India 30/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

83. Centre Delaying Release of Rs.1,008 cr NREGS Instalment to Telangana Government (14)

HYDERABAD: Assurances belie the ground reality. As the endless promises stack up on one side of the Centre’s commitment to continue the largest employment scheme effectively, there is delay in providing states their due under the scheme. One of the largest beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Telangana government has been waiting since November for the release of over Rs.1,000 crore as second instalment for the current financial year. “The state government has sent proposals to the tune of Rs.1,008 crore. Any further delay in release of funds would seriously affect the implementation of the scheme,” a senior official in the government told Express. With whatever little is left with the rural development department from the previous funds, the programme is being continued in nine districts of the state. The inordinate delay in disbursal of the funds earmarked for the programme is likely to jeopardise the livelihood of over one crore NREGS workers. According to official estimates, there are a total of 61.31 lakh NREGS job cards in the state which guarantee at least 100 days of work per year on each card. The amount that is left with the government for the scheme can be utilised for a maximum number of ten days, another official in the rural development commissionerate has said. “Considering its a peak season due to harvesting, the funds may not last even ten days,” the official feared. Under the NREGS Act, applicants are entitled to get work within 15 days from the day of making application for the same. Failing which the government has to pay an unemployment allowance to them, organised into Shrama Shakti Sanghams. “If there is any dearth of funds, the state government will have nothing but to refrain from making commitments to provide work,” the official added. Besides, it would also come as a dampener to several developmental works planned by the state government: a substantial quantum of NREGS funds is also spent on developmental works in rural areas.  Asked about the Centre’s response to the state government’s requisition, he said,”The Centre has promised to release the funds in the next four to seven days and suggested to us to utilise the previous funds.” (New Indian Express 12/1/15)

84. Livelihood of 25,000 farmers affected: CPI(M) (14)

NAGERCOIL:  “Wrong policies” of the BJP-led NDA government and the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre were the cause for dwindling rubber price, said G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), here on Sunday. Addressing a public meeting at Atrur to mark the end of the party’s three-day 21{+s}{+t}district conference in Tiruvattar, Mr. Ramakrishnan said due to the “wrong policies” the livelihood of 25,000 farmers depending on rubber cultivation in the district was affected. He charged that Union Minister of State for Shipping and Highways Pon. Radhakrishnan had failed to fulfil the assurances given to the voters of Kanyakumari Parliamentary constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the gates for multi-national companies to “loot” natural resources of our country in the name of “Make in India,” he charged. Mr. Ramakrishnan accused the NDA government of diluting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As many as 14 honour killings were reported in the State in recent past, he said. The meeting was presided over by N. Murugesan, district secretary. P. Sampath, central committee member, Noor Mohamed, State committee member, A.V. Bellarmin, former MP, R. Leema Rose, former MLA, and others spoke. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

85. Odisha first state to have migrant workers’ register (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has become the first state in the country to launch special drives to register migrant labourers working in different states. The effort is aimed at covering the migrant labourers under different social security schemes of the state government. “Since a huge number of people, especially from the southern districts of the state, are migrating to other states in search of jobs, they are deprived of the government’s social security benefits. Besides, there was no mechanism to identify them. Now we have decided to organize camps in different states to register the Odia labourers working in other states,” chairman of Odisha building and other construction workers welfare board Subash Singh told media persons here. Singh, who along with officials of state labour department had organized a camp recently in different brick kiln and construction sites in Telangana, claimed that no other state has launched such drives for welfare of construction workers. A source said the government had already registered nearly 1,500 construction labourers in Ranga Reddy, Nalgunda and Karim Nagar districts of Telangana. “We have issued a special card to them through which they can avail the benefits,” said Singh. Singh said similar drives would be conducted in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat where a substantial number of Odia workers are engaged in different construction sites. The state government has announced different welfare measures for the construction workers, like financial assistance for marriage. The wards of construction workers would receive Rs 5,000 per annum while pursuing intermediate (Plus-II) courses. They would receive Rs 7,000 per annum while pursuing graduation and post graduation, the release said. Similarly, students belonging to the families would get Rs 7,000 per annum for pursuing ITI, Rs 10,000 during diploma and polytechnics and Rs 40,000 during bachelors’ and masters’ degree in technical educations. The state has some 4.62 lakh registered construction workers. (Times of India 18/1/15)

86. Construction workers stage protest in Salem (14)

SALEM: Demanding that the State Government should fix price for cement bags, the construction workers in Salem district staged a demonstration near the District Collectorate here on Monday, Led by Federation of Salem Zone Traders Union leader K.A. Nagarajan, members said that the price of a cement bag was sold between Rs. 370 to Rs. 390 in the State. “People involved in construction of houses and buildings have stopped the work. This has left us jobless,” they said. Members wanted cement bags to be imported from foreign countries and other States. Also, the government should fix the price of cement bags. They said that the welfare assistance from the Salem Workers Welfare Board was not given to them in the past years and membership card was also not given to them from 2012-13. They said that the board without any prior information conducts camp for enrolment, renewal and also concludes camp. Later a meeting was held in which the following resolutions were passed including stringent action against persons involving in child abuse and sexual harassment of schoolchildren. Also the resolution urged for providing adequate protection in schools to prevent such incidents. Resolutions also urged for distributing monthly assistance without delay, reduction of power tariff by 15 per cent and also provide compensation to the members in case of natural death. (The Hindu 20/1/15)

87. Govt to provide tablets to Gram Panchayats under MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is all set to give a digital boost to the flagship rural jobs programme by providing tablets to 2.65 lakh gram panchayats in the country to monitor its implementation. The mobile monitoring of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will cost the Centre about Rs 265 crore, with the rural development ministry distributing tablets costing Rs 10,000 each to the gram panchayats, officials said. The government will roll out the first phase of the mobile monitoring system on April 1 in 35,000 gram panchayats, a senior government official told ET. The initiative comes after the government has already decided to switch over to direct benefit transfer under the scheme, which is expected to be expanded to the entire country in the next one year. The previous UPA government had, in March last year, notified usage of tablets to monitor the scheme in 10,000 gram panchayats. However, the plan did not take off because of the unavailability of AakashIV tablets, promoted by the department of electronics and IT, to be used to digitally update the scheme. The ministry has amended the earlier provision and extended the proposal to cover all gram panchayats in the country under the scheme, starting with 25,000 gram panchayats along with 10,000 identified by the previous government in the first phase. The government hopes mobile monitoring will enable access to real-time data at the village level, there by improving implementation of MGNREGA, which has drawn a lot of criticism for its failure to create new and durable assets. “The government has decided to extend the mobile monitoring to all gram panchayats and technical or supervisory personnel involved in implementing MGNREGA to empower them with live data from worksites besides location of assets with geo-tagging for easy verification. This will lead to complete transparency in the system,” said the official, requesting anonymity. The states have been asked to identify the gram panchayats under the first phase by January 31 and immediately start procurement of devices as well as training of personnel, the official added. According to the ministry officials, the mobile monitoring of MGNREGA will serve the twin purpose of making the scheme more effective and giving a panIndia platform to the government for rolling out its Digital India drive. The annual allocation for MGNREGA is Rs 34,000 crore and so far nearly Rs 2 lakh crore have been spent under the scheme. The scheme guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. On average, 25% of rural households seek employment under the scheme annually. (Times of India 23/1/15)

88. EPFO wants speedy enrolment of construction workers (14)

New Delhi: To speed up the process of extending provident fund (PF) coverage to construction and contract workers, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has asked all its regional offices to expedite the process of enrolment. Noting that a number of instructions had been issued in the past in this regard, a circular dated January 22 by the Additional PF Commissioner has instructed all its regional offices to hold meetings with State governments, large establishments (with over 500 employees), such as the Railways, units employing over 100 workers and unions and monitor the activities and send information to the head office. “At least five to 10 meetings be conducted in the areas where labourers are predominantly residing (involving labour unions also). The details of these should also be brought to the notice of the headquarters,” it said citing instructions sent on January 8. As per National Sample Survey (2011- 2012) estimates, there are about 50.22 million building and other construction workers, including contract workers, many of whom keep moving from one location to another. All regional PF offices have also been conveyed the concerns of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which in its meeting earlier this month, urged the EPFO to “work hard” on coverage of construction and contract workers. Last year, the EPFO had set up two sub-committees to suggest ways to close the gap in coverage of construction and contract workers, many of whom are not stationed in one location. According to Labour Ministry estimates, over ₹27,000 crore lying in operative accounts belong to this section of workers. In a circular in October 2013, the retirement fund body had also cited instances brought to its notice of placement agencies and contractors providing guards, security and other personnel to government departments, autonomous bodies and so on, which were diverting residual employer contribution and “pilfering provident fund money”. Addressing a seminar in December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had said that details of contract workers in each establishment will be put up on the Shram Suvidha Portal. (HBL 26/1/15)

89. 2,000 migrant workers on their way home fearing retaliation (14)

Raichur: Around 2,000 migrant construction workers employed at the construction site returned to their native States on Tuesday fearing retaliation by local people. The labourers took whatever they could from their temporary shelters, located near the construction site, and left Yermarus in a hurry. The police escorted some families with women and children. The migrant workers had allegedly attacked a group of local workers for rushing the accident victim to the hospital. The migrants thought it would have been easier for them to get a good compensation for the victim’s family had they kept the body at the site. The situation got further tensed as thousands of local youths from Yermarus and the surrounding villages of Yeganur, Dandu, Chikkasugur, Odlur, and Kukanur gathered to retaliate against the migrant workers, particularly those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The migrant workers too were equipped with rods and stones to face the attack. However, the police managed to bring the situation under control by summoning additional forces. By evening over 1,000 police personnel, led by Superintendent of Police M.N. Nagaraj, encircled the workers at their colony to prevent further damage. Mr. Nagaraj announced that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been imposed in the area and the migrant workers had been asked to leave for their native places. However, he later claimed that the workers had vacated voluntarily. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

RESERVATION

90. SP workers demand quota for Muslims (25)

AURANGABAD: Samajwadi Party workers on Friday staged a demonstration in the city to demand reservation for Muslims. The party held similar demonstrations in ten different districts of the state. The president of SP’s city unit, Qaisar Qureshi, said the party has decided to create awareness among those of the community across the state. “In second phase, we will hold similar demonstrations in ten other districts in the state to expose the wrongdoings of the BJP-led government. The party will expose how the members of the community are being deprived of their basic rights,” he said. The BJP government recently passed a bill providing 16% reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs, but left the Muslims out. “This is injustice as Muslims, too, deserve reservations in jobs and education. The government should issue a clarification on the issue,” he said. Qureshi said various committees like the Sachar committee and others had recommended reservations for the Muslim community. (Times of India 10/1/15)

91. Courts can’t ask states to provide quota in promotions: SC (25)

New Delhi: The Constitution enables governments to provide for reservation of SC/ST category employees even in promotions but courts cannot direct them to make such a provision, the Supreme Court has ruled. A bench of justices J Chelameswar and A K Sikri, however, said the aggrieved employees, belonging to SC/ST categories, can themselves seek redressal from the court if they are denied the rightful promotions. “Insofar as making of provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of post is concerned, such a provision can be made in favour of SC/ST category employees if, in the opinion of the State, they are not adequately represented in services under the State. “Thus, no doubt, power lies with the State to make a provision, but, at the same time, courts cannot issue any mandamus to the State to necessarily make such a provision. It is for the State to act, in a given situation, and to take such an affirmative action,” the bench said. Whenever, there exists such a provision for reservation in the matters of recruitment or promotion, it would bestow an enforceable right in favour of persons belonging to SC/ST category and on failure on the part of authorities to reserve posts in selections or promotions, the employees concerned can move the court to get their rights enforced, it said. The court discussed the clause 4 and 4A of Article 16, which deal with quota in promotions in services also in its verdict and said these are “only the enabling provisions which permit the State to make provision for reservation of these category of persons”.The court’s observations came while deciding a plea of Central Bank of India SC/ST Employees Welfare Association and others which had challenged the decision of the bank not to grant reservation in promotions in all categories. The PSU bank had taken the stand that there was no rule of reservation for promotion in the Class A (Class-I) to the posts/scales having basic salary of more than Rs 5,700. The court, in its 36-page verdict, said, “While setting aside the impugned judgment of the high court to the extent it holds that office memorandum dated 13-8-1997 makes a provision for reservation, it is clarified that at present there is no provision for reservation in promotion by selection only in respect of those posts which carry an ultimate salary of 5,700 per month … “Qua appellant banks, that would be in respect of Scale-VII and above. Therefore, to carry out promotions from Scale-I up wards up to Scale-VI, reservation in promotion in favour of SC/ST employees has to be given. “It would have the effect of allowing the writ petitions filed by the respondents/unions partly with directions to the appellant Banks to make provision for reservations while carrying out promotions from Scale-I to to Scale-II and upward up to Scale-VI.” The bank had said that as per the promotion policy, the candidates belonging to SC/ST category have been given reservation at the initial level of recruitment and also for promotion in the clerical cadre. “Such a reservation is also provided for promotion from clerical grade to the lowest rank in the officers grade which is commonly known as Junior Management Grade Scale-I (Scale-I). “However, when it comes to promotion from Scale-I to the next scale, which is known as Middle Management Grade Scale-II (Scale-II), the Banks have not been making any reservations while carrying out these promotions,” the bank had said. (Deccan Herald 12/1/15)

92. Rajasthan HC tears into over 50% reservation to women in rural polls (25)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Friday issued notices to the state chief secretary, the secretary of the state election commission and the principal secretary panchayati raj on a petition which challenged the government’s order to provide 50% reservation given to women in the panchayat elections on the ground that coupled with reservation given to SC/ST and OBC, the total reservation exceeds the 50% ceiling of reservation set by the Supreme Court. A division bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Prakash Gupta issued the notice on the petition filed by Ram Niwas. The Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Ordinance, 2009 amended the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act and ‘one third of the seats’ of Section 15′s sub sections (5) and (6) had been substituted by words ‘one half of the seats’. The effect of the amendment was that half of the seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayati Raj Institution have been reserved for women. The petition claimed that the reservation made in favour of women candidates is now horizontal. Total reservation thus made in favour of the candidates belonging to SC, ST, OBC and women and youth candidates thus comes to almost 75%, which is beyond the Constitutional benchmark of 50%. It is now well settled in law that all reservations in all forms cannot exceed beyond 50%, the petitioner’s counsel Anoop Dhand said. The legality and the Constitutional validity of these amended provisions of Section 6 (6) (7) and Section 21A of the Rajasthan Municipalities (RM) Act 2009 was challenged in DBCWP No. 11900/2009 titled as Mohd Kalim v/s State & Ors., and the same was disposed of on March 5 2010 and the amended provisions of Section 6(6) (7) of RM Act, 2009 were held to be ultra vires and struck down and the provision of Section 21A of the RM Act after having it declared as ultra vires. Hence, the petitioner pointed out that the direction of principal secretary (panchyati raj) on November 28, 2014 to district collectors to ensure 50% reservation for women is illegal. (Times of India 17/1/15)

93. SC/ST cops to get 17% of SHO posts (25)

PATNA: In ostensibly a first, the state police HQ has initiated a move to implement the provisions of reservation to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the crucial posting of station house officers (SHOs) of police stations. Crime Investigation Department (CID)’s ADG (weaker sections) Arvind Pandey on Saturday sent a letter to all SSPs, SPs and superintendents of railway police (SRPs), advising them to ensure posting of efficient SC/ST police officers as SHOs in proportion to the reservation granted to them. The state government provides 16% job reservation to SCs and 1% to STs. “During comprehensive review of the cases related to atrocities against SCs/STs in the state’s 1,021 police stations and the data pertaining to the posting of SHOs, it was found SC/ST officers have not been posted as SHOs in proportion to the quota for them though there were several competent SC/ST sub-inspectors and inspectors in all police districts,” the ADG has pointed out in his three-page letter. Of the 73 police stations in Patna district, for instance, only seven are currently being helmed by SC/ST SHOs whereas 12 SHOs should have been SC/ST as per the reservation rules. Pandey has also underlined the need of extra-sensitivity to investigation of cases pertaining to atrocities against SCs/STs. “It is necessary in the public interest that competent SC/ST police officers are posted as SHOs in police stations as per their quota. This will lead to prompt action against the accused, ensuring justice to victims of atrocities,” the ADG has said. Reacting to the move, however, one SP regretted the khaki ‘uni-form’ is going to change into ‘caste-form’ in Bihar. (Times of India 18/1/15)

94. Punjab rapped for failure over SC schemes (25)

CHANDIGARH: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) on Tuesday expressed serious reservations over the failure of the Punjab government to implement the provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes (PoA) Act, as well as under-utilised or misutilised funds and financial assistance under the Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan released by the Centre in 2010. Talking to reporters after a review meeting for Punjab and Chandigarh, NCSC Chairman P. L. Punia said that the State vigilance and monitoring committee, headed by the Chief Minister, had not held its meeting since 2006 even though the PoA Act mandated its meeting every six months. Similarly meetings at district levels were also not being held on regular intervals. Dr Punia pointed out that the financial assistance of Rs.434.07 lakh under the Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan released by the Centre in 2010 had not been properly utilised. Failure of the State government to submit the relevant utilisation certificate had resulted in non-release of funds under the plan for the subsequent years including the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 fiscals. Dr Punia said that as per the norms, 32 per cent of plan funds had to be allocated exclusively for the schemes related to the welfare of the SCs. While the Punjab government had committed that it would ensure minimum 28 per cent allocation, the actual expenditure worked out to be around just two per cent. The Commission, which met public representatives, leaders of various associations and senior administrative officers, found out that there was a major delay in registration of cases in matters related to atrocities against SCs, where a very low conviction rate was also reported. Dr Punia also pointed out another serious lapse on the part of the Punjab government, which had yet to begin filling up of the 20,000 backlog job vacancies in the SC category. However, the NCSC lauded the helpline 181 and Sanjh Kendras, which had provided relief to the people. The Commission recommended the distribution of 18,000 acres of surplus land in Punjab among SC families. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

95. SCs to lay down their lives demanding internal reservation (25)

BALLARI: Madiga Dandora, which is spearheading a movement seeking internal reservation among Scheduled Castes, has given a call to its activists to lay down their lives on Republic Day to protest against the inordinate delay on the part of the State government in accepting the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Commission report and recommending to the Union government to implement it. “Our activists will resort to this extreme step in all the 30 districts of the State, while the national flag is being unfurled in their respective districts on Republic Day, to register our protest agianst the inaction of the government to provide internal reservation,” B. Narasanna, vice-president of the State unit of Madiga Dandora told presspersons here on Saturday. Mr. Narasanna came down heavily on the Siddaramaiah government for not initiating steps to implement the Justice Sadashiva Commission report. According to him, though the population of Scheduled Caste was more and were subjected to continued injustice, several other castes which got the SC tag were enjoying the benefits of reservation. “In this background, we urged the government to provide internal reservations among the Scheduled castes based on the population. It is unfortunate that though the Justice Sadashiva Commission had submitted its report long back, there has been no response from the State government,” he said. “We are remembered only during elections with promises to implement the Justice Sadashiva Commission report only to be forgotten immediately afterwards,” he charged. (The Hindu 24/1/15)

96. AIIMS faculty picked while quota probe on (25)

NEW DELHI: The faculty selection process at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was completed recently despite an ongoing probe by the health ministry into the matter and repeated demands by various BJP allies to put the process on hold till anomalies are addressed. The recruitment process allegedly denies reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes even as there are provisions for the same. According to official sources, a total of around 500-600 appointments were made in two tranches since 2003. Out of this around 250 posts were filled during the selection process earlier this month. Senior faculty members from AIIMS, who had earlier met health ministry officials seeking intervention, have now written to health secretary Lov Verma highlighting concerns on the latest development and manipulation of reservation roster to undermine the representation of reserved classes. “Despite having an assurance to protect the interests of SC/ST/OBC, no intervention was made from your office and process of faculty selection was allowed to be continued based on disputed roster. This clearly reflects the callous and indifferent attitude of the government towards the issue of reservation,” AIIMS faculty members representing the Forum for Rights & Equality said in the letter. The issue had recently come up during the winter session of Parliament. Following that, Union health minister J P Nadda asked senior ministry officials to examine the matter. Even as senior ministry officials including health secretary and joint secretary met the AIIMS director along with other senior faculty members to discuss the issue, the ministry apparently failed to stay the ongoing recruitment process, a senior AIIMS official said. He added, the latest faculty selection was done based on a faulty roster which ignored the fact that reserved posts were filled by general category candidates and there is a shortfall to be taken care of. “Shortfall occurs when all the seats for a particular category cannot be filled due to non-availability of candidates…shortfall has to be filled by advertising the same reserved posts for at least three consecutive times. This obviously requires carry forward of posts, rather than filling them with general category candidates,” faculty members said in their letter to Verma. The members have suggested the backlog of reserved posts be treated as a separate distinct group and these posts should be advertised and filled separately. Faculty selection at AIIMS has been a contentious issue for long. Many have alleged that while SC, ST and OBC candidates were rejected in large numbers during previous faculty selection process, the discrimination has become more aggressive with the current dispensation at AIIMS. (Times of India 27/1/15)

97. Smart cards instead of caste certificates (25)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is going to issue smart cards to backward class families instead of caste validation certificates. Considering the inordinate delays and tedious process involved in issuing the certificates, the social justice department has decided to move to smart cards. “We are introducing the smart cards mentioning castes to the families of backward communities. With the card, the family members need not seek individual certificates. We have spoken to some companies who can issue these cards,” minister of state for social justice Dilip Kamble said. The government had issued over 14 lakh caste certificates last year and over one lakh are in line to be issued at present. To a query about inter-caste marriages, the minister said the mother or the woman’s caste would be mentioned separately on it. “Usually, the father’s caste is given to the children. If mother belongs to some other caste then we will mention that separately on the card,” the minister said. Caste certificates are required to avail of reservation benefits in education, jobs and in elections if contesting from a reserved category. The process of getting a caste certificate is very tedious and takes time. Every region has caste validation committees that verify the caste certificates. With the smart card, this validation would not remain compulsory, the minister added. The social justice department has also doubled the scholarships given to students from scheduled castes going abroad for higher education. “We were giving scholarships to 50 students from the scheduled caste community going abroad for higher studies. This year we have doubled the quota and now 100 students can go for foreign studies,” Mr Kamble said. (Asian Age 30/1/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

98. It’s fashionable to focus on human rights violations: SC (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said it had become fashionable for activists in the country to talk about human rights violations in militancy-hit Jammu & Kashmir and other troubled spots while glossing over the other side of the story. It also asked why filmmakers portrayed only alleged excesses committed by security forces in J&K. “Why is it that only one-sided view is presented? Why is it fashionable to talk about human rights violation and neglect other aspects,” a bench of Justices Vikramajit Sen and C Nagappan said while hearing documentary filmmaker Pankaj Butalia’s petition challenging the Censor Board’s decision not to certify his film on Kashmir ‘The Texture of Losses’ for public screening. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the filmmaker, submitted that the film portrayed the anguish of people who had lost their parents, siblings and children in Kashmir but the Censor Board had unnecessarily asked to cut some scenes including a portion in which a woman says, “I beg Allah… that this kind of India be damned”.The bench said such portrayal of the state’s situation was one-sided which could at best be only an activist’s point of view. “It is an activist’s point of view when only one side of the story is highlighted and the other side of the story is neglected. Don’t ignore one aspect and exalt the other,” it said. “The whole debate is on what basis you portray one side of the story and not portray the other point of view on the issue. You cannot have one-sided approach. That is what has been the approach of activists,” the court said. Butalia withdrew his petition saying he would approach the Delhi High Court to challenge the Censor Board’s decision. (Times of India 12/1/5)

99. NHRC astonished at long delays in granting citizenship to Pakistani Hindus (1)

JALANDHAR: Hundreds of Hindus who migrated from Pakistan to escape persecution and discrimination around two decades back are still awaiting Indian citizenship. National Human Rights Commission has expressed astonishment at the long delay in granting them citizenship even as they came and settled over 18 years back. The Commission has also asked the Ministry of Home Affairs as to how soon will it be able to process requests of the Pakistani Hindus to grant them citizenship. “The Commission fails to understand as to why some hindus who left Pakistan and came to India in the year 1996 and whose probability of going back to Pakistan is practically non-existent are continuously living in India on a long term visa, while, even after 18 years of arrival in the country, they have not been granted citizenship,” NHRC noted in its order in October last year which has now been sent to All India Hindu Shiv Sena President Surinder Kumar Billa for his comments as he had sent a complaint to the Commission in March 2013 about the issue. Billa, who has been pursuing the issue for the last couple of years, in his complaint had pointed out that around 150 members of 20 Hindu families who had come from Sialkot and settled in three villages of district Ambala, Haryana had neither been granted citizenship nor refugee status and they were facing hardships. Taking cognizance of the complaint NHRC had sought report of action taken from concerned authorities of MHA. After examining the response from MHA and Commissioner Ambala division, the Commission also held that it “is of the view that due process should have been completed long back and all those who are eligible to become citizens of India should have been given citizenship”.It has also asked as to how soon would MHA be able to get the request of Pakistani Hindus for citizenship processed for whom India has already become a home so that they can avail all the benefits. It may be mentioned here that several Pakistani Hindus are living in Jalandhar also and they are awaiting Indian citizenship. Most of them living here are hardly making both ends meet and even their succeeding generation is bearing the brunt and most of their children have not gotten much education. (Times of India 13/1/15)

100. No reason to stop campaigner: PUCL (1)

NEW DELHI: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has criticised the immigration officials for refusing to allow Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai to fly to London. It described their action as “arbitrary, highhanded and illegal.” In a statement on January 13, PUCL said she had a valid business visa and all her travel papers were in order. There was thus no acceptable reason for preventing her from travelling to London as she was neither a convicted person nor was there any judicial restraint order prohibiting her travel abroad. The Ministry of Home Affairs had reportedly stated that they had no information about any travel restrictions on Ms. Pillai, while the immigration officials said they were acting on orders from the Government of India. PUCL said it was unlikely that such a drastic decision would be taken without instructions from the highest level. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

101. NHRC notice to UP government over hooch tragedy in Lucknow (1)

LUCKNOW: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports on hooch tragedy resulting in the death of many people in Malihabad near Lucknow and its bordering Unnao district. The commission has observed that the contents of the press reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victims. It has issued notices to the chief secretary, government of Uttar Pradesh, inspector general of police, Lucknow Range and district magistrate, Lucknow calling for reports within two weeks. Reportedly, till the January 13, 2015, the death toll had climbed to 32 even as 18 more were in critical condition in various hospitals. The state government had ordered a magisterial inquiry and suspended 20 erring officials during a crackdown. The police had registered four cases and arrested two of the main accused responsible for selling the spurious liquor. (Times of India 19/1/15)

102. NHRC directs Chief Secretary to submit report on church attacks (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of reports about a church in Vikaspuri , which was vandalised last week. Prior to this, four other incidents of attacks and suspected arson at Christian religious institutions have occurred in Dilshad Garden, Rohini and Jasola since December 1, 2014. The NHRC has observed that these frequent attacks on religious institutions of the minority community, if true, may violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion and cause “immense harm” to the country’s social fabric. The culprits involved in these incidents should be brought to book, it said. The commission has issued notice to the Delhi Chief Secretary calling for a report on these incidents within four weeks. The Chief Secretary was also directed to submit a report about the action proposed to be taken to prevent recurrence of such incidents in the Capital. The church in Vikaspuri was allegedly vandalised by two men in the early hours of January 14, even as the church authorities claimed that the attack was carried out to stoke communal tension.The incident was captured on closed circuit television cameras installed in the vicinity of the church. When the priest arrived at the church in early morning, he found the glass cabinet mounted on the outside wall broken and the statue of Mother Mary lying on the ground. Video footage reportedly showed two men on a motorcycle vandalising the church, first by breaking the glass cabinet and returning shortly after to push the statue causing a fall. Earlier, an incident of arson was reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, which is among the biggest churches in East Delhi, in December. The entire interior, including the altar, the Cross and religious scriptures, were reduced to ashes in the incident. The church was active till a night before the burning because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion. The NHRC had taken cognisance of the incident of arson at St. Sebastian’s Church as well, while observing that the destruction of a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any group was an offence under the Indian Penal Code. (The Hindu 21/1/15)

103. NHRC delegation to arrive on a three-day visit (1)

Allahabad: A delegation of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is scheduled to arrive in the city on a three-day visit beginning Tuesday to dispose of more than 50 cases of human rights violation across nine districts of Uttar Pradesh. The delegation, comprising NHRC member SC Sinha, Presenting Officer C K Tyagi and Joint Registrar (Law) A K Parashar in addition to other officials is also scheduled to hold meetings with NGOs and human rights groups active in the city. On January 27-28, the delegation is scheduled to dispose of a total of 52 cases pertaining to atrocities against SC/ST, sexual harassment at workplaces and other atrocities against women, bonded labour, custodial deaths and other instances of human rights abuse reported from the districts of Allahabad, Fatehpur, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Banda, Ambedkar Nagar, Faizabad and Sultanpur, according to an NHRC release. On January 29, the delegation will hold meetings with NGOs and human rights organizations besides senior officials of the state, the release added. The NHRC delegation’s visit is part of a series of “camp sittings” organised by the Commission for “disposal of human right’s abuse cases, gaining insights into problems with the help of NGOs and sensitization of government officials about the importance of human rights,” the release said. So far, the Commission has held similar camp sittings in various other districts of UP, besides states like Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh etc., the release said. (Zee News 25/1/15)

104. HC issues notice to Centre, IB on Greenpeace activist’s plea (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response of the Centre on the plea of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai against her “offloading” from a flight to London at the Delhi airport. Justice Rajiv Shakdher also issued notice to IB and Immigration Department seeking their responses on Pillai’s plea terming the “offloading” act as illegal and a violation of her basic rights to personal liberty and freedom of speech.The court notices were issued on the activist’s plea seeking direction to the concerned authorities to expunge the endorsements made while offloading her from the flight by immigration officials on January 11, while she was on the way to London to make a presentation before British MPs, regarding alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh. The court, meanwhile, has also directed the counsel appearing for the respondents to take instructions on Pillai’s interim application seeking permission to travel to United Kingdom on February 11, for the same cause. (Times of India 28/1/15)

105. Poor implementation of laws helps human trafficking: NHRC chairman (1)

Thrissur: Laws that lacked teeth to take stringent action against culprits have been encouraging human trafficking, Justice (retired) K.G. Balakrishnan, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, has said. He was speaking after inaugurating an international seminar on ‘Measures to combat Human Trafficking: International and National Perspectives’ organised by the Paralegal Training and Institutional Centre in association with the Government Law College, Thrissur, here on Thursday. “Human trafficking and child labour are becoming rampant even though there are many human rights organisations and NGOs functioning here. (As many as) 12.66 million children are working in hazardous sectors. About 2.8 million women are subjected to commercial sex exploitation,” he said. Increase in mobility and growth of industries were the main factors promoting human trafficking, Mr. Balakrishnan said. Coal mines, textile and food sectors were the major sectors where child labour was rampant, he added. Delivering the keynote address, Roza Pati, professor and director of Human Trafficking Academy, St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami, USA, said people’s vulnerability was the main reason for the increase in the rate of trafficking. Quoting statistics from the International Labour Organisation, she said 20.9 million people suffered under modern day slavery. More than 98 per cent of the victims of trafficking entered sex trade. There should be a system for prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims, she said. D.J. Ravindran, advisor, Asian Institute for Human Rights, Bangkok; and Maria, a lawyer and social activist, spoke on ‘Trafficking women for commercial sexual exploitation’. S.S. Giri Sankar, faculty, Government Law College, Ernakulam; and S. Anuja, faculty, National Law School of Indian University, Bangalore spoke on ‘Trafficking for Labour: Modern Forms of Slavery’. (The Hindu 30/1/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

106. Tis Hazari assault case: HC notice to lawyers (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to two lawyers on a letter sent by Tis Hazari court to consider initiating contempt proceedings against them for allegedly abusing and manhandling persons, including a woman advocate, who hail from the Northeast. The bench of justices G S Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued notice to lawyers, Azad Chandra Prakash Gautam and Varun Jain, and sought their replies by February 12. The court passed the order on a letter sent by an Additional District and Sessions Judge who has also referred to an order of the metropolitan magistrate in whose court the incident had occurred. The incident had taken place on May 23 last year when the victims had gone to Tis Hazari court for recording  the statement of a woman from the Northeast in a molestation case. They were allegedly abused and assaulted by some lawyers inside the courtroom. The woman, who was allegedly molested on the night of May 22, 2014, outside Vishwa Vidyalaya Metro station by an advocate, was accompanied by her friends and a woman lawyer. The lawyers, who were present  to  support their accused colleague, allegedly abused the victim and her friends. (Indian Express 10/1/15)

107. Bangladesh’s first Hindu Chief Justice (19)

Dhaka: Justice S.K. Sinha was on Monday appointed Chief Justice of Bangladesh to become the first Hindu to hold the highest judicial post in the Muslim-majority country. President Mohammad Abdul Hamid appointed Justice Sinha, the seniormost judge of the apex court, as its Chief Justice who will have a term of a little over three years. He is the first non-Muslim to become the country’s top judge. 64-year-old Sinha will take over on January 17 with the present Chief Justice Muzammel Hos-sain retiring on January 16 on reaching 67, the retirement age for Supreme Court judges in Ban-gladesh, a law ministry statement said. Justice Sinha is known for a number of landmark judgements, including tho-se on the killing of Bang-abandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 5th and 13th amendments to the Constitution. He has also been an appeals judge in the on-going war crimes trials linked to the country’s 1971 liberation war against Pakistan. Justice Sinha obtained LLB and enrolled as an advocate of the district court, Sylhet, in 1974. He conducted sessions trial cases independently till the end of 1977. He then enrolled as an advocate of the high court and the Appellate Division in 1978 and 1990 respectively. Justice Sinha was appointed as judge of the high court in 1999 and as judge of the Appellate Division in 2009. (Asian Age 13/1/15)

108. Hindi can’t be thrust upon judges: Govt (19)

NEW DELHI: Hindi can’t be made an official language for conducting court proceedings in higher judiciary as it would hamper judicial work, the Centre has told the Supreme Court saying that no language should be thrust upon judges. The government expressed stiff opposition to amend the Constitution to make Hindi an official language of functioning in high courts and the Supreme Court and relied on 18th Law Commission report which also came to the conclusion that making Hindi a compulsory language in the apex court is not feasible. “At any rate no language should be thrust upon the judges of the higher judiciary and they should be left free to deliver their judgments in the language they prefer. It is important to remember that every citizen, every court has the right to understand the law laid down finally by this court and at present one should appreciate that such language is only English,” the government said in its affidavit. It said the judicial administration would be seriously impaired and quality of its judges and of its judgment would suffer if Hindi is made official language. “It (English) is not merely a vehicle of thought and expression but for judges at the higher level, it is an integral part of their decision making process. Judges have to hear and understand the submission of both the sides, apply the law to adjust their equities. Arguments are generally made in higher court in English and the basic literature under the Indian system is primarily based on English and American text books and case laws. Thus judges at the higher level should be left free to evolve own pattern of delivering judgments,” it said. The Centre filed its response in compliance with the apex court order seeking its stand on a PIL for making Hindi official language for higher judiciary. The court last year had issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking its direction to the government to amend the Constitution for making Hindi official language for court proceedings. Petitioner Shiv Sagar Tiwari, a lawyer, submitted that using English as an official language in higher judiciary is a legacy of British rule which should be done away with. He termed the termed the language as “Gulami Bhasha”. (Times of India 16/1/15)

109. SC puts curbs on adjournments to ensure fairer and faster trials (19)

NEW DELHI: In a step that would ensure free and speedy trial, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered courts not to grant any adjournment during the most crucial phase of trial, which is between deposition of witness and his cross-examination by the counsel for accused. The court took strong exception to long gaps between deposition of a witness and his cross-examination and said adjournments at this crucial juncture provided the accused ample opportunity to win over witnesses and reduce the trial to a mere apology. “It is distressing to note that despite a series of judgments of the Supreme Court, the habit of granting adjournment, really an ailment, continues,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman said and commanded trial courts not to adjourn proceedings between deposition and cross-examination of a witness. This means, from now onwards, a trial court has to hold the trial proceedings continuously on a day to day basis once the witness starts deposition till his cross-examination is over. This would go a long way in expediting the trial proceedings, which are notorious for their snail pace in a litigation-congested judiciary. The court gave vent to its anguish after finding that in a trap case under Prevention of Corruption Act, a trial court in Punjab had granted many adjournments resulting in a gap of 20 months between deposition of the witness and his cross-examination. Little wonder that the witness went back on his statement. Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Misra said, “How long shall we say ‘awake and arise’? There is a constant discomfort… Adjournments are sought on the drop of a hat by the counsel, even though the witness is present in the court, contrary to all principles of holding a trial.” It ordered that this judgment, banning adjournment in the crucial phase of trial, be circulated among trial judges “with a command to follow the principles relating to a trial in a requisite manner and not to defer the cross-examination of a witness at the pleasure or at the leisure of the defence counsel, for it eventually makes the trial an apology for trial and compels the whole society to suffer chicanery”.The judgment came in a case where a public servant was caught red-handed while accepting bribe from a tractor-trolley owner for allowing it to enter the municipal area of Rajpura in January 1995. The witness recorded his statement before the trial court on September 13, 1999 but his cross-examination took place 20 months later on May 25, 2001. The complainant-cum-witness made a U-turn. But one independent witness stood by the prosecution, leading to the trial court recording conviction. The HC too saw through the delaying tactics by the accused in cross-examining the witness and confirmed the conviction of the public servant and a sentence of two years. The SC upheld the conviction and sentence, but frowned at the long adjournment of proceedings between deposition of the witness and his cross-examination. “We fail to appreciate how the trial judge could exhibit such laxity in granting so much time for cross-examination in a case of this nature,” it said and advised that the proper course for a trial judge was to complete cross-examination on the day witnesses are examined. (Times of India 22/1`15)

110. HC refuses urgent hearing on PIL in Sunanda case (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to grant urgent hearing to a plea seeking its intervention in the ongoing probe into the mysterious death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar. A Bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva declined the request of NGO Anti-Corruption Front to hear the plea accusing the police of bias. “There is no such urgency as asked by you. Let it (PIL) come or be listed then the court will hear it,” the Bench said after the counsel for the NGO requested for an urgent hearing in the matter. The PIL alleged that the probe agency was biased as a result of which there had been no development in the case, which makes it a reason enough for the court to intervene. The plea filed against the Ministry of Home Affairs, CBI and Delhi Police said that police had registered an FIR almost a year after the incident, despite clear guidelines by the Supreme Court and High Courts that on receiving information disclosing commission of a cognisable offence, an FIR should be registered without any delay. “Even the investigating agency found it is a clear case of murder but till date it is in dark. Even one year after the incident occurred in a five star hotel here, no convincing conclusion has come out,” the PIL said. A special investigation team has been constituted by the Delhi Police to probe Ms. Pushkar’s death after registering an FIR in the case on January 1. The FIR was based on Ms. Pushkar’s third autopsy report by the AIIMS medical board. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

111. In rare case, HC to record evidence of witness (19)

NAGPUR: In a rare instance, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court called on accused and witness to the courtroom at 2.30pm on Thursday to record evidence, which is basically a trial court’s jurisdiction. A division bench comprising Justice Arun Chaudhari and Justice PN Deshmukh asked assistant public prosecutor to keep the witness ready for re-examination and cross examination. They directed the counsels for all parties to get ready for recording of evidence. Even the accused was told to remain present, thus ensuring a trial court-like situation. The directives came while hearing the criminal appeal of Manohar Surjuse, who was accused of setting his wife Shakuntala on fire in October 2011. Police-sub-inspector (PSI) Nilesh Bhadak recorded her dying declaration where she named husband. After she succumbed, Bhadak arrested Surjuse. While writing the requisition for Surjuse’s medical examination, the PSI mentioned that the accused had burns on his palms and added that Shakuntala set herself ablaze and tried to commit suicide. The trial court didn’t take this aspect into the consideration, and awarded lifer to Surjuse. Surjuse challenged this verdict through counsel Rajendra Daga where the latter pointed out that there was ‘stark contradiction’ between dying declaration and requisition, both noted by the PSI. During the last hearing, the judges issued notice to the police and petitioner seeking explanation on why in accordance with provisions of CrPC’s Section 391, they shouldn’t record PSI’s additional evidence. “We’ve decided to record his additional evidence. Counsels for both are expected to be fully ready with the recording of evidence and cross-examination,” the judges ordered while making it clear that no adjournment would be granted. Noted criminal lawyer Anil Mardikar said the appellate court (HC in this case) has a right to record evidence in the case of ambiguity as per Section 386 of CrPC while Section 391 is for recording additional evidence which is being used in Surjuse’s case. “In my career of over three decades, I remember that only once a doctor was summoned in the high court as there was some ambiguity in the post mortem report. Though rare, it’s completely legal and saves a lot of time of the judiciary,” he said. He added that usually accused are brought to the high court only during death penalty confirmation. “In normal circumstances, the HC directs the lower courts to conduct retrial or rerecording of evidence. After that it was put up before the accused on whether he understood the charges framed against him. In present case, even judges can ask queries to accused and witness,” he explained. (Times of India 28/1/15)

112. Wage code to replace all related laws (19)

NEW DELHI: The government plans to introduce a “wage code,” that will replace Central laws pertaining to wage related matters and cover both the organised and the unorganised sectors. Though the government had invited comments in July last year on the draft Minimum Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which included setting a national minimum wage floor, the new “wage code” once finalised will subsume key laws, including the Minimum Wages Act 1948 and the proposed amendment. “The wage code will set basic provisions related to payment of wages and bonuses. Once this is finalised, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, will no longer be in place. The aim is to reduce the number of laws employers have to comply with,” a senior government official said. The details of the code were still being worked out. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2012 as well as the NDA government last year had proposed a statutory National Floor Level Minimum Wage (NFLMW) which will make it binding for all State governments to pay the minimum wages specified for various economic activities. The National Minimum Wages Act, 1948, lays down minimum wages for 45 listed economic activities. But since labour is a subject in the concurrent list, States can decide minimum wages for more than 1,600 economic activities. Wages paid to workers is frequently less than the specified rates. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 provides for equal wages for women and men workers for the same work. The NFLMW was based on the 1991 recommendations of the National Commission on Rural Labour. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

113. Cops Booked For Sex Torture in Police Station (1)

CHENNAI: Two head constables have been booked by the CB-CID in connection with the shocking case of forcing a 19-year-old boy and three minors to have unnatural sex at Mambalam police station. While the FIR had been registered on Wednesday, the accused cops – Sethuram and Srinivasan – are yet to be arrested until Friday evening. Meanwhile, both the accused police personnel had allegedly filed petitions seeking anticipatory bail in a court. The shocking case of torture of the youngster, who was picked up for questioning in petty theft cases, came to light recently after medical examination of the victim revealed injuries to his private parts. After a departmental enquiry, the two constables were suspended from service by the city police on Wednesday. The two police personnel had allegedly forced the 19-year-old suspect and three other 17-year-old juveniles to have unnatural sex with each other while they were under custody. It was learned on Friday that the CBCID had registered a First Information Report against the two head constables on Wednesday. “We have registered an FIR, but investigations are still underway. We have not yet decided to arrest the accused,” said a senior police officer. While an advocate representing the accused expressed apprehensions that the accused police personnel might get anticipatory bail due to delay in arresting them, another officer said the accused personnel are being interrogated and will be arrested soon. The incident came to light when the juvenile fell sick after being remanded in Puzhal Prison. Upon examination, doctors discovered the injuries to his private parts. It is alleged that the 19-year-old victim of custodial torture was caught red handed snatching a mobile from a pedestrian and was taken to Mambalam police station. He was subsequently named as accused in a few other theft cases and was allegedly tortured by forcing to perform unnatural sex to confess to the crimes. (New Indian Express 10/1/15)

114. ‘Authorized persons’ dealing with Art 370, AFSPA, Union minister Jitendra Singh says (1)

NEW DELHI: BJP, which was reportedly in talks with PDP over government-formation in Jammu & Kashmir, said on Sunday “authorized persons” are dealing with the controversial issues like Article 370 and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). Jitendra Singh, a senior leader from J&K and Union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, however, did not elaborate, saying the political situation is “fluid”.He insisted that BJP will have a crucial role to play in any government that is formed in the state. “The situation there (in J&K) is fluid and the party leadership is dealing with it,” he told PTI in an interview. Singh did not reveal with whom his party is trying to ally with in the state but there have been reports that it is in touch with PDP for firming up a coalition government. PDP is the single largest party with 28 seats in the 87-member assembly while BJP has 25 seats. “Whatever be the future dispensation, BJP will have a crucial role to play”, he said, adding that his party has “emerged as a force to reckon with” in the state. “BJP has made a history (by winning 25 seats in the state),” he said. On the controversial issues of Article 370 and AFSPA which are said to stand in the way of talks between BJP and PDP, Singh said “authorized persons” are already dealing with it. “I will not like to comment. Not at this stage because the issue of government formation in Jammu & Kashmir is at the fluid stage and the authorized person are already dealing with it (AFSPA and on Article 370). So any comments from my side may not be compatible which is going on,” he said. BJP and PDP have contradictory positions on Article 370, which grants special status to the state. While BJP is for abrogation of the Article, PDP is against it. Similarly, the two parties have different positions on AFSPA. While PDP wants its revocation, BJP is against it. Singh, after taking over as the minister in May last year, had stoked a controversy by saying that the Narendra Modi government was open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir and would make efforts to “convince” the “unconvinced” by holding contact programmes with every section of society in the state. He had later retracted his statement which drew flak from opposition parties and other stakeholders. President has imposed Governor’s rule in Jammu & Kashmir as none of the political parties got majority in the recently held assembly elections. National Conference, with 15 seats, recently offered outside support to PDP but the latter turned it down. (Times of India 18/1/15)

115. Release of 38 Indian fishermen from Bangladeshi jail delayed (1)

MADURAI: The release of 38 Indian fishermen who are lodged in a Bangladeshi jail on charges of trespassing into that country’s territorial waters has been delayed as a court on Monday postponed hearing on the matter till January 22. As many as 26 fishermen on three boats — 24 from Thoothoor in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and one each from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – and 12 others from West Bengal on a single boat were apprehended by naval authorities in Bangladesh on two different occasions. Earlier, it was believed that they would be released on Monday. P Justin Antony of Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust from Kanyakumari who is coordinating the release efforts in Bangladesh told TOI over phone that 26 fishermen were produced before the court on Monday. Since there was some document works pending with the fishermen from West Bengal, the court decided to postpone the hearing to January 22. “We expected that they would be released on Monday, but the release has been postponed. We have also requested the Indian high commission to facilitate their departure as soon as they are released,” he said. (Times of India 19/1/15)

116. Bihar: 2 killed, 15 injured in Ara court blast, 2 prisoners escape (1)

Ara (Bihar): A woman and a police constable were killed and 15 injured in a crude bomb explosion on Ara civil court premises in Bihar’s Bhojpur district on Friday, triggering alarm ahead of Republic Day. A few hours after the blast at 11.35am, police ruled out a terror link, saying it was more likely aimed at aiding some undertrial prisoners escape. Two of them did.  Undertrial prisoners Lambu Sharma and Akhilesh Upadhyay escaped after the blast, taking advantage of the chaos. Police suspect the woman killed in the blast had carried the bomb. Her identity has not been established. Her body was blown to pieces. “This shows she was closest to the impact site,” said a police official. The deceased constable was named as Amit Kumar, 25. A senior police officer said the woman might have had some links with some prisoner. “It is a matter of investigation.” Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said, “The blast took place while the bomb was being passed on to an intended person, apparently, for the release of some prisoner or prisoners. It went off prematurely, it seems.” He dismissed initial talk of “human bomb” and “suicide bomber”. Additional director general of police (headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey said the explosion took place when a van carrying undertrials for production in the court entered the premises. The undertrials were being taken to the court lock-up. “The woman was apparently carrying the bomb. It was a crude bomb,” he said, ruling out the possibility of the blast being a terror attack. Bhojpur district magistrate Pankaj Kumar Pal said some lawyers were among the injured. “We have come to know of (injuries to) three lawyers. Some police officials have also sustained injuries. The injured have been taken to the local civil hospital,” he added. The blast in Ara, about 60km west off capital Patna, initially rattled the state administration. Apart from the general state of preparedness for Republic Day, police were also on their toes for two meetings to be addressed in the state during the day by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah. Bihar police did not take chances given that serial blasts had rocked Gandhi Maidan in Patna during Narendra Modi’s (then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate) Hunkar rally in October 2013. (Hindustantimes 23/1/15)

117. NCW chief visits Sattor, condemns cop torture (1)

SURI: National Commission for Woman (NCW) chairperson Lalitha Kumarmangalam visited Sattor on Saturday and condemned the alleged torture of a housewife by Birbhum police and termed it “unprecedented”.After talking to the woman, Kumarmangalam said, “We consider it a serious case of violence against a woman. What happened was unprecedented and horrible. We have never seen or heard of such torture of a woman. It should not have happened. Politics is a different matter. Whoever is proved guilty must not be spared.” The three-member NCW team went to Sattor village in Bolpur subdivision on Saturday to talk to the woman, Haitunnesa Bibi. Haitunnesa was allegedly tortured by policemen during a raid at her parents’ place in Burdwan. The NCW team included Shamima Shafiq and Sayani Roychowdhury. They talked to the woman and her family members for around 1.5 hours at their Sattor residence, during which mediapersons and villagers were asked to leave. Kumarmangalam also said, “We asked the woman what happened to her. She explained everything in details. The injury marks on her body can still be seen.” The NCW chief said, “We have noted her statement. She has mentioned some names. Now we have to talk to the district police to come to a conclusion,” she said. “Alleged involvement of police makes the matter even more serious. We have to help the woman in every respect. If required, we will help to get her proper treatment and security,” Kumarmangalam added. From Sattor, the team moved to Bolpur. At the Bolpur circuit house, they spoke to senior officers of the district administration and police, including SP Alok Rajoria. SI Kartik Mohon Ghosh has already been suspended for his alleged involvement and other policemen, including Bolpur SDPO Amlankusum Ghosh, have been served a showcause letter. (Times of India 25/1/15)

118. Former Army chief against repealing of AFSPA in trouble-torn states (1)

PATIALA: Former Army chief General Bikram Singh said on Tuesday that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should not be lifted from the trouble-torn states as the act “empowers the soldier” to conduct important security operations. He maintained that through AFSPA, Army only “assists” the civil authorities to establish rule of law. “There are provisions in the Act which empower the soldier to conduct police-like operations. But these operations are controlled through very comprehensive dos and don’ts, which were laid down through a judgment by the Supreme Court in 1997,” said the former Army chief here at Punjabi University, Patiala. “The SC judgment laid down how the civil authorities are to be respected during implementation of AFSPA. Even if the Army gets involved, the civil authority remained overall in-charge of the situation. The Army is only assisting the rule of law of the state authority. It is strengthening the hand of the civil administration”, he added. (Times of India 28/1/15)

119. IAS officer cites Article 25 as TN govt stops him from prayer meets (1)

Chennai:  “As per the Article 25 of the Constitution, I have every right to preach what I believe during my free time,” said C Umashankar, a senior IAS officer who was prevented by Tamil Nadu chief secretary K Gnanadesikan from taking part in religious prayers. In a written directive Umashankar was warned against from taking part in seven prayer meetings scheduled from January 24 to 26 in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts. The letter said that he would face “appropriate action” if he indulged in “preaching and propagating” activities. Known as an honest officer, Umashankar suspected Union minister and Kanyakumari MP Pon Radhakrishnan was behind the order. On January 16, police had denied him permission to attend a prayer meeting in Pudukadai in Kanyakumari district and chased away nearly 100 devotees gathered at a local church, he said. “Not only that the police have succumbed to the pressure of BJP and other Hindu groups, including Hindu Munnani, now the government also has taken a decision to stop my religious activities, in which they have no business to interfere. The government direction is unconstitutional,” he said, suspecting that there must be pressure from the Centre that forced the state government to issue such a direction. Despite repeated efforts, Radhakrishnan could not be reached for comments. Chief secretary Gnanadesikan’s letter on January 24 said violating the government direction would invite disciplinary action against him under relevant provisions of the All India Services (conduct) Rules, 1968, and the All India Services (Discipline & Appeal) Rules, 1969. Umashankar, a Dalit, said it was the pressure and torture by different governments and politicians forced him to change his faith to Christianity in 2008 to help him in “battles against a corrupt establishment”. In abeyance to the direction, Umashankar said he cancelled all the meetings he scheduled in the last four days. “But this matter is not done with. I will move court to retain my fundamental rights,” he said. Umashankar is known for his remarkable work in introducing open source softwares in Tamil Nadu, successfully implementing e-governance and exposing the Cremation Shed scam in the first J Jayalalithaa government (1991-96) in which a minister was convicted. Being in controversy is not new for Umashankar. One of his allegations that Uttarakhand floods and disasters were “a sign of wrath of gods on Hindu sinners” had kicked up a storm. He also faced the wrath of Hindu groups twice, once in Nagapattinam in 2012 and on August 10, 2014 at Tirunelveli, when his vehicle was attacked. As the one who had challenged irregularities by the ministers, the IAS officer finds himself sidelined. He said 18 out of 25 years of his career had been wasted as he became a victim of a corrupt system. “Despite my long experience, I work in the grade of a district revenue officer, he said. The official also claimed that his prayers could cure people from major diseases. “I am guided by Jesus and I have heard him several times.”.. (Indian Express 29/1/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

120. Arun Jaitley opposes cap on ads in TV, print media (1)

NEW DELHI: Indicating that the government was not inclined to interfere either in the content or the business of media entities, information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said his government was not in favour of a cap on advertising for TV or print media. Delivering the first J S Verma Memorial Lecture, Jaitley spoke out against the 12-minute-an-hour cap on advertising stipulated for TV news channels by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( Trai). He wondered how such a cap fit with Article 19(1)A of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press. “It will be music to the years of media persons. My ministry a couple of years ago came out with a statutory law that no channel will telecast advertisements beyond so many minutes. I have been struggling, in my own mind, since then as to how this meets the challenge of Article 19(1)A,” Jaitley said. “Is the government supposed to tell newspapers and channels as to how much advertisement and how much news. If viewers or readers find it monotonous, they have the power to switch on something else. Government getting into the business of how much news and how much ads is a bad precedent to lay down,” he added. Media houses have been strongly opposed to this regulation as usurious carriage fees and falling advertisement rates have stifled TV news channels and broadcasters have been struggling to break even. The law has been legally challenged and the matter is pending in court. Jaitley also batted for increasing FDI in media from the current cap of 26%, saying when foreign newspapers were anyway available online in India, there was no point opposing the move. He said, “The debate over whether foreign media should be allowed to establish in the country and the extent of foreign equity has been made irrelevant by technology. Today, sitting here, I can access any newspaper in the world over internet.” Jaitley made these observations while talking about the financial pressure on modern media and the challenges it threw. “The financial model of most media organizations is becoming challenging. The cost of news distribution has become huge. Cost of circulation is high. Most are unable to sustain. This is leading to consolidations and mergers. Those with deep pockets are acquiring media,” Jaitley said, warning that the situation had led to conflict of interest. The minister said the media, in the spirit of fairness, must carry a disclaimer with respect to news where there was a conflict of interest. The minister also flagged the issue of financial pressure on media affecting the quality of news and, in turn, its credibility. “Because of this, media houses spend less and less on news collection, hire less reporters who are not paid well. All of this affects quality,” said Jaitley. He stressed on the challenge posed by digital media to the traditional forms of news dissemination and pointed out how newspapers and magazines abroad were shutting down in favour of digital platforms. He, however, said the revenue model for digital media was not clear and it was still evolving. He also raised the issue of cross-media ownership and said in his concluding remarks that it was an issue that needed to be debated. “Most jurisdictions world over ban cross-holdings in the media. Can all mediums be vested with one person? How is larger public interest going to be impacted by this? It should be debated,” Jaitley said. (Times of India 18/1/15)

121. Fear of sedition must not hit freedom of speech: HC (1)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Monday observed that freedom of speech should not suffer because of a threat of invoking sedition against an individual for expressing his views. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar re-heard a PIL filed by advocate Sanskar Marathe following the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. The court had reserved its verdict on October 19, 2012. The recent Paris attacks made the bench recall that it had dealt with a cartoonist’s case. Advocate general Sunil Manohar said the state has taken a prima facie view that Trivedi’s cartoons do not amount to offence under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code. He said in wartime these very cartoons may be viewed as seditious. “The scope of 124A is kept flexible for a purpose,” said Manohar. He submitted a draft of guidelines to be issued to the police saying it will bring clarity in investigations but added that “while it is necessary that innocents should be protected, the guidelines should not fetter the police”. He assured that the state would take care of the apprehension that an individual may suffer because of abuse of power by the investigating agency. Referring to the arrest of two Palghar girls over a Facebook post, the bench said if there is no safeguard, power can be misused anytime. Justice Jamdar added, “If adequate safeguards are not there, it may prevent people from not expressing themselves. Freedom of speech should not suffer because of the threat of invocation of the section.” When Manohar said a person is entitled to bail, the judges said that people would not like to get into the hassle and would rather not speak if the government is going to book them for sedition. Manohar said lack of safeguards cannot have a gagging effect. “As a country, we have spoken when we were not independent… We have expressed our feelings even during Emergency,” he added. Trivedi’s advocate Mihir Desai said while sedition can be invoked if it leads to violence, safeguards should be taken that the violence is against the state and not against the individual who is charged with violence. Terming Trivedi’s case an “exception”, Manohar said there is no data available that “it has become a habit” to register sedition cases and also no case is made out that “in general it caused fear in minds of people not to express themselves.” The bench remarked the state should not proceed without obtaining prior permission from a DCP level officer or legal opinion before arrest. It has reserved its verdict. (Times of India 19/1/15)

122. Freedom of speech under threat in TN, says writers’ forum in HC (1)

CHENNAI: Accusing police and revenue officials of extending tacit support to fringe communal groups agitating against embattled Tamil author PerumalMurugan’s novel Madhorubagan (One Part Woman), a PIL filed in the Madras high court by a top writers’ group has said freedom of speech is under constant threat in Tamil Nadu. Murugan’s 190-page fiction published in 2010 was caught in turbulence after some caste, communal and business groups took exception to his description of a temple ritual portrayed as having taken place in Thiruchengode. Following agitations and bandh, a peace committee meeting was convened by Namakkal district authorities on January 12. Faced with angry mob of agitators, Murugan gave an undertaking wherein he agreed to issue an unconditional apology, delete controversial portions from the book, withdraw unsold copies from the market and not to write any controversial subjects hurting the sentiments of people in future. The manner in which the revenue divisional officer and local police personnel conducted the peace committee meeting has drawn widespread condemnation, as its decision was partisan. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association president S Tamilselvam filed a PIL in the high court saying, “Peace committee meeting itself was not fair and proper, and not conducted in congenial atmosphere. Permual Murugan’s fundamental right to write any novel or other literary work as he understood society, whether ancient or modern, with his experience and knowledge has been snatched away by the decision of the so-called peace committee meeting.” Pointing out that the ‘agreement’ and ‘undertaking’ are unenforceable, the PIL said, “In fact, the novel does not wound anybody. It only depicts the lifestyle of people who lived some decades ago. Only after a deep study of the region and its social background, the authority wrote the book.” It wanted the ‘undertaking’ quashed, and its operation stayed. Narrating how many other writers too had come under pressure in Tamil Nadu, the PIL said Ma Mu Kannan’s house was ransacked and studio burnt as villagers found his novel ‘Kaa Na Eena Vin Kanini’ unacceptable. Another author Durai Guna’s family suffered social boycott and was forced to leave his village for his work ‘Oorarintha Oviyam’. Both the writers belong to Pudukottai district. Solai Sundara Perumal for his novel ‘Thandavapuram’, Veerapandian for his fiction ‘Parukkai’ and Razool for his poems ‘Mylanchi’ too suffered a lot at the hands of fringe groups, it said. (Times of India 20/1/15)

123. City lawyers to take HC bench protest to social media (1)

MEERUT: In a bid to demand a High Court bench in West UP, the lawyers in the city are planning to make their presence online via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. They are also waiting for a response from the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, to whom they wrote to a few days ago. Meerut lawyers, demanding an Allahabad HC bench in West UP, recently held a meeting to plan to enlist the support of the other section of society. In the meeting they reportedly received assurance of support from a range of groups. Taking the cognisance of such a suggestion Central Action Committee for the HC bench in Western UP has decided to take to Facebook and Twitter. The committee’s president DD Sharma told TOI, “In the meeting it was decided that we should take our movement to social media. It is such an appealing idea and now we will be on Facebook and Twitter in a day or two. Via social media the presence of our movement would not only be wider but we will be more interactive with such citizens of Western UP those are at FB and Twitter. Indeed wewill receive more creative ideas and support to sharpen our movement.” “We have also written the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, and asked him to give us time for a meeting. We have already met the Law Minister, Sadanad Goda and he has expressed his sympathy with the cause. In the meeting with FM we will put before him that though in the past the then Chief Ministers, Rajnath Singh, Mayavati had submitted their representation at centre to form a HC bench in Western UP but there is no need of any representation from state government in this matter as it had been cleared in a meeting in 2001,” he added. (Times of India 28/1/15)

124. Commander of group that claimed killing Swedish journalist arrested (1)

KABUL: Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had arrested a commander of a militant group known as the “Suicide Front”, that claimed responsibility in 2014 for the execution-style killing of a Swedish journalist. Nils Horner, 51, who worked for Swedish Radio and held dual British-Swedish nationality, was shot dead in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter in March 2014. The militant group had separately claimed responsibility for the killing of the governor of the province of Logar in 2013. “The National Directorate of Security detained a militant commander for the terrorist group Mahaz-e-Fedaiyan … with two pistols, two time bombs and a silencer,” said Hassib Sediqi, a spokesman for the agency, referring to the group. The militants, who described themselves as a Taliban splinter faction, said the radio journalist was a spy for Britain’s intelligence agency. The Swedish mission in Afghanistan said details of the arrest would be passed on to investigators in Sweden, but that it was too early to reach any conclusions. “The investigation in Sweden is still ongoing,” said deputy mission chief Anders SkiŮldebrand, adding that Swedish investigators working closely with the Afghan spy agency had been to Afghanistan in 2014 and could return. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

125. Riot-accused BJP MP in top AMU body (7)

Meerut: One of the accused in the Muzaffarnagar communal riot cases, BJP MP from Bijnore Kunwar Bharatendra has become a member of the Aligarh Muslim University Court, the top decision making body of the University. Mr. Bharatendra is one of the four BJP MPs nominated by the Centre to the AMU Court. He was arrested in October 2013 on charges of inciting communal violence during communal riots in Muzaffarnagar. As the then BJP MLA from Bijnore, he was the third BJP lawmaker — after Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana — from Uttar Pradesh to have been arrested in connection with the communal riots. Another member of the AMU Court would be the BJP MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam who grabbed headlines when in November 2013 he had threatened to celebrate the birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh inside the university campus without its permission. Other BJP MPs nominated to the university body include Kalyan Singh’s son and BJP MP from Etah Rajveer Singh and BJP MP from Bulandshahr Bhola Singh. According to Rahat Abrar, the spokesperson of the university, the nomination had nothing to do with the university as it was done by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

126.  ‘Communal incidents on the rise in DK and Udupi’ (7)

MANGALURU: The district units of the Komu Souharda Vedike and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have said that more communal incidents were reported in 2014 in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts than the previous year. Submitting a memorandum to Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim, they demanded that monthly meetings be held with victims from the minority communities. The office-bearers of the two organisations said in a press release that 2014 witnessed 173 communal incidents in the twin districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi against 121 cases in 2013. Of the 53 moral policing incidents in 2014, Hindu youths were the accused in 39 of them while Muslims were accused in 14. As many as 22 cases of prevention of cow transport or attacks on transporters, nine allegations of forcible religious conversions, eight cases of inciting speeches were reported. Other instances, including clashes between students and the destruction of banners and posters, accounted for 81 cases. The president of the district unit of the vedike Suresh Bhat Bakrabail clarified that that they were not based on police reports but rather on newspaper reports – clippings of which have been maintained. In 2013, there were reported 45 cases of moral policing with Hindus being the accused in 23 cases and Muslims in 16 and the accused were not known in the rest. In that year, there were prevention of cow transport or attacks on transporters in eight cases and allegations of forcible conversions were nine. Other cases, including inciting religious sentiments, were 59. Besides Mr. Bhat, the release has been signed by David D’Souza, president of the district unit of the PUCL, and members including those who are members of the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

127. 25 die of cold in Muzaffarnagar riots relief camps (7)

Meerut: Forgotten by most and out in the cold, quite literally, 25 people have died of chill this winter in the Muzaffarnagar camps that continue to house a little over 3,500 riot refugees. TOI visited Muzaffarnagar — Shamli has another 700 refugees — over two days, keeping a list of the dead and the dates on which they died, and found that even after they breathed their last, wailing relatives had a tough time finding a decent burial place for their departed. Last year, though, had been different. In the January of 2014, Mohd Irfan would sit outside his tent in the relief camp at Loi village and count the number of politicians visiting those who had been turned homeless after communal riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar sometime in August 2013. In the violence that followed, more than 50,000 fled their villages and 62 were killed. “General elections were around the corner and the riots were on everybody’s mind,” Irfan, 35, said. “It was a big issue for all political parties. Now no one cares about us. Madam, thand toh abhi bhi utni hi hai, bas ab neta log nahi aate.” (It’s as cold now as it was last year, just that no politicians are coming here anymore). NGO Astitva, which has been working for the rehabilitation of the riot victims, told TOI on Thursday that most of the 25 deaths can be easily verified. Cold had begun to claim lives by the end of October last year. Ironically, not only is the district administration clueless about the count, they claim there are hardly any camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli though 10 can be counted straight away. “There are a few camps in Shamli but there are no relief camps in Muzaffarnagar,” said additional district magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, Indramani Tripathi. “All the people at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar were rehabilitated by December 2013. Moreover, not a single person has died in Muzaffarnagar in these winters.” If he knows about 3-year-old Simran who died in Loi on November 5, 2014, leaving wailing parents behind, he is not saying. Originally a resident of riot-hit Faguna, Yakub, father of Simran, said, “We tried to keep her warm and fed. She survived the 2013 winter, thanks to the help which came from the government, but this year she just gave up on the struggle.” Minimum temperatures in Muzaffarnagar have gone down to as low as 2.5 degrees Celsius. Coupled with a severe shortage of fuel, food and medicines, the flimsy tents, many of them with holes in them, haven’t been able to protect the refugees much. Their best hope has been to huddle together at night and pray for the next day to be warmer. Crouched inside a tent in Shahpur, Jahid, who lost his wife Zarina in November last year, said, “Sometimes I feel it would have been better had we died in the riots. At least we would have been away from all this ruckus of compensation. We lost our dignity long back fighting for the money which the government says is due to us.” Maqsood, a riot victim in Budhana, said getting their hands on the compensation amount of Rs 5 lakh announced by the Akhilesh Yadav government has been endless and excruciating. “Many people have not got it till now. I, too, have not got any compensation. Because of that I still have to live in a tent. My wife, Pachho, died of the cold. I don’t know when I will get the money.” Those who have managed to get the compensation and built small houses i villages nearby don’t have electricity and water connections. Jaan Mohammed, who fled from Shamli to Budhana, said, “We have to indulge in katiyamari (getting unauthorised power through a hooked, extended wire from an electricity source). What can we do when the government doesn’t help us? Are we supposed to live in the dark?” Rehana Adeeb, director, Astitva, said, “It is sad that the government doesn’t consider these places as camps. The administration has its own perspective and tries to keep a clean image in front of the media. But the reality is that these camps exist and the people there are striving for rehabilitation and survival.” Asked why the district administration has not been able to provide even basic amenities to the riot victims, Tripathi said, “Rehabilitation is a process. It takes time. A Rs 300 crore-project under Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) will be sanctioned in the coming financial year. That will take care of the electricity and water connections for the rehabilitated people.” (Times of India 16/1/15)

128. Two victims of Hansot riots cremated amid tension (7)

SURAT: The last rites of the two victims of the communal violence that erupted on Wednesday at Hansot in Bharuch district were conducted under heavy police bandobast and in an atmosphere of uneasy calm on Thursday. Initially, relatives of the victims had refused to cremate the bodies until the attackers were arrested. Riots broke out at Ambheta village of Hansot taluka after a verbal spat between two youths. A free-for-all saw people using sharp-edged weapons, pelting stones and barging into houses, resulting in the death of two and injuries to 10, including a deputy superintendent of police. The condition of one of the injured was reported to be critical. Police fired two rounds in the air and also lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse mobs belonging to the two groups. Bharuch superintendent of police Bipin Ahire said, “We have apprehended 17 people and registered five FIRs in connection with the violence. Six companies of the Central Reserve Police Force and one company of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed in the district. At least 250 policemen have already been deployed at Hansot and nearby places.” Bharuch district collector Avantika Singh said, “The situation is under control. We are keeping a strict vigil.” “Few miscreants barged into a couple of houses and injured people belonging to another community. Soon, mobs from two groups began to pelt stones and also set on fire a few shops,” said Kaushik Pandya, deputy superintendent of police, Bharuch district. (Times of India 17/1/15)

129. Hindu widow saved 10 Muslims in Bihar riots (7)

AZIZPUR (Bihar): A Hindu woman who saved lives of 10 Muslims in this village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district during the recent clashes in which five people died is being hailed as a hero, officials said. Shail Devi, a frail widow in her early 50s, risking her own life, gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy’s body was found Sunday. He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl. “I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them,” Shail said Wednesday morning. Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, told IANS that she along with her two daughters stood guard outside her house when a mob was targeting Muslims in the village. She told them that it was a house of a ‘Mallah’ (fisherman). “I lied to rioters that I had not given shelter to Muslims in my house. Though some people tried to enter my house but I stopped them and they returned,” she said. Shail, widow of late Jaglal Sahni, has become a household name in the village and neighbouring villages for her rare example of communal harmony. “She has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her,” Arvind Kumar, a villager, said. Ash Mohammad, a man in his 60s, who was one of the ten Muslims whose lives were saved by Shail, told IANS that she is like ‘farishta’ (angel) to them. “Shail was like god-sent angel to us…,” Mohammad said. Mohammad admitted that all of them could have been killed if Shail had not given shelter to them. A day after she saved lives of her Muslim neighbours, some Hindu villagers warned her that she may be targeted by some people of the mob for doing it, Shail said. “I was so frightened that I along with my two daughters and a son Monday took shelter in Mohammad’s house but after district administration persuaded, I returned to my home,” she said. Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who visited the village Wednesday, met Shail. He lauded her role and compared her with legendary Rani Lakshmibai. Manjhi also announced a cash reward of Rs 51,000 for her. “She is an example of communal harmony. People should take lesson from her and she would inspire others to follow her,” Manjhi praised her. Manjhi also announced assistance of Rs 20,000 each to her two unmarried daughters under a welfare scheme. Earlier, Bihar information technology minister Shahid Ali Khan also praised Shail for saving the lives of her Muslim neighbours. “I promised her help by the state government, and a reward for her soon,” said Khan, who visited the village Tuesday. A first information report (FIR) was registered Monday against 2,000 unidentified people and 12 named accused who were part of the mob that attacked the villagers from a particular community, the official added. Police have already arrested 14 people in this connection. Additional director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey submitted an inquiry report on the incident Tuesday to the state government. Soon after the incident, Manjhi asked Pandey and state home secretary Sudhir Kumar to conduct a probe and report to him. The BJP Tuesday demanded a judicial probe into the killing of four people and arson in a village that later turned into a communal clash in Bihar. (Times of India 21/1/15)

130. Urs at Juni Gadi Dargah blurs communal lines (7)

Juni Gadi is the heart of Vadodara’s communally sensitive areas. But, every year, in the congested bylanes of the clustered homes a show of harmony repeats itself in the form of the annual Urs of the 421-year-old historic Dargah Sharif of the Hazrat Pir Dada Sadanshah Sharmash Hussain Syed Mastan Baba. This year on February 10 and 11, the Urs Committee — which comprises several Hindus along with the Muslim members — is readying the Dargah for the celebrations. The preparations began two months in advance with members of the Hindu and the Muslim communities fulfilling their tasks, assigned by the committee. The colouring and tiling work of the Dargah is taken care of by the Hindu members of the committee — Rajesh Salgaonkar and Harshad Patni — while Muslim members prepare for the ritualistic celebrations. The Dargah, which bears testimony to “fulfilled wishes” of many a devout worshippers of all faiths, has been patronised by many politicians across parties including former Vadodadra BJP MP Balkrishna Shukla, who also attended the Urs celebrations in 2014. Every year, devotees offer Niyaz that runs into lakhs of rupees in the locality. Gadinasan Haji Dastagir Shaikh, the Khadim of the Dargah, said, “There are people who follow radical ideologies and create much discord among communities, but in reality there is no bitterness among people. The Urs is an example of the generous and loving brotherhood that people of all faiths believe in. And, even the Muslim community here extends complete support to the members of the historic 355-year-old Mahakali and Bhadrakali Mata temples that stand next to the Dargah. In all the incidents of rioting that the city witnesses, this lane that is home to the Dargah and the temple has never been defaced.” Juni Gadi Dargah stands in the lane across the Ajabdi Mill compound in Yakutpura. Since May last year, the area has witnessed over 15 episodes of communal rioting and stone pelting. Just about a kilometre away from the Dargah was the epicentre of the four-day-long riots during Navratri last September. This year, noted Qawwali singer Chand Qadri will perform at the Dargah on the occasion of Urs. Currently, Patni’s son, Tejas is overseeing the tiling work at the dome of the Mazaar. Salgaonkar, who has been volunteering for the task of painting the Dargah for a decade now.

Also keeping with practice, the Dargah has extended invitation for the Urs to the priests of the Swaminarayan sect and other Hindu sections in the city. Ajay Dandekar, whose father Chintaman had close ties with the RSS, according to Dastagir Shaikh, is now continuing the tradition of serving the Dargah. Although Ajay, an LIC executive by profession, rues the fact that he cannot spend much time at the Dargah, he said he owes much to the strength he has received from here. (Indian Express 28/1/15)

COMMUNALISM

131. Hindu hardliners diverting Modi govt focus, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha says (26)

NEW DELHI: Reflecting the growing unease within the government over controversial remarks by Hindutva hardliners and conversion, a senior Union minister on Sunday said such issues are “damaging” NDA’s prospects, citing example of Kashmir Valley where it could not manage a single seat. Union minister Upendra Kushwaha also said that he was not in favour of any law to check conversion as there are already provisions to check coercion and allurement for conversion. To a question on whether the issue of conversion was taking away the spotlight from the issue of development, Kushwaha said, “definitely it does take away the focus. They (saffron hardliners) should keep this in mind that the only agenda of this government is development. They should allow the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do that. “Opposition should not be given an opportunity to raise this issue all the time. The Prime Minister also wants that the only focus area should be development,” he said. Kushwaha, a former JD(U) MP, who heads the Loktantrik Samata Party and had allied with BJP in last Lok Sabha polls, also felt that had these issues not cropped up, the BJP would have been able to win few seats even in Kashmir Valley and that the “damage” will continue if this practice is not put to an end. With Delhi slated to go to polls soon, the Union minister also sounded a word of caution saying that such issues damage the prospects and hence “the focus should only be on development” during Delhi polls. “Such talks do the damage. It has happened. The kind of crowds that PM Modi was getting in the Valley, it was possible that the BJP could have won one or two seats at least,” Kushwaha added. (Times of India 12/1/15)

132. RSS Chief Invokes Tagore, Appeals for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (26)

SAGAR: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today made an appeal for turning the country into a “Hindu nation” saying Hinduism believes in the principle of “unity in diversity” as visualised by the Nobel laureate polymath Rabindranath Tagore. Delivering the valedictory address at the five-day conclave of RSS workers here in Madhya Pradesh, Bhagwat cited Tagore’s book ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ to drive home the point of Hindu rashtra. Tagore had criticised the British in the book while observing that Hindus and Muslims won’t just finish each other by fighting among themselves but will rather find a way out and that path will be of “Hindu Rashtra”, he said, adding that Hindutva advocates unity in diversity and harmony. Bhagwat said a country cannot be called secure when its people feel insecure. “People in India still feel pained even after so many years of Independence,” the RSS chief said.   “Many governments ruled Delhi and enormous (amount of) money has been spent in development,” Bhagwat said.  He said it is unfair to say that no development has taken place in the country but at the same time the country has not developed as expected. In his speech, Bhagwat showered praises on Israel for its “achievements” despite “hostile” conditions. Israel, with mostly a desert land and a thin population, attained independence with us, but it has developed tremendously. When Israel came into being, it was attacked by eight nations. This tiny nation fought five wars, expanded its land area and has risen as a tall nation, he said.  “Anyone who dares that nation gets a befitting reply. People across the world learn from Israel the art of doing agricultural and vegetable farming,” he said.      “On the contrary, India has 5,000 km land, population in crores, powerful leaders but Israel has marched way ahead of us,” Bhagwat said. The RSS chief said that infusing patriotism in the common people will make the country scale newer heights and it will become a “mighty and developed nation. Bhagwat said there are many perceptions about the RSS. “But Sangh is neither a gymnasium nor a para military force or a political outfit.”    “Sangh can be known only after becoming a swayamsevak (volunteer). Those who want to know about it should enter it as there is no bar (for anybody joining it),” he said.  Bhagwat said those who want to work with dedication in nation building should join the Sangh “which is not for offering any ticket for contesting elections.”  ”Sangh activists indulge in propagating ideas and ways to make India a great nation,” he added. (New Indian Express 18/1/15)

133. Report worries state may have become Hindutva hub (26)

MUMBAI: The Indian Christian Persecution report for 2014, brought out by the Catholic Secular Forum ( CSF), talks of targeted violence against the community in India. The forum has documented five murders across India in areas such as Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. The report also details attacks on clergies and desecration of churches. Citing several attacks on Christians, the report asked whether the state had become the Hindutva capital of the country. The report mentions the desecration of a statue of Jesus where its hand was broken off in Raigad. The study goes on to say that nuns’ homes were stoned, too. At Mangaon, in Raigad, on the New Year’s day, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was vandalized. In rural Nashik, 25 Christians were beaten up by a Hindutva mob, adds the report. The CSF has made an appeal to the Prime Minister for the inclusion of minorities, “especially Christians, who desperately need it”. The report points to the huge contributions made by Indian Christians to the country. (Times of India 20/1/15)

134. VHP reacts to Census: We will ask Hindus to reproduce more (26)

NEW DELHI: Even though the data on religion-based census is yet to be released officially, right wing Hindu groups are already up in arms over the TOI report showing 24% growth in Muslims between 2001 and 2011. VHP said its stand has been vindicated and it would make fresh appeal to Hindus to reproduce more. It would also begin an agitation in the country to press government to enforce uniform civil code. Muslim scholars have, however, countered this fear-mongering by saying that the high growth rate of Muslims is owing to their poor socio-economic status which stands with those of Dalits and the resultant lack of education. They say the census report should wake up the government on the poor state of Muslims in the country and prod them into doing something about it. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI, “What we have been saying since 1966, has been vindicated by this census. We will put pressure on the government to enforce uniform civil code. We will push for making family planning mandatory for all. Muslims are trying to overtake Hindu population through various ways such as infiltration and love jihad apart from reproduction. So Hindu’s reproducing more is a good option to challenge this. This call is already being made.” However, when pointed out that the Muslim growth rate has actually been decreasing decade after decade, Jain called it “statistical jugglery” which could not take away from the fact that Muslims were growing faster than Hindus. “It does not mean that they will not attack us. The basic fact of the matter is that they have grown from 13.4% of India’s population to 14.2%,” Jain said. He also warned that if Muslims kept growing at this rate they would demand a separate nation. “During 1941, the Muslim population in the country was just 18% and they demanded a separate nation. If their growth continues at this pace, another Jinnah will stand up and demand division of the nation,” said Jain. (Times of India 22/1/15)

135. Development without Hindu Rashtra is of no use: Togadia (26)

MEERUT: At a time when the Narendra Modi government has been targeted for its alleged failure to rein in Hindutva groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia on Monday rejected the discourse of development without “Hindu Rashtra”. Addressing the Virat Hindu Mahasammelan here, he said development would be of no use if Hindus were not “safe” at home. Amid loud cheers of the 1,000-odd crowd, which braved rain and cold to hear him, he asked the “Hindus of the country to become one and prepare the way for Hindu Rashtra.” Invoking “Hindu victimhood,” he said: “Neither our houses and businesses nor our daughters and sisters are safe in places such as Hyderabad, Bhopal and Meerut. Development is important, but what will be its use when Hindus won’t be there at homes, and like Hindus in Kashmir, they are thrown out of their motherland.” “We have to ensure security, safety and respect to the 100-crore Hindus. So, we have to get organised and be ready for Hindu Rashtra,” he said. He referred to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and said: “Look at what happened to the world famous World Trade Center. It was known for the idea of development, but it doesn’t exist now.” Mr. Togadia said the VHP would focus on the movement against cow slaughter and conversion of religious minorities. In an attempt to co-opt Dalits into Hindutva politics, Mr. Togadia asked all Hindus to make friends with Balmiki families. But his remarks came in for strong criticism from Dalit families in Meerut who had threatened to convert to Islam after refused entry to a temple. (The Hindu 27/1/15)

136. Hindu Munnani welcomes TN govt directive to IAS officer (26)

Chennai: Hindu Munnani (Hindu Front) on Tuesday welcomed the directive issued by Tamil Nadu government asking a controversial IAS officer to desist from carrying out “preaching and propagating” activities. In a letter last week, Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan had told IAS officer C Umashankar that it had come to the government’s notice that he was to take part in ‘preaching and propagating activities’ in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 “which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order.” Umashankar cancelled his tour following the top official’s direction that he should not “indulge in such activities which are unbecoming of a member of the service”.He was also warned of “appropriate action” under relevant provisions of All India Services (conduct) Rules, besides being chided for “indulging in activities” on January 16 in Kanyakumari “which created disturbance to public order” and resulted in police registering two cases. Umashankar, who says he is Hindu officially, but Christian by faith, said the directive was against his fundamental rights and that he would move the court against it. Reacting to the episode, Hindu Munnani founder Rama Gopalan said his organisation had often ‘condemned’ Umashankar for “continuously” engaging in “preaching and propagating” a particular denomination of the Christian faith and that it had filed a complaint with the government on this matter. His action was contradictory to his service rules, he said in a statement. Umashankar, presently Commissioner for Disciplinary Proceedings, had brought to light the Cremation Shed scam case in the 1991-96 AIADMK government, which resulted in conviction of then Minister C Selvaganapathy, who later joined DMK and became a Rajya Sabha member. He had to lose his Upper House membership as a result of his conviction. Further, during the previous DMK regime, Umashankar was appointed Head of Arasu Cable TV in wake of the service provider’s launch following a tiff between party president and then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and his grandnephews, the Maran brothers. They had later patched up. A Dalit officer, Umashankar had courted controversy when doubts were raised about the genuineness of his caste certificate and was suspended pending enquiry before it was revoked. (Zee News 27/1/15)

137. Sena demands deletion of ‘secular’ word from Constitution (26)

MUMBAI: A day after row erupted over a Republic Day advertisement of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday demanded “permanent deletion” of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Constitution. An acrimonious war of words had broken out between political parties yesterday when an advertisement issued by the I&B Ministry carried a picture of the Preamble to the Constitution as it appeared before the 42nd Amendment, without the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’. “We welcome the exclusion of the (secular and socialist) words from the Republic Day advertisement. Though it might have been done inadvertently, it is like honouring the feelings of the people of India. If these words were deleted by mistake this time, they should be deleted from the Constitution permanently,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut said. “From the time they (the words) were included in the Constitution, it is being said that this country can never be secular. Balasaheb Thackeray and before him Veer Savarkar had been saying that India was divided on the lines of religion. Pakistan was created for Muslims, thus, what remains is a Hindu Rashtra,” Raut said. The minority community has been used only for political gains, while “Hindus are being continuously disrespected,” he alleged. (Times of India 28/1/15)

138. VHP to organise ‘Ram Mahotsava’ for building temple in Ayodhya (26)

Lucknow: Seeking to “mobilise Hindus” and “remind them of their resolve” for construction of a Ram temple, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is planning to organise ‘Ram Mahotsava’ for the first time on the lines of Durga Puja across the country. “We will celebrate Ram Mahotsava from March 21 or March 22 and it will continue till April 1. This will be for the first time that such an event is being organised by the organisation,” VHP media incharge Sharad Sharma said on Thursday. This programme would be organised in every village in the country, he said. “It will give strength to Ram Janmbhoomi movement. The programme will not only be organised in villages where temples are located, but at those places also where there is no such arrangement,” Sharma told a news agency here. “During the Mahotsava, two to two-and-a-half feet tall statues of Lord Ram will be worshipped for 10 days as it is done during Navratras. These statues will either be enshrined permanently or immersed,” he said. He said Hindus have already been asked to take a pledge for construction of the temple. “But strengthen the resolve and to ensure that it is fulfilled, people will be asked to renew their pledge,” Sharma said. “We plan to reach 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh villages across the country. In Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand, we will make efforts to reach each and every village,” he said. The VHP media incharge said that the organisation has planned 600 Hindu Sammelans or conclaves across the country. “Such Sammelans will be held till March. For instance one will be held in Ayodhya on February 6, then in Prayag (Allahabad) on February 6 and Varanasi on February 8,” Sharma said. He said these Sammelans would be addressed by senior VHP leaders including Ashok Singhal, Pravin Togadia, besides BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. “These Sammelans are being held as part of our golden jubilee foundation year. Ram Mahotsava is related to temple construction. The objective is to celebrate Ram Navami with the same pomp and grandeur of Ganesh Mahotsava and Durga Puja,” he said. During a Hindu Sammelan in Lucknow on January 18, International President of VHP Praveen Togadia had said the organisation would celebrate its inception only after a grand temple of Lord Ram was constructed at Ayodhya. (Zee News 29/1/15)

139. HP ‘reconverts’ 150 tribals in Bengal (26)

Kolkata: In its largest ever “reconversion” programme and the first public one in West Bengal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a “cleansing” ritual for 150 tribals in Birbhum district on Wednesday. While the event took place in the presence of senior VHP leaders, including Praveen Togadia, Sangh leaders preferred to downplay the event. A livid Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has asked the district administration for a detailed report on the matter. With the BJP making inroads into Bengal’s socio-political scenario, the VHP managed a coup of sorts by “reconverting” about 150 people of Khoramdanga village, where most residents are Christians. The event was followed by a rally addressed by Togadia and other VHP leaders. Like in other states, the VHP has called the programme “Ghar Wapsi”, where it claims, those Hindus who have been “forcibly” converted to another religion are being taken back home. “The CM is angry with the district administration. We should have had the information beforehand so that necessary steps could have been taken,” an official said, not willing to elaborate what “necessary steps” means. The Trinamool also reacted sharply against the action. “Bengal has a history of living in communal harmony and bigots like Togadia will be dealt with ruthlessly,” Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP, Derek O’Brien tweeted after the news became public. While there have been murmurs of several such programmes having taken place in different parts of Bengal with no official confirmation from VHP, the one at Khoramdanga came to light since the district administration was keeping an eye on the situation due to Togadia’s presence. While VHP leaders refused to come on record after the news spread and led to an uproar by Trinamool Congress and the Left parties, sources confirmed that the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme took place on Wednesday evening. (Deccan Herald 30/1/15)

TERRORISM

140. NIA makes fresh arrest in Burdwan blast case (12)

Ranchi: The NIA, in a joint operation with the Jharkhand police nabbed Rejaul Karim, an alleged operative of the banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terror outfit believed to be in charge of transporting explosives to various places in Burdwan in West Bengal. Karim, 27, on whom a cash reward of `5 lakh had been announced by the NIA, was arrested from Sahebganj where he was hiding since the blast took place in Burdwan on October 2. He was working as a labourer under a Railway contractor and was hiding in Taljhari area of the district. “He was a regular visitor to the area but never stayed here for long,” said a senior police officer involved in the arrest. He is also alleged to be a close associate of Kauser alia Bomaru Mizan and other main accused persons wanted in Burdwan blast case. “His interrogation is likely to throw fresh leads and evidence in the investigation of this case,” the official said.\ Police has recovered 39 bombs from Karim’s house in Burdwan after the blast last year. Two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed and a third injured when an explosion occurred in a house in the Khagragarh locality of Burdwan. The NIA said that after the incident, injured accused Abdul Hakim had called up Rejaul for assistance and evacuation. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

141. Pakistan to execute five terrorists Tuesday (12)

Islamabad: The Pakistan government will execute five more terrorists in Sukkur and Faisalabad jails Tuesday, media reported. Three terrorists belonging to banned outfits and lodged in central jail Sukkur in Sind province and two convicts in district jail Faisalabad in Punjab province will be hanged Tuesday, The News International reported. The three terrorists in Sukkur jail — Muhammad Shahid Haneef, Muhammad Talha and Khalil Ahmed — were involved in the murder of defence ministry director Zafar Hussain Shah in the vicinity of Gulbahar jail in Karachi in 2001. All the three would be hanged at 6.30 a.m Tuesday, said jail authorities. The two other terrorists — Nawazish Ali and Mushtaq Ahmed — convicted of orchestrating the murder attempt on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf will also be hanged Tuesday morning. On Dec 17, Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terror-related cases, following a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar Dec 16 in which Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants killed over 140 students and teachers. Pakistan has already executed 10 terrorists since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted. (New Kerala 12/1/15)

142. IM suspects part of terror module: Bengaluru police chief (12)

Bengaluru: Four suspects of the banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) outfit, who were arrested last week, were part of a terror module and linked to terror outfits abroad, Bengaluru police commissioner M.N. Reddi said Monday. “All the four IM suspects, who are part of a bigger conspiracy to procure, fabricate and deliver improvised explosives, revealed during interrogation that they were part of a terror module having links with terror outfits abroad,” Reddi told reporters here. Of the suspects, three – Syed Ismail Afaq, Saddam Hussein and Abdus Subur – were picked up Jan 8, two from the city and one from Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada district, about 480 km from here. The fourth – Riyaz Ahmed Sayeedi – was nabbed Jan 10 at the Manguluru airport before he could board a flight to Dubai around midnight. “All the suspects are natives of the coastal town of Bhatkal and are believed to be associated with IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. “Their terror module had received funds through hawala (illegal) channel for disruptive activities under instructions from their handlers hiding abroad,” he said. Preliminary investigation and background checks revealed that one of the alleged IM operatives received guerrilla training in a foreign country and another worked as a salesman in a hardware firm in Dubai. “We would not like to name the handlers or the country from where they issued instructions to the local module as it would hamper our investigation,” Reddi said. Ruling out their direct link to the Dec 28 blast outside a popular restaurant on Church Street, the commissioner said forensic tests were being conducted on the explosives seized from their residences to ascertain whether some of it was used in the blast in which a woman was killed. A court had earlier sent the suspects to police custody till Jan 21 for further interrogation in the cases registered against the suspects under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Besides explosives (ammonium nitrate), detonators, electronic timer devices, digital circuits, circuit-making material, gas-based explosive material and fuel oil were seized by sleuths of the city’s special crime branch from the homes of the suspects. (New Kerala 12/1/15)

143. Anti-terror ops: Govt likely to frame norms for media coverage (12)

New Delhi, Indicating that there could be soon norms for media coverage of terror-related operations, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley today said that the issue is under “serious and very advanced consideration” of the government. Delivering the first Justice J S Verma memorial lecture here, he also said that the age of ban on media organisations was over and technology had rendered censorship impossible. The manner in which anti-terror operations by security agencies was covered is one of the most important issues with regard to responsibility of media in contemporary times, the Minister said. The question is whether to allow the media to go right up to the spot or if there should be constraints, he said. The I&B Minister said that intelligence agencies had claimed that real time coverage of 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai had helped the handlers of terrorists to get information about what the security agencies were doing. “Our security agencies and the Ministry of Defence are clearly of the view that this cannot be allowed. And, therefore, during the limited duration when the security operation is on, a very strict discipline on the kind of reporting which is to take place from the place of the incident will have to be maintained,” Jaitley said. “This issue is under serious and very advanced consideration of the government,” he said. The Minister also said that while traditionally it was thought that a newspaper or a channel could be banned, the fact was that the days of ban were long over as it was now hardly possible to “victimise” media outfits through denial of advertisements. On the possibility of censorship, Jaitley said technology has made it impossible. “Assuming that there was emergency imposed today under Article 352 of the Constitution, the impact of the censorship would be nil. The satellite itself defies geographical boundaries…the email does not allow it, the fax machine does not allow it,” he said. The Home Ministry had earlier asked the I and B Ministry to amend rules so that live coverage of anti-terror operations by television channels is banned. (Deccan Herald 18/1/15)

144. Safe havens of terror in Pakistan not acceptable: Obama (12)

NEW DELHI: On the eve of his second visit to India, US President Barack Obama sent out a tough message to Pakistan, saying safe havens of terrorism within that country are “not acceptable”. He also asked Islamabad to bring those behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to justice. “I’ve made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice,” Obama said in an interview to India Today ahead of his departure for India. This came amid signs of renewed US pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks and evidence of recognition within the Pakistani establishment, in the wake of the massacre of school children in Peshawar, that the terror apparatus set up to hurt India and for strategic gains in Afghanistan has boomeranged on them. With the Americans leaning on them, Pakistan has been forced to claim that they have banned Jamat-ud Dawa (JUD) and the Haqqani network, terror outfits which acted as proxies for ISI. Expressing shock over the massacre of innocent students, Obama emphasized that the carnage should serve as a cautionary tale that terrorists will spare none. “Like people around the world, Indians and Americans were horrified at the senseless slaughter of so many students and teachers at the school in Peshawar, which was a painful reminder that terrorists threaten us all,” Obama said. He pointed out that just as Indians were tragically killed in the 9/11 attack in New York, Americans were also killed in the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai. Acknowledging that “no two nations agree on everything,” the President said, “When those of us at the leadership level agree on a course of action, our governments have to actually implement our decisions. We have to make sure that words are matched by deeds.” Obama also admitted that there are differences between the US and India on issues, but said a good India-US relationship has to be based on mutual respect. “On the most basic level, a good India-US relationship has to be based on the same principles as our successful partnerships with our other close partners and friends around the world.” “That includes mutual respect, where even as we acknowledge our different histories and traditions, we value the strengths that we each bring to our relationship,” he said. Upbeat about his visit, Obama described India as a “natural partner” and said he saw this as an opportunity to work with Modi to “hopefully begin a new era” in the history of the two countries. (Times of India 24/1/15)

145. Pak anti-terror court to charge Taliban chief’s father-in-law (12)

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan is likley to charge Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the head of a banned extremist group and father-in-law of the Taliban chief. The court heard two terrorism cases against Tanzeem-e- Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi who is accused of an attack on a police station in Swat district of Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa province and delivering speeches against Pakistan. He has been acquitted in many cases due to lack of evidences. He is father-in-law of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah, who is hiding in Afghanistan. After hearing, the court fixed January 31 for framing charges against Maulana Sufi and adjourned the hearing. In earlier proceedings of the court which was held on November 22 last year, the court had acquitted Sufi and his 30 associates in two terrorism cases. The cases were related to attacks on a Frontier Corps convoy and a Swat police station around 19 years ago. However, Sufi remained in the jail for facing two more cases. The trial of Sufi in different terrorism cases have been conducted inside the Peshawar Central prison for security reasons. e has been kept there since 2009 when final phase of military operation against militants was launched in Malakand region. Earlier, Sufi and many of his associates were acquitted by the anti-terrorism court in 10 cases of terrorism and a trial in two cases is pending. Most of the cases against Sufi were registered in 1994 and afterwards when his outfit stepped up its movement for Shariah enforcement in Malakand division. However, the successive governments did not try him in those cases and thus, resulting in legal complications like witnesses and co-accused of some cases had either died or were not traceable. The earlier cases in which Sufi was acquitted pertained to hatching conspiracy against the state, attack against government institutions in parts of Swat over 18 years ago and speeches which were incited to violence against the rulers including then president Pervez Musharraf. In October 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, Sufi crossed into Afghanistan with thousands of his followers to help the Taliban fight the US-led forces. After the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, he returned to Pakistan and was arrested. (Times of India 25/1/15)

146. MHA may act against cops for false terror case (12)

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has taken a very serious view of the alleged involvement of Delhi Police officers in framing of former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Sayyed Liaquat Shah in a cooked-up terror case. The ministry is likely to take strict action against not only those mentioned in the chargesheet but also some others. NIA on Tuesday sent a note to the home ministry detailing the role played by certain Delhi Police officers in framing Shah in a terror case. Sources said the note has names not mentioned in the chargesheet. The ministry is likely to take a decision on the fate of the officers based on the note and the chargesheet filed by NIA. In its chargesheet in the case, NIA has absolved Shah of all charges once pressed by Delhi Police and found officers of the special cell allegedly involved in planting explosives in an Old Delhi guesthouse to frame Shah. According to NIA, to “create” evidence to support their charges, special cell used their informer Sabir Khan Pathan to plant explosives. Once doubts were cast on their case, they allegedly destroyed evidence and helped Pathan escape. The chargesheet named several officers of special cell, including DCP Sanjeev Yadav and inspectors Sanjay Dutt and Rahul Kumar. The note, sources said, has details of the role played by not only these officers but others who have not been named in the chargesheet. A senior home ministry official said, “The ministry has taken the revelations made by NIA very seriously. We can’t allow innocent people being framed in terror cases. Such things need to be dealt with very strictly and suitable action will be taken in this case.” However, some wondered within the ministry as to why NIA did not list the officers as accused in its chargesheet. NIA needs no sanction from government to proceed against any Delhi Police officer as long as it has evidence. NIA has cited detailed evidence to prove that Pathan was an informer of inspector Dutt and virtually lived at special cell thana in Lodhi colony. It has also cited how officers from special cell were constantly in touch with Pathan while he was planting explosives in the guesthouse. He spoke to them 49 times. It has also cited evidence to show that DCP Yadav had planned Shah’s arrest in advance. (Times of India 28/1/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

147. Centre not keen on special force in trains to naxal belt (12)

Mumbai: The union home ministry is not keen on deployment of special commando force to guard the passengers travelling to naxal regions across India. Highly placed sources in home department said, “The union home minister Rajnath Singh has neither rejected nor accepted the suggestions for dedicated commando force to guard commuters.” Sources in the state government revealed to Indian Express, “The union home minister is eliciting views from state chief ministers and home ministers on the matter. A formal decision would be taken only after considering the views of all state leaders.” Sources revealed, “Some states namely West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh et al expressed anguish over possibility of escalating the conflict with naxals if commandos are regularly travelling in long distance trains through naxal belts.” At present there are central reserve police force in the trains for passengers security. Last week, union railway minister Suresh Prabhu had indicated a possibility of beefing up security in long distance trains in naxal belt. Prabhu said, “ I am going to meet the union home minister Rajnath Singh soon. I feel we should have a special commondo force in trains to naxal regions.” However, he had indicated that the final decision would have to be taken after nod from Singh. The union railway minister’s demand for special force came in wake of disruption of trains for several days in Dandakaranya in Chhatisgarh. Sources in state home department revealed, “ At state level it is felt that naxals may have targeted trains occasionally. But if we have a special force they would focus their attack on long distance trains. How many special commondos can be deploy for security.” On the other hand the larger challenge for states should be to promote more development in naxal region to isolate them from seeking help of the locals. Maharashtra government has sought more funds from the ministry of home and finance for development in the naxal regions of Gadchiroli. Earlier, union minister for surface transport Nitin Gadkari also indicated he would discuss with states on projects that could be taken up in naxal regions. Gadkari is planning a meeting with state chief ministers to discuss the roadmap for naxal regions. Maharashtra government is also going to take up the road works with Gadkari in three districts affected by naxals. (Indian Express 11/1/15)

148. Anti-Naxal Operations to be cleared by force HQs: CRPF DG (12)

NEW DELHI: All big operations in Left wing extremism-hit states, which require large-scale mobilisation of security forces, will be cleared after approvals from the CRPF headquarters, the new chief of the country’s lead anti-Naxal operations force said. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General Prakash Mishra has taken the decision to monitor first-hand important security forces offensives in the Naxal grid after he recently toured some of the worst Maoist violence affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. The decision of the new CRPF boss is also understood to have been made in the wake of the December 1 encounter in Sukma in Chhattisgarh where 14 force personnel were killed during an operation where a large contingent of over 2,000 personnel of joint security forces were mobilised to strike the red ultras. “The large operations will be okayed by the headquarters here. I, including my operations team, will be involved with the ground operations during the planning and execution stages,” Mishra, who took over the reins of the country’s largest paramilitary less than a month ago, told PTI. When asked if this “vetting” from the headquarters would lead to some crucial time-loss in launching operations, the DG said that with the advent of modern gadgets and tools, all such exercises can be followed on a virtually real-time basis.    “I don’t think there would be any time-loss. In this age we have communication gadgets and other devices where we can plan and execute things in a quick span of time or to say on a real-time basis,” he said.   The top brass of the force, at present, is informed about all large and important operations being undertaken by force commanders on ground but it is understood that after this decision, the central command of the force will play a more active role. The DG said large operations, with big number of troops on ground, leads to larger visibility of the force personnel in the operations area thereby making them vulnerable to be spotted and identified. Hence, before embarking on such exercises, the CRPF headquarters will decide on the merits and requirements for launching such offensives, the DG said.    He said the thrust areas for the force, with close to 1 lakh personnel deployed for this task, remain the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. All big operations in Left wing extremism-hit states, which require large-scale mobilisation of security forces, will be cleared after approvals from the CRPF headquarters, the new chief of the country’s lead anti-Naxal operations force said. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General Prakash Mishra has taken the decision to monitor first-hand important security forces offensives in the Naxal grid after he recently toured some of the worst Maoist violence affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.      The decision of the new CRPF boss is also understood to have been made in the wake of the December 1 encounter in Sukma in Chhattisgarh where 14 force personnel were killed during an operation where a large contingent of over 2,000 personnel of joint security forces were mobilised to strike the red ultras.  .. (New Indian Express 18/1/15)

149. 12,062 have perished in Naxal violence so far: RTI (12)

MEERUT: In reply to an RTI query, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has revealed that a total of 12,062 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence till now since 1980. The detail was given in reply to a question filed under RTI (Right to Information) rules by a Meerut-based activist. Interestingly, when the Naxalite movement began in India, only three states were involved – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But by 2014, eight states had got dragged into it. While in 1980, 70 people had died in the violence, in 2010 the number was a far higher 720. The reply also mentions that 3,078 security personnel were injured in Naxal-related violence in the last 34 years. MHA, however, did not disclose the actual number of security personnel dead in the same period. Lokesh Khurana, who had filed the RTI query on December 4, 2014, had asked for information on 10 points. “I had asked information on various points that included the number of citizens killed in the last 34 years, number of security personnel killed, administrative efforts made to restrain Naxalites, reasons for the rise and spread of the Naxalite movement, the annual expenditure incurred on security measures and operations in Naxalite-affected areas. The ministry only gave the details on the number of civilian deaths and security personnel injured.” Violence, the RTI answer says, escalated further in the following years after 1980 and by 2000 had reached alarming proportions. That year claimed 451 lives of citizens, with 97 security personnel injured. It became worse by 2010, with 720 civilians being killed and 285 security men wounded. In the last four years, though, starting from 2011 to 2014, there has been a decline in the violence. That year 468 civilians died and 142 security personnel were injured; in 2014, it came further down to 222 people killed and 87 security men injured. While the Union home minister Rajnath Singh was unavailable for comment on the issue, a senior source in his ministry said, “If you look at the trend since the last couple of years, the violence in Naxalite-hit area has declined to some extent. Meanwhile, the NDA government has taken some constructive steps to further curtail the violence whose impact will be visible in the near future.” (Times of India 21/1/15)

150. Naxals set 14 vehicles on fire to stall road work in north Gadchiroli (12)

NAGPUR: The rebels of banned outfit Communist party of India (Maoist), also known as Naxals, on Thursday set on fire around 14 vehicles of an Andhra Pradesh-based private company engaged in road construction in Dhanora tehsil of north Gadchiroli. This is the second such major incident in Dhanora tehsil within a year’s span. Naxals had torched around 27 vehicles, engaged in construction of road between Dhanora and Godalvahi via Pustola, in January last year. On Thursday, Naxals roughed up a few labourers and their supervisor when the work on the Gharanji-Pustola stretch was underway for connecting road between Edampayali and Korkoti. The road connects major market places in Naxal-hit tehsils Dhanora and Pendri. It is learnt, eight tractors, two trucks, one road roller, couple of JCB machines and a pickup van were among the vehicles which were set on fire. Couple of bikes belonging to the workers too may have been damaged. The company is likely to have suffered a loss worth around a couple of crores. Gadchiroli police have not registered an offence even after 24 hours of the incident as neither the public works department (PWD) nor the private contractor came forward to lodge complaint at Dhanora police station. The police department is contemplating registering the offence on behalf of the state government. Like last year, the latest incident has caused a setback to Central government assisted road repair project (RRP-1) in the district. Under phase I, work on 27 projects, mainly related to road and bridge construction in the interior parts of the tribal-dominated district, have been completed. The road between Edampayali and Korkoti is among nine projects, along with bridges on Godavari and Indravati, that are under construction in phase-I. Gadchiroli district collector Ranjit Kumar said the arson will slow down work on the affected stretch. “District administration is trying to coordinate with the police department for stepping up security in the affected regions,” said Kumar. Police claimed that prima facie it appears that local organisational squad of Chatgaon or Kasansoor may have jointly perpetrated the arson following Naxals’ opposition to road construction. It is reliably learnt that the contractor had already paid certain amount to the Naxals but the rebels were upset as the cash did not reach them. The Naxals had also tried to trace the person who may have siphoned off the amount. A source from intelligence security claimed that the same contractor had worked in south Gadchiroli after coordinating with the Naxals. Gadchiroli superintendent of police Sandip Patil stated that security forces have already launched operations and area domination activities at different locations considering threat on Republic Day. “We are ready to provide security to contractors or any other officials engaged in activities like road constructions,” the SP added. (Times of India 24/1/15)

151. Maoists attack resort in Kerala, write slogans against Obama visit (12)

Tirunelli: Suspected Maoists attacked a state-run tourist resort in Wayanad in north Kerala on Sunday and escaped into forests after vandalising the premises and writing slogans against US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country. The six-member group carrying fire arms and wearing masks barged into the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation’s resort located in the forests and damaged computer and glass panes at the reception in the wee hours, District Police Superintendent P Vimaladitya said. They also wrote slogans against Obama on the walls of the resort, he said. As per the information provided by the security guard at the resort, the gang entered the building around 3 AM, shouted slogans condemning the policies of the Central and State governments, littered the premises with Maoists literature before vandalising the reception and fleeing into the forests. They had raised slogans condemning the government policy of promoting tourism “trampling” over the rights of tribals and marginalised sections over traditional means of livelyhood. The gang, however, did not harm two groups of tourists who were staying in the resort, Vimaladitya said. The posters and Maoist literature thrown around the premises carried the name of CPI(Maoists) Western Ghats Regional Committee. Police have launched a search for the group who had ran into deep forests of the area located on Kerala-Karnataka borders. This was the latest in a series of attacks carried out by suspected Maoists in different parts of Kerala since last year, especially on the slopes of the Western Ghats. Earlier this month, a group attacked a private stone-crusher unit in Kannur district. These attacks came at a time when the Kerala government had stepped up security following intelligence reports that Moists had sneaked into forest-fringe tribal settlements in the hill areas of Kerala, close to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu borders. (Zee News 25/1/15)

152. Tribal girl shot dead by Maoists (12)

Ranchi, Jan. 24: Maoists shot dead an 18-year-old girl last night at a village in Khunti district where security forces are conducting Operation Karo II to flush out PLFI rebels. Police said the body of Birsi Kumari (18) was found by neighbours with two bullet wounds this morning at Kitahatu in Murhu, which is about 14km from the district headquarters, but only 2km from her home at Etkadih. Khunti SP Anish Kumar confirmed the killing via a text message. “Yes, Birsi of Etkadih was killed by Maoists last night near Kitahatu,” he wrote, but did not elaborate. Local residents said the girl, living in the village known to be the birthplace of tribal leader Gaya Munda, paid with her life for being a police informer, but the police deny the claim. “The girl had dinner with her parents around 7pm. Her parents went to sleep inside the family kumba, a straw shed in the yard where food grains are stored, while the girl decided to sleep in the house,” said a local resident. This morning, a villager noticed her body lying near Birsa Dwar in Kitahatu on the road to Ulihatu, the birthplace of tribal icon Birsa Munda, and Gaya was his celebrated lieutenant. According to them, there were two bullet wounds on the body, one on the chest and another on the forehead. DIG Praveen Kumar said Maoists might be taking advantage of the security forces’ sustained focus on the ongoing operation against the PLFI. “As the focus of security personnel is on PLFI, Maoists are taking advantage of the situation,” he told The Telegraph. “Maoists had killed three civilians in the last 10 days. When I realised this, I passed on instructions to the local SP to take adequate precautions. Intelligence reports suggest that there are hardly seven to eight Maoist rebels who have split up into two groups in the area,” Kumar added. The DGP, however, denied local residents’ claims that the girl was a police informer. “The girl wasn’t a police informer. Our information is that she had a connection with Maoists,” he said. (The Telegraph 25/1/15)

153. Naxals derail goods train in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Maoists early on Monday morning damaged a section of railway track near Kaklur railway station in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district leading to derailment of a goods train, the police said. The engine and a bogey of the ill-fated goods train jumped off the rail following the sabotage by the rebels, a district police officer said. However, no one was injured in the incident. The driver of the train walked several kilometres to reach the nearest railway station at Kaklur to report the incident. Later, a rescue team was dispatched to the spot to repair the track. In another incident, ultras abducted two passenger buses in Katekalyan area in the same district late on Sunday night. However, the buses were set free after around three hours. No harm was done to the passengers in the two buses, the police officer said. Maoists had called Bharat Bandh on January 26. (Asian Age 27/1/15)

154. Jharkhand: Maoist leader arrested (12)

Garhwa: A Maoist self-styled ‘zonal commander’ was on Wednesday arrested in Garhwa district of Jharkhand, police said. Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar Jha said that the rebel, identified as Jagdish Budhayadav, was nabbed from Kulhi village in Bandharia police station following a tip-off. The Maoist carried a reward, the SP said. He, however, did not specify the reward amount. A country-made pistol, four bullets and Rs 1.34 lakh cash were recovered from his possession, Jha said. (Zee News 28/1/15)

155. Another Maoist attack? NHAI office in Kochi attacked, police recover naxal literature (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: A project office of National Highway Authority of India in Kochi was attacked allegedly by Maoists on Thursday morning. Police have recovered pro-Maoist literature from the office premises. According to police, the incident was reported around 9 am after the sweeper left the office. The unidentified assailants had burned office files. The incident came to light only when office staff reported for duty in the day. Some of the pamphlets recovered from the office premises have slogans in protest against development of the highways under BOT scheme. Kochi range IG Ajith Kumar said police have been conducting a combing operation in the city based on intelligence report that Maoists may attack some offices in the city. However, we could not cover all offices, he said. In Kerala, the opposition against NH development under BOT scheme was spearheaded by fringe Muslim and ultra Left outfits. Although mainstream parties have supported widening of the highways into 45-meter width, the government could not go ahead with land acquisition mainly due to the protest from local people and traders. (Indian Express 30/1/15)

TRAFFICKING

156. Op Smile: 2 wks on, Meerut cops fail to find a single child (1)

Meerut: Police here have been unable to rescue a single child since January 1 under Operation Smile — a month-long initiative to trace missing children — while the neighbouring Ghaziabad police, who piloted the project, traced 25 kids in January alone, taking its total to 228 since drive started in October 2014. As many as 556 children have been reported missing and another 111 untraceable in Meerut district since 2010. “Our main look-out spots are railway stations and bus stops, where regular checks are on and police officers will surely trace the children, soon,” said SSP Onkar Singh. He added that a plan of action has been chalked down along with all city station officers, so that the missing children can be traced. Rita Shuka, the city’s nodal officer for Operation Smile, said: “We are trying our best to trace the missing children, but we have not been able to find anyone yet.” Shukla, who is also the head of the anti-human trafficking department, added that search operations are on and they will start tracing the missing children soon. Child Line India, which works for the protection of child rights, usually co-ordinates with police to help find missing children and is linked with the anti-human trafficking department was clueless of Operation Smile. Meerut director of Child Line India Anita Rana told TOI: “We have not got any official circular from the district administration or police to be a part of the initiative. Recovery of missing children cannot take place if people keep sitting in their offices.” Rana added: “Police will in no way find the missing children if they are wearing their uniforms. (Times of India 13/10/15)

157. Human trafficking victims in Pak jails: NRI (1)

JALANDHAR: Canada-based NRI Sital Kler, who is also case coordinator of South Asian Human Rights Group of Canada Society, handed over a list of 60 names of Punjabis to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Jalandhar on Friday, saying they were lodged in Pakistan jails. Kler said he had received the list from Pakistan-based human rights activists. Those men from Punjab in Pakistan jails were victims of a human trafficking racket, he said. “They were assured greener pastures but left in Libya and their passports also taken away. Libya pushed them to Iran, which sent them to Pakistan, where they were convicted for illegally entering the country. These fellows have served more than 14 years in jail, but they don’t have any proof with them that they are Indian citizens. They don’t have passports or other documents and Pakistan is also unable to send them to India,” he told the CM and later the media during the occasion of ‘sangat darshan’ for NRIs. Kler said he received names of those prisoners and of their fathers and the Punjab government should help in identify them. He urged the CM to take up the issue with Union ministry of external affairs. (Times of India 17/1/15)

158. Pay special attention to child trafficking cases: SP (1)

DINDIGUL: Special attention should be paid to child trafficking cases. They should not be treated like any other ordinary cases. Persons involving in child trafficking should be booked under non-bailable offences, said Superintendent of Police A. Saravanan. Addressing a training programme on ‘Anti-human trafficking’ for supporting officers here on Thursday, he said that the main purpose the training was to create awareness of various forms of human trafficking and child protection and rehabilitation measures. Special teams had been constituted to control child trafficking in the district. Of the 14 child trafficking cases, children were handed over to the parents in two cases, he pointed out. In his special address, Collector T.N. Hariharan said that training would be imparted to persons in all fields to protect the child. The trainers explained various acts and provisions related to the human trafficking. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

159. Rescued children narrate horrific tales (1)

The glitter and allure of the bangle market of Lad Bazaar in the Old City came crashing down after child trafficking reared its ugly head on Saturday. As it turned out, instead of going to school, children as young as six years of age were employed in crafting laakh bangles in deplorable conditions. As many as 22 children were herded into a small, dingy room where they were forced to work day in and day out with little time for rest. One such story is that of Rahul (12) from Badi Naka in Bihar. Brought to the city around a week ago, Rahul was being trained for making bangles under the watchful eye of his masters. Poverty forced his parents to send him away. “My father works as a truck loader. My mother stays at home. I used to share the room with around 12 other boys in a building in Talabkatta.” he says. Mohammed Shamsheer (11), from a town in UP has a similar tale to narrate. While he does not know how his father earns a living, he remembers his mother’s voice calling out to him every morning. “They didn’t let us sleep properly and made us work all the time. I was told that they would give me Rs 3,000 for the work I do here,” he says. While both Rahul and Shamsheer say that they were paid Rs 3,000, labour department officials fear that they could have been brought to the city at a much lesser price. “It is quite likely that they were brought here for a smaller sum,” says joint commissioner, labour department E Gangadhar. Explaining the course of action, he says, “Bangle making is hazardous for children on account of the chemicals involved. We will fine each person Rs 20,000 and will also seek their prosecution.” Data obtained from Bhavani Nagar police showed that of the 220 children rescued, an alarming 54 were up to 10 years of age while another 49 were under 14 years of age. Most of them were brought from Bihar and WB. The children were kept in 14 buildings in and around Bhavani Nagar and Aman Nagar. In fact, police rescued 80 children from a three-storey building in Aman Nagar alone. Police said that the building belongs to Yaseen Pahelwan a local strongman. “With no lights in the common areas and an empty lift well which had no barricade to protect children from falling into it, it is a miracle that no deaths were reported,” said a police officer. tnnAnother building, with CCTV cameras to monitor each child’s movement, housed 26 children. “One Saleem is the proprietor and Mohammed Shakeel was the person managing the children in this building,” said Bhavani Nagar sub-inspector N Srisailam. (Times of India 25/1/15)

160. Chhattisgarh schools asked to form students’ group to combat human trafficking (1)

RAIPUR: In another step to combat human trafficking in Chhattisgarh, School Education Department has instructed principals of all schools to form groups of girls to create awareness among other students and keep an eye on traffickers. Now, school girls would be empowered to take a lead in preventing trafficking of young girls who are lured of lavish lifestyle and are trafficked to metro cities. Confirming the move school education department, secretary, Subrat Sahoo said that the order has been given to principals to be implemented with immediate effect. “With increasing number of cases of children going missing and becoming victims to child trafficking, it was realized that taking this crucial step from school level was vital to create awareness both among boys and girls,” Sahoo told TOI. Group of girls would be responsible to keep a watch on movement of suspicious person in and around school premises and also upon other school students who were being targeted. In case of suspicion, the group would inform principal and teachers in school to take matter in cognizance. Girls will be expected to create awareness among friends and other students with the word of mouth so that they get better understanding of the crime. According to the order, school principals have also been asked to inculcate lessons of safety and precaution specially among girls to understand well between well wisher and one who lures, during lectures. Though the order has been given to all schools in state, affected districts shall be in focus. Similar group of youths has been working to combat trafficking in Kansabel block of tribal Jashpur district with the help of an NGO. The youths have developed an active network and they get inputs about traffickers planning to take group of girls from bus stops or railway stations. Like detectives, the young group stalk them and update on phone sitting at various points. On confirmation, they inform police. Many such agents and traffickers have been nabbed in past with the help of this group. Chhattisgarh has in past few years emerged as trafficking hub with large number of children going missing. While state has introduced Private Placement Agency Act in 2013, police teams are sent to destination points like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and states of South India to trace missing children and crackdown on traffickers. In December last year, about 20 traffickers were nabbed from Delhi and neighbouring areas with rescue of 15 children who went missing in last few years. (Times of India 28/1/15)

161. For Rs 1 lakh, Jharkhand girl sold twice in Punjab, Haryana (1)

SANGRUR: Within days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching his “Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao” campaign from Haryana, a case of a tribal girl being sold twice in Haryana and Punjab for Rs 1 lakh has come to light. The Class IX student from Naxal-hit Khunti district of Jharkhand was first sold to someone in Haryana and then to a 50-year-old man in a Sangrur village. The girl has told Sangrur’s child protection committee that she was physically abused by the man during her stay in Sangrur. On Wednesday afternoon, a team of Jharkhand police’s anti-human trafficking cell raided Ranbir Singh’s house in Karaunda village, near the Punjab-Haryana border, and rescued the girl. Her mother had accompanied the cops. The victim had been missing from Khunti for the past 16 days. She was taken away by a couple – Mahima and Praveen – and sold to a middleman from Pehowa town of Kurukshetra, who further sold her to Ranbir Singh. The middleman, Surinder Kumar, has been arrested in a joint operation carried out by Jharkhand and Haryana police teams near Kurukshetra. Phillip Khuju, ASI of the Jharkhand police, said they had also seized the bank account through which Rs 1 lakh was paid by Kumar to the traffickers. “Ranbir confessed that he had paid the money to Kumar,” Khuju told TOI. Rishi Kant, a Delhi-based activist of NGO Shakti Vahini, who accompanied the police, said, “Since the tribal belt is Naxal-infested, the girl, a Class IX student, was residing away from their family in Khunti. She was lured by the couple on the pretext of taking her to the Sunday market in Delhi.” Inspector Roshan Lal from Khanauri said Ranbir was arrested and produced in a court in Moonak tehsil of Sangrur. (Times of India 29/1/15)

162. The numbers story: A human trafficking cases rise, convictions come down (1)

A few weeks ago, the CBI unearthed information about a human trafficking racket, and estimated that around 8000 women were transported to Dubai using Delhi as a transit point. More recently, there were reports about a man who trafficked 5000 tribal kids from the remotest areas of Jharkhand. Such cases highlight the ever growing problem of human trafficking in India. As per data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of registered human trafficking cases has increased by 38.3% over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013. The conviction rate for such cases has declined 45%, from 1,279 in 2009 to 702 in 2013. The data further reveals that in 2013, maximum crimes (65.5%) were registered under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 whereas Procuration of Minor Girls (Sec 366-A) accounted for 31.1% of the crimes. Looking at the crime trends over the past five years presents an extremely worrying picture. It discloses that the cases under Sec 366-A have surged dramatically by 416% over five years, from 237 in 2009 to 1224 in 2013, which means that minor girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable. West Bengal is the hub of human trafficking in India. It had the maximum human trafficking cases (669) amongst all states in India in 2013, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Clearly, human trafficking is increasing enormously day by day. More worrying is the fact that minor girls are being trafficked increasingly. India needs to urgently strengthen its laws to protect its girls. (Indian Express 29/1/15)

163. Trafficking victims get jobs, to protect girls in Khunti schools (1)

KHUNTI: It was the culmination of a long and arduous journey for 30-odd women who had once been victims of trafficking and child labour, when they were declared eligible for protecting other girls. Once prey to sexual abuse and child labour at brick kilns, it was a moment of pride for the 30 who survived the ordeal, and were given appointment letters as security guards by the state human resource development secretary, Aradhana Patnaik at Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Murhu on Wednesday, . In a three-month course conducted by NGOs — Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Save the Children — these girls received training for becoming security guards. Now, they have been appointed as security guards at 12 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in Khunti district and will be protecting other girls. They will receive a salary of Rs 8000 per month from the state government. Nisha Kachchap (name changed) was taken to Delhi in 2010 at the age of 13 where she was not just beaten up but also sexually exploited by her employer. After two years of living through hell, she mustered the courage to call up the police and was rescued in 2012. Since then she has been living at Kishori Niketan, a shelter home of BKS. “I thought I would never get out of hell, but now I am not just free but also confident and have a respectable job. I am just happy that I managed to start my life afresh,” said Nisha. Apart from trafficking victims, there were girls who once worked in brick kilns as child labourers. Anjali Topno (name changed) said, “I had to drop out of school due to financial crisis and was forced to work at a brick kiln . When I got to know about the training programme , I voluntarily applied for it and now I am happy to get a respectable job.” Sanjay Mishra, executive director of BKS said, “In the last one year, we have trained 140 girls and got them employed as security guards or housekeepers in state hotels. Our target is to not just employ rescued girls but also the vulnerable girls who might have to go to other states to work due to financial crisis.” Patnaik congratulated the girls who were appointed and motivated the girls of KGBV to continue their studies. She said, “You should not drop out and go to work before you complete intermediate school.” (Times of India 30/1/15)

CORRUPTION

164. Cidco makes an online move to weed out corruption (5)

Navi Mumbai: Corrupt practices within the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) can now be brought to the notice of higher officials at the click of a mouse. The vigilance department, formed in May 2013, has gone a step further towards keeping the planning body free of corruption by launching a vigilance web link www.cidco.maharashtra.gov.in on Thursday at Cidco exhibition centre, sector 30, Vashi. People using the services of Cidco and getting affected by corruption can lodge their complaints on the webpage. Their complaints will be made available for public view after due moderation by the department. The identities of both the complainant and official, against whom the complaint has been made, will not be revealed. The web link was inaugurated by Sanjay Bhatia, vice-chairman and managing director, Cidco. He said, “I urge every citizen to report about corruption for better governance. Zero corruption means 100% town development. The reason for not disclosing the name of the complainant is for their protection and not revealing the identity of the officer concerned is for protecting the person’s loss of reputation, in case the complaint filed is false.” Detailed information about the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, related links and how one can lodge an online complaint have been provided on the vigilance web page. People have to register themselves by generating a user id. After that, one has to provide some personal information, which will be kept confidential. After filling all the required information, one can register his/her complaint and attach documents of proof. Ex-state chief secretary Jayant Banthia, MLA Manda Mhatre, joint MD, Cidco, V Radha, chief administrator (NT) Sunil Kendrekar and chief vigilance officer Dr Pradnya Sarvade were present at the inaugural ceremony. To make the processes and work proceedings of the various departments transparent, the vigilance department has started preparing ‘departmental process manuals’. To begin with, social services department process manual has been made available on the vigilance webpage. “It is a self-contained document that has all applicable policies, guidelines on the functions of the department and processes and timelines to complete these functions. The manuals will be updated on an annual basis,” said Bhatia. Apart from taking appropriate steps on all public complaints of corruption, the vigilance department also recommends process changes to various departments for improving transparency, cleaner and efficient service delivery. (Times of India 16/1/15)

165. SC upholds case against five customs officials (5)

CHENNAI: Reversing a Madras high court order exonerating five customs officials of falsifying records to claim 2.5 crore duty drawback benefit, the Supreme Court said the officials must face trial before the special court for CBI cases in Chennai. The apex court said the high court was not correct in ruling that the officials could not be charged under Section 15 (punishment for attempt by a public servant to obtain a valuable thing for pecuniary benefit) of Prevention of Corruption Act, adding that the CBI court should conduct the trial on merit. According to the CBI, Manish Kumar Jain, R V Shanmugam, N Rajan, Arun Kumar and Santhosh Kumar of Coimbatore had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat the government. Forging the shipping documents, they increased the value of exports from 3.22 crore to 22.72 crore and attempted to claim an inflated duty drawback of 2.5 crore, instead of the actual 35,000. Before the duty drawback was allowed, the directorate general of central excise intelligence stopped the process. The accused then tried to remove the forged documents and replace them with the actual export documents. The economic offences wing of CBI in Chennai chargesheeted them for cheating, forgery and destroying evidence under relevant sections of the IPC, besides provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Customs Act. The accused then moved the Madras high court. The high court discharged them saying Section 15 of Prevention of Corruption Act could be invoked only if the accused had been charged with committing the offence. Noting that there was no evidence to implicate them, the high court had said, “…The prosecution has not produced a single scrap of material either through statement or any document to make out a prima facie case for framing of charges.” It then set aside the order of the special court to proceed against the accused. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, however, said the high court was not justified in stating that Section 15 could not be invoked. As the accused had not availed themselves of duty drawback, the prosecution was right in invoking the provision, it said. Setting aside the high court’s order, the bench said, “The material on record discloses grave suspicion… and the special court was correct in framing charges.” It said the accused had to face trial, and asked the special court to deal with the case on merits. (Times of India 19/1/15)

166. SC reposes faith in SIT on black money (5)

NEW DELHI: Trusting the government and its own Special Investigation Team to complete the job of unearthing black money Indians have stashed away in foreign banks, the Supreme Court on Tuesday spoke in the voice of the common man: “We are interested in seeing the money come back to us [nation], not in names, details.” A Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri made the oral observation on an application by Rajya Sabha member and senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani that not a “single rupee has come out in the past six months” and investigation into black money has been reduced to “a raid here, an attachment there and that’s all.” It was on Mr. Jethmalani’s petition in 2009 that the court set up the SIT, led by two retired Supreme Court judges — Justices M.B. Shah and Arijit Pasayat — to retrieve the money. Senior advocate Anil Diwan, counsel for Mr. Jethmalani, said the BJP manifesto had promised to take steps on a “priority basis to minimise the scope of corruption by minimising the hoarding of black money.” But Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi strongly objected to the line of argument. “It is completely wrong in saying that not a penny has come up. Some of them [627 Indian account-holders] have paid penalties. Besides, time was given to us till March 31, 2015, to complete prosecution of black money holders abroad under the Income Tax Act,” Mr. Rohatgi countered. “Everything the government has is with the Supreme Court’s SIT. We have shared every single document, name, account details with them. Nothing has been hidden from them.” Chief Justice Dattu interjected, saying: “We are interested in seeing the money come back to us [nation], not in names, details.” Mr. Rohatgi submitted that the government and the SIT should be allowed to do their job. Chief Justice Dattu said, “We are certain the SIT will do its job well.” (The Hindu 21/1/15)

167. Coal scam: ED registers case against Jindal Strips Limited (5)

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case against Jindal Strips Limited and unknown Coal Ministry officials in connection with the allocation of Gare Palma IV/1 coal block to the company. The ED has initiated investigations based on a case of alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation last October. The CBI probe revealed that instead of adhering to the rate of extraction of coal as provided in the approved mine plan, the company (presently Jindal Steel and Power Limited) allegedly resorted to illegal excess mining. While the approved coal production for the firm during 1998-2003 was 1.35 metric tonne, theactual coal production by the firm was allegedly 5.9 metric tonne, an excess of 4.55 metric tonne. There was an alleged excess mining in all the five years against the rate approved in the mine plan, and no prior permission was obtained from the Coal Ministry for revised mine plan in 2004, the agencies allege. Despite the irregularities, apart from the allocation of a block with coal reserve much beyond the proposed requirement, the Coal Ministry approved the company’s revised mine plan in 2005 and did not initiate any action against it. The firm allegedly continued excess coal extraction in 2003-05 without any approval. The excess coal mined during this period has been pegged by the investigators as 1.431 metric tonne, besides 4.55 metric tonne. The agencies allege that the accused firm misappropriated coal through excess mining and got the excess coal mined regularised in alleged connivance with unknown Coal Ministry officials. According to the CBI, the Coal Ministry and Coal Controller had permitted sale of coal fines and middling in open market. The company allegedly resorted to such sale not only to specified end users but also to several other firms, which traded it further in violation of permitted conditions, thus allegedly earning undue benefit. The accused company also supplied raw coal to Nalwa Steel and Power Limited, agencies allege. It is learnt that the ED is also planning to attach assets in connection with another case registered against former Congress MP and director of Jindal Steel and Power Limited Naveen Jindal, former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayana Rao and others for alleged conspiracy to obtain a Jharkhand coal block on false representations. The case pertains to joint allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal block in Birbhum to JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Limited. (The Hindu 22/1/15)

168. Kerala oppn steps up protests on bribe issue (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, who has been accused of taking a Rs 1 crore bribe from bar owners in connection with the issuance of liquor licenses, is now facing a fresh round of political heat. At a time when the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is trying to cope with internal friction over the bar bribe controversy, the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) announced on Thursday that it would protest until the minister resigns. To begin with, LDF convener Vaikom Viswan said opposition parties would boycott all future events that Mani attends and organise a protest march to the state secretariat here and taluk offices on February 3. The Bharatiya Janata Party, too, has announced protests against the finance minister, who is currently being investigated by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau. The BJP state unit called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal across the state on January 27 in their demand for the minister’s resignation. The party would also hold protests on Friday and Saturday. CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thrissur that Mani should resign against the backdrop of “more evidence against him” that was submitted by Biju Ramesh, working president of the Kerala Bar Owners Association. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPM Politburo member, said that the opposition would not stand for Mani presenting the state budget. “He (Mani) doesn’t have the moral right to present the budget. If he goes ahead and does it, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will witness unprecedented scenes in the Assembly,” Balakrishnan said in Thiruvananthapuram. A rift within the ruling UDF on the issue, meanwhile, continued to escalate. On Thursday, Congress mouthpiece Veekshanam launched a scathing attack on R Balakrishna Pillai, veteran leader of UDF constituent Kerala Congress (B). (Deccan Herald 23/1/15)

169. CBI nabs Central Bank manager, adv in bribery case (5)

BHOPAL: Anti-corruption branch of CBI on Thursday arrested a manager of Central Bank in Mandla district for allegedly demanding bribe from an applicant to clear his loan Accused D K Uikey was caught red-handed while accepting bribe from Om Prakash Soni, owner of paan kiosk in Nainpur area of the district. Soni had lodged a complaint with CBI that Uikey had withheld disbursement of Rs 9.81 lakh loan to put pressure on him to pay the bribe. He had applied for loan under chief minister’s self employment scheme to purchase a SUV. During initial investigations, CBI officials found Uikey categorically stated that the payment of illegal gratification has to be made through a cheque payable in name of ‘self’ for getting loan. Accordingly, on January 20, the complainant signed one cheque of his SB account, payable to ‘self’ for Rs 30,000 and the accused made the complainant to sign overleaf behind the cheque. The said cheque and the cheque book was kept by the accused with him and the complainant was told to collect delivery order addressed to SUV dealer. The bribe was allegedly debited in SB account of the complainant in afternoon on January 21 and accordingly, the complainant informed about it to CBI team. Immediately, CBI team along with witnesses went to Nainpur branch to seize cheque of the complainant. During interrogation of the accused, it was found out the bribe is with advocate Vaibhav Patel. It was found the cheque was handed over to Patel. Subsequently, the money was recovered from Patel’s residence and he was also arrested. Searches conducted at the residence of the accused at Nainpur found Rs 3,28,000 cash, LIC policies, one plot and papers of under-construction house at Chhindwara. The search was conducted at parental house of the manager at village Bamanilala, Chhindwara. Search of the car owned by the accused revealed several FDs and a locker key. (Times of India 23/1/15)

170. People will teach BJP a lesson for cheating on black money: Anna Hazare (5)

Ralegan Siddhi: Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare on Wednesday attacked the Narendra Modi government for its ‘failure’ to bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad and said people will teach it a lesson for the “fraud” perpetrated on them. The 77-year-old Gandhian also refused to be drawn into the subject of political slugfest going on between his two former proteges — Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s Kiran Bedi — in the Delhi assembly elections. “People were promised during Lok Sabha elections that black money will be brought back within 100 days (of BJP forming its government), that Rs 15 lakh will be deposited in the accounts of every citizen, but not even Rs 15 have come. “People have become aware now of the fraud perpetrated on them. They will teach a lesson (to the BJP-led government) the way they taught one to Congress. The masses have awakened after 2011 movement against corruption,” he said in an interview to a TV news channel. Asked about his views on Kejriwal and Bedi, both his proteges in the India Against Corruption campaign, crossing swords for chief ministership of Delhi, the anti-graft crusader said he would not talk about politics. “I don’t want to go into these things. Ask me about other things, ask me about the country. An Arvind or a Kiran is not important,” he said. Questioned whether he was angry with them for entering politics against his advice, Hazare said, “No, no. The question of getting angry arises when you have expectations that are not fulfilled. I don’t have any expectations from anybody, so where is the question of anger?” He also refused to hazard a guess about who — Kejriwal or Bedi — will emerge triumphant in the polls. “I don’t know. Ask them,” he retorted when persistently questioned about his views on Delhi elections and asked, “Why are you pushing me into the cesspool?” Hazare said no change can be brought through party politics and that there was no mention of politics in the Indian Constitution. “No change can be brought through party politics. The Constitution also does not mention politics. It says any Indian citizen can contest elections. When 543 good individuals win and choose the Speaker of Lok Sabha and the Prime Minister and run the country, change will come,” he said. Hazare, however, acknowledged that the task was daunting and will take long to achieve. “It will take 10-12-15 years. When people will awaken and reject party politics and choose 543 good people as their representatives, then true democracy will come. People made sacrifices for independence but there has not been any struggle for democracy,” he said. (Zee News 28/1/15)

171. Odisha Lokayukta Becomes An Act (5)

BHUBANESWAR: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday  gave his assent to Odisha Lokayukta Bill, 2014. With the Presidential assent, the Bill adopted by the Odisha Assembly on February 14 last year now becomes an Act. Odisha is the second State after Uttarakhand to pass the Lokayukta Bill. According to the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014, the Lokayukta will comprise five members. It will be led by a sitting judge of the Orissa High Court or a retired judge and will have two judicial members, including the chairperson. Out of the three non-judicial members, one will be from the Scheduled categories and woman. Appointment of such a member will be on rotation basis. It will have a tenure of five years. The Chief Minister, former chief ministers, other ministers and public servants will come under the purview of the Lokayukta for investigating corruption charges. As per the provisions of the Bill, MLAs, government officers, heads of panchayats and municipalities and trusts receiving government grants will come under the purview of the Lokayukta, who is empowered to probe graft charges. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), contractors (firm or persons) and suppliers dealing with government money would also be covered by it. The Lokayukta, on receipt of complaint, may order preliminary inquiry against any public servant by its inquiry wing or any agency to ascertain whether there exists a prima facie case for proceeding in the matter. The Lokayukta will be chosen by a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister and comprising  the Leader of the Opposition, Speaker of Odisha Legislative Assembly, Chief Justice of Orissa High Court or a judge nominated by him and an eminent jurist nominated by the Governor. The chairman of the Lokayukta would be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the selection committee. The Lokayukta will have an inquiry wing headed by a Director for conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence allegedly committed by a public servant brought before it. The Lokayukta will also constitute a prosecution wing headed by the Director of Prosecution who is or has been in the rank of Director of Public Prosecution of the State. The State Government will make available such number of officers and other staff as required by the Lokayukta till the prosecution wing is constituted. The State Government will constitute a number of special courts, as recommended by the Lokayukta, to hear and decide the cases arising out of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 or under the Lokayukta Act. The trial of the cases will be completed within a year from the date of filing of the case. (New Indian Express 29/1/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

172. Kerala to be first state with green ABS policy (9)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is all set to become the first state in the country to have a policy document on biodiversity conservation related “access and benefit sharing (ABS)”, a UN green expert has revealed. Balakrishna Pisupati, currently heading a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Norway, is in the state’s capital city to finalise a draft ABS policy being prepared by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB). Pisupati told IANS in an online interview that the progress that Kerala has made for biodiversity conservation has to be lauded and “even though the concept of ABS is old, for bio resources the ABS is something new”.”Today, we have a Biodiversity Act in the country and when it comes to ABS, states can chalk out their own plans. The KSBB will be ready with a full-fledged ABS policy shortly,” said Pisupati, the UN expert and former chairman of the National Biodiversity Authority. He said, “In simple terms, ABS becomes applicable “if there is any commercial utilisation of biological resources and in traditional knowledge, where a fee would be levied.” Kerala is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna and among the other segments where ABS will be applicable include the seafood sector, seeds, spices, plantation sector to name a few. “The policy that’s being readied will include the guidelines on how ABS is made applicable. One thing that would be very clear is that this is not meant to make money for the KSBB by taxing the Ayurveda manufacturers, the seafood industry and others who use the resources,” Pisupati said. This is just to ensure that the stakeholders are made aware that conservation is needed because if they have to continue their business, conservation has to take place, he said. “There would be no wielding the stick, but (we will be) taking all the stakeholders on board,” Pisupati said. KSBB chairman Oommen V.Oommen told IANS that they have already started first round of talks with the stakeholders and the Ayurveda Medicine Manufacturers have understood what we are trying to tell them through the new policy. “We will not be insisting for an ABS fee, instead we will also look forward for contribution in kind from the stakeholders, where they will have to see they engage in conservation activities in their area of operation by planting trees and tending it,” he said. According to K.P.Laladhas, member secretary of KSBB, the policy will include even the legal implication. “The first thing that we will be engaging in is to create awareness and will inculcate in the stakeholders that every sector has a duty to contribute towards conservation.” (Business Standard 10/1/15)

173. India should help reach meaningful climate change pact, UN Secretary General says (9)

NEW DELHI: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday asked India to take a leadership role in reaching a “meaningful” climate change pact in Paris later this year. “I count on the leadership of India in our ongoing efforts to address the climate change issues … I expect as one of the most critically important member-states of the UN and as one of the fastest growing economies, India should be responsible to address climate change so that they will soon have universal and meaningful climate change agreement in Paris in December,” Ban Ki-Moon said. His remarks came while he visited India’s first ‘Net Zero Energy’ consuming building – Indira Paryavaran Bhawan – which is constructed in such a way that it can meet most of its annual energy requirements through solar power. Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar showcased the secretary general the salient features of the green building which has India’s largest roof-top solar panel. Javadekar is learnt to have also used this opportunity to reiterate India’s commitment to move on clean energy path using more and more solar and wind power in the next five years and assured Ban Ki-Moon about the country’s willingness to work with other nations to have an equitable global climate deal in Paris. In fact, Ban Ki-Moon had expressed desire to see the green building when Javadekar had last met him during the UN climate conference in Lima (Peru) in December and explained to him the features of the ‘Paryavaran Bhawan’ from where his ministry works. The building is located at Jor Bagh in South Delhi. The building, which was dedicated to the nation by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh early last year, is focused on increasing the efficiency of resources like energy, water and materials while minimizing the impact of the building on human habitat and environment. The ‘Net Zero Energy’ building – also called Net Zero Building – is a structure with zero net energy consumption where the total amount of energy used in the premises on an annual basis is more or less equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. The building is a state-of-the-art landmark that is based on conservation of natural areas and trees to reduce adverse environmental impact, provide adequate natural light, shaded landscaped areas to reduce ambient temperature, maximize energy saving system and minimize operation cost by adopting green building concepts. (Times of India 14/1/15)

174. U-turn by Centre in apex court on capital vehicular pollution (9)

NEW DELHI: There is a twist to the recent controversy about an MoEF affidavit to Supreme Court claiming vehicles in Delhi contribute to only 6.6% of particulate matter pollution while road dust contributes to 52%. Following criticism from experts about the veracity of these findings, MoEF, in another affidavit submitted to the apex court on Friday, claimed that vehicles in fact contribute between 8.7% and 20.5% of PM emissions while road dust leads to 14.5% to 29% and that the study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) it had quoted is based on data from 2007. The Central Pollution Control Board commissioned the NEERI study in 2005-06. Subsequent studies, some government-funded, have contradicted the NEERI findings of 6.6% PM emissions from the transport sector. NEERI scientists TOI spoke to were also clueless about why an old study was quoted in the affidavit and clarified it was not peer-reviewed. In its latest affidavit, MoEF clarifies that its initial submission was only meant for PM10 (coarse particles more than 10 micrometres in size). PM10 emissions are not as dangerous as PM2.5 (fine, respirable particles less than 2.5 micrometres in size) as those can enter the bloodstream and get lodged in the lungs. It also informs that the data was from 2007 and there is no government study on source apportionment of PM2.5 emissions. A WHO study found Delhi has the highest PM2.5 levels among 1,600 cities globally. Delhi Pollution Control Committee has only recently commissioned another source apportionment study with focus on PM2.5 to Prof. Mukesh Sharma of IIT Kanpur. After completely denying the role of vehicles in air pollution, MoEF-in its latest affidavit-seems to have made a volte-face. “Vehicular PM emissions being in the finer category and having toxic elemental carbon as well as organic carbon, controlling them is important for improving air quality and minimizing health effects.” It also states there should be “no tolerance” to visible smoke-emitting vehicles and suggests taking Delhi government and the health ministry’s opinion on mandatory use of masks, free public transport, allowing only BS III and BS IV vehicles and doubling of parking charges. A NEERI scientist told TOI, “We aren’t sure why MoEF quoted such an old study which only considers PM10 emissions. The study was not peer-reviewed.” Another scientist said, “In any large city, contribution of vehicles is much higher. It’s obvious the results of the NEERI study are not reliable.” CPCB had commissioned a large-scale study of health impacts of PM10 emissions to the Kolkata-based CNCI. Its 15-year study had alarming findings. Fearing criticism, CPCB reportedly didn’t publish the reports for seven years. (Times of India 17/1/15)

175.  ‘River linking will prove catastrophic for Kuttanad’ (9)

KOTTAYAM: Bishop Thomas Oommen, Deputy Moderator of the Church of South India (CSI), has warned against the proposed Pamba-Vypar-Achankoil linking project which, according to him, would push Kuttanad into an environmental catastrophe similar to the one that has hit the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Delivering his presidential address at the five-day seminar on climate change organised by the CSI, CMS College and Nilackal Ecological Commission here on Thursday, the Bishop said water was at the heart of the climate change debate. However, the river linking endeavour, the engineers who value the physicality of water need to be sensitised to the aquatic bio-diversity and how these “nature’s engineers” render ecological services. “On diverting water, a river becomes lean, its aquatic life is disturbed and its aesthetic quality impaired. Any engineering intervention, however small, will invariably impact an ecosystem’s functions and services,” he said. Referring to the catastrophe that hit the Aral sea, the Bishop said the immense fresh water lake had shrunk by 60 per cent during the past three decades after Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics diverted water from the two major rivers which drained into the lake, to irrigate their cotton fields and other crops. From the original 50 cubic kilometres of fresh water that was supplied by the rivers to the lake in 1965, the supply was cut to zero by 1980, he said. This had triggered a chain reaction which has devastated the life of millions of people. “As such, the CSI cannot support the river linking project which will damage the eco-balance in the nation,” he said. According to him, the CSI will take the initiative to establish a network of scientists and religious scholars who are interested in issues of climate change, creation care and sustainable development. The seminar was inaugurated by P.J. Kurien, Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha. Oomen V. Oommen, chairman, State Bio-Diversity Board, delivered the keynote address. Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilos, Saffragan Metropolitan of the Marthoma Church; Benoy Viswam, former Minister for Environment, and others spoke. (The Hindu 23/1/15)

176. Peak pollution was high even after showers in Delhi: NGO (9)

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the US President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi, Greenpeace India, an environmental NGO tracked air pollution levels at various locations in Delhi which he is likely to visit. Greenpeace campaigners used a portable air quality monitoring device, PDR-1500, bought from US. Greenpeace’s reality check of PM2.5 levels on Friday revealed that peak air pollution levels spiked to alarming levels even after the rain on Thursday helped wash out the pollutants and the 24-hour average came down. “Exposure to fine particulate matter pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the world, upping the risk of lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lower respiratory infections and asthma. PM2.5 is estimated to have been responsible for over three million premature deaths in 2010,” Greenpeace’s statement on Friday said. It also referred to The International Agency for Research on Cancer which classified particulate matter pollution as carcinogenic to humans in 2013, and designated it as a “leading environmental cause of cancer deaths”.Unreliable data from government agencies has led to individual researchers and advocacy groups using battery-operated portable devices that measure people’s personal exposure to air pollution. “Delhi has been breathing extremely poor air this winter with daily PM2.5 averages peaking to 320 micrograms per cubic metres, six times the Indian safety standard and 14 times that of the World Health Organization’s. I hope the government recognizes the urgency to act and safeguard the health of citizens,” Aishwarya Madineni of Greenpeace India said. (Times of India 24/1/15)

177. Obama wants India to embrace cleaner fuels (9)

NEW DELHI: Offering help in the adaptation of climate change, American President Barack Obama on Tuesday said unless countries like India embrace cleaner fuel world does not stand a chance against climate change. “I know the argument made by some that it is unfair on part of countries like the United States to ask developing countries and emerging economies like India to reduce your dependence on same fossil fuel that powered our growth for more than a century,” he said in his Town Hall address here. Obama said being global partners means confronting global challenge of climate change even as he cautioned that with rising seas, melting Himalayan glaciers, more unpredictable monsoons, cyclones getting stronger, few countries will be more affected by a warmer planet than India. The American President said that the US recognizes its part in creating the problem so it is leading the efforts to combat it and said America’s carbon pollution is at its lowest levels in last two decades. “But here is the truth even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if countries that are growing rapidly like India with soaring energy needs don’t also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don’t stand a chance against climate change,” the President said. He said he welcomes India’s “ambitious targets” for generating more clean energy. “We will continue to help you deal with impacts of climate change because you shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone. As we keep working for a strong global agreement on climate change its young people like you who have to speak up so we can protect this planet for your generations,” he said. In his 30-minute speech to a select audience at the Siri Fort auditorium, Obama said he would be gone when worst affects us and it will be present generation and their children who will be impacted. “That’s why it’s urgent that we begin this work right now,” he said. The US President said with the breakthrough achieved during this visit, the two countries can finally move to fully implementing the civil nuclear agreement which would mean more reliable electricity for Indians and cleaner energy that helps fight climate change. He said as more energy is delivered, countries should tap in more cleaner renewable energy like solar and wind. “Lets put cleaner vehicles on the road and more filtration system in farms and villages. Because every child should be able to drink clean water and every child should be able to breathe clean air … and we can do it, we have the technologies to do it,” he said. (Times of India 27/1/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

178. Slowdown in China, cotton glut may deal Indian farmers a hard knock (20)

New Delhi: India is likely to face a cotton glut this year. The surplus, however, will be of little comfort to suicide-prone and highly indebted farmers, who stare at a sharp drop in earnings – prices are already down 14% compared with last year. The crisis has to do with a slowdown in China, which is forecast to slash by half the amount of cotton it will import this year, most of it from India. “Exports could see a remarkable fall. Although prices currently show some improvement on a month-on-month basis, average prices of cotton are already about 14% lower than a year ago,” said VN Saroja, CEO of Agriwatch, a commodities firm. The United States department of agriculture (USDA), in a global report, said it expected up to 47% fall in Indian cotton exports. The glut is expected despite a projected drop in India’s output due to a bad monsoon. A partial drought could result in a crop of about 40.2 million bales (of 170 kg each) in 2014-15, lower than the previous year’s 40.7 million bales, according to the Cotton Association of India. Even Gujarat, a major producer with better irrigation facilities, could see a dip in output. Without sufficient exports, a domestic market with too much supply could push prices below profitable levels. Since cotton farmers mostly depend on loans to meet costs, lower profits could aggravate the crisis in suicide-prone cotton belts such as Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. Moreover, this year’s minimum support price is unlikely to cover export costs. So traders will look to offset it by paying farmers less. Battling a slowdown in its textile sector, China is likely to slash imports by half this year, scaring major producers such as the US, Brazil and Uzbekistan. But these countries are less dependent on China than India, which exports heavily to the Communist neighbour since it started a programme to build a national cotton reserve. To make it easier for traders to tap alternative markets, the government has relaxed rules by temporarily doing away with the need for exporters to register with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. A newer problem could be looming for growers. Indian lint – considered to be of high quality – is mostly handpicked. But, importers now prefer machine-harvested fibre due to changing standards. “As a result, India will struggle to maintain its share in shrinking Chinese imports,” the USDA said. Though genetically modified BT cotton has helped India become the world’s second biggest cotton producer, suicide among debt-ridden cotton farmers is often seen as a hidden “agrarian crisis”. The government could come under pressure if the situation worsens in the vulnerable cotton-growing areas. The agriculture ministry last month sent a team to probe the farm crisis in Maharashtra, where persistent dry conditions from this summer’s drought are said to have pushed up the number of suicides. The western state recorded 204 farmer suicides in 2014, deaths that are directly attributable to “agrarian causes”, such as financial losses from farming or crop failures. (Hindustan Times 12/1/15)

179. 50% of farmers indebted: Modi needs to shift attention to distress in farm economy (20)

The new year has brought bad tidings for India’s farming community. Twelve farmers committed suicide due to crop failure in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra in just one week after 22 December. This spate of suicide by farmers provoked a frustrated BJP Lok Sabha MP from the Vidharba region to say, “Let the farmers die. If they can’t survive in farming, let them die”.This rather insensitive remark by Member of Parliament, Sanjay Dhotre, was played on some national TV channels repeatedly. Dhotre later said he was merely expressing a sense of helplessness while making those remarks. Well, helplessness is likely to become a permanent state of mind among the farming community as global agriculture commodity prices have fallen by upto 30% in the past few months and local farmers are not likely to get higher prices for their domestic produce. The increase in Minimum Support Price(MSP) for farmers under the Narendra Modi government has been much less than what was given in the past many years. This is inspite of Modi’s explicit promise to farmers during his election campaign that they would get 50% profit margin over their cost of production. This promise has remained unfulfilled so far. And all this is happening at a time when there is growing distress among the farming community due to falling global agriculture prices.Last fortnight, countrywide survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation(NSSO) revealed that nearly 50% of India’s 90 million farm households were indebted to either banks or money lenders. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of indebted farm households at 69 lakhs. Andhra Pradesh was the second largest with 49 lakh familes in debt and Maharashtra had 36 lakh farm families which had taken loans mostly for their farm business. Over 50% of the loans were meant for capital and other expenditure on the farm. The NDA’s first full budget will have to pay some serious attention to what is happening in India’s farm sector. Normally the budget exercise is dominated by the concerns of the industrial sector which enjoys disproportionate clout and talk time with the government through high profile industry associations. Anyone who follows the government’s budget-related interactions with the public knows that industry, particularly big businesses dominate the exercise. Agriculture gets some time, but it is more routine in nature. This time agriculture needs to be taken more seriously as it also drives rural demand for goods and services. Of course, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has to look at the problems confronting the overall economy, which are no less serious. The uptick in sentiment and confidence that was reflected after the Modi government came to power seems to be waning as some economic indicators clearly challenge the narrative of a quick recovery in the economy. The virtual collapse of global oil prices is now causing fears of volatility in global finance capital movement which will also affect India. Crude at $50 dollar a barrel is not good for the United States which is staging an impressive economic recovery largely on the back of massive shale gas/oil production. So India cannot be an island of growth in a world economy buffeted by volatility. For India, particularly worrisome is the data showing virtually no pick up in industrial growth so far in 2014-15. Ongoing investment projects totalling Rs.6.3 lakh crore are not moving forward for various reasons. Infrastructure projects, particularly in the road sector, are not moving because private companies building them are either strapped for cash or engaged in disputes relating to execution with the government. The Chief Economic Advisor in finance ministry  Arvind Subramanium has publicly admitted that infrastructure companies are facing a huge debt problem in their balance sheets. Banks are not giving them more money to implement projects. As a result the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI) has decided that government will fund 70% of all new highway projects in the next two years. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the increase in excise duties in recent weeks are aimed at funding road projects. In non-infrastructure sectors we are faced with over capacity due to demand contraction. Industry is currently running at 70 per cent of its existing production capacity. This means new investments will not happen unless consumer demand picks up and fuller utlilization of capacity happens. This could get difficult in the coming year because rural demand, which is critical, could further contract as global food prices have dropped by 20 to 30 per cent. The farmers’ income growth may decelerate in 2015. Nominal rural wages grew handsomely by 17 to 19 percent for a few years until 2012 end. But now rural wage growth is negative after adjusting for inflation. Experts also anticipate output slow down in the agriculture sector which consistently recorded good growth in recent years. Agriculture growth may slip badly 2015 going by current trend. Modi is particularly vulnerable because he had made tall promises to the farmers during his election campaign. He will soon be tested against his big commitments made to farmers. In short, many political economy challenges lie ahead for Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. (Firstpost 12/1/15)

180. Moneylenders don’t want government to waive farm loans (20)

NAGPUR: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced in the winter session that loans taken by farmers from registered private money lenders would be waived off. However, the moneylenders are shying away from sharing data on loans specifically granted to farmers. The announcement was part of the Rs 7,000 crore package for farmers hit by drought and other natural calamities. It covered moneylenders’ loans worth Rs 373 crore in all. Moneylenders are registered with the state’s department of cooperatives, which is facing practical difficulties in compiling figures on the farmers’ dues. The exercise by the department has revealed that moneylenders across the region do not keep account of loans given on the basis of the end use. Farmers make up a major part of clientele for private lenders. However, their books of accounts do not specially classify advances as farm loans or other type. In the absence of bank credit, farmers resort to private lenders to avail finance for meeting sowing expenses. But the lenders have only maintained a general account, with all loan types classified as one. Sources in the department say moneylenders have expressed inability to provide segregated data to the government. However, sources say moneylenders are preferring not to disclose farm loans separately for two reasons. The official rate for loans doled out for sowing or other farm activities is capped at 9%, while other loans can be granted at 12% to 15%. It is believed that generally lenders charge more than 9% for all loans, so they want to keep the type of loans camouflaged. The complications related to farm suicides is also a reason. If the borrower commits suicide, the moneylender has to face the heat. Cooperative department officials say if all the loans doled by private moneylenders are taken into account, the amount to be waived may go much beyond Rs 373 crore, which was stipulated by the government. Even as moneylenders provide loans to farmers for meeting their sowing expenses at the start of the season, their borrowers include artisans and other businessmen too. Apart from farming, loans are provided for personal expenses too. Moneylenders offer loans purely against gold, with no land documents being accepted from borrowers that would allow segregation of farm loans. A government resolution (GR) in this matter can help in clearing the confusion. The eligibility for the loan waiver should come with certain riders, such as production of land documents. In the absence of any other mechanism, land documents are the only proof that the loans were granted to a farmer, said an official. (Times of India 13/1/15)

181. Farmers seek separate budget for agriculture (20)

KALPETTA: The second edition of the National Agri-Fete that concluded at Mananthavady on Saturday urged the government to introduce a special budget, similar to the Railway budget, exclusively for the agriculture sector in the State. In a proposal passed by the farmers at ‘Mikavu,’ an interactive session of farmers from the district held in connection with the eight-day fete, said that farmers faced many problems and all of them could not be addressed in the State budget. Hence, the Agriculture Minister should present a budget exclusively for the agriculture sector. The session demanded complete mechanisation in agriculture and allied sectors, and rejuvenation of the sector to attract more youths to it. An agrarian district like Wayanad was facing challenges such as dearth of skilled labour, especially during harvesting season. A full-fledged training centre was sought in agriculture and dairy sectors in the district to impart modern skills to farmers in value addition, branding, packing and exporting of agriculture and dairy products. A special package to promote organic cultivation and irrigation projects to utilise water in the Kabani river were among the demands.  projects meant for the headquarters of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) at Pookode to other campuses of the university. They demanded intervention by the government to stop the move. Youth Affairs Minister P.K. Jayalakshmi inaugurated the session and the Minister honoured 350 selected farmers in the district on that occasion. The organisers said that close to 1.5 lakh people visited the festival organised by the Agriculture Department. (The Hindu 18/1/15)

182. Farmers to hold mass rally in Delhi against land ordinance (20)

NEW DELHI: Dissatisfied with the government’s recent land acquisition ordinance, around 12 farmer unions have decided to hold a mass rally and demonstration on March 18 in the capital. The coalition—All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) which includes the Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) after a two-day meeting at the Punjab Bhavan in Delhi announced to mobilize one lakh farmers from different parts of the country to come to Delhi and join the protest. “All the achievements made in last several decades in the interest of the Indian farmers have been undone in last 240 days of NDA government. Therefore we decided to organize this rally,” their statement issued on Saturday said. “Farmer suicides in India are continuing despite many promises by the PM before the election that he would work for the Indian farmers. During NDA government since May 2014, more than 7000 farmers have committed suicide,” it added. Withdrawing the ordinance to amend the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement Act 2013 Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in its manifesto had announced remunerative price for farmers produce which has not been implemented. Farmers reject Shanta Kumar high level committee report and recommendation on restructuring FCI. Especially the proposal to reduce its coverage of National Food Security Act (NFSA) from present 67% to 40% Institute government policy to compensate loss due to natural calamity Fulfill the promise in manifesto about not allowing field trials, commercialization or import of any genetically engineered seeds or crops Pay arrears to sugarcane farmers that sugar industries haven’t paid (Times of India 24/1/15)

183. Eight Vidarbha farmers have committed suicide: Activist (20)

Nagpur: At least eight debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region ended their lives in the past four days, including four who committed suicide Wednesday, an activist said. “The bodies of two farmers were brought early today (Wednesday) from Bodadi and Sonegaon villages of Yavatmal district. As the autopsy was being carried out, two more bodies were received at the V.N. Government Medical College — all within a couple of hours,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishore Tiwari told IANS. The farmers who died Wednesday were identified as Bansi Rathode of Bodadi, Devrao Bhagwat of Sonegaon, Prakash Kutarmare of Mohada and Tulsiram Rathode of Devnala, according to VJAS secretary Mohan Jadhav. Tiwari said four farmers committed suicide earlier this week — two each Jan 25 and Jan 27 — in different parts of Vidarbha. “We have no information if anyone committed suicide on Republic Day (Jan 26) as it was a public holiday, and the government was busy with celebrations,” Tiwari said. He attributed the spate of suicides in Vidarbha and other farmlands of Maharashtra to the sudden fall in prices of cotton and pulses. Claiming that 62 farmers have ended their lives since Jan 1, Tiwari said 2015 could create a new record after 2013 when Maharashtra topped the National Crime Records Bureau figure for maximum farmland suicides at 3,146. Jadhav said he was informed by the relatives of the farmers that they committed suicide “due to immense distress and despair” among their debt-hit families .The VJAS leaders said they apprehend the worst with the oncoming summer season when the farming community has to grapple with scorching heat coupled with acute shortage of water. (New Kerala 28/1/15)

184. Sikh farmers from Kutch approach NCM following attack (20)

CHANDIGARH: Punjabi families settled in the Kutch region of Gujarat approached the National Commission for Minorities on Tuesday seeking protection after an alleged attack on a farmer at Loria village, 15km from Bhuj. A team from the commission is likely to meet them on February 1. Surinder Singh Bhullar, a farmer settled near Bhuj, said that Sikh families have been living in fear after the recent attack on one of the farmers with sharp-edged weapons during demarcation of land at Loria village by a government agency. “The matter of land acquisition is pending before the apex court and we are even unable to get farmer credit cards to take up farming. To add to it, there is threat to security that is making the Punjabi community here feel vulnerable,” he added. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Himmat Singh Shergill, who has been taking up the issue of these farmers, said the incident follows a similar attack last year and apart from the indifference of the state government, land mafia appears to be putting pressure on the farmers to give away their land without resistance. The latest incident has invoked reactions from political parties in Punjab. Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said these farmers had been invited to settle there way back in 1965 and they turned the barren lands into cultivable land through sheer hard labour. However, now for the past several years, they were facing the threat of being uprooted under a law enacted by the Gujarat government that purportedly bars non-Gujaratis from buying land in the state. Though, the farmers won the case in the Gujarat high court, the Gujarat government challenged the HC orders in the SC. Former Congress CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal alleged that Sikh farmers settled in Bhuj had been living under constant fear from land mafia, which seems to have patronage of the ruling BJP in Gujarat. “These farmers have made repeated requests to the state government and Modi government at the Centre to ensure security for them, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” she said. (Times of India 29/1/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

185. Sangh affiliate SJM opposes land acquisition ordinance (4)

NEW DELHI: Providing ammunition to opponents of the government who are already arrayed against the land acquisition ordinance, Sangh Parivar constituent Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has opposed the move to do away with the requirement of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and other provisions which were supposed to ensure food security. Ashwani Mahajan, national co-convener of SJM, said the changes should be dropped to protect interests of farmers. “I hope good sense will prevail and government will amend it. It has to go to Parliament for passage,” Mahajan was quoted by agencies as saying. He further said SIA was an internationally accepted part of any land acquisition project, stressing that the Land Acquisition Act enacted under UPA was tabled after a series of consultations and was supported by BJP which was then in opposition. SJM is the second Sangh Parivar affiliate to oppose the Modi government’s move to amend the Land Acquisition Act which has been identified as one of the factors which hindered growth under UPA. Early on, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh had opposed the land ordinance. The swadeshi outfit, founded by RSS stalwarts like Dattopant Thengdi, had frequently thwarted the Vajpayee government’s efforts to quicken reforms, forcing BJP to go slow and leading former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to complain that he was not getting enough elbow room. Asked what SJM would do now as the government has overruled its objections, Mahajan said they were in consultations and expected that the Centre would make changes in the law when it seeks Parliament’s nod for it. He contested the government’s stand that the changes in the land law were necessary for faster industrialization. “I think there will always be urgency for it. But it’s such an important issue that any wait is worth it,” Mahajan said. Supporting SIA and food security clauses, he said the impact on people affected by acquisition must be studied and necessary measures taken to compensate them by all means. Its opposition to the land ordinance is significant also in the light of the evolving dynamic between the Modi government and other arms of the Sangh Parivar. Last month, RSS leadership leaned on saffron hotheads to get them to lower their ante on religious reversions. This was followed by Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), a powerful Sangh constituent which claims to be the biggest among trade unions, relenting along with other labour bodies on their opposition to the coal ordinance — a big course correction which could potentially clear the way for a bigger role for private capital in coal mining. SJM’s stand on land acquisition, however, marks a break from the pattern and can create complications for Modi government’s plan to accelerate growth. It converges with the opposition from known quarters like Congress and Left. In an interesting political coincidence, SJM chose to unveil its protest on a day Congress Working Committee decided to hit the streets on the issue. The day also saw peasant organizations affiliated to CPM and CPI terming the ordinance “draconian,” and slamming the government’s move on the ground that it was “destructive” for the livelihood of farmers and agriculture and announced a nationwide protest against it. “This is a draconian ordinance, Modi government wants to come out with a new law which will pave the way for the corporatization of agriculture in the future,” All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders Hannan Mollah and Atul Anjan told reporters. (Times of India 14/1/15)

186. Ordinance may not impact Posco’s mining bid (4)

Bhubaneswar : The recently promulgated Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Ordinance, 2015 is unlikely to hamper Posco’s bid to secure the prized Khandadhar iron ore deposits in Odisha, Union mines secretary Anup Pujari indicated. “You are asking me about a particular case. I need to check the file and then make a decision. If the government’s concurrence has been given or if the state government has given a letter relating to that case, then it can be safely assumed that the case will not be hindered by the Ordinance,” Pujari said in response to a query on Posco’s mining case at the meeting of the central mines ministry on the Ordinance held in New Delhi. According to Section 10 (2) (c) of the Ordinance, “Where the central government has communicated previous approval as required under sub-section (1) of Section 5 for grant of a mining lease, or if a letter of intent (by whatever name called) has been issued by the state government to grant a mining lease, before the commencement of the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Ordinance, 2015, the mining lease shall be granted subject to fulfilment of conditions of the previous approval or the letter of intent within a period of two years from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.” Raising Posco’s case for mining lease at the meeting, state steel & mines minister Prafulla Mallick said, “Several industries, like Posco, have entered into memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government with assurance for allocation of mining leases. These commitments should be honoured under the new dispensation. Posco was the largest proposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) project in the country for which the government of India has made an international commitment. The nation will be sending very wrong signals to the international investor community by completely ignoring these international commitments for supporting the raw material requirement of the project.” The Odisha government had recommended grant of prospecting licence (PL) in favour of Posco over Khandadhar lease spread over 2500 hectares (ha) in January 2009, including both notified and non-notified areas. Later when the Centre asked for submission of separate proposals for the two areas, the state government in November last year, submitted the compliance on notified area spread over 2,082.50 ha. There were more than 200 applicants for Khandadhar iron ore deposits, but the state government had recommended the lease for Posco, citing that it was the biggest FDI and also on ground of value addition. The state government had invoked Section 11 (5) under the previous MMDR Act, 1957 for making the special recommendation for Posco. (Business Standard 19/1/15)

187. Tribals Stage Protest against NH Bypass (4)

ROURKELA: A section of the tribals in Sundargarh district opposing construction of NH-143 bypass in Birmitrapur town staged a demonstration in front of the office of Rourkela Additional District Magistrate, Sudarshan Chakravorty, on Monday. The protestors demanded a public hearing to seek consent of Gram Sabha under the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) for the proposed bypass from Talsara to China Town. However, sources in the administration said converting the NH-143 into four-lane through the congested Birmitrapur town would result in large scale displacement. Meanwhile,  in view of the economic blockade called by a group of tribals led by George Tirkey on Tuesday, police have taken 17 tribals into preventive custody in the last two days. Forces have also been mobilised to strategic locations. They are demanding separation of Jagda and Jhartarang panchayats from Rourkela Municipal Corporation. Sundargarh Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia said prohibitory orders have been clamped in all sensitive locations besides highways and rail routes passing through the district. (New Indian Express 20/1/15)

188. Mining ordinance to affect projects in Odisha (4)

Bhubaneswar : The union government’s decision, via an ordinance, to allocate all future mines through auctions is likely to affect some projects in Odisha, including Posco and Bhusan Power and Steel Ltd (BPCL), while it has come as a blessing to some companies sustaining to run their plants in the absence of raw materials in the state. The Odisha government has recommended a prospecting lease in favour of Posco India for the Khandadhar iron ore deposit spread over 2,500 hectares in Sundargarh district of the state. The South Korean company is setting up a $12 billion project in Jagatsinghpur district. The state government has also recommended a lease in the Thakurani mines of Keonjhar district for BPCL, a mines department official said. Now, the companies may now have to bid for an ore reserve for captive consumption to feed their plants. The state government had recommended in favour of the two companies under its commitment mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The government, which had inked MoU with 50 steel and three aluminium projects, had assured them that raw material linkages to run their plants would be facilitated. “We have recommended a prospecting lease for Posco India. The state cabinet also took a decision against auctioning the Khandadhar mines meant for Posco. Now, the central ordinance has decided to auction all the mines in future. So, it is up to the centre to decide on the matter,” Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick told IANS. “The nation will be sending a wrong signal to the international investor community by ignoring the international commitment for supporting the raw material requirements of the project, which is the largest FDI in the country,” Mallick added. There is however ambiguity over granting a mining lease to Bhusan since the Supreme Court had directed the state government in April 2014 to grant this. “Unless they have prior central approval or a letter of intent from the state, all pending applications will stand cancelled as per the ordinance,” said a mines official. So, the National Aluminium Company(Nalco) will retain its rights over the Potangi bauxite mines as the central government has already approved this and the state government will only execute the lease, the official said. However, the decision to auction the mines will be fruitful for some companies, including Vedanta Alumina, which has set up a refinery and smelter in the state. The company is running its plants at 25 percent capacity due to a shortage of raw material. Now, these companies can participate in the bidding to run their plants. The bidding process would also not affect industrial activities in the state. “There would be no problem of shortage of raw material in the state. As per the state government’s mandate, 50 percent of the iron ore from non-captive mines in Odisha has to be given to the plants located in the state,” Mallick said. The Odisha High Court has also upheld the decision to reserve 50 percent of the mineral for state-based industries while the remaining can be sourced out, the minister said. Besides, the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has 11 mines that can come handy for projects coming up in the state. (Business Standard 22/1/15)

189. Fierce opposition to land acquisition ordinance (4)

MYSURU: Leaders of various farmers’ organizations and political parties from the region on Sunday opposed the Centre’s move to take the ordinance route to amend the Land Acquisition Act. In a symbolic opposition to the UPA-led government’s plan, they burned a copy of the ordinance. They also appealed litterateurs, who will meet in Hassan this week, to pass a resolution against the ordinance. Leaders from Raitha Sangha, Congress, Communist parties, Sarvodaya Karnataka and litterateurs described the government’s move as anti-farmer. The ordinance will uproot the farm system in the country. “If it is implemented, it will be a declaration of death for farmers. The Centre should immediately withdraw the ordinance,” they demanded. By bringing an ordinance without a discussion in the Parliament, the government has insulted the Constitution. Mocking the ordinance, writer Devanur Mahadev said it is akin to legalizing goondaism. “How can two laws — one controlling goondaism and the other legalizing goondaism co-exist?” he asked. “Not only farmers, everyone should oppose this ordinance,” he said and urged ryots and progressive elements to be united in forcing the Union government to withdraw the ordinance. There will be severe food crisis if the Centre’s plan is implemented. Mahadev accused the previous government of surreptitiously encouraging land acquisition. Congress leader and former MP A H Vishwanath questioned the silence of state revenue minister V Srinivas Prasad over the issue. “Though the chief minister has opposed the ordinance, state revenue minister has kept quiet,” he said, asking the minister to make public his views. Many protesters said that the ordinance will benefit realtors and land sharks rather than industrialists. (Times of India 26/1/15)

190. Farmers burn copies of land acquisition ordinance (4)

BATHINDA: Farmers’ organizations, on Sunday, burnt copies of the new land acquisition ordinance during a protest march. Members of BKU Ekta Ugrahan and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union staged marches in the villages of Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar and Barnala districts for four days before burning the ordinance at sub-divisions across the districts on Sunday. BKU Ekta Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union secretary Lachman Singh Sewewala said, “The ordinance is clearly anti-farmer and pro-corporate houses. We oppose it and demand that it be taken back immediately”. They said the campaign against land acquisition ordinance will continue till February 10.

ELURU, January 29, 2015 (Times of India 27/1/15)

191. APRS opposes land acquisition ordinance (4)

Members of the CPI (M)-affiliated Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham (APRS) on Wednesday staged a demonstration against the Centre’s ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act, at the Collectorate here. The protesters burnt copies of the ordinance during the demonstration. “The ordinance is pending approval by the President, and we want him to direct the Centre to drop it in the interest of the farming community,” demanded CPI (M) district secretary B. Balaram, who led the protest. Large number of farmers from Tullur, where the new capital has been proposed, will now feel the pinch, he said, adding: “Multi-crop fields, which were spared by the Land Acquisition (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Act, 2013, will now be eclipsed by rapid urbanisation, as the process has become hassle-free, thanks to the ordinance.” As the social assessment impact clause in the Act is sought to be diluted by the ordinance, the living conditions of farmers in the capital region will come under question, he said. “Since another crucial clause, which insists on securing consent from 80 per cent of farmers before acquisition of lands, has been given a go-by, corporate firms are now all set to take over prime agricultural lands from farmers through coercion citing the ordinance,” the CPI (M) leader alleged. The APRS accused the NDA-TDP combine of pleasing corporates by taking possession of agricultural lands at throwaway prices by diluting the Act. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

192. AP to launch initiative to fight infant mortality (3)

HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh government seems to have suddenly woken up to the fact that it can’t sit comfortably and do business with advanced countries like Japan, Singapore and Australia when its performance on human development indicators like infant mortality rate is dismal. Accordingly , it has decided to launch an initiative from February 1 this year to arrest the alarmingly high infant deaths in the residuary state. In key health indicators, Andhra Pradesh figures just below Bimaru (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states and is at the bottom among the southern states. To arrest that, the s t a t e government has now issued orders to monitor the health of pregnant and lactating mothers state-wide by making institutional arrangement from ward to the state level. The responsibility of these groups, called convergence committee, is to ensure “name-based tracking of all pregnant women, lactating women and children (0-5 years) for the delivery of maternal and child health services.” These committees have to ensure that all the High Risk Pregnant Women and High Risk Children are properly identified and necessary care is provided to them. Once pregnancy is confirmed, it is the responsibility of the convergence committees at various levels to ensure that pre-natal tests are conducted by the medical officers in primary health centres to identify high-risk pregnancies. The tests include hemoglobin estimation, blood pressure, urine and weight monitoring. As part of the post-natal care, regular growth monitoring is to be done of all children below five years after which the malnourished chil dren are to be identified on the basis of their weight. The instructions to implement the scheme across all districts were issued by chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao on Tuesday. According to sources, this has been necessitated due to the dismal status of affairs in AP among the states, especially in South India, with regard to Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and malnutrition. Regarding infant mortality rate, Australia (4), Japan (2) and Singapore (2) are far above AP (43). In this regard, AP is far below other states such as Kerala (12), Tamil Nadu (22) and Karnataka (35).Regarding deaths of children below 5 years, AP (45) has the worst record compared to Karnataka (40), Tamil Nadu (25) and Kerala (13). (Times of India 14/1/15)

193. Maternal deaths come down by 11 points (3)

PATNA: Bihar has registered a decline of 11 points in the maternal mortality rate between 2011-13. According to figures released by Registrar General of India this week, 208 mothers die in the state per one lakh live births. This translates into 7,680 women dying every year in the state after childbirth, which is still the second highest across the country. Most of these deaths are preventable. Maternal deaths are defined as deaths of mothers that take place within 42 days of childbirth. Institutional deliveries (childbirth in any health institution rather than home), considered key to reducing maternal deaths, have gone up in the state. However, maternal deaths have not reduced in the same proportion. Experts attribute this to the fact that half the mothers do not stay in hospital even for 24 hours, which is considered critical period. Complications like rise in blood pressure and excessive bleeding after childbirth develop during this period, which are leading causes of deaths. While at times health providers themselves ask such mothers to go away, others leave the hospital because of lack of awareness. Lack of infrastructure in rural areas is also a major contributory factor. While one PHC ought to be there for every 30,000 population, in Bihar one PHC caters to 2-3 lakh population. PHC shortfall is 85% in the state, so is the case with referral hospitals. Subdivisional hospitals are short by 18%.Amidst such acute lack of infrastructure, doctors say the need of the hour is timely referral to better hospitals. “Mothers normally reach us in critical condition, in which it is difficult to save them. They should be referred much early,” said Dr Abha Rani Sinha, vice-president of Patna Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society. Experts say quality of health services provided in rural areas is also an issue. Most of the rural healthcare centres do not have scope for emergency obstetrics care. Very few skilled birth attendants (SBAs) who assist in home-based deliveries are trained. Dr Ghanashyam Sethy of Unicef-Patna says only 20-25% SBAs have received basic training in childbirth. So if any complication develops, mothers are left with no alternative. Antenatal (before delivery) checkups (ANCs) also play an important role. Though Health Management Information System states that about 60% women received three ANCs, experts doubt the quality of checkup. “ANC does not merely mean measuring BP. Proper abdominal examination, urine examination, weight measurement and providing iron folic acid tablets are important. If you consider it all, the total ANC rate is not more than 5%,” Dr Sethy said. (Times of India 17/1/15)

194. Deadly TB strains emerged in Asia over 6,000 years ago (3)

In a path-breaking find, an evolutionary geneticist from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris has decoded the tuberculosis (TB) genome, suggesting that a pernicious family of the strain emerged in Asia over 6,000 years ago. The study of nearly 5,000 samples of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from around the world showed how a lineage of the bacterium that emerged thousands of years ago in China has since become a global killer, widely resistant to antibiotic drugs, the Nature Genetics reported. The evolutionary geneticist Thierry Wirth and his team analysed 4,987 samples of the “Beijing lineage” from 99 countries, fully sequencing the genomes of 110 of them and more limited stretches of DNA in the rest. The researchers then used the information to date the expansion of the lineage and show how the strains are related. Consistent with its name, the “Beijing lineage” did emerge near north-eastern China.”And it did so around 6,600 years ago which coincides with archaeological evidence for the beginnings of rice farming in China’s upper Yangtze river valley,” Wirth noted. Although M. tuberculosis, probably, first emerged some 40,000 years ago in Africa, the disease did not take hold until humans took to farming with the consequent settling down. “The grouping of people in settlements made it easier for the respiratory pathogen to spread from person to person,” Wirth pointed out. Of all the M. bacterium strains circulating today, few strike more fear in public-health officials than the Beijing lineage. First identified in greater Beijing in the mid-1990s, this lineage now circulates throughout the world and many strains are resistant to drugs that vanquish other types of TB. The increasing availability of antibiotics in the 1960s, meanwhile, coincides with a fall in the numbers of the bacterium. The lineage rebounded, however, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since it emerged, the “Beijing lineage” has become much more infectious, Wirth says, so it out-competes other strains of the bacterium. His team identified mutations related to antibiotic resistance, metabolism and evasion of immune responses that may have contributed to the success of the “Beijing lineage”. (Times of India 21/1/15)

195. Malnutrition claims one more infant’s life in Attappadi (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Malnutrition deaths continue to rue Attappadi tribals with one more infant death being reported on Wednesday night. This is the second infant death this year. Last year, 59 child deaths were reported, including 37 infants dying during pregnancy and in 2013, 47 infant deaths were reported, but the government and various agencies involved are yet to wake up to the reality. The government announced a rehabilitation package of Rs 400 crore for Attappadi in 2013 and in addition the three-tier panchayat set apart Rs 1.26 crore to eradicate malnutrition. But according to RTI information collected by voluntary agencies, only Rs 40 crore worth schemes have been implemented, said Rajendra Babu of NGO Thambu. “We could have regained the health of tribals by supplying cereals such as Bengal gram, green gram and lentils through public distribution system, but even that was not done effectively. Various government departments have failed miserably in correcting the reality. Malnutrition began since their land was encroached and they lost their traditional cultivation with nothing left to eat,” government sources told TOI. Of the 172 ICDS functioning in Attappadi, 130 have no drinking water facility and 100 ICDS have no toilets. More than half the Anganwadis are in rented premises and 66 have no toilets. Though a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) is functioning, of the 238 children admitted to NRC up to Oct 31, 2012, only 38 have returned to normalcy and 83 children were reported severely malnourished still, Rajendra Babu told TOI. This is despite the fact that in addition to the rehabilitation package, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 80 crore for Attappadi as part of rural development initiatives for development of tribal hamlets in Agali, Puthur and Sholayar village panchayats in Attapadi. Meanwhile, the tribal elders informed that the two infants who lost their lives are ten-month old twin boys of parents Udayakumar and Selvi in Pattimalur tribal hamlet in Attappadi. Among the twins, the first infant weighing 700 grams died on Monday and the infant death reported on Thursday was an infant weighing 1200 grams with only 6.9 hp hemoglobin level died at a hospital in Coimbatore. The child was referred to this hospital after his condition deteriorated at a hospital in Kottathara. The mother is also malnourished and anemic. (Times of India 23/1/15)

196. Maharashtra reports 13% of new leprosy cases in country (3)

MUMBAI: Leprosy may have disappeared from the state’s health mandate, but there is compelling evidence that the infection is returning to the community. Though officially eliminated from the state ten years ago, last year leprosy infected over 16,400 people, 13% of them children. Also, the state accounted for 13% of the country’s new leprosy cases. Statistics also reveal that 57% of the newly detected cases were multibacillary leprosy—an advanced stage of the disease with definite sensory loss in the patient and an increased potential to infect others. This percentage has only gone north over the years, rising from 49% in 2007-08. The trend is similar in Mumbai. Out of the 640 cases detected in 2013-14, 58% were cases of advanced leprosy. It was a jump of 2% from the year before. Anti-leprosy champions feel urgent steps need to be taken to tackle the disease in children. Even in Mumbai, nearly 12% of the newly diagnosed cases were children. Around 18% of patients had grade-II disability by the time they came to know of the disease. In what underlines the rampant spread of leprosy among children and adolescents, 25 boys from 12 state-run ashram schools were diagnosed with leprosy last year during their annual health check-up. A senior state official said, “We were lucky that none of the boys had deformities. Unfortunately, the incident did not evoke any kind of urgency within the machinery.” All 25 continue to be on treatment. With shrinking funds, very few agencies are left to fight the battle against the disease. “People are coming in with full blown leprosy, which was not the case earlier. We need to begin with acknowledging that cases are there,” said Antony Samy, chief executive, Alert India, an NGO working towards eradicating the disease. According to him, there are pockets in Chembur, Govandi and Versova that commonly report cases. In the last five years, nearly 4,000 leprosy cases have been diagnosed in the city. Samy adds that the frightening neglect of the disease at the state and central level may push more affected individuals towards a life of disability. Deformities are caused when the bacteria attacks blood vessels, robbing the body’s ability to sense injury and pain. “While timely intervention can avert this, many patients are losing the window due to late diagnosis,” said a state official. “Deformities, when they occur, are irreversible in many cases.” In 2013-14, as many as 813 of the 16,400 new patients had come with disabilities at the time of first detection, pointing towards a complete lack of a screening mechanism for early diagnosis. The percentage of new patients coming in with disability has jumped five times, from 1.2% in 2008-09 to almost 5% in 2013-14. Experts say this is a direct fallout of the absence of active surveillance. The Union health ministry did not release a single penny for leprosy control in the state in 2014-15. Dr Satish Pawar, head of the directorate of health services, said the programme was managed with borrowed funds. He said that nearly 500 disability corrective surgeries were done. “There are lot of cases of disabilities and it is worrying. It is a tricky disease that can take 7-10 years to manifest. We are starting aggressive campaigns followed by surveys on World Leprosy Day (annually observed around the world on the last Sunday of January),” he said. Currently, 21 out of 36 districts in the state are endemic. (Times of India 26/1/15)

197.  ‘High-risk’ tracking brings down maternal deaths (3)

MADURAI: A comprehensive pregnancy surveillance mechanism being implemented through the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project (TNHSP) has brought down maternal mortality in Madurai district this year. Armed with an interventional action plan starting from pregnancy till delivery, special screening camps are being conducted under the name ‘high risk mother tracking system.’ After conducting about 40 screening camps in the last six months in 13 blocks, public health authorities are now seeing positive results. From 68 maternal deaths in 2010-11, the number has come down to 28 (till date) in 2014-15. “We are seeing a positive outcome due to the tracking system. Madurai district has been in high risk category for several years but the situation is changing. The declining number is an indication of improvement,” S. Natarajan, District Programme Officer, TNHSP, told The Hindu on Wednesday. Expectant mothers found to carry risk factors such as severe anaemia are kept under close observation of gynaecologists. Iron tablets and nutrition guidance are given from the early stage of pregnancy. If a woman is under high-risk category, she is admitted in Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care Centre one week before the expected date of delivery. Dr. Natarajan said that constant follow-up by village health nurses and other field staff yielded good results in preventing complications. The direct link established between ‘108’ ambulance service and the pregnant woman’s family members was helping in attending to complications or emergency cases besides taking them to hospital in time for delivery. If a woman dies during pregnancy or at the time of delivery or within a period of six weeks after delivery, it is maternal death. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

198. Cured Inmates of Mental Hospital Yet to be Rehabilitated (3)

KOZHIKODE:Around 50 cured inmates of the Kuthiravattam Government Mental Health Centre are left to suffer as the rehabilitation project planned for them is yet to take off. As the authorities have failed to follow up the rehabilitation scheme, which was proposed two months ago, the inmates are still languishing in the hospital. According to figures available with the hospital authorities, there are more than 65 cured inmates in the hospital. As per the assurance given by Minister for Social Justice M K Muneer, 15 such inmates were shifted to the Rehabilitation Complex of Asha Bhavan, functioning under the Social Justice Department, a few weeks ago. But adequate measures to rehabilitate the remaining patients have not been taken yet. Hospital officials said a meeting of the Hospital Development Committee held two months ago, which was attended by Minister M K Muneer had decided to rehabilitate 15 patients to  Asha Bhavan and hand over the rest of the patients to various NGOs for rehabilitation. A committee was also formed in the meeting to draft a comprehensive rehabilitation plan and to materialise the scheme as soon as possible. The meeting also decided to grant accreditation to the NGOs, allowing them to take over the inmates. “The minister had assured proper rehabilitation with adequate accommodation and self-employment opportunities. Unfortunately, after the meeting, nothing has been done for the rehabilitation,” lamented an official working with the centre. Meanwhile, a functionary of the Kozhikode-based charity organisation, ‘Helping Hand Charitable Trust’, alleged serious flaws on part of the authorities in taking up measures to rehabilitate the patients. “While attending the meeting, Helping Hand representatives had expressed interest in rehabilitating 40 persons. The minister had told us that a law would be enacted to grant NGOs permission to take over such patients,” he said. He added that the trust was all set to rehabilitate the patients and provide them with employment along with counselling. “We are planning to shift the patients to a different environment, where they can enjoy an atmosphere of freedom. We have such a full fledged rehabilitation centre at Parappanangadi,” he said. “We are ready to rehabilitate the patients. The government should enact a law ensuring adequate protection and exempting the process legal complications. But, such an NGO policy is yet to be formed,” he added. When contacted, an official with the State Handicapped Welfare Corporation said the procedures to accredit NGOs were nearing completion. “The rehabilitation is confronted with the habitual delay in granting the accreditation to NGOs,” he said. However, a meeting of the hospital development committee would be convened soon to contemplate on the rehabilitation scheme, he added. (New Indian Express 30/1/15)

HIV/AIDS

199. Birth control injections can raise your risk of HIV infection (3)

Washington: Scientists have claimed that a using a certain type of injectable birth control could fairly increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV. A large meta-analysis of 12 studies in sub-Saharan Africa found that women who used the contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, which is sold under the brand name Depo-Provera, had a moderately increased risk of becoming infected with HIV. The findings included data from 39,500 women. The researchers selected the studies based upon methodological rigor, such as whether they accounted for the use of condoms. In addition to Depo-Provera, the studies also examined other commonly prescribed forms of hormonal contraception, such as the injectable norethisterone oenanthate (sold as NET-EN), combined oral contraceptives and progestin-only pills. The other birth control methods did not appear to increase HIV infection risk for women in the general population. Study’s lead author Lauren Ralph of UC Berkeley, said that the results had potentially broad implications because hormonal contraceptives remain popular for women worldwide. Approximately 144 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, and of those about 41 million women use injectable forms of birth control instead of the pill. The study found that women who used depot medroxyprogesterone acetate had a moderate, 40% increased risk of acquiring HIV compared with women using non-hormonal methods and those not practicing birth control. The increased risk was slightly lower, 31%, among the studies done in women in the general population. It remains unclear why the increased risk was seen among those using Depo-Provera but not the other forms of hormonal contraception, the authors said. One possibility may be that birth control with higher levels of progestin, the synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone, changed the vaginal lining or altered local immunity, increasing the risk for HIV infection, though the researchers emphasized that this study did not examine the physiological effects of the different contraceptive methods and more research on potential underlying biologic mechanisms is needed. The researchers cautioned that the increased HIV infection risk needs to be considered in the context of the risks associated with not using birth control. The researchers noted that the results highlight the need for more studies among high-risk populations. Among the 12 studies analyzed, only two included sex workers or women with HIV-positive partners. The study is published in The Lancet. (Hindustan Times 11/1/15)

200. Free test for HIV patients (3)

The state’s HIV-TB coordination committee has decided to introduce cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification technique (CBNAAT) test to determine drug-resistant tuberculosis for HIV patients free of cost. The decision was taken at a meeting held under Rahul Kumar, project director, Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) on Monday. The CBNAAT test would be started next week at the tuberculosis offices in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Rohtas districts. Later, it would be rolled out in 25 districts. People suffering from HIV tend to develop tuberculosis. At the same time, TB patients have a tendency to develop HIV. They would be able to get their CBNAAT test done gratis. The market rates for the test ranges from Rs 600-1,000. It is an effective test to determine tuberculosis than the existing sputum spear microscopy test and faster too. “Sputum spear microscopy test detects tuberculosis only if the bacterial load is more than 10,000 organism/ml sputum sample but CBNAAT test can confirm it even if the load is lesser. It takes more time to conduct the sputum spear microscopy test, too, while the CBNAAT test takes less than two hours,” said Ajit Shahi, programme manager, gender, BSACS. Manoj Kumar Sinha, joint director, information, communication and education, said: “The decision to start this test is important because HIV patients have 60 per cent more chances to develop TB than any other person.” (The Telegraph 14/1/15)

201. Ration Card Rules Leave HIV Patients in Lurch (3)

KOCHI:  The stipulation that HIV patients will have to mark their health status as ‘HIV +ve’ to get themselves enrolled in the priority/BPL category while applying for ration card came as heavy blow to them. Unless the HIV patients reveal their status, they would not be able to avail themselves of the benefits of the BPL category. For fear of stigma, most of the HIV patients do not want to reveal their condition. Currently, the Civil Supplies Department do not have a proper mechanism to accommodate HIV patients without disclosing their identity. “If the clause that deprives HIV patients of their benefits is not amended, many of them would hesitate to apply for ration card,” pointed out representatives of Sneha Santhwanam, a Palakkad-based organisation working for HIV patients. Once their identity is revealed, their lives would become hell. There are widows among them, and many have daughters. It will not be easy to get them married off,” said a volunteer of the organisation on condition of anonymity. Statistics available with the government shows that there are around 25,000 HIV patients in the State. So far, none of them is enlisted in the priority/BPL category. Though Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob had assured every help to HIV patients, he failed to communicate how the issue would be dealt with. He had said,” I have got representation from them, and I have forwarded it to the Food Commissioner for immediate action. They truly deserve humanitarian consideration.” In May 2014, a meeting attended by the Chief Minister, Health Minister and the Social Justice Minister had promised that every HIV patient would be given BPL ration card. But, in the process, the officials revealed the identity of the patients in some of the cards. When it was pointed out, it was put on hold. Later, on fast track basis, the Chief Minister initiated steps to bring them under the BPL category. “That was a heartening gesture from the Chief Minister. But, the issue does not end with that. There is no smooth mechanism for the newly detected HIV patients to get themselves enrolled under the BPL category,” pointed out Dr Ajith Kumar, member of the technical resource group of the NACO, who is also dean at the Kerala Health University. “As per the existing rules, the beneficiaries will have to approach the ration shops. Instead of that, a doctor can issue a certificate indicating that the patient is eligible to be enrolled under the priority category. On the certificate, the doctor can mention the names of diseases that make a patient eligible for BPL ration card, and indicate that the patient is suffering from one of them (without mentioning the disease). Or else, the cards could be send directly to a higher official (District Collector/District Civil Supplies Officer) who could verify the details. Then, maintaining confidentiality, they can send them to lower officers,” he suggested. “Also, the applications could be distributed and then collected through Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART)centres,” he added. (New Indian Express 19/1/15)

202. Above half HIV patients in state ‘untraceable’ (3)

JAIPUR: At least 25,638 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) registered with Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) are ‘untraceable’. As per RSACS, these people are registered at antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres but they are not coming to take their medicine. The figures show that there are 48,202 PLHIV patients registered at 17 ART centres in the state. Since more than half of the registered persons at ART centres are giving treatment a miss, it has become a cause of concern for RSACS. Now, the health department plans to find out the actual status of all the registered PLHIV at the ART centres. RSACS director Dr S S Chauhan said, “There could be a possibility of many PLHIVs getting them registered at different ART centres. So there is a chance that a single PLHIV can be registered at more than once ART centre. And that could be mean that the number of registered PLHIV is more than actual number. Also, there could be those who shifted to other states and are taking treatment there.” Taking a serious note of the ‘untraceable’ PLHIV, the RSACS will start a campaign to locate the them by conducting a line listing. An RSACS official said line listing will help them find the actual number of PLHIV, who were once tested positive at the ART centres. The official said they would conduct a survey by visiting the houses of the PLHIV to know the actual position. He said that the survey would help them get the actual PLHIV number and also it would encourage PLHIV to take medicines available at ART centres. He added that few PLHIV do not require medicines so they do not come to ART centres. “The survey would clear the picture of the patients’ status in the state,” he said. (DNA 21/1/15)

203. Above half HIV patients in state ‘untraceable’ (3)

JAIPUR: At least 25,638 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) registered with Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) are ‘untraceable’. As per RSACS, these people are registered at antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres but they are not coming to take their medicine. The figures show that there are 48,202 PLHIV patients registered at 17 ART centres in the state. Since more than half of the registered persons at ART centres are giving treatment a miss, it has become a cause of concern for RSACS. Now, the health department plans to find out the actual status of all the registered PLHIV at the ART centres. RSACS director Dr S S Chauhan said, “There could be a possibility of many PLHIVs getting them registered at different ART centres. So there is a chance that a single PLHIV can be registered at more than once ART centre. And that could be mean that the number of registered PLHIV is more than actual number. Also, there could be those who shifted to other states and are taking treatment there.” Taking a serious note of the ‘untraceable’ PLHIV, the RSACS will start a campaign to locate the them by conducting a line listing. An RSACS official said line listing will help them find the actual number of PLHIV, who were once tested positive at the ART centres. The official said they would conduct a survey by visiting the houses of the PLHIV to know the actual position. He said that the survey would help them get the actual PLHIV number and also it would encourage PLHIV to take medicines available at ART centres. He added that few PLHIV do not require medicines so they do not come to ART centres. “The survey would clear the picture of the patients’ status in the state,” he said. (Times of India 22/1/15)

204. Spl strategy to tackle HIV-AIDS in NE (3)

AIZAWL, Jan 22 – After conducting its HIV Sentinel Surveillance, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has agreed to formulate a special strategy to tackle prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Northeastern region. This was announced at the consultative meeting on North East Specific Strategy on HIV in Aizawl today. Participants of the consultation said Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, bordering Myanmar, have the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS and the region had unique problems not experienced in other parts of the country. Close proximity of the region with Myanmar through which drugs were trafficked to the West made the North East vulnerable to drug users resulting in high rate of drug abuse and addiction, they said. “Due to the unique situation of the region, operational guidelines of the NACO for the rest of the country are hardly applicable to the North East,” one of the speakers said. While incidences of HIV have been on the decline in the other parts of the country, the NE region saw steady increase in fresh infections, reports of the HIV Sentinel Surveillance said. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 23/1/15)

205.  ‘All pregnant women should undergo HIV test’ (3)

Nagapatanam: Awareness should be created among pregnant women to undergo HIV test, said S. Palanisamy, District Collector, here on Wednesday. Speaking at a day training for Block Development Officers on creating awareness among people about HIV infection, the Collector said that HIV test was conducted for all pregnant women in government hospitals and primary health centres (PHCs). “If a pregnant woman is diagnosed to be infected, anti retro viral therapy will be given for 14 weeks from the time of pregnancy to avoid HIV infection to the child,” the Collector said. “Those who have tuberculosis should undergo HIV test and those who have HIV infection should undergo sputum test as HIV and tuberculosis go together,” the Collector said. Centres for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) had been established at Nagapattinam, Vedaranyam, Mayiladuthurai, and Sirkazi. A total of 1,518 persons are HIV infected in Nagapattinam district. Of them, 841 were men and 677 women. The Collector appealed to people to use all these facilities and undergo HIV test and lead a healthy life. R. Shankar, Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA); and R. Chandrasekaran, PA to Collector (general), participated in the meeting. (The Hindu 29/1/15)

206. Bengal NGO shows the way in helping HIV-positive kids (3)

KOLKATA: Mahesh Pramanik (name changed) was all of 12 when Anandaghar, the only home for HIV positive children in West Bengal, took him in. The boy from Midnapore was abandoned by his family after his parents succumbed to AIDS. Today Mahesh is 18. As Mahesh and some other inmates of Anandaghar, run by Organisation for Friends, Energies & Resources (OFFER), step into adulthood, they aspire to stand on their own feet. They hope vocational and skill development training that OFFER has been giving along with formal education could help them earn a living. “We fought the resistance in admitting them in schools because of their ‘HIV positive’ status. In addition, we have also been providing vocational training to older children so that this would help them in future. Our aim is to place them in suitable jobs once they are ready,” says Kallol Ghosh, founder secretary of OFFER. Since 2004, Anandaghar has been taking care of ‘HIV positive’ orphans, unwanted even by their own families. Currently there are 70 such children at the home that provides, apart from food and shelter, education along with clinical care for HIV. But the organization is now staring at a bigger task — rehabilitating the children who are 18 years and above by getting them placement— in a rare initiative to get such children back in mainstream. Bajoria Charitable Foundation (BCF) that has been supporting OFFER is also keen on this rehabilitation project. BCF founder Namit Bajoria, who runs a kitchen appliances chain Kutchina, intends to identify skills in these children and improve them before placing them in jobs. “To begin with, we can place some of them in back office or in outlets in the city. As and when they learn the job they could be given bigger responsibility. The aim is not only financial assistance, but to make these children part of the mainstream society,” says Namit Bajoria. At OFFER these children are being trained at skills like computer operation, bakery and house-keeping etc. OFFER has started approaching corporate houses and other organisations to tie up for the rehabilitation project. But apart from Kutchina and a handful of MNCs, the response has not been very encouraging. The prospect of earning bread and butter on their own is already a reason for excitement for the likes of Pratik Sarkar. The boy, who was rescued from Cooch Behar after being driven out of home five years ago, wishes to join a driving school once he completes 18 years in a few months to earn his living as a driver. There are 17 other children who are nearing 18 years of age and are looking forward to land suitable jobs. “I have my limitations to provide jobs to all of them. But I want to make a beginning so that this will evoke response from like-minded people and organisations,” says Bajoria. Even after these children start earning, OFFER will continue to monitor them, especially their medical care. Most of them are on ART (antiretroviral) drugs and need to maintain a reasonably good CD count to fight the virus. (Times of India 29/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

 

Farm workers plan nation-wide strike (14)

VELLORE: The All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxists) has decided to launch a nation-wide agitation if the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance Government does not give up its move to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), according to Sunith Chopra, all-India general secretary and S. Thirunavukkarasu, all-India president of the Union. Talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the meeting of the general council of the Vellore district unit of AIAWU here on Tuesday, they said that even though the various unions of rural workers have fought for and won job security through the introduction of the MGNREGA, the Modi government is using backdoor methods to violate the right to work that has been won by the rural masses. The methods include cutting down the outlay, attempting to limit the area of operation of the Act, limiting payments in banks to Aadhar card holders, holding back wages, and trying to introduce machinery and contractors. “We believe MGNREGA to be part of our basic right to life and we will not allow it to be bartered away”, he said.False propaganda “It is a false propaganda being spread through motivated agencies”, Mr. Chopra said when his attention was drawn to the grievance being expressed by the farmers that they do not get labour in view of agricultural workers being weaned away for works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In fact, farming activities have declined owing to the large-scale migration of farmers to the urban areas in search of employment. “With 60 per cent of farmers having migrated, we have had the largest migration of farmers in the last 90 years. This migration can be prevented if MGNREGA is strictly implemented”, he said. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that the workers were getting wages only for about 40 to 50 days in a year against the promised 100 days. “Workers will certainly come for farm work if the farmers / landlords provide higher wages than what they got under MGNREGS”, he said. Mr. Chopra said that 10 lakh acres of farm land have gone to the non-farm sector, while nine lakh farmers have sold their land and become agricultural labourers dependent on MGNREGS. G. Mani, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the AIAWU, said that the union would be organising a `kathiruppu porattam’ (waiting agitation) in front of the Collectorates, Revenue Divisional Offices and taluk offices throughout Tamil Nadu on January 20, when poor landless workers would wait in front of the offices till they were given free house site pattas and till the old age pension was restored to those for whom it was cancelled. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

25,000 NREGA workers in RR yet to get wages (14)

HYDERABAD: A well-known private bank and state government officials are literally slugging it out on every front after a dispute arose regarding payment of workers under the NREGA scheme. The officials of the Rural Development Department of Rangareddy district had slapped a criminal case against the Axis Bank at Gandhinagar police station for misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore some weeks ago. The bank was chosen to disburse the funds under the central government scheme for the district. Caught in the midst of it are the 25,000 workers who are yet to get their dues after toiling hard for projects pertaining to various land development projects in Rangareddy district. It all began when the officials found out that a large number of workers had not received payments between April and June 2013. In a series of official mails (which are in possession of this newspaper) which began soon after, the district officials squarely blamed the bank for its inefficient fund monitoring system involving its various business correspondents. The officials had asked the bank to disburse the amount meant for the employees but the higher officials of the bank conveyed through the mails that they were still working on the issue. The bank made a part-payment of a few lakhs in late 2013, however there was not much headway since then. The officials had also requested the government not to have any business tie-ups with the bank in future. “We have given them the complete list of the workers who had not been paid,” said C. Chandrakanth, Project Director, District Water Management Agency, Rangareddy district who is pursuing the case. “We had asked them to show the proof in case they had made the payments. Till date, they could not do so and are indulging in time buying tactics. It is their responsibility to make sure that the payments reach the workers through proper channels. If they had failed to do so, they have to make that payment. The poor workers need to be paid with interest and we will fight till the case reaches a logical end,” Mr Chandrakanth said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

Allow flexibility to employees in PF deduction: Employees’ plea to govt (14)

New Delhi: Around 500 companies, including many big ones, have written to the Union government to allow employees more flexibility in their retirement funding. “The petition to the ministry of labour requests giving all employees three individual choices in deciding how they are paid their salary,” stated recruitment consultant TeamLease, also involved in drafting the petition. A person who has seen the petition said some of the companies are Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Enterprises, Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Mahindra Finance, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, HDFC Bank and Biocon. In a joint communique to Union labour secretary Gauri Kumar, these companies have asked that employees be given an option on whether or not to opt for the (currently statutory) 12 per cent deduction in their wages for contribution to the Provident Fund. “At present, 94 per cent of workers in India are working in the informal sector. Giving a choice to such employees will incentivise them to join the formal workforce,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, convenor of the effort on the petition and a co-founder of TeamLease. At present, both employees and employers mandatorily contribute 12 per cent each of the former’s salary towards employees’ PF contribution. This is applicable to any company employing more than 20 people. The petition asks for a choice to employees on whether to park the employer’s contribution with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or the National Pension System, the latter regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  According to the norms, only salaried employees can contribute towards EPFO; any individual above 18 years of age can invest in NPS till the retirement age of 60. At present, EPFO doesn’t invest part of its total funds in the equity market but NPS can. “India’s labour laws mandate the highest salary  deductions among various countries in the world; in a cost-to-company term, this can mean a 44.31 per cent salary deduction for low wage employees. And, contrary to public objectives, this is only 5.32 per cent for high wage employees,” stated the letter. Economic data tells us that most low wage employees do not have such high saving rates and this leads to high attrition and informal employment, as these employees cannot live on half their salary, the letter added. “What safety net do we talk about when 94 per cent of employees are out of it? We want to give the workers a simple choice to divest their funds according to their needs,” said Chakraborty. Employers, she said, were keenly awaiting the Union government’s reaction in the coming Budget session of Parliament in February. Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed some changes in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, to empower the government to waive or reduce the share of employees’ contribution towards the PF, if it feels the financial position of any class of companies covered under EPFO is getting weaker.(Business Standard 6/1/15)

Kerala pushes for more works under job scheme (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State on Tuesday requested the Union government to include more works, including paddy cultivation, dairy farming, coconut farming, and production of coir yarn, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a memorandum submitted to Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, the State made the following suggestions: MGNREGS workers to be part of paddy production expansion initiatives by engaging in land development activities such as bunding, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvesting and so on, apart from weeding, tilling, and land preparation. Cleaning sheds, feeding and milking of cattle, and so on as part of dairy farming using MGNREGS workers. Use of the workers for removal of disease-affected juvenile palms, old and senile palms, and replanting as part of coconut farming Inclusion of coir production – husk collection, retting and defibering, spinning, and bundling Inclusion of Khadi and handloom work under MGNREGS and payment of wages to the workers under the scheme Minister for Rural Development K.C. Joseph submitted the memorandum. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

Unemployment Rate Up at 4.9% in FY14: Labour Ministry (14)

New Delhi: Unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of an increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, the unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 per cent at all India level last fiscal year, from 4.7 per cent in 2012-13. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14, from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, although 93 per cent of the households in rural areas benefited from MGNREGA, the unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent last fiscal year, compared to 4.4 per cent a year ago. Unemployment rate among men increased to 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, from 4 per cent in 2012-13. Among women, it increased to 7.7 per cent last fiscal year, from 7.2 per cent in 2012-13. However, the unemployment rate among women came down to 12.4 per cent in urban areas, from 12.8 per cent in 2012-13. The study revealed that the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 52.5 per cent last fiscal year, whereas the Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 49.9 per cent. As many as 49.5 per cent people are estimated to be self-employed, followed by 30.9 per cent as casual labour, 16.5 per cent wage/salary earners and the rest 3 per cent as contract workers. About 60.5 per cent of people aged 15 years and above, who were available for work for all the 12 months during the period, were able to get work throughout the year. In rural and urban sectors, this proportion was 53.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively The ‘Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2013-14′ has been conducted in all the states/UTs by covering all the districts. The field work was executed from January to July last year. A total of 1,36,395 households were covered by the survey – 83,385 in rural areas and 53,010 in urban areas. (NDTV 8/1/15)

Centre Delaying Release of Rs.1,008 cr NREGS Instalment to Telangana Government (14)

HYDERABAD: Assurances belie the ground reality. As the endless promises stack up on one side of the Centre’s commitment to continue the largest employment scheme effectively, there is delay in providing states their due under the scheme. One of the largest beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the Telangana government has been waiting since November for the release of over Rs.1,000 crore as second instalment for the current financial year. “The state government has sent proposals to the tune of Rs.1,008 crore. Any further delay in release of funds would seriously affect the implementation of the scheme,” a senior official in the government told Express. With whatever little is left with the rural development department from the previous funds, the programme is being continued in nine districts of the state. The inordinate delay in disbursal of the funds earmarked for the programme is likely to jeopardise the livelihood of over one crore NREGS workers. According to official estimates, there are a total of 61.31 lakh NREGS job cards in the state which guarantee at least 100 days of work per year on each card. The amount that is left with the government for the scheme can be utilised for a maximum number of ten days, another official in the rural development commissionerate has said. “Considering its a peak season due to harvesting, the funds may not last even ten days,” the official feared. Under the NREGS Act, applicants are entitled to get work within 15 days from the day of making application for the same. Failing which the government has to pay an unemployment allowance to them, organised into Shrama Shakti Sanghams. “If there is any dearth of funds, the state government will have nothing but to refrain from making commitments to provide work,” the official added. Besides, it would also come as a dampener to several developmental works planned by the state government: a substantial quantum of NREGS funds is also spent on developmental works in rural areas.  Asked about the Centre’s response to the state government’s requisition, he said,”The Centre has promised to release the funds in the next four to seven days and suggested to us to utilise the previous funds.” (New Indian Express 12/1/15)

Livelihood of 25,000 farmers affected: CPI(M) (14)

NAGERCOIL:  “Wrong policies” of the BJP-led NDA government and the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre were the cause for dwindling rubber price, said G. Ramakrishnan, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), here on Sunday. Addressing a public meeting at Atrur to mark the end of the party’s three-day 21{+s}{+t}district conference in Tiruvattar, Mr. Ramakrishnan said due to the “wrong policies” the livelihood of 25,000 farmers depending on rubber cultivation in the district was affected. He charged that Union Minister of State for Shipping and Highways Pon. Radhakrishnan had failed to fulfil the assurances given to the voters of Kanyakumari Parliamentary constituency. Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the gates for multi-national companies to “loot” natural resources of our country in the name of “Make in India,” he charged. Mr. Ramakrishnan accused the NDA government of diluting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As many as 14 honour killings were reported in the State in recent past, he said. The meeting was presided over by N. Murugesan, district secretary. P. Sampath, central committee member, Noor Mohamed, State committee member, A.V. Bellarmin, former MP, R. Leema Rose, former MLA, and others spoke. (The Hindu 15/1/15)

Odisha first state to have migrant workers’ register (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha has become the first state in the country to launch special drives to register migrant labourers working in different states. The effort is aimed at covering the migrant labourers under different social security schemes of the state government. “Since a huge number of people, especially from the southern districts of the state, are migrating to other states in search of jobs, they are deprived of the government’s social security benefits. Besides, there was no mechanism to identify them. Now we have decided to organize camps in different states to register the Odia labourers working in other states,” chairman of Odisha building and other construction workers welfare board Subash Singh told media persons here. Singh, who along with officials of state labour department had organized a camp recently in different brick kiln and construction sites in Telangana, claimed that no other state has launched such drives for welfare of construction workers. A source said the government had already registered nearly 1,500 construction labourers in Ranga Reddy, Nalgunda and Karim Nagar districts of Telangana. “We have issued a special card to them through which they can avail the benefits,” said Singh. Singh said similar drives would be conducted in states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Kerala and Gujarat where a substantial number of Odia workers are engaged in different construction sites. The state government has announced different welfare measures for the construction workers, like financial assistance for marriage. The wards of construction workers would receive Rs 5,000 per annum while pursuing intermediate (Plus-II) courses. They would receive Rs 7,000 per annum while pursuing graduation and post graduation, the release said. Similarly, students belonging to the families would get Rs 7,000 per annum for pursuing ITI, Rs 10,000 during diploma and polytechnics and Rs 40,000 during bachelors’ and masters’ degree in technical educations. The state has some 4.62 lakh registered construction workers. (Times of India 18/1/15)

Construction workers stage protest in Salem (14)

SALEM: Demanding that the State Government should fix price for cement bags, the construction workers in Salem district staged a demonstration near the District Collectorate here on Monday, Led by Federation of Salem Zone Traders Union leader K.A. Nagarajan, members said that the price of a cement bag was sold between Rs. 370 to Rs. 390 in the State. “People involved in construction of houses and buildings have stopped the work. This has left us jobless,” they said. Members wanted cement bags to be imported from foreign countries and other States. Also, the government should fix the price of cement bags. They said that the welfare assistance from the Salem Workers Welfare Board was not given to them in the past years and membership card was also not given to them from 2012-13. They said that the board without any prior information conducts camp for enrolment, renewal and also concludes camp. Later a meeting was held in which the following resolutions were passed including stringent action against persons involving in child abuse and sexual harassment of schoolchildren. Also the resolution urged for providing adequate protection in schools to prevent such incidents. Resolutions also urged for distributing monthly assistance without delay, reduction of power tariff by 15 per cent and also provide compensation to the members in case of natural death. (The Hindu 20/1/15)

Govt to provide tablets to Gram Panchayats under MGNREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is all set to give a digital boost to the flagship rural jobs programme by providing tablets to 2.65 lakh gram panchayats in the country to monitor its implementation. The mobile monitoring of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will cost the Centre about Rs 265 crore, with the rural development ministry distributing tablets costing Rs 10,000 each to the gram panchayats, officials said. The government will roll out the first phase of the mobile monitoring system on April 1 in 35,000 gram panchayats, a senior government official told ET. The initiative comes after the government has already decided to switch over to direct benefit transfer under the scheme, which is expected to be expanded to the entire country in the next one year. The previous UPA government had, in March last year, notified usage of tablets to monitor the scheme in 10,000 gram panchayats. However, the plan did not take off because of the unavailability of AakashIV tablets, promoted by the department of electronics and IT, to be used to digitally update the scheme. The ministry has amended the earlier provision and extended the proposal to cover all gram panchayats in the country under the scheme, starting with 25,000 gram panchayats along with 10,000 identified by the previous government in the first phase. The government hopes mobile monitoring will enable access to real-time data at the village level, there by improving implementation of MGNREGA, which has drawn a lot of criticism for its failure to create new and durable assets. “The government has decided to extend the mobile monitoring to all gram panchayats and technical or supervisory personnel involved in implementing MGNREGA to empower them with live data from worksites besides location of assets with geo-tagging for easy verification. This will lead to complete transparency in the system,” said the official, requesting anonymity. The states have been asked to identify the gram panchayats under the first phase by January 31 and immediately start procurement of devices as well as training of personnel, the official added. According to the ministry officials, the mobile monitoring of MGNREGA will serve the twin purpose of making the scheme more effective and giving a panIndia platform to the government for rolling out its Digital India drive. The annual allocation for MGNREGA is Rs 34,000 crore and so far nearly Rs 2 lakh crore have been spent under the scheme. The scheme guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. On average, 25% of rural households seek employment under the scheme annually. (Times of India 23/1/15)

EPFO wants speedy enrolment of construction workers (14)

New Delhi: To speed up the process of extending provident fund (PF) coverage to construction and contract workers, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has asked all its regional offices to expedite the process of enrolment. Noting that a number of instructions had been issued in the past in this regard, a circular dated January 22 by the Additional PF Commissioner has instructed all its regional offices to hold meetings with State governments, large establishments (with over 500 employees), such as the Railways, units employing over 100 workers and unions and monitor the activities and send information to the head office. “At least five to 10 meetings be conducted in the areas where labourers are predominantly residing (involving labour unions also). The details of these should also be brought to the notice of the headquarters,” it said citing instructions sent on January 8. As per National Sample Survey (2011- 2012) estimates, there are about 50.22 million building and other construction workers, including contract workers, many of whom keep moving from one location to another. All regional PF offices have also been conveyed the concerns of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which in its meeting earlier this month, urged the EPFO to “work hard” on coverage of construction and contract workers. Last year, the EPFO had set up two sub-committees to suggest ways to close the gap in coverage of construction and contract workers, many of whom are not stationed in one location. According to Labour Ministry estimates, over ₹27,000 crore lying in operative accounts belong to this section of workers. In a circular in October 2013, the retirement fund body had also cited instances brought to its notice of placement agencies and contractors providing guards, security and other personnel to government departments, autonomous bodies and so on, which were diverting residual employer contribution and “pilfering provident fund money”. Addressing a seminar in December 2014, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had said that details of contract workers in each establishment will be put up on the Shram Suvidha Portal. (HBL 26/1/15)

2,000 migrant workers on their way home fearing retaliation (14)

Raichur: Around 2,000 migrant construction workers employed at the construction site returned to their native States on Tuesday fearing retaliation by local people. The labourers took whatever they could from their temporary shelters, located near the construction site, and left Yermarus in a hurry. The police escorted some families with women and children. The migrant workers had allegedly attacked a group of local workers for rushing the accident victim to the hospital. The migrants thought it would have been easier for them to get a good compensation for the victim’s family had they kept the body at the site. The situation got further tensed as thousands of local youths from Yermarus and the surrounding villages of Yeganur, Dandu, Chikkasugur, Odlur, and Kukanur gathered to retaliate against the migrant workers, particularly those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The migrant workers too were equipped with rods and stones to face the attack. However, the police managed to bring the situation under control by summoning additional forces. By evening over 1,000 police personnel, led by Superintendent of Police M.N. Nagaraj, encircled the workers at their colony to prevent further damage. Mr. Nagaraj announced that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code had been imposed in the area and the migrant workers had been asked to leave for their native places. However, he later claimed that the workers had vacated voluntarily. (The Hindu 28/1/15)

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)

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)

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)

 ‘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)

Posted by admin at 30 January 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Pappu’s prescription to Dalits: convert to other religion to escape caste oppression (2)

Patna: Amid reports of conversion and re-conversion from different parts of the State, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Pappu Yadav has suggested that poor Dalits can convert to other religions to escape caste oppression and prejudices. He also supported the Aamir Khan starrer PK and demanded a ban on militant Hindu outfits for protesting against screening of the movie in theatres across the country. “Dalits and poor people who are victims of caste oppression and prejudices in society should convert to Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion of their choice. This is the only way for them to get rid of the so-called thekedar [contractors] of religion,” declared the RJD MP from Madhepura. Mr. Pappu Yadav, who, of late, has waged a war against corrupt doctors, further said that he too would have converted to another religion had he been born in a poor and oppressed caste. “There is no way out to escape from these dharm ke thekedars [religious contractors]”, he told The Hindu wondering why some people have any objection to poor people converting to any other religion for their growth. “Why don’t they do something for their welfare instead of hyping up their re-conversion?”, he asked. He further said that only those people who were opposing conversions were against reservation for the backward and deprived sections of society. “Do they think that those who have converted are their personal property?”, asked the heavyweight MP, whose wife Ranjit Ranjan too is a Congress MP from the neighbouring Supaul Lok Sabha constituency. They are the lone MP couple in the 16th Lok Sabha. While lashing out at Hindu outfits like Bajrang Dal and others opposing the screening of PK, he demanded a ban on them while suggesting that everyone should watch this “entertaining” movie. “I demand a ban on Hindu outfits indulging in vandalism on movie theatres and burning posters of the film. Films are the mirror of society but organisations like Bajrang Dal are making this issue political for their vested interest”, he said while admitting that he watched the movie and found it a “complete entertainer with nothing objectionable”. He said, he had also asked members of Yuva Shakti, a youth organisation formed by him, to confront those protesting the screening of the film and indulge in vandalism. “When BJP veteran L.K. Advani has found the film quite entertaining, why should not those who are protesting it?”, he asked. Recently, the five-time MP, hit the headlines for waging a war against corrupt doctors fleecing poor patients in various ways in the State. He had even prescribed fees for the doctors as per their qualifications and degrees to charge from the patients. The doctors, though, have been opposing his move but the MP has been receiving a warm response from the locals wherever he held a people’s court to raise the issue. “In the next two-three days, I’m also going to file a defamation suit against state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi who had earlier said that the doctors of the State are frightened because of me. Giving such statements, he is tarnishing my image,” said Mr. Yadav who, earlier, was acquitted of the murder of former Purnea MLA Ajit Sarkar.

Asked about the political situation in the State, he said Bihar needed leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee “to make the functioning streamlined and corruption-free.” (The Hindu 1/1/15)

2. Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins discrimination against Dalits: Mayawati (2)

Lucknow: BSP supremo Mayawati Saturday accused the Narendra Modi-led NDA government of discriminating against Dalit icons like party founder Kanshi Ram and social reformer Jyotiba Phule while awarding Bharat Ratna to two Brahmins Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya. She said the move shows the “casteist” mindset of the Modi government. She also attacked the Centre for adopting the “ordinance route” on key issues terming it “anti-farmer and made with an intention to give undue benefit to the business community”. “The BJP government has the same discriminatory attitude as that of the previous Congress-led UPA government. The Congress government had not declared national mourning after the death of Kanshi Ram and the BJP government has continued with the same casteist mindset. It has given Bharat Ratna to two persons from the same caste, which my party does not oppose, but none from the Dalit or OBC category was chosen,” she said. Mayawati said Kanshi Ram should have been given the highest civilian honour for his sacrifice and hard work for the upliftment of Dalits. “Similarly, Jyotiba Phule, who belonged to a backward caste, should have been given the award for working in the field of education and and efforts to establish equality in society. Taking exception to the Modi government adopting the ordinance route, Mayawati said this was not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. On the land acquisition ordinance, she said it was against the interest of farmers. “I do not find it right…the amendments could have been brought in the next session of Parliament,” she said, adding interests of capitalists were being safeguarded by the government. She said the NDA government has not shown any interest in last seven months of fulfilling the promises made during the elections. She alleged that as per a conspiracy, the quotafor Dalits and backwards was being neutralised by allocating major works to the private sector. Mayawati also criticised the organisations affiliated to BJP, saying they were hatching a conspiracy to spoil the atmosphere by raising the issue of conversion and promising a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. To a question on replacing Planning Commission by a new think-tank, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), she said government should concentrate on solving problems of the poor and unemployed. “Changing names will not usher in any change in the country,” she said. (Indian Express 4/1/15)

3. Dalit girl burnt alive at home in Ghaziabad, police suspect honour killing (2)

GHAZIABAD: A 16-year-old girl was burnt alive in her house in Hapur on Saturday during what her father claimed was a robbery by four men. But a dodgy account of events the father gave has turned suspicion on him, with the police not ruling out the possibility of an honour killing. In the complaint he filed at Kotwali police station, Mahesh (45) claimed his daughter was killed by the four robbers for putting up a resistance. According to Mahesh, they broke into the second floor house in Ganeshpura, where the Dalit family lived, around 1am. The robbers allegedly took a pair of silver anklets from Mahesh’s wife and were leaving when 16-year-old Neetu raised an alarm. The men, Mahesh claimed, then doused her with kerosene and set fire to her. But this theory, police officers said, fell apart when investigators visited the crime scene and started making inquiries. None of the neighbours, for instance, reported hearing any commotion from the building at the time Mahesh said Neetu was killed. Besides, there were seven family members in the house, including Neetu, at the time of the alleged crime but no one else was injured. Mahesh sells fruits to earn a living. Other than Neetu, he has three sons and a daughter. “The victim was wearing gold earrings and so was her mother. Yet, both ornaments were secure. This casts a doubt on the claims made by the family,” said Kotwali SHO Rajender Singh Yadav. Each family member also gave a different version of the cash allegedly stolen from the house. Another loophole the police found in Mahesh’s theory was his claim that the robbers had gained access to the house by jumping from the roof of an adjacent building. “We inspected the building where Mahesh lives. It’s not possible to jump into the house from the adjacent buildings because of the distance between them,” said Yadav. Hapur police superintendent R P Pandey said, “It seems the girl’s father filed a false complaint to mislead us. The girl, a school dropout, was working as a domestic help in several households. Suspecting her of having an illicit relationship, Mahesh had asked her not to work at some of the houses. It seems when she refused to obey him, her father and other members of the family killed her. A number of facts pointing towards honour killing have surfaced during our investigations.” The police are yet to receive the girl’s autopsy report. As of now, police have lodged an FIR against four unknown persons under sections 302 (murder), 302 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 394 (robbery) of the IPC. The SP said they would take action against the Mahesh based on findings of their probe. “Afresh FIR will be filed depending on the probe’s outcome,” said Pandey. (Times of India 5/1/15)

4. VHP rushes to prevent Dalits embracing Islam in Meerut (2)

Meerut: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has rushed to the “rescue” of about 60 members of a Dalit community who had threatened to embrace Islam after they were not allowed to worship at the Balmiki Ashram in Baghpat. The Dalits who are residents of Jamaalpur village in Meerut alleged they were not allowed to celebrate Balmiki Jayanti, birth anniversary of Saint Balmiki on October 8, 2014 at the Balmiki Ashram. They alleged that an upper caste priest of the Ashram had been discriminating against the Dalits. The U.P. unit of the VHP approached the families and assured that action will be taken against the priest if their allegations were found to be true. Shyam Sundar Singh, a member of the Dalit community told The Hindu that an upper caste priest had put a ban on their entry in the Ashram which he claimed belonged to Balmiki community. “There is an upper caste priest who has hijacked the Balmiki Ashram and for quite some time now has been refusing us the permission to perform pooja inside its premise. We have approached the administration against this kind of injustice,” he alleged. “If our grievances are not solved by January 26, all of us will convert to Islam en masse,” he reiterated the threat. The local VHP leader Sudarshan Chakra told The Hindu that he will look into the grievances of the Dalits to ensure the Dalits don’t convert. “We have approached the Dalit families who are angry at being discriminated. We are going to sort out their issues and ensure that they get access to the ashram and perform puja there,” he said. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

5. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (2)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

TRIBALS

6. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (6)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

7. Rift within govt over tribal rights (6)

New Delhi: The tribal affairs ministry has described the environment ministry circular relaxing the forest rights act provisions as in “violation of the law”. Tribal affairs ministry said diluting the forest act  had the potential to create public unrest in tribal areas, which are also Maoist-affected districts. The environment ministry in October, 2014 had written to district collectors that plantations notified as forests in 1930 and falling in areas having no tribal population should not come under the purview of the forest rights act, meaning that mandatory consent for the projects coming up there will not be required. “The letter violates the law,” said Hrusikesh Panda, tribal affairs secretary. He asked his counterpart in the environment minister Ashok Lavasa to immediately withdraw the circular dated October 28. Panda had also objected to the environment ministry issuing advisories on FRA without consulting them, the nodal ministry for implementation of the FRA. Panda also said the forest rights act does not provide any scope for an executive agency to relax the applicability of the law and the relaxation can be done only after a due process is followed. And in case of the October circular that due process was not followed. The secretary said that repeated dilution of the FRA has sent the message that the government was against “fair” implementation of the forest rights act and it was not desirable in the interest of “peace and governance” in forest areas. Panda also marked the copy of the letter to home secretary Anil Goswami saying that the issue needs to be taken up at the meeting on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts, which are also the home for majority of tribals in India. Panda had also objected to repeated claims that the Forest Rights Act was leading to delay in project approvals and execution saying there was no evidence to this effect. “If there has been any study or evidence on delay of projects because of the processes of FRA, this should be brought to the notice of the (tribal affairs) ministry. Clearance of major projects take a long time because of the layers through which such clearance is given,” the letter stated. (Hindustan Times 2/1/15)

8. Govt urged not to divert SC, ST sub plan funds (6)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka State SC/ST Entrepreneurs and Industrialists Association has urged the State government not to divert funds allotted for Scheduled Caste Sub Plan/Tribal Sub Plan (SCSP/TSP) to projects other than those meant for development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Addressing a press meet during a workshop on SCSP/TCP Priority Allocation – 2015-16, Association President L Hanumanthaiah said that Rs 8,818.31 crore was allotted under the plan during 2013-14 and the allotment had been increased to Rs 15,834.18 crore in the current fiscal. “More than 50 per cent of the funds has been diverted for general schemes such as schools, colleges, roads, government buildings, drains, irrigation projects. The Planning Commission has strongly recommended that the diversion of funds for general schemes should not be more than five per cent,” said Hanumanthaiah. He said that SCSP/TCP Act provides that funds should be spent only for three purposes – members of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, their families and for general schemes. Elaborating further on the diversion of funds, JD(S) MLA from Mudigere constituency B B Ningaiah that approximately SCSP/TCP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore had been spent on irrigation schemes during the period 2010-11 till date. “I was in the SC/ST Welfare Committee to oversee the utilisation of funds for the downtrodden communities. On department-wise verification of projects, we found that  SCSP / TSP funds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore have been utilised for irrigation. After field visits, we also found out that a majority beneficiaries of the irrigation projects were not SC/STs. This is nothing but misuse of funds,” Ningaiah said. Taking lessons from the past, the association will set up its own monitoring system for utilisation of funds. It has also urged the government to utilise the funds for skill development of SC/ST youth. Association executive president G Srinivasan said that the funds under the scheme were being equally distributed among all the districts without considering the population of SC/STs. “Gulbarga has a maximum SC population, whereas Udupi has very less. But the funds are equally allotted to both districts. This leads to diversion of funds. Funds should be allotted to the districts based on the population of SC/STs in Karnataka,” he said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

9. Adivasi group sniffs conspiracy theory (6)

Guwahati, Jan. 6: The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam today alleged a political conspiracy behind the recent killing of Adivasis and questioned the ongoing operation against NDFB (Songbijit), the militant group held responsible for the massacre. The association’s president Raphael Kujur alleged that the attack was politically motivated and demanded an inquiry to identify the political forces that might have used the NDFB (S) to attack the Adivasis on December 23. “Although the NDFB (S) carried out the massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage. Hence, apart from NIA investigation, a probe needs to be conducted into the political conspiracy angle too,” he said. Kujur also saw a pattern in the killing of Adivasis in the past decade. “There were attacks on Adivasis in Assam in 2006, soon after the Assembly election. The attack at Uriamghat in Golaghat district in August last year was carried out after the Lok Sabha election. The fresh attacks come ahead of the Bodoland Territorial Council election scheduled for this year and the Assembly election scheduled for next year. Although the NDFB (S) carried out the December 23 massacre, we suspect that a political force used them for mileage,” he said. So far 81 people have died in the December 23 attacks (66 Adivasis), backlash (12 Bodos) and police firing during protests (three Adivasis). Over 2.86 lakh people, both Adivasis and Bodos, have been displaced in Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Udalguri districts. The association also said that though the Centre had rushed hundreds of army and paramilitary forces to Assam soon after the attack, it had not yet yielded any results. “Cadres of the rebel group are still moving freely with arms in many places and recently they looted cattle and goats from Adivasi villages at Majbat in Udalguri district and Mainaupur village in Chirang district,” Kujur said. He alleged that the administration in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts were forcing displaced Adivasis to leave the relief camps without making security arrangements in their villages. “Ration has been stopped in some camps. People are caught between the fear of militant attacks and the administration’s warning to leave relief camps. We demand that fixed pickets must be set up in the vulnerable areas before sending relief camp inmates back to their villages,” he added. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, eight relief camps have been closed down in the past 24 hours and over 24,600 people have been sent back to their villages. More than 1.29 lakh people are still taking shelter in 77 relief camps.The executive committee of the association today decided to stage demonstrations for two hours in every district and subdivisional headquarters on January 19 and light lamps in each Adivasi household on January 23 to pay tribute to the deceased. (The Telegraph 7/1/15)

WOMEN

10. 50% girls would cancel wedding if in-laws demand dowry (8)

Kolkata: More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey.DH Illustration For Representation Purpose Only More than half of the Indian girls would cancel their wedding if their would-be in-laws demand dowry, according to a new survey. When single Indian women were asked in a survey by Shaadi.com about what they would do if they learnt about a dowry demand made to their parents, 51.4 per cent women said they would call off their wedding. Another 48.6 per cent women said they would name and shame the would-be in-law’s family by publicly humiliating them, as per the survey. The online poll received 5,680 responses from single Indians in the age group of 24 to 35 years. When single Indian men were asked how dowry seekers should be treated, 59.8 per cent of them said such persons should be instantly jailed, while 40.2 per cent said those making the demand should be socially humiliated. More than 75 per cent respondents felt dowry could be prevented, the survey said. Commenting on the survey, Gourav Rakshit, COO of Shaadi.com said the website was working towards making India a dowry-free society. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

11. PM to Launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ Programme from Haryana (8)

CHANDIGARH: Modi will launch ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme, a nationwide scheme aimed to address the dipping child sex ratio and empower girl child in the country, from Panipat in Haryana next month. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today said the Prime Minister, in his first visit after the formation of BJP government in Haryana, would launch the programme from Panipat in Haryana on January 22. The nationwide programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is in the direction of preventing unfavorable impact of declining sex ratio in the country and also to sort out this serious trouble, Khattar said in a release here. The prime objective of this programme was to bring a change in people mindset towards girl child on or after her birth. Preventing determination of sex, female foeticide, ensuring safety of girls, their best possible care and providing quality education are integral part of this programme, he added. Khattar said a national level media and multi-sectoral campaigns in 100 districts in the country would also be carried out under the programme. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme would be implemented in 12 districts of Haryana namely Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Rewari, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Karnal, Yamunanagar, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Panipat which have the lower girl child sex ratio. The Chief Minister said a two-day seminar-cum-conference would also be organised on the beginning of the programme on January 20 and 21 next month. He said Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee would be special invitee in the seminar. Besides, women and child development ministers and Principal Secretaries concerned of all states have also been invited to express their views in the seminar. PTI (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

12. Strip search: police record statements (8)

Kochi: The city Vanitha police cell recorded the statements of the women employees of a company in the Cochin Special Economic Zone who were allegedly subjected to a strip search after a used sanitary napkin was found in the office washrooms. “The complaint was filed by 15 employees of the company. We have recorded the statements of a few of the women and will probe the matter further in the coming days,” said an officer of the women’s cell. CSEZ Development Commissioner Safeena A.N. said the SEZ had a committee in place to look at complaints of sexual harassment. “The SEZ office has such a committee and all complaints received there are resolved quickly. In this particular issue, none of the women filed a complaint with us,” Dr. Safeena said. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

13. 30 per cent of all rapes by live-in partners, on promise of marriage (8)

New Delhi: Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. DH illustration Rape by live-in partners or on the promise of marriage accounted for almost 30 per cent of all reported rape cases in Delhi last year. Women reported being raped by strangers only in four percent of the 2,069 rape cases registered with police till mid December, 2014. In any case, incidents of alleged rape in the national capital in 2014 have gone up by almost one-third since the previous year, police revealed during a press conference on Friday. Twenty per cent of the rape cases this year remain unsolved, said police. Culprits in 60 per cent of the solved cases were nabbed within a week of the crime being reported, police claimed. Friends of victims or of their family members were the main perpetrators of the crime, accounting for about 45 per cent of the reported rapes in Delhi this year. Other main perpetrators were neighbours at 20 per cent and relatives in 13 per cent of rape incidents, Delhi Police’s annual report said. Over 4,000 complaints of molestation, a 25 per cent rise since 2013, were registered during the same period. Police managed to solve 67 per cent of these cases. A senior officer told Deccan Herald that the involvement of strangers in molestation incidents was higher as compared to rapes because of which many culprits continued to roam scot-free. Police’s ability to work out complaints related to eve-teasing has been even poorer. Of the 1,282 such cases registered till mid-December last year, only 54 per cent were solved. Incidents of eve-teasing increased by 45 per cent over one year. Commissioner of Police B S Bassi said women are being trained to fill the “physical capacity gap”. He said Delhi women would be trained to take on men when harassed or not given due respect. Over 15,000 women in the capital have been trained in self-defence this year and about 1.25 lakh over the last 12 years. Apart from the basic self-defence techniques, they are also taught how to use their belongings like pens, dupattas and handbags to protect themselves from molesters and snatchers. Bassi, however, said that was not adequate. He said he wanted to see women undergo unarmed combat training for a year and emerge with a minimum of a brown belt in karate. (Deccan Herald 4/1/15)

14. Modi govt proposes to set up 150 teams to probe crime against women (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has proposed to set up 150 special investigative units on a pilot basis, in some of the most crime-prone districts in the country to probe grievous offences against women, particularly rape, dowry harassments, acid attacks and human trafficking. As part of the new initiative, the Home Ministry has proposed to set up investigative units on crimes against women (IUCAW) in 20 per cent districts of each state on a 50:50 cost sharing basis with the states. In a letter to chief ministers, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that there is a need to strengthen various elements of the criminal justice system, namely, investigation, prosecution and trials by courts to deal with the issue of rise of crimes against women. The Union home minister said the objective of these units will be to investigate cases referred to them, augment the investigative machinery of the states in relation to the heinous crimes against women, especially rape, dowry death, acid attack and human trafficking. The units will also instill confidence and encourage women to come forward and lodge their complaint and improve the gender ratio in the state police forces which is adversely impacting effective implementation of the legislations relating to women. Besides, these units will have the additional functionality of proactive policing, intelligence gathering, tackling organised crime, monitoring proper implementation of the legislative provisions, helping awareness generation and promotion of social participation in checking crimes against women, an official statement said. The ministry has proposed to set up 150 such IUCAWs units initially on a pilot basis in most crime-prone districts of each state. Each IUCAW will be headed by an officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police assisted by two DSPs. Out of the total 2,250 personnel required for the 150 IUCAWs, 750 will be women. This will involve a total expenditure of Rs 84 crore annually, out of which Rs 42 crore will be provided by the Centre. (Zee News 6/1/15)

15. Government Order on Sexual Abuse in Schools (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Tuesday asked the schools under ST and SC Development department to sensitise and educate girl students through life skills to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. In fresh guidelines issued by the State Government for schools under the department, teachers and other employees have been asked to create an enabling environment for students in schools and hostels. Measures have been prescribed in the guidelines for prevention and protection from sexual abuse. Besides, a code of conduct and duties for teachers and other staff have also been issued. There should be frequent interaction between the teachers and students, the guidelines stated and asked the hostel authorities to record every movement of boarders and visitors. The guidelines also stated that school monitoring reports of the district welfare officers (DWOs), assistant district welfare officers (ADWOs) and district inspectors of schools will be submitted to the ST and SC Development Department through e-mail. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

16. Mission Khoj to find missing kids (14)

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on Wednesday has launched an operation ‘Khoj’ for finding the missing children. Chairperson of DCPCR Arun Mathur said that the commission was concerned over the increasing number of missing children in the capital. He said that under the operation ‘Khoj’ the DCPCR will tap information about “missing children from all sources and circulate the same along with photographs to all networked Homes for immediate action.” A network of approximately 45 children’s homes in Delhi has been created and in case a child is found in one of the homes, the DCPCR will take appropriate steps to identify and reunite the child with his family. “The information will be sought through email ID missingchild.dcpcr@gmail.com and the reply is also expected on the same ID,” said DCPCR. The DCPCR decided to commission a study to assess and analyse the available data about rescue, recovery and post rescue procedures besides issues of inter-state coordination. Mathur said that the commission intends to enlarge the network to include more homes and organise regular meetings for sensitisation of the home in-charges. The Commission expects that through proper follow-up many cases related to missing children can be solved. According to the DCPCR, 7,235 children were reported missing in Delhi in 2013. Some 5,248 children went missing in 2012, 5,111 kids were reported missing in 2011. About 5,946 children went missing in 2009 and some 5,091 kids were reported missing in 2010. Some 6,268 children were reported missing from Delhi in 2008. Mathur said the DCPCR has been monitoring the cases both at an individual level as well as the policy level. “In individual cases, the commission issues notice to the concerned police station for an Action Taken Report in the matter. It was seen that the replies from the police station reach the commission quite late,” said DCPCR in a statement. A national consultation on inter-state coordination for rehabilitation of rescued child labourers came to the conclusion that there is not the need for strengthening the rehabilitation mechanisms of child labour in source states as well as in Delhi, but also the necessity of improving inter-state coordination. (Deccan Herald 1/1/15)

17. Railways’ SOP about rights of kids found on its premises still on paper (14)

The standard operation procedure (SOP) laid down by the Railway Board to safeguard rights of children arriving at and living on railway stations doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. It’s been a year since the Board passed an order to implement the SOP immediately, but the order has just remained on paper. The detailed SOP talks about the role various stakeholders need to play to ensure that children on railway platforms, including those who have run away from home, have gone missing from railway premises and who work there, are safe and protected. “We received the letter about the implementation of SOP a year back, but we have not been given any funds to implement it,” said a city station master. “I have written several letters to my superiors for kick-starting the implementation of the SOP, but I haven’t got any reply so far.” According to the SOP, the railways needs to create children assistance centres at all major stations. It further demands that the railways make arrangements for proper clothing, toilet, first aid and medicine for children. “We don’t have a single centre; whenever we get such children, we make a basic entry in our register and hand them over to the Government Railway Police (GRP),” said a station manager.  The SOP instructs the railways to maintain a detailed record of children found alone or in distress on platforms. The station master is expected to maintain a record of the children — name, age, parents’ names, details of siblings, address, and reason for leaving home. The SOP adds that there need to be advocacy messages put up at stations to create awareness on this, installing a functional public telephone at the centres, and creating a sufficient fund with station masters to meet the expenditure on food, clothing, toiletries and first-aid kit, and commute cost when a child is taken to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). A station master, however, said, “We aren’t given any money to spend on the children, we spend from our own pocket. We just hand them over to the GRP, who later they take them to the CWC.”.. (DNA 4/1/15)

18. Cuttack police rescue 10 child labourers (14)

CUTTACK: Ten child labourers who were rescued by the police, were on Sunday sent to a local shelter home here after conducting an ossification test on them to determine their ages. The children were brought here from Murshidabad district of West Bengal by two agents to employ them as labourers in coal mines at Talcher. They were however, rescued by Chauliaganj police on Saturday after they alighted from a train here to catch a bus to Talcher. The police arrested one of the agents—Sheikh Majibul and sent him to court. On the other hand, the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) made arrangements to keep the children at a shelter home here until they are reunited with their families. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

19. Muzaffarnagar cops to launch hunt for missing kids (14)

Muzaffarnagar: Following directions of the state government, police have launched a month-long campaign called “operation smile” to trace missing children in the district. The drive will go on till January 31. Of the 11 children who had gone missing in 2014, three are still missing. According to senior superintendent of police, HN Singh, a task force has been formed for Operation Smile. The aim of the initiative is to trace and rescue children who had been reported missing in the district in the last ten years. “The campaign aims to identify, trace, locate and rehabilitate children who were either kidnapped or who had left home on their own and have been subjected to abuse, exploitation or employed as child labour,” Singh said. Police sources say that a list of missing children has been prepared. Once such children were identified as missing, cops will match their details with those of the kids in the list. Data from the district, zonal and state levels would be compared. It will also be shared at the national level. Cops will keep strict vigil at bus stands, railway stations, shelter homes and other public spaces. If children are found in these places, the police will take their details and upload them, along with photographs of the kids, on a dedicated portal for missing children. Recently, the operation was launched in Ghaziabad and was deemed a huge success. 225 missing children were traced and reunited with their parents. After the success of the campaign in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary (home) instructed police officials in all districts to launch the operation. SSP HN Singh has ordered all station officers in the district to launch the drive in areas within their jurisdiction. (Times of India 6/1/15)

20. Street Kids Find Home and Mentor (14)

VIJAYANAGAR: Eighteen children of construction workers are looking at a bright future, thanks to the Right to Education Act and a kind education official. For many years, the street was their home, their playground and workplace. Today they have found shelter, protection and admission, and are basking in their newfound life. For these children, moving from the dusty, chaotic streets to a safe, steady and protected environment has been a life-changing experience. Children of workers who have migrated from Madhya Pradesh, they are grateful to Nagarathnamma D, Block Education Officer, South Range-2, for making it possible. When they were fending for themselves, they sold balloons on the streets, looked after their younger siblings, and played amid the dirty, dug-up roads beneath the Metro Rail bridges. They cannot believe they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, books to read, a place to relax and play, and school uniforms and good clothes to wear. They even go on picnics and Metro rides. In 2013, 33 children were identified under the ‘out of school’ Education Department survey in Vijayanagar. The department initially put up a tent school and imparted a bridge course, preparing the children for school. Eventually, 18 children were admitted to five private, unaided schools. They have adjusted well, face no discrimination, and are coping with their studies, say officials. Schools that have admitted them are RNS Vidyaniketan, Holy Angels School, Sree Bharatiya Vidyalaya, Adichunchungiri English School, and New Cambridge School. If nine are studying in the first standard, the rest are in LKG. The schools follow the ICSE and the state syllabi. Nagarathnamma told City Express the department had to overcome much suspicion and opposition from parents. “They are homeless, illiterate, and speak only Hindi. Since they had been working on the stretch along Yelahanka, Peenya and Vijayanagar for 10-15 years, they were on the streets, with no avenues to educate their children. We managed to convince them about the importance of school,” she said. Nagarathnamma is passionate about educating such children and does her best to get them to school.”Of the 33 we initially identified, 10-12 went back to Madhya Pradesh but the rest were clothed, housed, and admitted to big schools,” she said. She is assisted by many people, including teacher C H Chandrashekaraiah and parent Jayanthi. After much thought, they decided to house the children at the Government Model Primary School in Hosahalli and turned two big classrooms into a dormitory with an attached kitchen. Others pitched in to help. If Vijaynagar MLA Krishnappa looks after their daily breakfast needs and provides clothes, NGO Annapurna is donating their groceries. The group has not taken any funds from the government to run this initiative. Mela, a chirpy girl now enjoying her holidays on the streets with her big family of five siblings, is happy she is studying. Playing at the government school that has become their home, Kiran and his friends shower all their love on Nagarathana whom they affectionately call amma. Mela, who has started learning English and Kannada, said, “I enjoy going to school.” Thanks to the initiative, these children are finding a way out of their poverty and squalor. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

21. Minorities’ welfare still on the backburner in Telangana (7)

HYDERABAD: At a time when the Telangana government is making announcements, minorities continue to be discriminated against at the policy level in terms of eligibility criteria vis-a-vis other weaker sections, experts opined on Tuesday. At a meeting on ‘Development of Minorities in Telangana State – Possibilities and Challenges’ at Lakdi-ka-pul, speakers cited the example of schemes rolled out by the Centre. “The income ceiling for the minorities for pre-matric scholarships is Rs one lakh, for post-matric is Rs 2 lakh and for merit cum means is Rs 2.5 lakh. On the other hand for the OBC creamy layer it is Rs 4.5 lakh per annum. There must be parity in the ceiling,” said MIM legislator Syed Amin Jafri. He also underscored the glaring differences in age restrictions in availing bankable schemes. “While the SCs and the STs have a five-year age relaxation, there is no such provision for minorities. For minorities, the age limit for this scheme is between ages 21 and 40, whereas that for other communities is 21 and 45. The number of beneficiaries has decreased because of this and also because of an income ceiling of Rs 75,000 per annum. This is not right,” he said. Analysts said that the role of the AP state minorities finance corporation was reduced to that of a “post office”, with no schemes of financial inclusion. They expressed concern over the abysmal utilisation of budget for the welfare of the minorities. Of the Rs 1,030 crore allocation in Telangana, only Rs 174 crore has been released. Similarly, of the Rs 372 crore earmarked in AP, only Rs 126 crore has been released, they claimed. “There are only three months for the budget to lapse. In these circumstances, the Telangana government must increase the allocation for the next financial year to Rs 2,000 crore,” an analyst reasoned. Analysts observed that contrary to the missive of the Reserve Bank of India, which directed banks to earmark 15 per cent priority sector lending for minorities and meet this target by 2009, the current achievement stands at around 6 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and around 7 per cent in Telangana. Bureaucrat Mohammed A Abid said that many bureaucrats were under the impression that schemes for minorities were a “fad” and not a part of the “mainstream”. “For instance, the wakf act is not taught in the Lal Bahadur Shastri, National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Sooner or later the two states will start recruiting. Muslims should see how they can enter lower judicial services and police,” he said. (Times of India 1/1/15)

22. Socio-economic status of minorities to be assessed (7)

Shivamogga: Balkhees Banu, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission, has said that the socio-economic survey of minorities in the State will commence by February-end. The survey, conducted once in 10 years, will help the government to assess the socio-economic status of minorities and design programmes for their uplift. The enumerators will visit every household as part of the survey and elicit answers to 58 questions, she said at an interaction programme organised by Shivamogga District Working Journalists Association here on Saturday. Cooperation of the local masjid committees, the district-level wakf advisory boards would be sought for the survey. Teachers from government and aided educational institutions would be deputed for the survey, she said. Ms. Banu said she had requested the State government to establish a legal cell in the commission. Many innocent youths were being booked under false charges during communal violence. The commission plans to extend legal assistance to such victims through the cell, she said. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had responded positively for the request, she said. In 2014–15, education loan was sanctioned to 2,000 students from minority communities who joined professional courses, under the Arivu scheme. The government wants to extend the benefit to 5,000 students in 2015–16, she said. The commission would recommend to the government to fill vacant posts of teacher in Government Urdu Schools at the earliest. The commission would organise programmes to promote communal harmony across the State and first one would be held in Dakshina Kannada district. President of the Shivamogga Working Journalists Association N. Ravi Kumar and general secretary Vaidya were present. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

23. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

24. Gujarat Police make ‘dummy terrorists’ shout pro-Islamic slogan in mock drill (7)

Ahmedabad: A video of police mock drill showing dummy militants shouting pro-Islamic slogan emerged on Thursday in Gujarat, a day after controversy erupted over men, playing the part of terrorists, being made to wear skullcaps in a similar exercise in Surat. Reacting to the Surat episode that came to light on Wednesday, Chief Minister Anandi Patel admitted it as a “mistake” to show people posing as terrorists in the drill in skullcaps. The latest video is of another anti-terror mock drill at Narmada dam site in Kevadia area of Narmada district. It shows policemen holding two dummy terrorists who were shouting “take our lives, if you want. Islam Zindabad (long live Islam)”. When contacted by PTI, Narmada Superintendent of Police Jaypalsinh Rathore said an inquiry will be conducted into the issue. “I came to know about this incident (of projecting terrorists as Muslims) through media. If such an incident has happened, we will conduct an inquiry and take necessary actions against those responsible,” he said. “The mock drill was a routine police exercise which was conducted a week ago in Kevadia area,” Rathore added. As the Surat episode generated controversy and invited criticism from several quarters, including from the chief of Gujarat BJP Minority Cell, Patel told a TV channel it is wrong to link religion with terrorism. “It’s wrong to link religion with terrorism. The issue has been resolved and the matter should be put to rest now. The mistake has been rectified,” she said. The anti-terror drills were conducted ahead of the two high-profile events being held in the state – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (January 7 to 9) and Vibrant Gujarat Investors Summit (January 11 to 13) – both in Gandhinagar. (Indian Express 1/1/15)

25. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

26. After communal row, Hindus, Muslims join hands, demand justice for each other (7)

Agra: From the communal cauldron of UP, here’s a heartwarming story of Hindu-Muslim amity. Nai ki Mandi was the site of violence during the Barawafat procession on Sunday, to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammad. On Tuesday, however, Hindus and Muslims rallied together in the area. While Muslim shopkeepers urged police to release the two Hindus arrested on Sunday, Hindus gathered at the spot to demand proper security for Muslim shopkeepers. This show of solidarity even moved the cops who decided to release the arrested shopkeepers late in the evening. Tension had prevailed in the area on Sunday when a scuffle broke out between two groups after a dangling electricity wire allegedly touched a vehicle in the Barawafat procession. While one group alleged that the wire was deliberately kept loose with the intention of interrupting the procession, the other group claimed that it was because of the procession that electricity wires in the city got disturbed. The situation worsened when a few miscreants started pelting stones. Police had to intervene and FIRs were duly lodged against almost 500 persons for rioting and breach of peace. However, on Tuesday, the area presented a picture of communal amity that would have moved even a die-hard skeptic. Over 300 people, both Hindus and Muslims, joined hands to demand justice for each other. Muslim shopkeepers met senior police officials and requested them to release the two Hindu businessmen, Haresh Singh, a cable TV operator and PD Gupta, a jeweler, claiming they were innocent. “Those who started the violence were outsiders. They took their procession inside our market and created a ruckus. As far as we are concerned, police have arrested our innocent brothers and we will not rest till we get them released,” said Shabbir Quadri, president of the Nai ki Mandi market association. Endorsing his sentiments, Yamin Warsi, another shopkeeper, added, “We have been working in the Nai ki Mandi area for several years but there has never been a fight between Hindus and Muslims. There are some 300 shops in the market of which 70% are owned by Hindus and 30% by Muslims. Our president is a Muslim while other senior members are Hindus. We will continue to fight for our brothers till they get bail.” In reciprocation, Hindu shopkeepers organized a sit-in in the market demanding better security for Muslim shopkeepers. “Police should ensure that Muslims in the area do not feel threatened,” said Manish Agarwal, a shop owner from the area. Added Navendu, another shopkeeper, “Already their festival has been spoilt due to the ruckus and now their business is also getting hit as shops have been closed for the past two days. We feel strongly for them.” (Times of India 6/1/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

27. Over 100 reconverted to Sikhism in Amritsar (7)

Amritsar: Around 120 people from 15 families were re-converted to Sikhism from Christianity in a ‘ghar wapsi’ event in Amritsar. The families, who originally belonged to the Mazhabi Sikh community, were lured into Christianity. “We were lured into Christianity by saying that if we convert all our sorrows and worries will disappear, and ghosts would stay away. We are uneducated so we changed our religion then,” said Raj Kumar, who was known as Raj Masih, before his conversion. Reportedly, the conversion function was organised by Dharma Jagran Manch, a body associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), after people expressed their desire to return to Sikh faith. Many have accused that these conversions are done forcefully but Kumar said no one forced him to change his religion. Meanwhile, a Christian priest Father Dominic Emmanuel said the ones involved in forced conversions are not going succeed in their task. “By doing these kinds of things they are only trying to break the unity in this country. This country, in which people have lived in peace and harmony for 2000 years with people of all religions, these people are trying to break that unity and harmony,” he said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

28. 3 churches come together to demand ban on ‘ghar wapsi’ (7)

AMRITSAR: Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of extending “tacit support” to the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme of saffron outfits, churches here have threatened to take to the streets if the government doesn’t impose a ban on the practice. Church of North India, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church have also warned of legal action against communal forces trying to convert people forcibly. In a joint press conference by Diocese of Amritsar Church of North India, Diocese of Jalandhar of the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army Church, P K Samantaroy, bishop of Amritsar and moderator Church of North India, said Modi should give a clear-cut statement on the ‘ghar wapsi’ programme and tell the nation why the government has not been able to stop “forcible” conversions. “Keeping silent on such a sensitive issue construes his silent approval,” he said. Samantaroy added that all the heads of churches would soon hold a meeting and take up the issue of conversions at the national level. “We will also write to chief ministers and governors of all the states regarding truth of reconversion programmes,” he said. He alleged that organizations like RSS, Dharam Jagran Manch and Vishwa Hindu Parishad were carrying out forcible conversions through coercion in the name of ‘ghar wapsi’ to meet their political ends, which may benefit some vested interests, especially in the ruling party. Bishop Franco of the Roman Catholic Church alleged that conversions were merely a tool in the hands of communal and fundamentalist forces to divide the dalit communities to indulge in communal violence for their political gains. Divisional Commander of Salvation Army Church Major Manuel Masih said there were many dalit families in which half of the family members were Mazhbi Sikhs and the other half were Christians and the same was true in case of Balmikis. Father John of the Roman Catholic Church said religion was adopted by following the inner voice and not under any external pressure or monetary allurements. Director of Socio Economy Development Programme, Diocese of Amritsar, Daniel B Das said, “We all are Indians and we never left home. So, there is no question of ghar wapsi.” Samantaroy demanded that ghar wapsi programmes be banned, failing which the Christian community would be forced to take to the streets. (Times of India 5/1/15)

29. Dalit groups slam ‘casteist’ event in Hyderabad (7)

HYDERABAD: Banners recently put up across the city, inviting members of the Catholic Reddy Association (CRA) to the ‘tricentenary celebrations of Global Catholic Reddy families’ on January 11, has left some dalit Catholic Christian groups fuming. Lashing out at the organizers, these groups have termed the event as regressive and ‘casteist’ in nature. “Dalits can never organize such lavish gatherings. We fear that the CRA’s event would further alienate us from the mainstream, owing to our weak economic status. And this despite dalits representing 70% of the Christian population in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” said Jerusalem Mathaiah, president of All India dalit Christians Samakhya. He said dalit groups would stand in protest outside the venue, if the programme is not called off. “Though we have embraced Christianity, caste issues are still haunting us. We already feel wronged by the fact that not many dalit Catholic Christians have been elevated to high posts,” Mathaiah rued. When TOI contacted CRA office, Vijay Bhaskar Kommareddy speaking on behalf of the group said the tricentenary celebrations would be nothing more than a community event being organised to mark the conversion of the first Reddy member to Christianity 300 years ago. The incident took place in Anantapur in 1715. The CRA found support in Christine Lazarus, former MLA in the erstwhile AP assembly, who strongly came out in defence of the event. “We are living in a free country and there’s nothing wrong if a community comes together to celebrate an occasion,” she said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Quit Pakistani refugee camp, Afghans staying illegally told (13)

Islamabad : The authorities have asked Afghans staying illegally in a refugee camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to vacate within 15 days to avoid eviction, a media report said Saturday. “We’ve asked illegal Afghans to leave the Azakhel camp or face eviction,” a district administration official said. “We can shift them to Shamshatoo camp in Peshawar and provide them with tents and other necessary items if they show willingness,” Dawn online quoted the official as saying. He said around 1,500 Afghan refugees have been illegally living in Azakhel camp. After the massacre of school children in Peshawar last month, the government had begun surveys of refugee camps in the province, including those in Azakhel, Akora Khattak, Khairabad, Jalozai and Pabbi, to learn about illegal occupants. The government has already informed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees about the refugees living in Azakhel camp illegally. The official said the administration had asked Afghan refugees to reveal their plans after vacating the camp. He said if refugees wanted to return home, then the law-enforcement agencies would provide them with security. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees living in Azakhel camp have appealed to the government to extend the camp vacation deadline. (Business Standard 3/1/15)

31. No humanitarian aid to 3 lakh displaced (13)

Guwahati: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) here on Friday said that Assam government failed to provide relief, particularly warm clothes, baby food, safe drinking water and assistance for pregnant women and lactating mothers, to those among over three lakh internally displaced persons after the carnage in Assam. The ACHR, which had sent a team to study the condition of the relief camps however said that some food items were supplied by local public and organisations but sanitation and hygiene were almost non-existent in the relief camps. In its report released on Friday, the ACHR said that there are over 3,00,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Assam which is largest displacement of world in 2014. Pointing out that among those displaced 2,87,182 are adivasis (plantation workers) reeling under a man-made humanitarian crisis in 65 relief camps Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and Chirang districts. The ACHR also said, “The Assam government has been hesitant to fully extend humanitarian assistance to all displaced persons in order to prevent more displacement and reduce cost of rehabilitation.” There are about 13,091 displaced Bodos taking shelter in 20 relief camps in Chirang district. Out of these 20 relief camps, three camps with a population of 2,219 Bodo inmates are unregistered camps, the ACHR in its report claimed. The team of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) assisted by the Adivasi civil society organisations visited the affected areas on December 27. The ACHR team had limited access as curfew was imposed in Sonitpur and Udalguri districts, and the police did not allow visit to the interior places for security reasons. The ACHR team however visited Jiagabharu High School Relief Camp, Hugrajuli Relief Camp and Tinisuti Relief Camps. The ACHR has asked the Assam government to fully extend humanitarian assistance. (Asian Age 4/1/15)

32. 10,000 frightened villagers abandon homes in Kashmir (13)

Jammu: The number of people abandoning their homes in border villages of Jammu and Kashmir crossed 10,000 Tuesday amid heightened tension following Pakistan shelling on the international border that killed a trooper Monday. “Following indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas along the international border by Pakistan yesterday (Monday), more people have abandoned their homes close to the border in Samba and Kathua districts,” a senior official told IANS here. “The number of villagers lodged in makeshift accommodations at safer places has crossed 10,000 and their migration is continuing today (Tuesday),” the official added. Pakistan Rangers continued mortar shelling and firing at Border Security Force (BSF) positions in Kathua and Samba districts late Monday. “Pakistan Rangers targeted more than two dozen BSF posts in Kathua and Samba districts yesterday (Monday). The BSF retaliated effectively to silence Pakistan guns,” a senior police officer here said. The officer said no firing has been reported from the Pakistan side Tuesday morning. A trooper was killed Monday when the border outpost manned by him was hit by Pakistan fired mortar. BSF Director General D.K. Pathak will visit the international border Tuesday to take stock of the situation. (Business Standard 6/1/15)

33. West Pak refugees can now join paramilitary forces (13)

NEW DELHI: Seeking to address concerns of West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) settled in Jammu and Kashmir, the Home Ministry on Tuesday decided to consider such people for jobs in paramilitary forces. This came as Home Minister Rajnath Singh approved “certain concessions” for WPRs that include a direction to directors-general of all paramilitary forces to consider such people from the state, who are Indian citizens and have valid Voter IDs, for recruitment to the forces. Singh also wrote to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar that similar concessions like waiving off the condition of producing domicile certificates and other identity certificates. Singh’s move came a fortnight after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs asked the Centre to take steps to ensure that these groups get benefits like other citizens. Jammu and Kashmir does not grant these section of people permanent resident status and they encounter problems in getting government jobs. According to the state government records, 5,674 families consisting of 47,215 persons migrated from west Pakistan and were settled in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts during partition. As of now, these people face difficulty to fulfil documentary evidence of residency in support of their applications as the paramilitary recruitment rules seek furnishing of domicile certificates from the candidates while the state government issues only Voter ID with Non-Permanent Residency (NPR) status to such Indian nationals. Singh also wrote to the state government to resume issuing the domicile certificates to refugees settled in the state so as to enable such people to avail equal employment opportunities. The Home Ministry has also issued instructions to the Department of School Education under Human Resource Development Ministry to accommodate the children of such people for admission to the Kendriya Vidyalayas in the state. (Deccan Herald 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

34. Maharashtra: RTI online on trial basis from today (1)

There is partial good news for people looking to file online RTI application at Mantralay. rtionline.maharashtra.gov.in will start functioning today on a trial basis. The trial period will give people the opportunity to give suggestions and raise objections if any. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said recently that the facility would start functioning from January. The government had been giving dates of its formal inauguration (four departments) since August, but kept postponing it. Even now, it’s not known when exactly the facility would formally be launched. “We are starting it on a trial basis. The principal secretary of IT department is not here, so this will be like a soft launch. Only after the formal launch will it start functioning at full stretch. As of now, people can look at the site and give suggestions or raise objections if any,” said Virendra Singh, director, Information Technology. The site that is in Marathi and English has the facility for filing application and for first appeal. It also has an option to know the status of one’s application. The mode of payment (RTI application fees) is internet banking, ATM cum debit card and credit card (Master/Visa). Thirty one of the 37 departments in Mantralay are shown on the site. All the departments within Mantralay would be covered first. The facility would be expanded to other public authorities later. Once an application is filed, the applicant will be given a registration number through SMS and email. According to RTI Act, for providing information, an applicant has to be an Indian citizen. Besides asking an applicant’s mobile number, e-mail (if any) and details of his/her card through which transaction will be conducted, there is little by way of verification to ensure that the person seeking information is an Indian. The central government too has the same issue. dna tried to get in touch with authorities, but could not get through to them. “Where is the question of suggestions and objections. It is not a policy decision. They adopted the central government software over two years ago, and were to start the facility early this year. It should at least have been ready when the CM made the announcement. This is the bureaucracy’s ploy to buy time,” said Vijay Kumbhar, an RTI activist. “The question of nationality should not be a big issue as most of the information sought is suo motu disclosure. In case of sensitive information, the PIO can check on the applicant,” he added. (DNA 1/1/15)

35. Security cover: Jashodaben continues her RTI fight (1)

Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wife estranged wife Jashodaben has again sought details of the security cover provided to her, filing an application under the Right to Information Act after she was denied answers to all her questions in her first letter, her brother said on Friday. Jashodaben had filed an application under the RTI Act in November last year with Mehsana police seeking details of the security provided to her after Modi became prime minister. Mehsana police, which denied her earlier request, had said the questions asked by her fell under the purview of the local intelligence bureau, which has been insulated from the RTI act by the Gujarat government. “She has filed an appeal before the superintendent of police of Mehsana district as the earlier set of questions were not answered by the police,” Ashok Modi told HT. He also queried why the police, in their original reply, had referred to Jashodaben as the daughter of Chimanbhai Modi, while in her application Jashodaben had called herself the PM’s wife. After Modi took over as the PM in May last year, the Gujarat government provided Jashodaben with four commandos at her residence. They tail her wherever she goes, including during her recent trip to Mumbai. In both her applications, Jashodaben stated: “I, the petitioner, who is the wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi… travel by public transport while my bodyguards travel by official vehicle.” “I should be provided a certified copy of the order under which security is provided to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s family members, brothers, sisters and me,” she wrote, asking for details to be given within 48 hours as the issue pertained to a “life and death” matter. Elaborating, she cited the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by her own commandos. “The commandos assigned to me have no official order by which they have been posted at my residence,” the application said. Jashodaben is a retired school teacher in her early sixties who lives with her brother Ashok in a north Gujarat village. (HindustanTimes 2/1/15)

36. 36000 RTI queries pending as CIC remains headless (1)

New Delhi: At a time when transparency and access to information have emerged as prerequisites of good governance, there are over 36000 pending Right to Information (RTI) queries pending at the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has been functioning without a Chief Information Commissioner for almost four months now. According to information furnished by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), 203 people, including all seven serving Information Commissioners and a former DoPT secretary, have applied for the top post, lying vacant since 22nd August. The information was provided to Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra in response to a RTI query. The query also revealed that the number of pending cases in the CIC bench increased by 47 per cent, from 7655 to 11212, in the four months since the retirement of the last CIC Rajiv Mathur. The government had invited applications for the post of CIC on 24th October. The last date for application was 23rd November. As on January 4th, there were 36,319 pending cases before the Central Information Commission. The bulk of these — 28,888 to be precise — were appeals while the rest (7,431) were complaints. According to the monthly progress reports put up by the CIC on its website, Vijay Sharma, at 5971, had the most pending cases (complaints and appeals) among the seven information commissioners, followed by Yashovardhan Azad at 4902 and Sharat Sabharwal at 3999. Manjula Prasher, the only woman member of the commission, had 3418 pending cases while Basant Seth, MA Khan Yusufi, and M.S. Acharyulu had 3408, 1491 and 1772 pending cases, respectively. When it came to disposing off applications in 2014, Mr. Acharyulu was at the top with resolution of 2891 RTI applications. He was followed by Mr. Sharma at 2660, Mr. Seth at 2351, Mr. Azad at 2202, Mr. Sabharwal at 2183, Ms. Prasher at 2036 and Mr. Yusufi at 1713. For the Chief Information Commissioner, the monthly progress reports shows zero cases disposed against 11317 pending complaints for the entire last year, which is interesting considering CIC Rajiv Mathur held the post till August 2014, after which it fell vacant. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

37. BJP armed with RTI reply, lashes out at AAP (1)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party relied on RTI replies to lash out at Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s claims of a ‘zero-raid policy’ during the 49-day rule. The BJP on Monday said that 151 raids were conducted on commercial establishments during the AAP government’s rule. “In recent meeting with traders in Nehru Palace, Kejriwal claimed that his government didn’t conduct a single raid. But, this is a lie. In a RTI reply, we got to know that during his 49-day rule, 151 raids were conducted,” said Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay. BJP alleged that from January 5 to January 31, 2014, 51 raids were conducted while from February 1 to 14 last year, 100 raids were conducted due to which, on an average, the national capital witnessed one raid every two hour during AAP tenure. Accusing former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of ‘misleading’ the people on the issue of tax collection, Mr. Upadhyay said, “Mr. Kejriwal had also claimed that during his tenure Rs. 5,666 crore was collected as tax collection, but RTI’s reply says that in the 49-day rule of AAP’s government, Rs 2033 crore was only collected.” Mr. Upadhyay said that between January 1 and 15 last year, Mr.Kejriwal’s government received a revenue of Rs. 231.92 crore and also, from January 16 to 31 in the year 2014, Rs 1505.24 crore were collected. From February 1 to 14 in 2014, Rs 296 crore tax was only collected, he claimed. The AAP responded to the allegations and said in a press statement that “a frustrated BJP is resorting to lies and misinformation about the tenure of the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi, since it has nothing positive to show about the seven months since its central government is controlling the national capital.” “The AAP reiterates its stand that no raids were allowed on ordinary traders during the tenure of Arvind Kejriwal government and VAT collection during that quarter was higher than in the same quarter in the preceding years. The BJP has hidden the fact that during the AAP government no raids were allowed on ordinary traders and it has also not revealed that raids which it is falsely referring to were sample checks conducted on petrol pumps, checks on liquor vends and notices to recover tax dues from repeat defaulters,” said the statement. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

38. RTI activist to file appeal against Kanchi acharyas (1)

PUDUCHERRY: A Chennai-based social activist has sought copies of the orders passed by a Puducherry court acquitting Kanchi seers – Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi and 22 others in a murder case – to file an appeal against the court order. R Varaaki, a RTI and PIL activist from Chennai filed an affidavit before the Puducherry chief judicial magistrate seeking certified copes of judgment and all related documents in the murder case of A Sankararaman. He pointed out that the Supreme Court in the case of Subramaniaswamy and Manmohan Singh declared that ‘any citizen has got locus standi to set the criminal law in motion including filing revision petition against the order of acquittal passed by the sessions’ court. He said since the Puducherry and Tamil Nadu governments had not filed an appeal against the acquittal of the seers and 22 others he proposed to file a revision petition or appeal against the acquittal. Nine years after A Sankararaman, manager of Sri Varadharajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, who levelled charges of financial mismanagement against the Kanchi seers, was found murdered the Puducherry principal district and sessions’ judge C S Murugan in November, 2013 acquitted the seers and 22 pointing out that the prosecution failed to prove the motive of the murder. Most of the main witnesses including the wife and son of the murdered A Sankararaman – Padma and Anand Sharma – respectively turned hostile. As many as 187 witnesses were examined and re-examined by the prosecution and defence counsels. Eighty-two witnesses and a lone approver, Ravi Subramanian, turned hostile. Kanchi seers, the main accused in the case, were also charged with criminal conspiracy, misleading the court by giving false information, criminal trespass and supply of funds to carry out the criminal activity. Puducherry government decided not to file an appeal following the opinion of the attorney general. (Times of India 8/1/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

39. City-based NGO sends 60 kids back to school (11)

KOLHAPUR: Avani, a city-based NGO surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka in its ambitious project. It identified over 200 kids who are without access to education or are employed. In all 63 children from the two states will attend school in the 2015 academic year due to the NGO’s efforts. Sattappa Mohite, Avani survey coordinator, said, “We arranged temporary schools for kindergarten students aged between three and five. For those above six years of age, we enrolled them in nearby zilla parishad schools during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts.” Mohite added that families return to their native place once the work season is over. “We noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly, many students were found attending schools, where they had enrolled earlier and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school,” he added. He added that parents also supported the initiative and responded positively. “We are quite satisfied with the survey and the same kind of initiative will be organized in 2015 too,” he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. NGO members convinced 35 parents to send their children back for elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given hope for the NGO to organise the same activity this year too. Under the Right to Education Act (2009) elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory and free at all government-aided schools. Kolhapur: For over 60 kids in Maharashtra and Karnataka, the early months of year 2015 will be hectic one. Though remaining busy and exhausted for hours is not a new thing for these kids, the only difference will be this time they will not be working for someone at any construction site, brick production unit, or at any sugarcane cutting and rather will be busy in doing their homework for their school assignment. Avani, the city based NGO in its one of the ambitious projects surveyed around five districts in Western Maharashtra and two districts in Karnataka, and identified over 200 kids either working or not having the facility of education. “We had arranged temporary schools for the kindergarten students for three to five age group, while for over six year old kids we had enrolled them in the nearby Zilla Parishad schools, during the work season in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Bijapur and Belgaum districts,” said Sattappa Mohite, survey coordinator, Avani. Mohite added that, families migrate back to their native place once the work season is over. “We had noted everyone’s address and surveyed the status of students’ continuity in education later in August, September and October. Surprisingly many of the students were found to be attending the schools which they had started and those who were not attending, we managed to convince their parents to send them to school for the education,” he added. The parents too supported the initiative and have responded positively and we are quite satisfied that through this survey and the same kind of initiative will be organised in the year 2015 too, he added. According to Mohite, for this survey they visited many villages in Radhanagari, Shirol, Karveer, Jath, Miraj, Mohol, Shrirampur, and Chandwad taluka. The NGO members managed to convince 35 parents to send their children back for the elementary education. The rehabilitation of these children for their education has given a hope for the NGO to organise the same activity for this year too. It has to be noted that under the Right to Education (RTE), act, 2009, elementary education to the age group of 6-14 year children has been made compulsory for free at all government aided schools. (Times of India 1/1/15)

40. More than 4.5 lakh children out of school in MP (11)

More than 4.5 lakh of children in MP still don’t go to school. Also the state has earned the dubious distinction of having one of the worst dropout rates in the country, much higher than the national average. This as per a national sample survey of estimation of out-of-school children in the 6-13 age group conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). According to Right to Education (RTE) Act, an out-of-school child is either not enrolled or has been absent for more than 45 working days or has discontinued studies from school. MP’s neighbours have less number of out-of-school kids in comparison. While Naxal-infested and tribal- dominated Chhattisgarh has 1.6 lakh kids out of school, Gujarat and Maharashtra have 1.5 lakh and 1.4 lakh children, who don’t attend school respectively. However, two other neighbours- Rajasthan and UP have more number of out-of-school kids. While the former has almost 6 lakh such kids, UP has 16 lakh kids, who are out of school. Also, the total number of children in the state is more than 4 crore. The 4.5 lakh out-of-school children account for 3.78% of total kids in the state. Interestingly though, more number of urban kids are out of school (4.61%) than their rural counterparts (3.58%). The state is also among the worst performers where dropout rates are the highest among its neighbouring states. The state has a dropout rate of 52% compared to Chhattisgarh (42.8%), UP (28.9%), Rajasthan (36.6%), Maharashtra (29%) and Gujarat (44.4%). Among the 4.5 lakh kids, who are not in schools, around 77,000 are slum children while more than 50,000 are children with special needs (CWSN). MP also lags far behind the national average of around 37% in dropout rate of kids from school. SSA is government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE). It looks at elementary education for all as mandated by the 86th amendment to the Constitution which makes free and compulsory education to children between 6- 14 years of age a fundamental right. The survey’s findings were recently posted on the SSA’s website. Those surveyed cited poverty and economic conditions as the foremost reasons. Besides, girls reported that they needed to help in domestic work or take care of younger siblings. Surveyed households also reported education was not considered necessary by the head of the house. (Times of India 3/1/15)

41. Awareness drive on Right to Educationonline admissions (11)

Bengaluru: With admissions to seats under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in the State going online for the first time this year, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has asked all Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) and Block Education Officers (BEOs) to conduct awareness drives to better acquaint parents with the process. Speaking to Deccan Herald on Monday, Mohammed Mohsin, Commissioner, DPI, said: “The DDPIs and BEOs should conduct the awareness drive at every level, be it at the district or taluk level. They can take the help of local NGOs in this.” Mohsin said that handbooks highlighting the steps with regard to the process of admission to RTE seats have also been given. “The handbook lists all necessary steps for both online and offline admissions. The same will be used by DDPIs and BEOs in conducting their drives,” he said. An official from the department said that DDPIs and BEOs have been instructed to give wide publicity to the process of RTE (both online and offline) admissions. “It depends on the BEOs how they want to organise their awareness drives. It may be by way of conducting awareness camps or through other measures. However, the message should reach the poorest of the poor,” he said.   H B Manjunath, DDPI, South Bengaluru, said: “We are having a district-level meeting of headmasters and BEOs tomorrow (Tuesday). We will decide about conducting such awareness drives in the meeting. Once decided, I will issue guidelines to CRPs (cluster resource persons) and BRCs (block resource persons) to carry out an information drive.” Ever since the news about RTE admissions going online was announced, there has been a number of apprehensions about the move from parents and NGOs.  Many of them claimed that online admissions would not help the poor who have no knowledge about the Internet and computers.    (Deccan Herald 6/1/15)

42. Illiterate parents to blame for school dropouts (11)

Nikhil Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 07, 2015 A national-level survey has revealed that illiteracy of parents is one of the main reasons behind school dropouts in Chandigarh. A total of 1,090 children, all Dalits, have been reported as school dropouts in the survey and all have illiterate parents. The survey, “National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out-of-School Children in the age 6-13 in India, 2014″, was commissioned by Educational Consultants India Limited with support from the ministry of human resource development (MHRD). Interestingly, the survey, which was released last month, highlights that the education status of children get affected with the educational status and standards of parents. As per the findings of the survey, in the urban parts of the city, a total of 2.48 lakh children fall in the age group of 6-13, out of which 1.36 lakh are boys and 1.12 lakh are girls. Out of total number of children, 1,090 have been included in the category of dropout or out-of-school children. Interestingly, all dropouts are boys in the city and no girls have figured in the survey. One of the reasons mentioned in the survey due to which parents pull the child out of the school or children themselves opt out is the economical condition of the family. The study also reflects that a child is required to work in order to add to the household income. Other major reasons are parents do not feel the need for educating their children as they have enough monetary terms at home or business. Also, the children do not feel like studying as they do not get required atmosphere at home and thus, they show less interest in education. Anujit Kaur, principal of Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 16, said, “Sometimes it becomes really difficult to convince people to send their children to school. They claim earning good from their work and thus they say that the education is just a waste of time for their children. Hawkers or even beggars do not want their children to learn in schools.” (Hindustan Times 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

43. Project Palash gives new life to Jharkhand tribe (21)

NEW DELHI: The year 2014 definitely ushered in “acche din” for the Sabar tribe of Jharkhand. This endangered tribe, once trapped in the Maoist zone, is still struggling to beat extreme poverty and underdevelopment. It is looking forward to the New Year with new hope, all thanks to Palash, that not only offered them sustainable livelihood but also saved their tribe from extinction. Palash is an initiative to train Sabar artisans from Saraikela district to weave eco-friendly designer products to make a livelihood. Out of 32 tribes in Jharkhand, nine are endangered. Sabar is also one of the most primitive and languishing tribes in the country. Their strong resistance to British dominance resulted in the community getting listed among the 68 denotified tribes who were tagged criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Most Sabar people in Jharkhand now live in Samanpur, a village surrounded by hills and forests. Situated 60km from Jamshedpur, it doesn’t have proper road connectivity. “It was beyond my imagination to see the pathetic condition of the Sabars when I first went to Samanpur in 1996. People had not seen the light of civilization. A paradoxical situation of abject poverty prevailed in the prosperous forests. They lived in small huts of three-by-four feet, which they could enter only by crawling. They survived on roots and fruits from forests or on dead animals,” said Suchitra Sinha, joint director (industries), Jharkhand government, who initiated the project Palash. “We practically lived in the jungle, ate whatever we could gather from the forests. Never knew of education and even today I am illiterate. We used to gather firewood and sell them to earn Rs 100-200 a month. There is still no road, hospital or anything,” said Sagar Sarwar, one of the 10 artisans who are present at the India International Trade Fair. Things started turning around when Sinha saw a woman weaving a basket out of Kanshi grass in one of the huts. “I saw a huge potential in this intricate weaving. I was told that these articles had an unorganized market with meager incentives.” With the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, Sinha arranged training of 50 such artisans. And they now earn Rs 4,000 per month, said Vijay Sawar, an artisan. “To develop it as a model village, we need to increase our production base and participate in events like IITF. This village can also be projected as a tourism destination as it still retains its greenery,” said Sinha. The project has managed to wean many away from the Maoist movement, she added. “There is also a decrease in deforestation. Their life has improved. Now I hope these people will get the attention of the governments.” (Times of India 1/1/15)

44. 63 million people faced with poverty due to healthcare expenditure (21)

NEW DELHI: A whopping 63 million people are faced with poverty every year due to “catastrophic” expenditure over healthcare which neutralises the gains of rising income and various government schemes aimed to reduce poverty, according to the health ministry. The draft of National Health Policy cites this as a significant reason for a new health charter as it seeks to ensure universal access to affordable health care. “Incidence of catastrophic expenditure due to healthcare costs is growing and is now being estimated to be one of the major contributors to poverty. The drain on family incomes due to healthcare costs can neutralise the gains of income increases and every government scheme aimed to reduce poverty. “Over 63 million persons are faced with poverty every year due to healthcare costs alone. It is because there is no financial protection for the vast majority of healthcare needs,” says the draft put out by the Health Ministry on its website for inviting public suggestions. Healthcare costs are more impoverishing than ever before and almost all hospitalisation even in public hospitals leads to catastrophic health expenditures, it says. In 2011-12, the draft says, the share of ‘out of pocket’ expenditure on healthcare as a proportion of total household monthly per capita expenditure was 6.9 per cent in rural areas and 5.5 per cent in urban areas. “This led to an increasing number of households facing catastrophic expenditures due to health costs (18 per cent of all households in 2011-12 as compared to 15 per cent in 2004-05),” it said. India needs a new health policy that is responsive to these contextual changes, it says while citing rising burden of non-communicable diseases and rapidly-growing health care industry as other reasons for framing a new health policy.  (Times of India 4/1/15)

45. 27% people in urban areas are poor, finds census (21)

New Delhi: About 27.6% of 377 million people living in urban India, or 104 million people, have been identified as poor, according to preliminary figures of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC). While the poor in rural India have been identified several times since 1999, this is the first time the urban poor have been identified. Started in 2011 by the UPA government, the SECC is being conducted to identify families falling below the poverty line (BPL) in urban and rural areas. It is expected to help the government better target the poor for its welfare schemes. For example, it will enable a homeless household to be targeted for a housing scheme, while an unemployed person can be targeted under a livelihood scheme. The survey was conducted by the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in urban areas, while the rural development ministry was conducting the house-to-house exercise in rural areas. About 14.63 per cent of 17 million people living in Delhi have been identified as poor. Of all the states and union territories, Manipur (43.06%) has the maximum number of poor people living in urban areas followed by Bihar (41.4%), Tripura (40.75%), Odisha (39.4%) and Mizoram (37.9%). Prior to this census, the erstwhile Planning Commission had accepted a report of an expert group headed by Suresh Tendulkar that estimated the urban poverty ratio at 25.7% based on consumption expenditure. The SECC has used a three-stage process recommended by a panel headed by former Planning Commission member SR Hashim to identify the urban poor. These are — automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and scoring index — all based on social, occupational and residential vulnerability. For example, a family stands to be automatically included as ‘poor’ if it does not have a home, or any income, or if the household is headed by a female or physically challenged person. Households having either a four-room house or in possession of any one of these assets — a four-wheeler, air conditioner and computer/laptop with Internet were automatically excluded. The third criteria is a scoring index that gives households scores from 0 to 12 based on their vulnerabilities with a higher score signifying more deprivation. Households that score 0 are ineligible to be included in the BPL list. The Union Cabinet needs to fix the cut-off score under which a household will be classified as ‘poor’. “The figures will go up marginally once the government decides up to what score a family will be included in the BPL list. We are going to the Cabinet soon to get the scoring list finalised,” said a housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry official. (Hindustan Times 5/1/15)

46. Ensure that Benefits of Government Schemes Reach Tribals: HC (21)

KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that health survey and other necessary surveys should be conducted in the tribal areas, including Attappadi, and that appropriate measures should be taken so that benefits of the schemes that have already been initiated by the State reach the needy. A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice A M Shaffique issued the order while considering a petition filed by High Court lawyer R Sudha, seeking a directive to constitute a body to ensure that the funds earmarked for the welfare of the tribal people are reaching them. The petitioner submitted that no proper steps were being taken in the Attapadi tribal area, and that infant deaths were occurring on account of starvation. “The authorities are not extending the benefits of the schemes as has been initiated by the State,” the petitioner said. The State Government submitted that various steps have been initiated for the welfare of the tribal people, and that a detailed affidavit had been filed. The petitioner submitted that the details and affidavit were insufficient.   The State assured that a fresh affidavit with the latest information would be filed.   The Bench observed that ‘filing of affidavit/statement in the court did not mean that it has actually been done’. (New Indian Express 7/1/15)

47. Nearly two crore families in Tamil Nadu to get smart ration cards from June (21)

CHENNAI: The state government has approved a contract for Rs 318 crore end-to-end PDS computerization with smart ration cards. As many as 1.89 crore families would get smart cards by the year-end. The cards with biometric parameters would be rolled out in Perambalur and Nagapattinam districts in the month of June and the rest of the state would be covered by December this year. The database would be completely based on biometric data obtained under national population register and Aadhar. “This will put an end to bogus/ghost ration cards. The shops will be automated with an electronic point of sale (E-POS) device and the end server will manage all the transactions,” a senior government official said. The existing database is mired in controversy due to anomalies. In 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India slammed the government’s poor maintenance of PDS records. The audit found that the total number of persons (8.37 crore) included in the family cards in the previous year, was more than the population of the state by 1.16 crore, indicating large-scale existence of bogus cards. In its reply, the state had outlined its proposal to have biometric-based smart cards in two to three years to eliminate bogus cards. Sources said the Census department has captured biometric parameters of 74.71% of the 6.74 crore population aged over five years. Aadhar numbers had been generated to 95% of them, roughly translated to 4.78 crore. It is not uniform across the state with less coverage in districts like Chennai, Sivganga, Tirupur, Namakkal and Dindigul. The high coverage, exceeding 85% was recorded in Perambalur, Nagapatinam, and Ariyalur. More permanent centres to capture biometric parameters are afoot in district collectorates and local bodies. (Times of India 8/1/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

48. Farm workers plan nation-wide strike (14)

VELLORE: The All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxists) has decided to launch a nation-wide agitation if the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance Government does not give up its move to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), according to Sunith Chopra, all-India general secretary and S. Thirunavukkarasu, all-India president of the Union. Talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the meeting of the general council of the Vellore district unit of AIAWU here on Tuesday, they said that even though the various unions of rural workers have fought for and won job security through the introduction of the MGNREGA, the Modi government is using backdoor methods to violate the right to work that has been won by the rural masses. The methods include cutting down the outlay, attempting to limit the area of operation of the Act, limiting payments in banks to Aadhar card holders, holding back wages, and trying to introduce machinery and contractors. “We believe MGNREGA to be part of our basic right to life and we will not allow it to be bartered away”, he said.False propaganda “It is a false propaganda being spread through motivated agencies”, Mr. Chopra said when his attention was drawn to the grievance being expressed by the farmers that they do not get labour in view of agricultural workers being weaned away for works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In fact, farming activities have declined owing to the large-scale migration of farmers to the urban areas in search of employment. “With 60 per cent of farmers having migrated, we have had the largest migration of farmers in the last 90 years. This migration can be prevented if MGNREGA is strictly implemented”, he said. Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that the workers were getting wages only for about 40 to 50 days in a year against the promised 100 days. “Workers will certainly come for farm work if the farmers / landlords provide higher wages than what they got under MGNREGS”, he said. Mr. Chopra said that 10 lakh acres of farm land have gone to the non-farm sector, while nine lakh farmers have sold their land and become agricultural labourers dependent on MGNREGS. G. Mani, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the AIAWU, said that the union would be organising a `kathiruppu porattam’ (waiting agitation) in front of the Collectorates, Revenue Divisional Offices and taluk offices throughout Tamil Nadu on January 20, when poor landless workers would wait in front of the offices till they were given free house site pattas and till the old age pension was restored to those for whom it was cancelled. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

49. 25,000 NREGA workers in RR yet to get wages (14)

HYDERABAD: A well-known private bank and state government officials are literally slugging it out on every front after a dispute arose regarding payment of workers under the NREGA scheme. The officials of the Rural Development Department of Rangareddy district had slapped a criminal case against the Axis Bank at Gandhinagar police station for misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore some weeks ago. The bank was chosen to disburse the funds under the central government scheme for the district. Caught in the midst of it are the 25,000 workers who are yet to get their dues after toiling hard for projects pertaining to various land development projects in Rangareddy district. It all began when the officials found out that a large number of workers had not received payments between April and June 2013. In a series of official mails (which are in possession of this newspaper) which began soon after, the district officials squarely blamed the bank for its inefficient fund monitoring system involving its various business correspondents. The officials had asked the bank to disburse the amount meant for the employees but the higher officials of the bank conveyed through the mails that they were still working on the issue. The bank made a part-payment of a few lakhs in late 2013, however there was not much headway since then. The officials had also requested the government not to have any business tie-ups with the bank in future. “We have given them the complete list of the workers who had not been paid,” said C. Chandrakanth, Project Director, District Water Management Agency, Rangareddy district who is pursuing the case. “We had asked them to show the proof in case they had made the payments. Till date, they could not do so and are indulging in time buying tactics. It is their responsibility to make sure that the payments reach the workers through proper channels. If they had failed to do so, they have to make that payment. The poor workers need to be paid with interest and we will fight till the case reaches a logical end,” Mr Chandrakanth said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

50. Allow flexibility to employees in PF deduction: Employees’ plea to govt (14)

New Delhi: Around 500 companies, including many big ones, have written to the Union government to allow employees more flexibility in their retirement funding. “The petition to the ministry of labour requests giving all employees three individual choices in deciding how they are paid their salary,” stated recruitment consultant TeamLease, also involved in drafting the petition. A person who has seen the petition said some of the companies are Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Enterprises, Larsen and Toubro Infotech, Mahindra Finance, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, HDFC Bank and Biocon. In a joint communique to Union labour secretary Gauri Kumar, these companies have asked that employees be given an option on whether or not to opt for the (currently statutory) 12 per cent deduction in their wages for contribution to the Provident Fund. “At present, 94 per cent of workers in India are working in the informal sector. Giving a choice to such employees will incentivise them to join the formal workforce,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, convenor of the effort on the petition and a co-founder of TeamLease. At present, both employees and employers mandatorily contribute 12 per cent each of the former’s salary towards employees’ PF contribution. This is applicable to any company employing more than 20 people. The petition asks for a choice to employees on whether to park the employer’s contribution with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) or the National Pension System, the latter regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  According to the norms, only salaried employees can contribute towards EPFO; any individual above 18 years of age can invest in NPS till the retirement age of 60. At present, EPFO doesn’t invest part of its total funds in the equity market but NPS can. “India’s labour laws mandate the highest salary  deductions among various countries in the world; in a cost-to-company term, this can mean a 44.31 per cent salary deduction for low wage employees. And, contrary to public objectives, this is only 5.32 per cent for high wage employees,” stated the letter. Economic data tells us that most low wage employees do not have such high saving rates and this leads to high attrition and informal employment, as these employees cannot live on half their salary, the letter added. “What safety net do we talk about when 94 per cent of employees are out of it? We want to give the workers a simple choice to divest their funds according to their needs,” said Chakraborty. Employers, she said, were keenly awaiting the Union government’s reaction in the coming Budget session of Parliament in February. Recently, the Union labour ministry had proposed some changes in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, to empower the government to waive or reduce the share of employees’ contribution towards the PF, if it feels the financial position of any class of companies covered under EPFO is getting weaker.(Business Standard 6/1/15)

51. Kerala pushes for more works under job scheme (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State on Tuesday requested the Union government to include more works, including paddy cultivation, dairy farming, coconut farming, and production of coir yarn, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In a memorandum submitted to Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, the State made the following suggestions: MGNREGS workers to be part of paddy production expansion initiatives by engaging in land development activities such as bunding, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvesting and so on, apart from weeding, tilling, and land preparation. Cleaning sheds, feeding and milking of cattle, and so on as part of dairy farming using MGNREGS workers. Use of the workers for removal of disease-affected juvenile palms, old and senile palms, and replanting as part of coconut farming Inclusion of coir production – husk collection, retting and defibering, spinning, and bundling Inclusion of Khadi and handloom work under MGNREGS and payment of wages to the workers under the scheme Minister for Rural Development K.C. Joseph submitted the memorandum. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

52. Unemployment Rate Up at 4.9% in FY14: Labour Ministry (14)

New Delhi: Unemployment rate in India rose to 4.9 per cent in 2013-14, mainly on account of an increase in joblessness in rural areas despite the government’s flagship employment scheme MGNREGA. According to the latest survey report by Labour Bureau, a wing of Labour Ministry, the unemployment rate inched up to 4.9 per cent at all India level last fiscal year, from 4.7 per cent in 2012-13. On the positive side, the unemployment rate dropped in urban areas to 5.5 per cent in 2013-14, from 5.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, although 93 per cent of the households in rural areas benefited from MGNREGA, the unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent last fiscal year, compared to 4.4 per cent a year ago. Unemployment rate among men increased to 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, from 4 per cent in 2012-13. Among women, it increased to 7.7 per cent last fiscal year, from 7.2 per cent in 2012-13. However, the unemployment rate among women came down to 12.4 per cent in urban areas, from 12.8 per cent in 2012-13. The study revealed that the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is estimated to be 52.5 per cent last fiscal year, whereas the Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is estimated to be 49.9 per cent. As many as 49.5 per cent people are estimated to be self-employed, followed by 30.9 per cent as casual labour, 16.5 per cent wage/salary earners and the rest 3 per cent as contract workers. About 60.5 per cent of people aged 15 years and above, who were available for work for all the 12 months during the period, were able to get work throughout the year. In rural and urban sectors, this proportion was 53.2 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively The ‘Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey 2013-14′ has been conducted in all the states/UTs by covering all the districts. The field work was executed from January to July last year. A total of 1,36,395 households were covered by the survey – 83,385 in rural areas and 53,010 in urban areas. (NDTV 8/1/15)

RESERVATION

53. ‘Quota for Dalits in Pvt Sector Essential’ (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Lok Janshakthi Party(LJP) leader and Union Minister for Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan said that providing quota for Dalits in jobs in the private sector was essential for their uplift in the country. Speaking to ‘Express’ here on Wednesday, he said that it was not true that the living conditions of the Dalits were remaining the same even several decades after Independence.“There are definitely changes in the living conditions. But it has to  get further momentum. But what has been there  is only job quota in government service. Even that too is not distributed in a just manner in all parts of the country. What is actually required for Dalits is quota in jobs in private sector as well,’’ he said. When pointed out that though he had been in various Union Cabinets since 1989 there is little  progress for the community to which he belonged, Paswan said  during the the first UPA regime he could persuade the  government to include the job quota for Dalits in private sector in its Common Minimum Programme(CMP). However, under the second UPA regime, it was deleted from the  CMP. When asked about the pathetic living conditions of Dalits in Bihar and UP despite the successive rule by parties of the Janata Pariwar and so-called  socialists, Paswan said it was true that  there was backwardness and poverty among the Dalits. He said the ‘’misrule’’ of the so-called Janata Parivar outfits which had been ruling the state of Bihar for the last several years, was responsible for the stagnation in overall development front. ‘’In Bihar, Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi ruled the state for 15 years. Under their misrule the state suffered a lot. Nitish Kumar who defeated them came to power promising a change. But now he is aligning with the Lalu. An alliance with Lalu Yadav means alliance with misrule. It was two days back that a police inspector was killed. Nitish Kumar is bringing back the Lalu raj in Bihar,’’ he said. Paswan hoped that if the SC, ST Parliamentary forum where all parties have representation could function effectively and bring the issues of Dalits to the government’s attention, there could be perceptible change and progress in the living conditions of the Dalits. (New Indian Express 1/1/15)

54. Muslim quota row: MIM to launch stir on Jan 6 (25)

Mumbai: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) will launch an agitation against Maharashtra government’s decision to scrap job reservations for Muslims. The party will hold a rally in Beed on January 6, to be addressed by party President Asaduddin Owaisi. MIM MLA from Aurangabad, Imtiaz Jaleel and Byculla MLA Waris Pahan will also be addressing the gathering which will be attended by party workers from across the state. The party has asked all MIM units to submit a memorandum to respective district collectors or tehsildars on January 6 to register their protest against the state government’s indifferent attitude towards reservation for Muslims, Jaleel said. “The state government has brought a bill in the Nagpur state legislative assembly session in December that will enable 16 per cent reservations for Marathas while refusing to bring an ordinance for continuing reservations for Muslims,” he said. The matter related to reservations for Muslims and Marathas is scheduled to be heard in the Bombay High Court, after the Supreme Court refused to entertain the petition of the state government. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

55. Muslims must stop demanding reservation: Najma Heptullah (7)

MUMBAI: Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptullah said on Saturday that Muslims should stop demanding reservation and should, instead, concentrate on empowering themselves with education and skills. On her second trip to the city after she joined the Narendra Modi-led cabinet, she was speaking the media and Muslim activists at Sahyadri Guest House, Malabar Hill, on Saturday, Heptullah said, “I have always maintained that reservation is a crutch, which saps the energy to face challenges. Muslims will not get reservation as the Constitution doesn’t allow quota on religious ground. I am a Muslim and a woman. Did I ever need reservation? The same applies to my fellow community members,” said Heptullah, claiming ignorance of the grounds on which the BJP government in the state has brought in a bill for Maratha reservation (16%) while keeping mum on the 5% Muslim reservation in government jobs and education declared by the Congress-NCP government. “I reiterate that Muslims should not waste time and energy, demanding quota as it is mere tokenism,” she said. She, however, promised to convey the disappointment of Muslims to the Maharashtra CM and the PM . Heptuallh said that of 7 lakh Wakf properties across the country, Maharashtra alone has 30,000. “If fully utilized, Wakf properties will generate around Rs 20,000 crore annually which can make the community self-reliant,” she said. Heptuallh announced the regional offices of National Minorities Development Finance Corporation which will undertake skill training of minorities. She said her department plans to set up a western regional office in Mumbai to take centre’s schemes to the beneficiaries in this part of the country. (Times of India 4/1/15)

56. Pvt Colleges in Vellore Force SC/ST Students To Pay Fees (25)

VELLORE: Private educational institutions in the district, completely disregarding a Government Order, have been forcing students belonging to SC/ST communities to pay tuition and examination fees and several of them have not been allowed to appear for the examination over non-payment of the fees. The failure of authorities to act promptly has given a free hand to the institutions to harass the students demanding that they pay the fee in contravention of the GO of June 2012. The GO  says the institution should not collect fees from the students of SC/ST communities and the same would be paid to the institution by the respective district Adi Dravidar welfare officer after receiving the fund from the State and Central governments. A group of second and third year students of Ranipet Institute of Technology said they had not received scholarship of `21,700 per year since their first year. They have paid anywhere between `10,000 and 22,500 depending on the fee structure per semester.  “Initially, the management said I need not pay a paise as the fees will be covered under the scholarship. But they asked me to pay `10,000, claiming that they will repay it after getting the scholarship amount from the government,” said a second year EEE student of the institution. The management even threatened that those SC students, who do not pay the fees, won’t be allowed to attend the exams. “We have been marked absent for the last two hours of our Friday class despite the fact that we attended them. We were marked absent for not paying the fees. The principal told us that we will not be allowed to attend the semester examination on Monday, if we fail to pay the fee,” the student added. “The same thing happened during the last semester,” said Kumar (name changed), a second year student of Mechanical Engineering. Several students were not allowed to attend the examination as well as the lab test during the second semester for the same reason. Kumar, along with about 45 students, petitioned the district administration on Monday to take suitable action against the college administration for not waiving the fees as per the government order. For the polytechnic course, the government gives `6,500 for government quota and `21,700 for management quota. The institutions do not disclose this to the students and admit them with the false promise that they can study free of cost. The problem is experienced across the State as most of the private institutions do not comply with the GO to waive the tuition and examination fees for the SC students, said an official in the Adi Dravidar Welfare Office in Vellore. “Students had not been issued exam hall tickets, citing non-payment of semester fees of `14,000,” said an official. (New Indian Exprerss 6/1/15)

57. Muslims deserve reservations, says Owaisi (25)

Beed: The former Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra kept the Muslim community backward and it deserves reservations, MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has said. The Sachar committee and other similar panels had recommended reservations for the Muslim community, he pointed out. “The Congress-NCP government kept the community backward and denied it benefit of reservations,” Owaisi alleged. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief was addressing an election rally here yesterday. As per the Articles 15 and 16 of Indian Constitution, a community which has remained backward should be given reservations, he said. The Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad clarified that his party is not against the reservation to the Marathas, but Muslims too should get their right. After the Bombay High Court stayed the Congress-NCP government’s decision to offer quotas to Marathas and Muslims last year, the new BJP-Shiv Sena government got passed a Bill in the state Assembly in December 2014 which gave reservation to Marathas in education and government jobs, but left out the Muslims. Owaisi also said that many Muslims are languishing in prisons without trial and even charge sheets are not filed for years together in such cases. Muslims account for only four per cent of Maharashtra police force and three to four per cent of government servants, therefore, reservation is necessary for them, he said. Journalist-turned MIM legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel said that Muslims were more backward than Dalits and for the last 65 years, they have been treated only as vote bank. “Now, the NCP and Congress are scared as we (MIM) have entered the fray. We will contest the municipal elections,” Jaleel said.  (Zee News 7/1/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

58. Bihar Human Rights Commission to digitize records in next three months (1)

PATNA: The Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) plans digitization of its records in the next three months for the convenience of petitioners. Addressing a press meet to apprise the media about the yearlong activities of the commission on Wednesday, BHRC chairman Bilal Nazki said, “While the number of cases coming to the rights panel has increased, the staff shortage keeps our hands tied. We hope the state government will appoint a registrar and an assistant registrar within a month, so that we are able to computerize our records.” The digitization of records will help outstation petitioners to check the status of their cases online. “A number of petitioners from far-off districts need to come to the commission or call to inquire about their cases. If the records are online, they’ll not need to come all the way to Patna,” Nazki said. A total of 5,598 cases were taken up by the BHRC in 2014, of which 3,688 were disposed off. “About 1,150 cases were rejected as they did not fall under the ambit of the commission. Over 80 cases were suo motu taken up by the commission on various issues,” he said. The commission has held sensitization programmes for students and police officers in the last few months. “We plan to take the sensitization programme for students to every district and form a task force which will help spread awareness among people. It is important that people become aware of human rights,” Nazki said. He added police officials in all districts, who directly interact with people, will also be covered under the sensitization programme. The commission also plans to organize interaction with the principal secretaries of various departments, so that solutions are obtained at the government level itself. BHRC members Neelmani said the commission held a briefing programme with IPS probationers on Wednesday. While most cases coming to the commission are related to police excesses, the commission also takes up various other types of cases, such as service matters, education and health sectors. BHRC member Justice Mandhata Singh and BHRC IG Pravin Vashista was also present on the occasion. (Times of India 1/1/15)

59. NHRC received 277 complaints on HR violations from JK this year (1)

Jammu: Signifying high incidence of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, National Human Rights Commission has received 277 complaints from the trouble torn state during the year 2014, taking the total number of complaints received by the HR watchdog in last five years to 1672. As per data available with Greater Kashmir, the commission has received 1672 complaints from J&K during last five years (till Nov 25, 2014). Out of these, 1180 have been disposed off while 288 are still pending with the Commission. In further breakup, the data reveals that in the year 2014, NHRC received 277 complaints till Nov 25, out of which 181 were disposed off and 96 are pending. In the year 2013, 389 cases were reported from the state of which 389 cases were disposed off and 73 are pending. In the year 2012, 411 cases were reported and 391 were disposed off while 20 are pending and during 2011, 371 cases were reported of which 272 were disposed off and 99 remained pending. The data further divulges that during 2010, NHRC received 224 complaints of which 206 were disposed off leaving 18 pending. Talking to Greater Kashmir, Secretary, State Human Rights Commission, Dilshad Ahmad Baba, said that maximum complaints reported to NHRC are about the excess by Army and paramilitary forces. He said that complaints related to state authorities are generally dealt by SHRC. Meanwhile, human rights activists in the State are of the opinion that the increase in registration of such cases was due to apathetic attitude of concerned authorities and less conviction rate. Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based HR activist, said rights violations were increasing with every passing day in the state which in turn has triggered civil resistance. He said that less conviction rate was the main reason for rise in human rights violations in the state. “On one hand government claims that Kashmir issue would be resolved through negotiations, on the other it uses every means to suppress the voice of the people,” he added. Jammu-based human rights activist Om Parkash expressed concern over indifference of authorities towards social injustice and the ‘defunct’ J&K State Human Rights Commission. (GreaterKashmir 1/1/15)

60. NHRC Seeks Report on Medical Neglect of Tribal Students (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Increasing incidents of medical neglect of ailing inmates of residential schools in tribal areas has drawn the attention of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Commission, which had asked the State Government to accord top priority to the health of inmates in tribal residential schools in November last year, has sought an action taken report on the matter. The direction has been issued on the basis of a petition filed by rights activist Akhand alleging serious neglect towards health concerns of the inmates. Neither were they provided with prompt and adequate medical care during illnesses nor were the guidelines on health check-up of the inmates complied with on a regular basis. The petitioner submitted that he had visited some residential schools in Rayagada district to find students and inmates living in utterly miserable conditions. The situation at Bankili High School under Konara block was the worst. “At the time of the visit, we found around seven students lying on the floor due to illness. On enquiring, we found that though they were unwell since days, they had not been taken to a doctor or accorded with proper treatment. They were being given medicines by consulting a local medicine store,” Akhand complained. He stated that the headmaster took the alibi of lack of fund provisioning by the Government for not taking the inmates to hospitals. Further, for a residential school that had around 600 boys and 110 girls, the infrastructure was pathetic. The kitchen was broken and food cooked in most unhygienic conditions leading to frequent health problems among the inmates. The authorities were totally indifferent to the health issues of the students. The petitioner drew attention of the Commission’s observations during its three-day camp sitting in Bhubaneswar in November last year, where it had broached on the very issue of health of the inmates. Commission member SC Sinha had called upon the Government to set up a unified structure involving different departments concerned as the School and Mass Education, ST and SC Development and Health to ensure proper coordination and effective redressal of education and health concerns. The Commission had also directed the Government to ensure that the ANMs and health workers pay proper attention to the health issues of inmates through regular visits and check-ups. However, the directions have not been acted upon, Akhand alleged. The NHRC has directed the ST and SC Development Department Secretary to submit action taken report within four weeks. (New Indian Express 5/1/15)

61. Rights body to give legal help to torture victim (1)

KOLKATA: The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) has decided to provide legal support to a young man who was allegedly tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata. Bapi Rajbanshi of a South Kolkata slum was allegedly kicked several times in his genitals and rectum by Pritam Sekhar of the Gariahat police station. These led to severe injuries. The APDR is a Kolkata-based human rights organisation. The officer-in-charge of the police station, Ujjal Ray, has questioned the authenticity of the allegation. “If Mr. Rajbanshi and his family give their consent, then we will provide them legal assistance. But the case would be much stronger if he files it himself,” APDR vice-president Ranajit Sur told The Hindu here on Tuesday. In case they did not want to file the case themselves, the APDR would file a Public Interest Litigation in the Calcutta High Court. (The Hindu 7/1/15)

62. NHRC takes cognizance of reports about price hike of medicines (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today issued notices to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Ministry of Commerce and Fertilizers and National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority over reports of hike in the prices of cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “The Commission has taken a suo-motu cognizance of a media report alleging that withdrawal of an order by the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) which may lead to arbitrary hike in the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs. “Such a decision may amount to violation or denial of right to health to poor and marginalized citizens of the country,” the Commission said. The NHRC has sought a report from the concerned authorities in the matter within six weeks. Reportedly, the NPPA withdrew its May 29, 2014 guidelines on September 22, 2014 which were meant for putting a cap on the prices of 108 cardiovascular and anti-diabetes drugs to insulate them from arbitrary hikes through market mechanisms. The decision to do so followed an order dated September 19, 2014 of the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP). This does not present any robust logic for doing away with a policy that was aimed at easing access of common man to medicines. While issuing the notices, the Commission has also observed that the availability of essential drugs at reasonable prices is extremely important for fullest enjoyment of right to health by the citizens of the country, especially the poor and the marginalized. Withdrawal of the guidelines dated May 29, 2014 is likely to impinge upon the access of common man to health and medicare.  (Business Standard 8/1/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

63. Madras HC: Right or wrong, court orders must be obeyed (19)

CHENNAI: Right or wrong, obey court orders, especially when the order is not appealed against or stayed, the Madras high court has said. Justice M Venugopal, refusing to initiate contempt of court proceedings against state information commissioner P Tamilsevan said, “An order passed, right or wrong, has to be obeyed. If a party is affected by an order, he ought to take prompt/diligent steps in resorting to further appellate or revision proceedings in accordance with law. He cannot ignore the order and plead about the difficulties of implementation at the time of initiation of contempt proceedings.” The matter relates to an application filed by Vijaya, who wanted information from the Andipatti deputy tahsildarunder the RTI Act. When the officer could not furnish the information, she moved the information commission for action in December 2013. Due to delay in action, she then moved the HC. She filed the present petition saying he had violated the HC order. In case of contempt, Justice Venugopal said an apology could not be used as a defence to purge the guilt of contempt. (Times of India 2/1/15)

64. Jail terms proposed for racial bias – NE discrimination panel suggestions accepted (19)

New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Centre today said it was “considering” two new penal code provisions to punish racial discrimination and racial insults, recommended by a panel as a safeguard for people from the Northeast living elsewhere in the country. Home minister Rajnath Singh announced a slew of other measures too for migrants from the region while signalling acceptance of the M.P. Bezbaruah committee’s recommendations. Officials clarified that the proposed Sections 153C and 509A would be general enough to cover anyone from any part of India facing any kind of racial bias. The law and justice ministry has agreed to the amendments, they added. Section 153C relates to “imputations, assertions prejudicial to human dignity” and aims to punish any discriminatory act on the basis of race or racial customs, behaviour or way of living. The draft provision says that if such an act causes or is likely to cause alarm or a feeling of insecurity among members “of that racial group”, it can attract a jail term of up to five years. It will be a non-bailable offence. Section 509A relates to “word, gesture or act intended to insult a member of a particular racial group or of any race”.One common complaint voiced by people from the Northeast is of being taunted with terms such as “chinky” or “Chinese”. Insulting a person on the basis of their place of origin or racial features or behavioural pattern will now be a bailable offence carrying a maximum prison term of three years. The Bezbaruah panel was set up in February after the lynching of teenaged Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania at a Delhi market on January 30 last year. It handed in its report in July, with the Centre committing to act on it within six months. “This is the sixth month, so we had to announce it now,” Rajnath said when asked if the announcement had been timed with an eye on the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections. Bezbaruah, a member of the North Eastern Council – which advises the Centre on the region’s social and economic development – welcomed the Centre’s announcement. “We had stated in our report that the immediate measure should be to amend the IPC while a debate goes on about a full-fledged anti-racial legislation,” he said over the phone from Shillong. Activists issued a qualified welcome. Binalakshmi Nepram, whom the Bezbaruah panel had consulted, said Rajnath had “skimmed through” some of the committee’s recommendations. For instance, Rajnath announced that the Delhi police would recruit 20 personnel from each of the eight northeastern states whereas the panel had recommended recruitment of 600 cops from the region, Nepram said. Rajnath also announced a panel of two male and five women lawyers to provide legal assistance to people from the Northeast in Delhi. “The Delhi government will also be providing compensation and monetary assistance to the Northeast people under the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011,” he said. (Telegraph 3/1/15)

65. PIL challenges NJAC in Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: A former solicitor general has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of Parliament enacted law which scrapped the 20-year-old apex court-evolved ‘judges appointing judges’ procedure, popularly known as collegium system. Former ASG Bishwajit Bhattacharyya termed the law creating a high-level National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) as a direct attack on the independence of judiciary and requested the court to quash it. Headed by Chief Justice of India, the 6-member NJAC would include two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Union law minister and two eminent people. One of the eminent people would be chosen from among scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, minorities, Other backward classes or women. “Primacy and vital role of the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) under article 124, 127, 128, 217 and 222 of the Constitution have been knocked out and has been substituted by NJAC where even two non-judge members could veto the choice of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court,” the petitioner said. “This amounts to a frontal attack on the office of CJI and two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and, therefore, this subverts independence of the judiciary, doctrine of separation of power and the basic feature of India’s Constitution,” he said. Bhattacharyya said it amounted to subversion of the Constitution by the executive to take over judiciary’s task of appointing and transferring judges of superior courts and was incongruent to fair play since the executive government itself was the biggest litigant in courts. “The NJAC Act and amendment of the Constitution are unconstitutional and violate the basic structure of India’s Constitution, as various clauses stipulated therein make a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary as also on the doctrine of separation of powers,” the petitioner said. The SC had earlier refused to intervene on the issue of Constitutional validity of the amendment when the Bill was passed by Parliament saying it was a premature to challenge. But it had allowed Bhattacharyya and other petitioners to move the court if other states approved the law leading to its notification. NJAC received presidential assent on December 31. (Times of India 6/1/15)

66. Government promulgates ordinance merging PIO, OCI schemes (19)

NEW DELHI: The Citizenship (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015, promulgated on Tuesday, relaxes the condition of one-year continuous stay in India before applying for Indian citizenship and allows a minor child born to Indian citizens to be registered as an overseas citizen of India (OCI). As per the amended Act, if the Central government is satisfied that special circumstances exist, it may, after recording such circumstances in writing, relax the period of one-year uninterrupted stay in the country, and allow different breaks not exceeding 30 days, for travel abroad. Besides providing for registeration of a minor whose parents are Indian citizens as OCI, the Ordinance also paves the way for registration as OCI by a child or a grand-child or a great grandchild of such a citizen. The new legislation enables registeration as OCI by such spouse of a citizen of India or spouse of an OCI registered under Section 7A and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the citizenship application. The Ordinance allows the government to specify, by a gazette notification, a particular date from which all existing PIO card holders will be deemed to be OCI cardholders. The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition, termination, deprivation, determination of Indian citizenship and other related aspects. The Act provides for acquisition of Indian citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory under certain circumstances. (Times of India 7/1/15)

67. Jain community’s PIL wants say in minority commissions (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to consider a representation by the Jain community demanding to be treated on par with other minorities and given representation in the state and national minority commissions. Akhil Bhartiya Jain Mahasabha (ABJM) in its PIL alleged that the governments had been pursuing policy to appease the Muslim community alone by extending the benefits meant for minorities while ignoring other similarly placed communities. The petitioner said even after being declared a minority community, it had not got any governmental financial assistance as was given to other minority communities. Till date only 11 states have recognized Jains as minority group, it said and alleged that the Centre was not responding to its representation on this issue. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice A K Sikri, after a brief hearing, asked the Centre to consider the earlier representation given by the Jain community. ABJM alleged the government had ignored the interests of the Jain community. “The government has adopted an appeasement policy towards Muslims and in the name of the minorities all the benefits are being given to this community whereas other minorities are not being given the same benefit and status. It has come to notice and it is a matter of record that the government has always appointed chairman of Minority Commission from a particular community. The Muslim community is given the major share in the representation ignoring the interest of Jains. Till date no member of this community has found representation either in the State Minority Commission or in the National Minority Commission,” the petition said. Petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Sharma contended that there must be uniform criteria for governmental assistance to minority communities without any discrimination. The purpose of categorizing Jains as minority community would fail if they were not treated equally with other minority groups, he said. “The budget allocation and financial assistance for minorities by the Central/state governments is being utilized only for serving the political end and such assistance is totally denied to the Jain Community,” he said. Jain community was declared a minority community in January last year. Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christian and Zoroastrians were declared minority groups way back in 1993. (Times of India 8/1/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

68. Picked up by police, mechanic kills self; kin allege custodial torture (1)

CHENNAI: A 24-year-old two-wheeler mechanic committed suicide by hanging at his house on Friday after being allegedly tortured in custody at the Kilpauk police station. Relatives of Sudarshan staged a protest in front of the city police commissionerate seeking action against Ezhilarasan, the sub-inspector of the station. They said he was repeatedly taken to the police station many times since December 25. They alleged he was stripped and beaten up. They said police forced Sudarshan’s mother to pay 2,000 for his release. On Friday evening, Ezhilarasan took Sudarshan from his house claiming that a two-wheeler needed to be repaired at the station. He only returned around 8pm. “He was upset and in a bad mood. He committed suicide when his mother went out,” a relative said. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. A relative said the police officer used to collect money from Sudarshan, who has been running a roadside vehicle mechanic shop after his father died three years ago. (Times of India 4/1/15)

69. AFSPA extended in Assam by another year (1)

Guwahati: The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring Assam as a ‘disturbed area’ for another year beyond November 3 last, a State government release said here on Saturday. “The Government of India vide order dated November 4, 2014 has extended the earlier notification regarding ‘disturbed areas’ under the provisions of Section 3 of the AF(SP) Act 1958 for another one year beyond November 3, 2014 which is presently in force,” the release said. “The Government of India in exercise of powers under AF(SP) Act, 1958 has also declared, besides other areas, the area falling within 20 km wide belt in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya along their border with the Assam as disturbed area,” it said. “The Government of India extended and issued the notification after considering the law and order situation in Assam due to the violent incidents caused by the underground outfits,” it said. (The Hindu 4/1/15)

70. Youth alleges torture by cop (1)

Kolkata: More than a month after an “unprovoked” attack by a policeman, a young man is still in trauma even as he is recuperating in a city hospital. Bapi Rajbanshi (28), a casual worker in a flower shop, says he was kicked repeatedly by a police officer in his genitals and rectum leading to profuse bleeding. Bapi, who lives in a South Kolkata slum, is recuperating in a city hospital. On Sunday, Bapi, told The Hindu that he was tortured by a police officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata “without any provocation.” The incident took place in the last week of November. “Pritam Sekhar, an officer of Gariahat police station in South Kolkata, caught hold of me and asked if I am an extortionist. On denying the claim, he started to beat me recklessly and took me inside the (Gariahat) police station,” alleged Bapi, lying on a hospital bed. However, the assault did not stop here. He was taken inside the station and beaten. In her complaint to officer in charge of the police station Ujjal Ray, the victim’s mother Bani Rajbanshi wrote, “…in presence of other police officers (my son) was brutally and inhumanly assaulted by fist blows and kicks” thus causing “severe pain (from) injuries (in the) abdomen and private parts” and he started urinating “black blood.” In the same complaint, a copy of which is with The Hindu, Ms Rajbanshi said that her “son’s condition deteriorated” as blood kept flowing with urine and he had to go through prolonged treatment in various hospitals. Eventually, on December 5, Rajbanshi was admitted to SSKM Hospital. While Bapi is clueless as to why he was assaulted, his lawyer Bimalkanti Danda claims that instead of taking any legal action against the accused officer, the police “locked my client after beating him severely”.Mr. Ujjal Ray, however, questioned the authenticity of the allegation against Mr. Sekhar. “As per the complaint, the assault took place on November 30, 2014. Then why was the complaint letter submitted almost a month later on December 29?” When asked whether any action had been taken against Mr. Sekhar, he said “inquiry is going on”. Explaining the reasons for the delay, Mr Danda said, “Within a few days of the assault, Ms Rajbanshi went to the police station several times, but her complaint was not registered. She was made to sit in the police station for hours every time she went there. Only after she sought legal help, did the police receive the written complaint.” He also claimed that the police asked Bapi “to keep shut if he wants to survive”. The officials however, refused to deny or confirm if the police station has an officer named Pritam Sekhar. “There is confusion about the name,” said an officer. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

71. Six cops suspended for custodial death (1)

LUCKNOW: In another case of “khaki terror” in Uttar Pradesh, six policemen were suspended in Agra district for their alleged involvement in a case of suspected custodial death of a 24-year-old youth. The suspended cops were posted at the Achhnera police station and action followed after a case under Section 302 of IPC against was registered on Sunday on a complaint by the deceased’s father. State IG (Law and Order) A..Satish Ganesh said the suspension order was issued late on Sunday night by the Agra SSP. Those suspended are Station House Officer Arun Kumar, head constable Jagdish Prasad and constables Ram Nath, Prem Narain, Suresh Babu and Manoj Kumar. He said the details of the case have been sent by the Agra SSP to the State ADG (Human Rights) and the other relevant authorities. Mr.Ganesh said the deceased’s autopsy was conducted on Monday and his body was handed over to his relatives. He told reporters police investigations have revealed that five cases, including a case of auto lifting at the Fatehpur Sikri police station, had been registered against him. The deceased, identified as Sanjay, was detained by the Achhnera police on Sunday on charges of motorbike lifting. He is alleged to have been beaten by the policemen as a result of which he died.Meanwhile, two other policemen, said to be relatives of Vir Pal Singh Yadav, one of the accused in the alleged rape of a minor in a police station in Badaun district, were suspended on Monday. Mr. Ganesh said efforts are underway to arrest the two constables, Vir Pal Singh Yadav and Avnish Yadav. They are absconding. (The Hindu 6/1/15)

72. 3 Chennai cops to face action for teen’s sexual torture in custody (1)

CHENNAI: A probe into the alleged sexual torture of a teenager in police custody has found the involvement of three police personnel. The CB-CID wing of the city police, which conducted the investigation following a report in TOI on the incident, has submitted its report and sources said departmental action will be initiated against the three police personnel soon. The 19-year-old, who was arrested for snatching a mobile phone from a woman, was allegedly forced to indulge in sexual acts with three minors in custody. The incident came to light after the youth, who was subsequently lodged in Puzhal prison, fell ill and doctors who examined him found severe infection and injuries on his private parts. He was admitted to a government hospital, where he underwent a surgery. Tamil Nadu director general of police Ashok Kumar directed CB-CID probe the allegation. Four SPs – P Perumal, T S Anbu, M V Jaya Gowri and V Nagajothi – were assigned to probe the case. They inquired with doctors at Government Royapettah Hospital, where the youth was treated, the prison doctor, prison officials, policemen, the youth, the three minors and their family members, before preparing their report. Sources said the report submitted to the DGP has confirmed the involvement of three policemen in the teen’s torture in the Mambalam police station on December 10. The report will be sent back to CB-CID for registering a case against the three policemen and carrying out further investigation. “A formal order will be issued on Wednesday,” a police officer said. During the investigation, all the 62 police personnel attached to the Mambalam police station were summoned for the identification parade held at the CB-CID office. The youth identified the three policemen in the presence of the investigation officer, superintendent of police Perumal, sources said. Police sources said special sub-inspector Ramadoss nabbed the youth for snatching a mobile from a pedestrian and handed him over to Mambalam police on December 10. Subsequently, police slapped four more bike theft and robbery cases on him. On the same day, they also arrested three minors on theft charges and kept them in the police station. It was alleged that the youth was forced to indulge in anal sex and oral sex with the minors. The next day, the three minors were admitted in a juvenile home and the youth was sent to Puzhal prison. (Times of India 7/1/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

73. Government blocks 32 websites to check ISIS propaganda (1)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has blocked 32 websites, including vimeo.com, dailymotion.com, pastebin.com and github.com, in an effort to curb ISIS propaganda, prompting a wave of online protests. An Indian “hacktivist” group, Anonymous India, has threatened reprisal. By Wednesday evening, however, websites that had complied with the government order to remove objectionable content had been unblocked, sources said. A confidential department of telecom order, dated December 17, instructing all internet service licensees to block the websites appeared online on Wednesday. When contacted to verify the news, Dr Gulshan Rai, director of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), told TOI the directions had been issued to internet service providers following a Mumbai additional chief metropolitan magistrate’s November order directing the government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) to implement the same. He added that Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had approached the judiciary after interrogating Arif Majeed, a 23-year-old ISIS recruit from Kalyan. More recently, Bengaluru professional Mehdi Biswas was arrested for allegedly spreading ISIS propaganda on Twitter. “These websites were being used to invite youths to join ISIS. We had contacted the websites sometime back and asked for the removal of the objectionable content. At that time, our communications were ignored. Some of them have now agreed to work with the government. The websites that have complied are being unblocked,” Rai told TOI. The move met with opposition from the online community. While the tech community opposed the Github ban, others were upset about video-sharing websites like dailymotion.com and vimeo.com being taken down. “By blocking vimeo and dailymotion along with other websites, India is walking in the footsteps of Pakistan,” tweeted @baawraman. The list of websites in the DoT document was heavy on large text-sharing and collaboration websites, like Github and Pastebin, popular with coders and software developers. Many objected to the blocking of entire websites instead of specific URLs hosting problematic content. However, Rai explained that individual URLs could not be blocked because of the “high mobility of content” on the websites. “It can just be removed and pasted elsewhere. There are no checks and balances,” he said. Hacktivist group Anonymous India tweeted, “One fine morning, Indian government decided to block sites like Github. Now now, it is time to wake-up. Government of India, Expect Us,” a tweet from their handle @opindia_revenge said. As questions began to be raised on social networks, BJP IT cell head Arvind Gupta tweeted, “The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, and were carrying anti-India content from ISIS. The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked.” The sustainability of counter-measures like blanket blocking to contain threats is being questioned. Prasanth Sugathan, counsel at Software Freedom and Law Center, said such a move is short-sighted. “If you block one website, terrorists can always use another one. Or they will move to using encrypted channels, peer-to-peer communication or even telephones. One can’t block everything. In my opinion, such a move only inconveniences the daily users and doesn’t solve the long-term purpose,” said Sugathan. The sentiment was echoed by common Twitter users as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet from August 2012 condemning blanket blocking of websites was pulled out for recirculation. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. ‘Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan.’ #GOIBlocks,” Modi had tweeted on August 24, 2012. Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bengaluru-based Center for Internet and Society, questioned the lack of transparency around the practice of blocking websites under the Indian law. “Qn for govt: Why does the law require secrecy of web blocking orders when it doesn’t allow such secrecy for books, films? #GoIBlocks,” he tweeted, adding, “The 69A Rules don’t allow for transparency, accountability, time-limits on blocks, etc. So easily misused by govt. + courts + individuals.” The websites were blocked under section 69 A of the IT Act, 2000 and the IT (Procedure and sdafeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) rules, 2009. Currently, the Supreme Court is in the middle of hearing a clutch of petitions challenging several IT Act provisions, including blocking and takedown of websites. (Times of India 1/1/15)

74. Media should criticize, maintain credibility: PM Modi (1)

KOLHAPUR: Media should focus on maintaining credibility of news and emphasize on criticism instead of making allegations. Criticism of government work helps us run the administration more efficiently, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kolhapur on Saturday. “It is sad that today media emphasises on allegations instead of criticism. Allegations are simple and there is no responsibility to prove them. But when it comes to criticism, the reporter has to work hard, analyse the information and then file the story for which he is responsible. This brings credibility to the newspapers,” he said while speaking at a function organised to mark 75 years of the foundation of a Marathi daily. The prime minister said that criticism is important for strengthening the democratic institutions of the country. “This helps in keeping a check on all the government and NGOs. All the departments of the government and semi-government institutions should welcome the criticism. Criticism on government offices helps us to run the government more efficiently,” he said. Modi said that the media today faces an important challenge of credibility. Media persons have to take responsibility to maintain this credibility because everyone trusts the media more than anyone else, he said, adding that the role of media has changed from what it was 30 years ago. In his 18-minute speech, the leader cast a glance on the journey of newspapers from the day’s of the country’s freedom struggle. “The media has played major role in India’s freedom struggle. Even during the emergency, when major leaders were in the jail and there were restrictions on newspapers, people wanted to know the truth. The newspapers then played a major role in providing true information to the people and nurtured their faith in the democracy.” The event at the police parade ground in the city was held amid tight security. Maharashtra governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Union railway minister Nitin Gadkari and Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu also attended the function. Dignitaries from Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara across all the sections of society also attended the function. (Times of India 4/1/15)

75. Scribes set to meet CM over increasing assaults (1)

NAGPUR: Members of Nagpur Union of Working Journalists (NUWJ) plan to meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday over increasing assaults and police’s apathy to take such incidents seriously. The senior office-bearers of Tilak Patrakar Bhavan Trust are also expected to join the deputation. Apart from meeting Fadnavis, NUWJ president Shirish Borkar stated that detailed information regarding a series of assaults and threats on scribes would be sent to the President of India. “We also have plans to send a detailed report to the Press Council of India, central and state human rights commission and other bodies regarding the recent incidents of harassment to the media persons working in the field,” said Borkar. He added that several journalists, including TOI’s scribes, have been humiliated but no concrete action has been initiated by the city police chief KK Pathak. “Police have been curtailing media’s freedom of expression,” he said. In a recent incident, an assistant PI from Ajni police station snatched camera and boom of GTPL cable news reporters and allegedly manhandled them on Monday while the journalists were covering an agitation. The equipment of the reporter was also damaged in the process. Trust president Pradip Kumar Maitra also appealed to the members of the NUWJ to remain ready for a bigger agitation against the establishments for reinstating the rights of media expression. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

76. No lives were lost in riots, violence (7)

NEW DELHI: Communal tension and law and order arrangements kept Delhi Police on its toes for most part of the year. However, not a single life was lost during these incidents as cops successfully managed to curb the violence in time. When Trilokpuri simmered with violence, Delhi Police judged the situation well in time and acting promptly which saved precious lives. It was not easy to control the mob which had anti-social elements inciting the public and leading them into initiating violence. Gunshots were fired and stones and Molotov cocktails were hurled in plenty. However, the cops not just handled the crises well but led by special commissioner (law & order) Deepak Mishra they also went on to use modern gadgetry like drones for surveillance and operational purposes. This was tried for the first time by any police force during riots. Cops fished out numerous sacks of stones, bricks and bottles kept hidden on the rooftops with the help of drones. As an aftermath of Trilokpuri riots, trouble mounted in areas like Bawana, Khajuri, Okhla, among others. Also, the Karbala issue did not give cops room to breathe along with multiple cases of violence throughout the year. Policemen also fared well in managing 11,890 protests and demonstrations in the city apart from managing peaceful Lok Sabha elections. With the figure shooting up to 4,170, Dharnas doubled from 2013 when the count was just 1,836. Demonstrations also almost doubled from 1,467 in 2013 to 2,409 in 2014. There were 1,044 processions carried out as well. The year also had the cops busy with visits of foreign dignitaries, including Chinese president XI Jinping and Vladimir Putin from Russia, amongst several others dignitaries. Tension also erupted when Kawariyas carrying out their Yatra in the city. (Times of India 3/1/15)

77. Tension in central Mumbai after communal clash (7)

MUMBAI: Tension prevailed at Lalbaug after a group of people allegedly hit people from another community at around 10pm on Sunday. Heavy police bandobast was deployed near Lalbaug flyover and all the bikers were being frisked and examined for their documents. A bike was reportedly set on fire. The reason for the tension between two groups was not clear. Sources said that a group of boys from a community were returning after attending Eid-e-Milad procession at south Mumbai when they got involved in a heated argument with some boys from another community at Lalbaug. The situation went out of control and some bikers were hit. A group of people, who hit the boys, was carrying lathis in their hand. A sizeable number of police personnel were dispatched to the spot and police restricted entry of vehicles from south towards north end at Lalbaug. Traffic routes were diverted. “There was no curfew but a curfew like situation. People were running to reach home early knowing the tensed situation,” said a source. A Sion resident woman who had gone to meet her friend at Tardeo was returning home in a cab along with her two year old baby when she saw people running helter skelter. “I got scared there were too many people running on the road. We didn’t know what exactly happened. I could see a large number of policemen all over the roads. All the flyovers till Sion were completely jam packed. Near King’s Circle, cops were checking all bikers, perhaps their documents too, and police vehicles were seen stationed,” she told TOI. An additional police commissioner said that the issue was sorted out and things were under control. No casualty or injury was reported to the police till news going to the press. DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, city police’s official spokesperson, was not available for comment. (Times of India 4/1/15)

78. Hyderabad’s Kishanbagh suffers in aftermath of communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: A religious flag was allegedly burnt. The result was ghastly: two communities clashed, stones were pelted, shots were fired, houses were burnt and lives were lost. But now, a good nine months after the incident, normalcy refuses to return to Kishanbagh, where communal clashes between Sikhs and Muslims broke out last May. The riots, triggered by the burning of the Nishan Saheb (Sikh religious flag), escalated into a major clash between the members of Sikh Chavani and the Muslims. The two groups have always had little waves of trouble every now and then, but this was a first major incident that saw three people losing their lives and over 50 injured. The riots were finally halted by imposing a curfew which lasted for over a week. However, the story did not end there. Following the riots, Rajendranagar police decided to nip the problem in the bud. As a result, many arrests from both communities were made. But, there were reports that security forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF), had not done enough. There was considerable flak which the police faced for having ordered firing to quell the mob in the area, dominated by around 1,500 Sikhs and over 4,000 Muslims. “After the riots, they arrested many people from our community. Over 40 people were taken in custody and kept there for a couple of weeks before being granted conditional bail,” says Tej Bahadur Singh. Tej himself was put in custody on charges of rioting and attempt to murder. He along with 40 others now has to go to the police station every week to sign, which he says is a cause of concern to them. “Riots happened from both sides. But what has followed has put a lot of our lives in trouble. We have to go to the police station every week for a signature. Sometimes we are called on immediate notice and have to rush to the station. This keeps us from returning to our normal lives and ends up interfering with our work,” he explains. As a result of the constant checking and search operations by the police, normal life in the area has taken a big hit. The people who are accused of the violations have to be available at the police station at short notices which has caused many of them to lose their jobs. In addition, the inquiry has caused many of the traders to lose their business as they are frequently at the police station to record statements. The case is no different with those from the other community. “The riots were a really bad thing that happened. What has followed is worse. There is no communal tension as of now, but then, the cops keep coming and checking for irregularities. Sometimes it ends up interfering with our normal lives,” explains Md Abdul Samad, a resident of Kishanbagh. “There are times we wish the clashes never really happened,” adds a concerned Samad. The cops, however, feel that they are right in carrying out the cordon and search operation. Kishanbagh has been known for such clashes for quite some time now. Mostly small groups clash and the issue is taken care of before it spirals into a big controversy like the last one. However, after the riots of May, the cops have increased the intensity of dealing with such issues. Despite that 17 people are yet to surrender on various counts of violation of law. (Times of India 7/1/15)

COMMUNALISM

79. VHP: PK makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way (26)

Demanding a ban on Aamir Khan-starrer “PK”, right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Tuesday termed the film part of a larger scheme to discredit Hindu religion and rituals. VHP spokesman Vinod Bansal told IANS that they have also demanded an overhaul in the film censor board which approved the movie, and a “change in its character” is needed. “The movie makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way. For those who are saying it hits at other religions too, all together the scenes of attack on Christianity and Islam will last for two minutes. But for the rest of two and half hours or more, they keep making fun of Hinduism,” said Bansal, on a day when protests were held at cinema halls in Delhi screening the film. “The movie is so insensitive, the character was an alien, but the director was not,” he said. Bansal called it a part of a scheme to discredit Hindu rituals. “We want an immediate ban on the movie, and the government needs to change the character of the censor board. Every one says that we should not have problem when the censor board has cleared the movie, the question is who is heading the board…” he said. Bansal added that National Investigation Agency (NIA) must probe the source of funding for the movie, after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s claim that the movie was funded by ISI. Asked about the vandalism, the spokesman said: “Are the theatres not guilty of screening the movie and being a party to the malignant agenda.” He also claimed that there was no vandalism in Delhi theatres. “We staged peaceful protest at Delite cinema, and another protest at Priya cinema”.Asked to air his objections on the movie, Bansal said there is a long list. (Times of India 1/1/15)

80. Hindu Mahasabha wants Gandhi image off currency notes.. (26)

LUCKNOW: The Hindu Mahasabha is going full on to uphold its agenda of propagating Nathuram Godse’s ideology. In a fresh move, the Hindu Mahasabha has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Mahatama Gandhi’s photo be replaced on Indian currency notes with that of Veer Shivaji, Maharana Pratap along with image of B R Ambedkar who gave the country the Constitution post-Independence. So far, Ambedkar had been hailed as a Dalit icon by the Bahujan Samaj Party and its chief Mayawati to woo backward classes, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati had been by and large successful in her objective until 2014 Lok Sabha election, where Modi wave is said to have dented the Dalit votebank of the BSP to a certain extent giving hope to the BJP, which is patronised by the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh (RSS), to woo them to party fold in the run up to Vidhan Sabha election scheduled to be held in 2017. Though Hindu Mahasabha claims having no association with the RSS whatsoever, ideologically speaking both the mahasabha and sangh pariwar sail on the same boat as far as “undivided Hindu nation” theory is concerned. The mahasabha has also urged the PM to stop universities and colleges from teaching students that Mahatama Gandhi is “father of the nation” when the same has not been done officially by the government. Hindu Mahasabha’s fresh demands follow plan to install bust at several places and construct a temple of Godse in Sitapur district. It is a one-month long awareness campaign that would continue until January 30, the day Mahatama Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, said Kamlesh Tiwari, who claims to be working president of the mahasabha which plans to observe January 30 as “shaurya diwas” putting up photographs of Godse at parks and other community centres and propagating his ideology on the day. Officially, it is observed as Martyrs Day. The shaurya diwas would be observed in 20 districts throughout the country. A Hindu Mahasabha delegation from the mahasabha would seek time from the prime minister and meet him in a bid to apprise him about the need to propagate Godse’s ideology, Tiwari said. (Times of India 4/1/15)

81. Godhra RSS school urges students to collect money for Madhav Vidyapeeth (26)

Vadodara: The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra, run by the RSS education wing Vidyabharti, have been asked to collect donations for helping run a similar school in Bharuch. The students of Class VI-VIII are busy collecting “donations” for their sister-concern RSS school, Madhav Vidyapeeth, located at Kakadkui village in Bharuch district. The donations are aimed to “help educate children of tribals” in Bharuch as Madhav Vidyapeeth does not charge any fees from the students. The students of Saraswati Vidyalaya in Godhra have been collecting funds as part of an assignment from their school ahead of Makar Sankranti on January 14. Madhav Vidyapeeth is the latest addition to the list of RSS-run schools in Gujarat. The parents of students studying there, mostly form backward classes, said they were not informed about the assignment. A parent, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We expect the school to at least inform parents about such assignments being given to students to collect donations. Our children are going around the town after school hours asking unknown people for money to fill up the leaflets. Most students feel responsible about the assignments and it must be communicated to parents .” The trustee of Saraswati Vidyalaya, Prakash Soni, who is also a Sangh member, says the exercise will instil a “sense of responsibility” in the minds of the children and is not mandatory. Soni told The Indian Express, “The funds are being collected for Madhav Vidyapeeth in Bharuch which imparts education to tribal children from 125 villages free of cost. There are 300 schools in Gujarat run by Vidyabharti. A Vidyabharti leaflet distributed during the Madhav Vidyapeeth inauguration in Kakadkui said, “Vidyabharti is educating tribals to make sure they are aware of what is happening around them. It is unfortunate that people see Vidyabharti as a violent organisation. It is not true. The aim is to educate through the tenets of Hindu way of life.” (Indian Express 8/1/15)

82. Durga Vahini uses morphed Kareena image to reconvert ‘love jihad’ victims (26)

This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. PTI file photo of Durga Vahini members. This is one magazine cover that will not make Kareena Kapoor too happy. A morphed image of the actress in half a niqab, was used by the Durga Vahini to launch another campaign to ‘reconvert’ hindu women who have married muslim men. The image which was used on the cover of the latest issue of Himalaya Dhwani also ran with the rider of ‘conversion of nationality through religious conversion’. Rajni Thukral, who brings out the magazine was quoted in Hindustan Times, as saying, “Sixteen Hindu women who married Muslim men posing as hindus have approached us for ghar wapsi. We have already reconverted two. One has also been remarried,”. Durga Vahini, is the young women’s wing of the VHP where women between the ages of 15-35 are taught self-defence techniques. It has in the past been known for starting riots in Bijnor in 1990 and also ransacking the Orrisa assembly in 2002. (Deccan Herald 8/1/15)

TERRORISM

83. Probe agencies want single anti-terror mechanism (12)

NEW DELHI: Investigating agencies have recommended the setting up of a central anti-terror mechanism placing intelligence and investigation wings under a single command for more coordinated action against emerging internal security challenges. The Union Home Ministry has received a proposal that such a unified body, encompassing the intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination wing; forensic divisions; and investigation and prosecution wings, be created through an executive order. The Central Bureau of Investigation was also set up in the same manner under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. It has been suggested that the Multi Agency Centre and the operations wings of the Intelligence Bureau, other than those dealing with political intelligence, be brought under the new setup. “However, many IB officers have expressed reservations about such a mechanism. They also have concerns about the safety and security of field officers and the secrecy of covert operations,” said a senior official. Arguing for insulating the intelligence wing from any vulnerability under the proposed single command, some security experts said all the divisions could function independently. “In fact, we need such a mechanism, as investigations into cases of Left-wing extremism are altogether different from those involving outfits like the Indian Mujahideen. We need dedicated units to pursue specific areas,” an official said. Even the National Investigation Agency, which has statutory powers under the NIA Act to probe terrorism cases either with the consent of the State governments or on the direction of the Union Home Ministry, can be brought in as the investigation and prosecution wing. It was after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack that the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, suggested setting up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), on the lines of the one in the United States and the British Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, for coordinated counter-terror operations. However, concerned that such an agency could well be abused by the Centre for political ends, many Chief Ministers struck down the idea primarily because the unit was to function under the Intelligence Bureau and, unlike the U.S. agency, it would be empowered to conduct searches and arrests under Sections 43 and 43A of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In 2012, the Centre came up with an office memorandum defining the functions, powers and duties of the NCTC as a single and effective point of control and coordination of all counter-terrorism measures, which would work through the existing agencies in the country. (The Hindu 1/1/15)

84. Abandoned Pakistani boat found off Gujarat coast (12)

NEW DELHI: Around a fortnight before a suspect Pakistani boat blew itself up after an hour-long chase by Indian Coast Guard, a mysterious fishing boat found abandoned off the Gujarat coast had created a ripple within the intelligence establishment. According to intelligence sources, the alleged Pakistani fishing boat was found empty 10-15 days back, floating in the Arabian Sea off the Gujarat coastline. Not only were there no men on board, but no item of interest or equipment was found on the vessel, making agencies wary if it was abandoned by a group of infiltrating terrorists before they shifted to another vessel and possibly made their way to the Indian coast for a possible terror act here. “The Coast Guard as well as states like Gujarat and Maharashtra were alerted to keep an eye in the Indian waters as well as along the coastline, and track any suspicious movement,” said an official. During the 26/11 attack, the 10-member LeT attack module had left the Karachi port in a Pakistani vessel, before intercepting an Indian fishing vessel, MV Kuber, off the Gujarat coast, for the onward journey to Mumbai. They finally landed at the Mumbai coast (Colaba) in an inflatable dinghy, before splitting and heading for the terror targets that included Taj Hotel, Leopold Cafe and Nariman House. (Times of India 3/1/15)

85. Patna blast case: NIA files charges against 10 (12)

PATNA: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court, Patna, on Tuesday framed charges against 10 accused, all suspected to be members of banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for the serial blasts at ‘Hoonkar’ rally addressed by then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at Gandhi Maidan here on October 27, 2013. NIA special judge Anil Kumar Singh also directed the prosecution to produce witnesses from January 19 onwards. Altogether six persons were killed and 89 others were injured in the serial blasts. Charges were framed against Umer Siddique and Azharuddin Queshi from Chhattisgarh, Ahmad Hussain and Fakkruddin, both native of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Haidar Ali alias Black Beauty, Numan Ansari, Mohammed Mujibullah Ansari, Mohammed Firoz Aslam, Mohammed Ifteqaar Alam and a juvenile – all the six accused are native of Ranchi, Jharkhand. The charges framed under sections 120(B), 153A, 307, 324, 436, 458 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code; Sections 3 and 4 of Explosive Substances Act and sections 16, 17, 18, 18A, 18B, 20 and 23 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The NIA investigation revealed that accused Haider Ali, who was SIMI in charge of Jharkhand, along with his associates conspired to target and attack Modi. In pursuance to this conspiracy, Haider Ali and his associates conducted reconnaissance of various rallies of Modi to take stock of the security arrangements and plan for attacks. The accused realized that it was not possible for them to reach Modi during his rallies due to stringent security arrangement, so they decided to trigger bomb blasts at public rally which would result in a stampede, the investigation said and added the accused targeted the rally and collected explosives from Mirzapur and other requisite materials from Ranchi. The charge sheet suggests Haider Ali and his associates, all are members of SIMI, had been motivating and recruiting young boys from Ranchi and other places by showing them jihadi videos and videos of alleged atrocities on Muslims across the world. They followed ‘Sithio Module’ formed by Haider Ali, the charge sheet said. Earlier the special court of NIA framed charges against Imtiyaz Ansari against whom NIA had filed the first charge sheet on April 24, 2014, in connection with the same case. (Times of India 7/1/15)

86. Two more terrorists executed in Pakistan (12)

Islamabad: Two convicted terrorists were hanged till death in Pakistan Wednesday morning, media reported. The latest executions have brought the number of those hanged until death to nine. The executions started as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in the country in the aftermath of the Peshawar carnage that left some 150 people, most of them children, dead, Dawn online reported. Prison officials had already received the death warrants for the two men a couple of days ago. The warrants were issued by anti-terrorism courts as mercy petitions of the convicts had been rejected by the president Monday. The convicts: Ahmed Ali alias Sheshnag and Ghulam Shabbir alias Fauji alias doctor belonged to a banned organisation. Ahmed Ali, a resident of Shorkot, Jhang district, was handed capital punishment for killing three men: Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Nasir and Mohammad Fiaz and injuring Mohammad Pervez and Mohammad Siddique on the Railway Road in 1998. Ghulam Shabbir, a resident of Talamba area of Khanewal district killed Deputy Superintendent of Police Anwar Khan and his driver Ghulam Murtaza on the Bohar Gate Road Aug 4, 2000. Charges of sectarian violence were also proved against him. He was sentenced to death by a special anti-terrorism court June 21, 2002, and the conviction was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Both convicted men were hanged at 6 a.m. Earlier, strict security measures were taken around the jail precincts and the adjoining areas. Army personnel were deployed outside the jail, while elite force personnel were positioned inside the prison premises. Following the removal of moratorium, President Mamnoon Hussain has turned down mercy appeals of 17 convicts for death penalty. Since then, nine prisoners have been executed. After the moratorium was lifted, the first executions took place December 20, 2014. Aqeel alias doctor Usman and Arshad Mehmood were executed in Faisalabad on that day. A couple of days later, December 22, 2014, four more convicts, Zubair Ahmed alias Tauseef, Ikhlas Ahmed alias Roosi, Ghulam Sarwar and Rashid Mehmood alias Teepu were also hanged at district jail in Faisalabad. All four militants were convicted of their involvement in an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf. Later, December 31, 2014, Niaz Mohammad, a former Pakistan Air Force junior technician who was also convicted in the Pervez Musharraf assassination attempt case was executed at the Peshawar Central Prison. Even now though, 7791 prisoners are on death row in the country. (Business Standard  7/1/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Suspected Maoist attack on stone quarrying unit in Kannur distirct of Kerala (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  A suspected gang of Maoists attacked the office of a stone quarrying unit, situated near a tribal settlement close to forest region of Kannur district in the wee hours of Friday. The quarry has been facing protest from tribal people, indicating that Maoists are intervening in such issues sidelined by mainstream political parties in Kerala. According to police, a five-member armed gang damaged the furniture and took away CCTV cameras before torching the office of New Bharat Stone Crusher at Nedumpoyil under Peravoor police limits. They threatened the security staff at gunpoint and posted pro-Maoist notices in the premises of the office. The posters, issued on behalf of the western ghat zone of the CPI (Maoist), urged the tribals and farmers to gain control over soil, water and forest. The group, in military fatigue, raised slogans also. Later, the gang went to the nearby tribal colony. A woman named Radha told the media that they woke a family up to inform them that “we have attacked the quarry unit which has been causing trouble for you.’’ The colony had earlier also reported the presence of suspected Maoists activists more than once. Some of the colony inhabitants spoke in a manner that they were familiar with the members of the gang. This is the second suspected attack of Maoists at a stone quarrying unit in the western ghat region of North Kerala. In 2013, a quarry unit in Kozhikode district was attacked and an earth mover located in the unit was torched. Recently, Maoist pamphlet Kattuthee (forest fire) had warning against illegal quarrying units operating in the Western Ghats. Indicting the tourism industry for displacing tribals, it called for armed struggle to regain the control over soil, water and forest. Stone quarrying units and resorts have come up in large numbers in several sensitive zones in the Kerala belt of the Western ghat. A resort, which had allegedly erected on an alienated tribal land, had been attacked in Wayanad last month. Mainstream political parties have been silent on such stone units and resorts, which have come up floating norms. Friday’s incident came close on the heels of Kerala home minister Ramesh Channithala’s two-day visit to tribals belts in Wayanad as part of steps to instill confidence among tribals about government machinery. Chennithala had spent his new year in Wayanad dining with tribals. Chennithala said, “the attack in Kannur was a handiwork of those supporting Maoists.’’ (Indian Express 2/1/15)

88. Naxals: search on Varushanadu hill intensified (12)

THENI: The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people  A special Naxal squad in association with forest officials intensified search operation on Varushanadu hill on Sunday to check possible migration of Naxals from Kerala, in the wake of an encounter between Thunderbolts personnel and an armed group in Wayanad district in Kerala. The team combed the hill bordering Kerala since morning. The operation would continue for some more days, said the police. Q Branch police had stepped up combing operation in the reserve forests along the Kerala border, especially the Western Ghats on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, and also in upper Kodaikanal hill in Dindigul district. The teams covered even village temples and tribal habitats in the Western Ghats as Maoists could easily win the confidence of tribal people by fulfilling their basic needs and offering timely help. They suspected that they could mingle with nomads easily. A special team had watched even Sri Mangala Devi Kannagi Temple area where movement of men was very less. (The Hindu 5/1/15)

89. Two tribals killed by Maoists amid anti-rebel operations at Andhra-Odisha border (12)

Malkangiri (Odisha): Two tribals were killed by Maoists on suspicion of being police informers here, even as security forces launched an operation against the rebels at Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border. Around 30 armed ultras stormed Keriaguda village last night and took away the two youths from their houses, police said on Monday. Their bodies were later found by locals beside a forest road in the outskirts of the village, they said. The victims, who have been identified, were believed to have been beaten to death by the red rebels who suspected that the two were police informers, police said. A joint anti-Maoist operation was launched in the cut-off areas of Malkangiri district along Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border yesterday by the elite Greyhound police of Andhra Pradesh and Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel of Odisha, IG (South-West), YK Jethwa said. The operation was launched following information about activities of Maoists in the area and there were reports about exchange of fire taking place in few locations, he added.  (Zee News 5/1/15)

90. 5 Maoists ‘killed’ in joint Andhra-Orissa operation (12)

Bhubaneswar: At least five Maoists are suspected to have been killed in a significant anti-Maoist operation involving Greyhound force of Andhra Pradesh police, Orissa’s Special Operations Group and state police that started in the cut-off area of Malkangiri district on Sunday night. Inspector General of south-western range Yashwant Jethwa, however, said officially the deaths cannot be confirmed, as the teams have not recovered any body. “The operation is still on. There were three encounters in the last 24 hours. We have got information that there have been five casualties from the Maoist side. We can confirm about any casualties only after our teams return from the spot,” said Jethwa, adding that there was no casualty from the police side. Jethwa said the teams recovered several bags and grenades from the spot. The cut-off area, separated from mainland Orissa for last five decades due to Balimela reservoir, has been a hotbed of Maoist activities since last decade.  As the area is closer to Andhra Pradesh, Maoists from Andhra have been active there for over a decade. Maoists had abducted former district collector R Vineel Krishna in February 2011 from a village in cut-off area. Police officials said the operation started following intelligence information that the Maoists led by central committee member of the party Ramakrishna alias RK were running training camps at Vejingi and Pingapuram in the cut-off areas. However, police officials could not confirm if Ramakrishna managed to escape. They, however, said RK was probably addressing a plenary session in the area. Meanwhile, Maoists killed two tribals in Malkangiri district on Sunday night. About 30 armed rebels went to Keriaguda in Kalimela police station area in the evening and called out Jaga Kabasi and Jaga Sodhi. After conducting a ‘praja court’ in the village, they tied up the two villagers to a tree and beat them to death. (Indian Express 7/1/15)

TRAFFICKING

91. Bihar launches operation against child trafficking (1)

Patna, Jan 1 (IANS) Bihar Police Thursday launched a special drive named “Operation Mahavir” against trafficking of children, an official said. “We have launched ‘Operation Mahavir’ to trace and free children who are victims of human trafficking,” said Additional Director General of Police (Weaker Section) Arvind Pandey. He said police will observe 2015 as the year to free child victims of trafficking. A team of policemen has been set up in each of the 38 districts to crack down on gangs involved in trafficking of children. Police will closely monitor places like brick kilns, roadside hotels, markets, bus stands and railway stations to trace missing children. The Bihar government had told the Supreme Court in October 2014 that 2,241 children who went missing from the state have been recovered, while at least 617 were still untraced. (Yahoo News 1/1/15)

92. Three kids rescued, ZYF condemns trafficking (1)

Imphal: In the wake of the kidnapping of three minors from Tamenglong district by a 45-year-old man, Ozish, the Zelingrong Youth Front (ZYF), Assam, Manipur and Nagaland has cautioned people to be more vigilant and check the menace. Strife-torn Manipur has witnessed frequent cases of trafficking of children mostly from Tamenglong and other hill districts to other states over the last five years. Child activists, NGOs and government agencies have rescued hundreds of children from several unregistered homes in south Indian cities. The accused, Ozish from Maharastra, was travelling his car with the three kids towards Imphal when a CRPF frisking team rescued the children and pulled him up from Khambiron check post in the Zeliangrong-dominated district on Friday morning. Hailing from Nungba area, the kids revealed that they were kidnapped by the man and before long, irate locals torched Ozish’s car. A local court on Saturday remanded Ozish in police custody for a week. The children, all below 10 years of age, were kidnapped from near Puiluan, said the ZYF in a statement. ZYF cautioned people particularly the Zeliangrong community living along National Highway 37 ( Imphal-Silchar route) to be more vigilant as criminal activities frequently take place along the highway. An inquiry conducted by the ZYF revealed that Ozish had been travelling across the country in his car since July 2014, the statement said. (Times of India 5/1/15)

93. Up to 8,000 Nepali girls trafficked to Dubai (1)

NEW DELHI: A multi-agency international operation, led by Central Bureau of Investigation, has stumbled upon an organized racket of trafficking of young Nepalese girls to Dubai for alleged prostitution and Delhi’s IGI airport is the transit point for their travelling to the gulf country. The investigation has revealed that nearly 6000-8000 Nepalese girls aged between 20 to 30 years have been trafficked to Dubai via Delhi till December 2014. The agency has informed the ministry of external affairs, ministry of home affairs, bureau of immigration and Nepal authorities through Interpol about the organized syndicate, which sends the girls on tourist visas. The sources said during the inquiry which was being covertly conducted by the agency, probe officers collected information from Foreign Regional Registration Office, Air India, Qatar Airways, Bureau of Immigration and 15 travel agents based in Delhi. Giving details of modus operandi of the alleged trafficking, a senior agency official said, the girls are booked with tickets, provided visa and hotel reservation in Nairobi via Dubai for tourist purposes but when they land in Dubai, their tickets for Nairobi and hotel bookings are cancelled. The girls also carry with them ‘Paper Visa’ to work in Dubai which they keep hidden with them. Once the tickets are cancelled in Dubai, they go to their agents there, stay for two-three months and come back, the official claimed. When asked about Nairobi connection when they can easily go to Dubai and come back as they have valid documents, the official said there could be many reasons–the Nepalese officials seek details of employer and nature of work and prostitution is never encouraged, girl going to Dubai for work is a social stigma among others. The sources said after getting a tip-off, agency had carried out a surprise check which revealed that 76 girls were travelling to Nairobi via Dubai on an Air India flight in July 2014 after which records of such travels were checked. “We could not take any action as all the documents were found proper,” an official said. The official said that agency has written to MEA, MHA and other concerned authorities to look into the issue and plug the loop holes in the immigration system which is exploited by the agents to supply girls to gulf countries. It is very difficult to know if the person has completed his journey as per the travel itinerary specially on a paper visa, the official said adding that there were other loop holes also which have been flagged in the correspondence to the MEA and MHA, which controls the Bureau of Immigration. “We found that Indira Gandhi International Airport has emerged as a major transit point for alleged prostitution rackets supplying girls to gulf countries through such channels. We estimate about 6000-8000 girls being trafficked in such a manner till December alone. We have asked the MEA to look whether Indian girls or the girls of other SAARC countries are also sent in this manner,” the official said. (Times of India 7/1/15)

CORRUPTION

94. Property papers of over 40 acres recovered in raids (5)

RAIPUR: On-going searches by a joint operations team of Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the premises of six officials of Chhattisgarh irrigation department, who were raided on Tuesday, has led to the recovery of documents relating to 40 acres of property, 2kg gold besides Rs 6 crore cash that was seized earlier. Raids were conducted on officials, including chief engineer BS Vaishnav and executive engineer Alok Agarwal and M Kujur, after a tip off. Their interrogation had subsequently led to more raids on the premises of their associates from where huge quantities of cash and other valuables were seized. Raids were conducted at 16 premises and over 100 personnel of EOW and ACB carried them out. (Times of India 1/1/15)

95. At least 102 govt employees in MP Lokayukta net in bribery case (5)

Indore: The Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta police caught red-handed 102 state government employees, from top rank officers to peon, for allegedly accepting bribe in Indore division last year. “A total 130 criminal cases were registered after 102 state government staffers were caught red-handed accepting bribe in 83 traps laid by the anti-corruption watchdog last year in the division,” Indore Lokayukta Superintendent of Police Arun Mishra told PTI today. He said that ill-gotten swanky houses, besides properties fetching Rs 7 to 8 crore according to present market value, of three officers including assistant engineer, have been attached under Madhya Pradesh Special Court Law, 2011 during last year in the division. The attached immovable properties are being used to run ‘aanganwadis’ and schools, he said. The Lokayukta police registered 37 cases against people for “misusing” official position, he said. Besides, chargesheets were filed in special courts in connection with 45 cases of corruption, Mishra said. The courts pronounced punishments in 22 cases, while in two cases the accused were acquitted, he said adding that the rest of the cases were being heard in courts. (Zee News 2/1/15)

96. 91 illegal appointment cases detected in Jorhat (5)

JORHAT, Jan 3 – Exposing an extreme case of corruption in Jorhat district, the findings of a district-level screening committee have revealed that 91 employees were illegally appointed in various offices of State Health department and hospitals including Jorhat Medical College Hospital (JMCH), who have already withdrawn several crores from the government exchequer, as their salaries for the past some years. Citing the detailed inquiry report and suggestions of the committee (received through RTI) at a press conference here on Friday, advocate Gautam Bora, Rintu Goswami and BJP State general secretary Santanu Pujari said the Deputy Commissioner of Jorhat has conspicuously refrained from taking any necessary action against the employees and the “corrupt” Health department officials and treasury officials who were found to be involved in the case of corruption. Pujari had sought documents from the Health department officials through RTI procedures in 2012, suspecting illegalities in the appointment, but the department’s officials allegedly refrained from giving him the official papers. However, as his repeated requests for a probe into the case, ultimately compelled the district administration to launch an investigation into the case by a 12-member screening committee. “The screening committee has observed that the placement of the field staff like vaccinator, SW and others in Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, Medical Institute and SHTO have created chaos in administration. Moreover, it is contrary to the interest of the public. The committee is of the opinion of stopping this kind of practice,” stated the screening committee’s report. The 12-member screening committee, comprising an Additional Deputy Commissioner, medical officers and a treasury officer detected the involvement of district malaria officer A Rahman, Guna Kalita (UDA), Sushil Dutta (head assistant), Mala Phukan (LDA), Md Siddique (retired accountant) Prabhat Saikia (bill clerk), Lakhyanath Pegu (UDA) in the case. During the probe, the committee found some other surprising facts about the massive cover-up by senior officials who refrained from preventing the illegalities in the offices concerned. While some employees were found withdrawing their salary without attending office, two others produced fake appointment letters. “Those employees were neither appointed nor transferred from any other districts to Jorhat. As powerful politicians and a few journalists of the electronic media are involved in the case, the officers did not take any initiative to stop this illegality in the district,” advocate Rintu Goswami stated. As the Deputy Commissioner is yet to take proper action against the corrupt officials to stop the illegal disbursement of public money from the treasury, advocate Goswami questioned the administrative role of the DC in this particular case. In their submission to the Deputy Commissioner, the screening committee also suggested action against the officials involved as per legal provisions. “The employees suspected to be involved in the case are still occupying their allotted tables in the same officilal capacity and thus creating problems in procuring official documents and related facts. Their continuation in service at the present positions will definitely hamper the process of investigation. The committee has expressed the opinion that the nexus existing in different branches of the Health department be broken up,” the report submitted to the Deputy Commissioner stated. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)

97. Corruption cases in TN up, but convictions see a fall (5)

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu appears to be a haven for corrupt government officials. The number of cases investigated by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) has been going up since 2000 but the number of convictions has been dropping. Data from DVAC shows that the agency investigated and made enquiries in 295 cases in 2000-01, a number that went up to 462 in 2013-14. However, the conviction rate has dropped from 53 in 2000-01 to 21 in 2013-14. Experts and anti-corruption activists say ineffective investigation, sluggish judicial system, political pressure and poor law enforcement have resulted in the steady decline in the conviction rate. In several cases, officials say, complainants backtracked or withdrew from cases due to pressure from political parties. In many cases, said sources, the accused “convinces” the complainant to “settle the case privately”, a euphemism for bullying or compelling a person to withdraw a complaint. The number of enquiries and investigations taken up by DVAC has declined from 750 in 2005-06 to 381 in 2012-13. The numbers saw a marginal increase to 462 in 2013-14. The number of traps laid by DVAC to nab corrupt government staff has also reduced from 312 in 2008-09 to 206 in 2013-14. DVAC conducts investigations and enquiries into allegations of corruption and builds the case, which then goes to court. However, the conviction rate is poor. Activists have said DVAC should be brought under the preview of the Right to Information Act, 2005. They allege that DVAC has been kept out of the RTI ambit to prevent citizens from obtaining information on corruption cases. However, officials says bringing DVAC under RTI will affect investigations. (Times of India 6/1/15)

98. Peon from Land survey dept booked for demanding Rs 4 lakh bribe in Raigadh (5)

Thane: A peon with the Land Survey office in Raigadh district who allegedly demanded Rs 4 lakh bribe has been booked by the Thane Unit of the ACB. Additional SP ACB Thane Unit Shrinivas Ghadge told PTI Wednesday that peon Chandrakant Goud, with the Land Survey office at Panvel demanded the sum from the complainant on December 11, 2014 for carrying out a survey of a plot in Kharade Khurd. Following this, the complainant approached the ACB which registered an offence against the peon with the Panvel police station yesterday, he said. The peon has been booked under section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1998. He has not been arrested yet, the officer added. The complainant is working as a liasoning officer with the Anthony Garage which had a plot of land in Kharade Khurd for which the survey was to be carried out. (Zee News 8/1/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

99. Pollution turning Taj Mahal yellow: Study (9)

NEW DELHI: India’s white marvel, the Taj Mahal, is slowly turning brownish-yellow because of air pollution, says an Indo-US study which also identifies the pollutants responsible for the effect. It says Taj is changing colour due to deposition of dust and carbon-containing particles emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, biomass and garbage. The study confirms what has been suspected for long — that Agra’s poor air quality is impacting India’s most celebrated monument. The research was conducted by experts from US universities — Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin — as well as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Archaeological Survey of India. The paper was published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in December. The findings can lead to targeted strategies to curb air pollution in and around Agra and more effective ways to cleanse the marble surface of the 366-year-old mausoleum, which remains by far the most visited man-made structure in the country with footfalls of more than 6 million in 2013. The researchers first analysed air samples at the site for roughly a year using filters and found high concentrations of suspended particles that could potentially discolour Taj’s surface. Clean marble samples were then placed at various points on the monument accessible only to ASI staff. After two months of exposure, the samples were analysed using electron microscope and X-ray spectroscope. The pollutants deposited on the marble were identified through these investigations. Researchers found 3% of the deposits to be black carbon, around 30% organic carbon (or brown carbon) and most of the rest dust. Black carbon is emitted by vehicles and other machines that burn fossil fuels. Brown carbon is typically released through burning of biomass and garbage, a common practice in the region. S N Tripathi of IIT Kanpur, one of the authors, said the team then used a novel approach to estimate how these deposited particles would impact light reflecting off the marble surface. “We found that black carbon gives a greyish colour to the surface while the presence of brown carbon and dust results in yellowish-brown hues,” he said. “Results indicate that deposited light absorbing dust and carbonaceous particles are responsible for the surface discolouration of the Taj Mahal,” the study concludes. Since 2008, ASI has been trying to fight the yellowing of the monument by giving it a clay pack treatment using the lime-rich Fuller’s earth (Multani mitti) to clean the marble surface. Researchers are now keen on studying the efficacy of this method and finding ways of improving it. “Now that we know what’s causing the yellowing, the focus should now shift to undoing the effect,” Tripathi said. (Times of India 2/1/15)

100. ‘Concerned people’ vow to protect Western Ghats (9)

The meet convened by the People for Western Ghats at Peaceful Society, Madkai, unanimously resolved to work for the protection and conservation of the eco-sensitive, biodiversity-rich wildlife corridor in the Western Ghats. Pandurang Hegde and Kalandand Mani initiated and guided the discussions wherein various issues pertaining to the present status of protection and conservation of the Western Ghats, the concept of responsible tourism, politics behind non-implementation of Western Ghats Environment Expert Panel and efforts which are going on to dilute existing environmental laws were discussed. Members of the organizing group expressed grave concern over unplanned tourism activities hampering the eco-sensitivity of the biodiversity rich Dudhsagar valley of the Mollem National Park. Hegde cited the example of successful eco-tourism model followed at Sirsi, in Karnataka. Nirmal Kulkarni mentioned how compensatory afforestation funds which were to be used mainly for the purpose of afforestation and infrastructure were instead being utilized for tourism projects. Vaishali Patil informed that in Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra, a political decision seems to be taken not to implement ESA. A government order dated June 4, 2014, requires that public hearings are to be conducted for people’s opinions on ESA implementation, wherein a government representative comes up to the public and asks people for their opinion. People many occasions are misinformed about the implications of the ESA this causes panic and gram sabha resolutions are passed refusing the ESA notification thereby working detrimental for Western Ghats. Claude Alvares informed that the matter on implementation of the HLWG & WGEEP reports have been disposed by NGT (Application 26/2012), leaving scope for challenging any notifications in this regard. He also said that the gram sabha, the Biological Diversity Act and the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act[1] are paramount in environmental decision making at the grassroots. Members also discussed on issues of forest clearance, private forests, land regulation, Forest Rights Act, CRZ regulations, need for environment impact assessment, cumulative impact and carrying capacity. 14 resource persons from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka took part in the meet. (Times of India 5/1/15)

101. Foresters step up chop down of invasive plant types in TN (9)

CHENNAI: The forest department has intensified its efforts to eradicate invasive plant species that pose a threat to native varieties and the natural ecosystem of protected areas such as wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as elephant and tiger reserves. Officials said they are removing alien species like lantana camara complex, prosopis juliflora, a kind of mesquite native to Mexico and South America, and wattle (Acacia) and will then take steps to improve critical habitat. The Rs 7.5 crore project will cover an estimated 3,000 hectares of the total protected area of 6,078sqkm, or roughly 29% of the state’s total forest area. Protected areas in Tamil Nadu are split into 15 forest divisions. Foresters are removing lantana and prosopis juliflora, which heavily infest around 2,000 hectares in Tirunelveli, Srivilliputhur, Hosur and Dharmapuri divisions, making the forests in these areas uninhabitable for wildlife. They are also removing wattle from around 1000 hectares in the Nilgiris and Kodaikanal. They have so far razed wattle on 325 hectares and lantana on 500 hectares. Species like lantana complex, which includes four species, are ornamental plants from Mexico that spread very fast and do not allow other plants, shrubs or even grass to grow in the area they cover. This alien species and wattle can have a calamitous impact on biodiversity because they cause large-scale migration of herbivores or a severe decline in their numbers, which in turn leads to shortage of food sources for carnivorous animals like leopards and tigers. Principal chief conservator of forests Rama Kant Ojha, who is also chief project director of the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project (TBGP), said foresters are using a standard technique to remove the plants. “We cut them at 3cm to 5cm below ground level, upward to the shoot before inverting the plant,” he said. “It is a systematic approach and a continuous process. We continuously monitor areas we have covered.” Prior to uprooting the plants, forest officials had conducted a survey to study the spread of alien plant species. They removed them pre- and post-monsoon. Officials said they are sowing seeds of local plants and grass seeds and have observed that local species were making a comeback in many places where invasive species were removed. The process, however, is long drawn. “After we remove the plants in one area, we have to move on to other areas where they have multiplied,” chief conservator of forests and TBGP project director Rakesh Kumar Dogra said. (Times of India 8/1/15)

102. Prakash Javadekar takes up ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (9)

Pune: Minister of State (MoS) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday participated in ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ in Pune. “I am very happy today that all the people, NGO’s, students and officers of the area in which I live in Pune , have come together to keep the surroundings clean,” said Javadekar. “Plastic, glass and thermacol increase the garbage. Daily around 15,000 tons of plastic garbage is produced out of which 9,000 ton is collected and 6,000 ton is left. This is very dangerous for our society,” he added. Talking of future plans in the same regard Javadekar said, “In every 100 meters a dustbin is going to be put. We are also planning to start a scheme under the name of ‘Plastic free India’. This is just the first step.” The cleanliness drive, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014, focuses on sanitation, hygiene and waste management. It encourages people to sweep, remove garbage, debris and unauthorized encroachments from roads, markets and residential places. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims at making India a clean country by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  (Zee News 8/1/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

103. Take steps to stop suicides of farmers: TRRS (20)

SANGAREDDY: Telangana Rytu Rakshana Samithi (TRRS) has urged the policy makers to take steps to stop suicides of farmers. In a release here on Thursday, TRRS founder president Pakala Srihari Rao has alleged that casual handling of national agriculture policy has resulted in destroying economy of lakhs of farmers across the country apart from destroying gross domestic product (GDP). “The production cost of per acre has increased considerably while yield per acre has reduced drastically because of indifferent attitude by the rulers all these years,” he said. Profitable price to agriculture produce, linking of MNREGS to all agriculture operations, wavier of all private and crop loans of farmers, sanctioning of Rs. 1 lakh loan for each functioning bore well and implementing crop insurance in farmer friendly manner are some of the suggestions made by him. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

104. ‘Farmers suicide on rise since BJP came to power’ (20)

Hassan: Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda alleged, the number of farmers suicide has increased in the country after BJP came to power at the Centre. About 105 farmers suicide cases have been reported from Gujarat alone.An affidavit has been submitted to the Supreme Court in this regard, he said. Addressing a press meet, after attending a private programme here, on Sunday, Gowda said, his efforts to explain the status of the farmers of the State during the Winter Session of the Parliament turned futile. Though he had sought permission from the Speaker to speak about the plight of farmers in the Session, it was not considered. After a few days, he again sought permission under Act 193 as he was a former prime minister, it was also not considered. Though he has been seated in the first row, as he was a former prime minister, he was not given an opportunity to speak. “Should I attend the Parliament session just for Rs 2,000 allowance?” he questioned.  Pointing out the rumours that his Hassan stay has come to an end in a month, Gowda said, he was in Delhi attending the Winter Session. Later, he was involved in sorting out party issues and strengthening the party. He will visit Hassan on January 7 and 9, Gowda said. (Deccan Herald 5/1/15)

105. Cultivator reaps big with organic farming (20)

MADURAI: Unlike the usual trend of depending on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, an enterprising farmer here has adapted to organic farming and reaped a handsome harvest this year. A N M Tiruppathi from Kulamangalam village has revived the agricultural methods of his ancestors using cow and sheep dung and compost to enrich the soil, and adopted organic pesticides on his 15 acres of paddy cultivation. On Monday, Tiruppathi commenced the harvest of his land in the presence of officials from the agriculture department. The sample harvesting carried out on 20 cents of land in the presence of officials yielded 12 bags, with each weighing 66 kg. It is estimated that the harvest in one acre of land will touch the 60 bag-mark which, according to the agriculture department officials, is a good harvest. “He has been trying to convert his cultivation into the organic mode for many years and regularly sought information and ideas from us. He is an innovative farmer. The sample harvesting was quite promising,” said R Selvan, assistant director of agriculture. “When I was growing up, I saw my parents carrying out organic farming and switching to chemical inputs later. I have also observed how the quality of food grains deteriorated due to chemicals. Hence, I am reviving the organic agricultural practices and adapting them to the current trends. This way, I can harvest good crops which are eco-friendly and good for the health,” Tiruppathi said. To get the results, he has been regularly using green manure and cow dung on the soil and ploughing once every 15 days ahead of cultivation. To get quality seedlings, the nursery area was enriched with sea weeds, groundnut oil cake and pseudomonas, an organic insecticide that is used to control pest. “Wild paddy varieties are ideal for organic farming because they are resilient and require less agricultural inputs. Thus great expenditure is cut down on inputs, improving our profits,” Tiruppathi said. “It is a positive trend among the farmers in our district at present, since many are turning towards organic farming for good. There are innovative farmers who did not hesitate to combine modern technology and traditional knowledge,” said Jayasingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture. (Times of India 5/1/15)

106. GM crops a solution to growing farmer suicide? (20)

Mumbai: Speakers said that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding GM crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. Genetically modified crops can be a solution for the growing farmer suicide in the country. Speakers at the 102 nd Indian Science Congress while discussing in the symposium on “GM crops: the use of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture” said that GM crops would be the long-term solution for the country. However, they added that there were some misunderstandings among the people regarding such crops which needed to be addressed on a priority basis. While highlighting the misunderstandings of the people regarding GM crops Dr Anupan Varma, senior scientist of the Indian national Science Academy said that people regarded genetically engineered crops to be against nature and harmful for consumption. Citing many examples of GM crops Dr Varma explained the need for resorting to modern technology and stressed on the need to give serious thought on the same. “Today India is doing well in the field of agriculture and is considered one of the foremost in cotton production due to the modern means of production adopted by the policy makers. However, the issue facing us is of bio-safety and a solution needs to be found by doing extensive research on different methods that can be adopted to avert the dangers of bio-degradation,” said another speaker. (Asian Age 6/1/15)

107. Agriculture extension service strengthened (20)

Coimbatore: The extension service in the agriculture sector in India has been strengthened and the ministry was paying special attention to technology transfer to farmers, a top official said here on Tuesday. Technologies are reaching farmers through various means, including training, regional melas, publications, exhibitions and production of video films, O P Dhahiya, Director, Farm Information, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, said. In his address to the Southern Regional Agricultural Fair and state-level farmers’ Day at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, he said the service in cooperation with the State extension wing has brought in phenomenal improvement in agricultural development and increased farmers’ income. Inaugurating the Fair, C Rajendran, Joint Secretary, Deparment of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu,said doubling productivity and tripling farmers’ income was their motto. Since most farmers involved in food production are poor, the government was aiming at promoting welfare schemes for them, he said, adding value addition and storage facilities would be given more importance in years to come. K Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor, TNAU said regional fairs were organised with the objective of allowing farmers know the technologies and scientists and extension workers to know what was to be done in future. Despite 11 districts in last year and 31 districts in penultimate year were declared as drought hit, Tamil Nadu produced 11.3 million tonnes of foodgrains, he said. He asked farmers to regularly visit the fields and properly utilise technologies in an era of changing food habits and climate. With the theme ‘Profitable and Sustainable agriculture,’ hundreds of farmers from Southern States – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry are participating in the four day fair. (Business Standard 7/1/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

108. Trinamool opposes ordinance amending Land Acquisition Act (4)

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress, which has vowed not to implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, took out rallies across West Bengal Wednesday, protesting the “black ordinance” approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet. “The ordinance has been approved without any consultations with the chief ministers of the states. The ordinance has been cleared undemocratically and we will never allow this draconian law to be implemented in Bengal,” Trinamool trade union leader Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said. Taking out rallies in the city as well as in other districts of the state, including North 24-Parganas and Birbhum, the Trinamool leaders burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as copies of the “black ordinance”.Accusing the Modi government of “bulldozing” democracy, Trinamool supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday asserted that her government will not implement the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act. “As long as I am alive, I will never allow any forcible acquisition of land. They will have to acquire land only on my dead body,” Banerjee had said Tuesday, calling the people to burn the “black ordinance” that was approved by the Modi cabinet Monday. The amendment to the Land Acquisition Act was approved to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”.”Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee will never allow such a draconian law to be implemented in Bengal. We will continue to protest against the Centre’s attack on democracy,” Chattopadhyay, leading a rally in the city, said. (New Kerala 1/1/15)

109. Left Front stir against ‘anti-farmer’ land act (4)

Kolkata: The CPI-M led Left Front in West Bengal Friday announced a state wide agitation Jan 5 against the proposed amendments in the Land Acquisition Act, calling them “undemocratic” and “anti-farmer”.Front chairman Biman Bose said the ordinance approved by the Narendra Modi cabinet to amend the law doesn’t caters to the interest of the farmers. “During the (erstwhile) UPA regime, when the land amendment bill was brought before the parliamentary standing committee, it was agreed that interests of all those associated with land, apart from land-owners, will also be looked into. But this ordinance has omitted those clauses,” Bose told media persons here. “The step by the central government making changes in the Land Acquisition Act is anti-democratic and anti-farmer,” he said, adding that the Left will Jan 5 undertake a statewide agitation. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has opposed the amendments to the act that seek to remove “procedural difficulties” in acquiring land for national projects and to “further strengthen” provisions concerning “affected families”. (Business Standard 2/1/15)

110. Land acquisition act amendments for enhanced compensation: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Sunday came out against criticism of the amendments to the land acquisition act, made through an ordinance, saying they “balance the developmental needs of India, particularly rural India” and provides enhanced compensation to the land-owners. In a Facebook posting, titled “Amendments to the Land Acquisition Law – The Real Picture”, he said that the 2013 Act had “over 50 drafting errors” and the “provision” in the ordinance with regard to rectification of errors “will be used to cure most of them. “Some are being cured through this ordinance which alters the earlier mandate of the 2013 law that unused land has to be returned five years after the acquisition. The earlier provision was clearly defective”.”Creation of smart cities, townships, industrial corridors, business centres, defence projects, cantonments, ports, nuclear installations, building of highways, irrigation projects, dams have a long gestations period. They cannot be completed in five years. “If the earlier provision is to be effected, we would be a nation of incomplete projects on account of defective legislative drafting,” he said. Countering criticism of the acquired land to be also given to developers, he said that the draft provisions of the 2013 Act “enthusiastically provide that no part of an acquired land could be used for a private educational institution or a hospital. “How will new smart cities and townships come up? Will they only have a civil hospital and a government school/college and no other healthcare and educational institutions will be allowed to be established there? “The ordinance permits hospitals and educational institutions to be established on an acquired land. That is the purpose of acquisition for townships. A township without a social infrastructure would be inherently incomplete.” Jaitley said the needs of “a modern growing and developing India need a balanced approach” where “development and justice to the land-owner must coexist. One cannot be done at the cost of the other”. According to him, the amendment ordinance “is based on extensive consultations where state government of most political parties supported these changes. Those who are opposed to it can certainly mandate their party’s state governments not to use the provisions of the ordinance. History will judge how these states will lose out in the era of competitive federalism. On Dec 31, the government promulgated an ordinance to amend provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. (Business Standard 4/1/15)

111. ‘Ordinance will harm rural population’ (4)

New Delh: Alleging that the ordinance passed by the Centre on land acquisition is against the interests of farmers and the rural population of the national capital, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that the party will not allow the BJP government to acquire land of farmers in Delhi without their consent. The party said that the public meeting marked the beginning of the AAP’s nationwide campaign against the ordinance and the party will organise protest meetings across the capitals of states and district headquarters from Monday onwards. Addressing the party’s Village Dialogue at Chattarpur, the former chief minister of Delhi said that the ordinance brought by Narendra Modi government to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is against the interests of farmers and the AAP will strongly oppose it. “Both the changes made in the ordinance to amend the 2013 law will adversely affect the farmers and rural population of Delhi. The party is of the clear view that land owned by farmers can only be acquired by the government, if they are in favour of it and forcible acquisition cannot be allowed,” he said. He asserted that the Modi government had imposed its wrong decision on the country by removing the clause from the 2013 law on land acquisition which made it mandatory to seek a consent of around 70 per cent land owners of the area, but the ordinance states no consent will be required for acquisition in five particular categories, which are so wide that government can now acquire land for private companies without caring for farmers. Referring to the second change made by the ordinance, which removes the clause related to return of land to the owner in case the purpose for which it was acquired is not completed within five years, Mr Kejriwal said this change in the 2013 law is particularly detrimental to the interests of poor people of Delhi. Citing the example of unauthorised colonies, the AAP chief said that in some parts of Delhi such colonies have come up on the land owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). “These colonies have not been regularised since a long time due to wrong policies of successive governments, does it mean that now the government agencies will become the owner of this land according to the provisions of the ordinance,” he questioned. He said according to this ordinance, the land on which unauthorised colonies stand will now be called government land, which means that it can demolish these colonies at will or it can eve charge a higher amount from house owners in the name of regularising them. Mr Kejriwal said the ordinance on land acquisition has been brought to please the corporate houses which had spent a hefty amount on BJP’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. (Asian Age 5/1/15)

112. ‘Take people into confidence before amending LA Act’ (4)

HYDERABAD: Concerned citizens representing a broad spectrum of political parties and people’s organisations on Tuesday expressed their fears over the way amendments were being proposed to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 in the form of an ordinance and said people’s consultation was a must before any amendments were made. At a round table conference on the ordinance issued by the Government of India on Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Act 2013, organised by the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika and Dalit Bahujan Front, Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) chairman M. Kodandaram said in the past, land was acquired only for irrigation projects or for large factories, but post 1990s, private parties with influence have managed to acquire large tracts of land. While influential people managed to get away without losing their land, it is the poor who always suffered, he said, adding that any amendments to the draconian Act could be proposed only after extensive consultations with the concerned people. He wanted the government to withdraw the proposed amendments, saying it amounted to violation of people’s rights. Senior journalist Mallepalli Laxmaiah from the Telangana Intellectuals’ Forum said that earlier there was a social mobilisation aspect to land acquisition to establish whether it was for a public purpose or not. The government could take any land, but for specific purposes only, if it were for infrastructure development or housing and the like, but public consultation was an integral part of the process, he pointed out. Others who spoke on similar lines included P. Shankar representing the Bhoomi Upadhi Hakkula Vedika, Congress leaders M. Kodanda Reddy and Addanki Dayakar, researchers Usha Seetalaxmi and Ashalatha, Secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Andhra Pradesh, P. Madhu and Malla Reddy of the CPI(M), former MLA of the CPI Gunda Mallesh, K. Goverdhan of the CPI-Marxist Leninist (New Democracy) and Sunil of the Rural Development Institute (The Hindu 7/1/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

113. ‘Health system in India ill-equipped’ (3)

New Delhi: Expert said that the weak health system in the country is not geared to provide an effective response on major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition. Public Health Foundation of India president Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, said that India’s health system is ill-equipped to deal with these concomitant challenges, at the desired level of access, affordability and quality. While some tertiary care institutions are world-class, primary and secondary care services have suffered from gross neglect, Prof. Reddy added. Prof. Reddy was giving annual oration of Ganga Ram Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (GRIPMER on “Health Assurance: Giving Shape to a Slogan”. Highlighting India’s challenges and solutions in providing Universal Health Care (UHC), Prof. Reddy said, “India is confronting multiple health challenges but its weak health system is not geared to provide an effective response. On major health indicators, such as infant mortality, maternal mortality and child nutrition.” “Low levels of public financing, severe shortages in several categories of health professionals and frontline functionaries, weak regulatory systems and variable standards of governance across states have combined to debilitate India’s health system over the years,” he added. He pointed out that India compares poorly with many developing countries, including several South Asian neighbours. At the same time, there is a surge in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, mental illness, respiratory disorders and other chronic diseases which are killing or disabling millions of young or middle-aged adults. On the occasion, chairman (board of management), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dr D.S. Rana, said that 90 research project of the GRIPMER are being funded by the ICMR, department of biotechnology, WHO, department of science and technology, ministry of environment and many others. (Asian Age 1/1/15)

114. Government set to revamp health policy for BPL families (1)

New Delhi: Introduced during the UPA regime, the government is all set to revamp the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a scheme that provides cashless health insurance of up to `30,000 per year to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. While, the scheme is at present managed by the labour ministry, it will soon be transferred to the health ministry. The Union health ministry has already worked on the broad contours of the scheme and a meeting to this effect has already been taken in the PMO recently. According to senior officials in the health ministry, the existing scheme, once streamlined, will be part of the newly-proposed National Health Assurance Mission (NHAM) — which plans to offer a basket of services by providing 50 essential medicines, diagnostic services, etc. The scheme is likely to be started from January in a phased wise manner. To start with, the RSBY will be responsible for providing secondary health services, unlike the NHAM — which will help poor get free treatment. RBSK covers over three crore workers from the unorganised sector. The Central government under the ministry of labour & employment, had launched the RSBY in 2008. According to the government figures, while the population coverage under the various schemes increased from almost 55 million people in 2003-04 to about 370 million in 2014 (almost one-fourth of the population). Nearly two-thirds (180 million) of this population are those in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. Evaluations show that schemes like RSBY, have improved utilisation of hospital services, especially in private sector and among the poorest 20% of households and SC/ST households. However, there are some problems. “One problem is low awareness among the beneficiaries about the entitlement and how and when to use the RSBY card. Another is related to denial of services by private hospitals for many categories of illnesses, and over supply of some services improve access to hospitalisation services and to protect households from high medical expenses,” the newly-proposed health policy 2015 reads. The RSBY scheme which is now all set to be shifted to the ministry of health & family welfare, will help the state and Central ministry move to a tax financed single payer system approach. (Asian Age 3/1/15)

115. Tribal health issues to be targeted separately (3)

New Delhi: Separating tribal health issues from the mainstream, malaria, sickle cell anaemia, nutrition and maternal and child health would now be targeted in a new initiative of the government. “Statistics say that the tribal health issues are different from the mainstream health issues as a result of which they are in the bottom line of indication,” an official release said here Tuesday. All these special tribal health issues would be discussed threadbare at a seminar jointly being organized by the ministry of tribal affairs and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the release said. The main objective of the day-long seminar to be held Wednesday is to share good case studies and researches to eradicate burning health problems of the tribals and to find out how the findings from these case studies can be replicated by other states. The seminar would also discuss the role of various ministries and agencies, including NGOs. The release said that the initiatives would be taken to make small and affordable measures which can significantly reduce the health risks that women face when they become pregnant. A web-enabled mother and child tracking system is also being implemented by the health department as a mission mode project under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) to register and track every pregnant woman. (New Kerala 6/1/15)

116. NGO launches campaign on sanitation hygiene (3)

Habitat for Humanity, an NGO engaged in housing and sanitation, has initiated a sanitation behaviour change movement around the coastal belts of Puducherry using street plays and dance skits. Rolled out under the ‘Sensitise to Sanitise Campaign’, the drive focused on bringing behavioural change among coastal residents and raising the need for sanitation hygiene. The programme reached out to over 600 coastal residents who were sensitised on the importance of hygiene, especially the need to end the practice of open defecation, and the risks of disease from poor sanitary lifestyles. As part of a handwashing drive, residents — especially children — were taught to properly wash hands to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers in India. According to Rajan Samuel, managing director, Habitat for Humanity, India, more than 70 per cent of Indians practise open defecation due to lack of access to functional sanitation facilities. “Even where facilities are available, people prefer to practice open defecation due to cultural and social barriers…we are keen to bring about behavioural change through structured education and awareness campaigns,” he said. (The Hindu 8/1/15)

HIV/AIDS

117. HIV positives find perfect matches, new lives (3)

NASHIK: Youth living with HIV/AIDS are increasingly breaking the shackles of social stigma to start life afresh in the form of life partners through a city-based non-governmental organization. Ravindra Patil of Yash Foundation, the NGO working with support from Mahindra & Mahindra as part of its corporate social responsibility, said they have come a long way since 2007 in terms of providing nourishment to children living with HIV/AIDS and rehabilitation programmes and opportunities to women living with the disease, especially after they lost their husbands and abandoned by family members. “Our focus is now on match-making so that the young people living with HIV/AIDS can lead a positive life,” he said. Rajesh, a mechanical engineer from Mumbai, “I was 28 when I was diagnosed with AIDS. The world surrounding me changed all of a sudden and I felt that all doors of opportunities were closed for me. Leading a regular life appeared impossible. It was like being confined in a dark room. For couple of years, I struggled to come to terms with the fact and I was losing on health. But it was after I got in touch with the foundation that I realised that there is life beyond HIV/AIDS. Members of foundation helped me find a bride. And life is beautiful once again,” Starting with enquiries from eight eligible PLHAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS) and converting one into marriage in 2010, the foundation in 2014 received 180 enquiries. Three marriages were solemnised and another eight confirmed. “After working with children for three years, our focus shifted to the youngsters and hence we started Mangal Maitri, an annual event that brings the prospects together. Considering the figures, 2014 was the best in the past three years. Currently, as 22 youths have found partners for themselves through our organisation. The prospects are bachelors as well as the ones who are in their widowhood,” Patil said. The first marriage solemnised by the organisation was between the two individuals, whose partners had succumbed to the disease. They both adopted each other with their children and that started off the marriage. “There are common queries about trying to look for people from the same castes. But there are also others who want to go ahead with life with a suitable person,” Patil added. Similar is the case of Shankar and Sarita, who got married in 2012. They now have a one-year child. While Shankar works with an engineering firm, Sarita is in the medical field. Both of them acquired the disease from their parents. However, timely monitoring and treatment ensured they being in better health till date. “I joined the NGO sometime around 2008. I was in college then. I participated voluntarily in programmes organised for the positive people. I eventually came across Sarita, who had registered in the marriage bureau of the NGO. We are from different castes but our parents were for us living together,” said Shankar. (Times of India 1/1/15)

118. Ability of HIV to cause AIDS slowing: study (3)

London: A research study has found that HIV – and as a consequence AIDS — is slowly becoming less aggressive in parts of Africa. These are the significant findings of a study conducted by Professor Philip Goulder and his team at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University that have been published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Based on a study of about 2,000 pregnant women in Botswana and South Africa, the team has demonstrated that the weakening of the immunodeficiency virus is due to its rapid evolution and ability to mutate over time. In Botswana the epidemic took off in the 1980s, a decade before it hit South Africa. “Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. Scientists were aware that a gene known as HLA-B*57 in a person acted as a protection against the HIV virus. The new study finds that the virus has adapted to the gene, which therefore no longer offers protection. However, the unforeseen result of this is that the mutation of the virus also weakens it and reduces its ability to replicate. One reason for this could be because of the growing use of HIV drugs. “HIV adaptation to the most effective immune responses we can make against it comes at a significant cost to its ability to replicate,” Prof. Goulder told Reuters. “Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time.” Although it is too early to extrapolate the findings to other regions of the world, the study “does serve to highlight the tremendous progress that has been made in the response to HIV since the virus first gained attention as a public health threat. It also serves to highlight the vital nature of funding for research to improve our understanding of the virus and to develop potential vaccines and treatments,” Matt Grady, Policy & Networks Adviser of the campaign group STOPAIDS told The Hindu. He said that although there had been a huge increase of people accessing treatment, today 60 per cent of adults living with HIV are outside the treatment net. “Without the financial and political leadership required to accelerate towards the end of AIDS, potential scientific breakthroughs like the one announced will not have the impact needed,” Mr. Grady said. (The Hindu 2/1/15)

119. NGO bid for HIV/AIDS awareness (3)

GUWAHATI, Jan 3 – With an aim to promote awareness about the prevention of HIV/AIDS, the Population Health Services, India (PHSI), North-East, launched a communication van activity at the start of the New Year. Specifically targeting the rural populace and youths, the van will hold an awareness campaign about the correct and consistent use of condoms. The PHSI, a non-profit NGO with pan-India operations, is supported by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), which monitors and supervises its activities. The organization has its presence in the North-eastern States of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The van is going to travel around the State in the five districts of Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup, Dhubri, Sonitpur and Barpeta. The van was flagged off by Probal Baruah, Field Operation Manager, PHSI-NE. “Principally supported by the NACO, we also have an activity sharing collaboration with the Assam State AIDS Control Society. The communication van is an SUV which carries awareness messages regarding condom usage. The principal motive of the PHSI-NE is to spread awareness regarding HIV/AIDS,” Pranom Datta Mazumdar, Communications Manager, NE, told The Assam Tribune. The respective promoter in each district will travel along with the van, and conduct interpersonal communication activity among the general population, specifically targeting the rural masses, migrant labourers and the youths. The activity has already been initiated in some of the areas under the Chandrapur block, targeting migrant labourers and the youths in general. “The communication van activity of the PHSI-NE will certainly enhance the visibility about condom promotion in Assam and help in reaching the general masses, thus leading to awareness about precaution from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection and prevention of unwanted pregnancies,” said Mrinal Kanti Ghosal, State Programme Manager of the organization. (The Assam Tribune 3/1/15)

 

 

 

Posted by admin at 9 January 2015

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. Now, Bihar govt to give free land to landless urban SC/ST families

Patna: In yet another important decision to woo Mahadalits, the Jitan Ram Manjhi government has decided to give free land to urban scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families to build homes. The state government has already been giving three decimal land to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families across the state. The Bihar Cabinet on Wednesday decided to give free land up to 30 square metre land to a landless SC/ST family on lease for 30 years. Cabinet secretariat principal secretary B Pradhan said: “Land plots to be given to urban landless Dalit families will be purchased on circle or government rate. Land categories meant to given to urban Dalit on lease for 30 years will be khas mahal, kaiser-e-hind and gair majarua (land types).” The lease can be renewed after 30 years. The decision assumes political significance with Manjhi trying to further consolidate his position as a Dalit leader. Former CM Nitish Kumar had started the scheme to give three decimal land to Mahadalits but it had several loopholes such as wrong identification of beneficiaries. (Indian Express 19/12/14)

2. Dalit Women Major Victims of Abuse: NGO (2)

MADURAI: Claiming that there has been a rise in the number of women from oppressed communities being subjected to sexual harassment, A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO working for securing Dalit rights, said  58 per cent of the victims  were Dalits. Addressing a meet to discuss the ‘Social, Economic and Political Condition of Dalit Women in the State’, Kathir called for new policies to empower Dalit women. “A total of 677 rape cases were registered by the police in 2011, where the victims were Dalits. The numbers touched 736 in 2012. This year, till November, as many as 923 cases have been booked,” said Kathir. Referring to another disturbing trend, Kathir said, “Many rape cases against Dalit women go unregistered every year. Of the registered cases, over 2,000 were still pending in courts,” he said, adding that over 7.5 lakh cases in relation to various atrocities were pending. “Dalits are discriminated not only by upper caste people, but also by the pillars of democracy. Though there are rules to prosecute those tormenting Dalits, implementation leaves a lot to be desired for. Even judiciary has failed to provide justice to the victims and they are forced to run from pillar to post to get themselves heard,” he said. Recounting her harrowing tale, Muthulakshmi, a Dalit woman from Tirunelveli, said she had been waging a lone battle to save her land from falling into the hands of the caste Hindu oppressors. “We have approached the police several times seeking help, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. They did not act against the caste Hindu group, which beat up my family members. It was only after Evidence took up our issue that we got some respite,” she said. Mayakkal, another Dalit woman from Kodaikanal, said that caste Hindus had grabbed a half-acre tract of land from her. “Though I have been fighting the case legally, the police have not come to help us.” (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

3. Dalit panchayat president discriminated by non-dalits (2)

SIVAGANGA: A case was registered against five people for allegedly removing the name of a dalit panchayat president from a temple board because they did not want it to appear alongside theirs. M Chinniah, a member of the dalit community, is the panchayat president of Manelmelpatti panchayat, close to the town of Thirupathur. The villagers had decided to construct an annex building for the Anthara Natchiamman temple, to function as a treasury. Donations were collected and a notice board was printed to engrave the names of the donors who contributed more than Rs 5,000. The board, it was said, would be installed on the wall of the temple to honour their contribution. According to M Kandasamy, district secretary of CPM, Chinniah donated Rs 11,101, almost twice the amount specified to get the donor’s name engraved on the board. He was an affluent person, and owned earthmovers and a brick kiln, Kandasamy said. Initially, the villagers kept their word and engraved his name on the board, but many non-dalits were reportedly dissatisfied with the move. They approached him on December 4 and told him that they did not want his name displayed along with theirs, and apparently asked him to have it removed. After he refused, they allegedly erased his name from the board using a machine. The space where the name has been scraped off is visible on the granite plate. Chinniah lodged a complaint with the Kannavarayanpatti police, but no FIR was filed. Following this, he approached the Madurai bench of Madras high court and obtained a direction to police to file an FIR. An FIR was filed against five people from the village, identified as Saminathan, Kalaivanan, K Ramasamy, a second Ramasamy and Palanikumar under Sections 157, 427 and 294(b) of IPC and Section 3(1)(c) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Kandasamy demanded that those responsible for the act be arrested, since the person they were trying to humiliate was the president of the panchayat. A Dalit panchayat president in Sivaganga district has been humiliated by his fellow villagers who have forcefully removed his name from granite sign board, because they did not want their names to appear beside a dalit on a coveted sign board in the temple premises. M Chinniah a dalit is the panchayat president of Manelmelpatti panchayat which is very close to the town of Thirupathur in Sivaganga district. The villagers had decided to construct an annex building for the Anthara Natchiamman temple, which was to function as the treasury of the temple. They had collected donations, and a notice printed for this purpose said that those who donated more than Rs 5000 towards the cause would have their names engraved in the granite slab that was to be installed on the wall of the temple, as an honour for their contribution. According to CPM Sivaganga district secretary M Kandasamy, Chinniah who is a quite affluent in the sense that he own’s some JCP machines and also a brick kiln had come forward to donate, Rs 11,101, which was almost twice the amount specified for receiving the honour of having your name engraved on the wall. Initially, the villagers kept their word and engraved his name on the name plate, but many non dalits were dissatisfied with it. Many of them had approached him the on Dec 4, this year and told him that they did not want to have his name displayed along with theirs and told him politely that they were going to have it removed. Chinniah had lodged a complaint with the Kannavarayanpatti police, but no FIR was filed. Following which he approached the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court and obtained a direction to the police to file and FIR. An FIR was filed against five persons from the village including Saminathan, Kalaivanan, K Ramasamy, another Ramasamy and Palanikumar under Sections 147, 427 and 294(b) of IPC and Sect 3(1)(C) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. However, his name has been erased from the name plate using a machine and is conspicuous. Kandasamy says that steps should be taken to arrest those responsible for this act, because the person who they are trying to humiliate is the president of the panchayat. (Times of Inda 24/12/14)

4. On Xmas, 60 Dalit Christians rejoin Hinduism (2)

KOTTAYAM: Over 60 Dalit Christians joined Hinduism at a ‘Ghar Vapsi’ programme organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Thursday, Christmas Day. VHP seva pramukh Mr. Prakash said the initiative, taken out with the participation of the Arya Samaj, was held in two places, one at Puthiyakavu Devi Temple at Ponkunnam where 46 people from 21 families rejoined Hinduism. The second one was at Sreekrishna Swamy Temple, Thirunakkara, where 17 persons from 11 families converted to Hinduism. All of them were converted Christians from the Dalit segment, mostly from Cheramar and Sambavar communities, Mr. Prakash said. The ceremony at Kottayam commenced at 9.30 a.m. under the supervision of priests from Arya Samaj and VHP. Another 18 families had expressed interest in rejoining Hinduism and the process would continue, Mr. Prakash said. He said the converts had approached the VHP voluntarily. “Many of them were recently converted to Christianity and were dissatisfied with the new system. So far, people of their original faith had made no move to welcome them back. We opened a door and they felt they were welcome,” he added. “Most of those who rejoined Hinduism were common people who were influenced either by social or financial inducements by those who tried to convert them to Christianity. We have to take care of such needs of these people,” he said. (The Hindu 27/12/14)

5. Dalit family murder: Court directs bank account of victim’s kin to be frozen (2)

Pune: In yet another turn in the triple murder of a Dalit family in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, a local court on Monday directed the bank account of the Jadhav family to be sealed. The district and sessions court also directed the police custody of one of the accused, Dilip Jadhav, to be extended till January 1, 2015. The court has directed that the ‘goodwill cash’ flowing into the Jadhavs’ bank account in the form of sympathy as well as legal aid be probed by the police. The amount given by the State, individual politicians and organizations in a spirit of commiseration has accreted in excess of Rs.1 crore.

“The court wants details of the usage of this money probed as it may yield important clues towards strengthening the investigation’s conclusions,” said Inspector General of Police (Nashik Range), Pravin Salunkhe, speaking to The Hindu. The protracted, three-month investigation into the high-profile crime ended with a sensational denouement after the district police nabbed the complainant, Prashant Jadhav, in connection with killings, while stating that the crime was not caste-motivated. The police later apprehended Prashant’s brother, Ashok and his father, Dilip Jadhav, in connection with the crime which they believe was a family dispute. The money was specifically given to help Sanjay’s traumatized parents, Jagannath (75) and Sakharbai (70), to cope with the crisis. Along with several other activists, the parents refuse to believe the police’s version of events and had staged a rally earlier this month in Mumbai to register strong protests. According to them, the police have allegedly fabricated the sequence of events to deflect attention from the crime being a caste-atrocity. Their son, Dilip and their grandchildren, Ashok and Prashant, have been falsely taken into custody, they allege. It was Prashant who had filed the first information report (FIR) on October 22 soon after the murder of his uncle, Sanjay Jadhav (42), his aunt Jayashree (38) and his cousin, the teenaged Sunil (19), came to light. Dilip Jadhav is the deceased Sanjay’s older brother. The dismembered bodies of Sanjay and Jayashree were found strewn on their farm plot by their relatives the village of Javkhede-Khalasa in Pathardi Taluk. The discovery of Sunil’s decapitated body, which was found scattered along with other body parts, led to an upsurge of popular anger across the State, with Dalit groups and several prominent activists alleging the murders to be a clear example of an ‘honour killing.’ (The Hindu 30/12/14)

TRIBALS

6. Adivasis Celebrate in Front of Secretariat (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The Adivasi struggle and perseverance of 163 days seeking land and other rights culminated triumphantly on Thursday after the state conceded to the demands of the tribes of Wayanad. Adivasi youth, social activists and even IFFK delegates danced to the tunes of tribal folk songs on the road in front of the Secretariat. President of Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) C K Janu confirmed that the Cabinet had approved all the eight demands tribal folk. The demands included implementation of PESA Act, 1996, withdrawal of criminal cases against participants of the Muthanga agitation and their rehabilitation. The jubilant tribes collectively said that it was their non-violent protest and perseverance that had seen results. It was an overwhelming scene as even tourists from abroad and passersby joined the celebrating Adivasis, who brought the state government, which had been ignoring the demands of the tribes brutally repressed by the police in 2003 in Muthanga, to its knees. Adivasi folk paid obeisance to their Gods once they received the copy of Cabinet minutes which agreed to the demands put forward by them. Various religious heads also visited the protest tent of the Adivasis to share their happiness and to congratulate them on the victory of their revolutionary ‘standing stir.’ (New Indian Express 19/12/14)

7. Rs 5 Crore Package for Tribal Development in Thondernad (6)

KALPETTA:  Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P K Jayalakshmi has announced a special package as part of a coordinated action plan for the sustainable development of tribal colonies in the Thondernad panchayat in the district. The Minister said the special welfare package was being introduced to prevent extremists from cashing in on the backwardness of the tribal belts.The State government has sanctioned a sum of `5 crore for the scheme aimed at the socio-economic development of tribal communities in the region where frequent sighting of suspected cadre of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was reported in the recent past, she said here on Sunday. The plan was approved at the meeting of the state-level working group chaired by Principal Secretary, Department of Scheduled Tribes Development, Subrata Biswas, she said, adding that the implementation of the project was expected to be completed by March 31, 2015. The proposal, to be implemented under the Additional Tribal Sub-Plan, would directly benefit over 200 tribal families in the panchayat. The forest cover constitutes 56 per cent of the total geographical area of the panchayat with a total tribal population 4,374. The Minister said the special `5-crore package, which was in addition to the various ongoing tribal welfare projects, would be implemented in the 15 wards of the panchayat. The project would cover colonies of Kombara, Churuli, Maradi, Perinjerimala, Pannipadu, Chappayil-Mundayil, Karinkal Ittiladiyil, Kattiyeri, Kattimoola, Karkottil, Mattilayam and Arimala, said the Minister. Basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sub-ways, housing and drinking water facilities, electrification, toilets, trenches and electric fencing would be ensured under the special scheme. Special attention would be paid to skill-development and training programmes. In a bid to encourage entrepreneurship, the Tribal Department will promote micro-level enterprises in poultry, dairying, goat rearing and allied agricultural activities apart from distribution of sewing machines to tribal women. Community halls would also be established across the panchayat under the project which would be need-based and area-specific to suit people, the said. The Puthusseri Alakkal colony in the panchayat would be brought under the Scheduled Tribes Department’s Hamlet Development Project. The `1-crore project would benefit as many as 60 tribal families in the colony. Moreover, the Kunhome colony would be developed into a model tribal settlement, she added. (New Indian Express 22/12/14)

8. Bodos Kill 65 in Assam, Three Die in Police Firing (6)

GUWAHATI: Three people were killed in Assam Wednesday when police fired at thousands of angry adivasis who took to the streets, a day after Bodo militants massacred 65 unarmed tribals. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told the media that 37 tribals were killed in Sonitpur, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang districts as the Bodos went on a killing spree late Tuesday. Those slaughtered include 21 women and 18 children. Gogoi said curfew had been imposed in the affected areas and he had briefed both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the situation. “The central government has taken the matter seriously, and we are going to deal with the militants firmly,” he said. “We are not going to surrender to them. We cannot allow these forces to continue.” Modi expressed grief over the killings, and announced Wednesday ex-gratia of Rs.2 lakh each to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the seriously injured. The Prime Minister’s Office said Rs.86 lakh will be released to the Assam government. Rajnath Singh is set to visit Assam Wednesday evening. He will be accompanied by Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and they are likely to visit the areas hit by the violence. Rijiju said: “It is very unfortunate this kind of violence has taken place… If we have to develop the northeast, peace must prevail.” Both Modi and Rajnath Singh telephoned Gogoi Tuesday night and promised all help to deal with the situation. The killings have been blamed on the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The attacks in all three districts began around 6.15 p.m. Tuesday, almost simultaneously. On Wednesday, three people were killed in police firing after thousands of adivasis who took out a procession at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district indulged in violence. “The army and paramilitary forces have been assisting the police in handling the situation,” Gogoi said. He said the central government had promised to send 55 companies of paramilitary forces. Twenty companies were likely to reach Assam Wednesday evening. The NDFB faction opposed to peace talks had warned it would retaliate after Assam Police launched an operation against them, particularly in the area bordering Bhutan. The police Sunday killed two Bodo militants and seized arms and ammunition from them. Gogoi said: “The NDFB militants have targeted innocent people as they wanted a soft target to retaliate. “It is barbaric and inhuman. They have killed minor children. There cannot be any justification for such killings.” He urged the electronic media not to show graphic images of the dead and wounded. Officials said additional forces had been sent to the affected areas. Curfew has been imposed in parts of the three districts. “Our first priority will be to restore peace. We will take all measures to ensure there is no escalation in the violence,” the chief minister said. Tension has gripped the three districts, where scores of people have fled their homes and taken shelter in safer places fearing further attacks by the militants. The Assam government has announced ex gratia of Rs.5 lakh to families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to those injured in the violence. (New Indian Express 24/12/14)

9. Adivasis flee to West Bengal (6)

Kolkata: Hundreds of Adivasis from Assam have taken shelter in Alipurduar district of West Bengal to escape the violence in Kokrajhar and other adjoining districts of the neighbouring State. Additional Superintendent of Police Akash Megharia told The Hindu on Thursday that Adivasis, particularly Santhals, had arrived at three-four places in the district, and necessary arrangements had been made for their stay. Most of the people were housed in a community hall under the Changmari gram panchayat. Some had sought refuge in Haldibari and Bithibari. The people, carrying their essentials, had come primarily from Kokrajhar district. Mr. Megharia said that along with the State police, one company of Central Reserve Security Forces had been deployed in the area to ensure security. Expressing her anguish over the killings, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on a social networking site: “Many Adivasi families have started coming to our State for shelter. We have made necessary arrangements to help them and we will continue to do so.” Alipurduar district, which borders Assam, witnessed a similar influx in August and September 2012 when violence between two communities was reported in the districts of lower Assam. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

10. Raghuvar Das assumes office as CM (6)

Patna: The Bharatiya Janata Party leader Raghuvar Das was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi on Sunday. Three BJP MLAs and one of the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union were sworn in as Ministers. Governor Syed Ahmed administered the oath of office to them. Mr. Das is the first Chief Minister of the State from outside a tribal community. Neelkanth Munda, C.P. Singh and Louis Marandi from the BJP and Chandraprakash Chaudhury from the AJSU are the new Ministers. More Ministers are likely to be appointed as, by law, the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly allows a 12-strong Cabinet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah could not attend the swearing-in as dense fog in Delhi upset their travel plans. Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Radha Mohan Singh; Union Ministers of State Sudarshan Bhagat and Jayant Sinha; and Raman Singh and Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, attended the function. The former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, was present. The 14-year-old State of Jharkhand has a coalition government with an absolute majority for the first time, with the BJP securing 37 seats and the AJSU bagging five in the Assembly election. Nine governments have ruled the State, and President’s Rule was imposed thrice. After the swearing-in, Mr. Das went to the Karmatoli locality of Ranchi and wielded a broom to initiate the Swachh Bharat campaign in the State. He later attended a meeting with top officials in the Secretariat. The appointment of Mr. Chaudhury, 45, as Minister has raised eyebrows as he faced corruption charges while he was a member of the Madhu Koda Cabinet from September 2006 to August 2008. In August 2010, the Jharkhand High Court ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the assets of Mr. Koda, Mr. Chaudhury and other Ministers. Again, the CBI raided his house and office in May 2012 for his alleged involvement in a cash-for-vote scam during the Rajya Sabha elections. In 2009, Income Tax officials raided the house of Manoj Kumar Singh, former personal assistant to Mr. Chaudhury, and reportedly unearthed details of fixed deposits of Rs. 14 crore in banks. (The Hindu 28/12/14)

WOMEN

11. All 200 of them said no to dowry (8)

HYDERABAD: It was a matrimonial meet of a different kind. The young men came with a vow not to succumb to the social evil that is dowry, and the women had happiness written all over their faces. The ninth consecutive ‘Swayamwara’, a matrimonial meet organised by Idon’tWant Dowry.com, at Bhaskara Auditorium at the B.M. Birla Science Centre on Sunday saw nearly 200 men and women participate. Starting off on a dull note, the meet eventually saw participants turn up in big groups. Participants who registered voiced their partner preferences, while organisers made efforts to find a suitable match among those who turned up. Among the participants, 120 were men and the rest were women. The objective of the meet was to help registered candidates find suitable matches and tie the knot without involving dowry, which, the organisers said, should be weeded out. The initiative’s founder Satya Naresh said though there was no way one could be certain if any of the men registered with them would ask for dowry, or if the women would succumb to such demands. “We cannot be sure if the participants agree on dowry after we facilitate their meet. If any of the parties comes back to us, we would suggest they lodge a complaint. However, before registering candidates for a meet, we enquire with them about dowry. Only if they assure us that they would not accept or ask for dowry, do we register them,” he said, adding that three couples among those who participated on Sunday, could possibly get hitched. (The Hindu 22/12/14)

12. More women should be at all levels of governance: LS Speaker (8)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today said increasing women’s participation in local, state and national levels of governance was the need of the hour as equal participation of women in decision-making was an important aspect of their empowerment. Inaugurating the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CPA) India Region Seminar here, she said women empowerment is not only about their political, social and cultural development but bodily, spiritual and ethical freedom too. “Empowerment of women opens up avenues of social development. Increasing women’s participation in local, state and national levels of governance was the need of the hour,” she said at the programme attended by Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the CPA India Region Meenakshi Lekhi, two representatives from each of the state legislatures and other delegates participated in the seminar. The theme of the seminar was ‘Women are Central to India’s Development’. The Speaker said “when we talk of empowerment of women, it implies giving them their due place in the decision-making process and giving them the right to lead a dignified and meaningful life”.She said the government was making serious efforts to universalise education and taking steps to curb incidents of violence against women through GPS technology-enabled transport. Interlinking police stations through ICT and centralisation of criminal records were indeed important, she added. (Business Standard 22/12/14)

13. 2014 Saw Rise in Offences Against Women in Courts (8)

NEW DELHI: An alarming rise in cases of sexual offences against women and children by Delhi’s trial courts in 2014 remained a major concern notwithstanding few successful prosecutions, including Dhaula Kuan gangrape case involving a woman from north-east. Exactly 45 days after the five rapists in the Dhaula Kuan case were sentenced to life term, the national capital was shamed again when a woman executive was raped by the driver of a US-based cab service provider putting a question mark on prosecution as the accused turned out to be a repeat offender committing the fresh crime while out on bail in a 2013 case. The year gone by also witnessed some contentious decisions of acquittals and remarks that courted controversies with one judge terming “pre-marital sex” as “immoral” and against “tenets of every religion” and another judge holding that “sexual relations between legally wedded husband and wife, even if forcible, is not rape”.However, away from the above two cases, a Tis Hazari court came out with an important verdict in which it said “because a woman is a sex worker, it does not confer a right upon anyone to violate her dignity,” and awarded 10 years jail to four youths for abducting and gang raping a Rwandan refugee. While acquittals in sexual assault cases were climbing, there were cases, particularly against minors which resulted in convictions and most prominent was of a couple who was punished for jail terms of 10 and 7 years for kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and “subjecting her to horrific and sadistic sexual assault repeatedly”.The minors, who were victims of sexual assault, in most cases were the sufferers at the hands of their relatives     but the accused succeeded in getting away without the maximum punishment of life imprisonment. In one case the accused who was 26-year-old uncle of the nine-year-old victim was jailed for 10 years while in another, a relative got away with seven years imprisonment for assaulting an 11-year-old child. Safety of minors in public places also became a concern and a 60-year-old man was held guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in a temple even as other such cases like the April 2013 case of rape of six-year-old in east Delhi which is yet to be decided despite being prosecuted in fast-track court especially set up after the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder case. The six fast track courts grappled with over 1500 cases of sexual offence and disposed around 460 cases till December 20 and out of the total disposed of cases, including 36 matters of gang rape, there were 80 cases of conviction with 377 cases resulting in acquittals. Over 1200 cases are still pending in various fast track courts, including 310 cases at Rohini court, 250 cases at Karkardooma court and 306 cases at Saket court, which hoggedthe lime light  in 2014 for the case registered against Aam Admi Party leader and Delhi’s former Law Minister Somnath Bharti for allegedly molesting 12 African women at his controversial midnight raid. Former BSP MP Dhananjay Singh also faced tough time at the Karkardooma court before he was acquitted in a rape case lodged by an east-Delhi woman, who herself turned hostile. The relief also came to former Haryana MLA and businessman Gopal Kanda who was granted bail in the air hostess suicide case. While there was rise in acquittals, a trial judge referred to Asian Centre for Women Rights’ report and said incidents of child rape have multiplied in the last decade and they have created a furore in the society. However, some successful prosecutions noteworthy were the refusal of the court to spare a music teacher, who cheated a woman and raped her on the false promise of marriage and a married man was held guilty of rape as he had deceitfully entered into a wedlock by posting his fake profile on a matrimonial website. Fake cases to “settle personal scores” also engaged the six trial courts in the year gone by and a model was prosecuted for the offence of perjury for lodging a false rape case against her brother-in-law with the court observing that it will be “failing in its duty if she is let off without punishment for giving false evidence”.So was the case of a 64-year-old man, who was acquitted of the charge of raping his house maid with court observing that he was a senior citizen suffering from several ailments and it was “an onerous task to decide who was the real victim” holding that the maid falsely implicated him to extort money. In another case, three women accused of forcing nine girls, including a minor, into prostitution and abetting their rape, were acquitted by a court which said the Delhi Police failed to trace most of the victims while the others turned hostile. In a sensational case of gang rape and sodomy with three school-going kids in 2010, a court brought the curtain down by acquitting a cab driver with a direction for lodging of a case against two cops for falsely implicating him. A court acquitted a man of the charge of sexually harassing a 17-year-old girl, saying it was a motivated case but expressed inability to punish the minor due to protection granted to her under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. (New Indian Express 24/12/14)

14. Khap panchayat orders chopping off woman’s nose (8)

JAIPUR: In a shocking decision, a self-styled social panchayat in Barmer district has ordered chopping off the nose of a woman for complaining of rape against her father-in-law which led to his arrest. The pronouncement was made by a khap panchayat of Luharwa village under Dhorimanna village in Barmer which also ordered that the maternal family members should be socially boycotted. In a petition made to the police, the woman alleged that she was being sexually harassed by her father-in-law for a long time and had even raped her following which she had lodged a complaint with the police. The police consequently arrested her father-in-law. However, the accused came out on bail this week and convened a khap panchayat where it was decided that the nose of the young woman should be chopped off for complaining to the police and her family should be socially boycotted for supporting her. The victim and her father have sought police protection. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

15. No bigger sin than female foeticide, says Modi (8)

Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday denounced the practice of female foeticide prevailing in the country, saying “there is no bigger sin” than this and sought the help of people in the field of art and culture in “shaking” the society to stop the menace. “In a country where Rani Laxmi Bai is hailed, there is the practice of female foeticide. There is no bigger sin,” he said at a function in Banaras Hindu University here as part of ’Good Governance Day’ celebrations. Modi, who was talking in the context of his ‘Beti—bachao’ programme, asked whether a message could be spread for stopping this practice. In this direction, he suggested that people in the field of art and culture could play a role by “shaking the society as they did during the freedom struggle“.He also suggested holding of ‘kavi sammelans’ on the social evil along with spreading the message about cleanliness. “Please work for the nation…Dreams can be fulfilled,” he said. The Prime Minister also expressed concern over the problem of malnutrition of women and children in a country where there is a tradition of feeding even “ants and cows”. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

16. Government plans to improve sex ratio in next 2 years (8)

KOLHAPUR: The Kolhapur district is one among 10 in Maharashtra to be selected for the Bharat Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, an initiative of the Union ministry of women and child development to combat the gender imbalance in India. Altogether 100 districts were selected for the project across the country, of which 10 are from Maharashtra. Other districts include Aurangabad, Jalgaon, Sangli, Buldhana, Beed, Washim, Osmanabad, Ahmednagar and Jalna. The Union ministry issued guidelines to the district collectors on how to achieve the target set for years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The initiative aims to improve the sex ratio at birth in the selected 100 districts, where the gap between per thousand males against per thousand females is either 100 or greater than 100. The ministry adopted three criteria on the basis of sex ratio for the selection of these districts. These were districts below the national average (87 districts from 23 states), districts above national average but showing a declining trend (8 districts from 8 states) and districts above the national average and showing a rising trend (5 districts from 5 states). Collectors and commissioners of the selected districts have been asked to prepare an implementation programme and monitoring the progress at district, taluka and gram panchayat levels. The ministry has also asked administrations to implement the district action plans as soon as the state transfers the funds to the district. Among the other suggestions, the ministry is keen on implementing Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in the selected districts. Districts have asked to measure baseline data of child sex ratio and sex ratio at birth by December31. “Strengthen district PCPNDT cells by recruiting at least five human resources, cell administrator, legal consultant, inspector (Rtd.) for monitoring, and data entry operators. Office equipment and space within the district collector’s office should also be provided,” the ministry’s guideline reads. According to the guidelines, district administrations will have to map all available ultra-sonography machines, including individual machines and not just clinics, in the districts and update this data every three months. Varsha Deshpande, an anti-female foeticide campaigner said that state should strictly implement the Act and monitor progress of cases, which are before the judiciary. Deshpande said that there are 417 cases pending in various courts across the state. “If we are serious in curbing female foeticide, the legal system should work to appoint appropriate lawyers for every case,” she said. (Times of India 28/12/14)

17. With proposals on paper, women empowerment still a far cry (8)

NEW DELHI: Despite claims by the Modi government, 2014 has turned a cropper for women empowerment and child rights. Three significant proposals, including a bill to enhance the powers of the National Commission for Women, continue to remain on paper. The women and child development ministry had also proposed setting up of one-stop crisis centres for women in distress and sought the appointment of chairperson and members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. However none of the decisions have moved forward. Sources said all three proposals are pending before the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The draft NCW bill was expected to provide powers of a civil court to the women’s commission. The bill also mandates that a judicial member be appointed as head of the Commission and powers be given along the lines of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The bill is expected to allow the Commission to order a police probe and summon reports besides powers to penalize. In fact, the bill was cleared by the law ministry in November and listed for introduction by the WCD ministry in the just concluded winter session. Sources said the proposed legislation had hit a roadblock with the highest echelons of government expressing reservations that if such powers were given to the NCW, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes would also have to be brought on par. WCD minister Maneka Gandhi was not available for comment. Sources also said the appointment of the NCPCR chairperson and members had been proposed by the WCD ministry some months ago but there had been no word on the matter. For the last two months, the child rights agency exists only on paper. Term of its six members got over earlier this year while its chairperson Kushal Singh finished hers in October. The ministry has also been pushing for the one-stop crisis centres for women in distress but clearances have not been forthcoming in the flagship scheme either. (Times of India 30/12/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

18. Unicef & firms team up to protect tea kids (14)

Guwahati, Dec. 18: Unicef today launched a joint project with seven prominent tea companies and retail chains in order for protection and welfare of children and adolescent girls in Assam’s tea gardens. The project, to be initially implemented in three major tea growing districts – Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar – aims to strengthen child protection mechanism and integrating child rights issues, promoting responsible business practices and building tea supply chain in the next three years. Tushar Rane, chief of Unicef, Assam field office, said it would cover 104 tea gardens and 350 villages in their peripheries with a focus to empower and safeguard children and adolescent girls. “Besides, 63 additional tea estates in these three districts will be gradually involved with various capacity building and advocacy initiatives. We will work in partnership with the tea community, garden owners, tea companies, government departments, police and all related agencies to make sure that the children in the tea gardens enjoy their rights guaranteed under different acts and child labour, child marriage and other issues are tackled jointly,” Rane said. Sixteen of the 27 districts in Assam have major tea cultivation and the state contributes more than 51 per cent of country’s total tea production. Tea workers, who were mostly brought by the British to Assam from eastern Indian and southeastern states before Independence, currently constitute about 20 per cent of the state’s population. But welfare issues of the garden workers and their children have remained neglected and child labour, child marriage, trafficking, school dropouts and malnourishment still rampant. Child Protection Chief of Unicef India, Joachim Theis said the project would also focus on affecting behavioural changes among tea communities. Chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Runumi Gogoi, said child trafficking, child labour and child marriage were serious problems in the tea gardens. The project aims to provide life-skill training and education to nearly 25,000 girls and 10,000 community members to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation. Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association, Bharatiya Cha Parishad, ASCPCR, Ethical Tea Partnership, among others today resolved to join Unicef as partners in the tea project. The project is being funded by tea companies – Tata Global Beverages, Taylors of Harrogate, OTG, Typhoo, UK retailer Tesco and IDH and Sustainable Trade Initiative. Anurag Priyadarshi, global sustainability head of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, said the company decided to join the project to ensure end of child labour and child abuse in tea gardens. (The Telegraph 19/12/14)

19. 18 child labourers rescued in Odisha (14)

BERHAMPUR: Eighteen child labourers were rescued from restaurants and eateries in Bhanjanagar of Ganjam district in Odisha. They were rescued during a raid by district level task force against child labour, which included members of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Childline, police and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO). All the rescued children were boys between 12 and 14 years of age. They were from economically backward families of Bhanjanagar and adjoining areas. The rescued children have been sheltered in Childline of Berhampur and their parents have been contacted by the authorities. Counselling of rescued children and some of their parents by Childline authorities has revealed that poverty was not the only reason behind children becoming child labourers. “We found that in most cases, lack of parental care and guidance rather than economic condition was the reason behind the child labour status of these children,” said Prabhuprasad Patra of Berhampur Childline.It was found that most of these children had failed to cope up with education in schools. The father of one such child is a migrant labourer in Surat. There was another child from Kulada, who had run away from home three times in the past to escape from studies. In the past, this child had been brought back from Baliguda in Kandhamal district, where he was working as a child labour. But the child had again preferred to be a child labour in Bhanjanagar rather than opting to pursue education. Convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) Sudhir Sabat said it has revealed the drawback of the Sarvashikshya Abhiyan in rural areas. Mr Sabat demanded rehabilitation of these rescued children through proper counselling of children and their parents. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

20. Plea in HC to eradicate begging by children (14)

New Delhi: Highlighting the plight of child beggars in the city, a PIL has sought Delhi High Court direction to ensure their rehabilitation and eliminate child beggary. After brief arguments, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice P S Teji posted the matter for further consideration on January 7. “The issue of child begging is already seized by the Supreme Court and it was already monitoring the same. We will keep the matter pending,” the bench said. The PIL, filed by Ajay Gautam, sought directions to identifying exact number of destitute children who are involved in begging and to review the steps taken to solve this problem. “The Delhi government exhausted every possible tool to eradicate beggary during the run-up to the Games. However, immediately after the games, the situation became the same,” the plea claimed. It contends that though Delhi State Commission for Protection of Child Rights was formed on July 7, 2008, to eradicate child beggary in the city, it has failed in its task. “While the Centre has enacted variety of legislation for children, it has failed to ensure that children do not beg,” the plea said. (Indian Express 26/12/14)

21. Child rights panel visits relief camps (14)

GUWAHATI, Dec 27 – Members of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, headed by its Chairperson Runumi Gogoi, today visited the violence-affected children in three relief camps in Kokrajhar district. Child rights activist Miguel Das Queah also accompanied the Commission and took account of the situation there. The Commission will visit the relief camps in Sonitpur on January 7, after which a joint report will be compiled and handed over to the State government for necessary action. Members of the Commission observed that relief materials were inadequate and that there was a need to provide the children with psycho-social support. “There is also a need to engage more medical teams in the relief camps besides improving the provision of water supply and sanitation,” Miguel said. (The Assam Tribune 27/12/14)

22. 13 children run away from boys’ home (14)

Bengaluru: A meticulously planned operation by 13 boys to flee from the State Home for Boys on Hosur Road was executed on Monday morning. However, two of the children were found within an hour and taken back to the home. A search is on for the others. The children are all in their teens. The boys are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Maharashtra.They were either rescued child labourers or those who had fled from their homes and found on the streets. After a month of planning, they fled the home for boys on Monday around 3 a.m. after cutting a rod of a window using a blade. It is believed that they got the blade by bribing one of the security guards. “The children cut the rod while other children were washing vessels so that the noise would not draw the attention of the staff,” a source said. Of the 13, the Wilson Garden police found one at Dairy Circle. Police sources said that the boys repeatedly requested not to be taken back to the “jail” they had fled from. Meanwhile, child rights activists have said that this incident should serve as a wake-up call to the Department of Women and Child Development to bring “systemic changes” and improve conditions at the boys’ home. Executive Director of BOSCO George P.S. said that the home is short-staffed and there is a delay in repatriation of the children to their families. “Age and language appropriate programs have to be designed to keep them occupied all through the day. A compact and well-designed program under the supervision of child sensitive staff is the need of the hour,” he said. (The Hindu 30/12/14)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

23. ‘Minorities being treated as mere vote bank’ (7)

BAREILLY: On the occasion of World Minorities Rights Day, several Muslim organizations across different sects came together on Thursday and rued how the community was being treated by the political leadership as “mere vote bank”. Muslims from Bareilly, Moradabad and adjoining areas also regretted the fact that several welfare schemes announced for them in the past never took off. The participants also shot off a letter to PM Narendra Modi. All India Muslim Personal Law Board president Maulana Mohammed Mufti Raees Ashraf told TOI: “Muslims, including Ulemas and intellectuals, gathered for a meeting in Bareilly on Thursday. It was discussed that minorities in the country do not feel safe. We have decided to boycott celebrating the day until both central and state governments fulfil their promises made at the time of elections.” All India Imam Masjid Association vice-president Maulana Nasir Husain Ashrafi, too, condemned tokenism in the form of observing a day to espouse the minority rights and then forget everything about them. Saleem Baig, an RTI activist who has filed several RTIs to know the current status of minority schemes announced by various political parties, said, “We have become mere vote banks. Schemes for the upliftment of minorities are announced just for show and their budget is later allotted to some other schemes.” Baig said that though the formation of a Waqf Nigam and Saman Avsar Ayog were recommended by the 2006 Sachar Committee and even the central government had promised to set them up in the same year, it still remains a pipe dream. “Through an RTI filed last year, I came to know that no time frame has been fixed for setting up a Waqf Nigam,” he said. Hazrat Maulana Abdul Quayyum, general secretary, All India Tanzeem-e-Ahle-Sunnat, said, “Most of the schemes for protection and development of minorities in the country are announced during the election time to woo voters. But majority of these scheme remain only on paper.” During the meeting, the fate of the much-touted 2012 central government scheme, Padho Pradesh, which promised interest-free loans to minority students aspiring to study abroad, was also discussed. “It was revealed in an RTI reply dated June 2014 that the government had sanctioned a sum of Rs 10 crore in 2013-14. In the financial year 2014-15, only Rs 4 crore were left of that. However, when I enquired about the number and details of beneficiaries under the scheme, it was revealed that till now, not a single person had been benefitted,” Baig said. The RTI activist also took on the ruling Samajwadi Party, which had announced schemes like Rin (loan) Mafi Yojna and medical quota for minority students in their election manifesto. “However, it was revealed through an RTI query in September 2014 that both of these schemes have not been implemented in the state yet,” he said. (Times of India 19/12/14)

24. Assam violence: NDFB(S) is unpredictable, say officials (7)

Guwahati: According to Assam police chief Khagen Sarma, Tuesday’s attacks on mostly Christian adivasis could have been in retaliation to an offensive against the outfit that ‘neutralised’ several top guns. “It is difficult to say why adivasis have been targeted. You never know when and where these people will unleash violence,” said CM Tarun Gogoi. The adivasis, along with migrant Bengali-speaking Muslims, are among the largest of over 30 non-Bodo communities across four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Together, they comprise more than 75% of the BTC population, making the Bodos a minority. Sonitpur is not under BTC, but Bodo militants want swathes of this district under self-rule territory. The British brought Bengali Muslims and adivasis to the area over 100 years ago to grow rice and work in tea plantations respectively. Non-Bodo groups claim  policy-makers ignored their rights when BTC was created in 2003, and a clause that required 50% Bodo population for a village to be included in the council, was a cause for concern. The Sanmilita Janagosthiya Aikya Mancha launched a series of agitation that petered out until the Lok Sabha election last year. They also helped a former United Liberation Front of Asom rebel wrest the Kokrajhar seat that had a Bodo representative for years. Forty-six Muslims, the largest non-Bodo voting bloc, were killed before the results, presumably as a punishment for their political choice. The NDFB(S) was blamed, but involvement of other Bodo groups was not ruled out. “Control over land is at the core of violence in BTC areas, though many consciously try to bring about polarisation along religious lines,” said academic Udayon Misra. Army officials said it was easier to attack in remote areas bordering Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh without running into security forces. But the militants could also have driven home a message — not to repeat the ‘mistake’ of the Lok Sabha polls in the polls for BTC scheduled next year. (Hindustan Times 25/12/14)

25. Minority cell seeks Modi vow (7)

New Delhi, Dec. 25: The National Commission of Minorities has passed a resolution on “Good Governance Day” to urge the Narendra Modi government to reassure all minorities that their constitutional rights would not be compromised. In the resolution, the apex government body in charge of the welfare of minority communities also highlighted the “pain and anguish” of Christians over the government’s decision to observe Good Governance Day on Christmas Day. Expressing concern over the ongoing “re-conversion” programmes undertaken by some Sangh parivar outfits, the panel said the government needed to send across a message that it was committed to the security of all citizens, including minorities. “We have passed a resolution in the wake of religious conversion programmes of Christians and Muslims across the country. This is creating fear among the minds of the community members and the government needs to take action on the ground to ensure the rights of minorities guaranteed in the Constitution are protected,” Mabel Rebello, the NCM member who represents the Christian community, told The Telegraph. The resolution will be sent to minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla and home minister Rajnath Singh tomorrow. “We have received complaints from several Christian groups in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who expressed shock over the government’s decision to replace Christmas with Good Governance Day. In their complaints, the organisations highlighted their deep pain and anguish,” she said. According to the complaints, over the past six months, Christians have been regularly attacked across the country, particularly in Chhattisgarh. Earlier this month, prominent Christian leaders had requested the Prime Minister to act against hate speeches following an alleged arson attack on St Sebastian’s Church, one of east Delhi’s biggest churches, on December 2. A senior NCM member, however, rued that it was a quasi-judicial body and had its limitations. “In fact, the commission does not have any real powers and it is not binding on the government to implement our recommendations.” The panel has the power to take cognisance of cases related to six minority communities and send its team to carry out a probe independently. “But we can only make recommendations,” he said. He recalled how no action was taken on the NCM’s recommendation over the hate speeches by BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath before the September bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. The NCM had passed a resolution then, condemning “the communally charged statements attributed to prominent people in public life which are creating this atmosphere of mistrust and heightened tension”. The member said: “But the government did not take any action against those people. Even the Prime Minister is silent.” He also pointed to the silence of Heptulla over the continuing hate speeches and “re-conversion” programmes. (The Telegraph 26/12/14)

26. National Commission for Minorities condemns statements ‘making minorities insecure’ (7)

New Delhi: In a resolution passed on Friday, the National Commission for Minorities  has condemned statements implying that religions like Christianity and Islam are not native to India. The commission said that such statements are creating a sense of insecurity among minority communities in the country and urged the government to ensure that all persons in public life refrain from making statements that can cause polarisation. “The Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of religion (Article 25) and any attempt to curtail this right goes against the Constitution of India. Ours is a secular nation where all religions are given an equal status and all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practise and propagate their religion. Claiming religious monopoly for any one religion in a multi-religious, secular state and forcible conversions through inducement, allurement and coercion violate the Constitution, and must be strongly condemned,” the resolution said. It described the statements as “irresponsible and uncalled for.” The NCM did not name any persons or organisations. However, in the wake of a Parliament session where Rajya Sabha saw no business over the conversion debate, the resolution seems to suggest that NCM, which maintained low profile since NDA government came to power, has woken up to the “ghar wapsi” debate. (The Indian Express 28/12/14)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

27. 99 per cent of Muslims in India were Hindus: M G Vaidya (7)

Nagpur: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s senior ideologue M.G. Vaidya claimed that 99 per cent of Muslims in India were Hindus. Defending the ‘ghar vapsi’ initiative of the Sangh Parivar, Mr Vaidya said those who were converted were now returning to their old “home”. In an exclusive chat with The Asian Age, Mr Vaidya strongly advocated that the secular structure of the country could be preserved only if Hindus remained a majority. Keeping this view in mind, the idea of re-conversion or ‘ghar vapsi’ was initiated in the Hindu religion in the 60s, he claimed. “In 1964-65, all Shankaracharyas, Mahants and saints of the religion met in Udipi in Karnataka and decided to allow re-conversion. This was the first public declaration made by the leaders of the Hindu society. Before that there was almost a social ban on conversion in the Hindu community,” Mr Vaidya said. According to Mr Vaidya, people were originally converted from Hinduism and therefore ‘ghar vapsi’ is not conversion, but re-conversion. “Who were the Muslims in India? 99 per cent of them were Hindus. How they were converted, history knows. We are only doing their ‘ghar vapsi’,” he argued, defending mass conversions of Muslims in Agra that has kicked up a hornet’s nest across the country. He however expressed his unhappiness over the publicity of the ‘ghar vapsi’ campaign saying that it was not necessary to advertise it, and make a show. He also opined that making a show of the campaign could not be seen as an offence. Mr Vaidya further said that only Indian Muslims could save Islam because they believe in plurality. “Hindus believe in the plurality of religions, while Muslims do not. You can see how Shias and Ahmediyas are being targeted in Pakistan and elsewhere. Muslims have to change according to the times. However, only Indian Muslims can save Islam because they believe in plurality,” he said. Being a former MLC and ex-editor of Tarun Bharat newspaper, Mr Vaidya was felicitated by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in an event organised by ‘VS Page Sansdiya Prashikshan Kendra’ of the Maharashtra Legislature on the first day of the Winter Session. The 92-year-old former spokesperson of RSS, who was in news for asking Muslims to willingly relinquish claim in favour of Hindus over the disputed land of Babri Masjid, also said that Muslims should themselves appoint a commission to find out which temples were destroyed and mosques were built on it. (Asian Age 22/12/14)

28. VHP to hold ‘ghar wapsi’ for 4,000 Muslims in Ayodhya in January (7)

AYODHYA: The VHP will hold a ‘ghar wapsi’ programme for 4,000 Muslims in Ayodhya next month, saffron outfit functionary Ram Vilas Vedanti said on Tuesday. Vedanti, a former BJP MP, refused to disclose the identity of the families, saying then the administration would not allow them to embrace Hinduism. He said most of the families were from Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Gonda, Bahraich and Sultanpur. He said the Muslims had willingly come forth for conversion. In his reaction, Faizabad DIG Sanjay Kakkar said those issuing such statements were trying to create communal tension in the area and action would be taken against them. (Times of India 24/12/14)

29. Another Muslim family of 12 becomes Hindu in Agra (7)

Agra: ReconversionThe local police is investigating the matter to ascertain if any form of coercion was involved in the conversion. (Picture is for representation purpose only)The national furor raised by the Ved Nagar ‘reconversion’ issue of over 300 Muslims in Agra is yet to settle down, when another Muslim family of 12 has voluntarily converted to Hinduism in Achhnera tehsil of Agra, changing their names to reflect their new religious identity on Christmas. At a time when the Government of India is under pressure to explain the ‘reconversion’ movement operated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other Hindu organizations, this new reconversion in Agra could drag it down deeper into muddy waters. Gatheli Ram, who was known as Rehmat Ali just a few days earlier, said that his family was the original resident of Ole town in Mathura district and about 25 years back, they came to Dawli village of Malpura in Achhnera Tehsil of Agra. He said that they had no identity documents or documentary residence proof like Ration Cards of either Ole or Dawli, but they could prove their nationality through numerous family relations they had in the region. He said that he hoped he will get identity documents like Aadhar card soon, however he refused to link this to his recent conversion to Hinduism and said that his decision to become Hindu was completely voluntary. Luv Pandit, a local RSS operative who claims he is inspired by the Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat said that he organised this reconversion event after the mega reconversion in Aligarh on Christmas was postponed due to political pressure. He said that he was merely a facilitator in this reconversion and it was completely the choice of Rehmat Ali to become Gatheli Ram. He said that this family of laborers has expressed their full faith in Hinduism and are openly expressing their joy in becoming Hindu. Although the local police is investigating the matter to ascertain if any form of coercion was involved in the conversion, the Muslims of Agra are not willing to take this issue lying down, claiming that the entire matter reeked of the duplicity of Hindu organizations, who were openly forcing Muslims into accepting the Hindu faith, in full support of the local administration. National All Party Muslim Action Committee chief Haji Jamiluddin said that the Dawli reconversion was fake and the communal Hindus were trying to damage the secular fabric of the country. He demanded that the government should take strict action in this matter. Hindustani Biradari secretary and social activist Ziauddin said that some people are deliberately stoking up the fire of religious conversions in order to create unrest in the country and such elements should be stopped at all costs. He said that this appears to be a political strategy to capture the maximum votes in the 2017 UP assembly elections and such people are not bothered about the country or the people. (India Today 27/12/14)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

30. Vishwa Hindu Parishad re-converts 30 Christians in Kerala (7)

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Sunday claimed it converted several Christian families “into the Hindu fold” in the state as part of the Ghar Wapsi programme. VHP Alappuzha district president Prathap G. Padickal said that 30 Christians converted at a function at Thayyannur Lakshmi Narayana Temple in Cheppad panchayat. Temple administrator S. Sasikumar, however, said nine persons converted in the function. Mr Padickal said VHP was planning to hold similar public conversions. “Nobody can call it conversion because the people are coming back to their home ‘dharma’. All we did was to facilitate it. We will continue to do it for those who are interested.” VHP leadership claimed it organised conversions in Kottayam, Kollam, Ernakulam and Kasargod districts but declined provide the number of people converted. The State government took the reports on conversion seriously, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said. “The police will look into the event from the constitutional point of view,” he said. The VHP is yet to reveal the identity of the converted persons in Alappuzha. Mr Sasikumar said they belonged to ST community but were denied benefits of government schemes as they were Christians. “Their forefathers converted into Christianity but the new generation was not interested to follow the faith,” Mr Kumar, an active BJP worker, said. “In 2012, a ritual was held at Chettikulangara temple and they had got a certificate from the Travancore Dewaswom Board. But it hardly helped them get benefits of government schemes. Hence their decision.” Local residents told DC that there was an hour-long puja including ganpathihomam at the temple as part of the ceremony, which started at 10am. The narrow roads that lead to the temple and surrounding areas were decorated with VHP flags. As many as 100 VHP activists attended the programme. K Soman, a senior BJP leader in the district told DC that the entire programme was conducted by VHP. “The district BJP unit was unaware of it,” he said. Kerala Catholic Bishop Council declined to comment on the development. KCBC secretary-general and spokesperson Fr. Varghese Vallikatu said it would not be proper to comment on such a matter without the details of the incidents. SNDP Yogam General Secretary Vellappally Natesan said that banning religious conversion by law is the only way to protect secularism and religious harmony. “The State and Central governments should come forward to make such a law,” he said. Veallappaly however, declined to oppose the campaign launched by the VHP and other Hindu outfits in the state to reconvert people to Hinduism. Reconversion is possible only when people are ready to come back, he said. On the question of the caste status of the people getting reconverted into Hinduism, he said, “the matter needed a serious study.” (Asian Age 22/12/14)

31. ‘We converted for quota benefits’ (7)

ALAPPUZHA: Forty-four-year-old Joy, who led his family at the ‘Ghar Vapsi’ ceremony at Cheppad in Alappuzha district on Sunday, says he converted to Hinduism three years ago. He has done it once again to ensure that he and his family are officially accepted as Hindu Pulayas, which will make them eligible for reservation benefits. A daily wage labourer, Joy lives with his wife and two daughters in a decrepit hut in Kanichanallor at Cheppad, near Haripad. His parents, George and Janamma of the Palatharayil house, converted from Hinduism to become Pentecostal Christians several years ago. According to official records, they are Christian Cheramar. However, since the community did not come under the Scheduled Castes, they were unable to avail themselves of any benefits that their relatives enjoyed. “We had converted back to Hinduism three years ago through a ritual held at the temple at Chettikulangara. However, we were told by the Cheppad village authorities that the certificate provided by the Travancore Devaswom Board was not sufficient to be formally registered as Hindus.” His family then approached the Chengannur unit of the VHP seeking its assistance. “We were not offered any financial assistance to convert… They have offered to take up our issue,” he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

32. Goa Archbishop expresses concern over condition of minorities (7)

PANAJI: Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao on Tuesday endorsed a statement by the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India, a member of the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) which comprises all the other Christian groups in the country, expressing concern over the current situation of the minorities, particularly Christians in the country. “The recent reports from Bastar, where a Catholic school was forced to put the statue of Sarsawati on the compound and children were forbidden from addressing the principal with the honorific “Father”, the burning of a church in Delhi; the declaration of ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25 to undermine the importance of Christmas; the provocative call by some fundamentalists to convert 4,000 Christians to Hinduism in Agra on Christmas Day; and the regular targeting of the Christian community, calling them even anti-national, are a cause for concern,” the statement said. On the recent controversy over Christmas holiday, it said: “Christmas is the only holiday that Christians have in the whole year when we join the rest of the world in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. A circular by the Navodaya School Commissioner to keep certain government-run schools open on that day is perceived by the Christian community as an insult to the importance of Christmas Day.” The NUCF has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind the people that development cannot take place in the country if there are attempts to disrupt communal harmony prevailing in the country for centuries. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

33. 59 Christians ‘convert’ to Hinduism in Kerala (7)

Kottayam (Kerala): Fifty-nine people ‘converted’ to Hinduism on Thursday in Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy’s home district Kottayam, a day after he said there was no forced conversion in the state. As many as 42 people from 21 families — all of them Christians — took part in temple rituals, and amidst chanting of slogans became Hindus in Ponkunam in Kottayam district. Another 17 people from near Kottayam town also became Hindus at a temple function. State Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary V Mohanan said what happened on Thursday and last week – when 35 people became Hindus – “was not conversion, but re-conversion”.”Right from the time the VHP became active in Kerala, re-conversion has been taking place but there has been no forced conversion at all.”What we do is all those who have gone out of Hinduism, when they express their wish to return, we help them,” Mohanan said in a press statement issued here on Thursday. Chandy had on Wednesday said Kerala has always stayed clear of forced conversion and if any individual decides to ‘convert’, no one can stop them. Hindu Ayikya Vedi leader Bhargava Ram told the media to come out with proof that there was pressure on people to ‘convert’ to Hinduism “We have been doing this ceremony of making people Hindus in temples in full public glare. Today, when the function took place, the media was there and we told the media to please ask those who converted if they were under pressure. “I challenge the authorities to register a case against us, as forced conversion is against the law of the land,” he said. Many people appeared before the media and said they decided to ‘convert’ on their own and there was no external pressure. CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, however, said there was a secret understanding between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Chandy. (Time of India 25/12/14)

34. Anthology on Jesuit Fathers’ contribution (7)

The Goethals Indian Library and Research Centre of St. Xavier’s College has published a book on the lives of the Jesuits who lived and worked in India, especially in Bengal, since the early 19th century. The anthology was released by Father P. Franck Janin, Jesuit Provincial, South Belgian Province and Luxembourg, at Dhyan Ashram in Joka on Sunday. Edited by Father Albert Huart and Father J. Felix Raj, Discovery of Bengal: The Jesuit Design marks the 200th year of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. The book records the academic, social, cultural and spiritual contributions of the Jesuit fathers in shaping the moral growth of the race and the country. Among the Jesuits who feature in the book are Fathers Henry Depelchin, Achille Verstraeten, Paul Joris, Cardinal Lawrence Picachy, Camille Bouche and Andre Bruylants. “They attracted heartsby the qualities they displayed and posterity retains them as lessons of life learnt forever. Even after 200 years, their words and works reach those for whom they were intended – the inhabitants of The Kingdom of God. These men of moral might were armed with supreme sense of sacrifice and were gifted with grace and the zeal to establish ‘Good News of God’ and the promise of justice for humanity,” said Felix Raj, the principal of St. Xavier’s College. “Humility, fortitude, power of prayer and passion for performing God’s will on earth endowed these Samaritans with the benediction that brought the light of the Lord to the masses of Bengal. This collection scripts the eternal immortal lives of the Jesuits who are today and forever in fellowship with us and with God.” Copies of the anthology are available from the Goethals library at the college. (The Telegraph 29/12/14)

35. NHRC notice to five states over atrocities on Christians (1)

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notice to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu over alleged acts of violence and atrocities against Christians. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the chief secretaries of the states within three weeks. In Madhya Pradesh, churches have reportedly been vandalised in addition to incidents of arson, stone pelting, attack on pastors and forcible conversions. Similarly in other states, diktats on missionary schools have been given, Sunday services have been disrupted and the entry of Christians in some villages has been barred as well. In parts of Chhattisgarh, refusal to supply ration to Christians has been reported. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” the NHRC said. (Business Standard 30/12/14)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. Tibetans to Vote for The First Time in Delhi (13)

NEW DELHI:  Marking a first in the national capital, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, would be eligible for enrollment in the voters’ list for the Delhi Assembly elections, officials said. “According to the order issued to Delhi’s Chief Electoral Office (CEO) by the Election Commission of India (ECI), dated December 8, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, are eligible for enrollment in Delhi,” Deputy Chief Electoral Officer A K Srivastava said. The Ministry of Home Affairs though, is in principle, against giving voting rights to all refugees living in India…But, the Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) concerned should not deny enrollment to children of such Tibetan refugees, the order said. According to the ECI guidelines, those Tibetans born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, have the right to exercise their franchise. The guidelines came into force following an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees. A majority of Tibetans living in Delhi, reside in Majnu Ka Tilla, which is one of the largest Tibetan settlements colony falling under Chandni Chowk constituency. Officials said, “There is no census on the number of such Tibetans in the capital. And, their exact number can only be ascertained once we begin the enrollment process.” (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

37. Citizenship to Bangla Hindu migrants unlikely (13)

NEW DELHI, Dec 23 – The Centre is not inclined to offer citizenship to the Hindu Bengalis who had fled from Bangladesh to India after 1971 and instead may offer them Long Term Visa (LTV), highly placed sources said. A meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), with representative associations especially of minority communities from neighbouring countries to address their grievances related to grant of LTV and Indian citizenship, proved to be an unsavoury experience for Hindu Bengali organisations of Assam. The meeting, chaired by Additional Secretary (Foreigners) in the MHA BK Prasad with about 75 representatives from 15 associations discussed problems being faced by minority communities from neighbouring countries in acquiring LTV and citizenship. The representatives were also told about the procedure for grant of LTV and Indian citizenship and the various initiatives undertaken by the MHA towards addressing their grievances and difficulties, official sources said. The Bharatiya Loka Manch (BLM), a joint body 10 Hindu Bengali organisations, however, alleged that they were insulted and they felt ‘betrayed’ by the attitude of the Home Ministry officials. “We were not allowed to put across our point of view at the meeting as officials focused on those to who came from Pakistan,” alleged president of BLM Sudendu Mohan Talukdar, who said that they protested the behaviour of the MHA officials. He charged that the government was interested in talking about LTV only and not granting citizenship. The joint body wanted all Bengali Hindus, who fled Bangladesh after facing atrocities, to be granted Indian citizenship. Talukdar also blasted the BJP and its seven MPs for not cooperating with them and leaving them in the lurch. Meanwhile, sources said that the Centre is only keen on talking about LTV and not granting citizenship to those who came after 1971. However, the Bengali organisations said they are not sure about the Centre’s stand even on those who came during 1947- 1971. Meanwhile, it was decided that teams of MHA officials would fan out to 24 identified districts for citizenship in eight States and 14 districts for LTV cases of these applicants. The visiting officials will hold camps during the next two months and assist the applicants in the settlement of citizenship and LTV cases. However, Assam is not among the destination states. (The Assam Tribune 24/12/14)

38. 3 relief camps set up in Alipurduar (13)

Alipurduar: Three relief camps were set up in neighbouring Alipurduar district of West Bengal for refugees leaving their homes in Assam. Additional SP Akash Megharia said while an estimated 300 refugees were still residing in the camps, 200 others have left in the past two days. The refugees crossed over to the Bengal side in the wake of the firing. The administration has deployed one company of CRPF for security purpose at the camps in Kumargram block and made provisions for drinking water and food for those having left their homes in the wake of the massacre in Kokrajhar, Sonitpur and Chirang districts. Atlast 78 persons were killed in the NDFB (S) violence in lower Assam since Decemmber 23. (Business Standard 25/12/14)

39. Relief pours in for refugees (13)

Alipurduar, Dec. 28: A number of organisations here today started collecting relief materials to help the Assam refugees staying in four camps in Kumargram after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit yesterday. John Barla, an Adivasi leader from the Dooars, today visited the camps and enquired about the refugees. “We distributed blankets and clothes among the refugees. We will request the Centre to restore peace in Assam so that the refugees can return to their homes. We also demand a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for the injured,” said Barla. All the organisations have been instructed by the state government not to collect cash and baby food. They have been asked to collect dry food, clothes, candles, and matchboxes. The collected materials will be deposited with the Kumargram block development officer for distribution. Militants belonging to the National Democratic Front of Boroland’s Songbijit faction had killed 64 Adivasis in the Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts of Assam on Tuesday. In Kumargram, near the Bengal-Assam border, relief camps have been set up by the West Bengal government in a community hall and three schools. Over 2,000 people have taken shelter in the camps since Wednesday. Ratul Biswas, the secretary of Manobik Mukh said: “Today, we collected clothes, rice and food grains. Tomorrow, we will again collect goods in another part of the town and will deposit the same with the BDO of Kumargram. We have already talked to doctors in the Alipurduar hospital and we will have a medical camp in Gayenpara soon.” Refugees in the camps of Kumargram are getting packaged drinking water, meals, blankets and clothes among other things. During her visit yesterday, Mamata had enquired about the refugees and camps from Kavita Das, the upa-pradhan of Gayenpara area. Kavita Das said: “Mamata didi has strictly instructed us to provide all necessary items to refugees in all camps. She asked whether children were getting food and clothes. The chief minister also told us to take anybody to the health centre if necessary. Today, we took a pregnant woman, Mani Hembram, to Kumargram block health centre for a check-up. Around 280 more people came today from Assam.” Leaders of different political parties from Assam today visited the relief camps to find out about the refugees’ condition. However, the leaders were surrounded by a group of women in the camps who asked them why they had not come earlier to enquire about them when they were in distress.Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma has said there should be a unified war against the perpetrators of terror in the country in the wake of the killings by NDFB (S) militants. “Why wage a war against terrorists only from outside the country? We must wage a war and wipe out the domestic variety first,” Mukul said. Stating that home-bred terrorists are more harmful in causing disharmony in society, he said, “We have to contain this. It is already late and everyday precious lives are affected by such acts of brutality.” “We need to correct our mistakes by dealing with this menace once and for all before it is too late,” he said. Urging those at the helms of power both in the Centre and in Assam to adopt a new stringent policy against the perpetrators of crime, he said it was high time to take action and make it visible on the ground. Condemning the blame game adopted by several political parties, he said, “It has always been the tendency to play the blame game after a distressing incident. Personally I feel it is a collective responsibility and instead of blaming one another we should come together to take responsibility.” The Meghalaya government has just completed disarming of two dreaded Garo outfits, the ANVC and its breakaway faction, the ANVC (B) and talks are on with another outfit that has unleashed terror in at least five districts in the Garo hills region. (The Telegraph 29/12/14)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

40. 6 RTI activists killed in 5 years, accused still at large (1)

Patna: Six RTI activists have been killed in Bihar in the last five years for daring to seek information from different authorities. Two of them — Rahul Kumar and Ram Kumar Thakur — were murdered in Muzaffarpur district in March 2012 and March 2013, respectively, while Murlidhar Jaiswal was killed in Munger district in March 2012, Rajesh Kumar in Bhagalpur district in December 2012, Ram Vilas Singh in Lakhisarai district in December 2011 and Shashidhar Mishra in Begusarai district in February 2010. In three cases, the main accused are yet to be arrested. Family members of Ram Vilas, who was killed at his native village Babhangawan under Lakhisarai police station area, were so much terrorized that they shifted his son Abhishek Kumar to New Delhi. “I have returned to my district town just a month back, but all my well-wishers and relatives are advising me to go back to Delhi. They say I may be killed any day as the main accused in my father’s murder case, Bumbum Singh, is still roaming free,” Abhishek told TOI.

“Thakur, a lawyer and RTI activist, was shot dead near Purushottampur village in Muzaffarpur district when he was returning by his cycle from the district court with his nephew. He was shot dead by six persons and none of them have been arrested yet despite a named FIR lodged against them. Raj Kumar Sahni is the main accused in the case. Similarly, the main accused in Jaiswal murder case — Bablu Mandal — is yet to be arrested,” National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) activist Ashish Ranjan said. A delegation of NCPRI led by Ranjan and noted RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai recently called on Bihar DGP P K Thakur and drew his attention towards alleged ‘police inaction’ in cases of RTI activists’ murder. “We have time and again been pressing the police for arresting the persons who killed six RTI activists. But to our dismay, the main accused in the three cases are roaming free and threatening the deceased’s family members,” Rai told TOI. He also said he has planned to file a PIL in the Patna high court, if police failed to take necessary action in these cases. When contacted, DGP Thakur said he had sought reports from the district police concerned in all six cases. ADG (law and order) Alok Raj, who is looking into the matter, said the police headquarters had demanded file of all the six cases from the district police. “After review at headquarters level, we will, if necessary, constitute special teams to nab the accused evading arrest,” Raj said. (Times of India 22/12/14)

41. Medical reimbursement of SC judges exempted from RTI: HC (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has held that reimbursements of medical expenses of the Supreme Court judges cannot be disclosed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, saying it does not serve any public interest. Justice Vibhu Bakhru held that the Central Information Commission (CIC) was in error to direct the Supreme Court Registry to provide the information sought, saying “medical records are not liable to be disclosed unless it is shown that the same is in larger public interest”.”In the present case, the CIC has completely overlooked this aspect of the matter. Further, the extent of medical reimbursement to an individual is also, in one sense, personal information as it would disclose the extent of medical services availed by an individual. “Thus, unless a larger public interest is shown to be served, there is no necessity for providing such information. Thus, a direction for maintaining records in a manner so as to provide such information is not warranted,” the court said. The court made the observations in its judgement on the plea of the Supreme Court registry against CIC’s order directing the apex court to maintain details of medical reimbursement availed of by each of its judges in the last three years to be furnished to information-seekers. The high court held CIC’s order as “erroneous”. (Zee News 22/12/14)

42. CIC to decide if corporate debt restructuring falls under RTI (1)

MUMBAI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) will soon have to decide whether a body set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), whose principal task is of restructuring corporate loans, falls under the public scrutiny through Right to Information (RTI) act.  The Corporate Debt Restructuring Cell (CDRC) set up by the RBI has refused to provide details of total amount sacrificed by public sector banks as a part of CDR packages and also the mechanism by which it was approved to an application under the RTI. In its reply to former CIC and RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, who had sought the information, the CDRC has said that it does not fall under the category of ‘public authority’ as it is neither owned, controlled or substantially financed by directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. Subsequently, Mr. Gandhi’s first appeal too was rejected and he had now gone in to second appeal with the office of CIC. The appeal said that the CDRC website shows that it has restructured corporate debt of Rs. 3.7 lakh crore for 505 customers — an average of Rs. 668 crore per customer. It is also claimed in the appeal that 80 to 90 per cent of the restructuring is of borrowers from Public Sector banks. “The CDR cell has been created by a RBI circular. Despite having 38 members who are public sector banks and institutions and only 14 private sector banks it claims an independent status. Five of its seven core group members are public sector employees and 13 of its 19 employees are also employees who are getting their salaries from public sector banks,” said the application by Mr. Gandhi. While the CDRC in its reply to the first appeal did not dispute these numbers, it implied that the bank officers are not government servants. He added that the initial finance of the CDRC was provided by IDBI, a public sector bank and much over 75 per cent of subsequent finance is from public sector banks and institution. “It does not appear to have any legal structure and despite being created by a RBI circular, claims a virtual presence not accountable to anyone. If such an argument is accepted, all government organisations could create such virtual cells and deny information and accountability,” he said. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

43. PM’s wife denied information under RTI (1)

Ahmedabad: The Mehsana police have denied information sought under RTI by Jashodaben, wife of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the security cover given to her, on the ground that her queries were related to local intelligence bureau (LIB) which is exempted under the RTI Act. “The information sought by her (Jashodaben) was related to the LIB . Therefore, it could not be given to her and we have sent a written communication about this development to her,” Superintendent of Police J R Mothaliya of Mehsana district said. The reply given in writing to her also says the same thing. “The information sought by you (Jashodaben Modi) was related (to) the LIB and as per the Gujarat Home Department’s resolution number SB 1/1020018203/GOI/62 dated November 25, LIB has been exempted from RTI Act and therefore, the asked information cannot be given to you,” said the letter written to her by the public information officer and Mehsana Deputy Superintendent of Police Bhakti Thakar. In her RTI application filed before Mehsana Police on November 24, Jashodaben had sought several documents related to the security cover given to her as per the protocol, including the certified copy of actual order passed by government about providing security. She also wanted to know the laws and related provisions in Indian Constitution about security cover given to a prime minister’s wife. Jashodaben, 62, had asked the government to explain the definition of protocol and sought details about what is included under it and what other benefits she is entitled for as per that protocol. She also expressed unhappiness about the current security set-up, where her guards travel in government vehicles like car, while she, despite being the prime minister’s wife, has to travel in public transport. She also said that as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her own security guards, she feel scared of her guards. She asked the government to make it compulsory for each guard to produce the copy of deployment order. Jashodaben, a retired school teacher, lives with her brother Ashok Modi at Unjha town of Mehsana district. After Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26, she has been given security by Mehsana police. Mehsana police has deployed 10 policemen, including armed guards, who work in two shifts. (Deccan Herald 28/12/14)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

44. RTE applicable from nursery admission: HC (11)

INDORE: Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh high court (MPHC) on Friday directed that provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 would be applicable for admission nursery onwards. Private schools will have to give admission in nursery to 25% of students under RTE and state government will reimburse schools as per law, the court said. The order has come as a major relief for parents seeking admission for their children in nursery under the Act and will be of far-reaching significance across the country. Single bench of Justice Prakash Shrivastava rejected petitions of private schools, including Daly College, Emerald Heights, SICA and Sishukunj challenging applicability of RTE for admission in nursery/pre-school. In its order, the HC observed that the child is entitled to get admission in a school from the day he or she starts education and directed private schools to admit children in nursery, LKG and UKG under RTE. The government will have to work out modalities of reimbursement to private schools for admission to children in nursery and pre-school in three months. Madhya Pradesh additional advocate general Manoj Dwivedi said state education department had issued notices to private schools in September 2013 for turning down admission on 25% seats in nursery/pre-school to children under RTE. Opposing it, private schools challenged it by filing a slew of petitions on grounds that it is applicable only to children from 6 to 14 years of age and schools have to give admissions only from I to VII. Schools took the stand as children are below six years of age at the time of admission in nursery/pre-school children, RTE is not applicable. In their petitions, private schools have claimed neighbourhood, which forms main basis for considering admissions, is not defined properly under the Right to Child to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and that the Act has made no mention of nursery admissions. Petitioners have claimed that the Act has only made education mandatory for children from 6 to 14 years of age. Rejecting argument of private schools, the HC observed child is entitled to get education right from the time he or she starts going to school and made it clear the RTE is applicable for admission in pre-school/nursery. (Times of India 20/12/14)

45. Right to Education quota shift: From exemption for minority schools to online admission (11)

Pune: The Right to Education Act that came into effect in 2009 faced a lot of initial confusion as well as resistance to certain clauses, which led to major changes in implementation. Following a Supreme Court order, schools run by minority institutions that availed of no government grants were exempted from the rule of reserving 25 per cent seats for students of economically and socially weaker sections. A recent move was to make the process of filling the 25 per cent quota seats in schools in Pune, Mumbai and Panvel an online process. This was after parents of students from the poorer sections complained that they were prevented from entering schools even for admission. The government had last academic year held that RTE is applicable to all schools including unaided minority schools. Management of several schools opposed this. Parents seeking admission for their children were affected by the conflict and the resultant confusion. On May 6, the Supreme Court made things clear with its directive that the RTE admission criteria would not apply to unaided minority schools as as it is “ultra vires” to the Constitution and will hurt rights of minorities. Many parents of students seeking admission to schools availing of the 25 per cent quota were not allowed to enter the premises even to collect admission forms. Several schools, in their bid keep such students out of the admission process allegedly used “muscle power”. Their ploy was to declare later that they did not get any applications under 25 per cent quota. Putting a stop to that, an online admission process was started by Commissioner of Education S Chockalingam in Mumbai, Pune and Panvel for academic year 2014-15. In the coming year, it will be implemented in all municipal corporations in the state. After facing problems owing to variance in age limits set by schools and educational boards for admission, a proposal for a uniform age for admission was sent by the education department to the education ministry for clearance. If passed, there will be an age regulation from pre-primary level onwards in schools across the state no matter which board or management they are affiliated to. The education department has also started an ambitious project of making a database of students, teachers and managements for schools in the state. This will give students and teachers a mail id that can be used to access data about them no matter wherever they move in the state. This will make students’ transfer between schools, report cards, health cards etc online and move towards a paperless system. One of the major problems the government has to grapple with is exclusion of many deserving students from the RTE Act because of lack of awareness or documents. Many a time, students from the economically backward sections are not able to use the Act to get admitted to schools because their parents lack awareness about RTE or do not posses necessary documents.Setting up efficient help centres and a higher .. (Indian Express 26/12/14)

46. Nobel laureate’s take on education (11)

SANTINIKETAN: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Sunday said that the success of a school should not only be judged on the basis of the teaching it imparts. “It should also be seen whether the school is giving its students a scope to bond with the society better. Students come to school not only to learn, but also with an aim to make the social health better. The social health and education are inter-related,” he said while interacting with the audience at an event organized by the Pratichi (India) Trust here on Sunday. Sen also found the lower fertility rate in the state in the last couple of years a good sign. “It is a noteworthy matter that the fertility rate in this state is lower than a number of other states, including Kerala,” he added. (Times of India 29/12/14)

47. Jobless surplus teachers to fill vacant posts (11)

The teachers who lost their jobs after a rationing undertaken by schools under the Right to Education (RTE) Act can now breathe a sigh of relief. The education minister has declared that the teachers who got cut off due to the surplus issue will be accommodated against vacant posts in schools. Moreover, 1,343 unaided schools are now eligible for the government grant. Of 5,500 unaided schools, 1,343 have been made eligible for the government grant. This has brought a big relief to their teaching and non-teaching staff. According to the teachers community, the staff who were working on very little salary will be now eligible for the salary grant. The issue of surplus teachers started after a government resolution was issued on November 20, 2013. The students and teachers ratio for class V is 30:1, from classes VI to VIII it is 35:1 and for classes IX and X it is 35:1. Because of this ratio, the teachers started losing their jobs. Two teachers have been fighting to get the justice for their colleagues who lost their jobs because of the surplus issue when the students and teachers rations were declared in RTE. The teachers will now be accommodated against the vacant post, claimed the teachers’ representative. Two of the teachers representatives, member of legislative council Ramnath Mote from Rajya Shikshak Parishad and Kapil Patil, MLC and president of Lokbharati, had raised this issue. Anil Bornare, spokesperson, Shikshak Parishad, said, “Since the education minister has given relief to surplus teachers, we will follow up with the department to even get grants for the remaining 4,000 unaided schools so that their 25,000 teaching and non-teaching staff members who have been working from 2001 with low salaries can get better payment.” MLC Kapil Patil too welcomed the decision. (DNA 29/12/14)

48. Corporation teachers begin ‘school wapsi’ campaign in Delhi (11)

NEW DELHI: Teachers in municipal schools have started a ‘school wapsi’ initiative for dropout students. Students who have dropped out or left school midway will be enrolled back under this initiative. To start with, schools in two central zone wards-Zakir Nagar and Nizamuddin-will be roped in. “We will extend the initiative in other schools depending on the results. Though many families are willing to send their kids back to school they are hesitant due to financial reasons. Poverty, child abuse or child labour are some of the reasons why kids drop out of school,” Arvind Mishra, vice-president, Akhil Dilli Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, said. (Times of India 30/12/14)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

49. Only food security card valid for free treatment (21)

New Delhi: Poor patients can avail free treatment at identified private hospitals here using their National Food Security cards from January 1. BPL cards or ration cards will no longer be valid documents from the new year, said a senior official of the Directorate of Health Services. So far, 73 lakh people who earn less than Rs 1 lakh annually have been issued National Food Security cards in Delhi, according to figures available with the Food Supplies and Consumers Affairs. According to state health department officials, one standard document will help more poor patients avail free treatment at the private hospitals under the quota reserved for them. “The older documents will now be replaced. There are more beneficiaries now as the number of BPL and ration card holders is less than that of the the National Food Security card holders. There will be a wider network of people who can benefit from the health schemes,” said a DHS official. “The food security cards will be the new document to establish that a patient is below poverty line or from the economically weaker section (EWS),” said the official. Currently, there are 43 identified private hospitals in Delhi which are supposed to provide free treatment to 10 per cent of the patients admitted in their wards and 25 per cent of patients in the Outdoor Patient Department (OPD). Hospitals have often been accused of turning away poor patients in spite of having vacant beds. Some hospitals have even failed to meet the benchmark of treating poor patients as defined by the state health department. Patients will also be able to avail the Delhi Arogya Kosh scheme through this document. This scheme provides financial assistance till Rs 5 lakh to patients for treatment of an illness in a government hospital or certain specific diseases in notified private hospitals. Circulars have been issued to medical superintendents of all government and identified private hospitals to update food security cards as valid documents beginning next year. Till now, patients could also use income certificates to establish the poverty level. According to health department officials, the free treatment scheme was often misused with forged documents being produced. “One standard document will rule out such possibilities and more genuinely poor patients can be accommodated,” said the official. However, several migrant labourers who did not have BPL or ration cards and now do not have the new document either can continue to avail free treatment after an undertaking from the DHS. (Deccan Herald 20/12/14)

50. PDS sugar leaves bitter taste in govt mouth (21)

Shillong, Dec. 22: Consumers in Meghalaya have started receiving sugar under public distribution system (PDS), but the state government is now bearing a financial brunt as it is procuring the item from the open market at a high rate. A symbolic distribution of sugar was organised at U Soso Tham auditorium, State Central Library here today where food and civil supplies and consumer affairs department minister Clement Marak distributed a few kilograms of sugar to some of the selected consumers in the presence of wholesalers and fair-price shop dealers. The sugar has the name of “ISS Grade Sugar-30.” The Meghalaya government was able to distribute sugar to the ration-card holders in the state after the Centre provided a certain amount of subsidy to buy sugar from the open market. The Centre is giving Rs 18.50 paise per kg as subsidy and the state has to bear the remaining cost. Interestingly, the Meghalaya government through its supplier is procuring sugar from the open market at the rate of around Rs 43 per kg, meaning, the state government has to bear extra amount of around Rs 24.50 paise per kg. According to sources, at present, the price of sugar in the open market of Meghalaya ranges between Rs 32 and Rs 36 per kg. The beneficiaries of PDS have been deprived of regular supply of sugar since July last year because the allotment from the Centre has stopped. The principal secretary (food and civil supplies), P.W. Ingty, said the state government has selected Kendriya Bhandar, the largest consumer co-operative society in the country, to supply sugar to Meghalaya by purchasing it from the open market. “Kendriya Bhandar was selected after passing through a tender process,” Ingty said. Ingty, however, justified the Rs 43 per kg-rate quoted by Kendriya as it includes purchase, handling charges as well as packaging of the sugar. But the food and civil supplies official admitted that the Meghalaya government would be losing revenue as it has to bear the additional expenditure after the central subsidy. Ingty said the state government is procuring 1,704 metric tonnes of sugar a month for the state through the supplier (Kendriya Bhandar). The expenditure per month is over Rs 7.3 crore. “Each ration card holder is entitled to 3kg of sugar a month and it is being distributed at Rs 13.50 paise per kg at various fair-price shops,” he said. The sugar will be stocked at various godowns and its distribution supervised by deputy commissioners. For the state capital Shillong, the deputy commissioner (supply) is using a godown of the Meghalaya State Co-operative Marketing and Consumers’ Federation Ltd. popularly known as ‘MECOFED’ at Mawlai Mawiong here. The sugar which Meghalaya is distributing this month to the consumers is its quota for October. The state is waiting to receive its quota for November and December. (The Telegraph 23/12/14)

51. Rich were top beneficiaries (21)

GURGAON: Though the income of members belonging to the EWS Co-op group housing societies should not exceed Rs.2,500 per month as per the Group Housing Scheme 1998, several members in the present case purchased their shares from the original members by paying hefty considerations. According to the details provided by the society, several members paid money ranging from Rs.9 lakh to Rs.25 lakh to buy shares from the original members. “The information supplied by the society reveals that following members who became members of the society have purchased their shares from original members by paying hefty considerations which could not possibly have been mobilised by a person belonging to Economically Weaker Section category,” said the order. One of the members, Mahesh Goyal, was an officer of the Haryana Urban Development Authority till recently and retired as Senior Accounts Officer on June 30, 2014. A complaint was received in his case that he had amassed properties which were disproportionate to his known sources of income in which a vigilance inquiry was also ordered”. “Not a single eligible person from the EWS or Below Poverty Line got land /flats earmarked for economical weaker section in the licensed colonies. I have visited more than 25 licensed colonies and Group Housing Society in Gurgaon. The people living in the houses/flats allotted to the EWS or BPL have all gadgets and equipment along with luxury cars. The people living in EWS flats / houses belong to higher/middle class category,” said Gurgaon Progressive Forum president Raman Sharma. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

52. Govt may rework housing target for poor to 2 crore units (21)

NEW DELHI: The housing ministry may reset the target and build two crore houses for the urban poor instead of the three crore planned earlier under NDA’s flagship ‘Housing for All’ scheme. Sources said the initial target with a total investment of Rs 22.5 lakh crore is being reworked. Recently the housing and poverty alleviation ministry made a detailed presentation on the scheme to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sources said the PM was largely satisfied with the presentation. However, government officials were tightlipped about the reason behind reworking the target. Under the new mission, all housing schemes for the urban poor such as Rajiv Awas Yojna and JNNURM will be brought under one umbrella and it will be named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. NDA government has set 2022 as the target to provide pucca houses to all in urban areas with power and water connection. “We are yet to finalise the target. While a large portion of the housing demand in urban areas will be met by the private players, there is also a need to build houses for the poor,” a government official said. Each house for the urban poor would cost around Rs. 7.5 lakh. The housing ministry is looking at different options including interest subvention for affordable housing and the minister, M Venkaiah Naidu has already spoken about the need to bring down interest on housing loans. According to government estimates, there was shortage of 18.78 million houses in urban areas and more than 95% shortage is in the categories of economically weaker section and low income groups. Around 75% of the estimated housing shortage is concentrated in 10 states. While Uttar Pradesh has maximum share of 16%, Maharashtra accounts for 10% deficit. The Housing for All mission has four major components – slum redevelopment, affordable housing through interest subvention, rental housing for migrants and housing for urban destitute and homeless. (Times of India 29/12/14)

53. R’than tribal children battle malnourishment, death (21)

Baran (Rajasthan): Night has begun to fall and Kamla Bai is tossing chapatis on the griddle kept on the burning earthen stove in her partially-built house. The woman, who appears to be nearing her 60s, is in grief as her two-year-old grandson, Roop Kishore Raghuraj, died last month. What pricks Kamla Bai even more is that Kishore succumbed to malnourishment and she could not save him despite being an assistant at an Anganwadi –  government-sponsored mother and child healthcare centre. Kishore is not the only causality of malnourishment among the children of Sahariyas in Rajasthan’s Baran district – an underprivileged primitive tribal community of 1,25,000 which reported hunger deaths in 2002 and struggles to lead a life of two meals a day even today. Baran is some 300 km east of Rajasthan capital Jaipur, near the border with Madhya Pradesh. “He was admitted to the hospital (Malnutrition Treatment Centre) for nearly a month, but could not be saved. He was always sick and had stopped responding well,” Kamla Bai told this correspondent in Baran’s Kariria village. In Baran – where the poorest of the poor of Rajasthan live – most people till a couple of years ago were bonded labourers and lived a life of neglect. Today, almost all of them are daily wage migrant workers or earn by working in the paddy fields of rich farmers. Baran – one of India’s most backward districts – was in the news in September for the death of two children who were reportedly extremely malnourished. The issue kicked up a political storm. This correspondent visited several villages and hamlets in Sahabad and Kishanganj blocks of Baran, where most children have similar physical features – bloated stomachs, spindly legs and gaunt eyes. Before Kishore, the last victim of malnourishment was Mangal in 2013 in Kirari, the residents of the village said. “If our children fall sick we cannot do much. Either we are dependent on tablets sold in the village shop or the primary health centre which is very far from here,” Angoori, a mother of three, told IANS. Baran has nine Community Health Centres and one district hospital. From January till September, 1,583 malnourished children were admitted for treatment. Local NGOs claim that the numbers are much higher than the official figure. Though there are government schemes for the welfare of Sahariyas, the benefits do not reach all of them. Under one such scheme, each Sahariya family gets 35 kg wheat, two kg of dal and cooking oil and one kg of ghee per month. In one of the villages visited by IANS, many Sahariyas had voter identification cards – but no ration cards. “The problem is the leakage of supplies,” a Rajasthan government official said. IANS spoke to a very senior doctor, who has worked in the region for over two decades, about the problem. “The Integrated Child Development Scheme is a failure in Rajasthan. The Aanganwadis don’t function properly. In remote villages, they don’t open for months,” the doctor said, requesting anonymity. Aanganwadis cater to children in the 0-6 age group and provide outreach services to poor families in need of immunization, healthy food. “The consumption of food is shown in the record book, but that’s not the case. Either it ends up getting wasted since centres don’t open for a long time or it reaches the houses of the Aanganwadi workers,” the doctor said. He said the Malnourishment Treatment Centres are always short-staffed. Local journalist Firoze Khan, who has extensively studied the community, said Sahariyas are also to be blamed for their state. “They don’t want to be in the mainstream. They want to live in villages. They are averse to cities. They can only work here,” Khan said. Alcohol addiction among Sahariya men is also a problem, he added. One of the Additional District Magistrates gave a bizarre answer for the high malnutrition levels: “The problem is only among the children between 0 and 6 ages. Once they grow up and go to school, you cannot say they were ever malnourished.” (Deccan Herald 29/12/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

54. House panel says funds for MGNREGA not adequate (14)

New Delhi: Urging the Rural Development Ministry to seek a higher allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) from the Finance Ministry, a parliamentary panel has said the existing funds are not adequate for the scheme’s effective implementation.  The panel has also recommended a ‘review’ of the scheme. “Keeping in view the likely revision of wage rate and expected increase in outreach of households, the committee is constrained to note that the allocation made for the current year does not appear to be sufficient for effective implementation of the scheme,” the Standing Committee on Rural Development said in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on Friday. The committee, chaired by P Venugopal, recommended that the ministry should seek higher budgetary allocations for MGNREGA from the Ministry of Finance and Planning Commission so the shortage of funds does not become a “ground and a reason for slippage” in achieving the objectives of the scheme. The panel also asked the government to undertake an exercise to “completely review the scheme to find out reasons for dismal progress at ground level resulting in non-achievement of the objectives” for which the scheme was launched and to take corrective and remedial measures. (Indian Express 20/12/14)

55. PM Narendra Modi lauds unorganised sector workers of Gujarat (14)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday lauded the unorganised sector workers of Gujarat, saying the state had “zero-manday loss” which was one of the reasons for receiving substantial amount of foreign investment. On a visit to Varanasi, Modi addressed the sector workers at 20 locations across Gujarat through video-conferencing, as part of ‘Shramyogi Kalyan Mela’ of the state government. Praising the unorganised workers, Modi said Gujarat had zero-manday loss as all stakeholders followed the Gandhian spirit of working as a family. This, he added, is one of the reasons that the state was receiving large amounts of foreign investment. An official statement released in New Delhi said that as part of the activities for ‘Good Governance Day’, the Gujarat government launched several welfare schemes for unorganised sector workers. These schemes draw inspiration from the “Shramev Jayate” vision of the Union government, the statement added. Among the initiatives is ‘U-WIN’ – Unorganised Sector Identification Number, which will enable unorganised sector workers to avail the benefits of several government schemes. The Prime Minister congratulated the Gujarat government for these initiatives, and said other states could also emulate these. He also congratulated the state government for launching Rural Labour Commissionerates and Rural Labour Welfare Boards. (DNA 25/12/14)

56. Labour reforms for the unorganised sector a priority: Minister (14)

Kolkata: Labour reforms for the unorganised sector is a priority for the Narendra Modi government. And steps are being accordingly taken in this regard by the Centre, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, said here. According to him, some of the steps taken include the setting up of the Shram Suvidha Portal (SSP) where a unique labour identity number will be provided to workers (in the unorganised sector) of various establishments. Dattatreya was in the city to attend the Srei organised event, World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality. “My focus area will be the unorganised sector. We have taken a new initiative, the Shram Suvidha Portal (SSP), that will help provide labour identity number (LIN) to the establishments”, he said. So far, labour identity numbers have been provided by the Centre to 7.5 lakh institutions. The numbers will go up soon. According to Dattatreya, steps are being taken to further decentralise labour services with the Central government allotting a Universal Account Number (UAN). The UAN is a portable number which gives the members greater control over their money and links EPF and ESI services. The Union Minister claimed that he has already invited his State counterpart, Moloy Ghatak, to Delhi to discuss various matters including labour unrest. He maintained that one of the major areas of concern for his department was the “pathetic” situation of the plantation (tea gardens) workers in West Bengal and Assam. The Labour, along with the Commerce Ministry was looking at various schemes to help uplift the workers conditions, the Union Minister pointed out. (Business Line 28/12/14)

57. NREG Workers’ Federation to Take out March (14)

KOLLAM: Alleging derailment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) by the Central Govt, the state committee of NREG Workers’ Federation, affiliated to the AITUC, will take out a march towards Raj Bhavan in T’Puram on Tuesday. The state committee of NREG Workers’ federation alleged that as the number of working days were getting reduced, many people were opting out and this would considerably lead to the winding up of NREGP. “The Centre has decided to restrict the programme to 2,500 blocks. It was once carried out in 6,597 blocks,” NREG Workers’ Federation state president Chengara Surendran said. (New Indian Express 29/12/14)

RESERVATION

58. Maharashtra may quit AIPMT to free 15% ‘other state’ quota (25)

NAGPUR: The Maharashtra government is contemplating withdrawing from the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), so that it can utilize the 15% seats reserved for students from other states for local students. Higher and technical education minister Vinod Tawde made a statement in this regard in the legislative assembly on Thursday while replying to a discussion under Rule 293 moved by Yogesh Sagar, Madhuri Misal, Sanjay Kute, Shashikant Khedekar and others. This would make Maharashtra the fourth state, after Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Telangana, to not have the 15% quota for outside students. “Maharashtra has good facilities in medical education with its government-run colleges considered among the top in the country. As the state had agreed to be a part of AIPMT, 15% seats in our colleges are reserved for students from others states, and vice versa. This means, out of 2,000 odd seats in the colleges, about 330 are occupied by students from other states, which is a big percentage,” he said. Higher and technical education minister Vinod Tawde pointed out that in the last six years hardly 22-30 students from Maharashtra had preferred seats in medical colleges in other states, while some 330 students from outside used our seats every year. “It’s a big disparity, and our students, particularly those who can’t afford the fees of private colleges, are at the loss. We will approach the Supreme Court to exclude the state from AIPMT, which will be conducted on May 3 next year. If the court agrees, we will get 300 extra MBBS seats for state students,” he said. The former leader of opposition in council said that Maharashtra was part of the national entrance examination for many years and students from many states pursue medical education from the state under 15% All India quota. Former lecturer and now senior PMT trainer Sameer Phale said the decision would surely benefit the state students, as they would get additional 300 seats. However, it would be against the democratic set up of the country. “What about students from other states who want to take admission in Maharashtra colleges? At national level, such things shouldn’t be considered. States like AP and J&K had rejected the 15% quota since the very beginning of AIPMT.” He added that even the Armed Forces Medical College had stopped its own entrance exam following SC directives to start National Entrance-cum- Eligibility Test (NEET). “But after it was stopped by the SC, they admit students through AIPMT. Even MP and Chhattisgarh use AIPMT score for admissions. Now, if Maharashtra students want to take admission in AFMC or other colleges, they have to appear in AIPMT,” he said. (Times of India 19/12/14)

59. ‘We converted for quota benefits’ (25)

ALAPPUZHA: Forty-four-year-old Joy, who led his family at the ‘Ghar Vapsi’ ceremony at Cheppad in Alappuzha district on Sunday, says he converted to Hinduism three years ago. He has done it once again to ensure that he and his family are officially accepted as Hindu Pulayas, which will make them eligible for reservation benefits. A daily wage labourer, Joy lives with his wife and two daughters in a decrepit hut in Kanichanallor at Cheppad, near Haripad. His parents, George and Janamma of the Palatharayil house, converted from Hinduism to become Pentecostal Christians several years ago. According to official records, they are Christian Cheramar. However, since the community did not come under the Scheduled Castes, they were unable to avail themselves of any benefits that their relatives enjoyed. “We had converted back to Hinduism three years ago through a ritual held at the temple at Chettikulangara. However, we were told by the Cheppad village authorities that the certificate provided by the Travancore Devaswom Board was not sufficient to be formally registered as Hindus.” His family then approached the Chengannur unit of the VHP seeking its assistance. “We were not offered any financial assistance to convert… They have offered to take up our issue,” he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

60. Social activists slam government’s withdrawal of Muslim reservation (25)

Mumbai: Social activists and academicians have slammed the state government for withdrawing Muslim reservation and pushing its Hindutva agenda by approving reservation only for the Maratha community. Pointing at the high court’s interim order upholding Muslim reservation, they have raised doubt over the government’s intention behind taking such a hasty decision. Activist-Dalit poet J.V. Pawar said that the Maratha reservation decision was obviously to net Hindu votes and the BJP government did not need Muslim votes. “The BJP knows that Muslims are not going to vote for it and therefore, their reservation has been withdrawn despite the earlier government having introduced it.” Professor Fakruddin Bennur raised objections to the government’s excuse that reservation could not be given on the basis of religion. “This has remained the argument of the right wing since the 1950s. But articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution permit concessions to linguistic, cultural and religious minorities. When there is reservation for Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in various forms, why deny it to Muslims? Is the BJP government marginalising Muslims to make them secondary citizens?” he asked. Stressing that there was greater need for Muslim reservation, head of the politics department, Mumbai University, Dr Jose George said that Muslims were more deprived as compared to Marathas. “The decision shows complete bias towards Hindus. We all know that Muslims are more backward socially and economically compared to Marathas,” he said. Dr George rubbished the BJP’s Constitution-related defence, saying that if laws could be amended for Maratha reservation, then why not for Muslims (Asian Age 25/12/14)

61. Maharashtra Council passes Maratha reservation Bill (25)

NAGPUR: The Maharashtra Legislative Council approved the Maratha reservation Bill on Wednesday, a day after the Assembly passed the legislation. The new law provides 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in admission to educational institutions and government jobs. “We consulted senior legal experts, including the Attorney-General, after the Bombay High Court granted an interim stay on the ordinance [issued by the previous Congress-NCP government to provide a 16 per cent quota to Marathas]. We received a partial relief from the Supreme Court, but, as advised by legal experts, we have passed the Bill in both Houses of the State legislature,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said. Mr. Fadnavis had earlier said that his government would field the Attorney-General and senior lawyer P.P. Rao to represent the State in the High Court, which stayed the ordinance. The court stayed the 5 per cent reservation in government employment for Muslims, but allowed a similar quota in education for the community. The Opposition continued its protest against the government decision not to table the Muslim reservation Bill and not to issue an ordinance to save the five per cent quota for the community provided by the previous government though an ordinance that lapsed on Wednesday. (The Hindu 26/2/14)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

62. Rights group to pursue case – Manorama verdict brings hope (1)

Imphal, Dec. 20: Encouraged by the announcement of compensation in the Thangjam Manorama case, a rights group has decided to pursue a petition pending in the high court seeking prosecution of the Assam Rifles personnel responsible for her death. Manorama was a 32-year-old Manipuri woman whose bullet-riddled body was found a day after she was picked up by Assam Rifles troops from her home in Imphal East on the night of July 10, 2004. The development has encouraged Human Rights Law Network, Manipur chapter, which plays an important role in filing cases in court against fake encounter killings, to pursue a petition pending in the high court. “In the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, we will pursue a case pending in the high court. The case, filed by Manorama’s relatives in 2010, sought prosecution of the Assam Rifles troops responsible for her death,” Rakesh Meihoubam, director of Human Rights Law Network, Manipur, said. The then Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court kept the petition filed by Manorama’s mother and younger brother Thangjam Doren pending after the Assam Rifles moved the Supreme Court the same year (2010) to challenge a ruling passed by a division bench of the high court that upheld the validity of an inquiry commission. The commission, headed by retired district and sessions judge C. Upendra Singh, was set up by the Manipur government to probe Manorama’s killing. The division bench passed the order on two separate petitions filed by family members of Manorama and the Manipur government in 2005, challenging a ruling passed that year by a single bench of the high court. The single bench had ruled that the state government had no authority to set up the inquiry committee to probe the actions of Assam Rifles. It stated that the Assam Rifles personnel killed Manorama after “brutal torture”. Since there was no action on the report, Manorama’s family moved Gauhati High Court, which used to cover cases in Manipur. In 2010, the high court asked the state government to act on the Upendra commission report. The Centre challenged this ruling in the Supreme Court in 2011. The findings of the commission were made public only after the Union home ministry submitted the report to the Supreme Court on its directive. During one of the hearings, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to pay compensation to Manorama’s mother. “The Supreme Court’s order for payment of compensation has made it very clear that the personnel had done something that they should not have done at all. Therefore, in the light of the order, we will pursue the petition and appeal to Manipur High Court to take it up and hear the plea for prosecution,” Meihoubam said. He said the then Gauhati High Court had kept the petition pending because it wanted to see the outcome of the petition filed by the Assam Rifles in the Supreme Court.Manorama’s relatives and human rights activists in the state, while welcoming the apex court’s order for payment of ex gratia, demanded that the personnel involved in the killing should be punished. (The Telegraph 21/12/14)

63. UN chief calls on Sri Lanka to cooperate in human rights abuse probe (1)

New York: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki—moon has reiterated his call to Sri Lanka to cooperate with the on-going UN investigation of alleged human right abuses. Responding to a media query on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa reiterating that he will not participate with outside investigations, Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, was quoted by the Lanka Page web site, as saying that the Secretary-General has always encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to comprehensively address the post-war agenda. Colombo has vehemently refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council-led investigation. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

64. PUCL condemns Assam violence (1)

CHENNAI: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned Tuesday’s violence against tribal people in Assam and called for strong action to avoid a repeat of such incidents. In a statement, it said unarmed tribal people in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts of Assam were shot dead by gangs of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit). “PUCL is deeply concerned over the outbreak of murderous attacks once again. “It is apprehensive that unless the situation is handled firmly, a situation of mass death, destruction and displacement will recur as it did during the ethnic killings in mid-2012 in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts resulting in nearly 100 being killed and over 400,000 people fleeing their homes,” the statement said. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

65. High Court sets aside NHRC order against Somnath Bharti (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday set aside an order issued by the National Human Rights Commission holding Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti guilty of “racial prejudice and unlawful acts” against 12 African women during his controversial midnight raid in Khirki Extension in South Delhi. A vacation bench of the high court, while setting aside the September 29 decision of the NHRC, also directed the commission to hear the matter afresh and pass a detailed order by taking into account the evidence presented by the AAP leader in his defence. The court has also asked Mr Bharti to appear before the commission on the next date of hearing in January. The vacation bench of the high court passed the order while disposing of Mr Bharti’s appeal against its single judge bench decision to dismiss his petition against the NHRC’s September 29 ruling. Additional solicitor-general Sanjay Jain and Central government’s standing counsel Jasmeet Singh appeared for the Union of India in the matter. Advocate Deepak Khosla, appearing for Mr Bharti, had contended that the single judge bench had dismissed his plea as “premature” without “allowing fair opportunity to explain the facts of the situation before the NHRC and the legal grounds on which the writ petition was eminently maintainable.” Mr Bharti had sought that the commission’s ruling be declared a “nullity” as it was passed without giving him an opportunity to lead evidence in his defence. The leader had also asked for a compensation of `100 crore from the Centre, the NHRC and the city government. The NHRC had prematurely directed the Delhi government to pay Rs 25,000 compensation each to the 12 women, who had allegedly suffered racial abuse, illegal detention, intimidation, abuse, assault and indignity by the AAP leader, the petition claimed. The petition had also questioned whether the NHRC had the jurisdiction to award compensation based on mere “prima facie” findings. On December 22, the NHRC had accepted Mr Bharti’s request for hearing on the controversial midnight raid in January next and also directed the Delhi government to defer payment of monetary relief of Rs 25,000 to the victims, recommended by it on September 29, for a period of two months. (Asian Age 28/12/14)

66. NHRC notice to five states over atrocities on Christians (1)

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notice to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu over alleged acts of violence and atrocities against Christians. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought a report from the chief secretaries of the states within three weeks. In Madhya Pradesh, churches have reportedly been vandalised in addition to incidents of arson, stone pelting, attack on pastors and forcible conversions. Similarly in other states, diktats on missionary schools have been given, Sunday services have been disrupted and the entry of Christians in some villages has been barred as well. In parts of Chhattisgarh, refusal to supply ration to Christians has been reported. “The commission has observed that the contents of the press report, if true, amount to violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion,” the NHRC said. (Business Standard 30/12/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

67. Lok Sabha nod to bill to regularise e-rickshaws (19)

New Delhi: Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a bill to regularise e-rickshaws and provide for driving licences for these battery-operated vehicles, mostly plying in Delhi, with government promising to incorporate members’ suggestions in rules to be framed once it becomes a law. “This is an amendment bill. If we pass the bill, I will incorporate rules and regulations suggested by you,” Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told opposition MPs who demanded that the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, 2014 be sent to standing committee for a closer scrutiny. Replying to a debate, Gadkari also spoke about “pollution- free India” and the government’s ambitious plan to convert polluting diesel buses to “e-buses.” He said the proposal is being discussed and he will come to Parliament once it is approved. Rejecting opposition’s allegations that the bill was hurriedly brought to gain political mileage in poll-bound Delhi, Gadkari said the government was pushing for its early passage keeping in mind the plight of one crore poor rickshaw pullers who struggle for their daily bread and butter. “The bill is brought not keeping in view Delhi elections,” the Minister said, noting that drivers and passengers of e-rickshaws are poor people and a court order has affected over 2 lakh people who depend on them for their livelihood. The Minister said an early passage of the bill will be a boon for one crore poor people who face a lot of health problems by plying cycle rickshaws manually. Gadkari said government has decided to provide low interest loan to the rickshaw pullers belonging to poor backward and minority communities to buy e-rickshaws. (DNA 19/12/14)

68. Woman ordered to give monthly maintenance to husband (19)

KOZHIKODE: A family court in Kasaragod has asked a woman to pay Rs 6,000 as monthly maintenance to her husband for spoiling his career by raising a false allegation of rape. Judge PD Dharmarajan passed the order on a petition moved by NK Sivaprasad of Nellikkunnu in Kasaragod under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act on Thursday. Sivaprasad, a music teacher, married VM Nivya on January 22, 2011 against the wishes of her parents while she was studying for post-graduation. They got separated in May 2011. Nivya returned to her parents and filed a complaint against Sivaprasad, alleging that he raped her by promising to marry her. Police filed a case against Sivaprasad for rape under Section 376 of the IPC. “On investigation, it was found that they were married. There was evidence such as the receipt from the temple where the marriage was solemnized, hotel records where they stayed and photographs of the reception in Kasaragod. They had also registered their marriage in Enmakaje panchayat,” said advocate US Balan who appeared for the husband. Nivya moved the family court for divorce after police filed a referral report saying the allegation is wrong. “We moved a petition demanding maintenance for Sivaprasad,” said Balan. “He had to stop his music sessions as girls refused to attend his classes. I argued that he is eligible for maintenance from his wife, who is now working as a lecturer at a reputed institution in Mangalore.” He said the provision for giving maintenance for the husband is available only in the Hindu Marriage Act. “This provision is not there in other marriage acts such as the Christian, Muhammedan or Special Marriage Act,” Balan said. “Section 125 of the CrPC should be amended so that husbands also can claim maintenance from wives with solid source of income. Now only the wife, children or aged parents can claim maintenance.” (Times of India 21/12/14)

69. HC bats for second wife’s rights, allows equal share of pension for 2 widows (19)

MUMBAI: Two surviving widows of a railway employee are entitled to an equal share of the monthly pension, the Bombay HC held recently. It upheld an order by the central administrative tribunal to equally divide a railway employee’s pension between his two widows based on railway pension rules, framed in a 1964 scheme that makes such provisions. The high court rejected a plea by the South East Central Railway, Nagpur division, to quash the tribunal’s order as being “flawed”. The Hindu Marriage Act, enacted in 1955, doesn’t recognise the second “wife” as legally wedded, when the first marriage still exists. “The tribunal was wrong in passing orders contrary to law,” argued the railways’ lawyer. The Bombay high court commended the Indian Railways for a “progressive” pension rule that protects “unfortunate women ensnared into void marriages”. The arguments made by the railway “do not appeal to us”, said the HC. “We cannot be oblivious of what is going on in society,” said the HC bench of Justices A B Chaudhari and P R Bora of the Nagpur bench while delivering the judgment last month. “Husbands fraudulently indulge in cheating the second woman, who falls easy prey to such a person for no fault of hers,” the judges said. The judgment may come to the aid of other “second wives”. The HC felt that other state and central government employers adopt the railway rules to provide relief to a woman whose marriage to a government servant is void under the Hindu Marriage Act. “While it’s true that courts cannot pass or enforce orders contrary to law, the question is should a second widow be left to starve by handing all pensionary benefits only to the first?” the HC said. The railways have not contradicted the Hindu Marriage Act nor placed a burden on the railway or treasury either, said the HC, it however ensured that a woman “trapped by a man into an illegal marriage” is secured a livelihood for the rest of her life. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex and Article 39 obligates states to promote laws meant to protect women’s right, the HC said. “Indian Railways deserves an applause for incorporating a rule, seldom found in service rules of other government organisations, that provides for equal pension to more than one widow of an employee.” Finding no merit in the Railway petition, the HC dismissed it. (Times of India 23/12/14)

70. PIL seeks state scheme for unmarried tribal mothers (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday sought a reply from the state to a public interest litigation (PIL) that highlights the need for rehabilitation of young unwed mothers among the Kolam tribe in the state. The PIL filed by the Natural Resources Conservation Organisation comprising members of Scheduled castes and tribes sought affirmative action for such tribal women, who were forced to give their own father’s name to the child and were deprived of concessions in reservation. The PIL filed through advocates Uday Warunjikar and his junior advocate Tandel said it appeared that contractors and their staff who visit these tribal areas were responsible for getting the girls and women pregnant. Most of the Kolam tribe resides in Yavatmal district in forest areas in about 400 villages along the state border. The belt is educationally backward, said the PIL. “The problem is not about pregnancies but about social development of tribal community,” the PIL said, seeking judicial intervention so that the state introduces schemes for such victims. (Times of India 25/12/14)

71. 6 states ratify Judicial Appointments Commission Bill (19)

New Delhi: Sixteen states have ratified a constitutional amendment bill which seeks to scrap the collegium system of judges appointing judges, bringing the government a step closer to put in place a new mechanism of appointments in the higher judiciary. Any Constitutional amendment bill requires ratification by at least 50% of the state legislatures. Sources said the Law Ministry has been informed by 16 of the 29 states that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) bill has been ratified. The names of all the states which have ratified the bill was immediately not known. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat which had earlier this year sent the bill to the states for ratification is expected to receive authenticated copies of their approval in the coming days. Goa, Rajasthan, Tripura and Gujarat had last month ratified the bill. Also, UP assembly had ratified the bill last month with an amendment amid protests by BJP MLAs. Once the ratifications have been formally received, the bill will be sent to the President for his assent. Parliament had in August cleared the bill that will facilitate setting up of a commission for appointment of judges, replacing the 20-year-old collegium system, which has been under severe criticism. The bill will make way for the setting up of National Judicial Appointments Commission, which will appoint and transfer judges to the Supreme Courts and the 24 High Courts. The bill will grant Constitutional status to the NJAC and its composition. Chief Justice of India will head the NJAC. Besides the CJI, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed body. (DNA 28/12/14)

72. There’s no north-south divide: Madras high court (19)

CHENNAI: The Madras high court on Monday dismissed a “public interest petition” that objected to the court granting four to five days of holidays for “north Indian” festivals like Diwali, and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 20,000 on the petitioner. Slamming a journalist who filed the petition and accusing him of raising divisive issues for publicity, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan said: “There is no north-south divide, but for the endeavours of persons like the petitioner, who seek to raise divisive issues only to gain publicity and create unrest among people. It is necessary for this court to come down with heavy hands on such endeavours.” Petitioner V Anbazhagan, claiming that till a couple of decades ago the high court had been granting just a day’s leave for Diwali, said that because chief justices of the HC happen to be from north India they tried to thrust northern culture on the people of Tamil Nadu. Granting four days of holidays in November 2015 for Diwali is unnecessary and it makes advocates jobless and affects court work, he said. Not more than one day should be declared as a holiday for Diwali, he said. Rejecting his contention, the first bench said the court’s calendar had been prepared after a lot of deliberations. “Whether advocates are rendered jobless or not is not the concern of the petitioner, as advocates and their representatives are consulted during the framing of the calendar. It need not be the concern of all and sundry,” the judges said. The petitioner cannot set the calendar of the court by raising a divisive issue “of mythological nature”, they said. As for the PIL’s averment that senior judges were being brought from northern states, they said: “It is immaterial who presides over this court as chief justice. That is an instant of policy of having an outsider as chief justice, possibly to have greater national amalgamation.” Noting that India was a vast country with various cultures, language and food habits, they said: “All these cultures combined together form the nation of India. It is something to be celebrated. It should not segregate the country into two parts by raising divisive issues, as the petitioner seeks to do.” The bench asked the petitioner to deposit the cost within 15 days at the mediation centre of the court. (Times of India 30/12/14)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

73. SC orders Rs 10 lakh interim compensation for the kin of Manipuri girl (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to give an interim compensation of Rs 10 Lakh to the kin of Manipuri girl ThangjamManoramaDevi who was allegedly raped and killed by Assam Rifles jawans in 2004. A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur passed the order while agreeing to hear Centre’s appeal challenging Gauhati High Court order of 2010 in which the HC had directed the state government to open and act upon the probe report prepared by retired district judge C Upendra Singh on the facts and circumstances leading to her death. On July 11, 2004, the bullet-riddled body of Manorama, then 32, was found at Laipharok Maring village in Imphal East. The previous night, personnel belonging to 17 Assam Rifles had picked her up from her residence at Bamon Kampu Mayai Leikai village in the same district after issuing an arrest memo. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Manorma’s family, said the apex court has granted leave but refused to stay HC order and directed the Centre to pay interim compensation. (Times of India 19/12/14)

74. Custodial Death: HC Stays NHRC Order to Pay Compensation (1)

KOCHI: The High Court has stayed an order issued by the NHRC, directing four police officials to pay compensation of `1 lakh to the legal heirs of a person who died in custody at the Thalassery police station in 2010. Justice A Muhamed Mustaque issued the interim order on the petition filed by Thamban Nambiar K, sub-inspector at the Dharmadam police station; James A J, senior civil police officer at the Peravoor police station;  Ambikamini U N, woman civil police officer at the Thalassery police station; and Joju Sebastian, civil police officer at the Karikkottakari police station, seeking a directive to quash the NHRC order. The petitioners stated that while they were serving as police officers at the Thalassery police station in 2010 in charge of guard duty, Komath Nazar, who was arrested in connection with a cheating case, tried to commit suicide inside the lockup by hanging himself using his dress. Then, the petitioners  intervened immediately, and took Nazar to the Thalassery Government Hospital. However, he died in the hospital.  Later, His wife Khadeeja of Muzhuppilangad approached the NHRC, which on January 31 issued the order to pay compensation. The report filed by the State Police Chief stated that the police officers, who were on guard duty at the time of the death, were responsible for the unfortunate incident. Counsel for the petitioners K R Sunil submitted that the police officers were not a party in the complaint, and that they were not heard by the State Police Chief before sending the report.  “The NHRC also flouted all principles of natural justice by not providing an opportunity to the petitioners to express their views, while passing an order,” the petitioners stated. (New Indian Express 23/12/14)

75. Valley vote not about Azadi, Article 370 or AFSPA (1)

With completion of more or less peaceful elections in which voters in the Kashmir braved the boycott call and came out to vote, deciphering the Kashmiri mind poses tricky issues. How do we read the fact that 55.5 per cent voters in the Valley turned out to vote? Kashmir-experts had pointed out in 2008-09 itself that the voter in the Valley makes a distinction between voting to elect a government and accepting integration with the Indian union. Only four per cent voters consciously saw these elections as being about Azadi, Article 370, AFSPA, human rights violation, etc. For most, the elections were about governance and delivery related issues. While some saw elections as about infrastructure issues or more immediate issues of floods, for a majority, elections were about development. The trend in the Valley was not very different from that of Jammu. The survey also asked respondents their opinion about the ‘Kashmir issue’ (Kashmir masla). (Table 7) The responses are enigmatic because more than four in every ten persons do not offer any opinion on this. Yet, it needs to be frontally recognised that very few Kashmiris endorse the ‘status quo’.  Equally clearly, merger with Pakistan too is not endorsed by more than one per cent respondents. The most dominant theme is ‘azadi’, autonomy, plebiscite, and/or self-rule. There is one clear change from 2008: the proportion of those who did not offer any response has increased manifold now. Whether this represents moderation in pro-azadi opinion or simply reticence is tough to tell. The fact that there is enough space for th‘ ‘separatist’ politics in the valley is however evident through other findings of the survey too. A large section in the Valley believes that Hurriyat is best suited for solving the Kashmir issue.  (Table 8)Similarly, respondents repose robust trust in th‘ ‘separatists’ — more than they trust the parties and the government. As far as the leaders are concerned, Syed Ali Shah Geelani enjoys greater trust than Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti.Popular response is unambiguous about the identity of the average Kashmiri. (Table 9) Asked how they identify themselves, three in every four respondents said they are ‘Kashmiris’. Only 15 per cent said they are both Indian and Kashmiri. Clearly, the normal pattern prevalent in rest of India, where people have negotiated with dual identity as Indians and belonging to a region, does not obtain in Kashmir Valley. In contrast, respondents in Jammu do not identify themselves much with Kashmir — they choose to identify more exclusively ‘s ‘Indian’ and only twenty per cent from Jammu region identify with Kashmir. Herein lies the complication of the state called Jammu & Kashmir. As our survey shows, on almost all issues the two regions do not see eye to eye. They think differently, they identify differently, they vote differently too. And the government thus elected has to govern for the entire state of J&K. (Indian Express 25/12/14)

76. PDP seeks assurance from BJP on Article 370 and AFSPA (1)

SRINAGAR: The stalemate over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir continued for the fifth day today as PDP sought assurance from BJP over certain issues like safeguarding Article 370 and revocation of AFSPA which form the core agenda of the regional party. “All options are still open, no decision has been taken yet on formation of government in the state with any other party,” PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhter told PTI here. He said the leadership of PDP, which emerged as the single largest party in the assembly elections, was discussing all its options for government formation including an alliance with the BJP. “There are certain issues which form our core agenda and require an assurance that these will be accepted by our potential alliance partner, whichever party it might be,” he said. Akhter said his party’s stand on safeguarding Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union, was non-negotiable. He also said that the party was committed on revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, besides initiating a political process for resolution of Kashmir issue. Asked if his party would consider the demand for rotational chief ministership from any future alliance partner, the PDP spokesman said the negotiations have not reached that stage with any of the parties. He said Congress has also given a proposal for government formation to the PDP which is under the consideration by the party. On the National Conference’s offer of unconditional support to PDP for government formation, Akhter said his party has received no such communication so far from its arch rival. “As and when such an offer is received we will surely discuss it and decide the future course of action,” he said. Meanwhile, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said only Akhter is authorised to articulate the party’s views in the media on policy matters. “The statements of the Chief Spokesman (Akhter) should be taken as the stated position of the party on various policy issues. “In the prevailing hazy political scenario, unqualified comments in the media only add to the confusion and fuel wild speculation,” Mehbooba said in a statement. She said as a responsible political party, the PDP will take not only its cadres but the people of the State on board before arriving on any decision regarding the future course of action. “I want to assure my party cadres and the people that whatever decision is to be taken will be taken in the larger interest of the State and its people,” the PDP president said. She said the mandate given by the people to the PDP to represent the political aspirations and economic interests of all the regions and sub-regions of the state would be represented and valued in adequate measure. (The Economic Times 28/12/14)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

77. ‘Use social media with caution’ (1)

NAGPUR: Social media is seen as a platform to express and rant without any filters by most young users. However, this indiscriminate expression can often lead to trouble with the law. It is due to this that experts in the field advise caution when putting up one’s thoughts in a digital form. Various aspects of social media and judiciary, especially when it comes to the behaviour of the younger netizens were discussed at the Nagpur Cyber Security Summit, organized by NGO Cyber Awareness Organization (CAO) and the department of computer technology of Yashwantrao Chavan College of Engineering, on Saturday. A special session by director of Institute of Forensic Science Anjali Rahatgaonkar about the scope and opportunities in the emerging field of cyber forensics was also organized. A cyber security research club was also formed in the college. “We often don’t see the dark underbelly of social media which is made worse by ignorance among general public. There have been instances where messages circulated through instant messaging platforms and on social media led to the arrest of an innocent woman alleged to be a con artist and even riots,” said advocate Mahendra Limaye, founder of CAO. Head of the computer technology department AR Bhagat Patil added surveys pointed to an increase in cyber crime, especially that perpetrated by youngsters in the age group of 15-25. “While planning their seemingly covert operations, these young people don’t realize that their digital footprints can be traced back and get them into trouble,” he said. Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) Kishor Jaiswal spoke about the conflicts between two provisions of Indian legislature – 66A and 19. While the former says that any content sent through a digital medium found offensive can land the sender in jail, the latter provides every citizen the freedom of expression. “Section 66A is tricky as offensive can be subjective and depends on the interpretation, change of language, etc. There are no clear case laws to deal with several situations that can arise in the age of digital communications. Therefore a responsible internet user needs to practise restraint,” he advised. Cleaning one’s digital footprints is as important as cleaning one’s house, said additional general manager of RTTC Nagpur Regional Telecom Training Centre Manish Shukla. “A service provider has access to at least six months’ worth of their clients’ digital history. From potential recruiters to police, anyone with the right reasons can have access to this history, too,” he said. (Times of India 21/12/14)

78. Focus on developmental issues, CM tells media (1)

KOTTAYAM: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has called upon the media to channelize their energies in focussing on the general interests of the society and the developmental challenges of the State, rather than concentrating on controversies. Speaking on the occasion of the presentation of media awards instituted by the State government here on Tuesday, Mr Chandy pointed out that initiatives like Kudumbasree, Aasraya, Student Police Cadets and palliative care provided by the local bodies have to be looked at close quarters to ascertain their impact in confronting the second generation challenges faced by the State. Constructive criticism was crucial component of ensuring effective democratic process as it would help those in power to make necessary changes in the policies they follow. In spite of being at the receiving end of criticism he had always appreciated scrutiny by the media, he pointed out. If the media in the State could focus on constructive criticism that would help those in power to do much more than anywhere in India, he said.In his presidential address, K C Joseph, Minister for Information and Public Relations said the situation existing in the visual media, both in terms of their working conditions and remunerations, was not on par with what was existing in the print and this has to be addressed. Mr Joseph also called upon the visual media to create a code of conduct for themselves so that the current cut throat competition for TRP where truth often become the scapegoat. The current situation would ultimately affect the credibility of visual media in general, he pointed out. The chief minister presented the awards carrying a purse of Rs.25,000 and citation each, to G Jayachandran, R Krishnaraj, Sameer A Hameed, Fausia Mustafa, Shaju K V, Shani P T, Shefeeque Khan and K R Gopikrishnan. He also presented the special mention awards carrying a purse of Rs.15,000 and citation each, to sarathchandran and Veena George. (The Hindu 24/12/14)

79. Political parties, writers rally behind Tamil writer (1)

CHENNAI: Political parties and writers have rallied behind Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who is under attack from the BJP and other Hindu outfits, for what they call the denigration of Lord Shiva and women devotees in his novel Madhorubhagan. The Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artistes Association (TNPWAA) on Saturday organised a demonstration here, in which senior writers participated to express solidarity with Mr. Murugan. TNPWAA general secretary Su. Venkatesan and president Tamilselvan alleged that the Sangh Parivar had sought to turn people of a particular area against a writer, hailing from the region. “Any attack on creative works and authors will only turn the clock back. Madhorubhagan deals with human relations in the backdrop of an age-old practice in a part of Tamil Nadu. It cannot be construed as an insult to women or religion,” they said and alleged that these kind of activities were on the rise after the BJP assumed office at Centre. While CPI(M) State secretary G. Ramakrishan spoke to Mr. Murugan and expressed solidarity, Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan, in a statement, said the demand for a ban on the novel was part of a larger design of the Sangh Parivar to convert Tamil Nadu into a land of clashes. At a press conference, TNCC president EVKS Elangovan said: “Such actions violate the fundamental right of expression. Artistic right to express should not be stifled.” Mr. Ramakrishnan wondered why the BJP and its offshoots wanted to ban a novel published in 2010. “No one can suppress the freedom of expression. I told Mr. Murugan that my party will stand by him,” he said. Alleging that the Sangh Parivar was emboldened to act as the cultural police after the BJP assumed power at the Centre, he urged the State government to provide adequate security for the writer and his family. Mr. Thirumavalavan said the Sangh Parivar had no right to interfere with the creativity of a writer, who had portrayed a tradition that was in vogue many years ago. Hindutva ideologue and writer Aravindan Neelakantan reiterated that the RSS had never favoured the idea of banning books. “Immediately after the ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Shiv Sena demanded similar measure against Riddles in Hinduism and its removal from Dr Ambedkar’s collected works. But the RSS opposed the ban and wanted it to be published,” he said. Accusing the media of blowing out of proportion the activities of a few fringe elements in Tiruchengode, he said the RSS had nothing to do with this incident. In his novel, Mr. Murugan had portrayed the life of guilt-driven childless couple in the backdrop of a “free, consensual sex ritual” held during the car festival of Arthanareeswarar temple in Tiruchengode. (The Hindu 29/12/14)

80. I&B ministry gaining steam on social media (1)

NEW DELHI: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading from the front, social media outreach of I&B ministry and its associated bodies has got a major boost with over 16 lakh followers on Twitter, nearly 90,000 YouTube subscribers and around 30 lakh likes on Facebook. Senior officials say the Information and Broadcasting ministry has utilised the new media to disseminate information in an unprecedented manner. “The celebration of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday on December 25 as the Good Governance Day is just one of the examples of how I&B ministry utilized the new medium aggressively. On Facebook, the ministry posted 35 times, including around 22 plates with Vajpayee’s poetry written on them. “And as per our information, in a single day, the reach of these posts was approximately 7.5 lakh people,” a senior official told PTI. On the same day, officials of the I&B ministry also posted another 43 posts on twitter which reached another 4,82,000 people approximately, officials added. These posts were retweeted in one day more than 8,460 times, they added. The Ministry of I&B and associated bodies like Press Information Bureau, All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan have established a sophisticated strategy to lead online coverage of important events live, an official said. And this strategy is evolving and the ministry is now planning to extensively use ‘Whatsapp’ and develop mobile applications to expand its reach in the social media space. Citing instances, where the ministry’s use of social media has been quite successful, officials named PM’s address at Madison Square Garden, IFFI opening and closing ceremonies, launch of flagship programmes etc. “The kind of impact this social media strategy has can be assessed from the fact that the total number of impressions of I&B Ministry’s Twitter account during the period when International Film Festival was held was a substantial 26 lakhs,” a senior official said. (Tims of India 30/12/14)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

81. Gujarat conversions spark anger (7)

Valsad/New Delhi: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) came under fire Sunday  from the Congress and other opposition parties after more than 200 tribal Christians were converted to Hinduism in Gujarat. “Extreme right wing is flexing its muscles. VHP/RSS through Hindutva … rewriting history and economic policies,” Congress leader Digvijay Singh posted on Twitter. Another Congress leader Rashid Alvi said such acts by right-wing outfits only created a bad impression about India across the world. “This is totally unfortunate whatever is happening. In the world, India had a different image of having people practising various religious beliefs, speaking different languages — based on which the country was built… These actions will only create bad impression about the country,” Alvi told ANI. “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and others are trying to destroy the country. If these people have been converted by coercion or inducement then it is a clear violation of law. But then what kind of image of India will be in the world,” he added. CPI leader D Raja also hit out at the VHP’s move saying, “India is not a Hindu Rashtra, but a democratic republic.” A Gujarat-based priest said he could not “accept that anyone who has been a Christian will convert to other religion by personal choice”.”VHP is forcing people and luring them to convert their religion,” Father Dominic was quoted as saying by Zee News. Saturday’s mass ceremony took place in a tribal village 350 kilometres south of Ahmedabad.”As part of the ongoing ‘ghar-wapsi’ programme, VHP re-converted 225 people from Christian community and took them back into Hindu religion,” said Valsad district VHP chief Natu Patel. VHP organised a ‘Maha Yagnya’ (ritual of the sacred fire) for “purification” of the tribals before taking them back in Hindu-fold and also gave each of them a copy of Bhagwad Gita. One of the converts told AFP they were promised ration cards and other financial incentives if they switched religions. The VHP ceremony came just hours after BJP president Amit Shah dared opposition parties to move a bill against “forcible conversions” The incident came against the backdrop of a raging debate over such programmes being organised by Sangh Parivar groups in various parts of the country. A controversy had erupted early this month when a right wing group had organised a ‘ghar-wapsi’ drive wherein it reportedly converted about 100 Muslims in Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The incident had created a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha, with the Opposition demanding a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A similar incident was also reported from BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh where a party MP had claimed 39 tribal Christians were re-converted to Hinduism in Maoist-hit Bastar district in October this year. If people are converting voluntarily,there should be no problem, but if force is being used, State Govt should take action: Venkaiah Naidu (Hindustan Times 21/12/14)

82. After Trilokpuri and Bawana, Delhi is nervous again (7)

New Delhi: Barely two months after he saw his neighbourhood burning, Trilokpuri resident Zeeshan Haider is again getting a sense of foreboding after RSS-backed organisations decided to felicitate converted Muslims from Meerut at a rally in central Delhi’s Ramlila grounds on Christmas. “The situation had just started getting better. Hindus and Muslims had started interacting amicably again, going about their business normally,” the 27-year-old told HT on Monday. “The talk about conversions may again polarise and lead to bitterness.” The poll-bound Capital has slowly been getting on the boil in the last few months. From Dalit colonies to campuses, from shop corners to office water coolers, talk swirls around imminent polarisation. November’s Trilokpuri violence that injured over 70 was immediately followed by communal tensions in northwest Delhi’s Bawana. Earlier this month, a prominent Catholic church in northeast Delhi’s Dilshad Garden burnt down amid allegations of foul play and religious polarisation in the city ahead of assembly polls likely early next year. As organisers put up tents for participants at the Ramlila grounds and the police up their presence, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent call to Delhiites to fund tribals so that they don’t convert has added to the murmurs. “Those who have willingly converted should be left alone. I know a few of them,” said Ramesh Singh, 47, a dry fruits trader from the old city. “But forcible conversions, be it from any religion, must stop.” Even BJP leaders are in two minds. “At a time when the Opposition is targeting then BJP over conversions, senior leaders should ideally stay away from such an event,” said a leader of the BJP’s Delhi unit, requesting anonymity. “But we don’t have much of a say in this. Seniors take the call. If they want members of the Delhi BJP to attend, we will have to,” he added. The RSS expects 25,000 to participate from across Delhi and the national capital region with around 5,000 of them from Gurgaon. “There will be RSS members, students of DAV schools and members of the Arya Samaj too. In support of the PM’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, there will be a special float (jhaki) and after the event, RSS leaders will clean the rally venue,” said RSS leader Vagish Issar. He said Dalits would participate in big numbers, a community the BJP wants to win over from the Aam Aadmi Party. Elections, after all, are just round the bend. (Hindustan Times 23/12/14)

83. Anti-conversion bill will create communal tension: Archbishop Moras (7)

BENGALURU: Bernard Moras, the archbishop of Bengaluru has said that the NDA pushing for the proposed anti-conversion bill was in contradiction of its election manifesto of upholding the secular tenets of the constitution and that is will create communal tension in the county, whose citizens have the right to follow the faith of their choice voluntarily. Chief minister Siddaramaih, and home minister K J George also condemned the move with the former saying the State will not support the bill. Rendering his Christmas message, Moras said that the move “desecrates the constitution and is usurping the constitutional rights.” “…All of us are against forceful conversion, but if persons, on their own free will, wish to embrace any religion, how can we label it fraudulent?” he asked. Stating that the Christian community opposes the bill in a bid to safe guard the secular fabric of the nation, he said: “If we aren’t making out opinions known to people, especially those in power, the anti-conversion bill will be forced upon us. The government, by forcibly introducing this wants to create communal tension and polarization in the country, and will unnecessarily cause a serious infringement of fundamental rights.” He also sought explanation from the government about other religious leaders propagating their religious tenets to the people here and abroad so as to make them embrace the religion they propagate. Answering a specific question on the sidelines before Moras spoke, George said: “Any government should respect the constitution and not bring about drastic changes to it. Just as the constitution does not support forceful conversions, it gives citizens the rights to voluntarily pick the religion they want to follow.” Siddaramaiah, made a more formal commitment by including his disagreement in his speech. “Hinduism prescribes mutual respect for all religions and beliefs, but some people like building walls between people and cause trouble. The makers of our constitution had a secular India in mind and nobody should contradict it. The congress is a secular party and we’ll not support this.” He added that there will be no compromise from the government here… (Times of India 24/12/14)

84. Tension in Assam areas, day curfew relaxed (7)

Guwahati : Curfew was relaxed for a few hours Sunday in Assam’s violence-hit districts where the death toll in ethnic violence now officially stands at 75, officials said. Tension persisted in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts in particular which accounted for most killings, Home Secretary Pratik Hajela said. Hajela added that the army and other security forces had intensified their operations against Bodo militants who massacred unarmed adivasis Dec 23 in three districts, inviting retaliatory violence. The security crackdown is taking place along the border with Bhutan. “We hope the situation will improve soon,” Hajela said. The army has deployed 66 columns for the operation. The central government has sent 50 companies of paramilitary forces to Assam. Another official said the district administrations Sunday relaxed the curfew imposed after the violence for a few hours but said the night curfew will continue. Security forces are particularly active in the four Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri. Operations are also going on along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Sonitpur, the worst affected district. On Saturday, army chief Gen Dalbir Singh reviewed the situation in Assam in the wake of violence unleashed by the anti-talk faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The violence has displaced over one lakh people in four districts. Hajela said Bodo militants killed 41 people, including 15 women and 14 children, in Sonitpur district. Another 31 tribals, including 10 women and four children, were killed in Kokrajhar district. The militants killed another three people in Chirang district. Three people also died in police firing at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur when thousands of tribals took to the streets to denounce the violence. Hajela said the dead included 61 adivasis, including the three in police firing, 12 Bodos and two Bengali-speaking people. “Although the NDFB’s violence affected three districts initially, its backlash spread to neighbouring Udalguri district. A total of 364 houses have been set on fire in the four districts. Hazela said the state government had prioritised relief work for the over one lakh people living in 81 relief camps. There are over 80,000 people in 52 relief camps in Kokrajhar, about 12,000 people in 11 camps in Chirang and 6,485 people in nine other camps in Sonitpur, he said. The government has opened centres across the state to collect donations to help out the homeless. “If anyone wants to donate clothes, foods or cash, they can. We will distribute these,” the official said. (Business Standard 28/12/14)

85. MP: Cow slaughter causes communal tension (7)

Curfew was clamped in Gairatganj town of Raisen district, 50 km from Bhopal, on Monday following communal tension over alleged cow slaughter in butcher’s market. Superintendent of police (SP) Deepak Verma said the police had received information about cow slaughter in a butcher’s market at Gairatganj. When a police team reached the market, skin and flesh of cow were recovered. “One of the butchers, who had sacrificed the cow, has been arrested while the other fled from the spot,” he added. After the incident, rumours led to communal tension in the area. Some incidents of arson and stone pelting were also reported. Saffron organisations also held a demonstration and created ruckus at the bus stand. Police used tear gas to control the situation and resorted to use of force to disburse the mob. District administration imposed section 144 in the town. But after reviewing the condition, collector JK Jain imposed curfew. In the violent incidents, about half-a-dozen people have received injuries. Additional police forces from Begumganj, Silwani, Sagar, Vidisha and Raisen have been rushed to Gairatganj. Collector JK Jain said police have arrested 13 people who were spreading rumours and intensifying tension in the town. Superintendent of police Verma said, “Police are trying to nab the other accused in cow slaughter incident. Now, the situation is under control. No reports of violence have been reported in the evening.” This is the third time when curfew has been imposed at a place in Raisen district because of communal tension. (Hindustan Times 30/12/14)

COMMUNALISM

86. Fresh row on conversions, ‘Hindus lured’ (26)

Lucknow: Reports of ‘conversion’ of scores of Hindus into Christianity through alleged ‘allurements’ triggered tension in some districts in Uttar Pradesh. Police sources here said as many as 70 people, mostly from the scheduled and backward castes, had reportedly converted to Christianity in Baharaich district, about 200 kilometres from Lucknow. Reports said a Christian outfit ‘lured’ these poor people of Kamalpuri village in the district into changing their faith and made them join a prayer meeting at a makeshift church. A police team was rushed to the village after reports of tension following conversion and the matter is being investigated, police sources said adding that some villagers alleged that they were being pressurised to change their faith.One person has been taken into custody. Report of alleged conversion also triggered tension in Gorakhpur district, about 275 kilometres from here. Hundreds of people came out to the streets and held demonstration against the alleged conversion of some Hindus into Christianity at Pipraich area on Wednesday evening. The saffron outfits have warned that they will oppose any attempt to encourage conversion of Hindus. “We will not tolerate if attempts are made to convert the Hindus by luring them,” said district Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) president Anand Shahi. The HYV was floated by Mahant Adityanath, the firebrand BJP MP from Gorakhpur. Six persons were arrested for allegedly encouraging the conversion, police said.The state government has already sounded an alert after the recent ‘mass conversion’ of over 250 Muslims into Hinduism at Agra. “The authorities have been directed to act swiftly in cases of conversion. While we cannot stop voluntary conversion, it must be ensured that no one was forced,” said a senior official here on Thursday. (Deccan Herald 19/12/14)

87. Our motive is not to convert people’s religion, but to win hearts: VHP leader Ashok Singhal

New Delhi: Defending the Ghar Vapsi campaign being carried out by some Hindu groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal on Sunday said that the motive is to make people aware of their ancestors. “We are committed to protect Hindutva. Our aim is not to convert people’s religion, but to win their hearts,” Singhal told reporters. Speaking at a book launch, VHP patron Ashok Singhal said it was due to their “struggle” in the last 50 years that Hindus have “regained” the lost “empire” of Delhi after 800 years. “Our culture and religion were subjugated and we struggled. In 800 years, a day has now come in which we can say we have a government which is committed to protecting Hindutva. Our values will be gradually established in the country. “We want an invincible Hindu society which works for the world’s welfare according to these values… We have never gone out to convert the world but to win over their heart,” Singhal said, apparently referring to the recent row over conversion. Referring to the BJP government, he said Hindus have come back to power in Delhi after Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan lost it in the 12th century. He claimed that various powers in their attempts to capture the world have brought it close to a world war. “You can see that in Australia and in Central Asia. The danger of ‘Islamic terrorism’ we can see in Europe. This war could have been stopped but the way different powers are in a race to establish their reign in the world, it seems this world war is inevitable,” he said. However, he said Hindus will not be a “player” in such a war as they have always sought to win the world by love and believed in spiritual and not material victory. “They (others) are showcasing their strength on the basis of hate… World will have to think that if we have to live together then we can do so only on the basis of mutual love that India has been propagating,” he said. (Zee News 21/12/14)

88. Large-scale re-conversion likely on Christmas (26)

KOCHI: Even as the controversy over ‘ghar vapsi’ is raging, around 200 persons, mostly Christians, have been brought back to the Hindu fold during the past few days by the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Kerala. Indications are that a large number of people would be brought back to the Hindu fold on Christmas Day, though VHP sources said that no major events had been specially planned for the day. Sources close to the developments indicated that preparations were under way for re-converting close to 300 persons on the day at different centres, including Ernakulam and Idukki districts. Leaders of the Kerala unit of the organisation said the re-conversion drive would go full-throttle in the coming days and there were no directions from the national leadership to put the campaign on hold. While 80 per cent of the re-conversions were from Christianity, a few incidents of Muslims returning to the Hindu faith had also taken place. People who were converted from Ezhava, and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities to Christianity had been mostly returning recently. Muslims too had returned at functions held at some parts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, sources said. Dharm Prasar, the VHP organ focusing on re-conversion, is planning to bring back 250 families by the year-end. Around 80 families have already returned to Hinduism at regional events held at Thodupuzha, Mavelikara, Kollam, Kasaragod, Thrissur, and Ernakulam. The events were being planned as low-key affairs considering the likely resistance that may come up against re-conversions, sources said. VHP Kshetriya Sanghatana secretary K.N. Venkiteswaran, when asked about the plans for mass conversion programmes on Christmas, said if people came forward to return to Hinduism on that day, the homecoming would be arranged. The VHP leader, who claimed that the drive had received overwhelming response, said the organisation would facilitate people returning to their original faith. The helpline run by the VHP had been receiving close to 200 calls a day seeking support to return to Hinduism, he said. The re-conversion drive, an ongoing process, would continue in the coming days and those willing to return to “Swadharma” would be given all protection and guarded against any social discrimination, VHP leaders said. Annually, around 2,000 people had been coming back over the years. Fear factor was holding back Muslims from coming back to Hinduism, he said. (The Hindu 23/12/14)

89. 11 Muslims converted to Hinduism, says VHP (26)

ALAPPUZHA: A few days after arranging the reconversion of 30 Christians, the Chengannur district unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Wednesday claimed to have converted 11 Muslims to Hinduism at a ceremony in Kayamkulam. As in the previous instance, the conversion ritual was kept under wraps by VHP functionaries until its conclusion. The ceremony took place at Kizhavoor Yakshi Amman Temple at Varanappally from 7 a.m. for around two hours in the presence of VHP workers. VHP Chengannur district president Prathap G. Padickal said the persons belonged to three families, one hailing from Arattupuzha and the others from Kayamkulam. “A member each of two couples had been forcibly converted to Islam as part of love jihad years ago,” he said and added that the third family hailed from Tamil Nadu and had settled in the State. “All the three families have been practising Hindu rituals and customs for some time. They had approached the VHP seeking our assistance for the conversion,” Mr. Padickal said. He refused to divulge the identities of the three families in order to “ensure their protection”. The VHP leader also declined to say whether there would be further conversions in the region in the coming days. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

90. Another idea from Hindutva lab: ‘bahu lao-beti bachao’ (26)

Lucknow: After “love jihad” and “ghar wapsi”, now its “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign. Notwithstanding the controversy generated over the first two, Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has announced the launch of “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign. Under it, they will “protect Hindu boys who marry Muslim or Christian girls” and will also create awareness among Hindu families “to protect their girls from falling in love or getting married to Muslim or Christian boys”. Bajrang Dal will launch the campaign from February 17 in Uttar Pradesh. Its office bearers here have already discussed the campaign at the “Hindu Sammelan” that the VHP recently organised across the country to mark its golden jubilee. VHP is an offshoot of Rashrtiya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Bajrang Dal state convenor Ajju Chauhan told The Indian Express that the “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign will be a reply to “love jihad” and will seek to bring girls from Muslim or Christian communities as daughters-in-laws for Hindu families. “In ‘love jihad’, Muslim youths use fake identity of being a Hindu to marry Hindu girls for which they get funding from different organisations. But, in ‘bahu lao-beti bachao’ campaign, we will neither ask the Hindu youths to cheat girls, nor provide them any money to lure girls of other communities,” Chauhan said. He said Bajrang Dal will only provide protection to the couple —- Hindu boy and Muslim or Christian girl – if they face threat from their families before or after marriage. Bajrang Dal will also help any such couple to get married if their families oppose the decision, he added. The campaign will be launched in other states such as Kerala and Karnataka. A mass awareness campaign on ‘bahu lao-beti bachao” will start soon through street plays, pamphlets and hoardings. (Indian Express 28/12/14)

91. RSS open to re-conversion of Goan Catholics (26)

Panaji: In the midst of a nationwide row over the issue of re-conversion, a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) official said that the organisation was open to facilitate the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ of willing Goan Catholics, whose ancestors were forcibly converted during the colonial Portuguese era. Speaking to a select group of journalists in Goa, on the sidelines of a training camp for 15-year-old plus RSS volunteers, Sharad Kunte, who heads the Sangh’s intellectual wing for the western region, also said that the RSS was not actively seeking to re-convert people, but only serving as a facilitator or guide to those who wanted to come back into their original religious fold. “If they want to come back, we are ready to welcome them,” Mr. Kunte said, when asked about the Sangh’s position on Hindus who had been converted by the Portuguese centuries earlier. He spoke about Goa’s colonial past and the conversions to Catholicism, which had taken place under the erstwhile Portuguese rule. “It’s like this, the Portuguese had forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. They (those converted) are not around now, but I think their later generations are,” Mr. Kunte said, adding that even if present day Catholics in Goa did not wish to re-convert, the RSS has no issues with it. Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years until it was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961 by the Indian army. In the earlier part of the Portuguese regime, a large number of Goans were converted, often by force by Catholic missionaries, according to documented historical texts. Goa has a population of 1.5 million out of which more than 26 per cent are Catholics. Mr. Kunte said that the RSS’s ‘Ghar Wapsi’ programme had nothing to do with converting people by force. “For those who want to come back (to their original religion), we are only showing them the way,” Mr. Kunte added. Kunte was speaking to reporters after conducting a session on Saturday at the training camp which was attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Goa legislative assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, among others A nationwide controversy erupted recently after a few right-wing Hindu organisations, some of which owe allegiance to the RSS, organised re-conversion programmes in some north Indian states to re-convert non-Hindus to Hinduism. The opposition, which had stalled the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha for several days on end over the issue, has accused the Hindu organisations of offering money as well as government perks to those who reconverted or were potential re-converts. (The Hindu 29/12/14)

92. In Bodh Gaya, 200 are ‘made’ Hindus (26)

Patna: Over 200 Christian Mahadalits of tiny Atia village in Bodh Gaya were “purified” on Monday under pressure from the saffron brigade to participate in their “Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) programme. The move was initiated by local BJP MP Hari Manjhi. The Sangh Parivar targeted the Mahadalit village because the villagers had embraced Christianity en bloc; they were segregated under brahminical orders from the Hindu mainstream and lived in extreme poverty. Manjhi, however, disappeared from the scene and rushed to Delhi just before the Ghar Wapsi programme was launched. According to sources in Bodh Gaya, Mr Manjhi left for Delhi after the BJP withdrew itself from the entire Ghar Wapsi episode. Till a fortnight ago the BJP had been supporting the Ghar Wapsi drive and had even sent a fact-finding team to Bhagalpur for the re-conversion of those who were baptised into Christianity. The BJP had staged a dharna outside the Bihar Assembly a few days ago to protest conversion en masse in the village. VHP members, while talking to this newspaper, said the “purification” was performed according to Sanatan rituals. The VHP members plan to start an Ekal Vidyalaya in the Christian-dominated Atia village with the sole purpose of educating the children and making them aware of the essence of Hinduism. “The villagers came to us and wanted to reconvert. We accepted their request and welcomed them and performed their shudhikaran (purification), and today around 200 men, women and children in the village returned to their original religion,” Shyama Singh of the VHP told this newspaper. (Asian Age 30/12/14)

TERRORISM

93. 26/11 accused Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi led charmed life in jail, fathered a child (12)

New Delhi: Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, granted bail by a Pakistani court on Thursday, led a charmed life in jail despite being a top member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Second only to Hafiz Saeed in the Lashkar hierarchy, Lakhvi was “treated like a state guest and not a terrorist” after being held in December 2008 in connection with the Mumbai terror strike. Lakhvi even fathered a child while confined on terror charges at Rawalpindi’s high-security Adiala jail. This information was given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) by co-accused Abu Jundal, who was packed off to Saudi Arabia by his handlers in the Pakistani establishment in the wake of the international heat generated by the terror attacks. Both Lakhvi and India-born Jundal worked in close coordination to train and arm Ajmal Kasab and the nine others who came to Mumbai via the sea route. According to Jundal, Lakhvi called on him in Adiala jail to tell him about his marriage and fatherhood. Lakhvi’s child was kept a closely guarded secret even within the LeT ranks. Jundal’s revelations only reaffirmed the belief in government circles that Lakhvi was being protected by Pakistani authorities— the ISI and the army in particular. Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley, who made several trips to Mumbai to recce the terror targets ahead of 26/11, told the NIA when it went to Chicago to interrogate him that the then ISI chief, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, visited Lakhvi in Adiala jail. The American government, too, had shared intelligence with India that Lakhvi had access to a mobile phone in jail and that he continued to run Lashkar’s operations from behind bars. An investigative online journal, ProPublica, had reported that Pakistan’s then army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, had declined to confiscate Lakhvi’s cellphone. Lakhvi’s importance to the Pakistani establishment can also be judged from the fact that the military commander was guarded by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants even though he was housed in a high-security jail. For years now, Pakistan has also refused to hand over Lakhvi’s voice samples, needed to establish that he orchestrated the Mumbai attacks from a control room in Karachi. Lakhvi’s voice was identified by Jundal but protective Pakistani authorities, aware that this would amount to clinching evidence, did little to pursue the case against him despite several dossiers being handed over by India. (Hindustan Times 19/12/14)

94. Assam: Violence spreads as toll rises to 65, NIA to probe killings (12)

Guwahati: Violence spread in Assam on Wednesday as the toll in the massacre of tribals by Bodo militants rose to 65 including 21 women and 18 children, sparking a retaliation in which Bodo homes were torched and a police station attacked leaving three more tribals dead allegedly in police firing. According to reports, two Bodos people were killed when the Adivasi people burnt a number of houses belonging to the community in Kokrajhar district. There was no official confirmation of the deaths. Violence spread to a fourth district–Udalguri–when the militants of the anti-talks NDFB(S) who were behind the ethnic violence in three districts on Tuesday ired at villagers and burnt houses injuring one person. The attack triggered another round of retaliation in which the Adivasis set ablaze over 60 huts of Bodo people at Lamabari and Udalguri weekly market. Tribal plantation workers burn houses belonging to indigenous Bodo tribesmen after ethnic clashes in Balijuri village, in Sonitpur district  of Assam (Reuters) As authorities mulled an offensive against Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the carnage as a “terror” act and that it will be dealt with accordingly. Army has been deployed in all the violence-hit areas and is ‘actively’ involved in maintaining law and order situation since last night, a defence spokesperson said. Curfew has been clamped in all the disturbed areas under Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar districts, police said. Singh rushed to Guwahati to review the situation at a meeting with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and top security officials. The Chief Minister urged Singh to order an NIA inquiry into the killings and the Union Minister consented to it, sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said on Wednesday night. 37 people were killed in Sonitpur district, 25 in Kokrajhar and three in Chirang district after heavily armed militants belonging to NDFB swooped down on remote Adivasi villages of the three districts last evening, Police said. Among the dead, 21 were women and 18 children, it said, adding 15 people were also injured. The Centre said it was rushing about 5,000 paramilitary personnel at the request of Assam Government even as the Chief Minister asked for more security personnel. Around 2,500 people have fled their homes and are staying in relief camps after the attack, an official said. An all-out offensive will be launched against NDFB militants jointly by police, paramilitary forces and army in the wake of the violence, sources said in Delhi. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Rajnath Singh in Delhi and attended by top officials of Home and Defence ministries and paramilitary forces, they said. Even as Gogoi said firm steps were being taken to prevent the situation from escalating, violent protests by Adivasis erupted against the killings. Police opened fire as angry protestors turned violent in Dhekiajuli of Sonitpur district, a police official said. The protestors, armed with bow and arrows, were marching towards the police station in Dhekajuli town and despite repeated appeal by police to stop, they marched on and attempted to storm the police station, he said. Police initially attempted to disperse the protestors by resorting to lathicharge, but opened fire when the situation worsened, the official said. Three persons were killed and several others injured in police action, he said. Angry protestors also set ablaze twenty houses allegedly belonging to the people of the Bodo community in Phuloguri in Sonitpur district. (DNA 25/12/14)

95. Centre extends ban on NDFB(S) for 5 years (12)

NEW DELHI, Dec 26 – Government has extended the ban imposed on NDFB (S), by five more years, reports PTI. The ban is applicable to all factions of NDFB, sources said today. The notification declaring the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) as an outlawed organisation under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for five years was issued by the Home Ministry on Monday, official sources said. The Home Ministry has approached a Tribunal set up by the Delhi High Court for the ratification of its order. The anti-talks faction of NDFB, led by Songbijit Ingti Kathar, has killed more than 70 Adivasi tribals in three districts of Assam in the last four days. Songbijit in 2009 fell out with the outfit’s top leadership and floated NDFB(S), now the most dreaded faction. Meanwhile, the Centre today extended the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with NDFB (Progressive) for six months till June 30, 2015. This followed tripartite talks with the representatives of NDFB (P) held on December 22, 2014. (The Assam Tribune 27/12/14)

96. Bangalore blast: NIA yet to be handed over probe (12)

New Delhi: With Sunday’s Bengaluru blast, the number of cases in which banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is under scanner has risen to almost half a dozen. But the Union home ministry is yet to hand over any of these cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “The NIA had written to the Union home ministry almost three months back asking three cases — the Bijnor blast (September 12), Karim Nagar bank robbery (February 2) and Pune’s police station parking blast (July 11) – be handed over as it is suspected SIMI operatives were involved. But the ministry is yet to take a decision on it,” said a government official. A counter terror official added that the list of cases where SIMI operatives who escaped from Khandwa prison in September last year, is suspected to have been involved has become quite exhaustive. “Their role is also suspected in the Chennai train blast (May 1), Roorkee blast (December 6) and Rewari incident of September 25 when a bomb was detected in the nick of time from a passenger train,” he said. In most of the cases, forensic experts have said the improvised explosive devices used to conduct blasts consisted of an elbow shape pipe of around two inch diameter, timers, two to three detonators and nails as shrapnel. “Forensic experts have said the explosive was a paste of Potassium Chlorate, Ammonium Nitrate and some kind of lubricant. The IED signature in the Bengaluru blast looked similar. Despite a requirement of a coordinated probe by single agency in all these cases, the NIA has not been pressed into service,” he added. NIA sources said that all the probes are scattered across the country and if one agency were to probe them, it would require working with the state police by collating and analysing all leads. The NIA was formed exclusively to probe terror activities after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. (Hindustan Times 30/12/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

97. Naxalites hold raiding foresters captive; snatch away guns, ammo (12)

Chandrapur: The armed offensive initiated by forest department to check interstate teakwood smuggling in Maharashtra-Telangana border in Gadchiroli received a serious jolt on Saturday afternoon after Naxalites took a raiding party of forest department staffers captive and looted three self-loaded rifles (SLR) and 60 live cartridges from them in Konjed forest in Dechlipetha range. The Red rebels thrashed the foresters brutally, injuring at least half a dozen staffers of the raiding party, before they were allowed to walk away traumatized in the evening. Sources said that the forest department had dispatched a raiding party into Dechlipetha forest following a tip-off about movement of bullock-carts carrying illegally fallen logs by teakwood smugglers. A joint posse of 24 forestmen, including six guards and 17 van-majors (forest labourers) from Dechlipetha and Jimalgatta, led by a round officer began search operation in the forest near Konjed village in the morning. Foresters looking for teakwood smugglers, however stumbled upon the group of armed Naxalites in the jungle in the afternoon. The three forest guards, identified as SN Rathod, RV Nimrad and CK Choudhary, were learnt to have received more of the thrashing from Naxalites. The posse of around 50 Naxalites surrounded the forest staffers’ team and asked them to surrender. The entire team of 24 was then taken captive and three rifles and ammunition of 60 cartridges they were carrying were snatched away. Sources claimed that some foresters tried to confront the Naxalites and one of them even dared to level his gun at the rebels. But their trivial attempt was subdued brutally and those dared to confront were brutally thrashed. At least half a dozen members of forest department’s posse sustained grievous injuries in thumping. A section of the cops have expressed surprise as to why there was no efforts in resisting the arms loot from the trained forest guard. “No a single bullet was fired,” said an official expressing shock. The Naxalites reportedly warned the apprehended forestmen against carrying firearms in the forest and took their class for the failure of the department to curb rampant destruction of forests. The assaulted forestmen were allowed to walk away later in the evening. Foresters filed a complaint about the looting of firearms with Jimalgatta police station after returning to their base. They said that the Naxalites first separated the van majoors from the arm-wielding forest officials. The way the large posse of 50 armed Naxalites waylaid the foresters into the jungle smells of a well-laid plan. However, Sironcha DCF Prabhunath Shukla ruled out that it was a trap. He said that it was a mere coincidence that the forestmen met with the Naxalites. Earlier on December 5, 2009, Naxalites had captured the base camp in Somnur forest, near the confluence of Indrawati and Godavari river on the state border, where 35 forest department staffers were camping to curb cross-border teakwood smuggling. A posse of over 50 armed rebels had looted two guns and 20 cartridges from forest officers in the midnight raid at that time. (Times of India 22/12/14)

98. ISIS, Naxals kept home ministry busy in 2014 (12)

NEW DELHI: Terror outfit ISIS appeared to have emerged as a threat factor in the Indian security radar during 2014 which wrapped up on a tragic note with massacre of over 60 adivasi by Bodo rebels in Assam after witnessing unabated Naxal violence. However, there was considerable calm in Jammu & Kashmir, which witnessed a record turn out in the just-concluded largely peaceful assembly polls during the year in which over 560 incidents of communal violence came as a matter of concern. With the new government in saddle in Delhi and new minister Rajnath Singh in North Block, some occupants in Raj Bhavans nominated by the earlier UPA government, were nudged out and new ones appointed in their place. However, a few incumbents continued. The long struggle for separate statehood in Andhra Pradesh culminated in the creation of Telangana in June that become the country’s 29th state. The arrest of a Bangalore-based executive, who was operating a pro-ISIS Twitter handle to propagate the ideology of the Middle-East terrorist group, climaxed some disquieting events earlier in the year. The disappearance of four Mumbai youths in Iraq-Syria and return of one of them raised concerns over how some of the Indian Muslim youths have become radicalized through social networking sites and other cyber outlets. Intelligence Bureau chief Asif Ibrahim recently said there was an imminent danger of Indian youths moving to the conflict zone (Iraq-Syria), emerging as a role model and such developments may directly or indirectly pose a threat to the country. “The threat potential is accentuated with some lower rung elements returning from conflict zone,” he had said. The Indian hinterland continues to remain the prime focus of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, particularly the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Indian Mujahideen, as the home ministry found that these groups were setting up their infrastructure in Bangladesh and using the porous Indo-Bangla border to send arms and ammunition into India. Blast in a madrassa in West Bengal’s Burdwan has pointed out designs of the terrorists of the neighbouring country to set up bases in India. The home ministry oversaw the creation of Telangana in two phases — one before the Lok Sabha polls and the other after the simultaneous elections to the assembly. Maoists violence continued to be top security challenge for the Home Ministry in 10 Naxal-hit states, particularly in Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, where 14 CRPF personnel were killed in an ambush early this month. Altogether, nearly 200 civilians and more than 60 security personnel were killed in Left-wing violence. The home ministry says that Naxals have been extorting money to the tune of Rs 140 crore annually from contractors, businessmen and corporate houses while their front organisations are suspected to be receiving foreign funds clandestinely. The sudden unprovoked attack by Bodo tribals on adivasis in three Assam districts on Tuesday shattered the peace of northeast and caught the security establishment on the wrong foot. The massacre forced the government to adopt a tough stand when it decided to go all out against the insurgents. The home ministry deployed more than 1.2 lakh paramilitary personnel to provide security during the multi-phased Lok Sabha elections across the country and was credited with its successful completion with relative peace. During 2014, the home ministry extended the ban imposed on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) saying if not curbed, the outfit will reorganise and “disrupt the secular fabric” of the country. The extension came as the government found that the activities of the outfit continue to be “prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country”.Its five members, who had fled from a jail in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, have become a new headache for the security establishment as there have been multiple intelligence inputs that the SIMI operatives were out to carry out terror attacks. The unprecedented floods in Jammu and Kashmir also saw the Home Ministry deeply involved in rescue and relief operations and restoring communication network. The Union home secretary himself was camping in Srinagar for nearly a week to personally supervise the entire operation. (Times of India 25/12/14)

99. Maoist group eyes Northern Kerala (12)

NEW DELHI: The banned CPI(Maoist) is eyeing fertile ground in at least three districts of northern Kerala – Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad. Exploiting popular sentiment against environmental pollution caused by mining and quarrying activity, exploitation of natural resources, alleged highhandedness and misdeeds of forest and police officials and displacement of tribals due to tourism projects and wildlife sanctuaries, the Maoists have announced their arrival in Kerala with recent actions including vandalisation of a forest outpost in Wayanad, MNC-owned fast food restaurants in Palakad and a tourist resort in Wayanad. Recently, CPI(Maoist), through its mouthpiece, highlighted alleged miserable condition of tribals in Manjeri in Malappuram district and blamed it on the attitude of forest and tribal welfare departments. It claimed to have forced the state government to address problems of the affected people, including tribals. The extremist outfit has already formed an armed squad in Malappuram district. A series of recent actions undertaken by Western Ghats special zonal committee of the CPI(Maoist) in Palakkad and Wayanad over the past few days have left the Central security establishment worried over Kerala being the latest entrant to the list of LWE-hit states. For instance, suspected Maoists vandalized a forest outpost in Wayanad and a forest range office in Palakkad on December 21 and 22. Another group targeted two fast food restaurants of multi-national companies in Palakkad on December 22. Pamphlets issued by the outfit were recovered from the attack site, giving the call for intensification of “class struggle” and asserting people’s right over land, water and forest resources. (Times of India 27/12/14)

100. Mobile towers to be set up in naxal-affected districts (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Mobile towers will come up in Berhampur, Cuttack, Keonjhar and Sambalpur districts. Telecom equipment maker VNL Limited has been identified as vendor for the project. Besides, BSNL has been asked to replace expired batteries of existing telecom towers. Left wing extremists have been consistently targeting telecom towers, which play an important role in keeping mobile phone communication intact, in southern Odisha districts like Gajapati, Malkanagiri and Rayagada. The instances of setting telecom towers on fire have come down in the recent past as towers are being installed near security establishments. After the gradual increase in deployment of security forces in naxal affected districts, extremists are finding it difficult to target towers. (The Hindu 30/12/14)

TRAFFICKING

101. Man held for selling 18-year-old girl into prostitution for Rs 3 lakh (1)

Mumbai: Social Service Branch (SSB) of the city police, on Thursday, arrested a man for allegedly trying to sell an 18-year-old girl into prostitution. The accused had brought the victim, a native of Madhya Pradesh, to the city promising he would get her a job in an event management company, the police said. They have rescued the girl. According to the police, the victim is from Indore and belongs to a poor family. “The accused is known to her family. Two days ago he told her parents that he would get her a job in an event management firm in Mumbai. The family then sent the victim with the accused to Mumbai,” said an SSB officer. In Mumbai, the accused was about to sell the victim to a prostitution racket and was supposed to get Rs3 lakh in the transaction. “We had received information that a woman would be sold for Rs3 lakh in a guest house at Gamdevi. Accordingly, we laid a trap and arrested the accused and rescued the girl. The accused was booked under charges of Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act and handed over to Gamdevi police,” the officer said. The accused was produced before a court which remanded him in police custody till December 24. Cops are investigating whether he has committed similar acts in the past. Police have also informed victim’s parents about their daughter being rescued. They are expected to reach Mumbai in a couple of days, police said. (DNA 20/12/14)

102. 31 Assam kids among 46 trafficking victims rescued from Haryana (1)

Guwahati: Forty-six persons from a village in Bongaigaon district in western Assam – 31 of them children – have been rescued by the police from a factory in Rohtak in Haryana, with the Assam Police now asking the Haryana Police to track the culprits, both employers and traffickers, in order to check the menace. Bongaigaon additional SP Imdad Ali said these people, which included a few families too, were lured with money by a gang of traffickers from Koreya, a village under Jogighopa police station and taken to Haryana about five months ago. “While the families were taken on the promise of jobs, they were kept confined in a godown attached to a factory and were paid only a few rupees on a daily basis so that they could not save money to run away,” Addl SP Ali said. “Members of two such families lodged an FIR a couple of weeks ago, following which we managed to track down the people in a factory in Rohtak district with the help of Haryana Police. But when we raided the place, the owner of the factory had already fled,” the Addl SP said. The rescued persons have been brought by train to Assam and they have reached their homes on Sunday afternoon, he added. The 46 who were rescued included 31 children, several of them adolescent girls, while three women also had infants. “The adults were initially paid a salary at the end of the first month of work, but later they were only given a few rupees for daily sustenance, with the owner ensuring that they could not save money to run away,” Ali said. The police are also on the look-out for three local persons – namely Rupchand Ali, Ibrahim Ali and Elahi Ali – who had allegedly lured the families to go with them to Haryana. The trio had reportedly handed over the group of people to two persons – Manoj Kumar and Tilak Kumar – in Rohtak, who in turn handed over the group to the owner of a factory that dealt in steel and iron scrap.(Indian Express 22/12/14)

103. ‘Bring law to prevent human trafficking’ (1)

Kolkata: At a time when trafficking of women and children continues to be a major concern for policy makers in West Bengal, activists have launched a signature campaign highlighting the need for a legislation to curb the activities of illegal placement agencies operating in the State. Activists cite instances of Chhattisgarh and Delhi where mechanism to regulate activities of placements firms have been introduced in recent past. Chhattishgarh, a State with significant tribal population, where migration and trafficking is common, has recently framed rules under the Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act passed by the State Assembly. In the Capital after the intervention of the Delhi High Court, a notification was issued in September 2014 which provides for compulsory registration of private placement agencies operating there within 30 days. “We urge the State Government to regulate the placement agencies operating here, form a committee to verify credentials of all placement agencies, define rights of domestic workers and ban employment of children by the placement agencies,” Rishi Kanta, an activist with NGO Shakti Vahini told The Hindu. Pointing out that the campaign has been endorsed by over 4,000 people on different social networking sites, Mr. Rishi Kanta said the campaign is aimed to complement schemes like Kanyashree Prakalpa, a scholarship scheme started by the State government aimed at reducing drop out of young girls. A compilation of the signatures will be presented to the State Department of Women and Child Development, Mr. Rishi Kanta said. Vinod Kumar Tikoo, a former member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, also supported the initiative. Mr. Tikoo, who has worked in Chhattisgarh and Bengal, said that in certain rural areas of Chhattisgarh there were graffitis by a number of placement agencies. (The Hindu 28/12/14)

CORRUPTION

104. Bill to amend Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act tabled in LS (5)

NEW DELHI: In a bid to crack the political freeze over the appointment of Lokpal, the government on Thursday tabled in the Lok Sabha an amendment in the 2013 statute making room for Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to join as member of the high-powered panel empowered to select the top anti-corruption ombudsman. In the existing Act, Section 4 makes only the Leader of Opposition eligible to be a member of the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister. The amendment allows the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in the Lok Sabha to be member in case there is no “recognised” Leader of Opposition (LoP). This amendment brings the Lokpal Act in line with the Central Vigilance Act, 2003 and Right to Information Act, 2005 Further, the Amendment Bill provides that no appointment in the search committee or the proceedings of the panel would be made invalid “merely by reason of any vacancy or absence of a member” of the panel. The selection committee also has the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him and an eminent jurist, who could be nominated by the President or any other member, besides the opposition leader. Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh introduced The Lokpal and Lokayuktas and Other Related Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had earlier rejected Congress demands for LoP status to its leader. Congress with 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha has emerged as the second largest party after BJP’s 282 but fell short of 10 per cent of the strength of House, a requirement to get LoP status. This Amendment Bill also provides for qualifications for appointment of Director of Prosecution in the CBI and for its functional independence. The Director of Prosecution is appointed under the provisions of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs working of the CBI. (The Hindu 19/12/14)

105. Vigilance Detects Scam in Horticulture Scheme (5)

ROURKELA:  Vigilance sleuths have detected misappropriation to the tune of `59 lakh in implementation of a horticulture scheme at two villages of Nuagaon block in Sundargah district. They suspect that the total amount embezzled in the scheme may cross `2 crore. Welfare Extension Officer (WEO) Purna Chandra Majhi and project officer of an NGO, Public Interest & Welfare Activity Association, Simanchal Nayak (43) were arrested in this connection on Saturday and produced at Vigilance Court in Sambalpur. Cases have also been registered against incumbent Assistant Director of Horticulture, Rourkela, SP Nayak and his predecessor Sushil Seth besides Special Officer in Panposh Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) Sushant Das. Sources said corruption occurred in the financial years of 2012-13 and 2013-14 in implementation of Integrated Vegetable Farming & Mushroom scheme. The scheme was being implemented for BPL Scheduled Tribe farmers by Horticulture wing of Agriculture Department and Panposh ITDA through the NGO. The scheme amount was `2 crore for each of three crop seasons covering 22 villages. Investigation revealed that a fraud of `38 lakh and `21 lakh was committed at Bagdega and Jhariatoli villages respectively. Vigilance sources said the total misappropriation of Government fund may exceed `2 crore on completion of investigation in the remaining villages. The fund was misappropriated by showing inflated number of beneficiaries, negligible distribution of farm inputs and massive fraudulent spending on fake awareness programmes and appointment of ghost resource persons. (New Indian Express 21/12/14)

106. Rajasthan coop official, family sentenced in graft case (5)

AJMER: The former deputy manager of Rajasthan Cooperative Dairy Federation, Surendra Sharma, and his entire family were sentenced to six years imprisonment and fined Rs. 25 lakh each on charges of corruption and amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. Surendra Sharma, his wife Aruna and two children Gaurav (26) and Garima (24) will spend one more year in jail in case of defaulting on the fine. The court also ordered the family to deposit Rs 2.5 crore and all the gold and silver recovered from them during raids in the government treasury. It is, perhaps, the first time that a court has sent family members to jail for abetting the head of the family in corruption, though the primary case was against Surender Sharma. Mr. Sharma is said to have made money by taking commission on each truck of fodder sent to the villages. (The Hindu 22/12/14)

107. ‘Graft’ Figures at Meet (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The bribery allegations raised by a contractor against some councillors figured in the proceedings of the City Corporation council meeting here on Saturday. The allegations raised by the contractor was that certain councillors, whom the contractor did not name, had intervened in the works of contractors demanding bribe. Ambalathara ward councillor Mujeeb Rahman said that he will proceed with legal steps against the contractor for ‘’defaming’’ the councillors. ‘’The whole council was defamed by the allegation raised by the contractor. If he had faced such problems, he should have named the councillors instead of accusing the whole council. He could also have approached the Vigilance court if there were any issue of corruption,’’ he said. Councillors belonging to LDF, UDF and BJP together came out against the contractor’s ‘revelation’. They alleged that it was an attempt by contractors to shift the attention from their own failings as they fail to finish the work on time. ‘’If he was an honourable person, he would have revealed the name of the councillors who demanded bribe. Anyway we have to reconsider as to whether to continue works with these kind of contractors. We will seek a clarification and will inquire about this matter,’’ said Mayor K Chandrika. “He could have approached the anti- corruption officials or he could have adopted measures to trap corrupt persons. If he had done that, we would have lauded him,’’ the Mayor said.  Meanwhile, Opposition UDF members questioned the involvement of MLAs Thomas Isaac and V Sivankutty in the Corporation’s programmes. They also criticised Thomas Isaac for criticising the Corporation secretary through his facebook post. The Opposition members criticised the quality of the diary issued by the Corporation. (New Indian Express 28/12/14)

108. Bombay High Court stays FIR, probe against HDIL (5)

Mumbai: In a relief to real estate major Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL), the Bombay high court has stayed a lower court order asking police to conduct a probe against the company with regard to alleged irregularities in a slum rehabili-tation authority (SRA) project. The anti-corruption bureau filed a first information report on December 2 against the company and SRA officials for irregularities in an SRA scheme at Motilal Nehru Nagar in suburban Bandra in 2005-06 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The high court stayed the FIR too. HDIL had moved the high court challenging the FIR and the lower court order ordering the probe. A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudessai earlier this month granted relief pending final disposal of the petition, noting that FIR names two senior SRA officials, and in such cases, as per a Supreme Court ruling, government’s sanction was necessary. The next hearing of the case will be on January 19. The FIR was registered against the principal secretary (housing) Debashish Chakrabarty, principal secretary (woman and child development) Ujjwal Uke, HDIL group chairman and the company’s 10 directors. At the relevant time, Chakrabarty and Uke were with SRA. According to the complainant, though he owned a tenement in the area, he was not allotted a shop after the area was redeveloped and there were some irregularities. (Asian Age 30/12/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

109. India remained positive, proactive in Lima: Javadekar (9)

New Delhi: India was “positive” and “proactive” in its approach to climate change negotiations that were concluded in Lima last week, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said Friday. Unveiling a publication on climate change adaptation, he said in view of India’s insistence in Lima on promoting adaptability as a measure to combat the global scourge, the publication was “timely” as it focuses on best practices to adapt to climate change in the country. A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) publication, “Rising to the Call: Good practices of climate change adaptation in India” is a collection of case studies on climate variability that indicate the effects of climate change across India. CSE’s deputy director general and the lead author of the book, Chandra Bhushan said: “Climate change has begun to hurt India. Weather extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires have intensified in the recent past.” The publication also discusses the local response to extreme weather trends while highlighting the best practices that people undertake to adapt to climate variability. As clean and healthy environment means serious business to the Narendra Modi government, Javadekar said the government is passionate about climate change and has earmarked Rs. 100 crore to kick start India’s adaptation plan. (Zee News 19/12/14)

110. Over 70% urban slums in Rajasthan on open spaces, public parks: Report (9)

JAIPUR: More than 70% of urban slums in Rajasthan are on open spaces and public parks owned by local bodies. National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in its latest report on ‘Urban Slums in India’ also highlighted the dismal living condition of the people in these dwellings. In per 1,000 distribution of slums by type of ownership of land, a total of 697 are on the land belonging to local bodies in Rajasthan while all-India average is 367. Even drains and nullahs are occupied by large slums as about 235 slums out of 1,000 are in these locations. Slums along the railway lines on the contrary are lower than most other states and only 195 per 1,000 slums are found at such spots in the survey. NSSO conducted an all-India survey of rural and urban areas of the country under 69th round of NSS during July-December, 2012. The survey dwells upon drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and housing condition. The report which was released in November 2014 is being used by policy makers and researchers. The last survey of such kind was conducted in 65th round (July 2008-June2009). The report also noted that as many as 27% of all slums in Rajasthan have no electricity connection. In all other states it is 10% or less and nationally it is 7%. Most slums, 674 per 1,000 have pucca (concrete) houses while there is a significant number (268 per 1,000 slums) which are unserviceable kaccha. Urban slums that are mostly unrecognized lack basic facilities too. A total of 476 slums per 1,000 have no toilets while about 101 use dry pit. Similarly, slums with underground drainage were just 17 while most of them had open drainages and there were no drainages in 379 slums. Garbage collection which is a larger problem in all urban areas is a menace in slums. As per the survey report 443 slums out of 1,000 had absolutely no garbage disposal facilities. In 352 slum households garbage collection happens in 3 to 7 days. Apart from that, ohter benefits like school and health centres too are at a distance from urban slums in the state. Rajasthan is the only state in the country where distance of nearest primary government school from an urban slum is more than 5 kms. An estimated total of 33,150 slums existed in the urban areas of India. About 8.8 million households lived in these slums with 5.6 in notified and 3.2 in non-notified slums. Maharashtra with an estimated 7,723 slums, accounted for about 23% of all slums in urban India, followed by Andhra Pradesh (14%) and West Bengal which had a share of about 12%. (Times of India 23/12/14)

111. Farmers fear ecological threats due to tree felling (9)

Tirupur: Farmers in Merkkupathi village expressed concerns over the ecological threats looming large over the area surrounding the 90 acre irrigation tank situated in the hamlet. According to them, trees like neem and a few other varieties of plants grown in and around the tank are felled indiscriminately in the pretext of removing thorny plants. “The tank, once a perennial source of water for the farmers in its command area, over the years has now become rain-fed because of the environmental degradation happened to the surroundings over the decades that prevents water flow into the tank from jungle streams,” S. Kaliappan, a farmer who raises coconut and vegetables in the area, pointed out. He further said that if the trees were felled as presently done, the entire ecological balance would get disturbed. “Once the habitats of the animals like deer and rabbit, which live in the area, goes, they will stray out into the nearby hamlets where crops were being raised and eat produces like tomato, thus, affecting the farmers’ livelihood opportunities,” he added. Mr. Kaliappan said that he had sought an explanation from the revenue administration under the Right to Information Act on the tree felling happening in the area, about a fortnight back. “It is understandable that replies to my queries posed under the RTI Act application might take a bit longer but at least on receipt of my application the authorities should have conducted an inquiry to stop any irregularities in the cutting of the trees,” he added. The farmers expressed fear that once trees were cut in the area, it could pave way for encroachments and sand extraction too. (The Hindu 25/12/14)

112. Environment Ministry Plans Dedicated Forest Satellite (9)

NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) would launch a dedicated forest satellite to keep an eye on the country’s forest cover on a daily basis. The ministry is in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to work out intricate details of the project, which would facilitate real time data of forests in the country and help the officials monitor the hotspots, check illegal chopping of trees, get details of forest fire and update the national forest inventories. The move could bring a massive change in the management and monitoring of forests in the country, besides expediting green clearances which currently get delayed because of the unavailability of accurate forest data. Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar is taking special interest in the project, especially in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi issuing directions to all Central ministries to increase the use of satellite technology. The Railway Ministry has already sought the ISRO’s help for containing accidents on unmanned railway crossings, while Minister of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti has roped in the space agency to keep a tab on the polluting industries along the banks of Ganga. A senior MoEF official, who is privy to the development, said, “Currently, we get the data from other agencies but there are a lot of discrepancies. The data from the Forest Survey of India (FSI) puts the forest cover at 22 per cent of the country’s geographical area, while the ISRO has different figures. It is very embarrassing that the two government agencies have as many separate figures. Having our own satellite means we will get the raw data from the Indian Space Research Organisationand our experts can analyse forest cover.”  A dedicated satellite could offer the governments, businesses and communities insight into how forests in the region are changing. “The need (for a dedicated forest satellite) was felt as project clearances sometimes get delayed in the absence of accurate and up-to-date data related to pristine forest. “Several mining projects are also stuck because there is confusion over the density and quality of forest cover. While diverting forest cover for non-forest purposes, project proponents are expected to submit a detailed report of the number of trees felled. “Often, the data was found to be inaccurate. Having real time data will solve the entire problem and help in expediting green clearances,” the official said. Though the cost of the satellite would be decided only after the ministry finalises the specifications and the sensors it would require, Javadekar has decided to take up the matter with the Department of Space to make it cost-effective. The MoEF has notified its requirement and specifications to the ISRO and asked it to provide a detailed report on the cost and the  resources needed. Senior ministry officials have held several meetings with the ISRO to discuss the plan. Currently, the FSI brings out a report on the state of Indian forest once in two years. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently started using the Geographic Information System (GSI) to monitor afforestation across the country in lieu of diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes to companies for infrastructure and other projects. (New Indian Express 29/12/14)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

113. Centre downplaying Maharashtra agro-crisis: VJAS (20)

Nagpur: The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) which is documenting the Maharashtra agrarian crises since 1997 Saturday disputed central figures on the farmers suicides for the current year. It questioned the figures given to the Rajya Sabha by union Minister of State for Agriculture Mohan Kundaria that only 800 farmers have ended their lives in India, including 724 in Maharashtra, in this period “In Maharashtra, the Vidarbha region alone has reported 1,088 suicides and the drought-hit regions of Marathwada accounted for another 600 suicides, besides other parts of the state,” VJAS president Kishore Tiwari told IANS. Claiming that the central government was downplaying the crisis, he pointed out that in 2013, the state topped the National Crime Records Bureau figures with 3,146 farmers suicides, the highest in the country. “From 1995 till date, 60,750 farmers, including many women have committed suicide due to the agrarian crises in the state, with the situation becoming worse after 2004 with an average of more than 3,500 deaths each year till now,” Tiwari said. He said that Kundaria’s figures display “a very casual approach” of the NDA government to the agro-crisis gripping the country, and complete apathy towards Maharashtra where it is compounded by a severe drought. Referring to the ongoing cotton farmers protest and minimum support prices situation in Gujarat, he said that the government announced a Rs.1,100 crore relief package. However, this is not a solution to the agrarian crisis which has resulted from a policy shift of the centre since 1997, the reforms under GATT, permitting free trade and lifting of quantitative restrictions on import-export of agricultural commodities which has led to these suicides, Tiwari noted. He recalled the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of introducing renowned agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan’s formula for fixing MSP which should be considered before finalizing the Union Budget 2015-16. This could make agriculture more sustainable and ensure that no farmer is compelled to leave his traditional occupation or end his life, suggested Tiwari. (Business Standard 20/12/14)

114.  ‘Over 46 farmers committed suicide in Anantapur’ (20)

ANANTAPUR: Leaders of 10 Left parties, who visited the Anantapur district, on Saturday said more than 46 farmers committed suicide in the district while many more cases were not known.Ten left parties which went on one-day tour of the district include CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), CPI (ML-New Democracy), SUCI, RSP, CPI (ML-Liberation). Speaking to The Hindu , the left leaders said while tens of farmers continue to take their lives, the government seems to be least bothered to even enumerate them and release the amount of ex gratia to their kin. “This is the consecutive sixth year Anantapur was facing drought”, said Jagadish, district secretary of CPI. (The Hindu 21/12/14)

115. Agricultural labourers under job scheme seek payment of wages (20)

KALABURAGI: Landless agriculture labourers who work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Kalaburagi district staged a demonstration outside the office of the chief executive officer (CEO) of the zilla panchayat here on Wednesday seeking payment of wages amounting to more than Rs. 48.5 lakh. The labourers owing their allegiance to the Karnataka Prantha Krishi Koolikarara Sangha came in a procession to the office of the CEO and staged a dharna. They pointed out that in Jewargi Taluk’s Harwal Gram panchayat alone, labourers were yet to get Rs 23.32 lakh as wages. In Kollur Gram Panchayat, wages amounting to Rs. 12.12 lakh were pending due to the negligence of officials. The labourers alleged that the officials were denying employment to them despite submitting applications, and were executing works under the MNREGA using machines. They alleged that in many gram panchayats, elected representatives had forcibly collected job cards from agricultural labourers and were denying them jobs. The government should direct gram panchayats to return these job cards and provide them work under the MNREGA and make timely payment of wages, they added. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

116. Kelkar panel calls for free irrigation, power to farmers‘ (20)

Nagpur: Despite a Rs7,000 crore package and other sops by the Maharashtra government, a spate of suicides continues to rock the state, particularly in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. Now, highly-placed sources in the government say that the much awaited report of ‘Higher level committee on balanced regional development issues in Maharashtra’ has suggested 100% free irrigation and power to stop debt-ridden farmers from taking the extreme step. The BJP-led government is expected to submit the report of the panel under noted economist Vijay Kelkar at the end of the Nagpur session, probably on Wednesday. Interestingly, sources believe the panel has also recommended that if the blueprint of balanced development cannot be implemented properly, sub-state status or statehood to Vidarbha should be considered. The panel was set up by the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2011 to suggest measures to remove the regional imbalance and lay down the role of the development boards. Though Kelkar, former chairman of planning commission, had submitted his report in October 2013, the Chavan government kept it under wraps to avoid a confrontation with its ally NCP. Sources say the panel makes a host of recommendations to remove the regional imbalance. This includes decentralization of water resources, system for measuring tribal development index on annual basis, restructuring regional development boards (RDB) with CM as chairman, establishing separate regional secretariats, and directly elected mayor for metropolitan regions with defined functional jurisdiction. To boost manufacturing activity and attract private investors, the panel is believed to have recommended rebate in sales tax and reduction in interest of borrowed capital in backward regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada. It also recommended adequate compensation for land to be used for power transmission. To improve the power scenario, Kelkar advises encouraging small power plants based on renewable resources. The report also suggests regional allocation of funds, with 60% of the divisible funds to be considered as ‘floor level’, which should be based on parameters like population, development gap, per capita income and area. For farmers, the report recommends that those possessing less than five acres be given fixed amount of Rs2,000 per month per household for next three years. Also, there are suggestions that rural youth should be provided Rs5-10 lakh business loan for dairy farming, horticulture, sericulture, cattle farming, fisheries, and for setting up Small Scale Industries (SSI). Some sources say the panel found that regional imbalance was due to low and unstable growth rates of agriculture sector, inadequate flow of private investment, infrastructure deficit in terms of assured irrigation, connectivity and quality of power, low level of governance, lack of resource flows from public and private sector, and importantly, low Human Development Index (HDI). The panel had taken a participatory approach, based on perspectives of the people of different regions, data analysis, expert knowledge, empirical analysis derived from commissioned studies, and included all stakeholders’ views. It suggested that institutional reforms were required towards capacity building for efficient use of public sector resources, reducing costs of doing business and also for promoting private investment flows. It also recommended governance reforms aimed at greater empowerment and accountability at regional and local level so as to achieve balanced development on a sustainable basis. (Times of India 22/12/14)

117. 12 farmers kill selves in 72 hrs (20)

During the last 72 hours, 12 farmers from Vidarbha region in Maharashtra had committed suicide due to crop losses, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samittee chief Kishore Tiwari announced here on Sunday. According to a press release issued by Kishore Tiwari, 12 farmers took their lives. All the farmers belonged to the cotton-producing belt of western Vidarbha. Saiyad Ansar Ali of Chikhalvardha village, Khushal Kapase of Dahegoan village, Punaji Manvar of Mangkinhi village, Someshwar Wade of Tamba village and Maroti Rathode of Nignur village are all farmers from Yavatmal district who committed suicide. Three farmers — from Wardha district namely Madhukar Adsar of Pimpalgoan village, Vithhal Taywade of Deoli village and Maroti Gode of Pimpalgoan village — also committed suicide. Two others, Shivanand Gite of Shivani village and Sunil Rakhunde of Gavthala village of Buldhana district as well as Sanjay Dakhore of Regoan village in Washim district and Nilesh Walke of Gunji from Amaravati district also ended their lives. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari pointed out that farmers’ suicide was a serious issue in the entire Vidarbha region. The government should think about increasing the minimum support price paid to cotton farmers, he said. The farmers’ suicide toll this month is 52, Mr Tiwari said. Two weeks ago, an Intelligence Bureau report on farmer’s suicide to the government voiced concerns over the spurt in such cases. The IB attributed “both natural and manmade factors” behind suicides. (Asian Age 29/12/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

118. 1,300 acres of SEZ land lying vacant in Hassan (4)

Hassan: The special economic zones developed by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board in over 1,300 acres on the outskirts of Hassan city lies deserted. While majority of the land is vacant, many units that have got land sanctioned have not started functioning. The industrial area was developed in 2007. In the last seven years, land has been allotted to 16 units. Among them, eight are functioning, two are under construction, three are in different stages of allotment and implementation and three are not functioning. The entire 250 acres of Hardware Zone have been allotted to one unit. But Opto Infrastructure Ltd., which has got the land in Hardware Zone, has only constructed a compound wall. The SEZs were developed by acquiring agricultural land. “People of the villages near Hassan gave their land away for a couple of lakhs. They thought many industries would come there and their children would get jobs. But, nothing has happened so far,” said B.R. Manjunath, a resident of Hassan. Now, farmers in nearby villages have been making use of the place to dry their agricultural produce. “If the land had remained with farmers all these years, they would have cultivated potato or ginger and earned good money,” said Prakash, resident of Katihalli. A.M. Kumaraswamy, Deputy Development Officer of KIADB, said the Board had issued notices to all those companies, which failed to start production within two years of allotment. “We warn them of withdrawing land if they do not start the industry,” he said. However, so far, the KIADB has not been able to withdraw an acre of land allotted, as the companies move court challenging the Board’s measures. (The Hindu 21/12/14)

119. infrastructural development are seen in the industrial corridor — Medha Patkar (4)

NEW DELHI — The Indian Social Institute (ISI) organised its annual Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere Third Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Corporatisation of Democracy: Challenges for Inclusive Development’ on  Lodi Road. The lecture was delivered by social activist and the founder member of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Medha Patkar. The Institute was honoured to have Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi as the Chair of the programme. In his welcome note, Dr. Xavier, the Executive Director of the Institute, described Fr. Paul de La Gueriviere as a Great Missionary working for the upliftment and development of the marginalized section of the society and the conscience of the institute. Expressing concern about the way democracy is lived, he also strongly stated against the development that flows from the barrel of gun.

Referring to caste system, the Chairperson of the programme, Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, noted that the Indian society is not democratic and promotes hierarchy. He observed that exclusion is aggressively propagated in Indian society. Caste system was pointed out as the greatest fact that hinders the people from seeing the truth of oppression in society, stated Prof. Vijay Prakash. Prof. Ashish Nandi shared about various changes in Indian democracy. People’s choice for heroic figure was one such observation made. He also expressed regret at the fact that homelessness and pauperisation have become necessary parts of development. Terming the topic of the lecture to be close to heart and heartburning, Medha Patkar noted that inequality had taken the toll of not only the framework and process of democracy, but also of life. She equivocally stated that the benefits of infrastructural development are seen in the industrial corridor. Observing the pattern of land grabbing by the corporates with the help of the State, she also stated that democracy and State have been corporatised. Indian Social Institute, founded in 1951, is engaged in research, training, action and advocacy in socio economic development and the promotion and protection of human rights of particularly the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the most Backward Castes, the Minorities, the unorganised and landless labourers and women. (New Observer Post 22/12/14)

120. Panel will decide min rate for land acquisition in state (4)

Mumbai: With several projects stuck because of problems in compensation to private land owners, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has decided to form a committee that will come up with a formula and decide the minimum rate to pay. The panel will be headed by chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya. The decision was taken following a discussion on Vidarbha development in the winter session of the state legislature, where several legislators pointed out the lacunae in the compensation procedure. Many projects in the state, including the Navi Mumbai airport, Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, and Jaitapur nuclear plant, have been stuck because of acquisition issues, which have resulted in huge cost escalations. “There was significant difference between the compensation being given if the central land acquisition policy was followed and the one given by the state. And the amount was completely different when directly negotiated by the agency. This was creating an atmosphere of mistrust among farmers giving up their land, and delaying the acquisition process,” the decision taken through a government resolution (GR) dated December 24 said. According to the GR, the seven-member committee headed by Kshatriya will include additional chief secretary (ACS) planning, and ACS finance, and principal secretaries of the water resources, revenue, forest, and urban development departments. It also called for the law and judiciary department to study the 2013 central land acquisition act, and then use it for helping the committee fix a formula, so that  a minimum rate can be arrived at. They have been asked to chart out a separate policy for acquisitions related to dam projects. The committee will need to ensure that all land to be acquired will follow a single formula, which will mean that all owners will get the same compensation. “According to the 2013 act,  you can’t pay any token compensation or advance. Also, social impact assessments need to be done. Currently, several land owners end up getting more than the market rate. The panel will have to take this into consideration,” a senior government official told HT. (Hindustan Times 26/12/14)

121. Haryana revokes land acquisition (4)

GURGAON: Keeping in view the larger interest of the farmers, the Haryana Government has decided not to acquire 3,664 acres and four canals across 16 villages for setting up the Manesar-Bawal Industrial Area in Rewari district. This decision was taken by the State Cabinet at its meeting held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar here on Tuesday. A committee comprising Industries Minister Capt. Abhimanyu, Public Works Department Minister Rao Narbir Singh, and Minister of State for Co-operation Bikram Singh Yadav had been constituted to discuss the issue with the farmers. After detailed discussions with the land owners and representatives of the people of the area, the committee recommended that other options, including acquisition of less fertile land at other places along the (Mumbai-Delhi) Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, be explored. It is pertinent to mention here that the legislators of Ateli and Nangal Chaudhary have offered to make available more than 2,000 acres of land for this project as an alternative. According to government sources, the high compensation rate being demanded by the farmers was making the project unviable, forcing the committee to decide against acquisition of land and recommend relocation. The said project was conceived by the previous Congress government in the State and was opposed by the farmers. The farmers had resorted to large-scale violence on National Highway-8 two years ago following which the then Congress government put the land acquisition on hold and set up a committee for peaceful resolution of the matter. (The Hindu 26/12/14)

122. Farmers mull approaching court over land pooling (4)

VIJAYAWADA: Farmers, who upped the ante against the government’s move to acquire their fertile lands without giving a clear picture of compensation and other aspects, are mulling legal remedies in the event of forcible acquisition of their lands. These farmers asserted that they would take to legal recourse, if the government continues to mount pressure on them for parting with their lands. A delegation of farmers organisations and civil society headed by retired High Court judge justice P. Laxman Reddy interacted with farmers of Undavalli, Penumaka, Venkatapalem and other areas notified under the Capital Region on Friday under the “Rythu Chaitanya Yatra”. The delegation told the farmers that the government would not be in a position to forcibly take their lands, going by the provisions made in the Capital Region Development Authority Bill passed in the Assembly recently. If the lands were acquired without a voluntary consent of farmers, it would amount to acquisition there by attracting the provisions under the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 passed by Parliament. The delegations visit provided a platform to farmers to give vent to their strong Opposition to surrendering the lands. TThe delegation including Jana Vignana Vedika president V. Laxman Reddy, Bharatiya Kisan Morcha convenor Kumara Swamy and others visited Mandada, Uddandapalem and interacted with farmers on the issue, he added. (The Hindu 27/12/14)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

123. ‘India may not meet infant mortality rate target 2015’ (3)

Kolkata: Going by the current pace of decline, India is unlikely to achieve its target of reducing the infant mortality rate to less than 39 per 1,000 live births by 2015-end, said a senior UNICEF official. “The current Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of India, as per the Sample Registration System 2013, is 40 per 1,000 live births while the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) as per SRS 2012 is 52 per 1,000 live births. “At this current rate of decline it seems it will be difficult for India to reach the target of less than 39 per 1,000 live births by the end of 2015,” UNICEF’s Health Specialist in India, Dr Gagan Gupta said. Though India accounts for the highest burden of Under-five deaths in the world, there has been a faster decline in its reduction as compared to the global fall, he added. “Globally the U5MR reduced by 49 per cent from 90 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 46 per 1,000 live births in 2013, while India achieved a reduction of 59 per cent in the Under-5 mortality from 126 in 1990 to 52 in 2012, which is higher than the global decline,” Dr Gupta said, citing the Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2014, estimates developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. “Neo-natal deaths account for 56 per cent of Under-5 deaths in India which is much higher than the global average of 44 per cent. The progress in reduction of neo-natal mortality has been slow,” he noted. In fact, four states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan account for half of the Under-5 deaths in India. (Asian Age 22/12/14)

124. Government slashes health budget, already one of the world’s lowest (3)

NEW DELHI: Government has ordered a cut of nearly 20 per cent in its 2014-15 healthcare budget due to fiscal strains, putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country whose public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world. Two Health Ministry officials told Reuters on Tuesday that more than 60 billion rupees, or $948 million, has been slashed from their budget allocation of around $5 billion for the financial year ending on March 31. Despite rapid economic growth over the past two decades, successive governments have kept a tight rein on healthcare expenditure. India spends about 1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared to 3 per cent in China and 8.3 per cent in the United States. But hopes were high that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected in May, would upgrade basic health infrastructure and make medical services more affordable for the poor. The United Nations estimates about one third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India. “We were not expecting (budget cuts) this time because of the commitments they made in the manifesto,” one of the health ministry officials said, referring to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “No reason was given … but there is shortage of funds. It is not rocket science.” The officials requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The finance ministry, which ordered the spending reduction and overruled objections from the Health Ministry at a recent meeting, did not respond immediately to requests for comment. The move reflects the government’s struggle to achieve its 2014/15 fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent of GDP. Dominated by private players, India’s healthcare industry is growing at an annual clip of around 15 per cent, but public spending has remained low and resulted in a dilapidated network of government hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas. One of the Health Ministry officials said the cut could crimp efforts to control the spread of diseases. More newborns die in India than in poorer neighbours such as Bangladesh, and preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea kill more than a million children every year. The retrenchment could also derail an ambitious universal healthcare programme that Modi wants to launch in April. The plan aims to provide all citizens with free drugs and diagnostic treatments, as well as insurance benefits. The cost of that programme over the next four years had been estimated at 1.6 trillion Indian rupees ($25 billion). The Health Ministry officials had been expecting a jump in their budget for the coming year, in part to pay for this extra cost. “Even next year we don’t think we’ll get a huge amount of money,” said one official, adding that it was now unclear how the new programme would be funded. (Times of India 23/12/14)

125. WHO’s polio-free certification high point in health sector (3)

New Delhi: Eradication of polio from India was a high point in the health sector during 2014, which also saw some improvement in the country’s health indices like maternal and infant mortality rate though there was a lot of ground still to be covered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision in November to change Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a practicing doctor and a former health minister of Delhi, surprised many. His replacement, J P Nadda is considered a close aide of Modi and has been rather low key compared to Vardhan’s penchant for almost daily statements. Nadda is busy giving final touches to the NDA government’s ambitious National Health Assurance Mission, which aims to provide free health insurance to the poor. It is likely to be rolled out next year. There were mixed signals from the new government against the use of tobacco as after hiking cigarette prices it did not enforce its earlier proposal to ban sale of loose cigarettes and make tougher anti-smoking laws. The saffron party’s favourite health projects lik