Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 10 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Rights Commission Demands Report (1)

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

 

2. Bodies renew AFSPA repeal demand (1)

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRAFFICKING

5. Concern over growing trafficking cases (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HIV/AIDS

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

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

 

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

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

 

10. HIV scenario alarming in Nagaland (3)

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

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

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

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

 

12. Vandalur Terminus Land Gets Pricey (4)

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

 

CORRUPTION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRIBALS

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

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

 

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

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

 

18. Tribals threaten poll boycott (6)

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

 

19. Tribal activist to join BSP (6)

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

 

WOMEN

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

RESERVATION (6)

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

 

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

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

 

37. PIL demands Lokayukta Bill implementation (19)

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

 

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

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

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. NHRC Rapporteur visits Suktel area (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

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

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

 

18. Grave need haunts Christians, Muslims (7)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

WOMEN

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

25. Newborn thrown into river, survives (8)

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

 

TERRORISM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

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

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

 

31. Join mainstream, SP urges Maoists (12)

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

 

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

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

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

40. Farmers seek livelihood security (20)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HINDUTVA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Posted by admin at 5 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Campaign against AFSPA continues (1)

Imphal, March 02 2014 : North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF) in collaboration with village women coordinating committee (VWCOC), United NGOs Mission- Manipur, Youth, KWDA, Youth Clubs and Meira Paibi organized a consultation on United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act-1958 at Kachikhul Community Hall in Imphal West district today. Attended by around 200 people, Pradeepkumar, Convener of Manipur Alliance for Child Right MACR, A.Mobi, Editor of Manipur This Week and Sobita Mangsatabam, Secretary of Women Action for Development were among those who spoke as resource persons on the occasion. The resource persons noted that India is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, which provides a global charter for children’s Survival, Development, Protection and Participation Rights, but ironically, these basic rights of the children are undermined if not completely suspended in the north east and Manipur in particular due to the imposition of AFSPA, 1958 and prolonged armed conflict. Under the armed conflict situation, children experience social disruption, inaccessibility to health and education services, impoverishment, violations of civil and political rights, threats to their physical integrity, transformation in their roles and responsibilities, increase vulnerabilities and dysfunctional behavior, etc. In a shocking revelation, 1528 people including 1399 males, 31 females and 98 children were killed in Manipur from 1979 to May 2012 in fake encounters. Fundamental rights such as the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to remedy and reparation, the right against torture, the right against arbitrary detention, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of association and to peacefully assemble and protest, as well as a series of economic, social and cultural rights have been systematically violated in the areas where AFSPA is in operation. This law has, therefore, come under severe criticism both domestically and internationally, with many voices calling for its repeal. Amnesty International in 1997 defined AFSPA, 1958 as “Undeclared Emergency with undefined reasons for unlimited period of time.” Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee (2005) report stated that “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness.” And therefore, the committee recommended that “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed,” the resource persons reminded. E-PAO 2/3/14)

 

2. CISF bullet victim dies, probes begin (1)

Twelve-year-old Tuktuk Shahish (not Sharif as reported earlier), who was seriously injured when a CISF jawan accidentally shot at him during a firing practice at Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) grounds in Bokaro’s Sector XII on Saturday, succumbed to his bullet wound at 11.30am on Sunday. Tuktuk’s death has triggered three independent investigations — one by Bokaro police, the other by the district administration and the third by CISF’s Kargali commandant Navneet Singh. To begin with, police have lodged an FIR at Sector XII police station against unidentified men. Bokaro SP Jitendra Singh visited the firing range on Sunday morning and inspected the site. “A proper inquiry will help find out the truth behind the incident and we will look into all aspects during the course of our investigation,” the SP said, refusing to divulge further details. Soon after SP Singh visited the spot, Chas subdivisional officer (SDO) Shyam Narayan Ram also went to the site around 11am and took details of the incident from local villagers. He asked them whether the CISF men carried out the mandatory sanitisation of the area before launching their practice. Asked to comment, commandant Singh said: “We will take necessary action against the guilty after conducting a proper inquiry into the incident. We are also exploring the legal aspects of providing compensation to family members of the deceased.” JAP commandant Navin Kumar Sinha has handed over a cheque of Rs 25,000 to Tuktuk’s family members for his cremation. He has also promised Tuktuk’s elder brother Haradhan a sweeper’s job once he cleared his matriculation exams. Haradhan is studying in Class IX. A resident of nearby Hanuman Nagar locality, Tuktuk had ventured into the firing range along with other friends to collect bullet shells when around 30 CISF men of Kargali were practising after taking necessary permission from JAP authorities. Local residents said that some children belonging to humble backgrounds often ventured into the firing range to collect bullet shells that are sold at the rate of Rs 20 per 100gm in the local market. But, they added, that proper announcement through loudspeakers and sanitisation of the area was never carried out as is mandatory. (Telegraph 3/3/14)

 

3. HC Questions Cops’ Handling of Missing Persons’ Plaints (1)

Mumbai : Questioning police’s handling of missing complaints, the Bombay High Court today said that if anybody approaches a police station saying a child or woman relative is missing the police should first take down the complaint, instead of worrying about the jurisdiction. The remarks were made by a division bench of Justices N H Patil and Anuja Prabhudesai while hearing a petition filed by advocate and activist Abha Singh seeking probe by the state Crime Investigation Department (CID) into the “gross inaction” by police officers, who failed to act on the missing complaint filed by the family of techie Esther Anuhya. Esther had gone missing on January 5 after alighting at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in suburban Kurla. Her decomposed body was found on January 16 in suburban Kanjurmarg. The police yesterday arrested one Chandrabhan Sanap for the murder of Esther. According to the petition, when Esther’s uncle had approached the MIDC police and Kurla railway police on January 5 to report that his niece was missing, the police officials there turned him away without taking down his complaint. “Only after Esther’s father approached the Vijayawada police in Andhra Pradesh and the police there sent a letter to the Kurla railway police, a missing complaint was lodged on January 8. Esther went missing on January 5. For three days the police did nothing,” Abha argued. The court then sought to know the mechanism adopted by the police while handling such cases. “If a person approaches the police saying his or her woman relative is missing what does the police do? Shouldn’t they first note down the complaint instead of worrying about whether the case falls under their jurisdiction? Instead of asking the already troubled relative to run from one police station to another, shouldn’t the police take down the complaint and intimate the concerned police station,” Justice Patil questioned. Public prosecutor S K Shinde informed the court that several circulars have been issued, by which the police is bound to register missing complaints if a person gives a written complaint. “In the present case, it is not that the Kurla railway police did nothing. On January 5 itself police went through the CCTV footage. When they could not spot the girl in the footage, the police called for the reservation chart,” Shinde said. The bench directed the senior police inspector of Kurla railway police to file an affidavit in response to the petition within two weeks. A petition has been filed in the Bombay High Court seeking independent probe by the state Crime Investigation Department (CID) into the gross inaction by police officers who failed to act on the missing complaint filed by family of techie Esther Anuya who was found dead. The petition filed by advocate and activist Abha Singh sought for registration of offence against the errant police officers who failed to conduct necessary investigation into the missing complaint of Esther. According to the petition, the police’s failure to act timely resulted in the abduction of young girl and then her death. On December 24, 2013, Esther, who was working as an employee of TCS Mumbai, went to Macchilipatanam for Christmas vacation with her parents. She returned to Mumbai on January 5 night and took an auto rickshaw from the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in suburban Mumbai but never reached home. Esther’s brother and father came to Mumbai to lodge a missing complaint when they did not hear from Esther. The MIDC Police Station, Andheri, did not register their complaint and told them to go to Kurla Railway Police Station. However, when the matter was reported to Kurla Railway Police Station, they also did not register the complaint, and told that the matter be reported to Vijaywada police station in Andhra Pradesh. “Instead of registering FIR and looking into the case, police made Esther’s father run from one police station to another,” Singh said in her petition. On January 16, Esther’s partially burnt body was recovered off the Eastern Express Highway near suburban Kanjurmarg. It was after this, that an FIR was registered by Kanjurmarg police. “For the reason of delay of almost 11 days in registering the FIR since the abduction took place, valuable clues and evidence was lost. For this reason, as on this day, the case remains undetected, and a crime which would have got prevented by taking proper action duly prescribed under the rules contained in the Bombay Police Manual and other provisions of law, could not be prevented,” states Singh’s petition. Singh has prayed that an enquiry be ordered by a senior officer to ensure that responsibility be fixed on the delinquent police officers, so that administrative and prosecution action could be taken in this reference. (Outlook 4/3/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. China detains more than 1,000 for baby trafficking (1)

Beijing: Chinese police have detained 1,094 people and rescued 382 infants in a nationwide crackdown on four online baby trafficking rings, state media said on Friday, as criminals prey on citizens yearning to escape strict population curbs. Child trafficking is widespread in China, where population control rules have bolstered a traditional bias for sons, seen as the support of elderly parents and heirs to the family name, and led to the abortion, killing or abandonment of girls. About 118 boys are born for every 100 girls in the world’s most populous country, against a global average of 103 to 107 boys per 100 girls. The imbalance has created criminal demand for kidnapped or bought baby boys, as well as baby girls destined to be brides attracting rich dowries in sparsely populated regions. “Child traffickers have now taken the fight online, using ‘unofficial adoption’ as a front,” state news agency Xinhua quoted an unidentified police official as saying. “They are well-hidden and very deceptive.” The traffickers used websites with names such as “China’s Orphan Network” and “Dream Adoption Home”, highlighting a trend of online deals that make it harder to hunt down the criminals, Xinhua added. But it did not say what steps authorities were taking to reunite the rescued babies with their parents. In a separate article, Xinhua warned parents to guard against kidnappers who could pose as nurses in hospitals or lie in wait outside school gates to bundle unsuspecting children into vans or speed off with them on motorbikes. Last month a Chinese court handed down a suspended death sentence for a doctor who sold seven newborns to human traffickers in a case that sparked public anger. Zhang Shuxia, 55, an obstetrician in northwestern Shaanxi province, was found guilty of selling the babies for as much as 21,600 yuan ($3,600) each between 2011 and 2013, the court said. Last year, China, which has a population of about 1.4 billion, said it would ease family restrictions, letting millions of families have two children, in the country’s most significant liberalisation of its strict one-child policy in about three decades. (Hindustan Times 1/3/14)

 

5. Harsh Vardhan writes to L-G over rising cases of missing children (1)

New Delhi: With specific emphasis on the rising number of cases of missing children in the Capital, Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan on Friday wrote to Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung to express his “grave concern over deteriorating law and order” situation in the city. Dr. Vardhan cited data that was submitted in a reply to a Parliament question that the number of missing children was 5,111 in 2011, 5,284 in 2012 and 725 in 2013 and has demanded that appropriate action be taken to prevent crimes such as kidnapping and crimes against women. “These are the data of the cases of missing children in which FIR has been lodged. If one includes the data about which the FIR has not been lodged then this number could be shocking. The number of missing children in the Capital is 8 per cent of the national average,” said a statement from Dr. Vardhan. He mentioned that despite repeated complaints lodged with the Chief Minister and the Police Commissioner on missing children, trafficking of women and prostitution, “no concrete action has been taken and the number of incidents is increasing”. (The Hindu 2/3/14)

 

6. Minor girl missing, trafficking feared (7)

NOIDA: A 12-year-old girl who went to school on February 28 has gone missing and her parents fear that she might have been trafficked. The girl’s father said he had reported the case at Sector 39 police station the same day. However, the cops delayed the process and registered the FIR on March 2 under pressure from colony residents and members of women’s rights groups. The girl’s father has named two women and a 15-year-old boy as prime suspects. Padmani Kumar of Joint Women’s Programme, an NGO, said the two suspected women living in the area had been missing since the kidnapping. “We suspected them as they had earlier tried to lure the girl by promising a lavish lifestyle,” she said. Police said the girl’s parents were initially reluctant to lodge an FIR. “We have lodged a case of abduction against the accused. Their mobile phones have been put under surveillance and efforts are being made to nab them,” a cop said. They questioned the mother of an absconding woman, but later released her. No arrests have been made. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

7. CSOs urge for revised AIDS policy (3)

Imphal, March 01 2014 : Demanding urgent implementation of the Revised Manipur State AIDS Policy as well as the directives issued during a particular mee-ting presided by the Chief Se- cretary, several civil society organisations and NGOs have submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister today. The seven-point memorandum was jointly submitted by Christian Network of Positive Women, Platform for Positive Women, Self Support Group, World Vision, CoNE, FXB and Women Action for Development after holding a consultation at Manipur Press Club. The demands as highlight-ed in the memorandum are; adopt a resolution during the ongoing Assembly session for implementation of the Re-vised Manipur State AIDS Policy 2010, provide free la-boratory testing and investi- gation facilities to people living with HIV at Government hospitals, initiate special mea-sures so that people living with HIV get more benefits out of several schemes being implemented by Social Welfare Department, provide safe drinking water and equip all ART centres with rest rooms, assign doctors including gynaecologists at all ART cen- tres and equip all ART centres with CD4 count machines. On October 18, 2013, the Chief Secretary convened a meeting with officials of all departments and deliberated on bringing issues and problems confronting people liv- ing with HIV to the mainstream. Another demand/point of the memorandum is implementation of the recommendations adopted at the particular meeting. The meeting held at Mani-pur Press Club today was on the topic “Demand for Basic Services and Human Rights for People Living with HIV/AIDS”.Imphal Free Press Associate Editor Chitra Ahan-them and CoNE president RK Kanta spoke at the meeting as resource persons. RK Kanta said that around 20,000 people have been enrolled in ART centres and around 10,000 people are getting ART. Before starting ART cour-se or after ART course has been started, PLHIV have to undergo around five different laboratory investigations and these investigations are done free of cost in other States. But in Manipur, only the CD4 count test is done free of cost. Even if one is on ART course, one need not go for kidney function test, liver function test or haemoglobin test in spite of the doctor’s advice provided he/she has no health problem. One should consult doctors and asked why all these tests are necessary, Kanta said. He further appealed to PLHIV to take help from the legal aid cell and lodge complaints if they have any grievances. Later some women living with HIV gave testimonies about their experiences and hardships they encountered. They said that they did not get any benefit from schemes taken up by Social Welfare Department. They even accused the Government of discriminating them. (E-Pao 1/3/14)

 

8. HIV affected children become journalists for a day (3)

KOLKATA: To many they seem unfortunate ones inching towards death, each day. But for them the life has just started opening up. These children, brimming with ambitions, are HIV positive. But that has not pulled them back from dreaming like their friends do. They pass through emotional turmoil at times when their health goes down, reminding them of the dreadful years ahead when their body will gradually be wasted by the disease. But that has not pushed them whining behind locked doors. At least eight children either infected with HIV or belonging to a family which is infected with the deadly disease, experienced their first day of journalism on Thursday. They talked to people living on streets or in slums about their problems. Like trained journalists they tried to get to the roots of the problems and look for possible solutions. And some of them decided to become journalists when they grow up. 14 year old Sneha’s (name changed) assignment was to find out problems faced by families living in slums. She had talked to them at length and noted down the challenges they face every day. “They face every possible problem in those slums. Non availability of drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene, health hazards…problems keep piling up for them,” she said. “But most horrific of them is what they face from local boys. They disturb them especially at nights,” Sneha said trying to explain the insecurity girls face in the city. “I saw a lot of girls, my age or little older, who have been married off at an early age. They were born to poor parents who decided to get rid of them when they should have been studying at schools,” said Jamuna. The 15 year old girl, infected with HIV, dreams of becoming a journalist one day. “I could not stop my tears at their perils when I went to a slum near Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road,” she said. “Everyone knows that poverty has been the root cause of the problems of underdevelopment. But too little has been done so far to remove that. How can a school dropout, forced to work at a sweat shop, build a better future?” asked Abhishek. His day long interaction at a slum near Beniapukur has taught him how government’s mass education schemes fail when parents force kids to go out to earn. Articles filed by these young reporters will be showcased at Loretto Day School, Sealdah on Friday. “It is a part of My City Initiative of World Vision India. We are trying to nurture dreams by providing them scopes to air their concerns to a larger audience as citizen journalists,” said Krupa Sudhir, programme officer of the initiative. The programme-a four day workshop conducted for HIV-affected and underprivileged children, is unlikely to teach them a lot about the profession. But it has surely ignited courage inside them to ask questions even against the odds.  (Times of India 3/3/14)

 

9. Court glare on HIV bias (3)

New Delhi, March 3: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre, all states and Union territories and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to respond to a plea to stop schools from discriminating against HIV-positive students or children of afflicted parents. Such discrimination is widespread, the petition filed by the NGO Naz Foundation said, listing a series of incidents reported from states like Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, among others. Justices B.S. Chauhan and J. Chelameshwar issued notices to all the governments and the child rights panel and sought their replies within four weeks. In its petition, filed through counsel Purshottam Sharma Tripathi, the NGO said affected children or children of HIV-positive parents were being denied their fundamental right to education. Children were being denied admission or, if already in school, were even being expelled, the NGO alleged. “They have also been publicly ridiculed by school authorities, humiliated and treated unfairly… to the extent that they have been segregated from other children… and… made to clean toilets and classrooms. “Moreover, the confidentiality of the HIV-positive status of the children has been routinely breached, leading to violation of their right to privacy,” the petitioner said, adding that the “rampant acts of stigmatisation and discrimination” that followed “undermined their human dignity”. Such discrimination, the PIL said, amounted to infringement of their fundamental rights under Articles 21 (liberty), 21A (free and compulsory education) and 14 (equality before law). Among the reported incidents the NGO listed was one from Calcutta where two HIV-positive orphan boys were denied admission to high school. That was in November 2009, months before the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which prohibits discrimination in any form against children between six and 14, came into effect. The law did not stop some parents in Belgaum, Karnataka, from demanding in September 2010 that 22 HIV-positive children studying in a school be segregated. A month earlier, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, a six-year-old HIV-positive girl had been expelled by her school, while her mother, who was also HIV-positive, lost her job. In December the same year, eight HIV-affected children in Gurgaon, Haryana, were expelled from two schools, one of them run under the aegis of the Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan, the government’s universal education scheme. Earlier, in July 2004, two siblings in Thiruvananthapuram were not only expelled from school but also forced to leave their home along with their HIV-positive mother. Although they were readmitted, after the chief minister intervened, they were segregated from other students. (The Telegraph 4/3/14)

 

10. State sees decline in HIV positive cases (3)

PANAJI: The number of persons who availed of the facility for HIV testing in Goa’s integrated counselling and testing centres (ICTCs) has increased from 22,917 in 2007 to 53,037 in 2013. The number of persons detected with HIV has declined from 1,094 in 2007 to 532 in 2013, according to the latest economic survey 2013-14. During the current year, HIV testing was taken up at primary health centres and 4,111 tests were conducted. The state government provides financial assistance of 2,000 per month to eligible persons living with HIV (PLHIV) under the Dayanand Social Security Scheme and till date, 150 beneficiaries have been covered under the scheme. The government has also extended the benefit of 50% travel concession to PLHIVs residing in Goa to travel by KTCL buses and till date, 509 PLHIVs have availed of the facility. The ART centre at the Goa Medical College, Bambolim, provides treatment to PLHIVs and till date, 5,538 patients have been registered; of which, 2,817 patients started on ART and till date 1,928 patients are alive on ART. A care support centre (CSC) Vihaan has also been started at St Cruz to establish linkages of PLHIVs with various service providers and to assist the ART centre in tracking the missing/lost to follow-up patients, the economic survey said. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

11. Land Rights campaign launched in Madhya Pradesh (4)

BHOPAL: Around 3.44 lakh landless dalits and adivasis were promised land as per Bhopal declaration in 2002. Of these, 2.5 lakh have not yet got possession of land. Also, under Forest Right Act (FRA, of the 4.81 lakh claims for land, around 2.9 lakh claims have been rejected by the district level committee without any proper grounds. Both these are gross violation of dalit and adivasi rights. To mobilise both the groups and to fight for their rights, a ‘land-rights campaign’ has been launched by voluntary organisation Jan Pahal which will culminate on March 8. This campaign is being simultaneously organised in 30 districts and 40 blocks. Awareness campaigns would be conducted through general meetings, wall painting, nukkad street theatre, interaction with media among others. Addressing a press conference here on Friday, convenor of Jan Pahal Rajkumar Sinha said, “On one hand the government makes tall claims about benefitting the downtrodden but on the other hand, Bhopal declaration and FRA haven’t been implemented yet on the ground level.” “Land has been allotted to the tribals and dalits. However, the government has failed to ensure that it is implemented. The land earmarked has been taken over by goons and landlords and the government is unable to ensure to do anything about it. This is utter administrative inefficacy and red tapism,” he added. The 35-odd organisations are demanding that the reserved groups be provided with their rightful share of the land by the government on a priority basis. Besides, they should also be provided with compensation for all the years their possession of their land or patta hasn’t been given. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

12. To widen roads, lives are squeezed (4)

Kozhikode: M.T. Leela and her two aunts live between an expansionist highway and a railway track in Chorode near Vadakara. The three aged women and their crumbling house quiver every time a heavy vehicle or a train flash by. Leela’s husband T.V. Lakshmanan committed suicide a year ago. He was 72. His barber shop and 11 cents of his plot by the roadside were acquired 15 years ago for widening National Highway-17 to 30 metres. The family was paid Rs.9,000 for a cent as per the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The family believed the officials when they said they would never return. But in 2008, they were back. This time, the highway would be widened further by 45 metres through a BOT (build, operate, and transfer) process. Acquisition for the new four-lane highway would claim the rest of Lakshmanan’s six cents and part of his house. There was no word about prior compensation or rehabilitation for the affected people. For Lakshmanan and his family, there was no place to go. Without his shop, there was no income. Lakshmanan could not withstand the second blow. He lost hope. “Towards the end, my husband would sit in a corner and clutch his head and cry. He used to say ‘They will never leave us alone and we cannot do anything about it’,” Leela said in short gasps as tears overwhelm her. So one afternoon, after apologising to Leela in a short note, Lakshmanan took his life by jumping into a well near his house. In Chorode, local people portray Lakshmanan’s story as that of a diminutive man crushed by the stampede of development. For many, with no compensation or rehabilitation in sight, the highway expansion is a dead end to their lives. In 1998-99, acquisition was completed for the 30-metre expansion of the NH-17. But local people joined hands to fight for better compensation. “In 2005, the Kerala High Court upheld a lower court’s decision to increase compensation by another Rs.7,000. A majority of the affected people did not want to leave the area. They bought plots and constructed houses further in. In 2008, the NHAI came knocking a second time. The same people were again affected. This time, they would lose all,” A.T. Mahesh, convenor, NH-17 Janakeeya Karma Samithi, said. A Right to Information reply from the NHAI’s Project Implementation Unit shows the total land to be acquired in Kozhikode is 133.22 hectares. The “affected structures”, as the response terms it, are 825 residential houses, 934 commercial buildings, 7 schools and 31 religious places of worship. On July 21, 2012, the local people drew up a compensation and rehabilitation package in consultation with the district administration and sent it to the State government. (The Hindu 1/3/14)

 

13. 3 new SEZs proposed in state after two-year gap (4)

GANDHINAGAR: Three new special economic zones (SEZs) have been proposed in Gujarat after a gap of almost two years, even as several developers are dropping their proposals. The Gujarat industry & mines department has given in principle clearance to the proposals worth Rs 483 crore and will soon propose it to the Government of India’s SEZ Approval Board. Essar group-owned Vadinar Oil Terminal Limited has proposed a sector specific FTWZ (free trade and warehousing zones) on 47 hectares of land at Vadinar in Khambhaliya taluka of Jamanagar with an investment of Rs 156 crore. United Liner Agencies of India Pvt Ltd has proposed an SEZ FTWZ at Bharapar in Gandhidham taluka of Kutch. The company plans development on 54.5 hectares of land with an investment of Rs 207 crore. The company has 29 hectares of land and has demanded additional land from the state revenue department. The third proposal is from Intermarket(India) Pvt Ltd for a sector specific Textile SEZ at Vatra block in Khambhat in Anand. The developer has proposed to invest around Rs 120 crore. The promoter possesses half of the land from required 50 hectares and negotiating for the remaining land from private owners. Kutch-based OPG Power Gujarat Pvt Ltd has also applied for change of sector specific power sector to engineering sector and also reduce the SEZ size from 104.72.24 hectares to 55.24 hectares. Ahmedabad-based City Gold Realities Pvt Ltd has also applied for denotification of their IT/ITES SEZ proposed at Sanathal in Sanand on 10.51 hectares of land. Another Ahmedabad reality major N G Reality Pvt Ltd has also applied for denotification of its 217-hectare engineering SEZ at Bavla and Sanand on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. At present, there are 57 SEZs in Gujarat, of which three are functional SEZs before enactment of Act, 12 are notified and functional SEZs, 17 are notified SEZs, 11 are formally approved SEZ projects and 14 have in principle approval projects. Around eight SEZs have applied or got approval for denotifiation or reduction in size or sector change. Proposed investment by the developer as well as units in SEZs in Gujarat (May 2013) are Rs 31433.56 crore, proposed employment is Rs 21.66 lakh and proposed area is 36869 hectares. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

CORRUPTION

14. Corruption widespread in India, US report says (5)

WASHINGTON: There is widespread corruption in India in all levels of the government including judiciary, said a US Congress-mandated report. “Corruption was widespread,” said the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 released on Thursday by US secretary of state John Kerry. According to the report, though the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the Indian government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. “Corruption was present at all levels of government. The CBI registered 583 cases of corruption between the months of January and November. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) received 7,224 cases in 2012. Of those, 5,528 were received in 2012 and an additional 1,696 remained from 2011. The commission recommended action on 5,720 cases,” the report said. “The CVC operated a toll-free hotline to lodge complaints and a web portal to share information. NGOs noted that bribes typically were paid to expedite services, such as police protection, school admission, water supply, or government assistance,” it said. Civil society organizations drew public attention to corruption throughout the year, including through public demonstrations and websites that featured individual stories of corruption, it added. The government designated chief vigilance officers to address public complaints and grievances in the banking, insurance, and other sectors serviced by private, public, and corporate bodies. Parliament passed a bill in December establishing an ombudsman organization known as a Lokpal to investigate allegations of government corruption. The state department said many government-run programs to alleviate poverty and provide employment suffered from poor implementation and corruption. For example, after obtaining government documents under the RTI Act, a petitioner alleged misappropriation of funds in the Maharashtra Tribal Development Department. On June 13, the Bombay high court ordered that a special team be formed to investigate an alleged fraud in which money meant for tribal welfare was used for other purposes, it said. A case against several suspects, including Tiruvannamalai municipality councillor K V N Venkatesan — connected to the July 2012 killing of social activist Rajamohan Chandra, who had filed public-interest litigation cases against government officials, politicians, and realtors suspected of corruption and land grabbing — awaited trial at year’s end. In December last, a commission probing the role of state chief ministers and other officials in the 2012 Adarsh housing scam involving improper allocations of apartments reserved for veterans and war widows submitted its report to the Maharashtra legislative assembly, but the Maharashtra state government rejected the report. The trial of former telecommunications minister A Raja and MK Kanimozhi, a member of the upper house of parliament, accused of taking bribes in the rigged sale of the 2G mobile telephone spectrum in 2008, did not conclude by year’s end, the state department said. On August 7, Justice RA Mehta refused to become the Gujarat Lokayukta, the state anticorruption ombudsman authority, even after the Supreme Court upheld his appointment, and remarked that the state government would not support his investigations. The Gujarat government sought to amend the Gujarat Lokayukta Act in April, to curtail the primacy of the governor and chief justice of the high court in the ombudsman’s appointment and subject the appointing powers only to the chief minister’s decision. The governor refused to sign the bill. The state department said the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence, although ” judicial corruption” was widespread. “The judicial system remained seriously overburdened and lacked modern case management systems, often delaying or denying justice. In August, Law Minister Kapil Sibal stated that there were three vacancies on the Supreme Court and 275 vacancies on the high courts,” it said. “Vacancies in the subordinate judiciary were also alarming, with more than 3,700 positions to be filled in the states. The law minister attributed lengthening delays of cases in courts to the vacancies,” the report said. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

15. VACB detects corruption in Consumerfed rice purchase in Kerala (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: Forensic auditors working for the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) have reported to the government that at least five ‘favoured’ grain wholesalers in the State had ‘hugely profited’ from Consumerfed’s decision to procure rice at ‘higher than market rates’ during 2012-13. The controversial decision, taken at a time when there was reportedly adequate rice production in the country, reportedly caused the State exchequer an estimated loss of Rs.1.6 crore in Kollam district alone. The auditing of Consumerfed’s operations during the period in other districts was under way, VACB enforcers said. The VACB identified the main beneficiaries of the alleged rip-off as Andhra Pradesh Rice Corporation, Changanassery; Babu Stores, Nallila, and Venkateshwara Traders, Mathilil, both in Kollam; Balaji Corporation, Kochi; and Sree Krishna Traders, Mulankadakom. The VACB was investigating the traders on the charges of cheating and corruption. It had also named the members of the Central Purchase Committee of Consumerfed, the apex body of consumer cooperative societies in Kerala, chiefly its then managing director Reji G. Nair, and chief purchase manager R. Jayakumar, as the main accused in the graft case (VC 4/13/SRT), sources said. The crux of the VACB’s case was that the accused had ‘betrayed’ Consumerfed’s stated aim of making provisions, chiefly rice, pulses, and edible oil, available at the lowest rate possible to citizens and thereby caused undue financial advantage to the traders and consequent loss to the government. The auditors had chiefly examined Consumerfed’s purchase of three popular varieties of rice; Jaya, Matta and raw rice. They found that the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) had purchased the same varieties of rice from comparable wholesalers during the same period at a far lesser rates than Consumerfed. Last financial year, Consumerfed had reported accumulated loss of Rs.128.63 crore. Nevertheless, the institution, which operated on government grants and loans, had made ‘indiscriminate voucher payments to its staff on unverified expense claims.’ It had appointed persons with dubious qualification and little or no work experience in newly created, namesake, managerial posts of scarce consequence to the organisation’s operations. The VACB said it found provisions ‘left unattended and spoiling’ at Consumerfed warehouses in the State after secondary societies rejected the rations on the ground that they were highly priced or of inferior quality. (The Hindu 3/3/14)

 

16. Another scam hits defence ministry, Antony orders CBI probe (5)

NEW DELHI: The country’s defence establishment has been hit by what seems to be another major scandal, forcing the government to order a CBI probe into allegations that global engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce committed irregularities and violated contractual provisions to bag contracts worth over Rs 10,000 crore from 2007 to 2011. The CBI probe, which was confirmed by defence ministry officials on Sunday, comes soon after alleged Indian-origin arms dealer Sudhir Choudhrie, who has for long been under the scanner of CBI and Enforcement Directorate, and his son Bhanu were arrested in London last month. Though the father and son were released almost immediately, and strongly denied any wrongdoing, the British Serious Fraud Office is probing allegations that they acted as intermediaries of Rolls-Royce for deals in China and Indonesia. Sources said defence minister A K Antony ordered the CBI probe after allegations about Rolls-Royce hiring “advisors/consultants” — middlemen are banned under the Indian defence procurement system — surfaced in a letter sent to defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) recently. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

17. Setback for Centre as Justice Thomas opts out of lokpal search panel (5)

New Delhi: In a major embarrassment to the Congress government at the Centre, Justice KT Thomas has quit as the head of the Lokpal Committee Search Panel, reports said on Monday. According to reports, Justice Thomas, who was the head of the panel to search nine members of the Lokpal or national anti-corruption ombudsman, has sent his resignation letter to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) expressing his inability to continue with his job. Justice Thomas’ withdrawal from the Lokpal Committee Search Panel comes nearly a week after noted jurist Fali Nariman refused the government’s invite to be a part of the committee. Nariman said that he believes the selection process is flawed and unlikely to find the most deserving candidates. Justice Thomas, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2002, was chosen to head the committee by a panel that included the Prime Minister and Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. “I have decided to withdraw from the search committee after I studied the rules. The selection committee itself can find out the persons from the list of central government, what the search committee is expected to do and forward the list to the government,” Thomas said in his letter to PMO. Earlier, the BJP had objected to one of the Prime Minister’s nominees for the panel – PP Rao – accusing him of being pro-UPA 2. Of the advertised posts for members in the Lokpal, four are for judicial and the remaining for non-judicial. The PM-led selection committee has as members Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, 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 of the members. The chairperson and members shall be appointed by the President after obtaining the recommendations of the selection committee. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries. (Zee News 5/3/14)

 

TRIBALS

18. Number of workdays under job scheme raised to 150 for tribal families (6)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday raised the number of workdays under the job guarantee scheme from 100 to 150 for families that have got land rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The move, expected to benefit 14 lakh families, is aimed at wooing tribals ahead of elections since they form the predominant beneficiary group under the Forest Rights Act. The extra 50 workdays would go to families who have completed 100 days of work in that financial year. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters that around 14 lakh individual and community titles were distributed under FRA. Of these, around eight lakh individual titles were given in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. The idea behind increasing workdays is that the forest land given to forest dwellers requires leveling, plantation and other activities to make them productive and to improve the quality of forests. Forest dwellers would be able to work under the job scheme on their own land. “This would be a great help in districts that are Maoist affected,” Ramesh said, adding the new initiative would help in countering left-wing extremism. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

19. Polavaram Project will Wipe Out Tribal Hamlets (6)

KHAMMAM: Even as the Union government has declared Polavaram a national project and asserted that it will be completed in a time frame set for it to provide water for both irrigation and drinking purposes in the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, nearly 10,000 members of a primitive tribal group (PTG) called Konda Reddys, who have been living on hill-top villages away from the mainstream society, are worried about submersion of their habitats. The tribal community had, for long, been reluctant to come down the hill and join the mainstream. Apprehensive of losing their rights over minor forest produce, which is their only source of livelihood, they have even turned down the offer of land and pucca houses as part of the rehabilitation programmes several times in the past. Two IAS officers Vidya Sagar and Ashok Kumar, who had served in Khammam as project officers of ITDA, have made earnest efforts to bring them to the plains but in vain. Unlike the other tribal groups, the Konda Reddys are deeply attached to their environs and have problems in integrating with the developed society. They eke out their livelihood doing shifting cultivation (Podu Sagu) and making bamboo products. Besides, they collect forest produce like honey, acacia gum and goose berries and sell them at the local ‘shandies’ once in a week. They return to their hamlets after purchasing essential commodities. The Konda Reddys, who live on hills abutting either bank of the river Godavari, have unique traditions and culture. They are said be innocent and harmless people. Their dressing style is also different from that of the other tribal groups. Most of them are illiterate and only six persons of the entire community have completed graduation. Though the government claims that it is spending crores of rupees on the development of this PTG, only 70 youths of the tribe have obtained government jobs. If the government constructs the Polavaram Project as per the present design, all Konda Reddy hamlets will be submerged as the river flows at 42 feet level throughout the year. The flow is likely to go up further during the rainy season. Konda Reddys’ Association honorary president Murla Ramesh said, “The Polavaram Project will bury our community. The Union government is playing games with our lives.” He demanded that the Union government stop construction of the project and protect his community. (New Indian Express 3/3/14)

 

20. ‘Prosecute Cops in Tribal’s Suicide’ (6)

HYDERABAD: The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demanded criminal prosecution against police personnel responsible for the alleged suicide of Vanjam Gujja Rao (24), an adivasi from Sunnamatka village in VR Puram mandal of Bhadrachalam divsion in Khammam district on  February 27. In a press release, HRF general secretary VR Krishna said that a five-member HRF fact-finding team had visited Sunnamatka and VR Puram on March 2.  He said police claim that they had only questioned Gujja Rao in  connection with a recent burglary at Tellamvarigudem village. They contended that he had later hung himself because he was in a depressed state since his wife could not beget children. ‘’It is nothing but a brazen falsehood intended to cover up crimes the police have committed in the course of investigation,’’ he said. Krishna explained that following the burglary in Tellamvarigudem on February 9, the VR Puram police picked up about 60 adivasis of Sunnamatka including  15 women on February 11. They were let off the same evening but the police detained 7 men, including Gujja Rao’s elder brother V Kannaiah.  Kannaiah and two others, Vetti Jogaiah and Vanjam Kannam, were beaten by the VR Puram SI Ravi Kiran. After five days, six of the adivasis were let off but Kannaiah was not. Gujja Rao was taken into custody on February 22 when he went for fishing in a pond near Venkampalem. Next day, he was taken to the Chintoor police station where he was subjected to severe beatings for four days. He was let off on February 26 evening. When he returned home, Gujja Rao was in a lot of pain and was  unable to eat food. Next morning Sunnamatka villagers found  him hanging from a tree near the village. It was clear that the brutal treatment meted out by the Chintoor police had driven Gujja Rao to suicide. Police came up with outlandish version that he had hung himself due to personal problems and died  enroute at Kothagudem, while they were rushing him there to save his life, Krishna explained. HRF demanded for immediate suspension of VR Puram and Chintoor police including SI Ravi Kiran and CI Amrutha Reddy and be charged under Sec 206 (abetment to sucide), Sec 201 (screening of evidence) and other relevant sections of IPC and appropriate sections of SC, ST (prevention of atrocities) Act.  It demanded a judicial probe into Gujja Rao’s death. (New Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

21. Hydropower plant: Tribals demand settlement of issues (6)

SHIMLA: While Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited has winded up its hydropower operation in Himachal Pradesh by selling its two projects in Kinnaur district, the tribal residents are demanding settlement of their issues by the government or would start protest in the coming days. This issue is likely to dominate the coming parliamentary elections since problems faced by people in the project-affected areas have not been addressed by the company and the state government. While Kinnaur residents have already submitted a memorandum to government; deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi said that now, the new company would be asked to address the pending issues. Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited, a subsidiary of Jaypee Group, has sold its two hydro power projects, Karchhwam Wangtoo and Baspa-II, located in Kinnaur district. These projects, having combined generation capacity of 1,391MW, have been given away to a consortium led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA), for Rs 10,500 crore. It is the 1,000MW Karchham Wangtoo project which had courted controversy since beginning as many issues of local residents remained unattended. Adopting tough stand against the company, Kinnaur Local Area Development Committee (LADC) had, a few months ago, issued notice to recover pending dues of Rs 82 crore under local area development fund. “We did not know about intention of the company to sell its projects in Kinnaur. In the last meeting held with chief minister Virbhadra Singh, many pending issues were settled, but the company has not paid the amount of Rs 82 crore to LADC,” said Kinnaur MLA and deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi, who is also chairman of LADC, Kinnaur. He said that during the previous BJP regime, the policy was changed to include cost of works carried by the company under LADF. He said that between 2007 to 2013, Jaypee Company had deposited only Rs 20 crore while Rs 82 crore was pending since 2011, which is yet to be recovered. Deputy Speaker claimed that around Rs 13 crore is yet to be paid to four panchayats in the project-affected area under pollution norms while around 18 panchayats have to be paid roughly around Rs 50 crore under pollution and forest rights head. “Damages due to construction work like tunneling amounts to Rs 3 to 4 crore and has not be been paid as well,” he said. Former IAS officer and Kinnaur-based Him Lok Jagriti Manch convener R S Negi said that they have submitted a memorandum raising vital issues regarding the projects changing hands in tribal Kinnaur district. He said that as tribal law, even on government land tribal people are having their rights and before selling the project under which land too was transferred, Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited should have taken NOC from concerned gram sabhas. (Times of India 5/3/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

22. UN report sees $1.45 trillion global warming cost: Report (9)

TOKYO: Global warming will reduce the world’s crop production by up to two percent every decade and wreak $1.45 trillion of economic damage by the end of this century, according to a draft UN report, Japanese media said Friday. The document is the second volume in a long-awaited trilogy by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a Nobel-winning group of scientists, which is set to be issued next month after a five-day meeting in Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The trilogy is the IPCC’s first great overview of the causes and effects of global warming, and options for dealing with it, since 2007. According to the draft, if global te (Timexs of India 1/3/14)

 

23. Oil Pollution Threat to Chilika Biodiversity (9)

BHUBANESWAR: Environmental experts have warned against possibility of oil pollution in Chilika lagoon, thanks to the large number of ill-equipped mechanised country boats that ply in the lagoon. Their analysis is based on petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) concentration found in certain segments of the 1,100 sq km brackish water lake. A scientific report that has appeared in the latest edition of Current Science says that PHC concentration was found in outer channel, central as well as in souther sectors of the lake. Samples collected during September were analysed. The results showed that outer channel of the lagoon had the highest PHC concentration of 330 microgram per litre whereas northern sector had the lowest – 50 microgram per litre. Similarly, PHC concentration in central and southern sectors was 280 microgram and 130 microgram respectively. The central sector and outer channel have higher concentration of traditional non-motorised and motorised fishing boats while these two zones are also heart of the tourism activities which could be the reason for the high PHC value compared to other sectors, the report said. Interestingly, PHC values in Arabian Sea goes up to 305 microgram, reaches 123 microgram in Visakhapatnam harbour, 139 microgram at Chennai harbour and ranges between 14 and 1,771 microgram between Chennai and Nagapattinam. The report said oil leaks from the motorised vessels may impact lagoon environment directly or indirectly in Chilika since petroleum oil contains volatile organic compounds which partially evaporate by losing 20 per cent to 30 per cent of their mass. These compounds become more viscous and dense which provide more resistance to oil flow. Though a small percentage of oil may dissolve, the residue can disperse invisibly to make a thick coating on the water surface posing problem for photosynthesis. Similarly, oil also mixes with suspended matter and sinks to the bottom affecting aquatic systems. The experts, drawn from Department of Marine Sciences, Berhampur University, National Institute of Oceanography, Visakhapatnam and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, felt that oil pollution can have an adverse impact on the birds and other wildlife. Irrawaddy Dolphins may also face health problems if the pollution level rises while outflux through outer channel to the Bay of Bengal could impact Olive Ridley turtles which nest on the State’s coast. Over two lakh fishermen depend on Chilika for their livelihood. More than 5,000 non-motorised and 2,200-plus motorised boats are used for fishing in the lagoon. The report has suggested that the problem can be solved by safer handling of fuel oil, awareness among boat owners and oil spill removal through bio-remedial and self-cleaning bacteria. (New Indian Express 4/3/14)

 

24. Save Forests to Prevent Climate Change Woes (9)

There is good news on the climate change front. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has cleared the national mission for green India. It is one of the eight national missions approved by the government several years ago. Yet, there has been no progress for want of adequate financial backing. Even the clearance does not amount to much as the Centre is committed to pay only a certain percentage of the expenditure, the rest having to come from states. If experience is any guide, whenever a project is funded jointly by the Centre and the states, it faces a lot of uncertainty. Ideally, the Centre should have been ready to meet the full expenditure. In the absence of a clear policy, the forest cover has been dwindling. At present, dense forests cover only 2.54 per cent of India’s geographical area. Another 9.71 per cent of the area is covered by thin forests. This is insufficient for a country of India’s size, if climate is to be kept stable. Unfortunately, cutting of forests is a reality that cannot be ignored. Some of the areas considered the richest in biodiversity in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats have already lost their shine. The flora and fauna of the area have suffered irreversible damage. Yet, nothing is being done to reverse the process for want of commitment on the government’s part. While forest protection is paramount, it should not be at the cost of forest dwellers and those who depend on forests for livelihood. Studies have shown that they cause the least damage to the forests. It is outsiders—contractors, forest officials and settlers—who cause maximum damage. The plethora of laws to protect forests has also not helped. The need for a vigorous national-level afforestation programme cannot be overemphasised. Equally important is to include the need to protect forests in the school curriculum. Saving forests cannot be the job of the government alone. Everyone must chip in. (New Indian Express 5/3/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

25. CBSE schools say they want clarity (11)

LUDHIANA: CBSE schools say they have their reasons for not following orders of the board and the district education officer. During a press meet organized by the Association of All Private Unaided CBSE Schools at BCM Arya Model Senior Secondary School, association members conceded to their failure to follow certain circulars and orders of CBSE and RTE. But they tried to justify their stance and asked the authorities to roll back their move. “CBSE schools are being pointed out for many reasons. For example, the issue of providing free education to the single girl child. The CBSE circular, which needs an update, is creating confusion. To get a clear vision of the single girl child scheme, we wrote a letter to the CBSE. In reply, they said there is no provision of waiver in fee in the board’. We will ask CBSE to update the circular,” Rajesh Rudra, association president. Rudra also raised the issue of the board prohibiting schools from conducting commercial activities in schools. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

26. Drop out of Muslim students in Class IX is high, says survey (11)

JAIPUR: The dropout rate among Muslim students in Class IX is the highest among all other communities, finds a survey done by Shiv Charan Mathur Social Policy Institute in Jaipur. The findings of survey were presented during a seminar on “access, equity and facilities provided to Muslims in elementary education” held at the institute on Saturday. The findings say that 36% of Muslim students drop out from schools by Class IX. The reason that they drop out in Class IX is that RTE rule which doesn’t allow any student to fail till Class IX. The survey was conducted on the status of Muslims in education in Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat. It further says that situation of Muslim girls is worst. The percentage of Muslim girls dropping out is highest in Jaipur and Dausa. In terms of infrastructure, Rajasthan ranks last among the surveyed states. It also says that enrollments are fast increasing but that is a case with all other communities,” Sudhir Verma, director of the institute. Furqan Qamar, vice-chancellor of Central University in Himachal Pardesh said, “Muslims have shown slight improvement in education but efforts should be made to ensure them in into the mainstream.”. “Madarasa board doesn’t have enough powers to take any policy making decision which could bring any change,” said Ram Narain, secterary of Madarsa Board. Lalit Pawar, secretary, ministry of minorities’ affairs said that developmental works for Muslims are being done at block and cluster level. (Times of India 2/3/14)

 

27. 1.45 lakh children discriminated under RTE Act: Naz Foundation (11)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the Centre and states on a PIL filed by NGO ‘Naz Foundation’ alleging that nearly 1.45 lakh HIV positive children were denied their legitimate dues under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Quoting National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) figures, NGO’s counsel Anand Grover informed the court that nearly 1.45 lakh children were HIV positive and pointed to a disturbing trend in government and private schools which either deny them admission or segregate them from other children. Arguing before a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar, the counsel said under RTE Act, every parent was compelled to disclose the HIV status of their wards in the screening test. “Once this information is made available to the school authorities, the children aged between 6 to 15 years are denied, expelled without reason, or worse even segregated from rest of the students,” the NGO alleged. Grover said the NGO had compiled 61 reported cases and alleged that the schools had breached confidentiality about identity of the HIV positive children. The NGO requested the court to direct the governments and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights ( NCPCR) to explore the possibility of framing guidelines under the RTE Act to prevent discrimination of HIV positive children. The NGO suggested bracketing HIV positive children with the ‘disadvantaged groups’ under the RTE Act to compel schools to give them admission. Section 9(c) of the Act says, “Every local authority shall ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds.” The Act mandates the states and the Centre to notify the disadvantaged groups. Since the Act came into force in 2010, only Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Manipur have notified HIV positive children as “disadvantaged”. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

28. Centre supports L-G on nursery guidelines (11)

New Delhi: The Centre has told the Delhi high court that the new nursery admission guidelines, issued by the lieutenant governor, were “in consistency” with the Right To Education Act as they accorded primacy to neighbourhood schooling and provided 25 per cent quota for poor children. The human resources development ministry had on November 23, 2010, taken a stand that unaided recognised private schools were free to devise their own admission criteria under the RTE. In a fresh affidavit filed before Justice Manmohan, the ministry said, “The education being a subject on the concurrent list, the state government is within its rights to notify such policies/guidelines as may be necessitated.”“In view of the provisions/clarification of the Right To Education Act, 2009, the order of Hon’ble L-G, Delhi, on (I) 25 per cent quota seats for EWS and (II) notification regarding limits of neighbourhood are in consistency with the RTE Act,” the affidavit, filed by HRD ministry under-secretary Jyoti Pahwa, said. The Centre has sought dismissal of separate pleas filed by Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools and Forum for Promotion of Quality Education for All, which represent most of the private schools here. Earlier, private schools have challenged the new nursery admission guidelines issued by the lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung on December 18, by which various decisions, including scrapping of 20 per cent management quota, was taken. A plea was also filed in the Delhi high court on Monday to oppose the city government’s decision to scrap the “inter-state transfer cases” of parents, seeking admission for their wards in nursery classes. (Asian Age 4/3/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

29. Just 1 of 10 tribals use 100 days NREG but govt raises limit to 150 (14)

New Delhi: The government on Friday increased the number of workdays under its flagship rural jobs guarantee scheme for tribal households to 150, but official data show that no more than 11 per cent of Scheduled Tribe households have been able to complete even the promised 100 days of annual employment over the last few fiscal years. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) promises 100 days of work to every rural household annually. The Congress leadership sees both the jobs scheme and the tribal vote as being electorally crucial. The cabinet has cleared the proposal of the rural development ministry when the model code of conduct is expected to be announced any day now. “Beneficiaries who have been granted land rights/titles under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006”, will now get 150 days of employment under the MGNREGS, provided they have no other private land, and have already completed 100 days of work under the scheme in that financial year. According to the ministry’s own data, however, only 11.7 per cent of ST households could complete 100 days of employment in 2011-12. The figure for 2012-13 was worse: 11.08 per cent. No data is available for beneficiaries of the scheme covered by the forest rights Act. But according to the cabinet note, it can be “extrapolated that the same proportion of FRA beneficiaries (as STs) would be expected to avail the additional 50 days of work”. Ministry officials said it was hoped the move would stem the migration of tribal populations. “Increasing it to 150 days will encourage more tribal housholds to work on their own land — allotted to them under the FRA — under the scheme (MGNREGS),” an official said. At a press conference after Friday’s cabinet meeting, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said this move would help fight left-wing extremism and improve the green cover. But the CPM attacked the decision for being “flawed”. “This is a mockery of the working of MGNREGS in tribal areas. In no tribal area has the percentage of households who have completed 100 days been high,” Politburo member Brinda Karat said. “This is a flawed move that is ignoring the real problems… Tribals are reluctant to work under the scheme because of issues like huge delays in payments. These are the problems that need to be addressed…”In fact, even the overall national average for participation in the scheme isn’t good. Only 10 per cent of households completed 100 days of work in 2012-13. The average days of employment per household has been just 40.2 this year so far. And in the last two financial years, it was 46.2 and 43.2 respectively. Which means that on average, a household has not got work on even half of its entitled days. In a similar move in 2012, the government had increased the number of work days under MGNREGA to 150 for drought-hit areas. But according to ministry officials, this did not make much of a difference. (Indian Express 1/3/14)

 

30. Cabinet nod to pensions, KVs (14)

New Delhi: Keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the government on Thursday approved a slew of populist measures, which included ensuring a `1,000 minimum monthly pension under a scheme operated by retirement fund body EPFO, increasing the number of workdays to 150 under MGNREGA for tribals and forest dwellers and establishment of 54 new Kendriya Vidyalayas. The pension decision at the meeting of the Union Cabinet here will immediately benefit 28 lakh pensioners. There are 44 lakh pensioners in India. The pension is given under Employees’ Pension Scheme-95, run by the EPFO. The Central Board of Trustees of the EPFO had on February 5 decided to amend the EPS-95 scheme for the purpose. Now the government will have to provide an additional amount of approximately `1,217 crore to ensure the minimum pension of `1,000 starting 2014-15. Pensioners will benefit with effect from April 1 as the proposal has already been cleared by the finance ministry. (Asian Age 1/3/14)

 

31. Unorganised workers seek hike in minimum wages (14)

Bangalore: The Karnataka State Unorganised Workers’ Federation has demanded a 40 per cent hike in the minimum wages for unorganised workers in the light of escalation in the cost of living, particularly house rents. Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, K.S. Melukote, president of the federation, said the most modest of accommodations close to industrial areas cost above Rs. 3,000 in a city like Bangalore. “About half of a worker’s earnings go towards house rent alone,” said Mr. Melukote, demanding that a House Rent Allowance of Rs. 3,000 be fixed for unorganised workers. He pointed out that rent control mechanism, that existed earlier, had been done away with, resulting in unbridled escalation in rents.Mr. Melukote pointed out that even contract teachers in private schools and colleges faced a similar situation as they were paid low wages. They faced job uncertainty too. Speaking about living conditions around industrial areas, he said workers often lived in unsanitary conditions without proper toilets and clean drinking water. “The saline content in groundwater in most of these areas is high,” he said, demanding supply of Cauvery water to areas such as Peenya, Whitefield, K.R. Puram, Hebbagodi and Mysore Road. The federation also expressed concern over the rampant contractualisation and outsourcing of work. Mr. Melukote said that these forms of employment had remained outside the ambit of rigorous government regulation, even as government departments themselves too were resorting to them. (The Hindu 4/3/14)

 

32. “Bonded labour, a serious isssue of concern” (14)

Madurai:  “The members of Vigilance Committee play a vital role in eliminating bonded labour,” Shivaraj V. Patil, former Judge of the Supreme Court, said here on Monday. Inaugurating a training programme, attended by around 20 committee members from 14 districts, on Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, he said, “Bonded labour is one of the grave problems in the country. Poverty and illiteracy are the major causes for bonded labour. The members of the Vigilance Committees are responsible for the rehabilitation of bonded labourers, which is more important than identifying and releasing them.” Though there were laws to abolish the bonded labour system and to rehabilitate its victims, they had never been enforced in the country, he observed. Mr.Justice Patil urged the committee members to focus on various aspects of the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act. “You should be well-informed about the laws to deliver quality work,” he told them. Henry Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch, said the Act remained only in paper. Referring to the cases of bonded labour in Tamil Nadu, he said thousands of people coming from the north-east were forced to work under inhumane conditions without getting any benefits they were legally entitled to. (The Hindu 5/3/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

33. SC verdict on death sentence commutation patently illegal: Centre (19)

New Delhi: The Centre on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its verdict holding that undue delay by the government in deciding mercy plea can be a ground to commute death sentence of a condemned prisoner. The Centre submitted that the January 21 judgement, by which 15 condemned prisoners were granted life and paved the way for similar relief for Rajiv Gandhi killers, is “patently illegal, suffers from errors apparent”. It said such an important issue should have been heard by a Constitution bench and the judgement passed by a three-judge bench was without “jurisdiction”. “It is respectfully submitted that the impugned judgement is patently illegal, suffers from errors apparent on the face of the record and flies in the face of well-established principles of law laid down by this Court and contained in the Constitution and other statutes,” the review petition said. “It is submitted that in the present case, the issue raised was that of the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay, which allegedly attracted Article 21 (right to life) in favour of the convicts. “Therefore, it involved a substantial issue of interpretation of the Constitution and ought to have been heard by a bench of five Judges, as mandated under Article 145 of the Constitution,” it said. Referring to an earlier apex court order in which it was said that nature of crime to be considered while commuting death sentence of a convict, the government said previous verdict “observed that there is a distinction between offences such as TADA and other offences”. “Thus, there is an error apparent on the face of the record, and the impugned judgement merits a review,” it said. (Indian Express 1/3/14)

 

34. Supreme Court stays release of 4 Rajiv killers (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday stayed the release of four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case while asking the Tamil Nadu government if it was in a rush to release them. The court had last week stayed the release of the other three out of the seven convicts, noting no order for all of them could be passed straightaway since only three of them were petitioners before it. This had compelled the Centre to move a substantive writ petition, challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s resolution to set all of them free. Issuing notices to the state government and the convicts, a Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam ordered status quo and fixed March 6 for a hearing to decide the legal issue as to whether the Centre or the Tamil Nadu government was the “appropriate government” to take final call on release of convicts. The Tamil Nadu government’s counsel forcefully opposed the Centre’s petition, saying they wished to earn “brownie points” by filing a plea of such a nature when there was no question of violation of anybody’s fundamental rights. “Why did they (Centre) rush to the court instead of replying to our letter? They could have said in it whatever they wished,” said the counsel. To this, the Bench said: “Is the Centre rushing or you are rushing?” The court added that it will consider the issue of maintainability of the Centre’s petition first. It further observed: “Our intention is not to release these persons but to lay down some guidelines that every state should follow.” The Centre’s petition has challenged the Tamil Nadu government’s resolution to remit the remaining jail terms of all the seven convicts and the communication sent to the MHA for consultation. It contended that the “appropriate government,” as stipulated under the Code of Criminal Procedure, was the central government in this case and hence it had the sole power of remission of sentence. The government has already filed a review petition against the court’s decision of commuting the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. It has claimed that the court order was “patently illegal” and filed without any jurisdiction. (Indian Express 1/3/14)

 

35. SC refuses to hear PIL against government ads (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a PIL for framing guidelines to regulate advertisements given by the government to project its achievements, saying that election is round the corner and the timing is not appropriate to hear such a plea. A bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam asked petitioner Kochouspeh Chittilappilly, who alleged that governments spend crores of rupees in advertisements to project the ruling party and its leaders at the cost of public exchequer, to approach the court after the general election. “You are right but the timing is wrong. Take a chance after the election. We cannot hear the plea at this stage,” the bench said. It also questioned the petitioner as to why he had approached the court at the “eleventh hour”. Mr. Chittilappilly alleged that in government advertisements, names of political parties and pictures of political leaders were published, and they had to be regulated. (The Hindu 3/3/14)

 

36. Supreme Court directs Centre, states to stop discrimination against HIV+ kids (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to Centre and all states on a PIL to declare HIV affected children as a disadvantaged group under the Right of Education Act to ensure they got education without discrimination. A bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan also sought response from the governments on the plea of an NGO seeking framing of guidelines to prevent any kind of discrimination towards students due to their own HIV status or that of their parents or guardians. Alleging that children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are denied admission, suspended and even expelled from schools, the NGO – Naaz Foundation – submitted that such students are also being publicly ridiculed by school authorities, humiliated and treated unfairly. “Moreover, the confidentiality of the HIV-positive statusof the children has been routinely breached leading to violation of their right to privacy and the rampant acts of stigmatisation and discrimination that have followed have undermined their human dignity,” the petition said. It said according to the NACO report the total number of people living with HIV in India is estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011 and children less than 15 years of age account for 1.45 lakh. (Indian Express 3/3/14)

 

37. Law Commission submits report to SC on vacant positions in courts (19)

NEW DELHI: The Law Commission has submitted a report to the Supreme Court on additional number of judges to be appointed in subordinate courts. The report was prepared on the request of the apex court. In its recommendation, the Commission has suggested a scientific study on classification of cases, sources said. Time required for disposal of cases in each category is to be fixed before determining the number of judges required in the subordinate courts, it said. The apex court had earlier expressed desire to increase the strength of the judges from current 18,000 to 30,000 in the next five years as per the current pendency of cases. However, after the central government proposed to settle traffic violation cases and cheque bounce instances through alternative dispute resolution mechanism, the requirement of judges is likely to come down substantially. Taking these two category of cases out of the courts would bring down the total pendency of 3.2 crore cases in courts by at least one-third, said a senior law ministry official. It is not just the subordinate courts which have large-scale vacancies, even the high courts are operating below the sanctioned strength. A large number of vacancies are due to lack of infrastructure and suitability of candidates for which the Centre has allocated additional funds and proposed to set up All India Judicial Services. At present, there are 256 vacant positions in 24 high courts with Allahabad HC remaining on top with 73 vacancies as on November 1, 2013. When it comes to pendency of heinous crimes, Allahabad HC has the highest number of rape cases pending at 8,200. Vacancies in subordinate judiciary is alarming with over 3,700 posts of judges vacant in states. This also has impacted the pendency of cases which is as high as 2.68 crore (as of March 2012). The apex court, with the help of the government, has already set an ambitious target of recruiting more than 12,000 judges across the country to put the drive of setting up past track courts on track and bring down pendency of cases. As part of the National Court Management System (NCMS), the SC had earlier proposed to enhance the strength of judiciary by more than 60%. The NCMS is under the overall control of the CJI and deals with policy issues. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

38. Govt to Launch ‘Mana Kayaguralu’ in Urban Local Bodies in State Soon (21)

HYDERABAD: A new initiative called ‘Mana Kayaguralu’ is being launched in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) under which fresh vegetables, procured from farmers  directly, would be sold by street vendors. On a pilot basis, the commissioner and director of agricultural marketing department has launched the scheme in few areas in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). The vegetables procured from farmers are sold to the consumers by eliminating  middlemen and thereby reducing the cost of the vegetables as well as providing employment to  street vendors. Recently chief secretary PK Mohanty during the Price Monitoring Committee meeting with Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA) has directed the officials to come up with a strategy for sell vegetables by the vendor associations by allocating vending zones in all municipal bodies in the state. The commissioner and director of municipal administration (C&DMA) B Janardhana Reddy have written letters to all the municipal commissioners, regional director-cum-appellate commissioner of municipal administration (RDMAs) and project directors of MEPMA in the state asking them to identify special vending zones in the central core areas of the urban local bodies for launching ‘Mana Kayaguralu’ scheme at the earliest. A few days ago, commissioner of agricultural marketing department, Hyderabad, also wrote a letter to the municipal administration requesting them to identify suitable vending zones in core areas for implementing the programme in the ULBs. The municipal officials said that farmers would get better rate for their vegetables while youth would get employment by selling them to consumers, thus avoiding exploitation by middlemen. The consumers will get fresh vegetables at cheaper rates, they added. (New Indian Express 2/3/14)

 

39. India can lift 580 million people above empowerment line: McKinsey (21)

NEW DELHI: India can bring 580 million people above the ‘empowerment line’, a measure of income deprivation, by 2022 if it implements inclusive reforms, according to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). The business and economics research arm of consultancy major McKinsey & Company also said India’s human development indicators show that deprivation extends well beyond the 22 per cent of Indians who live below the official poverty line. “The path of inclusive reforms envisages a far more positive alternative, one in which the nation takes steps to stimulate investment, job creation and farm production, as well as dramatically improve the delivery of basic services. These reforms could potentially allow India to achieve an average GDP growth rate of 7.8 per cent between 2012 and 2022.This could lift 580 million people above the empowerment line, leaving 100 million (7 per cent of the population) below it in 2022 and 17 million (1 per cent) below the official poverty line — virtually eliminating extreme poverty in just a decade,” MGI said in a report titled ‘From Poverty to Empowerment: India’s Imperative for Jobs, Growth and Effective Basic Services’. According to MGI, the ‘empowerment line’ is “a new and more holistic measure of income deprivation”.It is an estimate of the minimum economic cost for a household to fulfil eight basic needs: food, energy, housing, drinking water, sanitation, health care, education and social security. MGI estimates India’s empowerment line at Rs 1,336 per capita per month, or almost Rs 6,700 for a family of five per month, after taking into account the value of government spending on basic services that already reach the people. The report noted that the higher GDP growth inherent in the inclusive reforms scenario generates more tax revenue that can be ploughed back into spending for basic services. The combination of higher investment, faster economic growth and increased tax revenue could allow India to bring its fiscal deficit to 6 per cent of GDP from 2017 onward. The report says 40 per cent of India’s children under the age of 3 suffer from malnutrition and 50 per cent of its households have no access to improved sanitation facilities. (Times of India 3/3/14)

 

40. ‘India improved but Gujarat slipped on malnutrition’ (21)

AHMEDABAD: According to the National Food Survey 2007, there was a decrease in the number of children with malnutrition in India by one per cent compared to the previous survey. However, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were the only two states which showed an increase in the numbers. Volunteer with Right to Food Project (RFP) Sachin Jain said that earlier 47% of children in the country were malnourished. The figure fell to 45.9 in 2007 for India. According to the 2007 survey, the number in Gujarat grew to 46 per cent as against 45 per cent in the previous years, similarly in MP the number increased to 60 from 54. The volunteers of the RFP project had gathered here in the city for a three-day convention which ended on Monday. Gujarat convener RFP of Sejal Dand says, “Nothing seems to be going right in the state when it comes to implementing the food security bill. While other states, including non-Congress ruled one, have already stated implementation, Gujarat is yet to even complete the basic work.” Dand said that Gujarat provided subsidized grain to only 7.35 lakh families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana and to 24.33 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families. Officially the state lists an additional 71 lakh families as above poverty line but does not provide them any subsidized grains. She claimed that Gujarat had decided to give 35 kg of wheat and rice to the families but there were two different rates leading to confusion. “The Gujarat government has not carried out a proper census to find out how many families can be covered under the food security bill. The three-day convention recommended that the government should set up a committee which will in a short span of time come up with criteria for implementing the act which entitles the poor for cheap food grains,” she added. The convention also demanded that action should be taken within 30 days of the receipt of the application and also set up an independent, transparent and effective grievance redressal system in the state. National convener of the Right to Food Project Sejal Dand says that the Congress government led by Manmohan Singh was a corrupt government but chief minister Narendra Modi was not a alternative to the Congress. The Modi government is a government for the industrialists and has no care for the poor. (Times of India 4/3/14)

 

RESERVATION

41. Govt. to remove income ceiling for Yadava children to get quota (25)

Bangalore: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Sunday said the government would remove the income ceiling for Yadava community children to get reservation in education. Addressing a State-level convention organised by the Karnataka State Yadava Sangha here, the Chief Minister said a notification would be issued soon.The Chief Minister said the intention was to provide more opportunities to children to get education. Yadava children are not getting reservation in education if they fall under the creamy layer category. Mr. Siddaramaiah agreed to the community’s demand for converting lands on which traditional Yadava residential areas were located in villages as revenue lands. He also accepted the demand that Sri Krishna Jayanti be an official festival of the State government. But he made it clear that there was no question of declaring a holiday on that day as the government was against increasing the number of holidays. Earlier, writer Banjagere Jayaprakash urged the government to include Yadavas in the list of Scheduled Tribes.Recalling the history of Yadavas, he said this community had a strong presence right from 5th BC. They even had links with foreign traders then, he said. Speaking on the occasion, Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya said that though the Yadavas had a sizeable population in the State, they were not represented in the Legislative Assembly.Ministers K.J. George, T. B. Jayachandra and Krishna Byre Gowda; legislators M. Krishnappa and M.R. Seetharam; Yadava Maha Samsthana seer Krishna Yadavananda, and the former Vice-Chancellor of University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore R. Dwarakinath were present. (The Hindu 2/3/14)

 

42. Jats in nine states to get reservation benefit (25)

New Delhi: Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the government tonight decided to include the Jat community in the central list of OBCs in nine states, a move that is expected to benefit about nine crore people from the community.The decision would pave the way for the community members to avail benefits of reservation in central government jobs and central education institutions as per the existing norms. “Union Cabinet today approved the inclusion of the Jat community in the Central list of OBCs for the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarrakhand, Uttar Pradesh and the National capital territory of Delhi,” I&B Minister Manish Tewari told reporters.An approximate number of nine crore Jats are living in nine states — Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar. It is widely believed that inclusion of Jats in the central list of OBCs would benefit the Congress electorally, at a time when general elections are round the corner. The Cabinet had earlier asked the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to expeditiously take a call on the issue, following which it had conducted public hearing in the nine states.NCBC had in 2011 rejected demands for reservation to the community at the central level, following which the Cabinet had asked to reconsider its decision.Union minister Ajit Singh welcomed the government’s decision while Olympian Krishna Punia said the move will specially be beneficial to the community members living in the rural areas. (Business Standard 3/3/14)

 

43. SC Declines to Entertain PIL Against Reservation Policy (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today declined to entertain a PIL seeking to quash the reservation policy based on caste and religion and to implement it on the basis of economic condition. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it cannot directly interfere with the policy on the ground that it has achieved its purpose. The bench told the PIL petitioner that if he feels it was time to do away with the reservation policy, he can make a representation to the government with the data to buttress his contention. “Before coming to this court for direction, make representation to the elected government that there is no purpose of such representation. Better you wait for the new government to come,” the bench observed orally. The petition filed by Manjit Singh Sachdeva had sought to declare and hold the reservation based on caste as violative of the fundamental right to equality. The PIL also sought to declare the “reservation on its continued availability without any qualification restricting its benefit to those who have already been benefited in the family or who do not deserve it due to their higher economical status is violative of basic feature of Constitution enshrined in Article 14 of Constitution as right to equality”.It said that reservation policy is meant to uplift people from these caste and communities who need help but “it is more benefiting persons who are already helped and are being further helped”.”The State through the correct scheme of helping certain caste and community to grow, reserves constituencies meant exclusively for SC/ST/OBC, but through this only a limited number of persons continues to take the said seat, how can we call the said seat a reserved seat, if the same person were to continue enjoying the position again and again, without giving opportunity to other SC/ST?” it contended.

The petition challenged certain provisions of the Constitution which enable the “Vote hankering politician to perpetuate the reservation policy in an endemic manner which has totally corrosive effect on the fabric of Indian society by dividing it in an artificial manner and stints its growth beyond reprieve”. (Outlook 3/3/14)

 

44. Denied OBC quota, Jat outfit says SAD leaders backstabbed community (25)

FEROZEPUR: Upset over Jats of Punjab not being included in the other backward classes (OBC) category for reservation in central government jobs and state-run educational institutes, Karnail Singh Bhawra, chief of state unit of Sarv Hind Jat Rakhwakaran Sangarsh Committee, held a demonstration in front of office of Ferozepur deputy commissioner (DC) on Tuesday. Bhawra slammed SAD-BJP government for not making recommendation to the Centre to add Jats of Punjab in OBC category, saying that the community was deprived of quota benefits. He said that the state government’s lapse would cost poor members of Jat community dearly. He alleged, “SAD has backstabbed us as during a rally in Chandigarh on March 12, 2010, a delegation of its leaders, including Prem Singh Chandumajra, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Tota Singh and Sikander Singh Maluka, had assured that the state government would recommend reservation for the community. Jat Sikhs of Punjab supported SAD wholeheartedly in the assembly elections in 2012, but see what we get in return – a total betrayal.” Bhawra said that SAD-BJP government still had a chance to rectify its blunder by passing a resolution for inclusion of Jat community of Punjab under the OBC category during the ongoing assembly session. “In case the state government fails to do so, Jats will leave no stone unturned to defeat SAD-BJP candidates in the coming Lok Sabha elections,” he affirmed. (Times of India 5/3/14)

Posted by admin at 3 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Sri Lanka slams UN rights chief for ‘unwarranted interference’ (1)

Colombo: The United Nations has called for an independent international probe into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka during the final battle with the LTTE, prompting an angry reaction from Colombo which today rejected the demand and slammed it as “unwarranted interference”. In a UN report published on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asked for setting up of an independent probe and said Sri Lanka had “consistently failed to establish the truth”. In her report Ms. Pillay said, “National mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and achieve justice.” “The High Commissioner believes this can no longer be explained as a function of time or technical capacity, but that it is fundamentally a question of political will,” the report stated. “She remains convinced that an independent, international inquiry would play a positive role in eliciting new information and establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed,” it said. President Mahida Rajapaksa’s government on Tuesday formally rejected Ms. Pillay’s demand for “an independent, international inquiry“.The international community has found fault with Sri Lanka for dragging its feet on the issue of national reconciliation with the Tamil minority and failure to set up a mechanism to address concerns over human rights abuses during the final phase of the war with the LTTE that ended in 2009. Sri Lanka’s permanent mission in Geneva, in a statement from the government, slammed Ms. Pillay, saying her report “reflects the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which she has relentlessly pursued with regard to Sri Lanka”. The government contends that “it has nevertheless continued to make significant progress in its own reconciliation process and has continued to regularly update the Council on such progress”. The government “reiterates its categorical rejection of the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report, which reflects bias and is tantamount to an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”. Sri Lanka said the report gave scant or no regard to the domestic processes ongoing in the country within the framework of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and its action plan of implementation. Ms. Pillay’s report is being seen as a preamble to the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN rights body late next month. (The Hindu 25/2/14)

 

2. NHRC issues notice to Chhattisgarh over assault on woman (1)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday issued notice to Chhattisgarh over the assault of a 65-year-old woman suspected of practising witchcraft. As per media reports, the woman was brutally beaten and her head tonsured after she was suspected of practising witchcraft by people of Korba district. “Notice has been issued to the district magistrate and superintendent of police, Korba, calling for reports within two weeks.” The police superintendent has also been directed to inform whether any case has been registered in the matter.(IBN 26/2/14)

 

3. Pvt Human Rights Bodies Have No Recognition’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala  State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) chairman Justice J B Koshy has ruled that private organisations working in the human rights field have not been recognised by the Commission and these organisations have no power to conduct probes into human rights violations. The ruling was on a complaint filed by K S Sudheeran that Kerala State Human Rights Council president Kadakkavoor Vikraman was engaged in a false propaganda that his organisation had the recognition of the State human rights panel. The Commission made it clear that such organisations active in the field had neither any recognition nor any powers to conduct  probes into violations of human rights on their own. The Chairman pointed out that though the  Human Rights Act encouraged functioning of such organisations, there was no provision in the Act to grant recognition to such organisations. He also made it clear that without the Commission’s permission, no officer or organisation had the right to conduct probe in  the name of the Commission. Even though a few private organisations were given recognition earlier, the KSHRC withdrew their recognition after widespread allegations that certain organisations were misusing the name of the Commission. The Commission has been receiving many complaints against Kadakkavoor Vikraman. There had been allegations that certain organisations were forcefully collecting funds from people. Some organisations had been placing sign boards which mislead that they were under the Commission. Prefixing the organisations’ names with ‘Kerala State’ will also give the impression that the organisations were a State Government body. But such organisations usually registered under a different name. The Registrar General has also been asked to  explain why such organisations were allowed to use ‘Kerala State’ before their names. The Kerala State Human Rights Council has been asked to explain, before March 31, whether it had the recognition of Justice J B Koshy and Kerala Lok Ayukta. The state police chief has been asked to conduct a probe and submit a report before March 31. However, the defendant also can submit their  version. The case has been posted for April 4. (New Indian Express 28/2/14)

 

4. HRW backs international inquiry into Sri Lanka’s war crimes (1)

Colombo: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has backed UN rights chief’s recommendation for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the final phase of battle with the LTTE. “The United Nations Human Rights Council should adopt the recommendation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) Navi Pillay to create an independent international inquiry into war crimes and other serious abuses committed in Sri Lanka armed conflict,” the New York-based HRW said. “The Sri Lankan government has refused to address its role in the deaths of tens of thousands at the end of the country’s brutal civil war,” Brad Adams, Asia director of the HRW, said. The report by Ms. Pillay, a South African of Indian Tamil origin, has concluded the Sri Lankan government has taken no significant steps to implement the recommendations on accountability of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. “National mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and achieve justice.” “The High Commissioner believes this can no longer be explained as a function of time or technical capacity, but that it is fundamentally a question of political will,” the report stated. “The bottom line is that Sri Lanka has repeatedly refused to undertake investigations into crimes committed by its own forces, so it will be up to members of the UN Human Rights Council to take decisive action at the coming March session,” Mr. Adams said. Meanwhile, the Amnesty International also said that the Sri Lankan government’s targeting of critics persists at alarming levels, with more surveillance and harassment reported ahead of next month’s UNHRC. (The Hindu 1/3/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

5. RTI Arvind Kejriwal accused of ‘running away’ from RTI queries on AAP (1)

New Delhi: Former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today received flak for allegedly failing to implement RTI Act within Aam Aadmi Party. Rakesh Agarwal, who claimed to have played a vital role in making auto drivers join AAP during elections, today said that despite being called the “so-called hero” of the RTI movement, Kejriwal’s party was running away from answering quesrins under the Right to Information Act. “I have filed 13 RTI applications since October 30, 2013 with the AAP but none of the applications have been acknowledged. Appeals were filed against two of the applications but even those have gone without a reply,” Agarwal, secretary of Nyayabhoomi, told reporters here. He told reporters said that last year, party leaders Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal advocated the implementation of RTI act within political parties, but AAP was now refusing to supply information under the RTI Act. “Why is Mr. Kejriwal not bringing out the details of every rupee spent on his rally despite the fact that he claimed that AAP was getting donations from public?” he asked. He said that his 13 RTI applications pertained to funds received by way of donations and membership, details of expenses, statements of the party’s bank accounts, internal elections, candidates selections process and the proof of corruption against politicians whom Kejriwal has called corrupt in the recent weeks. “While Arvind Kejriwal was in the chair, the chief minister’s performance on RTI was at its worst ever. I had asked for reasons for the transfers of the two transport commissioners. The CM’s office replied that the citizens have no right to ask why the transfer happen,” he said. (The Financial Express 25/2/14)

 

6. UP government’s RTI record miserable: Study (1)

LUCKNOW: Section 4 of the RTI Act says that every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed and ensure that they get computerized so that all important details related to these public authorities get published within 120 days of enactment of this Act. However, a study conducted by RTI activists Amitabh Thakur and Nutan Thakur.reveals that ground realities of Uttar Pradesh government are contrary to the mandate. The couple studied the status of RTI in 81 Departments of the UP Government mentioned at the Home page of the website (http://upgov.nic.in/allsites.asp), particularly related to the mandatory information that needs to be provided under section 4(1)(b). The study found that almost none have provided the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, required for discharging functions in the electronic form. It was also found that in many cases information provided was old. In fact, some of websites of departments are still carrying names of ministers in previous BSP rule – Nasimuddin Siddique in cane development, Narayan Singh in horticulture, Lalji Verma in parliamentary affairs and JN Rai in handloom department. These ministers left office in March 2012. Similarly, the names of retired officers like RK Sharma in the horticulture, Sri Krishna in handloom and SC Gupta in the IT department can also be found in respective websites. Names of the public information officers and Appellate Authority of many departments are also old. In many cases only names have been provided with no other necessary detail. Further, while many departments have not provided details of annual budget, some departments have uploaded budgets but they are of financial years 2008-09 or 2009-10. Departments like basic education, coordination, culture, finance, fisheries, infrastructure development etc have provided almost negligible information. Samagra gram vikas, small scale industries and export promotion departments do not even mention about the RTI Act while revenue and vidhai departments have links to the RTI section but these links are not operational. The governor office has information only in English while the chief minister office has limited information provided under RTI Act. (Times of India 26/2/14)

 

7. Manch files RTI complaint against power regulator (1)

PUNE: City-based Sajag Nagarik Manch has filed a complaint against the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Merc), before state information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, saying that the commission had failed to make public why it was holding only one public hearing on the tariff revision proposal of the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd ( MSEDCL). The distribution company earlier this month filed a petition seeking to recover Rs 9,312 crore from consumers, which would translate into a power tariff hike of 18 to 20%. As against the normal practice of holding public hearings at the revenue division headquarters, the commission decided to hold only one hearing in Mumbai. Sajag Nagarik Manch founder Vivek Velankar has said in the complaint, “The commission has scheduled a public hearing in Mumbai on February 28. The hearing is scheduled for an increase in tariff for all categories of consumers. Till date, every such hearing has been conducted in all the divisional headquarters, like Pune, Nagpur, Amravati, Nashik, Mumbai and Aurangabad. But this time, the commission has taken an administrative decision to conduct the hearing (only) in Mumbai. As a result, consumers and (representatives of) non-governmental organisations across the state will have to go to Mumbai for the hearing.” He said the decision affects consumers from all divisional headquarters. Velankar said that as per section 4 (1) (C) and section 4 (1) (D) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the commission should have proactively published facts and reasons behind their administrative decision to conduct the hearing only in Mumbai, but it has not done so. “Considering the above facts, I amsubmitting my complaint under section 18 of the RTI Act, against the commission for not publishing the facts and reasons behind their administrative decision,” he said. He urged the information commissioner to consider the complaint on a priority basis and direct the commission to immediately publish the required information. (Times of India 27/2/14)

 

8. RTI is Cherished, Don’t Misuse It: Delhi HC (1)

NEW DELHI: Observing that the RTI Act was intended to be a “formidable tool” in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and bring in transparency and accountability, the Delhi High Court has cautioned “not to misuse” the Act by impractical demands for disclosure. Justice Manmohan said the Right to Information (RTI) was a “cherished right” and seeking answers to “meaningless and vague queries” would adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The high court was hearing a plea from the external affairs ministry challenging the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) for imposing a cost of Rs.25,000 on the ministry after it failed to supply information within the prescribed time. A man named Praveen Gupta had sought information from the ministry on steps taken to improve Hindi language, steps taken to make Hindi the national language, and what kind of work was being done by ministry in Hindi, among others. Hearing the ministry’s plea, Justice Manmohan said the primary duty of the ministry officials is to maintain good diplomatic relations with countries and to promote and protect the political and economic interest of India abroad. “If the limited manpower and resources of the ministry are devoted to address such meaningless and vague queries, this court is of the opinion that the office of the ministry would come to a standstill,” the court said, setting aside the CIC order. The court said it has a view that the Act “should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquillity and harmony among its citizens”.It said the Act should not be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. “The nation does not want a scenario where 75 percent of the staff of public authorities spends 75 percent of their time collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. “The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees prioritising information furnishing at the cost of their normal and regular duties,” Justice Manmohan said. The court also said it was necessary “to clear some misconceptions about the RTI Act”.The RTI Act provides access to all information available and existing, but where the information sought is not a part of the record of a public authority, it does not cast an obligation upon the public authority to collect or collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant, the court added. (New Indian Express 1/3/14)

 

9. RTI activist shot dead for seeking information (1)

Lucknow: Zakir Siddique, an RTI activist, was allegedly shot dead by the supporters of panchyat chief of Lalbojhi village in Uttar Pradesh’s Shravasti district, about 250 kilometres from here, late on Saturday night. The panchayat chief’s husband Jagdev Verma and other supporters have been charged with killing Zakir after the victim’s wife Kamanrunnisha lodged an FIR in this regard, police sources said. According to reports, Zakir had sought details of development works being undertaken in the village by the panchayat chief and had filed an application under the RTI Act with the district development officer. “He would often visit the district officials and complain about the lack of development works or misappropriation of funds by the panchayat office bearers and demand action,” Kamanrunnisha said. He also reportedly threatened to approach the state information commission as district officials were reluctant to provide him the information. The panchayat chief’s husband and his supporters had warned Zakir of serious consequences and asked him to withdraw his RTI query but he had declined. Jagdev Verma and his supporters intercepted Zakir near his home on Saturday night and allegedly opened fire at him after an altercation. Zakir was rushed to the near by community health centre at Ikauna where he was declared brought dead. Four people were taken into custody in connection with the killing while a main accused was absconding and a hunt has been launched to nab him, the police said. RTI activists had been killed in the past for seeking information and threatening to expose corrupt public officials. An RTI activist had been killed in UP’s Sonebhadra district earlier. (Deccan Herald 2/3/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

10. Editors Guild of India deplores attack on media by Arvind Kejriwal and Gen V.K.Singh (1)

New Delhi: Expressing concern over the growing attacks on the media by political leaders and public figures, President of Editors Guild of India N. Ravi said political leaders should be open criticism to their functioning and flaws being exposed, and appealed that public figures should not to resort to vague and unsubstantiated charges of corrupt motives and abuses towards the media when refuting. Expressing concern over the growing attacks on the media by political leaders and public figures, President of Editors Guild of India N. Ravi said political leaders should be open criticism to their functioning and flaws being exposed, and appealed that public figures should not to resort to vague and unsubstantiated charges of corrupt motives and abuses towards the media when refuting. “The Editors Guild of India notes with concern the growing attacks and unsubstantiated charges levelled against the media by political leaders and public figures dissatisfied with the coverage of their activities or with criticism from the media,” Ravi was stated in a statement issued. “It is distressing to find a person like Gen. V. K Singh using the term ‘presstitutes’ to describe journalists who wrote a story on the movement of army units causing concern to the government, a statement unbecoming of a former chief of the Indian army,” he was stated in the statement. He said it is equally disquieting to find Arvind Kejriwal attributing corrupt motives to the media that were critical of him and charging media with being pressured into ignoring him without coming up with specific details or material to substantiate such charges. He asserted that the tendency to attack or abuse the media is not restricted to the newer players, and leaders of established parties are not immune to it either. “Ironically, leaders who built up reputations and support by engaging the public through the media are now turning on the very media when they come under critical scrutiny,” he added. He argued that the media that question and criticise political leaders and indeed every section of society should of course be open to criticism, even if it is harsh, of its functioning and to its flaws being exposed. “The problem arises, however, when abuse and vague, unsubstantiated accusations of corrupt motives take the place of reasoned refutation and debate. An additional danger is that some of the followers could take their cue from the statements of leaders and may not stop with verbal attacks. Both print and television journalists have been subject to physical violence as well by political party workers,” he added. He appealed to political leaders and public figures not to resort to vague, unsubstantiated charges of corrupt motives and abuses when refuting, questioning or criticizing the media, and keep the public discourse civil and within reasonable bounds. (DNA 25/2/14)

 

11. Indian home minister threatens to ‘stamp out’ media critics (1)

NEW DELHI: India’s home minister has threatened to “stamp out” journalists who have been “trouble mongering” ahead of national polls due by May, underlining pressures on the media during a bitter election campaign. The comments by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, criticised by social media and opposition parties, came after a former army chief referred to reporters recently as “presstitutes.” Speaking on Monday, Shinde accused the media of “stirring up trouble” and manipulating news about his Congress party at a rally in the western state of Maharashtra. “The intelligence wing is under me, so I know from where such activities are launched and I watch them … Now we have decided to stamp out such trouble mongering mentalities from this country,” Shinde said. The Editors Guild of India on Monday objected to what it called “unsubstantiated charges” against the media, including by anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal who has alleged a nexus between media organisations and Indian companies. Shinde attempted to clarify his comments on Tuesday, saying he was referring to social media and the spreading of rumours. “It was not on journalists,” Shinde was quoted as saying by news channel CNN-IBN. Opinion polls predict defeat for Congress at the looming elections, with voters troubled by persistently high inflation, slowing economic growth and a string of corruption scandals. Kejriwal said on the weekend that Mukesh Ambani, India’s wealthiest man who heads the giant Reliance Industries conglomerate, controlled and “bought some TV channels and newspapers.” Kejriwal was hinting at news channel CNN-IBN and other channels of the Network 18 group, one of India’s largest broadcast companies, in which the Reliance group holds an indirect shareholding. “(The) Broadcast media association is very concerned by these kind of allegations (by Shinde) which are unsubstantiated and which are a product of frustration of the political class,” said NK Singh, general secretary of the Broadcast Editors Association. The Indian media, a pillar of the country’s vibrant democracy, has come under fire over its integrity in the past. The industry was riddled with corruption that saw journalists report positive stories for cash in a phenomenon known as “paid news,” a Press Council of India probe found in 2010. A parliamentary report on paid news last year slammed the government for failing to tackle the issue and threw a damning light on an industry that is meant to serve as a bulwark against corruption. Regional newspapers in vernacular languages are the biggest culprits but their national English language counterparts do not escape criticism, the probes said. Even venerable newspapers like the Times of India and Hindustan Times have been in the firing line.(Tribune 26/2/14)

 

12. Ahead of LS polls, Kolkata Election Commission to hold workshop for media persons (1)

Kolkata: Like in other states, the Election Commission (EC) will organise a workshop in West Bengal for mediapersons ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to reach its directives upto the grassroot level and prevent electoral malpractices. “For the first time, such a nationwide drive has been undertaken by the EC to prevent electoral malpractices, educate the media in particular and help its directives percolate upto grassroot level to ensure free and fair poll,” state’s Assistant Chief Electoral Officer Amit Jyoti Bhattacharya said. The workshop would be held in Kolkata on March 4 in collaboration with the state Information and Cultural Affairs Department and the Press Information Bureau (PIB), Bhattacharya said. West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sunil Gupta said that the day-long deliberation and interaction would go into the details of the entire election process  “to ensure how we can make it free, fair and incident-free.” Similar workshops had already been conducted by the EC for nine recognised political parties in the state, he said. “Besides paid news, the workshop will deal with subjects like media monitoring operations, certification committees, Model Code of Conduct and Sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that deals with restrictions on publishing election-related news,” Bhattacharya said. On behalf of the EC,  the state Information and Cultural Affairs department would invite two journalists each from all media houses, who are accredited to the state government, for  participating in the day-long session, he said. The media houses should impose self-regulation on themselves and exercise caution while publishing the news related  to elections, the Commission sources said. Noting that “print and electronic media are eyes and ears on the ground” to the Commission, they said that the EC would take suo motu complaint based on media reports about violation of Model Code of Conduct during the election process and initiate action against the erring political parties. Terming ‘money power’ to influence  voters as a barrier for conducting free and fair elections, the sources said that spending unaccounted money through paid news by political parities was not a healthy trend either for political parties, governments or the economy. Media should follow Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that “prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.” The EC will also set up state and district level media certification and monitoring committees (MCMC) to check instances of paid news ahead of the upcoming polls. (Indian Express 28/2/14)

 

13. EC to seek probe into sting operation on opinion polls (1)

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission is likely to write to the Delhi Police suggesting a probe into the recent claims by a news channel that 11 opinion poll companies secretly interviewed by it were willing to manipulate their survey results. The Commission will also make a fresh pitch for banning of opinion polls by drawing the attention of the law ministry, information & broadcasting ministry as well as Press Council of India to the “sting operation” and emphasizing how it only vindicated the EC’s fears that opinion polls could be misused by political parties to influence the voter’s judgment. The EC’s letters to the Delhi Police Commissioner, law secretary, I&B secretary and Press Council of India chairman, come days after a Congress team led by Ajay Maken met the full Commission, seeking its intervention to check the alleged “doctoring” of poll projections and crack the whip on the pollsters “exposed” in the sting operation. Sources in the Commission told TOI that a communication is headed to the Delhi Police, requesting it to verify the claims of the news channel and, accordingly, order an investigation against the opinion poll companies found, prima facie, manipulating poll projections in favour of a particular party. At the same time, the EC will reiterate its decade-old recommendation to the government to ban opinion polls during the course of elections. Its missive to the law ministry, which follows nearly half a dozen reminders on the issue, is expected to highlight how the “expose” had shown that even the big names in the business were allegedly willing to tamper their survey results. EC will assert that an opinion poll ban had become imperative for free and fair elections. Both I&B ministry and Press Council of India may be asked by EC to ensure proper dissemination of opinion poll results in the electronic and print media. The Press Council has made certain recommendations for publishing of opinion polls in the print media, including a mention of the institutions that carry out the survey, the sample size, the methodology and the possible margin of error. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

14. Dalit groom beaten for riding buggy (2)

NEW DELHI: In a shocking instance of caste discrimination in the capital, a dalit groom was dragged down from his buggy by two upper caste men barely 200 metres from the wedding venue in Maidangarhi, south Delhi, on Thursday night. The two upper caste men – brothers who were drunk at the time – have been arrested under the SC/ST Act. The two are alleged to have made derogatory remarks against dalits and said that the groom, Sumit Singh, was not qualified to sit on a buggy. Maidangarhi, close to the plush Sainik Farms locality, is an urban village dominated by the Jat community. “Such an incident has happened here for the first time. Shockingly, the upper caste residents of the village aren’t even apologetic,” said Radhey Shyam, grandfather of the bride, Shanta. The procession reached near the community centre, which is hardly used, around 10pm. Sumit got into the buggy from his car to go towards Shanta’s house. “Dharmendra and Jitender came out of nowhere and started abusing the groom. They then dragged him to the ground and roughed him up,” said Nanak Chand, Shanta’s father. “Pehle yahan ke naale saaf karo tabhi tu shaadi karega (first clean the drains and only then can you marry),” is what one of the brothers allegedly said to Sumit. The girl’s family had to not only fight off the aggressors but also pacify Sumit’s family, as shortly after this, they refused to allow the marriage. “For them, it was about their honour. Even the thought of them returning is agonizing. My son beseeched with them to stay,” said the septuagenarian Shyam. The girl’s family has alleged that despite several calls to Mehrauli police station, the cops remained unavailable and a formal complaint could only be registered after four hours. They further alleged that the PCR van refused to register a complaint saying it is the beat constable’s responsibility to inform the police station in such a situation. “The cops dilly-dallied. They even pressured us to compromise,” said Roshanlal, bride’s uncle and a PWD worker at the Vasant Kunj police station (north). Since he had been working with cops, he knew how to go file a complaint and insisted the cops give the suggestion for a compromise in writing. A case has now been registered under Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes Act. “A case has been registered under Section 341/323/34 and both the brothers have been arrested,” said a senior cop at the Mehrauli police station. The wedding was solemnized in the presence of police. Instead of taking the pheras at 12.30am, the couple did it at 3.30am. The dalits staying in about 50 houses are anxious as the area is still tense. Kishan has decided to drop his daughter to a nearby school himself. He fears an attempt to settle scores with the community. “Women are the first to be tortured in such cases. We heard that the Radhey Shyam’s family was warned of reprisal.” (Times of India 25/2/14)

 

15. Indian churches speak against discrimination faced by Dalits (2)

Member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in India have expressed deep concern over discrimination faced by Christian and Muslim Dalit communities there, demanding protection of the right to freedom of religion in a meeting with Prof. Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The meeting attended by a number of church leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, leaders of the Muslim community and representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, was organized by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). Bielefeldt is currently visiting India until 27 February on invitation from the civil society organizations including the Indian Social Institute and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. According to a news report of the NCCI, Dr Ramesh Nathan from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights spoke about numerous forms of “untouchability” resulting from the caste system practiced in India. Nathan added that Dalit Christians are most vulnerable to caste-based violence but are not protected by the Prevention of Atrocities Act in the Indian constitution, which is meant to prevent atrocities against the scheduled castes.

The Indian constitution includes Dalits in the list of scheduled castes as the most marginalized communities who need protection. However when converted to Christianity or Islam, these individuals and communities are excluded from these protective and affirmative measures offered by the Indian government. Haji Hafeez Ahmad Hawari, a representative of Muslim community shared at the NCCI meeting that his nomination to the national elections under the category of “caste with reserved constituency” was rejected because he is a follower of Islam. Hawari said that he experienced discrimination within the Muslim community as well as in the larger society because he is a Dalit; and yet because of his religion affiliation he could not seek the position reserved in the Indian constitution for scheduled castes. “Both Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslim are not considered Dalits by our government, and hence, they are denied affirmative action programmes that empower marginalized communities,” said Samuel Jayakumar, the NCCI’s executive secretary for the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness, who chaired the meeting. “We see this as religion based discrimination against Christian and Muslim Dalits in India,” he said. Leila Passah, general secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of India also brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur the “inhumane treatment meted out to the Dalit community by the Indian police, when they organized a peaceful protest in Delhi.” She said “the police beat up protestors with sticks as Christian and Muslim leaders marched towards the Parliament House to hand over to the prime minster of India a memorandum of demands.” Around 30 people were injured in this incident and several protestors including church leaders were detained in the police station on 11 December 2013, according to media reports. Bielefeldt recognized issues of discrimination against Dalits in India, calling religious conversion a test case for freedom of religion. He added that the right to equality has been denied to the Dalit community in India and they cannot be forced to follow a particular religion. Bielefeldt assured participants in the meeting that the UN human rights mechanism will continue to raise these issues at their forums.(ACNS 26/2/14)

 

16. Dalit Woman Custodial Death: Cops Acquitted (2)

MADURAI: A Madras High Court bench today acquitted all eight policemen in the case of the custodial death of a 48-year-old Dalit woman in 2002. Justice Aruna Jagadeesan set aside the judgement by a lower court given in February of last year and acquitted all the policemen after observing that the charge against them had not been proved. The lower court had sentenced the policemen to up to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. Karuppi, a domestic help, was accused by her employer of stealing a gold chain from his house. She was questioned at Parmakdui police station where she was allegedly tortured for six days. Her body was found hanging from a transmission tower behind the police station in the early hours of December 1, 2002. Police registered a case of suicide in the matter and denied that she had died at the police station. But various organisations took up the case and the policemen were convicted by the lower court in February, 2013. (New Indian Express 28/2/14)

 

17. Dalit Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (2)

BANGALORE: Karnataka Dalit Christian Okkoota has urged the Union government to bring Dalit Christians under the Scheduled Castes to ensure overall development of the community. Okkoota State convener Y. Mariswamy told presspersons here on Saturday that the living conditions of Dalit Christians had not improved since Independence. Dalit Christians, with an estimated population of over 30 lakh in the State, have been identified as Most Backward Class and brought under Category I of the Backward Classes. “Committees and commissions set up by the State and Union governments such as the Sachar Committee, Ranganath Misra Commission and C.S. Dwarakanath Committee have said that reservation should not be based on religion as religious conversion does not change the social and economical status of any community. The government should take note of this and bring Dalit Christians under the Scheduled Castes,” he said. The Okkoota has put before the government several demands, including relaxation of income limit for getting admission in students’ hostels and residential schools; setting up a development corporation for the welfare of Dalit Christians; representation for the community members in the Legislative Council, boards and corporations; and construction of community halls. (The Hindu 2/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

18. IMR lower than national average in 2011: Survey (3)

RANCHI: Death of children below the age of 28 days, which was 46 per thousand live births in 2000, has reduced to 24 per thousand live births according to annual health survey 2011-12. The rate, which was higher than the national average of 44 in 2000, has gone below the national average of 29 in 2011. This was discussed at Save the Children’s new global report ‘Ending newborn deaths, ensuring every baby survives’. On the occasion, Manish Ranjan, director of National Rural Health Mission, said, “Decreasing Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is definitely a good sign but our aim is to reduce it to zero.” Pointing at the reason behind IMR, Ranjan said lack of implementation of various schemes and not being able to reach the interior regions are the main reasons behind infant mortality. He said, “There are various reasons like non functioning of, or, ineffective sub centres, high absentees of auxiliary nurses midwifery (ANMs) and non availability of doctors.” He added, “There are 2,400 Mamta Vahans in the state to take pregnant women to hospitals for institutional delivery which reduces infant mortality. But, the Mamta Vahans are not properly distributed in every area. In urban areas, there are more number of these vehicles while in remote areas the number is less. Besides, we have found that the drivers of these vehicles avoid travelling at night and do not receive phone calls late in the night in remote areas.” Another major problem, pointed out by Ranjan, is the lack of complete data in government’s Mother and Child Tracking System. He said, “We have only 70% data of the new born children and their mothers. If the data is complete we will be able to assure that ANMs pay regular visit to those who are registered and provide regular guidance to them for keeping the child healthy.” There are more than 40,000 sahiyas in the state but most are unaware of their role. “More than their duties the sahiyas are concerned about how to get a permanent government job. Sahiya training and motivation is very important and I request the development stakeholders to start an accreditation and certification system for sahiyas so that they feel secure about their job and can concentrate on their work,” said Ranjan. Speaking on the topic prevention of infant mortality, Unicef state head, Job Zachariah, who was also present during the programme said simple steps can ensure decrease in infant mortality. Explaining the steps he said, “Institutional delivery, providing iron folic acid tablets to women and girls, breast feeding within one hour of birth and guidance by sahiyas can help in reducing infant mortality.” (Times of India 26/2/14)

 

19. Delhi records highest infant mortality rate among metros, Chennai lowest (3)

New Delhi: The National Capital had the worst Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) among the four metropolitan cities between 2010 and 2012 with 30 newborns dying for every 1,000 live births, a new report has said. A substantial 64 per cent die within the first 28 days of their birth. Though the IMR has come down to 25 per 1,000 live births in the past months, the progress in reduction of neo-natal mortality rate (NMR) has been slower, according to ‘Save the Children’ global report ‘Ending newborn deaths, ensuring every baby survives’ that was launched here on Tuesday. In 2012, three million babies died within the first 28 days of their birth and a million babies died within the first 24 hours of their birth, it says. Comparatively, Chennai recorded the lowest IMR of 15 per 1,000 live births and in Mumbai and Kolkata it was 20 per 1,000 live births. In respect to Delhi, where 50 percent of the children live in slums and 14.71 per cent of its population is below poverty line — the focus of National Health Mission on maternal and child health, and especially new born by providing adequate number of skilled frontline health workers, building community mechanisms for monitoring and a stronger health system will enable the state to lead on tackling new born child survival, the report points out. While there has been significant progress on ensuring child survival in India, the fact that nearly 40 per cent of neo-natal deaths occur on the 1st day of birth in India is stalling progress on achieving Millennium Development Goal- 4 (reducing IMR). India accounts for an astounding 29 per cent of the global deaths of newborns on their very first day of birth. About half the first-day deaths around the world could be prevented if every mother and baby had access to free and quality health care and skilled birth attendants. (The Hindu 26/2/14)

 

20. Need to implement total sanitation programme: Chidambaram (3)

Sivaganga (TN): Regretting that people still use open toilets all over the country, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram today stressed the need to expedite and intensify implementation of the total sanitation programme to prevent such habits. Inaugurating a sanitation facility for 15 schools in this district, he said the UPA government’s law that corporates should spend two per cent of their profits for social causes had brought funds for 26 toilets in these schools. Noting that an NGO Sulabh was providing toilet facilities throughout the length and breadth of the country, he said it was shameful that even so many years after Independence, people in many parts of the country still use open toilet. “A movement has to be started to provide toilet facilities to all,” he said. The toilets in the 15 schools were constructed under the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative by the India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd. Chidambaram also declared open a renovated building of the MP’s Office in this town. He also inaugurated a coconut coir rope cluster unit at Singampurani and addressed its members,coir rope manufacturers and workers Association. The Minister said the unit had been started at a cost of Rs 6.59 crore, with the Centre providing Rs five crore, Tamil Nadu government Rs 66 lakh and workers contributing Rs 93 lakh. The workers would earn between Rs 250 to Rs 600 per day, he said. (Zee News 27/2/14)

 

21. NUHM launched in Maharashtra, will help 2 crore slum dwellers (3)

MUMBAI: The state government announced the launch of the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) on Sunday to focus on the healthcare needs of 2 crore slum dwellers living in 95 districts. The NUHM launch follows the flagging off of the dial 108 for a free ambulance scheme on March 1. The state government announced on Sunday that the Centre has sanctioned Rs 162 crore for Maharashtra’s NUHM for the financial year ending March 2014. Of this, Rs 35 crore has been reserved for Mumbai alone. “We got the approval from the union government on Saturday,” said state health minister Suresh Shetty, adding that recruitment of additional medical staff and ASHAs (accredited social health activists) will begin on Monday itself. Public health specialist Dr Anant Phadke said the setting up of the NUHM was a welcome move. “The focus seems to be on the government spending on healthcare and not on roping in the private sector,” he said. Expert Ravi Duggal however, said, the timing of the launch suggested it was a poll-related sop. “It is no doubt a start, but the government shouldn’t forget about the mission a few months down the line,” he said. NUHM is the urban equivalent of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which was launched in 2005. “Progress has been made under the NRHM in rural areas for strengthening the public healthcare system, but the urban poor still lack access to essential primary healthcare services. They often have to depend on the unorganized and, at times, unqualified private providers, leading to heavy out-of-pocket expenses. Realizing this gap in the public health system, the government of India launched the NUHM to supplement the NRHM,” said the union government’s announcement of the Maharashtra NUHM. The state NUHM will work in 6,000-odd slums identified across 95 disctrict. Around 6,000 ASHAs will be needed to cover the 2 crore slum-dwellers identified in the state, said health officials. State health minister Shetty said the civic corporation in Mumbai will now work more closely with the state public health department. “In Mumbai, we want to focus on further bringing down infant mortality and maternal mortality rates. As there is a provision under the NUHM to give free medicines to the poor, patients in the BMC- and state-run hospitals will benefit,” he added. (Tiomes of India 3/3/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

22. Minorities in Trichy raise pitch for more rights (7)

TRICHY: The Catholic Association of Trichy Diocese has embarked upon creating a ‘minority vote bank’ which it said would fight for their collective rights. The association held a meeting at St Joseph’s college on Sunday and passed a few resolutions including converting dalit Christians into the dalit fold for the purpose of reservation. The first ever socio-religious-political revival meeting also pressed for the implementation of the recommendation of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The Ranganath Misra Commission had recommended that a 15% share be earmarked for the minorities with a break up of 10% for the Muslims (as they form 73% of the total minority population) and 5% for other minorities in all government schemes. The meeting demanded that the dalit Christians should be accorded the status of dalits under the constitution for the sake of availing the benefits of government reservation policy and other subsidies. The meeting passed 10 resolutions including one against death penalty and asked the Christians to vote for candidates who did not have religious or caste leanings. Interestingly, the Muslim community too organized a similar conference for the welfare of minorities on the same premises demanding implementation of a charter of resolutions that were passed at the meeting. The apolitical organizers had invited Sehba Farooqui, the national vice-president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), the women’s wing of the CPI(M), to Trichy to plead for 10% reservation for Muslims. Farooqui said that a mere meeting would not bring in the desired effect, but it must be a sustained fight for a social betterment of minorities including Muslims rather than the change of government or seeking sops from the political masters. This meeting passed a resolution to implement the Sachar committee report that had mentioned that the rate of literacy rate among the Muslims is very much below the national average and children of Muslim parents in the 6-14 age group had either never attended school or have dropped out. Farooqui later told TOI that the minorities’ welfare meeting must fight against the stereotyping of Muslims as uneducated, backward people always wearing a prayer cap and sporting a beard. “You must understand the politics of stereotyping of Muslims and they must realize that they cannot fight alone in the long battle.” (Times of India 25/2/14)

 

23. Mizoram Church prays for sustainence of alcohol prohibition law (7)

Aizawal: A day after legislators gave a lukewarm response over a plea to continue prohibiting alcohol in Mizoram, the state’s largest church organisation has urged its members to pray for the continued implementation of the 18-year-old law. In a statement, the Mizoram Presbyterian Church said it believes “violent crimes such as murder, rape and accidents are mostly committed under the influence of alcohol.”

“We urge all our members to pray for the success and continuation of the prohibition law,” the statement said. The statement also recalled the church’s own assessment from 1994 (two years before Mizoram’s dry law was passed) that showed 65 per cent of the widows lost their husbands to alcohol abuse. The state government is preparing a new law that will allow the sale and consumption of liquor in the state, albeit with stringent punishment against offenders such as those found driving while drunk. The bill is expected to be introduced in the state assembly this March. Leaders of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church, which boasts a membership of more than half the state’s 11 lakh population, had urged legislators to continue implementing the dry law during a meeting with them Tuesday. Except for Assembly Speaker Hiphei, none of the 31 legislators present – including Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla –offered comment. Hiphei said it was his personal opinion that the church should take a fresh view towards prohibition given the urge to drink turns many to consume spurious alcohol (Indian Express 26/2/14)

 

24. Indian churches speak against discrimination faced by Dalits (2)

Member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in India have expressed deep concern over discrimination faced by Christian and Muslim Dalit communities there, demanding protection of the right to freedom of religion in a meeting with Prof. Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The meeting attended by a number of church leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, leaders of the Muslim community and representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, was organized by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). Bielefeldt is currently visiting India until 27 February on invitation from the civil society organizations including the Indian Social Institute and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. According to a news report of the NCCI, Dr Ramesh Nathan from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights spoke about numerous forms of “untouchability” resulting from the caste system practiced in India. Nathan added that Dalit Christians are most vulnerable to caste-based violence but are not protected by the Prevention of Atrocities Act in the Indian constitution, which is meant to prevent atrocities against the scheduled castes.

The Indian constitution includes Dalits in the list of scheduled castes as the most marginalized communities who need protection. However when converted to Christianity or Islam, these individuals and communities are excluded from these protective and affirmative measures offered by the Indian government. Haji Hafeez Ahmad Hawari, a representative of Muslim community shared at the NCCI meeting that his nomination to the national elections under the category of “caste with reserved constituency” was rejected because he is a follower of Islam. Hawari said that he experienced discrimination within the Muslim community as well as in the larger society because he is a Dalit; and yet because of his religion affiliation he could not seek the position reserved in the Indian constitution for scheduled castes. “Both Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslim are not considered Dalits by our government, and hence, they are denied affirmative action programmes that empower marginalized communities,” said Samuel Jayakumar, the NCCI’s executive secretary for the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness, who chaired the meeting. “We see this as religion based discrimination against Christian and Muslim Dalits in India,” he said. Leila Passah, general secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of India also brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur the “inhumane treatment meted out to the Dalit community by the Indian police, when they organized a peaceful protest in Delhi.” She said “the police beat up protestors with sticks as Christian and Muslim leaders marched towards the Parliament House to hand over to the prime minster of India a memorandum of demands.” Around 30 people were injured in this incident and several protestors including church leaders were detained in the police station on 11 December 2013, according to media reports. Bielefeldt recognized issues of discrimination against Dalits in India, calling religious conversion a test case for freedom of religion. He added that the right to equality has been denied to the Dalit community in India and they cannot be forced to follow a particular religion. Bielefeldt assured participants in the meeting that the UN human rights mechanism will continue to raise these issues at their forums.(ACNS 26/2/14)

 

25. 7 Worst Riots That Rocked India (7)

BANGALORE: In India, religious violence is often accompanied with an act of aggression by supporters of one religious group against followers and organizations of another religious class, mostly in the form of mutiny. It is during the riots when people rely on killing, damage to property, raping, looting and widespread destruction to get their point across. The communal riot that broke out in Muzaffarnagar, UP, in 2013 has once again raised the bar among Indians, who are on the rise of communal clashes in the country and the nature of its sensitivity among the religious groups. Here is the list of 7 grievous communal riots that India witnessed as listed by IndiaTV. 2013 Muzaffarnagar Violence: Muzaffarnagar has witnessed sporadic clashes from 27th August, 2013. The tension in this town escalated after three youths were killed in a wrangle, that was caused due to an incident of eve-teasing. The riots took away lives of 40 people and have left 81 people severely injured. During the riots, people began firing at members of other community, and went on a stabbing spree. Thousands of people left their villages out of fear, but normalcy has gradually returned with the intervention from both communities. (Silicon India 27/2/14)

 

26. Rajnath revises apology offer – Sangh hand seen in amendment (7)

New Delhi, Feb. 26: The BJP has amended its president Rajnath Singh’s offer of apology to Muslims, saying the Congress must do so to the nation. The change in tone fuelled suggestions that the RSS was upset with Rajnath for sounding “over the top”. Addressing a gathering of Muslims at a closed-door convention organised by the BJP’s minority wing and the RSS’s Rashtriya Muslim Manch in Delhi yesterday, Rajnath was quoted by PTI as saying: “Please note that whenever, wherever, if there has been any mistake and shortcomings on our part, I assure you that we will apologise to you by bowing our heads.” The BJP chief did not mention any specific “mistake” the party might have committed. But Rajnath talked about the 2002 Gujarat violence and the allegations against Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister. The BJP president maintained that the party was not against Muslims and the community should, therefore, not fall prey to “propaganda”. “People claim that Muslims are afraid of Modi. But there are several Muslim representatives elected on the BJP symbol in Gujarat. In fact, the highest per capita Muslim income is in Gujarat. What you (the Congress) could not do in 55 years, he (Modi) has done in 10 years. Now, even the court has ruled that the allegations against him (in connection with the Gujarat riots) are baseless. What else is left against him?” he asked. Wittingly or unwittingly, the juxtaposition of Rajnath’s entreaty to Muslims with Gujarat 2002 caused an inference that his statement amounted to a mea culpa to the minorities. A source close to the BJP president claimed today that his statement must be read as an “anticipatory apology” for “mistakes” the party might commit in the future towards the minorities. “He meant in future, he will make amends,” the source stressed. The RSS had accepted the BJP’s broadly agreed upon strategy to not raise communal issues in the prelude to the Lok Sabha elections and to not get “provoked” by the Congress’s “baits” to “communally polarise” the discourse. The BJP is also keen to mothball controversial topics to keep alive the possibility of attracting fresh allies if the NDA falls short of majority. But the RSS is not expected to loosen the leash to such an extent that the BJP risks alienating its core base and starts believing that the political leadership can call the shots. It is learnt that sections of the RSS and the BJP were as upset with Rajnath as they were with L.K. Advani for allegedly going overboard on Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Pakistan. “The BJP president could have focused his speech on the need for inclusive development and growth for all communities instead of going into perceived mistakes of omissions and commissions,” a Sangh source said. Today, the BJP “clarified” and “amended” Rajnath’s statements by resorting to the usual defence of being “misquoted”. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain put the onus of apologising on the Congress, quoting Rajnath’s tweets. “The Congress and its government have destroyed the communal and social harmony of India. The BJP has always pursued the path of social harmony and positive secularism. The Congress must apologise to the nation and not the BJP,” said Hussain.The Shiv Sena, the BJP’s oldest ally, publicly protested Rajnath’s address. Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said: “I do not think anybody needs to apologise on the Godhra issue.” Raut wondered that if the BJP — whose “hallmark”, he said, was Hindutva — spoke in this fashion, there would be little to differentiate it from the Congress. (The Telegraph 27/2/14)

 

27. Principal booked for asking Muslim student to cut beard in Moradabad (7)

Lucknow: An FIR has been filed against the principal of a private college in Moradabad for reportedly refusing to give a Muslim student his admit card for the Class 12 board exams because he had not shaved his beard. The case has been lodged against Wilsonia College principal, A S Santram, under IPC Section 298 (uttering words etc with deliberate intent to hurt religious feelings) at the Civil Lines police station. While Moradabad District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar has ordered a magisterial inquiry, SSP Ashutosh Kumar said the matter is being investigated. According to the complaint, the student, Abdul Basit Ali Khan, went to the college on Monday to collect his admit card for the exams which began on Tuesday. But the principal allegedly told him to first shave his beard, and warned him if he did not comply, he would not get his admit card. The student then called up his father, Wajahat Khan, who asked his brother, Nadeem Ali Khan, to look into the matter. “My brother asked me to go and find out what was the problem. I went and met the principal. She was adamant that she would not give the admit card unless Abdul shaved his beard. I pointed out that the exam was beginning on Tuesday, and there is no law that says a bearded student beard cannot appear for the exam. She said the college prospectus mentions that a student should shave,” said Nadeem Ali Khan. “I called up some officials and told them that my nephew was being harassed for keeping a beard. Following intervention from several persons, including a district administration official, the principal finally gave the admit card,” he claimed, adding that Abdul appeared for his first exam on Tuesday. When contacted, Santram said she did not mean to hurt the feelings of any community. “I asked the boy to shave because he did not have a beard in the photograph on his admit card. It could create problems for him,” she said, claiming that several persons reached her office and created a ruckus. Stating that the college is around 48 years old and 60 per cent of students and 40 per cent of teachers are Muslims, Santram said according to the school norms, all boys are required to shave. Meanwhile, a delegation of clerics met Additional District Magistrate Praveen Mishra on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum demanding action against the principal. Santram and some principals of other schools are also reported to have met the DM and filed a complaint. (Indian Express 27/2/14)

 

28. No change in policy on communal riots in Gujarat: US (7)

Washington: The United States continues to express concern about communal violence in India, the Obama Administration has said, strongly refuting reports that it has gone soft on the Gujarat communal riots in 2002 and the alleged role of its Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “I wouldn’t characterise our assessment that way. I think you’ll find if you review the text that we’re very clear about our concerns about several episodes of communal violence across India,” US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday. Psaki was responding to a question on the latest annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by Secretary of State John Kerry. “If Modi was mentioned in previous human rights reports for India by name, and (why) he is not mentioned in this one,” she was asked. Paski said that there is no change in the US policy on communal riots in Gujarat about a decade ago. Both the annual reports of the 2011 and 2012 mention Modi in its report but it no way refers to his role in the communal riots. The latest report said: “Civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to protect the population or arrest many of those responsible for communal violence in 2002 that resulted in the killings of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim, although there was progress in several court cases,” the report said. “The Gujarat government appointed the Nanavati-Mehta Commission to investigate the 2002 violence. In December, the Gujarat government granted an extension for the 21st time, extending the commission to June 30, 2014,” it said. The State Department said the Gujarat government withdrew its consent to seek the death penalty for former minister Maya Kodnani and others convicted in the 2002 Naroda Patiya violence that killed 97 Muslims. The investigating agency questioned the Gujarat government’s move in a petition in the Supreme Court in June. Kodnani, the first senior politician to be convicted for 2002 violence, was sentenced to a 28-year jail term for her involvement in the post-Godhra riots case. The report also talked about last year’s communal violence in the Muzaffarnagar area of Uttar Pradesh that led to 65 reported deaths, 42,000 persons displaced, and hundreds of injuries during the months of August and September. “The violence started with a sexual harassment incident between a Muslim man and a Hindu Jat woman and escalated following a political meeting of officials and others from more than 300 local villages during the weekend of September 7-8,” it said. (Zee News 1/3/14)

 

29. Murder charges dog Modi’s right-hand man Shah (7)

Ahmedabad: To supporters, Shah’s proven talent in winning elections makes him the obvious choice to run Modi’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, a swing state that holds the key to national power. But for critics, Modi’s ties to Shah are proof that there is a dark side to the Hindu nationalist leader now storming ahead in opinion polls on promises to sweep away corruption and economic mismanagement. Modi’s popularity stems in large part from his record of governance as chief minister of Gujarat, an economic powerhouse. But he himself is dogged by accusations that he turned a blind eye to sectarian riots in Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people – mainly Muslims – were killed in 2002. He denies any wrongdoing and the Supreme Court has said there is not enough evidence to proceed against him. “We were shocked,” said Mukul Sinha, a lawyer representing relatives of victims in the cases against Shah, commenting on his appointment as campaign manager for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state. “This man faces criminal charges. But if Modi wins, he could be one of India’s most powerful politicians,” he said, referring to the possibility that Shah could become a senior federal minister. An election due by May will pit Modi’s BJP against the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty’s Congress party, whose popularity has wilted after two terms in power amid a sharp economic slowdown and corruption scandals. The BJP says Congress and other parties pander to minorities for votes. Congress counters that Modi and the BJP are biased, especially against Muslims. A stocky, bearded figure and son of a well-to-do businessman, Shah was interior minister for seven years in Gujarat before his 2010 arrest and subsequent release on bail. (Hindustan Times 2/3/14)

 

30. Dalit Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (7)

BANGALORE: Karnataka Dalit Christian Okkoota has urged the Union government to bring Dalit Christians under the Scheduled Castes to ensure overall development of the community. Okkoota State convener Y. Mariswamy told presspersons here on Saturday that the living conditions of Dalit Christians had not improved since Independence. Dalit Christians, with an estimated population of over 30 lakh in the State, have been identified as Most Backward Class and brought under Category I of the Backward Classes. “Committees and commissions set up by the State and Union governments such as the Sachar Committee, Ranganath Misra Commission and C.S. Dwarakanath Committee have said that reservation should not be based on religion as religious conversion does not change the social and economical status of any community. The government should take note of this and bring Dalit Christians under the Scheduled Castes,” he said. The Okkoota has put before the government several demands, including relaxation of income limit for getting admission in students’ hostels and residential schools; setting up a development corporation for the welfare of Dalit Christians; representation for the community members in the Legislative Council, boards and corporations; and construction of community halls. (The Hindu 2/3/14)

 

31. Mulayam ridicules BJP ‘apology’ to Muslims (7)

Allahabad: Launching yet another scathing attack on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Sunday alleged that he had presided over “mass murder of Muslims” in 2002 in Gujarat and now his party was trying to hoodwink the community by talking of apology. “Musalmanon ka katleaam kara ke maafi maangte hain. Musalman bhai aapko nasamajh lagte hain? Yeh badi samajhdaar aur bahadur kaum hai. Jiske saath rehte hain, dil se rehte hain (You first preside over mass murder of Muslims and now you are seeking apology. Do you think Muslims don’t understand? They are a brave and intelligent community. If they support you, they do it from their heart).” Mulayam said. He was addressing the SP’s ‘Desh Bachao, Desh Banao’ rally in Allahabad even as as Modi addressed a rally in Lucknow. Hitting back at Modi for his taunt that Mulayam could not turn UP into a Gujarat as the feat required “a 56-inch-chest”, the SP chief recalled the 2002 Gujarat riots and how he went there without security. “Aapne security nahin di, phir bhi wahan gaye. Kiska seena 56-inch ka hua? (You did not provide me with security. Still I went there. So, who has the 56-inch chest now?),” asked Mulayam. In a double-barrelled attack on Congress-led UPA government and the BJP, he said that while former lacks courage, the saffron party does not have enough candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Taking a dig at LJP’s Ramvilas Paswan for joining hands with the BJP, and in an apparent reference to former army chief V K Singh joining the saffron party, Mulayam said, “The BJP does not have candidates. They are trying to garner some by bringing in people from other parties. Samajwadi Party mein candidates ki line lagee hai. UP, MP, Karnataka, Mumbai har jagah line lagee hai. But we are being careful in giving tickets.” “UPA sarkar ke paas hausla nahin hai. Ab jimmedaari aap par hai (the government does not have the courage. The responsibility now is on you),” Mulayam added. (Indian Express 3/3/14)

 

WOMEN

32. Pregnant woman beaten to death in Rajasthan (8)

Jaipur: Family members of a pregnant woman in Rajasthan have alleged that she was beaten to death by her in-laws when they came to know through a sex determination test that she would give birth to a girl child, police said Monday. Shivari Devi’s brother Ramdeen registered a first information report (FIR) in this regard in Jodhpur’s Bhopalgarh police station Sunday night. “The incident occurred in a nearby village where Shivari Devi stayed with her in-laws. The brother says that her in-laws informed him yesterday (Sunday) that she had died,” said police inspector Moolaram Choudhary. The officer said that as per the complaint, Shivari Devi, who was in her 20s, called up her brother a couple of days ago informing him that the in-laws had got a sex determination test carried out on her and were harassing her since they came to know that she was carrying a girl child. “He says that the in-laws wanted a boy child. He also says that there were injury marks on his sister’s body and she died after she was beaten up by her in-laws,” said the officer. Choudhary added the woman’s husband Sahiram is a pharmacist in a government hospital in Jodhpur. “We have launched an investigation into the allegations,” said the officer. Some areas are infamous in the state for female foeticide and infanticide cases. According to Census 2011, Rajasthan now has 883 girls between the ages of 0-6 for every 1,000 boys. The child sex ratio in 2001 was 909. (Zee News 25/2/14)

 

33. Men Healthier, Happier than women: Survey (8)

LONDON: Men are healthier and happier about their appearance than women in general, according to a new survey. Health and Happiness, a nationwide study of 2,000 men and women found that men reported a higher rate of happiness when it came to their weight, shape, appearance, and the way they are perceived by others. Women, on the other hand, were found to be more self-conscious and slightly less satisfied with their happiness levels at around 49 percent. Women are also much more likely to try dieting compared to men, reports femalefirst.co.uk. Men don’t feel stressed as often either. Almost 60 percent of male respondents said they only felt stressed once a month, whereas 60 percent of women said they felt anxious once a week or more. Over 70 percent of men also claim they rarely felt depressed or had mood swings, compared to half of women who admitted to feeling low or unhappy at least once a month, if not more. Headaches, bloating or poor digestion were less of a problem among men. Almost half of them said they rarely got headaches, compared to 64 percent women who said they experienced them at least once a month or more. For 70 percent of men, bloating and poor digestion would only occur once a month or less, but almost half of women said it was a weekly or daily problem. “The general perception is that women are more health conscious, but what this survey shows is that women do actually have more health issues to deal with, especially relating to digestion, mood, anxiety and sleep,” said leading nutrition expert, Patrick Holford, who conducted the research. “The results also show that respondents, regardless of their gender, considered the absence of disease to be an indicator of good health. But being healthy means more than that – it’s abundance of well-being indicated by good energy levels, a stable mood and a sharp mind, all of which achieve optimum health,” added Holford. (New Indian Express 25/2/14)

 

34. The rights of a woman (8)

Violence, day in and day out, strips women of their dignity, livelihood, health and peace of mind. Eleven advocates have got together to form an NGO called JWAALA to provide legal aid to such women. They want to create awareness about women’s rights and encourage them to thoroughly acquaint themselves with the mandatory provisions imposed by The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Act, 2013. JWAALA makes it its business to inform as many people as possible about these provisions. Says advocate Udaya Menon, one of the JWAALA members: “Post the Sexual Harassment Act, many companies and organisations have set up the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). Many have not done it yet. But even those that have are not fully aware of its components. Setting up inquiries without full understanding of the Act and its functioning is counter productive. A legal understanding is essential.” That is what JWAALA provides through its workshops and orientation programmes. JWAALA has already helped aggrieved women got them justice. Udaya says it is imperative that Government departments and educational institutions must have a system in place to tackle sexual harassment. Women in these institutions are especially vulnerable. K. Ambujam, another advocate, says: “We conduct these workshops for organisations as a whole, and for employers and employees separately. Most importantly, we train the members of the ICC on the inquiry process.” Mentioning a UN study that says that one in every five women in the world has been harassed in one way or another, Ambujam says, “I have been harassed too, and you and my colleagues…This harassment can be mitigated only if women are made aware of their rights.” Women should know how powerful this Act is. The men as well. It is not about estranging men; it is about creating man-woman harmony at the workspace, building confidence amongst women and empowering them to stand up against sexual harassment. Ambujam and Udaya say the ICC has as much power as a civil court. JWAALA’s aim is to bring that to the notice of employers and employees. And to ensure that all organisations put an effective and efficient complaint committee into place. “The law is empowering,” says Ambujam. “We want women to know that they can now insist on a safe working environment. It is their right.”  (The Hindu 26/2/14)

 

35. Police a long way behind in law of inclusion (8)

KOLKATA: A 15-year-old mentally challenged woman was allegedly gang-raped in a lorry in Cossipore on February 24. As if the brutal crime was not enough, she was taken to a police station to have her statement recorded. Not knowing what was happening to her, she turned violent and police had to rope in an NGO to help them out. At least 43 such women have been raped in Bengal in the past two years alone. The last one being the Cossipore case in which the woman couldn’t even understand she had been sexually assaulted. What adds to the trauma is that such survivors have to go through the same redress process although there are specific provisions to make it easier for them. “The law has been amended to bring in new provisions to deal with rape or sexual offence victims who are either physically or mentally challenged. Unfortunately, police are not implementing these provisions,” said Shampa Sengupta of Shruti DisAbility Rights Centre. The code for criminal procedure under the Disability Specific Clauses in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 makes the involvement of a professional interpreter or a special educator very crucial. For example it says that the complaint of the sexual offence should be recorded either the home of the victim or any other place where she feels it comfortable. And the complaint should be recorded with the help of an interpreter or a special educator and the entire process video-graphed. “An intellectually challenged woman, who was gang-raped in Dankuni on February 12, was kept at the police station with her mother all night to have her complaint recorded. There was no special educator to help her out. This shows that the provisions are not being implemented,” added Sengupta. During recording of her statement in court, the magistrate should involve a special educator, says the code. And it has to be videographed When it comes to implementing these amendments, Kolkata Police is a little more aware and educated than its district counterparts, said Debasis Banerjee, coordinator for Human Rights Law Network. “The involvement of a special educator has been stressed upon in dealing with cases of sexual offence. But hardly do we see this implemented,” said Banerjee, an advocate who practises in Calcutta high court and has dealt with cases of sexual offence against disabled women. Police sources say that a list of special educators with contact details has to be made available to each police station. Most don’t have it, because of which police find it difficult to follow the rule book. “We are sensitizing all police stations on this issue. Many local police stations are yet to be familiar with the provision. Even if they are aware it is difficult to approach a special educator whenever we need one as we do not have a data bank. All that we can do is rely on NGOs when we cannot communicate with the victim,” said a Kolkata Police officer. (Times of India 28/2/14)

 

36. Campaign against female infanticide in West Bengal (8)

Kolkata: To tackle gender imbalance in the state, the West Bengal government has launched a campaign against female infanticide, which includes organising awareness programmes and monitoring ultrasonography clinics, an official said Friday. The ‘Beti Bachaon’ campaign has been initiated by the state government and Village Welfare Society (VWS) to generate awareness as well as to counter the declining sex ratio, BR Satpathi, director of state health services, told IANS. The state government is assisting financially as well as with the technical part. Trained members from NGOs have been given the task to monitor ultrasonography clinics to check illegal sex determination tests. So far, 175 ward level meetings and nine awareness sessions have been organised on topics ranging from female infanticide, dowry, laws for domestic violence and social security. “Municipality ward level meeting are being conducted to communicate the issues like consequence of declining sex ratio and its negative impact on the society as a whole,” said VWS’s Kuldip Maity. (Zee News 1/3/14)

 

37. Relief eludes victimized women due to fund crunch, poor publicity (8)

CHANDIGARH: Contrary to tall claims made by Haryana government, relief and rehabilitation measures — notified as a special scheme — continue to be out of reach for victims/survivors of crime against women, including rape and dowry death, in the state. Fund crunch and lack of awareness have kept the scheme literally away from its intended beneficiaries. The state government’s Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013 has failed in its mission as four rape survivors, out of 701 cases registered between April and December 2013, could be awarded the relief amount of Rs 3 lakh each, sources said. Apart from giving relief in cases pertaining to rape, the scheme provides for compensation to survivors or their kin in matters including dowry harassment, dowry deaths, murders, molestation, acid attacks and assault. The survivor is entitled for compensation after police arrests the accused. Haryana State Legal Services Authority (HLSA) is the nodal agency for disbursal of compensation under the scheme. HLSA transfers funds to district legal services authority (DLSA) headed by chief judicial magistrate of the district. HLSA member secretary Deepak Gupta admitted that there were very few victims/survivors, who could be given relief in rape cases. He, however, attributed this to delayed implementation of the scheme, besides inadequate publicity. He said even agencies like women and child development department have failed to play an effective role in this regard. Gupta said only 40 victims of crime against women or their kin had approached DLSAs for compensation. “The scheme can start only after transfer of funds. We got funds in October 2013, which were further transferred to 21 districts of Haryana. DLSA can start taking up applications only after receiving funds for disbursal to applicants,” he said. Due to lack of funds, awareness campaign about the scheme and its salient features couldn’t be launched, Gupta said. “We got a sum of Rs 1 crore against the demand of Rs 12 crore. Once we get more funds, we will be able to hold awareness campaigns through DLSA,” he added. Haryana’s additional chief secretary (home), P K Gupta, said he would look into the matter and ensure proper action in the matter. “We will review the status of the scheme. The government is committed to provide all possible relief as prescribed under the scheme,” he said. (Times of India 2/3/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

38. Maharashtra police has succeeded in reducing Naxalism: Governor (12)

Maharashtra police has succeeded in reducing effects of Naxalism in Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur districts in the state, said Governor K Sankaranarayanan on Monday. The Governor was addressing the joint session of both Houses on the first day of the four-day Legislature session. “In 2013-14, to strengthen the Anti-Naxal Operations in Naxal-affected areas and repose confidence of public, ‘Janjagran Melawas’ and ‘Grambhets’ are being organised extensively,” he said. “The Navasanjivan Project, which aims to hold a dialogue with more and more Naxals to surrender and lay down their arms, has resulted in surrender of 49 Naxals,” he said. “To expose the school-going children of Naxal-affected tribal areas to urban Maharashtra, a new Scheme ‘Apla Maharashtra Suvarna Jayanti Yojana’ has been launched,” he said. Under Special Infrastructure Scheme, various facilities have been created and fortified police stations are proposed. The Governor informed the Legislature that a decision has been taken to impart training to the students belonging to the schedule Tribes through eight Universities and two training centers. This is aimed at preparing them to appear for pre-competitive examinations of Indian Administrative Services and State Administrative Services conducted by Union Public Service Commission and Maharashtra Public Service Commission. (Indian Express 25/2/14)

 

39. Naxalites slay Balapam sarpanch near Hyderabad (12)

CHINTAPALLI (Visakhapatnam): Striking terror in the hearts of locals as well as police personnel ahead of the elections, Maoists killed the recently elected sarpanch of Balapam panchayat, a Red stronghold, in Chintapalli in the wee hours of Tuesday for contesting the elections against their order. The 38-year-old sarpanch, Sinderi Karla, was hacked to death by a group of Naxals after being dragged out of his house at Rallagedda of Balapam panchayat. Karla is survived by his wife and two children. According to sources, around 50 Naxals and militia members led by Maoist leaders Kiran and Azad entered the village around 2.30 am on Tuesday, tied up Karla’s hands and dragged him out of his house. The Naxals told the sarpanch’s wife that they wanted to discuss some issues with him and also hold a meeting in the village. They took him to a martyrs’ pylon on the outskirts of the village. Interestingly, Karla was one of the persons instrumental in constructing the martyrs’ pylon, sources said Raju told media persons that he soon heard his brother’s cries for help and after a few minutes the villagers found Karla lying lifeless in a pool of blood with a deep wound on his neck. The Reds left a note on Karla’s body warning Prem Singh, Sobhan, Soma Raju, Nooka Raju and Sanjeeva Rao that they would meet the same fate if they did not leave the village along with their families. Alleging that Karla was a police informer, the note also accused him of colluding with the Annavaram and Chintapalli police and playing a key role in illegal arrests and surrenders as well as in harassing people agitating for their rights on coffee plantations and at bauxite mines. They also accused him of playing a key role in laying roads along with the Essar pipeline. The note, left in the name of the Korukonda committee, also alleged that Karla had contested the local body elections though nobody was willing to contest or vote. The Naxals said they had warned Karla through letters, leaflets and the Praja court, but he did not heed their warnings. Karla was unanimously elected sarpanch of Balapam panchayat last month and reportedly joined the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). The Balapam panchayat election was postponed in August last year when no one was willing to contest in the wake of Maoist threats. According to sources, Karla, who was a strong Maoist sympathiser, was among the 75 Maoist militia members and sympathizers that surrendered before the police in 2012. After the surrenders, the police got access to the village that was once considered to be a Maoist stronghold in the Korukonda tracts. Visakha Rural SP Vikram Jeet Duggal told TOI that the police had warned Karla three days ago that he was on the Maoist hit list. “We had warned him to leave the village for a safer place for a few days, but he was confident that the Naxals would not do anything to him if he was in the village,” Duggal said, adding that the Naxals were ironically targeting innocent tribals that they were claiming to be fighting for. (Times of India 26/2/14)

 

40. Naxals Plan to Thwart Mobile Network Ahead of LS Polls: IB (12)

RAIPUR: Fearing leakage of their strategies ahead of Lok Sabha polls, Naxals are keeping a close watch on people who could act as informers and pass on information using mobile phones in villages of their hot-bed Bastar. In some pockets of restive Narayanpur district comprising a major part of the Abhujmad region, local cadres are visiting villages and collecting information about mobile users and even asking them to deposit the gadgets with rebels assuring to return them after the Lok Sabha elections. “The strategy is being witnessed as a part of their plan ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. It could be an attempt to maintain secrecy of their evil design,” a senior Intelligence Bureau official told PTI. “Mobile phone and telecom towers have always been a major target of Naxals in their stronghold of Bastar, but so far such a kind of move of collecting phones from villagers was never witnessed,” the official said. Naxals have taken up the task in Mad region villages – Kutulpara, Orchhameta, Kutul and several others, he said. Though these areas have less mobile towers, but at some places like in hilly areas, mobile network is there and these areas are frequently used both by villagers and security forces, he said. Following their failure to execute deadly attempts during the recently-concluded state Assembly elections, Maoist’s top leaders believe that the lower rank cadres have failed to maintain secrecy of their operations as the information about gathering of rebels, placement of IEDs and landmines was already leaked to police, he said. As the rebels are now gearing up to create disturbance ahead of Lok Sabha polls, their top rung has asked them to keep a hawk eye on mobile users, whose numbers have increased in the recent past, and seize mobile phones from those villages where important operations will be held, he said. The recent crackdown on the urban network of Maoists in the state with the arrest of 17 alleged Naxal conduits has also posed problems for the ultras in monitoring the intelligence channel working inside forests, he said. When asked about preparations by police department ahead of the polls, the IB official said instructions have already been issued to security personnel to stay alert as Naxal strikes were witnessed more during the Lok Sabha election as compared to Assembly polls in the past. Every kind of suspicious move is under the scanner in the disturbed zone, he added. (New Indian Express 28/2/14)

 

41. 100 Naxals trap 12 cops in Bastar, kill 5 (12)

RAIPUR: Five security personnel, including a police sub-inspector, were killed and three others injured in a Maoist ambush on Friday in the restive Dantewada district of Bastar region. The 12-member team led by station house officer Vivek Shukla was on a patrol mission at a road construction site in Kuwakonda-Bacheli area of Chhattisgarh when they were attacked. The guerrillas set police motorcycles ablaze, looted an AK-47 rifles, two SLR and an INSAS rifle before fleeing to Shyamgiri hills area under Kowakonda police station. “The Maoists fired indiscriminately at the patrol party, killing SHO Vivek Shukla and four others,” said additional director-general of police Rajinder Kumar Vij. “The patrol team comprising 12 police personnel was moving on six motorcycles in Shyamagiri hills region, around five km from Kuwakonda police station, when about 100 armed rebels attacked them, resulting in the death of the sub-inspector and four other policemen on the spot,” Vij said. The others killed included Chhavilal Kashi, Sandeep Sahu, Dhaneshwar Mandavi and Naval Kishore Shandiya. Constable Pushpendra Kumar, who was critical, was airlifted to a hospital in Raipur. Assistant constable Pardeshiram and constable Bhagirathi Mandavi suffered minor injuries. Additional reinforcements were rushed to the spot for combing operations to flush out the rebels. Chief Minister Raman Singh condemned the attack and expressed grief over the death of security personnel. “Naxals have carried out a cowardly act which has again proved they are against basic facilities like roads,” he said. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

42. Syria refugee children in Lebanon risk starvation: UN (13)

Beirut: Nearly 2,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are in danger of starving to death if they do not receive immediate treatment, UNICEF said Tuesday, warning of a looming malnutrition crisis. “Malnutrition is a new, silent threat among refugees in Lebanon,” said Annamaria Laurini, the UN children agency’s representative in Beirut. The problem is linked to “poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, diseases, lack of immunisation and improper feeding practices of young children,” she said. There are nearly one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including 200,000 children under the age of five. Lebanon, with a population of just four million, has seen its already limited resources stretched to the limit by the influx of refugees. UNICEF said a study conducted last October and November showed some 2,000 children “are at risk of dying and need immediate treatment to survive.” The agency said it had begun treating several hundred of those in worst need. It said the most affected regions were in northern and eastern Lebanon, where the cases of “severe acute malnutrition” doubled between 2012 and 2013. The report warned that new arrivals and rising food prices could cause the situation to “deteriorate rapidly.” Zeroual Azzedine, UNICEF’s chief of health and nutrition, said under-fives were the most vulnerable to malnutrition, particularly those living in harsh conditions in camps. “The child who suffers malnutrition has no appetite, he does not want to eat… because malnutrition hits the brain first,” he said. “Even if the child is smiling, playing, the malnutrition hits silently, hits the brain.” He said the situation would become an emergency if the malnutrition rate among children hits 15 percent. The current rate is six percent, but that represents the “real beginning of the crisis,” he told AFP. The UNICEF report recommends that Lebanon’s health ministry and aid and NGO workers cooperate to monitor the situation and treat cases as they are detected. It urges both screening of children and women and raising awareness of appropriate feeding practices for infants and young children. (Zee News 25/2/14)

 

43. Food security Act also covers foreign nationals, refugees, says Law Ministry (13)

New Delhi: The Union Law Ministry’s opinion is that the food security legislation covers not just Indians but also foreign nationals and refugees. The ministry’s legal affairs department gave this opinion in the backdrop of a 2012 petition by the Mool Pravah Akhil Bharat Nepal Ekta Samaj, saying that “the provisions of National Food Security Act are not only applicable to Indian citizens but also to foreign nationals legally residing in India”. The view runs contrary to the Himachal Pradesh High Court order last July that ration cards cannot be issued to those who are not citizens of India. The association of Nepali residents in India had filed the petition in the court to get subsidised ration under PDS. The legal affairs department’s opinion has drawn flak from the Ministry of External Affairs as well as Centre’s food & public distribution department, which have said that the grant of ration cards implies transfer of resources in the form of subsidies from the government of India to its citizens, and not to those of another country. At a meeting on February 10, the two asked the legal affairs department to review its opinion considering that entitlement under the Act was “subject to inclusion of the household in the list of eligible households”. While agreeing to re-examine the entitlement on the matter of foreign nationals, the legal affairs department felt refugees stood on a different footing as they were provided a subsistence allowance by the MEA. The MEA has been asked to provide details of the allowance to refugees to ascertain if they could be brought under food security, with the subsidy component deducted from the allowance. The legal affairs department has to submit “fresh advice” this week as the Supreme Court will take up an appeal by the Nepali association against the high court order. In its interim order of December 13, the apex court had stayed the cancellation of permanent consumer or ration cards issued to Nepali applicants or migrant labourers, and gave the Centre 10 weeks to file an affidavit. (Indian Express 25/2/14)

 

44. Rohingya refugees living without hope (13)

HYDERABAD: When they arrived in the city a little over three years ago from Myanmar, the Rohingya refugees were hopeful of a new life and emancipation from military junta’s persecution. While their new home did assuage their feelings of utter hopelessness, lack of steady employment remains a major cause for concern. The Rohingya influx began in the aftermath of the ethnic violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, with the first batch arriving in the city in October 2011. From a mere 35 in October 2011, their number shot up to over 1,500 in just three years. They are now spread across five neighbourhoods – Balapur, Barkas, Shaheen Nagar, Kishan Bagh and Shastripuram – all in the Old City. But most of them are without work. For instance, Dudey Miya’s daily trips to the local labourer point, popularly known as adda, in Barkas to find work are often unfruitful. Three days a week, he is forced to return to his dingy room, dejected and jittery. “I have a wife and five children. How can I feed them when I rarely get work? Just imagine my plight if any of them fall sick. A refugee card entitles me to certain benefits but I am yet to get one. I have been waiting for months,” he says. Like Miya, 35-year old Noor-ul-Haq is also waiting for his refugee card. He says that he lacks the wherewithal to make trips to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Delhi. “Each trip costs us a minimum of Rs 1,800. We cannot afford to pay this money even once a year. Some of us have taken loans to go to Delhi but now they are unable to pay them off,” he laments. While donations from NGOs and individuals do come in, others believe the Rohingyas have outstayed their welcome. From expressing apprehensions over policemen knocking on their doors in the aftermath of the Mahabodhi Temple serial blasts last July, to being easy targets for anti-social elements, the refugees are being increasingly harassed. Some, in hushed tones, have also claimed that there have been instances of sexual assaults. They refuse to elaborate on the incidents of sexual exploitation and do not want to identify men involved in such cases out of fear. “If I open my mouth, they might go to any extent to silence me. Some of my countrymen who launched a meek protest were beaten up severely,” one of the refugees said on the condition of anonymity. “We are frequently asked to show our documents as we are easily identifiable. We have been robbed on the streets and our mobile phones have also been snatched,” says Khaleel Hussain (name changed). “But things are a little better now,” he quickly adds. Observers say that as many as 40 asylum seekers, including women and children, have left the city to other parts of the country in search for better livelihood and hoping for acceptance. Mazhar Hussain from Cova, an NGO and implementation partner of UNHCR, says, “Let us assume that there were 50 people at the adda before the Rohingyas arrived. Now, there are more than 50 of these refugees who look for work. This is bound to upset the local work force,” he says. (Times of India 3/3/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

45. Modi calls Punjab CM political guru, says farmers welfare priority (20)

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi Sunday said he will act as ‘chowkidaar’ of the country and ensure the use of funds for “optimum development works” if he became the prime minister. Addressing the ‘Fateh rally’ here, Modi expressed his concern over the drug menace eating up youngsters in Punjab, called Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal his “political guru”, and said there was no truth in reports of displacement of Sikh farmers from Kutch area of Gujarat. “No Sikh farmer will go out of Gujarat and if any officer dares to do any mistake, that officer will have to leave but not my Sikh brothers,” he said. He said, “Gujarat is as much for any other Indian as it is for me and I owe a lot to my Punjabi farmers who are settled in Kutch. They are the ones who have made that barren land fertile. So one should stop listening to the rivals (Congress) who are misguiding you on this issue.” In an effort to strike a chord with the large farming community in the state, the Gujarat CM said, “If chosen to power, we will divide the Food Corporation of India (FCI) into three parts — procurement, management and distribution. This is the only way to get optimum utilisation of the foodgrain which are at the moment being destroyed by being kept in the open or are rotting in the warehouses. In order to make the economy of any country strong, one needs to have three pillars of equal strength: one-third each for agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors,” he said. The BJP president Rajnath Singh said, “The NDA government will be implementing farmer income insurance scheme once it comes to power whereby MSP will be announced much before sowing of a crop. A separate channel only on agriculture, a separate budget on agriculture, easy loans at 1-2% rate of interest for self-employment schemes and much more will be in the offing.” Showering praise on Badal, Rajnath said, “Parkash Singh Badal was the first NDA partner to support Modi’s name as PM”, to which Badal responded, “So he (Modi) should now be called as NDA’s prime ministerial candidate, rather than the BJP’s alone.” The three-hour rally, held on the Jagraon Sugar Mill grounds, attracted thousands from across the state and during Modi’s one-hour speech the audience remained in their seats although the programme was running behind schedule…. (Indian Express 25/2/14)

 

46. Congress stage walkout in UP assembly over farmers issue in Bundelkhand (20)

Lucknow: Alleging that the Uttar Pradesh government was not serious about the plight of farmers in Bundelkhand, BJP and Congress members today staged a walk out from UP assembly, even as the state government claimed that there were no cases of suicide by farmers in Bundelkhand. “The government did not have any information of suicide by farmers in Bundelkhand due to burden of loan on them. Strict directives have been issued by the government to ensure that farmers are not harassed,”  Cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav told House during Question Hour. He was replying to a question raised by BJP member Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti on suicides by farmers due to loan on them. The member named a number of farmers, who committed suicide due to pressure to pay off their loans by banks. Yadav asserted that no information of suicide by farmers was there with the government and added that even suicide was a crime. “Suicide is a crime. Those attempting suicide are breaking law. No one is above the law”, he said. While staging a walkout from the assembly, BJP leader Hukum Singh accused the government of having an untoward attitude toward farmers and alleged that it wasn’t serious on the issue.

Congress legislative party leader Pradeep Mathur also wanted to put his views on the issue but when disallowed by the Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey he also staged a walkout with party members. (Business Standard 26/2/14)

 

47. Farmers threaten mass suicide if demands are not met immediately (20)

Trichy: A group of disgruntled farmers on Friday threatened to commit suicide en masse if their problems were not addressed with immediate effect. Their demands included the release of 2000 tmcft water from the Cauvery to save the standing crop, construction of more check dams to increase the water tables, immediate release of water in all the available channels for the purpose of drinking, de-silting tanks and compensation for wilted banana cultivation. The farmers also reiterated that the nationalized banks were unduly harassing the farmers who might have defaulted on their agricultural loans for obvious reasons. When K Tharpagaraj, revenue divisional officer assured that all the grievances would be looked into, the farmers were further infuriated. They demanded to know whether any concrete action had been taken to alleviate their sufferings and to keep the banks at bay as promised in the previous meetings. On the issue of sand mining, the farmers locked horns with the local administration and cited the activity as the main reason for the depleting water tables in the delta. Stressing his point, Koundampatti Subramaniyan, a member of Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association said that both humans and cattle alike were thirsting for water as there was not drop available in his locality, and appealed to the official to whatever they could in their command to release water with immediate effect. P Ayyakannu, the state vice-president of Bharathiya Kisan Sangam said that committing suicide was the last resort for the farmers as the bankers constantly intimidated them into paying the dues. Joint director of agriculture, Gururaj Singh, regional joint director of cooperative societies, G Rajendra Prasad could not pacify the farmers and the monthly meeting ended without any concrete solution in sight. (Times of India 1/3/14)

 

48. BJP demands retrospective implementation of the Act (20)

Despite the government’s efforts to prevent moneylenders by implementing the Money Lending (Regulation) Act, BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis has criticised the provision as insufficient and demanded with retrospective implementation of the Act from 2002. Questioning the five-year limit in the Act, Mr Fadnavis said “The cases before the five years will not be addressed. Is the government protecting a few with the limit?” Pointing that the farmers’ suicide cases were maximum between 2002 and 2007, Mr Fadnavis asked, “What about the exploitation of the farmers in this period?” Blaming inadequate institutional credit facility by the government, Mr Fadnavis said the imbalance in penetration of banks in backward regions is the main cause for the rise in illegal money lending. “Only 2.54 per cent of bank loan has been distributed in Vidarbha, 1.04 percent in Marathwada and 0.5 per cent in Konkan region. It is the reality that the nationalised banks don’t give credit to farmers and there has to be some action from the government,” the BJP leader said. “District co-operative banks are facing financial troubles and farmers have nowhere to go. There is a need to strengthen the financial network and financial empowerment of people,” he added. The BJP leader even quoted that one of the moneylenders owned 2,000 to 5,000 acres of land. Since 2011, there has been a rise in the number of licenced moneylenders and two lakh farmers took loan from them in just one year in 2011-12, he said. (Asian Age 3/3/14)

 

HINDUTVA

49. VHP has no political agenda: Togadia (26)

Nagpur: Stating that they were not backing any political party or individual, Vishwa Hindu Parishad International Working President Pravin Togadia has asked people to vote for candidates with a clean slate and stature in Lok Sabha elections. “VHP has no political agenda and the organisation is not supporting anyone. We are with those who are credible and committed to protect the interests of millions of Hindus,” he said. He said parties are forgetting the core issues of Ram temple, common civil code, Article 370 and cow slaughter and felt that people should check past performance of candidates as well as the parties before electing them. “People should select only those who have honoured their commitments and are honest,” the VHP leader told PTI. Criticising the formation of Minority Development Corporation by the UPA with a financial allocation of Rs 700 crore, he question its propriety and said that the majority population (Hindus) is deprived of such privileges. “No one thinks of millions of Hindus living in poor conditions,” he charged. “Are there not any poor Hindu students who also deserve financial assistance for studies,” he asked. Evading a direct answer on his ‘strained’ relations with Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s PM nominee Narendra Modi, Togadia said since he is a VHP leader, his views are not separate from his party. (Zee News 25/2/14)

 

50. Is a BJP without Hindutva realistic? (26)

The debate has long persisted in BJP circles if the party should remain wedded to Hindutva — which necessarily means being a “Hindu-first” party (with the implied suggestion of discrimination against those who are not of the majority faith) — or jettison this founding credo and turn into a straightforward party of the Right with a nebulous nativist tinge. This issue came to be discussed in right earnest when Atal Behari Vajpayee became Prime Minister, winning Muslim votes along the way on the strength of his liberal Hindu image — the first time a BJP leader of eminence had extended his reach to the constituency of the country’s most significant religious minority. Inspired by this, the party had got into the business of seeking to acquire a pan-India character, like the Congress, its most significant other. However, resolving the fundamental question raised by the long-simmering debate in favour of ditching Hindutva would necessarily mean saying good-bye to the BJP’s thus far unshakeable Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links. If this were to come true, it would be remarkable — and odd — as the BJP’s forerunner, the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, was created as the political arm of the RSS, an out-and-out Hindu-supremacist outfit. Shaking off the RSS would also imply that the BJP would become a religion-neutral party, just like most other parties in the system. However, it would then lose its uniqueness and would no longer be naturally able to lay claim to the country’s communal Hindu constituency fed on RSS values. BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s hardsell to Muslims on Tuesday, going to the length of saying the party “loves” Muslims, and his pointing them in the direction of “Moditva”, can hardly be seen as part of the abiding debate. The main reason for this is that it has been seen over and over again in the past year that the RSS has taken all the key decisions in respect of the BJP as a party. As the Lok Sabha polls neared, the outfit that is the definitive custodian of the Hindutva ideology ensured that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was planted as the BJP’s PM nominee against stiff opposition. It also ensured that Rajnath Singh was made the party’s president, overlooking the claims of others, when Nitin Gadkari fell to allegations of corruption. Undoubtedly, the BJP’s RSS association remains tight as ever. Mr Singh did his best though, venturing into terrain Mr Modi himself has not gone. He noted that his party was “prepared” to apologise, “bowing our head”, if mistakes were to be made. It was meant to look like he meant Gujarat. But it was also oblique enough to mean a “mistake” in the future. Let’s see if the Muslims bite. (Asian Age 27/2/14)

 

51. Follow your conscience: RSS to appeal to Muslims (26)

Nagpur: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plans to reach out to at least five crore Muslims before the Lok Sabha elections to help its affiliate the Bharatiya Janata Party assume power at the Centre. The Muslim Rashtriya Manch, a platform for Muslims formed in 2002 at the initiative of then RSS sarsangchalak K.S. Sudarshan, has been given the responsibility to approach Muslim voters. The organisation would exhort Muslims “not to fall prey to vote bank politics and vote according to their conscience,” said Vijay Pachpore, RSS swayamsevak and pracharak (campaigner), closely associated with the MRM. According to MRM national convener Mohammad Afzal, the organisation’s membership is around 10 lakh and covers over 300 districts in 26 States. “We have launched a mission to make Narendra Modi the next Prime Minister. Our workers will reach out to at least five crore Muslims through Jan Jagran programmes, door-to-door campaigns and big rallies,” he said. As part of its campaign, the MRM recently launched ‘Modi for PM – Mission 272 +’ and held a meeting in Delhi which saw the participation of more than 500 delegates of the MRM, 100 delegates of the BJP Minority Morcha and senior BJP leaders. On allegations levelled against Mr. Modi in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots, Mr. Afzal said, “Had Mr. Modi been involved in the riots, his police would not have fired 1,200 rounds and killed over 200 rioters. Every court has acquitted him. And there is not a single incident of communal violence in Gujarat in the past 12 years.” He said the organisation faced resistance in its initial days and post Godhra riots it battled for existence. “People would denounce us saying we were converting Muslims. Many fatwas were issued against us, but when we began spreading our message, the people understood us.” Mr. Pachpore said the MRM was important for the development of the long-neglected community. “The Muslims of this country are thinking about the treatment meted out to them post Independence. This community lacks leadership and the MRM will help it achieve progress.” (The Hindu 3/3/14)

 

Posted by admin at 27 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS
1. Jammu and Kashmir: Over 5,300 Security Personnel Killed in Over 2 Decades (1)
SRI NAGAR: Over two decades of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir killed at least 5,300 security personnel, according to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. “As many as 3,906 security personnel, including Army, CRPF, BSF and other paramilitary personnel and excluding policemen, have been killed in the State after militancy erupted in 1989,” Omar Abdullah, who also heads the Home Department told the J&K Legislative Assembly in the winter capital, while replying to a motion on grants under his departments. Abdullah said 119 security personnel were killed in militancy-related incidents in 1990. “As many as 141 security personnel died in militant attacks and encounters in the State in 1991. In 1992, 158 Army and paramilitary personnel were killed,” he said. The Chief Minister said that with the passage of time there has been a decline in the killings of security forces. “The killings of security personnel dropped to 49 in 2010. In 2011, 18 security personnel were killed. The figure stood at nine in 2012 and 32 in 2013,” he said and added that 942 policemen were killed in militancy-related incidents in the State since 1989. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

2. Woman lawyer alleges police torture (1)
Thrissur: Human rights activists will take out a march to the office of the Inspector General of Police on Monday, in protest against an alleged attack on a woman lawyer and her children, who had gone to inquire about the arrest of five youths, here. R.K. Asha, a lawyer with the Thrissur Bar Council; her daughter, who is a minor; a documentary film-worker Neethu; and Shruthy have been hospitalised after alleged police torture. The Town East Police had taken into custody five youths, including a woman, on Saturday night on the charge of consumption of alcohol in public place. Ms. Asha said she and her children had gone to the police station on the request of the youths. “East Police Sub-Inspector Lal Kumar tortured me and my children and registered a case against my son along with the five youths,” she said. Ms. Asha said she sustained injury on both legs. The youths were remanded in judicial custody till March 7. The police alleged that the youths resisted arrest and a woman police constable was injured. The lawyer said the police torture was in retaliation to a complaint she had filed with the Police Commissioner against the SI in connection with a recent film festival. (The Hindu 25/2/14)

3. Team finds evidence of custodial death in Singrauli (1)
Bhopal: A fact finding team led by former Justice of the Rajasthan High Court P.C. Jain has claimed that a man found dead in a well in Singrauli on December 13 was killed in police custody. The six-member team also found that a relative of the deceased youth was tortured by the police and the death of another youth on the same day was due to unprovoked police firing. On December 13, 2013, violence erupted in the coal mining town of Singrauli after the body of a 30-year old security contractor, Akhilesh Sahu, was found in a well. Sahu had been missing since December 5, following a police raid on villages where dens of diesel, scrap and coal mafia operate. Akhilesh’s cousin Vijay Sahu is allegedly a kingpin of a mafia involved in stealing diesel from dumpers of the Northern Coalfields. “There was no FIR against Akhilesh, yet he was arrested. The post mortem report shows that he died due to a puncture in the small intestine caused by a blunt object, and not by drowning. There is also an intravenous syringe mark on his hand that suggests he may have been taken to a hospital, but was dumped in the well after he died,” Justice Jain said. The fact-finding team met the family and Akhilesh’s cousin Sanjay, who suffered several fractures after allegedly being thrashed by Superintendent of Police A. Jayadevan and other officers. The time-line of the incidents and claims of custodial death were given to the team by the family. “On December 13,” claimed Soumya Dutta, who was part of the team, “police fired live rounds above the waist. Instead of targeting protesters they fired on school children and Muslims attending namaz. One youth died of gunshot and three others sustained bullet injuries.” Mr. Jayadevan, currently SP, Railway Police, Jabalpur, told The Hindu that the family was under pressure from relatives in the mafia to deter the police from cracking down on them again. “There is CCTV footage from the police station to show that Akhilesh did not come there. Akhilesh is a benami security contractor in the coalfields of a company run by Vijay under whose aegis theft takes place.” (The Hindu 25/2/14)

4. AFSPA will be taken up with Centre later this year: Omar (1)
Sheeri (J&K): Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday reiterated his demand for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and said he would take up the issue again with the Centre later this year. “Talks (for revocation of AFSPA) are on and I am of the opinion that because of the improved situation, there are areas in the state from where the AFSPA should go,” Mr. Omar told reporters on the sidelines of a function in Sheeri, 60 kms from Srinagar. He said a start had to be made for the revocation of the AFSPA and he would take up the issue with the Centre. “Some people expressed apprehensions about 2014. That is why I have said let the first half of the year pass, then I will surely take up the issue with the Centre,” Mr. Omar said. In reply to another question about the closure of the Pathribal encounter case by Army, Mr. Omar said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured him that he would take up the issue with the Defence Ministry. “The Prime Minister has assured me that he will take up the issue of Pathribal case with the Defence Ministry and will not allow this case to be buried,” the Chief Minister said, adding “it is up to the Prime Minister now how much he will take the issue forward, but he is on it.” (The Hindu 25/2/14)

5. One undertrial injured in lock-up brawl in Jind (1)
Jind: One undertrial was today injured in a fight which broke out between prisoners at the local court complex here when they were taken for a hearing, police said. According to police, the fight broke out between the members of the same gang inside the police lock-up on the court premises. The injured undertrial, identified as one Dalip, was taken to a local hospital for treatment, police added. Guards posted at the lock-up on the court premises had to intervene to stop the fight among the members of the Sanjeev alias Kokla gang over some internal dispute, police said. The gang members are facing an attempted murder case. A case in connection with the brawl has been registered against four of the undertrials, police said. (Zee News 27/2/14)

TRAFFICKING
6. ‘Highest human trafficking cases in B’lore’ (1)
Bangalore: Home Minister K J George has stated that there has been an increase in the number of human trafficking cases in the State, and the highest cases have been reported from Bangalore. In a reply to a question raised by Y A Narayanswamy (BJP) in the Council, the Home minister said that as many as 175 cases of women trafficking have been registered. George, in his statement, said that correspondingly, during 2012, there were 102 cases registered and in 2011, 91 cases were filed. In terms of raids conducted state-wide on known cases of human trafficking rings, the statement said as many as 32 raids were conducted in 2013. In 2012, the Anti-Human Trafficking (AHT) raided 10 locations as opposed to seven in 2011 and two in 2010. George said as part of steps taken to control human trafficking and as per the government order of November 26, 2010, five AHT units were opened in Bangalore, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Mysore and Dakshina Kannada. Further, by the government order issued in January 2013, four more Anti-Human Trafficking units in Gulbarga, Raichur, Davangere and Bijapur were opened. (Deccan Herald 20/2/14)

7. Police bust gang of child traffickers (1)
New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Saturday rescued two minor girls from the clutches of child traffickers and busted their gang with the arrest of two, including a woman. The two girls were reportedly brought by the traffickers from Jharkhand and were supposed to be forced into child labour as domestic aides in Vasant Vihar. The accused Rajkumar (36) and his wife Anna Lohare (24) are also residents of Jharkhand and they had brought the victims to Delhi on the pretext of giving them lucrative jobs. Police said the duo took advantage of the poor financial condition of the girls’ family and managed to bring them to Delhi. The couple has been booked under section various provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also under anti-human trafficking law. “The incident came to light after one Bhikhu Banda and Pushpa Lukra lodged a complaint that the two girls were brought to Delhi on the promise of a job but they were made to work in bungalows at paltry wages. We then conducted a raid and rescued the two girls and the couple was arrested,” said a police official. The rescued girls were sent for a medical examination and produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) after which they have been sent to Jharkhand to reunite with their families, police said. (Pioneer 23/2/14)

8. Human trafficking cases up by 10% in 2013, shows police data (1)
New Delhi: On an average, three victims of human trafficking were rescued daily by the police last year, data released by the force has revealed. According to the Delhi Police, their focus of cracking down on interstate pimps and conmen who were involved in luring young adults and children on the pretext of getting them jobs in the Capital, also resulted in a ten percent increase in the number of cases of human trafficking registered in 2013. “In 2012, only 186 cases of human trafficking had been registered. Comparatively, in 2013 the number of such cases shot up to 210,” said a senior police officer. Prodded for a break-up, he said in 2012 only 92 cases of minors being trafficked had been registered, while in 2013 the number shot up to 101. According to the crime branch, as many as 1,032 victims of human trafficking were rescued in 2013 as compared to 953 in 2012. However, a closer look at the numbers revealed that while the recovery of the number of males went up, the number of females recovered, worryingly saw a decline. “While 872 men were recovered in 2013 compared to 768 in 2012, we were able to recover only 160 women last year as compared to 185 in 2012,” the officer admitted. The torture and subsequent death of a 35-year-old maid by the wife of a politician in Chanakyapuri late last year had brought the issue of human trafficking back into the limelight, sources believed. Later, HT had on December 12, reported the Delhi Police’s decision to not invoke criminal charges against individual sex workers and their clients. (Hindustan Times 24/2/14)

9. Human trafficking cases up by 10% in 2013, shows police data (1)
New Delhi: On an average, three victims of human trafficking were rescued daily by the police last year, data released by the force has revealed.According to the Delhi Police, their focus of cracking down on interstate pimps and conmen who were involved in luring young adults and children on the pretext of getting them jobs in the Capital, also resulted in a ten percent increase in the number of cases of human trafficking registered in 2013. “In 2012, only 186 cases of human trafficking had been registered. Comparatively, in 2013 the number of such cases shot up to 210,” said a senior police officer. Prodded for a break-up, he said in 2012 only 92 cases of minors being trafficked had been registered, while in 2013 the number shot up to 101. According to the crime branch, as many as 1,032 victims of human trafficking were rescued in 2013 as compared to 953 in 2012. However, a closer look at the numbers revealed that while the recovery of the number of males went up, the number of females recovered, worryingly saw a decline. “While 872 men were recovered in 2013 compared to 768 in 2012, we were able to recover only 160 women last year as compared to 185 in 2012,” the officer admitted. The torture and subsequent death of a 35-year-old maid by the wife of a politician in Chanakyapuri late last year had brought the issue of human trafficking back into the limelight, sources believed. Later, HT had on December 12, reported the Delhi Police’s decision to not invoke criminal charges against individual sex workers and their clients.(Hindustan Times 24/2/14)

HIV/AIDS
10. Option B Plus to cut risk of perinatal HIV transmission (3)
Mumbai: To reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, three southern States and Maharashtra have adopted a new drug regimen as part of the National AIDS Control Programme. The new Option B Plus brings down transmission levels from 30 per cent to just two per cent, the World Health Organisation says. Other advantages are the mother need not compulsorily undergo a C-section and she can breastfeed the baby without fear of transmitting the virus. The Union government last week announced implementation of Option B Plus in India under the fourth phase of the AIDS control programme. States other than Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have yet to launch it because of inadequate drug stocks and lack of training of the implementation personnel. “Earlier, HIV-positive mothers had to undergo C-section to avoid transmitting the virus. With this drug regimen, they have the option of a normal delivery. Since the infant is also put on medication, the mother can breastfeed it without fear,” Asha Hegde, Joint Director, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society, said. Under Option B Plus, all HIV-positive pregnant women will be put on lifelong anti-retroviral therapy. Previously, the therapy was discontinued once the woman stopped nursing, resulting in immunity to the drug, Dr. Hegde said. (The Hindu 21/2/14)

11. HIV+ Persons Discriminated in Mo Kudia, Pension Schemes (3)
JAGATSINGHPUR: HIV positive persons are finding it hard to enrol themselves as beneficiaries under Mo Kudia and Madhu Babu Pension schemes in Ersama and other areas of Jagatsinghpur district due to the alleged demand of bribe by Government staff. Ostracised by family members, an HIV positive person, Satya Ranjan Swain (name changed) of Khurant under Ersama block had applied to get housing facility on the outskirts of his village under Mo Kudia scheme. Sources said he was working in a private company at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh when he married a South Indian woman in 2011. He got infected with the disease from his wife. Later, his only son died soon after the delivery and his wife left him. Talking to this paper, he said, “Ostracised by society, I am leading miserable and lonely life. I just wanted to spend time peacefully before my death in a house constructed by me under Mo Kudia scheme. But I failed to get the rquired fund as a developmental clerk of Erasama block office demanded `10,000 bribe for sanctioning the fund under Mo Kudia scheme.” He borrowed `2,000 on interest and tried giving it to the clerk to get the fund sanctioned. “But the clerk refused to accept the amount as it was too less. He misbehaved with me and said since I am an AIDS patient, I should not touch him,” Satya said and added that he approached the elected representatives and Ersama BDO for sanctioning the fund in vain. Zilla Parishad member Sarada Charan Jena said he has received the allegation. “I have sought intervention of the BDO for sanctioning the housing scheme in favour of Satya,” he said. Similar allegations have been made against officials of other blocks also. Another HIV positive person of Gelapur village under Biridi block alleged that his house under the scheme was sanctioned after he gave a bribe of `2,000. A widow of Jagatsinghpur said she gave `500 to block officials to receive old age pension under Madhubabu Pension scheme. Hundreds of HIV affected people are living in thatched houses or polythene tents at isolated places after being ostracised by their family and society. Out of 355 HIV affected people and AIDS patients in the district, only 12 persons have benefited from Mo Kudia scheme. Similarly, only 160 HIV positive persons have received old age pension. Ersama BDO Subodha Acharay said he had received the complaints regarding the bribe demanded by the officials to sanction funds under Mo Kudia scheme to HIV positive persons and action would be taken against those found guilty. “Steps have been taken to provide house to the HIV positive persons of Khurant soon,” he added. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

12. Andhra Pradesh AIDS Control Society Partners with Private Nursing Homes (3)
HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society(APSACS) is holding an experience sharing programme on Tuesday, involving select nursing homes, Unicef and health officials. The programme is aimed at eliminating the new pediatric HIV infection. The society, since 2008, has been entering into partnerships with private nursing homes to assist them in counselling and treating HIV patients. Till date, 265 nursing homes have entered into partnership with APSACS. Officials and stakeholders at the programme will prepare a road map for coming years to rope in major corporate hospitals into partnership with APSACS. Dr JC Reddy, joint director, basic services, APSACS, said only 50 percent of pregnant women are tested for HIV at government facilities. “We do not know whether the remaining 50 percent, who go to private nursing homes, are being tested for HIV or not. So, from 2008, we started partnering with nursing homes,” he said. Since April 2013, about 1.60 lakh pregnant women are tested for HIV at nursing homes, out of whom 386 were detected to be HIV positive. Only if we cover those opting for private nursing homes, can we aim for zero HIV transmission from mother to child, he added. To rope in more hospitals, APSACS has appointed an NGO as a partner, which conducts field analysis to identify nursing homes and convince them to collaborate. (New Indian Express 25/2/14)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT
13. BSF acquiring 191 acres of land for border fencing (4)
Jammu: BSF is acquiring 191 acres of land for construction of three-tier border fencing along the Indo-Pak border in Jammu frontier of the state. “Out of the total land measuring 10408 kanals (1301 acres) in 118 villages of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, an area measuring 1599 kanals (191 acres) is being acquired by BSF for fencing in 17 villages of Hiranagar constituency of Kathua district along International Border”, Minister of State for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Aijaz Ahmed Khan said. In a written reply to the question of member Durga Dass in the state Assembly today, he said acquisition proceedings under J&K Land Acquisition Act have been initiated. As the cases are at different stages of acquisition, no compensation has so far been provided to the land owners whose land has come under the border fencing in Jammu division, he said. Khan said compensation will be paid after issuance of final awards with regard to completion of acquisition proceedings.(Zee News 16/2/14)

14. Locals Burn 6 Containers Being Used as Posco Office (4)
Pradip: Alleging delay in fulfilment of their demands, locals in Posco’s proposed steel project area today burnt six containers being used as camp office and damaged a portion of company’s boundary wall in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, police said. “Angry villagers have burnt some steel containers and damaged a portion of Posco’s boundary wall near Nuagaon,” Additional Superintendent of Police Paradip, Madabananda Sahu said. The South Korean steel major had kept at least seven such mobile containers fitted with state-of-the-art electrical and electronic equipment for use as camp office by officials of Posco and IDCO in its proposed project site near Nuagaon. The electrical and electronic equipment and official documents kept in six of the seven containers were gutted, the sources said, adding tension prevailed in the area. The locals are alleging delay in fulfilment of their charter of demands including holding of Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee (RPDAC) meeting and implementation of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The project protagonists held a meeting at Nuagaon yesterday and decided not to allow anyone from Posco, district administration or the police into the area in connection with the company work. They have even erected a bamboo gate at the entrance to Nuagaon to prevent entry of anyone from today. Villagers alleged that the company was constructing the boundary wall in the area without fulfilling their demands. Besides, it was hampering peace and brotherhood in the area by luring a few youths to cooperate with them, they said. Meanwhile, people who had extended their cooperation to help the company undertake infrastructure development work in the area were now up in arms against the company’s move even as those opposing the project were keenly watching the developments. Lingraj, an activist who took part in the agitation against Posco, will lead AAP’s challenge for the Bargarh seat in Odisha.(Outlook 17/2/14)

15. In bid to push industry, Tamil Nadu breaks hearts of land-losers (4)
CHENNAI: Acquisition of land for dalit welfare, state highway and industrial projects in Tamil Nadu was on Thursday exempted from the purview of a central law that provided for a compensation of up to four times the market value of the land, dealing a blow to hundreds of people whose properties are being taken over for various projects across the state. The state government passed a legislation to circumvent the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, enacted by the Centre last year. The state bill, aimed at facilitating speedy land acquisition for many ongoing projects, has a one-year validity. The central act had a provision for states to enact such legislations for a limited period of one year. “The bill passed in the state legislature has far-reaching consequences as the government is planning to acquire about 53,000 acres for industrial purpose alone, primarily to set up industrial estates,” CPM MLA K Balakrishnan told TOI. Balakrishnan had raised objections when the bill was tabled in the assembly by revenue minister B V Ramanaa. It was, however, passed with a voice vote. All those who have lost land to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and have been fighting battles for many years for a fair compensation may also be hit by the legislation, fear farmers. The land owners would have got a hefty compensation if the settlement was done as per the provisions of the central act. Even while exempting land acquisition for 13 purposes like atomic energy, railways, tramway, ancient monuments, petroleum and minerals pipelines, and metro rail from the purview of the new land acquisition act, the Centre had refused to give any such privilege to industrial projects, Balakrishnan said. By exempting acquisition of land for industrial purposes from the purview of the central act, the government has done grave injustice to the farming community, he said. The central legislation, which replaced more than a century-old Land Acquisition Act of 1894, provides for a minimum compensation of four times the market price in rural areas and two times in urban areas. Consent of 80% of land owners is required for purchasing land for private use and 70% in the case of public-private partnership projects. Moreover, a social impact assessment has to be carried out before the acquisition process starts. The land owners are eligible for rehabilitation and resettlement compensations like houses, a one-time allowance or jobs. The new rule will apply retrospectively to cases where compensation is yet to be paid, for instance the NLC case. The Centre is yet to frame rules for the act, though it has come into force on January 1 this year. “None of these protections are there for land owners while government acquires land for projects exempted from the ambit of the new act. When the government empowers itself to unilaterally decide on land acquisition, there is no guarantee that land owners will get a fair price. Most land acquisitions carried out by the Tamil Nadu government in the past have ended in legal battles because compensation offered measured up to hardly 10% of the market value,” Balakrishnan told TOI. (Times of India 21/2/14)

16. Maharashtra clears record payout to acquire land for new airport (4)
MUMBAI: The state cabinet on Sunday finally put its seal on the record compensation package that it will offer to villagers to acquire their land for the development of the Navi Mumbai international airport. TOI had first reported the offer on August 13 last year. Calling it “a much better offer than what the residents could get under the new central law on land acquisition”, the state said the villagers would get back a plot measuring 22.5% of their original land, fully developed and in a non-Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), right next to the airport; they will also get an extra floor space index (FSI) of 2. The worth of the returned land—the original plots are in CRZ—will translate into Rs 16 crore per hectare. With this offer, which includes several other perks, the state expects to win over the six villages, which have been holding back their land as they were unhappy with the compensation earlier offered to them. Those who do not accept the state government’s package will be compensated according to the new Land Acquisition Act, which came into force in January. The central law allows 20% of the acquired land to be returned to project-affected persons. Kopar residents, whose land has been acquired for a landfill site, will not be compensated with the state package but for them, a separate deal will be worked out. The Konkan divisional commissioner will decide on it. With the cabinet’s approval, the state has cleared a major hurdle to the construction of the airport. “This has come at the right time. If the compensation was not decided in the next three months, we would have had to begin the process of acquisition all over again under the new law and the project would have been as good as doomed,” said a source, maintaining that the new package was “many times better” than what the central law offered. The cost of developing the land, which will be returned to villagers, will be borne by CIDCO, which is the developing agency of the new airport; under the central law, the cost is supposed to be borne by the affected persons themselves. Besides, those with tenements will be provided with houses three times the size. The compensatory land will be offered in a new township called, Pushpak Nagar, to be built along the Mumbai-Pune bypass near Panvel .The CIDCO has also been conducting various job-oriented courses for the PAPs. “A joint land survey is currently underway and the compensation will be awarded within the next two to three months. The new city is already being developed where the PAPs will be shifted within a year,” said Sanjay Bhatia, managing director, CIDCO. (Times of India 24/2/14)

17. Govt to set up committees to frame land acquisition rules (4)
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government has decided to constitute two committees to frame as well as scrutinize the rules relating to the new Land Acquisition Act, 2013 of the Centre. Chief minister Oommen Chandy said here on Wednesday that a state level monitoring committee and expert committee will be constituted to frame the relevant rules in connection with the new Act. The expert committee will include an officer who has retired as a special secretary or additional secretary from the law department, and another revenue official who had retired as deputy collector. The third member will be a lawyer who has deep knowledge in land acquisition laws. The recommendations and rules framed by the expert committee will be scrutinized and given final shape by a state level monitoring committee to be headed by the chief secretary. The members of the monitoring panel will include the additional chief secretary (finance), secretary (law) and secretary (revenue) and the land revenue commissioner, who will be the member secretary. All new land acquisition projects of the government will be covered by the new Act which will replace the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The state is yet to frame any rules for the new Act that has come into force on January 1, without which the state will not be able to undertake any further land acquisitions. (Times of India 27/2/14)

CORRUPTION
18. Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill passed (5)
NEW DELHI: A Bill to set up a regular mechanism to encourage persons to disclose information on corruption or wilful misuse of power by public servants, including Ministers, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Friday. The Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill also seeks to provide for “adequate protection to persons reporting corruption or wilful misuse of discretion which causes a demonstrable loss to the government, or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant.” The Bill sets forth the procedure for inquiring into the disclosures and provides for safeguards against victimisation. At the same time, it provides punishment for false or frivolous complaints. In his reply, Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy said the law would supplement the RTI Act in checking corruption. He said some members sought to bring amendments. However, since it was the last day of the session, he was not pushing them as the Bill would lapse. “But appropriate steps will be taken to address their concerns through constitutional methods in 10 days.” The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 and was taken up by the Rajya Sabha in 2012. However, it could not be passed because of the death of Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Responding to a suggestion that steps be taken to protect those who had blown the whistle on corruption prior to the passage of the Bill, Mr. Narayanasamy said the government had already brought a resolution in 2004, empowering the Central Vigilance Commission to protect the whistleblowers. The definition of ‘disclosure’ has also been amended to include wilful misuse of power or discretion, which leads to a demonstrable loss to the government or a demonstrable gain to a public servant or any third party. The definition of competent authority to which a complaint can be made has also been expanded.Mr. Narayanasamy said the Centre would write to the Jammu and Kashmir government for enactment of a similar law, after Karan Singh of the Congress made the suggestion. The Bill does not cover the State due the special status enjoyed by it. (The Hindu 23/2/14)

19. Govt set to bring Ordinances on Rahul-backed anti-graft Bills (5)
New Delhi: The UPA government appears all set to take the Ordinance route on five Bills, which Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been pushing for. The Bills were supposed to be taken up in the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, but the same could not happen due to disruptions over various issues, including the Telangana Bill. Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor has even said that non-passage of these Bills was a “setback to the nation”. With Lok Sabha polls around the corner, the Congress believes these Bills may help revive its dwindling fortunes to an extent. Experts say the Congress will try to hardsell these anti-corruption laws along with the Lokpal Bill and RTI to revive its Lok Sabha poll campaign and even counter the corruption charge against the UPA government. Rahul has already targeted the BJP over non-passage of these Bills, accusing it of creating hurdles and being non serious on the issue of fighting corruption. Among the Bills on which the government may bring ordinance include the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill and the Public Procurement Bill, 2012. The Parliament, however, did manage to pass the Whistleblower Bill, which was also being pushed by Rahul Gandhi. (Zee News 25/2/14)

20. Rights body to file fresh PIL in bogus VAT refund scam (5)
Ludhiana: The Human Rights Protection Council has announced that it will file a fresh PIL in the High Court, seeking a CBI probe into the multi-crore VAT refund scam. Dr K O S Narula, chairman of the council, said, “Though a PIL was filed earlier as well, no significant outcome has been seen in this case as the case is now being probed by the excise department and the vigilance department. We will be seeking a CBI probe so that the real culprits can be revealed.” He said that a total of 32 companies of Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh were found to be involved in this scam. Though in the earlier complaints, a few officers were transferred and even FIRs were lodged against a few companies, tax recovery was to the bare minimum. The council members stated that they would be presenting the facts and figures before the High Court so that the money involved in the scam could be unearthed.(Indian Express 26/2/14)

TRIBALS
21. Kondareddi Sangham stages‘Jala Deeksha’ in Godavari (6)
KHAMMAM: The protests by the Adivasi organisations against Polavaram project continued unabated in various tribal sub-plan mandals of Bhadrachalam Agency. Members of the Adivasi Kondareddi Sangham staged a ‘Jala Deeksha’ in Godavari river in the temple town of Bhadrachalam on Thursday. The protesters shouted slogans denouncing the project while standing in knee-deep water in the river. Sangham founder M. Ramesh, demanded that the Centre should shelve the project to save lakhs of Adivasis from an imminent “manmade calamity.” He called upon Adivasis to rise above their political affiliations to wage a united struggle to stop Polavaram project. In a separate protest, activists of the CPI (ML-New Democracy) and AIKMS staged a Jala Deeksha near Rudramkota in Velerupadu mandal. (The Hindu 21/2/14)

22. Builders Mowing down Attappadi Hills for Resorts (6)
PALAKKAD: In what could be a paradox of sorts, a region which was in the news recently for tribal deaths on account of malnutrition and starvation, will soon play host to the well-heeled traveller. Attappadi, a mountain valley, with a history of ecological mutilation by settlers, is being groomed as a leisure destination by private tourism developers. Sprawling resorts are coming up in Karadipara and Vadakottathara in Agali panchayat and Varagampadi and Veerannoor in Sholayur panchayat of Attappadi. Hills in at least one location, where such development is taking place, are being razed used earth moving machinery to lay roads and build cottages, in blatant disregard of the law, raising concerns regarding their impact on the environment. These illegal acts are often facilitated by local panchayats which issue licences. The Agali village officer had accorded necessary permits to the Brooke Hill Ayur Resorts (India) on September 20, 2012 for their Karadippara project. The work on the resort, located in 42.38 acres is currently progressing. While 14.38 acres has been registered in the name of Brooke Hill Ayur resorts (India), the remaining 28 acres have been registered in the name of 12 persons. Work is progressing on 10 cottages, each having an area of 69 square metres. “After visiting the site, I had sought a report from the Agali village officer. She has stated that the resort is coming up on revenue land. Now the work has been stopped on grounds of ecological destruction. Around 14 cents of land have been cleared on another hillock. The promoters have informed me that there are no plans to set up a helipad as reported by the locals,” said District collector K Ramachandran. There are 28 illegal quarries functioning in Attappadi and granite from these sites are being used for construction of such resorts, he said. “We had issued two stop memos, one in 2012 and another one four months ago. The first one was for razing down the hills and causing ecological degradation and the second was regarding a boundary dispute with Attappadi Co-operative Farming Society (ACFS),” said Agali village officer Bindu. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

23. 17 students avail of tribal scheme in 7 years (6)
NASHIK: The tribal development department has failed to find students for the scholarship scheme supporting foreign education as only 17 students have benefited since the state-sponsored scheme was launched seven years back. The tribal development department in March 2005 decided to give scholarships to 10 students from scheduled tribe (ST) category every year to pursue career in various professional courses abroad. Every year, the department can support 10 students for their graduation or post-graduation in various professional courses. The department bears the cost of lodging and boarding of the student, along with the fees, during the entire duration of the course. Though, the department could have supported as many as 70 students in the last seven years, only 17 have availed of the scholarship. The first student to go abroad was Sushil Pawade from Pimpri Chinchwad for a post-graduate diploma in food and beverage management. Pawade went for the year-long course in Sussex, England in 2007-08. “Till now, we have been able to send only 17 students. We make all the information available to the students through the schools and hostels. The project officer, who is from IAS cadre, is the administrative head for the unit in the department and is given the responsibility of ensuring that the students get enough ideas about the courses. But still, there are few takers,” D K Panmand, joint commissioner of the tribal development commissionerate, Nashik, said. An officer from the project office said that the students, largely due to their family background and economic status, hardly think of going to the metro cities. “The students have to be lured or forced to go to hostels located far from their homes. Very few are ready to go to the tier-II or metro cities for higher education. This is the major hurdle,” an officer of the level of assistant project officer said. A teacher from the tribal development department, who has been instrumental in sending some of the students abroad, said that the department was lacking efforts to the nurture the students to take up the benefit of the scheme offering them foreign education. “The vision of students has to be developed, their potential tapped and explored. Being the first generation from tribal background going abroad, the students need to be guided and assisted through the process. There is no provision for the same. Most of the teachers only make the presentation for the students without even giving full idea to them. How will the department get students?” the teacher from Nashik questioned. Vikram Gaikwad, former general secretary of the tribal development department employees’ union and head of an NGO, said that the department should have taken into confidence the NGOs to groom the students for the purpose. “They should consider the help of NGOs in spreading awareness, tapping the students on merit and assisting them to pass various tests before flying abroad. Of course, the tribal department is the only one that will decide whether the selected students fit the criteria or not,” Gaikwad said… (Times of India 26/2/14)

24. Workdays for STs under MNREGA proposed to be raised to 150 (6)
New Delhi: In a major initiative for tribals, the government is proposing to raise the workdays under its ambitious rural employment guarantee programme MNREGA by 50 per cent to 150 days a year for them in forest areas. A proposal of the Rural Development Ministry in this regard will be considered by the Union Cabinet on Friday, sources said here today. Those tribals who have received land rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 will be eligible for additional 50 days of wage employment under the rural job scheme. The beneficiaries would be those who have no private land and have completed 100 workdays in that particular financial year. The intent is to stop migration of tribals, the sources said. They will be given a job card of a different colour to distinguish from the regular MNREGA workers. Around 14 lakh individual and community titles have been distributed under FRA 2006. Of these around 8 lakh individual titles have been given in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. The government believes it as an important initiative since a lot of land levelling, plantation and other activities are required to be undertaken on these lands to make them more productive. The additional persondays through MNREGA will allow the households to undertake additional work on their own land. This is one among the several initiatives taken by the Rural Development Ministry for the uplift of the tribals. The Ministry has already made FRA beneficiaries automatically included for assistance under its housing scheme — Indira Awaas Yojana. So far 5.76 lakh households in the states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh have been sanctioned such assistance. (Bsiness Standard 27/2/14)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE
25. ‘Amended Act on Quarrying Threat to Western Ghats’ (9)
SHIMOGA: The state government’s decision to amend the Act on quarrying will result in serious harm to the environment, especially the Western Ghats region, and pose a danger to villages and towns, according to environmentalists. They say that while amending the Act, the government has concentrated only on revenue villages. But in Malnad, the condition is different. Several villages are not revenue villages and such villages were not considered while giving permission for units, they say. Moreover, the distance fixed for temples and schools in the amended Act is too short and no reference was made on forest, wildlife and bio-diversity in the amended Act which will devastate the Western Ghats region, they said. The Karnataka government amended the Karnataka Regulation of Stone Crushers Act 2011 (Karnataka Act 08 of 2012) after the Supreme Court rejected a petition by quarry owners challenging the High Court directives on safe zones for quarries. In 1998, the Karnataka High Court had issued guidelines to the state government to identify safe zones for stone crushing units keeping in mind ecology and public health. The High Court had said that safe zones should be located at least 50 km from each other and they should be at least two km from national and state highways, one km from villages, schools, rivers and temples. It had said the zone should be four km from the district headquarters and eight km from the municipal corporation limits. However, the government passed the Karnataka Regulation of Stone-Crushers (amendment) Bill, 2013 during the Belgaum Session in December 2013 and notified it in the Gazette on January 21, 2014. Sources in the Mines and Geology department suspected a lobby of stone crushers behind amending the Act. The Amendment Act says safe zone will not be located within 200 metres of national highways and state highways, 100 metres from district and other roads, 500 metres from revenue villages, temples, schools and municipal corporations, city municipal corporations and town municipal councils. Justifying the amendment, the state government said that it had appointed various technical committees to locate safe zones but concluded that no such safe zones could be identified. Vrikshalaksha Andolana president and former president of the Western Ghats Task Force Anantha Hegde Asisara said the government should have studied the pros and cons on the environmental impact and that a public hearing should have been conducted before amending the Act. “I am not against stone crushing units or mining because, we require them for development. But there should be sustainable harvesting system for everything,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/2/14)

26. Green tribunal inquires about ground water in UP (9)
Ghaziabad: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Thursday ordered civil officials of Uttar Pradesh to establish what measures have been taken to maintain biodiversity and ground water level in the state. The NGT said the Public Works Department secretary should hold a meeting with officials of the Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam, Ghaziabad Development Authority and Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam, and pass directives to ensure that construction in parks should be done only with permeable material so as to ensure replenishment of ground water. Observing that ground water level has gone down to 19 metres, the NGT issued notice to government agencies in Ghaziabad on a petition filed by Akash Vashishtha of the Hindustan Environment Action Group against “mindless concretisation”.The petitioner said blatant concretisation was increasing temperatures by six degrees Celsius, raising atmospheric carbon levels, preventing ground water replenishment, thus leading to wastage of up to 90 percent of rain water in the National Capital Region. (Zee News 20/2/14)

27. Govt clears plan to create new forest cover (9)
New Delhi: Government on Thursday cleared a plan to create new forest cover and improve the quality of existing forests with an expenditure of Rs. 13,000 crore in the 12th Plan. Besides the two components, which are to be implemented through various measures including decentralisation of forest governance, the proposed National Mission for a Green India (GIM) as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme will also strive to achieve increased forest-based livelihood income of households living in and around the forests. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday approved the proposal of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The objectives of the Mission during 12th Plan period includes increased forest/tree cover and improved quality of forest cover in two to eight million hectares, along with improved ecosystem services including biodiversity, hydrological services, increased forest-based livelihood income of households, living in and around the forests, and enhanced annual CO2 sequestration (process of capture and long term storage of CO2). “Of the total expenditure of Rs. 13,000 crore envisaged in the 12th Plan, the plan outlay is Rs. 2000 crore. The source of funding for the scheme would be from the Plan outlay, and convergence with MGNREGA activities, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and the National Afforestation Programme (NAP). “The sharing pattern for the plan outlay would be 90 for Centre and 10 State for the North Eastern States and 75 Centre and 25 State for the rest of the States. The 13th Finance Commission grant funds may be counted towards the States’ share, to the extent that this is in conformity with the Commission’s award,” a government release said. Mission implementation will be on a decentralized participatory approach with involvement of grass root level organisations in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring. The gram sabha and the committees mandated by the gram sabha, including revamped Joint Forest Management Committees will oversee implementation at the village level. (The Hindu 21/2/14)

28. Beach Erosion in Vizag Due to Lack of Mangroves (9)
VISAKHAPATNAM: Degradation and destruction of mangrove forests in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts, have been a cause of concern for environmentalists and environment lovers. Though negligible when compared to other coastal districts, both these districts having the mangrove forests in small patches spread over the coastline, are witnessing a decrease in the area over the last few years. Mangroves are found in tropical and subtropical tidal areas and play a crucial role in supporting the ecological balance. They play an important role in arresting tidal waves and tsunamis. They also support shrimp seed production and crocodile breeding. Andhra Pradesh has the second largest mangrove forests in the country, after West Bengal. Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam have mangrove forests spread over in an area of less than 60 hectares. In Visakhapatnam, mangroves plantation was once found in abundance near the Naval Dockyard extending up to Meghadrigedda reservoir on the rear-side of the airport. Two more mangrove plantation patches are found at Pudimadaka and Rambilli in the district. But, about 90 per cent of the mangroves and casuarinas in Vizag are lost due to human interference and indiscriminate deforestation of the mangroves cover for industrial development and urbanisation over the last few years. Environmentalists attribute the beach erosion which has been severe in the recent times to lack of mangrove plantation along the beach. “For me, Vizag and other north Coastal Andhra districts have mangrove plantation in negligible area. People, particularly the government, should realise the importance of mangrove plantations. It was these mangrove plantations that saved the lives of hundreds of people in East Godavari district during the tsunami,” said DE Babu, professor and head of Zoology department at Andhra University. He added that mangroves host several commercially important species of fish and crustaceans. He pointed out that beach erosion in Visakhapatnam could have been controlled to some extent through mangrove plantation. The mangrove plantation at Bhavanapadu and surrounding areas in Srikakulam which are spread up to 50 hectares this year, has declined from about 72 hectares in 2011. The environmentalists say that aquaculture has damaged these forests to some extent but developmental activities particularly industrialisation is posing a threat to mangrove plantation. Environmentalists emphasise the need to grow mangroves immediately in the wake of industrialisation proposed along the coast including Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) following the bifurcation of the State. They suggest that if 100 acres of mangroves are destroyed for any requirement, mangrove plantation should be taken up in at least 200 acre. Mangroves are buffers between land and sea where they not only prevent soil erosion but also act as catalyst in reclaiming land from the sea. Mangrove forests and estuaries are breeding and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms, including the commercially important shrimp, crab and fish species. The threats to mangroves include land reclamation for construction and industrial activities, domestic pollution, dumping of debris and waste, deforestation for fuel food and over harvesting marine wealth. “Unless restoration of degraded mangrove forests is taken up immediately by involving all stakeholders, we will lose precious mangrove areas that would in turn increase vulnerability to coastal storms and cyclones and loss of opportunity to sustainable livelihoods,” admitted a senior forest officer. He said that though proposals were sent to the government to grow mangrove plantations, the department is yet to receive a nod from the government.(New Indian Express 24/2/14)

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION
29. Enrolments, number of govt schools decreasing in state: Report (11)
JAIPUR: The Right to Education Act report prepared by the department of school education and literacy, ministry of human resources development recently projected Rajasthan in poor light at least in some parameters. The report was prepared to ascertain the difference the RTE-2009 had on government schools. The report indicates that the state has moved backward in terms of providing toilet facility to girls and drinking water in government schools. Besides, enrollments in state schools have reduced as the number of government schools have also declined. The figure says that separate toilets for girls have reduced from 89% in 2009-10 to 79% in 2012-13, though it is better than the national average of 69%. Even schools providing drinking water in the state are on the downslide from 96% schools in 2009-10 to 95% in 2012-13. The non-availability of toilets and water are the main reasons behind the drop-out among girls. The proportion of school girls in 11-14 age groups jumped from 11.2% in 2012 to 12.1% in 2013 but the figures were almost half compared to the all-India figure of 6% dropout in 2012 and 5.5% in 2013. It raised questions despite the government special schemes and polices to ensure rise in enrollment of girl students. Even the progress in Right to Education parameters which includes infrastructure development has failed to improve the situation of girl students. Another startling fact which can be an eye-opener for state is the number of elementary schools in Rajasthan reduced from 81,832 in 2009-2010 to 78,901 in 2012-13. That means closure of 2901 schools in last three years is very well replaced by the private schools which has substantially increased the enrollments and number of private schools here. Ironically, Gujarat which boost of its development plank is far behind in number of government schools with 34,523 government elementary schools against the 78,901 in Rajasthan. The silver lining for the state is that 98% of the teachers are qualified against the national average of 81%. Delhi has 99% of qualified teachers while Gujarat has 97% qualified teachers. Delhi is among the few places which has recorded 100% schools with toilet facilities for women. Gujarat which claimed to have most progressive state has 76% of the schools with the same facility. “The performance of Rajasthan is near satisfactory and improving. Several government projects introduced off late is showing results. However, the decline in number of schools is quite alarming and state needs to focus on it,” said KB Kothari, managing trustee, Pratham. (Times of India 16/2/14)

30. Child panel to organize workshops on Right to Education Act (11)
BHOPAL: State commission for protection of child rights ( SCPCR) will hold division-level workshops under Right to Education (RTE) Act from February 21 onwards. Commission’s chairperson Usha Chaturvedi said that these workshops will be held in all the ten divisions where the commission will also review the Act. Apart from chairperson, members of the commission will also participate. Series of workshops will begin from Indore on February 21, followed by Ujjain on February 22, Rewa on February 25, Shahdol on February 26 and Narmadapuram and Hoshangabad on February 28. In Jabalpur, Chambal, Gwalior, Sagar and Bhopal division, workshops will be held from March 10 to 29. District education officers, in-charge of Act’s cell in local institutions, women and child development department project officers, block education officers and project coordinators of tribal welfare department will also participate. (Times of India 19/2/14)

31. Directorate of Education seeks directions on free seats (11)
NEW DELHI: The Directorate of Education has written to the ministry of human resource development for directions on admissions into the 25% free-ship quota in private unaided schools. Complaints from parents of disabled children started pouring in once the application process-following the new nursery guidelines based on the order of the lieutenant governor-began. The 25% free seats are for economically weaker sections (EWS) and also disadvantaged groups (DG), including scheduled castes and tribes, other backward classes, differently-abled (or “special needs”) children and, from last year, orphans. When the government fixed the parameters for private unaided schools, differently-abled children got neither quota nor points as, in theory, the RTE Act-mandated 25% seats took care of it. In practice, it’s left this category with close to zero chances of securing seats. The 25% seats may be meant for a number of different groups but candidates are chosen through a single draw. The case of Tagore International, East of Kailash, illustrates this. “There are 1,200 EWS applications for 44 seats. Of these, 450 are residing within 1km,” says principal Suman Nath. “The seats are very few. One Vasant Kunj school told us there will be just one draw and there are many applications from within the first kilometre. We live about 6km from the school,” said a parent. Another is considering legal action. “We wrote to the ministry about 10 days ago,” says Padmini Singla, director, education, “That’s when the complaints started coming. We had to take it up with MHRD because RTE Act is applicable for admissions into the 25% seats and the ministry has to decide.” The department hasn’t received any reply yet. (Times of India 22/2/14)

32. Unaided Schools Say Circulars Not Binding (11)
BANGALORE: Circulars issued by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are not laws. This decision was taken at a meeting of member schools of the Karnataka Unaided Schools Managements’ Association (KUSMA) on a recent circular that prescribes a formula for calculation of fees. KUSMA secretary A Mariyappa said the DPI formula on fee fixation cannot be followed. In a recent circular, unaided schools were asked to fix tuition fees for classes 1-8 based on the existing formula (total salary paid to teachers + 30 per cent of the total salary/total number of students). Further, schools can charge only `600 as special development fees, `38 as non-tuition fee for classes 6-8 and `185 for classes 9-10 as per the circular. “Circulars are not laws. We cannot follow their formula as infrastructure availability varies from one school to another. The sum of `600 was fixed many years ago. It is the responsibility of legislators to amend this,” Mariyappa said. Various issues regarding the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act were raised at Sunday’s meeting. “There are several complaints from the managements about the lottery system,” he said. RTE rules mandate schools to draw lots wherever there are surplus applications. “If there are 50 seats, 200-300 parents come to claim them. Scheduled Caste and Tribe parents say they deserve seats, backward class parents also claim seats and the poor parents also want seats. There is total confusion,” Mariyappa said. The secretary said many school managements have urged the association to submit a representation to the state government over RTE fee reimbursements. “The government has fixed a maximum reimbursement of `11,848 for each RTE child in I standard and `5,924 for pre-primary. But some schools have received just `1,200 per child,” he said. KUSMA has decided to meet Commissioner for Public Instruction over these issues before Wednesday. Another point raised at the meeting was the ongoing language policy case that is before a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. The Karnataka Unaided Schools Managements’ Association, which is the petitioner, is confident of a favourable verdict. Mariyappa said a verdict is expected in 8-10 days. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

33. Govt told to list schools with facility for various disabilities (11)
NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday asked the Delhi government to find out which schools can cater to which type of disability in order to facilitate a broad scheme under which seats can be earmarked based on the facilities available in an institute. The court also asked the government to calculate the number of seats available for seven categories of disabled children in nursery admissions after implementing the statutory 3% quota in the total intake by private unaided schools here. “To illustrate, if the total intake of seats for a given year is in the range of 1,000, the disability quota would be 3% i.e. 30 seats, which would, for each of the seven subcategories, work out to 4 seats,” a bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and R V Easwar said. Meanwhile, the court said, the quota as per the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 “be kept vacant to await the outcome of the final decision in this case” and listed the matter for further hearing on March 12. Before the next date of hearing, the court directed the Centre to “indicate the funds available in terms of various schemes under the National Trust for Welfare of Persons Disabilities Act, 1999 and the trusts created under that Act as well as existing schemes formulated by it in that regard”.The order came while hearing a plea challenging the lieutenant governor’s guidelines clubbing children with disability and children from economically weaker groups (EWS) during nursery admissions. HC also made the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, a party in the case “for a fuller appreciation of the issues which are likely to arise in the present proceedings”.During the proceedings, Delhi government said the 3% quota under the Disabilities Act would have to be split up within the 25% quota by way of horizontal reservation and the balance within the 75% open category. The Centre told the court that private schools can earmark seats for children with disability within the 75% quota for open category. It also said “that appointment of children with disability as a disadvantaged group is an enabling provision and would not be a reservation and that the sub-categorization of 75% reservation under the Right to Education Act is within the domain of the state government”.Under RTE Act, 75% seats are open to all, while 25% are reserved for EWS category. (Times of India 27/2/14)

TERRORISM
34. NIA files second chargesheet against Yasin Bhatkal for terror attacks (12)
New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a supplementary chargesheet on Thursday against Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and aide Asadullah Akhtar with a case of alleged conspiracy to carry out terror acts in the country. The supplementary chargesheet was filed before the court of district judge IS Mehta who posted the matter for February 24 for taking cognisance on the final report. According to court sources, Bhatkal and Akhtar have been listed in the chargesheet under various sections of the IPC, including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the country), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war) and under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, PTI reported. The sources also said NIA has defined the roles of Bhatkal and Akhtar in the entire conspiracy of the IM to carry out the terror activities. Bhatkal is alleged to have been involved in the 2010 Pune Gernam Bakery blast and is reported to have planted the bombs himself. 17 people were killed in the attack. NIA had filed its first chargesheet against IM in July last year. The IM is under the scanner for a host of terror attacks in India. The blast outside a stadium in Bangalore in 2010 just before a cricket match is said to be one of them. It is also under the scanner for Dilsukhnagar blasts of Hyderabad and the Bodh Gaya serial blasts. Bhatkal was arrested by the NIA from the Indo-Nepal border on August 29 last year. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde confirmed the news the next day. Another IM leader Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi was also picked up along with 30-year-old Bhatkal. Bhatkal’s real name is Ahmed Siddibappa and he was one of the most wanted men in India. He was the only IM founder member who was operating in the country, with his brothers and founder members of IM, Riaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, having fled to Pakistan. He had been arrested in 2008 also by the West Bengal Police. However, he managed to get bail as the officials were not aware that they have caught a wanted terrorist. Yasin is a native of Bhatkal town near Mangalore in Karnataka. (Zee News 20/2/14)

35. India condemns terror attack on Somalian Prez palace (12)
New Delhi: India on Saturday condemned the terrorist attack on the Presidential palace in Somalian capital Mogadishu in which at least 14 people were killed. “We strongly denounce the terrorist attack on the Presidential compound in Mogadishu, Somalia, on February 21 in which several senior officials were among those killed,” the spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said. He said India was “heartened” by the resolve of the Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to carry forward the efforts of his government and people to restore stability in the country. “We condemn terrorism in all its manifestations regardless of its causes,” the spokesperson said. At least 14 people were killed, including five Somali officials, in the suicide attack by Shebab rebels on the presidential palace yesterday. The Shebab rebels had claimed responsibility for the attack. (Zee News 22/2/14)

36. ‘Reconsider decision to release convicts in Rajiv case’ (12)
Puducherry: Senior Congress leader and Minister of State in PMO V. Narayanasamy on Sunday urged Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to reconsider her government’s decision to release three convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Speaking to reporters in Puducherry, he said the trio had assassinated the Prime Minister and a leader of great stature and if they were released it would only set a bad precedent. “The decision (of Tamil Nadu government) is shocking, unacceptable and embarrassing and hence they should reconsider it,” he said and pointed out that life term meant they should be incarcerated till the end of their lives. Mr. Narayanasamy said AIADMK had strongly come out against the LTTE soon after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, demanding a ban on it and that it be declared a terror outfit. The party had also pointed out that LTTE supremo Prabhakaran be brought to India for trial and for deterrent punishment. But now the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu had taken an “arbitrary” decision to release them, Mr. Narayanasamy said. He said the state government had no constitutional authority to take such a decision as the case was probed by CBI and the culprits were punished under provisions of TADA. “This U turn gives rise to suspicion that AIADMK is now seeking political mileage and eyeing the Lok Sabha polls,” he said. Mr. Narayanasamy also said he did not personally agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to commute to life term the capital punishment imposed on the assassins. “Merely because there was delay on the part of the Centre to take a decision on mercy petitions submitted by the convicts does not mean that the capital punishment can be reduced to life term,” he said. (The Hindu 23/2/14)

37. Prime accused in Bangalore blast case held (12)
Nearly a year after a blast in Bangalore, a special team of the Crime Branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police on Sunday arrested K. Sahul Hameed alias ‘Paravai’ Badhusha (27) of Melapalayam in Kerala. Seventeen persons were injured in the explosion. The suspect was cornered in his hideout at Anchal in Punalur taluk of Kollam district in Kerala. A pistol with 53 rounds of ammunition, 17.25 kg of explosives, including gelatine sticks and electric detonators, and Rs. 6 lakh in cash meant for procuring explosives were recovered from him, CBCID Deputy Superintendent of Police M.X.F. Besky told The Hindu. After the blast he went underground. Investigation revealed that the accused was the key operative in plotting the explosion. He was produced before Tirunelveli Judicial Magistrate I V. Ramalingam here and lodged in Palayamkottai Central Prison. (The Hindu 23/2/14)

38. Seven terrorists killed by Army in Lolab in Kashmir Valley (12)
Srinagar: According to police sources, seven terrorists were killed after a gunfight broke out on Monday between security forces and terrorists in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. After receiving information about the presence of terrorists in the forest area near Dardpora (Lolab) village of Kupwara, a “cordon and search” operation was launched by security forces. The army patrol party was fired upon during the search and seven terrorists were killed in retaliatory firing. Security has been increased as more terrorists are believed to be hiding in the forest. (NDTV 24/2/14)

39. Anti-Taliban Meet Calls for Halting Peace Dialogue (12)
Lahore: An anti-Taliban all-parties conference here today called on the Pakistan government to stop all negotiations with the banned group and pay Rs 50,000 as blood money to innocent people killed by militants. “More than 50,000 innocent people have been killed by the Taliban and their families deserve to be paid blood money of at least Rupees 50,000 each,” a joint communique issued after the all-parties meeting said. The conference called on the government to stop all negotiations with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and announced to hold a countrywide anti-Taliban day on February 28. The conference was attended by some mainstream religious and political parties. The joint statement said that any form of support or sympathy shown to the Taliban should be declared a crime by the state. “Try the Taliban for their crimes against the Pakistani nation under Islamic laws,” the all-parties conference demanded. The statement said that the national anti-Taliban day will show the world that the Pakistani nation is against militancy and terrorism. Meanwhile, Chief of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain caused a stir by announcing that if the government cannot protect the people from the Taliban, the army should take over. The government suspended a fragile peace process with the TTP last week after a Taliban faction executed 23 troops taken hostage in 2010. After the talks were put on hold, combat jets and helicopter gunships targeted militant hideouts in the restive northwest, killing nearly 100 militants. The TTP has been waging a a bloody insurgency that killed some 40,000 people since 2007. The government has said that talks can now only continue if the Taliban announce an unconditional ceasefire, a demand rejected by the banned outfit. (Outlook 27/2/14)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA
40. ‘Over 91,000 unorganised workers given aid ’ (14)
VELLORE: Aid worth Rs.17.53 crore has been given to 91,032 unorganised workers in Vellore district through various welfare boards, according to Collector R. Nanthagopal. He was distributing aid worth Rs.10,61,500 to 161 beneficiaries at an awareness camp on the social security schemes (SSS) being implemented through the welfare boards here on Friday. Mr. Nanthagopal said that there were 60 categories of unorganised workers, including rs, painters, drivers, dhobis, painting artistes and goldsmiths. The government has established 17 welfare boards for these workers. A total of 66,499 unorganised workers in Vellore district have registered with these welfare boards from May 14, 2011 to February 15, 2014. A total of 82,906 workers have been given education assistance to the tune of Rs.11.85 crore, marriage assistance of Rs.1.60 crore to 5411 beneficiaries, maternity assistance of Rs.48.08 lakh to 846 beneficiaries, spectacles worth Rs.2.90 lakh to 557 persons, funeral assistance of Rs.1.15 crore to 551 beneficiaries, accident relief of Rs.27.63 lakh to 29 persons and old age pension of Rs.2.13 crore to 702 persons. V.S. Vijay, Vellore MLA, V.D. Dharmalingam, Deputy Mayor of Vellore, K. Jayabalan, Joint Director of Labour and K. Gnanasambandan, Labour Officer (SSS) participated in the function. (The Hindu 22/2/14)

41. Rajasthan can generate 22 lakh additional jobs: Assocham (14)
Jaipur: Rajasthan can generate an additional 22 lakh employment opportunities in both organised and unorganised sector if the state’s economy is able to sustain over 8% growth rate during next five years, industry body Assocham said today. “Rajasthan has registered significant growth economic growth rate and can generate around 20 lakh jobs in organised and unorganised sectors, as well as 2 lakh direct and indirect job opportunities through oil refinery,” chamber’s Secretary General D S Rawat told PTI. He said that Assocham suggested a seven point detailed ‘Action-Agenda for New Government of Rajasthan’ to chief minister Vasundhara Raje recently and the projection was based upon the simple regression model according to which the assumption of employment generation is largely dependent on economic growth which has immediate effect on job creation. The boyd has also proposed to partner the state government to implement and achieve the objective of its vision document for Rajasthan. “Rajasthan has registered robust economic growth rate of 8.2% slightly higher than the national average of 8% during 2004-05 and 2012-13,” says a study prepared by the Assocham Economic Research Bureau (AERB). There has been a significant decline of almost 6% in the contribution of agriculture sector to the gross state domestic product (GSDP) of Rajasthan which fell from 25% in 2004-05 to 19% in 2012-13, it said. “Frequent droughts, rapidly depleting groundwater level, lack of investments and absence of modernisation in agriculture practices are certain key issues hindering the growth of agriculture in Rajasthan.” The apex industry body suggested that the new state government should promote the agriculture sector and maximize farm income by a co-ordinated approach focusing on best utilisation of available water with higher productivity, crop diversification, value addition together with strong emphasis on livestock development. Rajasthan has recorded a surge in the share of industrial sector in the GSDP which increased from 30.5% in 2004-05 to 31.3% in 2012-13 thereby indicating the strong pace of industrialisation in the state. In its vision document, Assocham has suggested the state government to ensure sustainable development of marginal, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to further increase the industrial growth, create more jobs and improve industries’ share in the GSDP. (Business Standard 23/2/14)

42. Labour Migration Continues as MGNREGS Fails (14)
SAMBALPUR: It was over two months back on December 15 last year that one palm each of two migrant workers of Jaipatna block in Kalahandi district was chopped off by the labour contractor for defying him. Despite the hue and cry over the issue, not much has changed in the area because of the failure of the administration in implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) which could have checked migration to a large extent. The landless and poor peasants continue to migrate to the alien land seeking jobs knowing that the treatment would be no different. They slog for hours in return for a pittance, but are helpless in the absence of assured work in their villages or neighbourhood. But the administration seems to have learnt little from the incident which has forced the two migrant labourers, Nilambar Dhangra Majhi (40) and Diyalu Nial (23), to remain indoors when they should be earning their livelihood. Available statistics reveal that while Rs 4021.87 lakh have been approved for projects to be taken up under MGNREGS, only Rs 2497.05 lakh has been spent till February 6 which works out to 62.08 per cent even as only a month is left before the financial year comes to an end. Similarly, against targeted generation of 15.92 lakh person days, 13.29 lakh person days have been generated which is 83.47 per cent of the target. Although 1.20 lakh households have been registered for jobs and 0.42 lakhs demanded employment under MGNREGS, 2066 households have been given jobs and have completed 100 days’ work while 304 households have managed to complete 150 days. Moreover, out of 8597 projects that had been taken up, 1949 projects have been completed. However, DRDA Project Director, Nuapada, Pradip Kumar Nayak exuded confidence that the entire allocated fund would be spent by the end of March. He said the administration aimed at providing 150 days of work to 3,000 households against existing 304 households with the ongoing projects and set target to provide 100 days of assured work to 10,000 people at the end of 2013-14 financial year. He maintained that the undertaken projects have managed to keep back 8,000 to 10,000 migrant labourers. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

43. Two lakh jobs can be created in Chhattisgarh: Assocham (14)
RAIPUR: Over two lakh new jobs can be created in organized as well as unorganized sectors in Chhattisgarh at the present growth rate of 8.8%, claims Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). The apex industrial body, in a vision document detailing a seven-point action plan submitted to the government on Monday, said that there is tremendous scope of creating more jobs even when combined workforce engaged in both industry and services sectors has increased from 21 lakh to 24.25 lakh between 2004-05 and 2011-12. Assocham secretary general DS Rawat, said the industry body’s projection is based upon simple regression model according to which assumption of employment generation is largely dependent on economic growth, which has immediate effect on job creation. Assocham has also proposed to partner state government to implement and achieve objective of its vision document for Chhattisgarh. The note states that Chhattisgarh has registered robust economic growth rate of 8.8% higher than the national average of 6.8% during 2008-09 and 2012-13…. (Times of India 25/2/14)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR
44. 13 child labourers rescued, factory owner arrested (14)
New Delhi: Thirteen children, allegedly trafficked into Delhi and forced to work in a cosmetics factory for up to 15 hours every day, were on Friday rescued by the Delhi police and labour department following a complaint. The factory in Rajouri Garden area in West Delhi was also sealed and its owner was apprehended, police said. “Assistant Commissioner of Police and the local SHO was part of the team which rescued thirteen children from a factory here on Friday,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Ranvir singh. Two of the boys, aged between 12 and 17, belong to Nepal while the others had been trafficked from Navgarh village of Siddharth Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, said another police official. The raid party found the child labourers filling creme and powder boxes besides packing the beauty products. The children said they were forced to work for 15 hours a day up to midnight for a meagre pay. “We lived here itself and never moved out. We ate and slept together,” said one of the rescued child who is a resident of Nepal. The medical examination of these children revealed a high level of malnourishment. The complaint was filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). All the children were sent to the Don Bosco rehabilitation home on directions of the Child Welfare Committee. (Zee News 22/2/14)

45. ‘Govt has no info on child labourer tortured in Karnataka’ (14)
Not many days ago, picture of twisted hand of a 10-year-old migrant child labourer, who was tortured by a brick kiln owner in Karnataka, had evoked sharp reactions in the State. Moved by the tale, Odisha government stepped in announcing to bear the treatment cost. The condition of the 10-year-old child Sushant Kumbhar from Bolangir district epitomized the complex situation of bonded labour in western Odisha. However, when an RTI activist sought to know what steps exactly were taken by the government to mitigate the sufferings of the boy, he was sent back empty-handed. “I had asked Women and Child Development department to supply information on steps being taken to alleviate problems of the boy. The WCD department, pointing out that it had no information, referred the RTI query to Labour and Employees’ State Insurance department,” said Biswapriya Kanungo, a human rights activists who sought information by exercising RTI Act. Mr. Kanungo said, “my application was transferred not just to Labour department, but also to SCB Medical College Hospital, district collector and Superintendent of Police.” “The way nodal government departments exhibited indifference on this sensitive issue, it sent out a very wrong message. It seems that the government only reacts to an emotive issue as long as it continues to hog headlines in media. Subsequently, administration forgets its promises,” he said. Sushant had migrated along with parents Santosh Kumbhar and Bhanumati Kumbhar from Kadalimunda village of Bolangir district to work in a brick kiln of Gulbarga district of Karnataka during October last. As a conflict over payment arose, the boy stopped working in the brick-kiln that enraged brick manufacturer. The brick kiln owner allegedly hit the boy with an iron rod. The boy had suffered a serious fracture in his left arm. Somehow, he was rescued from the brick kiln. (The Hindu 23/2/14)

46. Child protection wing writes to CM, says state far behind others (14)
Dehradun: State commission for protection of child rights (SCPCR) has written to chief minister Harish Rawat informing about the pending work related to children in the education, social welfare, labour and home department. The letter dated February 21, has highlighted how Uttarakhand is lagging behind other states in providing security to its own children. “There are four departments – labour, education, home and social welfare – where child related work is pending. I have written to the CM asking him to immediately order the completion of all pending works. These are extremely important for child protection in the state,” Ajay Setia, president of SCPCR, told HT. The letter, a copy of which is with HT, has listed eight points for the social welfare department. Along with demand of reconstitution of juvenile justice board (JJB), the commission demanded to reconstitute the district child welfare committees. The SCPCR letter also advocated constituting the state adoption resource agency, registration of all children’s homes, construction of homes for children in every district and to constitute child committees under the Indian penal code. The Supreme Court had asked to submit the status of the JJ board and children’s homes in Uttarakhand by February 16. But, the social welfare officials did not bother to reply to the SC. The commission asked the labour department to conduct a survey of child labour in Uttarakhand and thereafter prepare a plan for their rehabilitation. The commission also advocated constituting a task force in each district so that children in need could immediately be provided help. A detailed action plan was also demanded to wipe out child labour in the state. The public works department should give its contract only to those who do not use children as labour, the SCPCR added. For the education department, the commission demanded to identify those schools where only one teacher is deployed. As per the Right to Education Act, there should be at least two teachers in every government school. (Hindustan Times 25/2/14)

47. Child workers rescued, 31 shops raided (14)
Mumbai: The social service branch of the Mumbai crime branch on Tuesday rescued as many as 61 children in the age group of 11 to 15 years who were made to work for nine hours at a stretch for a meagre `500 or so in small establishments situated in the slum pockets of Nehru Nagar and Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs. Deputy commissioner, enforcement, Mahesh Patil said, “A total of 31 establishments have been raided and 31 persons who are the owners and managers of these places have been arrested for employing minors. They have been booked under relevant sections of the Juvenile Justice Act and the Labour Act. The accused will be produced before a court on Wednesday.” hief of the social service branch, assistant commissioner Feroze Patel, said, “Officials from our Juvenile Aid Protection Unit are recording statements of the distant relatives of these children who brought them here. All of them are from poor villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. We will send all of them to the children’s home. We will try to get in touch with their parents.” (Asian Age 26/2/14)

JUDICIARY/ LAW
48. Madras high court notice to RBI on plea against recall of old currency notes (19)
CHENNAI: The Madras high court on Saturday ordered issue of notice to RBI on a PIL seeking to declare as null and void its recent notification withdrawing all old series of currency notes issued prior to 2005. A division bench comprising Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice P Devadoss issued notice the apex bank’s governor and general manager returnable by two weeks. S Srinivasa Narayanan, an advocate, in his petition contended that the RBI had not disclosed the reasons for issuing the January 28 notification. The notification, issued “completely overlooking the interests of public” had created confusions among the public and caused great hardship to exchange the old notes. It was silent regarding availability of denominations and its value and the circulation of the currency issued prior to 2005, the petitioner submitted and prayed to declare the notification as unconstitutional and null and void. He also prayed for an interim stay on its operation. (Times of India 22/2/14)

49. Law Commission chairperson says Judicial Accountability Bill needs to be reworked (19)
MUMBAI: Law Commission chairperson Justice A P Shah, who retired as Chief Justice of the Delhi high court on Friday clearly said that the Judicial standards and Accountability Bill was “ill conceived” and would “not work.” “The Bill has potential to undermine the judicial independence in its present form,” said Shah, adding that it needed “complete redrafting” if it has to work. The provisions, he agreed with senior counsel Aspi Chinoy were a ”cure worse than the disease.”They were speaking at a seminar organized by the Bombay Lawyers Association on the issue in Mumbai. Justice Shah said ”A Judge of the supreme court cannot be treated as en amploye of the government” as the bill appears to have sought to do. Public confidence in the independence of the Judiciary is source of its power, he said and any mistaken belief among the people cannot be afforded to be ignored. He pointed to several lacunae in the Bill and wondered why had it stipulated that proceedings against judges be held in camera when even the impeachment inquiry proceedings against a former high court judge S Sen was open to the public. Transparency has to be there in the proceedings, to ensure accountability. Advocate Ahmed Abdi who was among the organisers said more such seminars on such crucial issues would be held. (Times of India 23/2/14)

50. Consumers can ask NGOs to fight cases (19)
NEW DELHI: Consumers can soon engage a non-advocate or an NGO to fight their case in consumer forums. However, such agents can’t charge arbitrary fees. The charges will be decided by presidents of the relevant forums. The grounds to be considered while deciding fees will include the paying capacity of clients, skill of the agent and complexity of the case. In a recent notification, the consumer affairs ministry said a party may authorize “an agent or non-advocate or representative or social organizations” to represent him before the consumer forum in an individual case/appeal or revision. But they have to be authorized by the party to represent their case. Such non-advocates or agents would have to declare that they have pre-existing relation with the complainant such as relative, neighbour, friend or business associate and that they are not receiving any direct or indirect remuneration for appearing before the consumer forum. Moreover, they have to demonstrate to the presiding officers that he/she is competent to represent the party. On the for fees, the notification mentioned that the forum president will take final call. While evaluating this, the forum head will consider factors including the amount of time the agent has spent on the case and the type of service. “If the party is seeking monetary damages, its agent or non-advocate or representative shall not seek fee more than 20% of the damage awarded,” the notification mentions. The government has also notified the process of accreditation of such agents by a committee constituted by the National Consumer Protection Council (NCPC). The reform is largely due to directives of the Supreme Court and efforts of an NRI doctor based in the United States. The apex court in 2011 had permitted non-advocates and charitable organizations to argue cases before consumer forums. It had also asked the ministry to furnish guidelines. An SC bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Justice R Mukundakam Sharma and Justice Anil Dave had asked the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to frame guidelines to allow non-lawyers to represent, appear and argue cases under the Consumer Protection Act before consumer district forums and commissions. However, when nothing happened, Dr Kunal Saha, who won a landmark verdict against medical negligence from the Supreme Court last year, sought contempt of court action against the ministry. Through his organization People for Better Treatment (PBT), Saha filed a petition in SC seeking speedy implementation of a historic 2011 judgment where SC. In his petition Saha complained that a path- breaking SC order that will enable people like him is being deliberately diluted by the Centre and NCDRC making them liable to be hauled up for contempt . During the proceedings, NCDRC in a counter affidavit informed SC even though it agreed to allow “non-advocates” to argue cases in consumer courts on behalf of people and framed guidelines in 2011 the law ministry allegedly raised objections. (Times of India 25/2/14)

51. Fatwa can’t be forced upon people: SC (19)
New Delhi: Fatwa issued by Muslim clerics cannot be forced upon people and the state has to protect persons who are harassed for not following such dictates, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said while expressing reservation in interfering with Shariat courts. Holding that it’s a matter of choice for the people to accept fatwa or not, the apex court said running of institutions like Darul Qaza and Darul-Iftaa is a religious issue and the courts should interfere only when someone’s rights are violated by their decision. “We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this. When a pujari gives a date of Dushera, he cannot force someone to celebrate the festival on that day. If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” a bench, headed by Justice CK Prasad, said after the petitioner pleaded that fatwa issued by clerics is unconstitutional. It said fatwa issued by clerics or prediction made by pandits do not violate any law and so courts should restrain them from doing so. “Which law gives power to issue fatwa and which statute gives pundit power to make horoscope? Court can only say that the state will protect the people if one is subjected to suffering due to fatwa,” the bench said adding some fatwas may be issued for the welfare of the people. “These are are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it,” the bench said while hearing a PIL filed by an advocate Vishwa Lochan Madam challenging the constitutional validity of Shariat courts for allegedly running a parallel judicial system in the country. All India Personal Law Board submitted fatwa is bot binding on people and it is just an opinion of Mufti and he has no power and authority to implement it. Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the Board, submitted if a fatwa is sought to be implemented against the wish of the concerned person, then he can approach court of law against it. The petitioner submitted the fundamental rights of Muslims could not be controlled and curtailed through fatwas issued by qazis and muftis appointed by Muslim organizations. (Zee News 25/2/14)

52. Some sections still not represented in HCs: SC (19)
NEW DELHI: Accentuating the embarrassment of the Chief Justice of India-headed collegium, recently forced to withdraw names recommended for appointment as judges of Madras High Court, the Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that certain segments of society never got represented in the higher judiciary. Continuing with the hearing on a PIL questioning the selection of the 12 withdrawn names, a bench of Justices B S Chauhan, J Chelameswar and M Y Eqbal said despite decades of independence, the true meaning of democracy, which was to give wider representation to every community in every walk of life, was yet to percolate down to some segments of society. The bench also found it “difficult to understand” the logic behind the decision to withdraw the 12 names. It said, “How did the elevation of Madras HC chief justice (R K Agrawal) require the recommendations to be considered afresh by the successor chief justice?” Appearing for the Supreme Court registry, additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao agreed with the arguments advanced by attorney general G E Vahanvati on behalf of Madras HC and said no advocate had a right to be appointed as a judge and that there could be no reservation for a community in selection of a judge. “Can an advocate say that must be considered to be appointed as a judge of the high court,” he asked. In response, the bench appeared to appreciate the genesis of common grievance of advocates reflected in the petitions by senior advocate R Gandhi, which has been transferred from Madras HC to the apex court, and the Tamil Nadu Advocates Association. It said, “We are on the larger social issue and its multi-dimensional impact. As a matter of fact, certain segments of society never got representation in the bench (as judges of the HC and SC). And it is also a fact that there are competent advocates in these segments of society.” It indicated that all was not well with the procedure adopted for selection of judges from among advocates (which was done earlier by the government and now by the judiciary’s collegium mechanism headed by the Chief Justice of India). “Is it a mere accident that there is no representation (of certain segments of society)? And could the accident continue for 60 years? It is surely not an accident. And we cannot shut out the debate by saying no one has a justiciable right to be considered for appointment as a judge,” the bench said. Rao said if the “proper representation of all communities” were to be applied then a dangerous dimension could take birth with questions being asked why the collegium selected only one judge and not two from a certain community. Justice Chelameswar said all chief justices of high courts periodically get letters from the law minister reminding them to keep the claims of various communities while recommending names for appointment as HC judges. “If one community is ignored persistently, then it will surely create problem. Should advocates from that community be not considered for appointment as judges of the HC? Can it be branded as an accident for 60 years,” the bench asked. (Times of India 26/2/14)

POVERTY/ HUNGER
53. Food subsidy can fill poverty gap, twice (21)
New Delhi: Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s estimate for India’s 2014-15 food subsidy bill of Rs 1,15,000 crore in the interim budget is more than twice of India’s Poverty Gap, or the cost of pushing all households above the poverty line if cash transfers were used instead. The Poverty Gap for India, as per the latest NSSO Consumption Expenditure Survey data available (for the year 2011-12) is Rs. 55,744 crore. A highly-placed government official explained the reason behind the food subsidy substantially exceeding the poverty gap: “The Food Corporation of India (FCI) does incur huge costs on holding procured food grains and it can be argued that there is tremendous potential for its operations to be more efficient”. “The point is not that the food subsidy should be discontinued but to see if limited resources are being used efficiently for targeting poverty effectively.” The Finance Ministry has in fact capped reimbursements to the FCI from the fiscal for the costs it incurs on the Government’s food subsidy programme, Mr. Chidambaram said in a television interview on Thursday: “I think a strong and firm hand on the wheel can keep the food subsidy at Rs 1,15,000 crore,”. “What FCI procures and how it finances it is a matter of the FCI, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and banks… I am only concerned with what the Budget, the treasury gives…” Even for the 2013-14 food subsidy, the interim budget provides Rs 92,000 crore which the FCI has said falls short of the procurement costs during the year by almost Rs 40,000 crore. The Fiscal Responsibility and Management (FRBM) Act statement laid in Parliament by Mr. Chidambaram as part of his budget documents last Monday says that the food subsidy regime in the coming years will have to undergo a massive overhaul. “Government will have to align the pricing policy for subsidised goods to ensure that the subsidies remain affordable and it is extremely essential to put in place proper systems for better targeting,” the statement says. Beside the food subsidy, the UPA Government has on an average spent close to Rs 1 lakh crore per year since 2004 on a variety of anti-poverty schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme. This is set to increase going forward as the annual cost of implementing the Food Security Law. (The Hindu 22/2/14)

54. Police prevent woman from selling baby due to poverty (21)
ASANSOL (West Bengal): The police on Sunday prevented a three-month-old baby from being sold by his mother who claimed she was forced to take the decision because of abject poverty. Lakshmi Hanri, a resident of Dhadka-Tapsi Babamandir under north Asansol police station, told reporters that she was unable to feed her three other children, aged between 10 and 12, after her husband Santosh Hanri, a day labourer, left them. She said she entered into an agreement with a tea trader yesterday to sell the baby boy, Debdas Hanri, for Rs 21,000 and took Rs 1,000 in advance from him. Asansol sub-divisional officer Amitabha Das said this morning the police visited the shanty where Lakshmi and her children lived and got the malnourished baby and her mother admitted to the Asansol Sub-Divisional Hospital. The SDO said the police was exploring if the family could be provided with BPL ration card. (Times of India 23/2/14)

RESERVATION
55. SC candidates can be appointed under OC category: Madras High Court (25)
MADURAI: The Madurai Bench held that a single judge of the High Court too had “erred” in holding that a Scheduled Caste candidate could not be appointed in OC category. Vacancies for government jobs under Open Category (OC) should be filled with meritorious candidates irrespective of their caste, and there is no bar in appointing a Scheduled Caste or other such candidate under the OC category, the Madras High Court Bench here has held. A Division Bench comprising Justice R. Sudhakar and Justice S. Vaidyanathan passed the ruling while allowing a 2012 writ appeal filed by a Scheduled Caste candidate who was denied the job of a watchman on the grounds that it fell under the OC category as per communal roster. The Bench held that a single judge of the High Court too had “erred” in holding that a Scheduled Caste candidate could not be appointed in OC category. “There is no reservation in the Open Category. All eligible persons can be considered. The approach of the learned single judge is not correct,” it said. Writing the judgement for the Bench, Mr.Justice Vaidyanathan said the single judge was right in holding that OC category was meant only for meritorious candidates but wrong in stating that candidates belonging to socially backward classes could not be considered under the category. The judges directed the Commissioner of Agricultural Marketing and Agricultural Business to appoint the appellant, P. Rajkumar, as a watchman in Tiruchi Marketing Committee, forthwith. The appellant’s counsel K. Vellaiswamy pointed out that his client was selected for the post of watchman in 2011 after his name was sponsored by the Employment Exchange in 2010. But the officials, suddenly, refused to issue an appointment order since he belonged to a Scheduled Caste. When he filed a writ petition challenging their refusal, the Commissioner submitted that the Employment Exchange had wrongly sponsored the name of a Scheduled Caste candidate for a post earmarked under the OC category. Accepting the submission, the single judge dismissed the writ petition on October 3, 2012, and hence the present writ appeal. (The Hindu 21/2/14)

56. Demand for inclusion of Meetei in ST resurfaces (25)
Imphal, February 23 2014 : The demand for inclusion of Meetei in the Scheduled Tribe list should be discussed in the State Assembly Session failing which the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur will launch intense agitation including hunger strike, rally etc, cautioned L Lokendra Singh, retd Lt Col and general secretary of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur. Addressing a press meet at Manipur Press Club here today, Lokendra said the demand for inclusion of Meetei in the ST list is legitimate and constitutional one under Article 342 though some tribal communities in the State are against it and pointed out that recommendation by the State Government is very much required for materializing the demand. Noting that the demand is not an attempt to intrude or interfere into the quotas of other scheduled tribe communities, he maintained that the committee has been demanding the rights which Meeteis deserved. (E-Pao 23/2/14)

57. ‘Caste Bias Rampant in Country’ (25)
MYSORE: SC/STs, OBCs and minorities across the country are still treated as untouchables and discriminated on the basis of their caste, said R N Chandolia, national president of All India Federation of SC/STs, Backward Classes and Minorities Employees’ Welfare Association, New Delhi. He told reporters here on Sunday that with privatisation, these communities are deprived of jobs in private as well as government sectors. “Most of the employed persons are harassed in their offices over caste. The government must make reservation mandatory in the private sector and fill the 1.87 lakh vacant posts,” he said. As only 30 per cent of the funds earmarked in the budget for the weaker sections are utilised, he demanded utilisation of the remaining amount within a set time. “The funds allocated under different schemes are not reaching the real beneficiaries. They are either diverted or misappropriated. The officials who misuse the funds should be fined and punished severly,” he added. “Money and muscle power play a major role in the elections and a candidate comes to power by spending crores of rupees. Politics has become a commercial activity. Merchants and rice mill owners are minting money by selling Anna Bhagya rice in the black market,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

58. ‘Reservation for Brahmins and Vysyas Soon’ (25)
CHITRADURGA: Minister of Social Welfare H Anjaneya on Sunday announced that the government will make arrangements to provide reservation for both Brahmin and Vysya communities and bring them to the mainstream. At the 5th Karnataka State Vysya Sahitya Sammelan, he said both communities that once occupied a prime position are now in crisis and are slowly moving out of the social axis. The department has made arrangements for providing Vidyashree scholarship, fee concession and other monetary benefits from the current academic year and the order will come out in a day or two, he said. He promised to backward class tag for both the communities after getting recommendation from the chairman of the backward classes commission. A letter has already been written to the commission. Anjaneya also said the government has taken up a mammoth task of caste-based census, eyeing inclusive growth of the state. “These days protests are not undertaken for public welfare but propaganda. After getting mileage in the media, the protest ends,” he said. He regretted that the Vysya community failed to demand reservation and other benefits. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

59. Marathas demand 25% reservation (25)
Mumbai: As the Lok Sabha polls inch closer, ruling party MLC Vinayak Mete led a protest march demanding 25 per cent reservation to Maratha community in the city on Monday. Interestingly, the protest took place in the backdrop of the state government’s announcement to bring the report on the Maratha reservation in the ongoing session of the Legislature. Interestingly, the demand was made before the 2009 state Assembly elections and the Congress-NCP in their election manifesto had included the Maratha reservation. “The Maratha community should be given the status of the (Other Backward Classes) OBC and a separate reservation of 25 per cent,” Mr Mete, the leader of Shiv Sangram said while speaking to the reporters in Mumbai on Monday. The protest started from Byculla and ended at Azad Maidan. However, Mr Mete was not happy with the kind of treatment given to the agitators. “We were not allowed to enter the Assembly initially. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar did not meet us, as we wanted an assurance from them,” Mr Mete said. He also demanded that the statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea should be completed as early as possible. He met state home minister R.R. Patil who assured him that he would look into the matter. The state government has already appointed a committee led by the industry minister Narayan Rane to give recommendations on the Maratha reservation issue. The committee has studied the legal aspects of the reservation. A sample survey was also conducted in all the districts of the state and compilation work is on, one of the officials from the committee said. “The report is expected to be submitted in the ongoing session of the Legislature,” the officer added. Mr Rane had already made it clear that the Maratha community will get reservation on the lines of the reservation given in Tamil Nadu. The Marathas will get separate reservation without touching the existing quota for the OBC. The issue was important, as the OBCs were not happy to share their quota with the Marathas. (Asian Age 25/2/14)

Posted by admin at 24 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. State human rights commission to probe ‘torture’ in jail (1)

THRISSUR: State human rights commission (SHRC) member R Natarajan on Monday ordered an investigation by commission’s chief investigation officer (CIO) DIG S Sreejith on how the convicts in the T P Chandrasekharan murder case got injured at Viyyur central jail here. The officer has been directed to submit the investigation report in two months. The order was based on a report submitted by jail authorities, led by jailor T Baburaj, on Monday. Natarajan had visited the jail on February 6 and the convicts had given him a detailed description on the alleged torture that took place in the jail. He had also directed the jail superintendent to submit a report whether the convicts were injured or not. Medical reports of all convicts were also submitted to the commission. The report said the convicts had injuries on their body but the injuries followed normal scuffle but not because of any torture. A group of close relatives of convicts had staged a four-day indefinite hunger strike before the jail since February 3 in protest against the denial of medical treatment to convicts and the alleged torture. CCTV footages: Based on a petition submitted by Oorakam resident P Pramod, the human rights commission member has ordered the chief secretary and DGP (prisons) to inquire into a departmental action taken against a police officer following leakage of CCTV footage to a news channel that showed jail authorities torturing jail inmates. The petitioner also requested the SHRC to direct the chief secretary and jail DGP to publish the CCTV footages from jails in the official website of the Kerala state legal services authority. (Times of India 18/2/14)

 

2. Civil society organisation cautions Anna over his meeting with Mamata Banerjee. (1)

KOLKATA: Association for Protection of Human Rights (APDR) has shot off a letter to Anna Hazare with a list of cautions on the eve of the corruption crusader’s meet with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Anna and Mamata met in New Delhi on Tuesday. ADPR has appealed to Anna to check some fact-sheet on West Bengal before joining hands with Mamata and persuade the CM to take corrective measures. The letter says that Mamata has not taken any step to appoint a Lokayukta or amend the existing Lokayukta Act in the state. And that the West Bengal CM had gone back on her promises to withdraw joint forces from Jangalmahal. APDR also touched upon the issue of the state human rights commission terming the appointment of a retired IPS officer as its acting chairperson breaking of norms and convention. The civil society organisation accuses that the commission has become defunct after its former chairperson Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly resigned from the post. The letter also says that the status of RTI in the state was in shamble accusing the state information commission being an almost non-functioning unit. Appealing to take up the Saradha chit fund case APDR cautions Anna about the latter accepting a garland from a ‘chit fund’ operator who is also with the Trinamool Congress and that the same might be misused by the Mamata government as a certificate of honesty. The letter signed by APDR BBD Bag Branch secretary Ranjit Sur wants Anna to impress upon Mamata to take corrective measures on the above issues including public announcement on appointing a Lokayukta and a chairperson of the state human rights commission, curing chit fund menace in the state etc. “We want to hear it from you too before you finallse your treaty with Mamata Banerjee. We hope in the interest of the people of West Bengal you will take measures before you join hands with Smt Mamata Banjeree and let us know the outcome, preferably in public,” the letter ends. (Times of India 18/2/14)

 

3. NHRC Seeks Report on Custodial Death (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the State Government to submit a magistrate enquiry report (MER) on the alleged custodial death of one Hemant Nayak of Bhuinpur in Khurda district in May 2013. The Commission has instructed the State Home Secretary to submit the MER within a month while also referring the case to a division bench for further directions. The Commission received a complaint from rights activist Akhand that the police from Begunia had detained Hemant Nayak (30) along with three others on  May 3, 2013, in connection with a case of eve teasing a girl. While others had returned home after questioning, Hemant’s mutilated body was found hanging from a banyan tree near village Badaberana two days later on May 5. The victim’s family and the villagers have alleged that the police had tortured and killed Hemant and then hung his body to give it a suicide angle. “It is a death in police custody. I prayed for an independent inquiry, registration of FIR against guilty police officials and compensation of ` 10 lakh to the kin as he was the only earning member in the family”, said Akhand. In response to the earlier directions of NHRC, Additional DG Police, State Human Rights Protection Cell of Odisha Police had submitted the report of the Superintendent of Police, Khurda comprising post mortem report, video cassette of the inquest and enquiry by the SP. As per the post mortem report, the death could have been due to combined effect of asphyxia and various congestions due to hanging. The report mentions that inquiry is also being conducted by DM and Collector, Khurda as per the order of the State Government and the report is still awaited. Considering the arguments of the police, the Commission has directed the Secretary, Department of Home and District Magistrate and Collector, Khurda to submit the MER regarding the alleged killing of Hemant in police custody within four weeks. The commission has ordered to place the case before Division Bench for further directions. (New Indian Express 20/2/14)

 

4. Sonia Gandhi Seeks Dismissal of 1984 Case in US (1)

NEW YORK: India’s Congress party president Sonia Gandhi’s has filed a new motion to dismiss a human rights violation lawsuit against her by Sikhs for Justice, a New York based human rights group. In a reply memorandum filed in the district court of New York’s Eastern District, Gandhi’s lawyers said the plaintiffs had unjustly argued for “unlimited extraterritorial jurisdiction and corporate liability to reach the tragic events of 1984 in India, and hold an innocent Gandhi liable. Saying that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” the motion said the plaintiffs “fail to attribute actual acts or omissions to Mrs. Gandhi.” The plaintiffs complaint was also devoid of any “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged,” they said. US federal court for the Eastern District of New York had in Sep 2013 issued summons against Sonia Gandhi on a complaint filed by SFJ and some victims of anti-Sikh violence in India in November 1984. The group has sought compensatory and punitive damages against Gandhi for her alleged role in shielding and protecting Congress party leaders including Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and Amitabh Bachchan from prosecution for their alleged role in the 1984 violence. (New Indian Express 21/2/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

5. RTI activist alleges misuse of funds in lake conservation (1)

Bhopal: Right To Information (RTI) and social activist from the State capital Ajay Dube has alleged that the State Government is misusing funds of crores of rupees in the name of Jheel Mahotsav. Despite having spent crore of rupees over lake conservation, no remarkable work has been done during the past few years in Bhopal, he alleged. Dube in a statement here on Saturday said, “We all know that nowadays, Madhya Pradesh Government is spending crore of rupees in Bhopal over celebrations of ‘Jheel Mahotsav’ in which experts from various parts of the country and other countries are visiting as guests. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is making tall claims before them and is befooling the people of the State.” Dube further said, “I had been working on the environment conservation since last few years and as per my experience in the field I could the lies in the things the Chief Minister is saying.” Dube said that Chouhan was chairman of the governing body and president of the general body of the MP Lake Conservation Authority since it was constituted in 2004 besides the chairman of the State level coordination committee never called a meeting of the authority. This reflects that how serious and sensitive is he over the lake conservation and today he is only doing showoff over the issue before the world, he added. He said that the documents obtained through RTI reflects that despite spending crore of rupees over lake conservation Madhya Pradesh Government failed to do any commendable work. The then principal secretary of the housing and environment department of the State Iqbal Singh Bais has written in the year 2011 in the file in which it was decided to merge the MP Lake Conservation Authority in Environment Planning and Coordination Organisation (EPCO). While merging the authority into EPCO the Government decided that a lake and river conservation cell would be constituted in it but the Government turned out to be liar because till date it has not acted on this decision, he added. (Pioneer 16/2/14)

 

6. Indian banks lose Rs 17,284 cr in fraud cases, reveals RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: Indian banks lost as much as Rs 17,284 crore during 2012-13 due to fraud, in a near four-fold jump over the previous fiscal, ET has found out from information obtained through Right to Information Act. At a time when the lenders were reeling under burgeoning non-performing assets, 62 banks filed a total of 26,598 cases involving a sum equivalent to, for example, three years’ budget of Indian Space Research Organisation. Many of these cases are being investigated by the CBI or the state police. Although private banks account for about 75% of the total number of cases registered, these lenders lost Rs 970 crore while the state-run banks lost as much as Rs 16,314 crore during the year. In comparison, all banks put together lost Rs 4,448 crore to frauds during 2011-12. According to the data, Punjab National Bank was the worst hit, with cases of fraud involving Rs 1,375 crore while Canara Bank lost Rs 1,166 crore. Other public sector banks that lost more than Rs 1,000 crore include State Bank of India, Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce. Among the private sector banks, ICICI Bank topped the list with 5,280 cases of fraud, followed by Citibank and Standard Chartered bank, with 2,934 and 2,568 cases, respectively. These three banks together lost Rs 187 crore. Several banks disputed the figures furnished by the Reserve Bank of India under the RTI Act. Canara Bank’s spokesperson said the bank had reported 78 cases of fraud amounting to Rs 583 crore while the central bank’s data puts the figures at 156 cases and Rs 1,166 crore. Similarly, Standard Chartered Bank in its official response said it lost Rs 18.85 core in 1,284 cases while the RBI said the bank had lost Rs 37 crore in 2,568 cases. Citibank and PNB also disagreed with the data. “The information you have provided is not in accordance with our records, and significantly overstates both the number and the value of the cases,” said a Citibank spokesperson. RBI did not respond to detailed query mailed by ET in this regard. The central bank had in July 2012 issued detailed guidelines to banks on how to report and tackle fraud cases. The guidelines specify seven different forms of fraud such as misappropriation, fraudulent encashment, cheating and forgery, and irregularities in foreign exchange transactions, among others. “Incidence of frauds, dacoities, robberies, etc, in banks is a matter of concern. While the primary responsibility for preventing frauds lies with banks themselves, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been advising them from time to time about the major fraud-prone areas and the safeguards necessary for their prevention,” said the circular. Earlier, in March 2009 the central bank had directed all the banks to report names of professionals who facilitated the perpetration of fraud to the Indian Banks Association (IBA). The IBA prepares a “caution list” of such people that is circulated among banks. However, the data for 2012-13 reveals that such efforts have failed to save banks from the rapid rise in incidents of fraud. (The Economic Times 20/2/14)

 

7. CIC imposed fine in less than 0.66% cases (1)

LUCKNOW: The central information commission (CIC), New Delhi, imposed penalties in less than 0.66 % cases. Against 147924 cases received till 2012-13, penalties were imposed in only 987 cases. In response to an RTI query by Sanjay Sharma, CIC said that penalty orders were revoked in 7 cases despite no specific rules to revoke RTI penalties. CIC received 442393 letters from 2007 to till February 2, 2014. Out of which 147924 cases got registered and 116333 (78%) were disposed till 2012-13. Maximum 86% cases were disposed in 2008-09 and minimum 59% in 2006-07. Average disposal rate of CIC is 78%. (Times of India 21/2/14)

 

8. AAP seeks to reap Haryana’s RTI bounty (1)

CHANDIGARH: To put the spotlight back on corruption related issues ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Aam Aadmi Party is planning to cash in on the RTI bounty in Haryana. The party has asked Haryanvis to provide it all documents related to scams and irregularities in the state that they have procured under the RTI Act. The state has thousands of RTI activists, including those associated with Haryana Soochna Adhikar Manch, which has around 5,000 members. AAP is planning to set up counters at its rally at Rohtak on February 23 to collect these papers, said party’s national executive member Naveen Jaihind on Thursday. With activists having procured RTI information on explosive issues like discrimination against southern Haryana in development work and misuse of reservation policy for women in teachers’ recruitment, AAP is seeing this as a way of gathering ammunition against its political opponents as well as finding more poll issues. Speaking to the Times of India, Jaihind said they hope to zero in on important issues with the help of RTI documents accessed by aam aadmi. “We have come to know that RTI activists have information related to irregularities in job recruitment and sugar mills apart from valuable information related to SEZs and land acquisition,” he added. State convener of Haryana Soochna Adhikar Manch, Subhash, who doesn’t want to be associated with any political outfit, said members of their manch are free to attend the rally. “Many of the RTI activists in Haryana have already joined the Aam Aadmi Party,” he pointed out. Subhash said that RTI activists have information related to serious irregularities and misuse of funds. “Through RTI information, we have come to know how over Rs 2 crore from funds meant for the welfare of students were spent in honouring teachers a few months back. We also exposed a case of land grabbing involving a company that had encroached upon government land near the national highway in Karnal district,” said Subhash. According to Subhash, they also found out how Haryana’s Edusat (education through satellite) project—which is considered the largest network in Asia—could not function properly despite the over Rs 100 crore investment in it. (Times of India 21/2/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

9. Gunmen open fire at journalist’s house (1)

Imphal: Unidentified gunmen opened fire at the house of a journalist, who was allegedly beaten up by the personnel of India Reserve Battalion recently, in Imphal West district of Manipur, police said today. Some people came in a car and opened fire at the house of Paojel Chaoba alias Aribam Dhananjoy Sharma late on Sunday night. Nobody was injured in the attack, the police said. It was not known who opened fire at the house of Chaoba. Chaoba was beaten up by a personnel of India Reserve Battalion when he was returning home after duty on February 10. Chaoba is a senior reporter of popular English daily, Imphal Free Press. Havildar of 1st IRB identified as Majibur Rahaman who was involved in the February 10 incident has been suspended and an enquiry ordered. Chaoba and All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union have lodged an FIR with the police. Various organisations including Indian Journalist Union and other Journalists bodies have condemned the incident. (Indian Expres 17/2/14)

 

10. Under attack: Third media house targeted in two days (1)

Karachy: The offices of ARY News came close to becoming the third media house in the city to be attacked within a span of two days. On Tuesday, the security personnel at the ARY News offices were screening the premises when they found a suspicious object. The guards immediately alerted the office. “The guards had been put on high alert following yesterday’s attacks on media houses,” explained a correspondent of ARY News, Syed Shabihur Rehman, while talking to The Express Tribune. “Apparently, the bomb was not thrown at our office because of the stringent security arrangements. It seems to have been placed there to be used at a later time.” Earlier on Monday, unknown assailants hurled explosive devices at the offices of Aaj News and Waqt News. The attack on the offices of the former left two of its employees injured, while the attack on the latter luckily caused no injuries as the device failed to explode. When the law enforcers received information about the explosives at ARY News office, they cordoned off the area. Bomb disposal squad experts also reached the site and defused the bomb. “This was a ‘cane bomb’. Similar devices were used to target the offices of the other media houses on Monday,” a BDS official told The Express Tribune. “It contained around 500 grammes of explosives including ball bearings and metallic pieces.” Meanwhile, the cases of the attacks on Aaj News and Waqt News were registered at the Soldier Bazaar police station. Though the police investigators have yet to make any arrests, they believe that the same group is behind the recent attacks on media houses. “It is difficult for us to provide security to all the media houses,” said District East SSP Pir Mohammad Shah. (The Indian Tribune 19/2/14)

 

11. Protection for Itanagar media houses (1)

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh government has declared all media establishments in the state capital Itanagar as prohibited areas after 5 p.m. to ensure safety and security of the media persons. A formal announcement to this effect was made by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in his speech at the 28 Statehood Day function held here on Thursday. Mr Tuki also said that to uphold the freedom of the press, his government had deployed police personnel and installed CCTV cameras in all media houses for effective security. Mr Tuki’s announcement came a day after the Arunachal Press Club and Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) called off their indefinite media shutdown. The APC and APUWJ had called an indefinite media shut down from Friday after the Students’ Union Movement of Arunachal announced plans to stage a dharna in front of Arunachal Times, an English daily. They demanded the government to ban entry of unauthorised persons into media establishments after 5 p.m. to ensure safety of media persons. (The Hindu 20/2/14)

 

12. Eminent authors ask Penguin to contest suit against The Hindus (1)

New Delhi: After Penguin India withdrew the copies of the controversial book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’, a group of eminent authors and historians today asked the publishing house to contest the suit against the book in a higher court for “holding up the freedom of expression.” Nine authors and historians, including Ashis Nandy and Romila Thapar, raised two demands in response to a notification by Penguin India on February 10 about its out-of-court settlement with the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti and agreement to cease publication, withdraw all copies and pulp remaining stock of the controversial book. The authors demanded said that “The Penguin Random House contest the suit against The Hindus through the higher courts, to ensure that a strong precedent upholding freedom of expression be established.” In its second demand, it said that “lawmakers, jurists and the legal bureaucracy undertake a revision of the sections of the Indian Penal Code under which the suit was brought, so as to protect works of serious academic and artistic merit from motivated, malicious and frivolous litigation.” The group includes Nandy and Thapar along with Partha Chatterjee, Vinay Dharwadker, Martha Nussbaum, Laurie Patton, Sheldon Pollock, Arshia Sattar, David Shulman and Ananya Vajpeyi. In a release, the group said, “We have received close to 3,500 signatures to the petition in 10 days, including from prominent scholars, writers, journalists and publishers around the world, as well as several Penguin authors.” “We are today forwarding the petition, along with all signatures collected thus far, to the management of Penguin India and to the appropriate authorities in the Government of India,” it said. ()Financial Express 24/2/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

13. Solve Arippa stir: Adivasi Dalit samithi (2)

Kollam: The zero-landless scheme of the State government is a hollow one, Adivasi Dalit Munnetta Samithi (ADMS) president Sreeraman Koyyon has said. The representatives of the 1,200 landless families at Arippa in Kollam district had taken out a march to Parliament on February 7. This was to call the attention of the Union government to the apathy of the State government in solving the issues of Adivasis, he said in a statement here on Saturday. The families had been on an agitation for 400 days now, he said. The agitators had submitted memorandums at the office of the Prime Minister and the Union Minister for Rural Development seeking their intervention in settling the agitation. They sought the allocation of 10 cents of land each for the construction of houses and one hectare of land each for farming purposes, he said. The ADMS delegation was received in New Delhi by Ekta Parishad founder P.V. Rajagopal. Human rights activist Swamy Agnivesh promised all support to the ADMS agitation. Parishad leaders Raman Singh and Aneesh Thillankery, Dalit rights leader Paul Divakaran, Social Justice Forum convener Sathinath Chatterjee, People’s Green Party leader P.K. Yadav, Youth Congress leader M. Liju, and some students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University also extended support to the ADMS agitation, Mr. Koyyon said. (The Hindu 17/2/14)

 

14. Rs. 200 crore VC fund for scheduled castes (2)

Chennai: In a move aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship amongst the scheduled caste community, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the government would set up a venture capital fund specifically aimed at achieving this task. The proposed fund, which would have an initial capital of Rs. 200 crore, would be set up in association with the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI), Mr. Chidambaram said in his interim budget speech for 2014. Further details of how the fund would be set up were not disclosed. In another unrelated development, the Finance Ministry also announced the addition of another Rs. 100 core to the India Inclusive Innovation Fund — which is aimed at helping small and medium entrepreneurs. It is currently being set up by the National Innovation Council and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and has a corpus of Rs. 500 crore. (The Hindu 17/2/14)

 

15. UP principal beaten, locked up in room for hiring Dalit cook (2)

Lucknow: A headmaster was badly beaten and locked up in a room for many hours allegedly by upper caste men because he had hired a Scheduled Caste woman to cook mid-day meal in a school in Gonda district. Mirza Mohammad Umar Beg, headmaster of Khaledubwa Primary School in Tarabganj area of Gonda district, was rescued by the police after suffering six hours of ordeal at the hands of the local goons on Tuesday. The police have arrested the two accused persons. “I had employed a Dalit woman to cook mid-day meal because the post was reserved. Still, I had approached out of way many other non-SC women for the job. But they didn’t agree to work. However, there were some teachers who were against my decision and suggested running the school without midday meal till we get an upper caste cook. On Tuesday, a Brahmin student of third standard refused to take the meal. Later, his elder brother Sushil Tiwari reached the school along with another a villager Durgesh Mishra, and started thrashing me. They chased me when I ran away to save my life and locked in a room,” said Beg. “They had been threatening me with dire consequences for the last one year. But I thought I would be able to convince them that it was not in my hand,” Beg explained. Superintendent of Police Mohit Gupta said, “The two attackers have been arrested.” Gonda district magistrate Ajay Kumar Upadhyaya said, “I have ordered an extensive inquiry under chief development officer M.L. Pandey. Untouchablility of any kind wouldn’t be tolerated. The villagers cannot punish a school headmaster for following the rules.” (Indian Today 20/2/14)

 

16. Dalits protest against grabbing of their funeral land in Jalana District of Maharashtra (2)

Partur : Dalits living in the vicinity of Partur town, district Jalana (Maharashtra) went to the Partur tahesil along with the dead body protesting against the encroachment of their funeral land by some people. In the town named as Vahegaon Satara the funeral land belonging to dalits had been illegally taken over by some people because of which dalits had no place to do the last rites of Meena Baladhao Yayekar and therefore the people gathered and went to the tahesil along with the dead body and demanded the access to the funeral land. “Under ‘Sheet No. 14’ – 10 C. R. land had been allocated for funeral rites but Narhari Sakha Ram Vatane, Kalidas Takaram Vatane and Anand Vatane illegally grabbed the land and are not allowing people access to the land,” alleged dalit activists. Dalits protested before the tahesil office and threatened to perform the last rites of the dead lady in the office of tahesil . The information was immediately given to the Sub Divisional Magistrate and Assistant collector who then directed the village accountant (patwari) to check the record, measure the disputed land and resolve the matter. The protest was ended with the Patwari’s written assurance to the protesters that he will come to the disputed land and that he will resolve the matter.(Two Circles Net 20/2/14)

 

17. Dalit Woman Demands Security, Alleges Harassment (2)

MANGALORE: A dalit woman of Malavoor village in the taluk has sought security alleging mental and physical harassment on a regular basis by her neighbours. At the monthly SC/ST meeting held at the Deputy Commissioner’s office on Sunday, Channamma alleged that her neighbours Ramanna, Saraswathi, Baby and Rakesh Poojary had threatened to murder her. “They knock on my door at midnight and throw garbage in my hut. When I opposed it, they asked me to leave the village. Though I had complained to Bajpe police, they refused to register a case,” she said. Channamma said, “My husband died four years ago when he fell from a building. My 16-year-old daughter was fatally knocked down by a train. I live with my younger daughter. My neighbours have been making my life stressful. Hence, I need police protection.” She also accused the Bajpe police of being hand-in-glove with the miscreants. Police Commissioner R Hithendra instructed Mangalore North ACP Ravi Kumar to conduct a proper investigation in this regard. Dalit leader P Keshava said a dalit who met with an accident at Moodbidri recently was treated at a private hospital in Karkala. The hospital authorities are not giving proper documents on the treatment, which is needed to avail insurance, he added. Hithendra directed the Moodibidri sub-inspector to look in to it. (New Indian Express 24/2/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

18. State aces lowering of mortality rate (3)

GULBARGA: Joint Secretary of health and family welfare in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Rakesh Singh said Karnataka has performed well in bringing down the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) when compared to the national average. Making introductory remarks at the launching of the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) in the select eight high-risk districts of Gulbarga, Raichur, Yadgir, Koppal, Gadag, Bijapur, Bagalkot, and Bellary districts in Gulbarga City on Thursday, Mr. Singh said while the national average of MMR was 178 per one lakh, it was 144 in Karnataka now and if the national average of IMR was 42 per thousand it was 29 in Karnataka. Although Karnataka had done good work in bringing down the IMR, he said that MMR continued to be high when compared to the performance of South Indian states. Mr. Kumar said with effective intervention and proper investigation of the health of pregnant mothers, most fatalities during delivery could be averted. Ninety per cent deliveries were normal and as per one study only 15 deliveries were complicated. Patients with complications such as high BP and low haemoglobin levels should be admitted to health centres two days prior to delivery to enable doctors to take precautionary steps to avert any complications during delivery. He said care should be taken to ensure safe abortions and that eight per cent of maternal deaths occurred due to unsafe abortions. Mission Director of the National Health Mission Suresh Mohammad said health indicators in the selected high-risk districts for the implementation of the programme was very low. (The Hindu 14/2/14)

 

19.  Health Facilities in Minority Concentration Areas (3)

National Health Mission (NHM) aims to provide universal access to equitable, affordable and quality health care services. Funding support under NHM is provided to the States/UTs to strengthen their health systems including for creating infrastructure, enhancing human resource for health and strengthening logistics in order to reduce Maternal and Infant Mortality and control of communicable and non- communicable diseases. Under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) special focus has been on 18 high focus States including 8 Empowered Action Group States. Further, to ensure equitable health care and to bring about sharper improvements in health outcomes, at least 25% of all districts in each state have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs) based on a composite health index. These districts would receive higher per capita funding, enhanced monitoring, focused supportive supervision and have differential planning norms. If any minority dominated district also has poor health indicators, it would also be included as an HPD and receive higher per capita funding and focused supportive supervision.There is no evidence to suggest that health and welfare facilities are less in minority dominated areas in comparison to other areas. This was stated by Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha today. (Govt. of India: PIB 18/2/14)

 

20. 473 Infant Deaths in Mizoram from April-December 2013 (3)

Aizawl: At least 473 infants below one year died in Mizoram during April to December last year while ten mothers died during pregnancy and delivery over the same period, a senior official said today. According to Dr Gordon Zohmingthanga, Mission Director of the state National Health Mission, there were 14,825 pregnant women while 16,156 new-born babies reported in the state during the period. “The Sample Registration System Survey, 2012 revealed that the national Infant Mortality Rate for a year was 42 in every 1,000 and the rate in Mizoram was 35 in every 1,000 pregnant women,” he said. He said that 89 per cent of the delivery was safe delivery (delivery in hospitals) while it was 98 per cent in Aizawl district and southernmost Lawngtlai district was the lowest at 62 per cent. (Outlook 19/2/14)

 

21. Spotlight on Rajasthan maternal deaths (3)

JAIPUR: The reported death of five pregnant women over the past one-and-a-half months in Pratapgarh district of Rajasthan has turned the spotlight on the much-touted Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana launched in the State in 2011. The maternal deaths have occurred despite the guaranteed and cashless services provided to women under the scheme. A seven-member team from Prayas, a voluntary group, which investigated the maternal mortality incidents reported since December, has found that three of the five women died giving birth to stillborn babies in villages covered by Mungana and Naya Boriya primary health centres of Dhariyawad sub-division in Pratapgarh. The women, in the age group 20 to 25 years, had accessed health care services available under the JSSY. According to Prayas secretary and health activist Dr. Narendra Gupta they died because of the “insensitive manner” in which they were shifted from one health facility to another, with no relief from anywhere. According to the findings of the Prayas team, the women who died were Heera Meghwal, 25 (resident of Khedi village); Kamla Meena, 22 (Hazariguda); Bhairaki Meena, 20 (Likniya); Kesar Meena, 25 (Uzadkheda); and Ganga Meena, 20 (Sarangiya). Dr. Gupta pointed out that none of the women had previous ailments or were classified under high-risk group. He said they were subjected to “incomplete ante-natal care” limited to two tetanus toxoid injections and supply of iron folic acid tablets. Ironically, the recently released data of the Sample Registration System (SRS) shows that the maternal mortality ratio in Rajasthan from 2010 to 2012 has reduced to 255 per one lakh live births. The Annual Health Survey shows MMR as 264 from 2011 to 2012. However, Dr. Gupta said the facts revealed a “different story”. (The Hindu 20/2/14)

 

22. Endosulfan victims set to get second installment of compensation (3)

KANNUR: Agriculture minister K P Mohanan said the Endosulfan victims will soon get the second installment of compensation recommended by the National Human Rights Commission ( NHRC). Presiding over the meeting of the district level Endosulfan Victims’ Relief and Remediation Cell in Kasargod collectorate on Thursday, in which Rs 26 crore was given to the district collector by the Plantation Corporation of India towards the second installment of the compensation, the minister said this amount will be distributed within two days. He also said the government is implementing the decisions taken in the meeting between the chief minister and the anti-Endosulfan activist groups in Thiruvananthapuram on January 28. “The list of those who were identified as victims in the medical camps held last year will be published before February 28 and the patients outside the 11 panchayaths where the camps were held will also be included in the list if they are found deserving,” said the minister. He also said the government has not taken any decision about the recommendations made by the Justice Ramachandran Nair Commission about the setting up a tribunal to decide the compensation for Endosulfan victims. The committee comprising the chief minister and other ministers will take a decision after discussing the issue, said the minister. The minister also added that the government has sanctioned Rs 2.2 crore for the emergency treatment of the patients who are not included in the list. The meeting was attended by the officials and peoples’ representatives. (Times of India 22/2/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

23. Muslims not scared of Modi becoming PM: Jamiat Ulema (7)

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind today said it was not worried about the safety and security of Muslims if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. “We are not worried about any Modi. Even if 50 Modis come, we are not afraid. We are not afraid of anyone,” Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind President Maulana Syed Arshad Madani told reporters here. He was asked whether there was any fear among Muslims if Modi became Prime Minister on account of the Gujarat riots. Modi was given a clean chit by an Ahmedabad court after the SIT report did not name him of involvement in the Gujarat riots of 2002. “Hindus and Muslims both are originally from this country and they have been living peacefully for centuries. Fighting does not solve any problem. Everyone should live with love and affection,” Madani said. He, however, said that a number of innocent Muslims have been killed in fake encounters after being labeled terrorists. Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind is organising a religious conference on February 28 at Amoni in Nagaon district. It will be attended by the Grand Imam of Medina Munawara Mosque Abdul Mehsin al-Qasim. (Indian Express 15/2/14)

 

24. Spiritual quest of Bihar’s dalit Christians (7)

PATNA: Valentine’s Day this year was also Sant Ravidas Jayanti: in honour of the guru of the Bhakti movement who was a cobbler by caste. The Bhakti movement was a quest for the equality of human beings before God and the quest for a society where there was equality of persons, justice and equity; where there was food for everyone. This was powerfully expressed in the poem songs and life of Sant Ravidas, one of the Dalit spiritual icons. The quest of the depressed classes towards a spiritual identity is what makes the latest book on Dalit Theology entitled ‘Towards Wholeness from Brokenness: The Dalit Quest’ by a Patna Jesuit Dionysius Rasquinha SJ interesting, even for those not directly engaged with Dalit issues or human spirituality. The author who has lived among Dalit communities in Bihar incorporates his experience to consistently reflect on the effects of the caste system on Dalits, their conflict, aspirations and hopes. What’s Dalit theology? Simply put, for centuries the Dalits were the outcastes of Brahmanical society. They were considered unclean and polluted. They were excluded from the rituals and sacraments of the dominant mainstream Hindu society. Beyond the pale of society, “outcastes” were assigned occupations such as removal of dead animals, scavenging and cleaning of the village. They were also landless agricultural labourers and tanners. They were barred from using village water tanks and public roads. Temple doors were closed on them. What then, are the spiritual expressions and traditions of the downtrodden and broken people? Although Christianity is an egalitarian religion, in India, the caste system found its way into it. Dalit Christians were discriminated against and denied powers within the church administration structure. If the sacred texts of the Hindu religion such as Vedas and ‘mantras’ were not accessible to Dalits as a rule, they were to discover that after conversion to Christianity, the same tradition continued within Christianity in theology. Dalit Christian Theology is peculiar to the South Asian theological scene. This theology began to take shape in the early 80s when A P Nirmal, then a faculty member at the United Theological College, floated the idea of “Shudra Theology”. Now, Dalit theology has come of age and it stands by its own uniqueness and creativity…. (Times of India 16/2/14)

 

25. Supreme Court gives Muslims right to adopt a child (7)

NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has given Muslims the right to adopt a child despite their personal law prohibiting it. The apex court said on Wednesday that the laws of land has to get primacy over personal law till the country achieves Uniform Civil Code as provided in Article 44 of the Constitution. The SC bench said the right to adoption is conferred by a law and operation of this cannot be stultified by a personal law dictate. The SC judgment comes on an 8 years old petition by Shabnam Hashmi who had approached the apex court after being refused permission to adopt. Though the SC said all individuals have a statutory right to adopt a child, it said the time is not ripe to declare the right to adopt a fundamental right. (Times of India 19/2/14)

 

26. Christian Leaders Thank Jaya for Schemes, Extend Birthday Greetings (7)

CHENNAI: Representatives of Christian community from across the State called on Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at the Secretariat on Tuesday and thanked her for all the measures that have been implemented by her government for the welfare of the community.  They also conveyed birthday greetings to the Chief Minister in advance. They expressed their gratitude to Jayalalithaa for her efforts to get SC status for Dalit Christians, for providing financial assistance to the Christians for undertaking pilgrimage to Jerusalem and other concessions being given to them. Those who called on the Chief Minister include: representatives from Salvation Army- Lt Colonel Edwin Masih, Lt Colonel G Thomas, Lt Colonel Samuel Rathan and K Jesudoss, besides CSI Bishop of Tirunelveli Diocese, Dr JJ Christudoss, Bishop of CSI Diocese of Vellore Dr A Rajavelu, CSI Bishop of Madurai-Ramanathapuram Diocese, M Josheph and Bishop of Tiruchi-Thanjavur Diocese,Dr G Paul Vasantha Kumar. The team also had Tamil Nadu Bishops Council chairman Dr Peter Remigius, Arch Bishop of Chennai-Mylapore Diocese, Dr George Anthonysamy, Bishop of Chengleput and chairman of SC/ST Commission, Dr Neethinathan, Vellore Bishop Dr Soundararaj and representatives from TNPCRI. (New Indian Express 19/2/14)

 

27. Body to Give Equal Rights to Minorities (7)

NEW DELHI: With its eyes fixed on the minority vote bank, the UPA government on Thursday cleared a proposal to set up the much-awaited Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) — a statutory body to check discrimination against minority communities in jobs and education. The EOC had been one of the major recommendations of the Justice Sachar Committee, which went into the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community. The Cabinet approval, however, is for a much watered down version of the EOC when compared to the original proposal.  Initially touted as the “ultimate equaliser that an unequal Indian society can get”, the EOC will now deal with only minority rights as the government failed to resolve the turf wars between different ministries over the mandate. The Ministry of Social Justice had argued that since the EOC was supposed to deal with the larger issue of social justice and equality, it should be under its purview. The Home Ministry contended that the EOC would be an overlapping commission and should therefore be kept under its wing. The ministries of Women and Child Development and HRD also vied to be the EOC’s nodal ministry since the body was slated to be the big brother of all commissions and eventually replace the Human Rights, SC/ST and Women’s commissions. The EOC’s mandate now would be to make binding recommendations to ensure that no minority community is discriminated against on religious grounds. It will also deal with grievances like denial of accommodation or buying rights to minorities in housing societies. (New Indian Express 21/2/14)

 

28. Pawar takes U-turn, slams Modi for Gujarat riots (7)

MUMBAI: NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had recently deprecated Narendra Modi’s condemnation over Gujarat riots, today took a U-turn and targeted BJP’s PM candidate for “mass murder”, drawing sharp criticizm from the opposition party. “The chief minister of a neighbouring state speaks about his development agenda…What is development?…Is it bringing all-round development in the lives of the poor and bringing smile on their faces? “They speak of changing the face of the country but the entire country has seen how mass murders took place,” Pawar said addressing a meeting to discuss the status of minorities, without naming Modi. Pawar slammed Modi’s development model and accused him of ignoring certain sections of the society. “These people are asking for complete power… but their attitude is to ignore certain sections of the society,” Pawar, Union agriculture minister, said. Pawar had recently said there was no need for a debate on the 2002 Gujarat riots after courts had ruled on Modi’s role during the communal conflagration. “If courts have given their verdict, then the question of holding a debate on it does not arise. We accept the court’s order and there won’t be any debate on it,” Pawar had said. Pawar’s criticism of Modi drew a sharp response from BJP whose spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the NCP chief has the habit of making communal statements ahead of elections. “For four years nine months, Pawar talks like a secularist. However, when the elections come close, he becomes a communalist. The NCP leader has a pecularity to make communal statements ahead of the elections,” Javadekar said. Pawar also criticized former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh for quitting IPS to join BJP. “Till the other day, he was in charge of law and order of the city and suddenly one finds he has joined BJP. Recently, a top official of the ministry of home affairs (home secretary R K Singh) also joined communal BJP,” the NCP chief said. “..Ideology is not framed overnight, those in the administration are expected to be fair and impartial in a secular country. These people are part of administration for 20-30 years and suddenly (they) join a political party,” he said, adding the presence of such people in government could be “dangerous”.”I have no objection to them joining politics but their presence in government is dangerous…All secular parties should think about this,” he said. Javadekar also took a swipe at Pawar for his criticism of Satyapal Singh, saying the Maratha strongman was unhappy as Mumbai’s former top cop had not joined NCP. (Times of India 22/2/14)

 

29. 84 police teams constituted to nab absconding riots accused (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: District authorities have constituted 84 police teams to arrest the 244 absconding accused who are facing charges over the riots last year in the area, police today said. SSP HN Singh told reporters here that 84 police teams, each led by a gazetted officer, have been set up to arrest 244 absconding riots accused who have been identified by a Special Investigation Team. While 220 of the accused are facing charges for murder, loot and arson, 24 of them are named in six gang rape cases. Police said they are facing resistance from locals as they try to arrest the riots accused residing in villages in the area. Thus, only two of the 39 accused in the Kutba killings have been arrested. Eight people, including a woman, were killed and 24 injured in the attack on Kutba village during the riots in September of last year. Out of the 24 persons facing gang rape allegations, only one has been arrested. Court has initiated attachment proceedings under provisions of CrPC against the absconding accused. More than 60 persons were killed and hundreds injured in last year’s communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas. (Times of India 23/2/14)

 

30. Anti-Sikh riot victims protest land grab (7)

AMRITSAR: Victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots, under the aegis of 1984 Sikh Genocide Victims’ Family Agitation Committee, staged protest near Gurdwara Sangrana Sahib on Sunday against alleged grabbing of nearly 4 acres of land meant for the families of victims. Former president of the committee J S Saluja said that human rights activist Darshan Singh has also begun hunger strike against land grabbers. Giving details, Darshan Singh said Giani Sant Singh Maskeen had purchased the land with offerings from the community to help the victims to settle down but the land had been grabbed by some influential persons. He said he would continue to sit on hunger strike till they get possession of land. (Times of India 24/2/14)

 

WOMEN

31. Activists warn against Nirbhaya force becoming moral police (8)

KOCHI: The Kerala home department is trumpeting the Nirbhaya project to be launched by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi here on Saturday as a path-breaking initiative to make the state a safe and secure place for women. However, activists warn the government that utmost care should be taken to ensure that it doesn’t degenerate into another arm of moral police. The project envisages formation of 12,000-strong women volunteer force across the state which will be moving round different localities to help women and children seek police assistance in case of any attack or attempts of abuse against them. Home minister Ramesh Chennithala said 10 volunteers would be selected in each panchayat area, 30 volunteers in each municipality and 100 volunteers in corporation areas. The volunteers would be selected with the help of local self-government institutions, Kudumbasree, Janasree and other voluntary organizations. The volunteers will get uniform, name plates and mobile phone but would not receive any remuneration, he said. They would visit frequently all the areas, including houses and buses, to ensure that crimes against women would not go unreported and unresolved, the home minister said. However, the women’s activists point out the volunteers could become moral police force unless their roles are clearly defined. “Ideally the volunteers should be totally cut off from the police force, so that they will not have any powers to intimidate innocent citizens. Their main concern should be making the public spaces more women friendly,” said Seema Bhaskar, an activist-cum researcher in women and child rights issues. “The volunteers must at best act as links between the victims and the law enforcers. According to reports there are some monitoring roles envisaged for the volunteers through home visits, and they could be counter- productive unless closely regulated,” said another activist. Additional director general of police A Hemachandran clarified that the police department was conscious of such possible negative dimensions of Nirbhaya volunteers. “We have factored in several features to reduce such aberrations,” Hemachandran said. However, activists warn the government that utmost care should be taken to ensure that it doesn’t degenerate into another arm of moral police. The project envisages formation of 12,000-strong women volunteer force across the state who will be moving round different localities to help women and children seek police assistance in case of any attack or attempts of abuse against them. Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said 10 volunteers would be selected in each panchayat areas, 30 volunteers in each municipality and 100 volunteers in corporation areas. The volunteers would be selected with the help of local self government institutions , kudumbasree, Janasree and other voluntary organisations. The volunteers will get uniform, name plates and mobile but would not receive any remuneration, he said. They would be visiting frequently all the areas including houses and buses to ensure that the crimes against women would not go unreported and unresolved, the Home Minister said. (The Hindu 15/2/14)

 

32. Haryana drive against female foeticide (8)

GURGAON: Seventy cases have been registered under the Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in Haryana this year and a hundred people arrested in this connection so far. Carrying out a special drive in the State against female foeticide over the past few weeks, joint teams of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department and the Health Department have come across a new dangerous trend in Haryana wherein portable ultrasound machines are being used for sex-determination. The matter first came to light when a FDA and Health Department team on February 7 arrested one Kavita from Jamalpur village in Bhiwani and confiscated a portable ultrasound machine from her possession. “The machine was small enough to be carried in a coat’s pocket. Further investigation revealed that she had bought the machine from one Rajkumar of Kaithal. Rajkumar’s arrest led us to Hitesh in Delhi and two portable machines were seized from him. The case revealed for the first time the use of portable machines in Haryana for ultrasound which is a dangerous trend,” said FDA Commissioner Rakesh Gupta, who is also Director of National Rural Health Mission in Haryana. The arrest of Hitesh led the FDA to a larger racket involved in import of portable ultrasound machines from China and selling them illegally for sex-determination. Two persons, Satnam Singh and Gautam, were arrested from Manesar on February 14 in this connection and 19 portable machines seized. The accused are employees of Sino Pharma India Private Limited, which has imported 69 ultrasound machines since it acquired the import licence in January last. The company’s managing director and another senior official, both Chinese nationals, have been asked to join the investigation. Mr. Gupta said that an aggressive campaign was being carried out against violation of the PNDT Act and the MTP Act in the State and the joint operations by the FDA and Health Department officials had led to encouraging results. (The Hindu 18/2/14)

 

33. Girl dies of burns within a month of marriage (8)

RAMANATHAPURAM: A 19-year-old girl died of burns within a month after her marriage and the hapless parents were knocking at the doors of the district administration and police, seeking punishment to her husband and mother-in-law, alleging it was a case of dowry death. R. Sakthivel, a native of Panaikulam near Mudukulathur, presented a petition to the Collector here on Monday, alleging that his daughter S.Muneeswari was set on fire by her husband K.Manickam after dowry harassment and sought a direction to the police to initiate action against him and three others. He said his daughter, a school dropout, was working in a textile mill in Coimbatore when Manickam, a relative, wanted to marry her. With their consent, the marriage was conducted on December 31, 2013, and since then the couple was living at his house at Panaikulam. On January 26, he was told that Muneeswari had committed self-immolation after her husband harassed her, demanding dowry and she succumbed to the burns the next day, Sakthivel said. As he was away in Delhi, his wife Sevammal (38) lodged a complaint with Ilanchembur police station, suspecting foul play in the death, but the police did not take any action, he said. Manickam, a native of Rasikulam near Sayalkudi, worked in a sweet and savouries shop run by his brother in Kerala and had refused to take his wife along with him after the marriage. Instead, he was harassing her for dowry, Sakthivel said. He had promised to buy him a motorcycle on his return from Delhi, after his daughter spoke to him over phone and informed him about the demand by her husband. But before he could return, his daughter died, he said. Sakthivel played to reporters the telephonic conversation between him and his daughter, recorded in his mobile phone as his wife with three children, a boy and two girls, sobbed on listening to her daughter’s voice. (The Hindu 19/2/14)

 

34. List areas where sexual offences are rampant: High court (8)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday directed the Centre and the Delhi government to provide it the details of areas in the capital where incidents of sexual offences are rampant. Observing that “rape is nothing but an aggravated form of eve-teasing”, a bench of acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice S Mridul said, “Fact of the matter is that women feel unsafe in Delhi. Governments come and governments go, but safety of women in Delhi is still a question mark.” Asking the Delhi government to provide it with the “the map of areas where eve-teasing incidents are happening”, the bench said that it will involve a sociologist to “study the reasons behind the problem”. “If you have done crime mapping, then you will know where incidents of eve-teasing are happening in Delhi. Then you can employ NGOs to go and change the mindset of people in those areas as these crimes are committed by ordinary persons and not someone from outer space,” the bench said. The court’s observations came while hearing a plea, filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, alleging that instances of eve-teasing in the capital have increased by over 700% in 2013, and the Centre and city government must be directed to implement the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court. During the hearing, the bench also asked Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra as to why the government has not been advised to conduct an “open house” so that people can come forward with their views. It asked the Centre and Delhi Government to find out “what is the societal problem, the mindset of cops and whether they are gender sensitized as claimed by police”.”Are the male cops gender-zsensitize or are they still male chauvinists?” said the court while asking police if they are “registering FIRs if a girl complains of eve-teasing”. It also asked police whether the general public was aware of the 24-hour special helpline and distress cell set up to deal with complaints of eve-teasing. “Everyone knows about 100. How many know of 181 (helpline number)? Not many we are sure. You have to make it known,” it said. (Times of India 20/2/14)

 

35. Tougher rape law leading to increase in false cases? (8)

NEW DELHI: Fears have been expressed that strengthening of the law against sexual offenses after the Nirbhaya case has also led to an increase in false cases. Now, there’s some evidence to support this claim. Statistics on the disposal of rape cases in Delhi’s trial courts show a sharp increase in the acquittal rate after the infamous December 16, 2012, gang rape. While in 2012, the acquittal rate in rape cases was 46%, in the first eight months of 2013 (for which exact figures are available) it shot up to 75%. Sources said acquittals remain high this year as well, accounting for around 70% of the cases. Legal experts say the high acquittal rates are because of a spurt in the number of false rape cases being filed. The observations of judges in acquittal cases also bear this out. “This is an unfortunate trend. In many cases, women come up with the plea that they had registered the case out of anger and due to misunderstanding,” said additional public prosecutor A T Ansari, one of the main prosecutors in the Nirbhaya case. A senior woman lawyer, who did not wish to be named, said, “It’s sad but true. Registration of false cases is rampant and hence, the alarming acquittal rate. The new law is being misused because of the widened definition of rape.” Experts feel the amended law is “widely-worded” and “ambiguous” in parts and lends itself to misuse. “In around 90% of acquittal cases, the victim turns hostile. Mostly, it turns out to be a case of a relationship gone bad. The sex is consensual but the victim claims that the consent was given on account of promise of marriage,” said a senior public prosecutor on condition of anonymity. (Times of India 22/2/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

36. CPI-Maoist ranked fourth among top ten insurgent groups (12)

Washington: The Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been ranked fourth among the top ten most active non-state armed groups in 2013, according to study released this week by a major defence and business risk think-tank. According to the IHS Jane’s latest ‘Global Terrorism and Insurgency Attack Index,’ a total of 258 attacks were claimed by, or attributed to, the CPI(Maoist), even though this represented a 29 per cent decrease from the 362 attacks recorded in 2012. In a note to The Hindu, Matthew Henman, Manager of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre explained that the decrease in CPI(Maoist) attacks not only came amid a wider 16 per cent decrease in attacks nationwide, but also a 19 per cent decrease in the number of recorded counter-terrorism operations. “As such, despite progress in the counter-insurgency against the CPI(Maoist), the fall in attacks was also likely somewhat attributable to authorities challenging the group less in its extensive area of operations in the so-called ‘Red Belt’ States,” he added. Among other insurgent groups listed in the top ten rankings are the Taliban (second rank), al-Qaeda in Iraq (fifth), al-Shabaab (sixth), Colombia’s FARC (seventh) and Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra (ninth). (The Hindu 15/2/14)

 

37. Two Naxals arrested in Chattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Two Naxals were arrested during a search operation in Maoist-hit Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, police said on Tuesday. The cadres were nabbed while they were trying to flee into the forests under Gangalur police station limits last evening, Bijapur Deputy Superintendent of Police Sukhnandan Rathore said. A team of local police was on a combing operation in the Gangalur area, around 450 kms away from here, when it spotted the rebels in Peddapara village. Those nabbed were identified as Punem Aytu (29) and Paiku Punem (35), active members of Gangalur area committee, he said. During interrogation, the duo admitted of being involved in several incidents of crime, including arson and murder in the region, he added. (Times of India 18/2/14)

 

38. 11 helicopters deployed in Naxal-hit states (12)

NEW DELHI: Eleven helicopters have been deployed by the government in Naxal-hit states to support the security forces tackling the extremists, Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday. Minister of state for home RPN Singh said the choppers, belonging to Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force, are available for use as per operational requirement in all Left Wing Extremism affected states. “In addition, the LWE affected states have been permitted to hire helicopter under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme on need basis,” he said in a written reply. Under the SRE scheme, the Central government provides assistance to the 9 LWE affected states for security related expenditure. Under it, the expenditure is first incurred by the state government and thereafter reimbursed by the Central government after conducting audit in the respective states. A total of Rs 188.58 crore has been allocated to the nine states under the SRE in 2013-14, Rs 180.66 crore in 2012-13, Rs 187.48 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 299.06 crore in 2010-11. (Times of India 18/2/14)

 

39. Maoist couple surrenders in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Disillusioned with exploitation by Naxalite leaders from Andhra Pradesh, a Maoist leader and his wife on Tuesday surrendered before police in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh. Additional director general of police (Naxal operations), Rajinder Kumar Vij, told reporters in Rajnandgaon that 27-year-old Bhagat Jaade, was a member of Rajnandgaon-Kanker border divisional committee of outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was also secretary of Dallirajhara area committee.n His wife Vanoja alias Tejo Netam, 21, was a member of Aundhi local committee. Active in the banned outfit for about five years, the Naxalite couple told police after their surrender, that they were disillusioned with harassment and exploitation of dalam members by the leaders. Vij said Jaade’s father was a sarpanch of village Sahpal, near Manpur area in Rajnandgaon district in 2005, the time when Naxalites began frequenting the region. Jaade came in touch with rebels, who used him for arranging supplies and later inducted him as a member of local area of Madanwada in 2007. In 2008, he was shifted as Polemadi area committee member and later he became area committee secretary in 2011. The surrendered Maoist leader told reporters that one of his responsibilities was to enroll new members in CPI (Maoist) and he had played a crucial role in the process. However, there have been no new recruitments in the region for last two years, because of multiple factors including pressure being mounted by security forces. Jaade also told police that his younger brother Budhram Jaade, who was in police, was abducted and killed by Maoist Vijay Reddy and Kamlesh. Rajnandgaon district superintendent of police, Dr Sanjiv Shukla said Naxalite activities had declined drastically in the region and dalam members were returning to the mainstream. After being tipped off by surrendered Naxalites, a joint team of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border police (ITBP) have recovered and defused three IEDs and a directional mine, planted by Naxalites near a forest road. Meanwhile, security forces have arrested two Naxalites from Maoist-hit Bijapur district in tribal Bastar region. The cadres were nabbed while they were trying to flee into the forests, under Gangalur police station limits on Monday evening, Bijapur deputy superintendent of police, Sukhnandan Rathore said. Those arrested were identified as Punem Aytu (29) and Paiku Punem (35), active members of Gangalur area committee, he said. During interrogation, the duo admitted of being involved in several incidents of crime, including arson and murder in the region, he added. (Times of India 19/2/14)

 

40. Mobile towers for Naxal-hit States held up in DoT (12)

NEW DELHI: An important project of the UPA government to install mobile towers in nine Naxal-affected States covering remote and backward villages is still stuck in the Department of Telecommunications despite Cabinet clearance last year. “Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is personally monitoring the issue as there has been an undue delay of over three years since the project was first conceived. Mr. Shinde will take up the issue with Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and also seek Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention in getting it cleared,” a senior official involved in the project told ‘The Hindu. Mr. Sibal wanted to get this “development” project launched by Dr. Singh and Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi just before the general election. However, it is unlikely that the Congress leadership will get to flag it off now, with a high possibility of the model code of conduct coming into force early next month. Despite Mr. Sibal fast-tracking it immediately after the massacre of the Chhattisgarh Congress leadership in May last, the project is stuck in the Telecom Commission, the DoT’s decision-making body, over issues of cost between the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) that is financing the project and BSNL, which will implement it through vendors. A Telecom Commission meeting, scheduled for last week, to decide on the project was postponed to next month, DoT sources said. The Cabinet had last June approved Rs. 3,046 crore for installing 2,199 mobile towers in the Left-Wing Extremism-affected States mainly to aid security personnel deployed there and set a 12-month deadline for completing it. Significantly, BSNL came out with a tender for the project in September without even signing an agreement with the USOF. The tendering process is already in advanced stage but the costing issue may further delay the project. BSNL wants some additional components, added by the USOF, scaled down, besides waiver of tax being imposed on it in order to bring the project cost close to what has been approved by the Cabinet, government sources said. (The Hindu 24/2/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

41. Over 450 Indian workers died in Qatar since 2012 (13)

DUBAI: More than 450 Indian migrant workers have died in Qatar in the last two years – the grim statistics once again underscoring the worrisome human rights record of the Gulf state, which is racing to complete mega-construction project ahead of the 2022 football World Cup. The Indian embassy in Doha revealed this information in response to a Right to Information request that was filed by AFP. The data showed that 237 Indian workers had died in 2012 alone, and another 218, the following year. The shocking numbers, compiled till December 5, showed that the average monthly death toll on Indian expat workers in Qatar is around 20. The monthly fatalities had peaked in August 2013, when 27 people had died. The Indian embassy has not provided details regarding the causes or the locations of the deaths. Neither did it reveal its correspondence with the government in New Delhi regarding the overall condition of Indian nationals in the Gulf country. Nevertheless, these disclosures buttressed revelations by rights organisations about Qatar’s poor human rights record. Salil Shetty, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said in November 2013 during the release of a report by the group, that employers in Qatar had showed “an appalling disregard for the basic human rights of migrant workers”.An interview with a representative of Doha’s main hospital revealed that more than 1,000 people, falling from heights, while at work, had been admitted to the trauma unit of the facility in 2012. Ten per cent of these were disabled, and the resulting mortality rate was “significant”.In 2013, the International Labour Organisation slammed Qatar for failing to implement an international convention banning the use of forced labour. Apart from Indians, South Asian migrant workers from other nations also appear to have suffered serious loss of life as construction companies in Qatar scrambled to complete infrastructure projects ahead of the World Cup. The Guardian has reported that 400 migrants from Nepal have died at construction sites in Qatar. In its defence, Qatar has issued detailed guidelines on February 11 that are meant to protect the country’s burgeoning expatriate community from exploitation, in the face of mounting international criticism regarding Doha’s human rights record. The 50-page document does set out detailed standards on payment of wages, accommodation and welfare, but its guidelines cover the construction of stadiums alone. The conditions of expat workers in Qatar echoed powerfully in the European parliament last Thursday, where Theo Zwanzinger, Germany’s member of the FIFA executive, acknowledged that the condition of migrant workers in Qatar were “absolutely unacceptable”. However, he stressed that there would be no reversal in the decision to host the World Cup in the Gulf state. “This feudal system existed [in Qatar] before the World Cup,” he said. “What do you expect of a football organisation? FIFA is not the lawmaker in Qatar.” (The Hindu 18/2/14)

 

42. Malala Urges Support to Educate Syria Refugee Children (13)

AMMAN: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, urged the world today to help Syrian refugee children receive a proper education. “There are still so many girls and children who cannot go to school,” Malala said as she visited a school in northern Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.  ”I think the whole community outside, the international community, should help these children,” she said in a video posted on the website of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. “They (the children) say they want to get an education because they want a bright future and all have dreams. Someone wants to become a doctor, someone wants to become an engineer and someone wants to become a journalist.” Zaatari, near the border with Syria, is home to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees — more than half of them children. “Malala’s visit was very important to me because she is a girl who faced a lot of difficulties at an early age in her society.  So she is interested in education because education is the most important thing,” said 16-year-old Maisun, a Syrian girl who accompanied Malala on her visit. Malala, 16, who last year was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize which Nelson Mandela won, talked to Syrian schoolchildren and attended classes. “Having Malala here is really key to highlight… that we need to offer as many opportunities as we can for children to access formal schools, to access informal education and get the psychological support that the need now before they become adults,” Toby Ficker, a UNICEF communication specialist, said in the video. According to the United Nations, 80 schools in Jordan hold classes for Syrians in the afternoons, leaving 25 percent of the nearly 140,000 Syrian school-aged children across the kingdom not in classes. The Malala Fund is already teaming up with Save the Children to build a new school and expand an existing one for the refugees in Jordan, home to more than 500,000 Syrians who have fled the war in their country. Malala, who now lives in Britain following extensive medical treatment, was shot by a Taliban gunman in 2012 over her outspoken views on education for girls in her home region of northwest Pakistan. Amman has said it will award Malala the King Hussein Leadership Prize “for her courage and continued efforts to challenge ignorance and injustice and oppression of women.” (New Indian Express 20/2/14)

 

43. Renal diseases hit Sri Lankan refugees at Madurai camp (13)

MADURAI: Several cases of kidney ailments have been reported from Sri Lankan refugees living in Thiruvathavur camp here. Nine refugees have died due to kidney failure in the last four years, revealed a human rights organisation. Poor quality of water drawn through borewells is being blamed for the incidence of renal diseases at the camp. Renal failure, also known as kidney failure, results when kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood. The said camp was set up at Thiruvathavur village in Melur taluk in 2002 to accommodate refugees from Sri Lanka. About 490 families which were staying at another camp in Vaikam Periyar Nagar, near Avaniyapuram, were shifted here. The camp has 500 houses with toilets and other facilities, including three borewells. Water, which is drawn from two over-head tanks of 62,000 litre and 32,000 litre capacity, is taken by the residents through 60 tap connections on the premises. Water available at the camp may contain chemicals causing kidney problems, said C Anadaraj, director of Equal Rights, the NGO. Among the 16 people currently suffering from renal issues are a nine-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy. “Due to kidney failure nine people in the camp have lost their lives since 2009. Two children have urological diseases and seven others have kidney stones,” said Krishna Leela, an inhabitant of the camp. “The refugees have been using the borewell water for all their needs. People who are financially sound are buying can water for drinking after we came to know that water contamination has been causing kidney ailments. As many people at the camp can’t pay for packaged water, they still use the borewell water,” said Anna Rose, another inmate. “The government, which is keen about the welfare of the refugees, should take steps to test the water available in the camp. We will be safe as long as we live here only if the water becomes potable,” said both Leela and Rose. (Times of India 22/2/14)

 

44. 10,000 riot victims still in Muzaffarnagar camps (13)

Lucknow: As many as 10,000 riot victims are living in tents at several relief camps in the riot-torn Muzaffarnagar district, even five months after the communal violence. The figure was ascertained after a survey conducted by the district administration, according to reports. Although the UP government had demolished several relief camps in the district and forcibly evicted the displaced riot victims, many of them did not return to their native villages fearing for their lives and had taken shelter in camps erected elsewhere. According to reports, relief camps at Joula and Basikalan villages in the district still have thousands of riot victims. These victims refused to go back to their native villages despite every attempt by the government. Besides these two villages, a few tents have also been erected in other parts of the district. A large number of people are still there at the Malakpur relief camp in the neighboring Shamli district. The state government has paid Rs 90 crore in compensation to the families of the displaced riot victims for the purpose of rehabilitation. Though the compensation has been paid, thousands of families are still at the relief camps alleging that they have not received the money. Officials as well as the Samajwadi Party leaders have also alleged that those living in the camps are not genuine riot victims but people who want compensation for free. District officials said that they are trying to provide these victims necessary facilities. As many as 37 children died reportedly from cold at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts. Of these 14 children had died in the relief camps and the remaining had died at different hospitals where they had been taken for treatment. As many as 62 people were killed and over one hundred injured in the communal violence that rocked the district in September last year. Fifty thousand people had been displaced after the riots and had taken shelter in relief camps. (Deccan Herald 23/2/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

45. Social groups to oppose unsustainable agri technologies (20)

Chandigarh: Reacting to a recent media conference addressed by a group of scientists from National Bureau of Plant Genetic resources (NBPGR) and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (MAHYCO) to promote transgenic crops, the farmers unions and several social groups have urged the Punjab government not to fall into the trap laid by agri-business corporations. These farmer unions and social groups include Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), Environmental Health Action Group, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, Bharat Jan-Vigyan Jatha and eminent individuals such as Daljit Singh , an eye surgeon; Inderjeet Kaur of Pingalwara, Amritsar; and GPI Singh, vice-chancellor, Adesh University. These groups and individuals called the speakers at the conference as unscientific and challenged their fallacious arguments around Genetically Modified (GM) crops being the future of Indian agriculture. “It is high time they realised that a sustainable future lies anywhere but in GM crops. Taxpayers’ funds being used to unscientifically promote GMOs at the behest of the agriculture minister will not hoodwink the nation, when so much scientific evidence is emerging on a near-daily-basis on the adverse effects of GMOs,” said Umendra Dutt of KVM. He cited a compilation of scientific studies brought out recently of hundreds of studies, which show that GMOs in the food and farming systems are unsafe and risky. (Hindustan Times 15/2/14)

 

46. Direct farmer-consumer interface needed to improve agri-produce marketing (20)

CHANDIGARH: The ‘classic case’ of kinnow was illustrated by experts at the Progressive Punjab Agriculture Summit (PPAS) to highlight absence of proper marketing of farm and dairy products. Experts said while the citrus fruit was sold at dirt cheap price of Rs 7-9 per kg by farmers, buyers in Delhi had to shell out up to Rs 80-100 per kg for it. “There is no gold plating done on the fruit that jacks up its rates. The problem lies with absence of proper marketing. First the farmers were asked to switch over to fruits and vegetables, and now that they have come up with bumper produce, they are not getting adequate price for it,” rued Somnath Shastri, a former member of the Planning Commission. The solution lies in providing direct interfaces between farmers and buyers like it is done in ‘apni mandis’ held in Chandigarh and other cities, where both parties end up saving money. “Otherwise, milk that is taken from the dairy farmer for Rs 20-22 per litre is sold for Rs 50 per litre in big cities only due to the key service of transportation,” he added. Punjab government, he said, needs to take immediate steps to remove hurdles like the licence system at mandis, which had led to monopoly and small farmers had no option but to sell their produce at whatever price was quoted. Punjab Agricultural University vice-chancellor B S Dhillon expressed concern over agriculture in the state being at crossroads. He said on road to Green Revolution, Punjab virtually exported its water and nutrients to other states while discharging its ‘national duty’ at a very high cost. Dhillon added that other states were following the same route and were bound to face similar consequences. He added that the nation should use Punjab as a ‘national laboratory’ to develop strategies and technologies for sustainable agriculture so that the state should be instrumental in leading the nation towards ‘Second Green Revolution’. Times of India 18/2/14)

 

47. HC asks Punjab to frame policy on aid to suicide-hit farmer families (20)

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed the Punjab government to formulate an appropriate scheme for granting financial assistance to families of farmers committing suicide. The court directed the state to take a decision taking into account the module of Andhra Pradesh (AP) scheme and inform the court about it. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Arun Palli issued the directions during the resumed hearing of a petition by Movement Against State Repression (MASR), an NGO. Punjab government had informed the high court that it would disburse financial assistance to families of the victims in two installments — first by March 31 and the second by July 31. Hearing this, the bench asked the state government to frame a policy regarding financial assistance to families of such victims within two months. As the case came up for hearing, the petitioners contended that Punjab had not framed any policy in this regard. Giving examples of AP and Maharashtra, which have formulated policies, the petitioners suggested that the Andhra model could be followed in Punjab. (Times of India 20/2/14)

 

48. Protesting farm activists burn effigies of Narendra Modi, Parkash Singh Badal (20)

BATHINDA: Accusing the Punjab government of not keeping its word about providing financial assistance to suicide-hit families, farmers on Sunday burned the effigies of Narendra Modi and Punjab chief minister P S Badal. The farmers also showed black flags to SAD-BJP activists heading towards Jagraon for Modi rally. Activists of farmer organisation BKU Ekta Ugrahan and labourers’ organization Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union accused the SAD-BJP government of running away from its promises to protesting farmers about providing financial assistance to suicide-hit farm families and termed it a betrayal on the part of the state government. The farmers’ organizations had recently protested in Bathinda for four days and laid siege to Bathinda district administrative complex on Wednesday. Concerned over the same, the state government had promised to provide Rs 64 crore to suicide-hit farm families. (Times of India 24/2/14)

 

HINDUTVA

49. Valentine’s Day: Bajrang Dal, VHP activists throw rotten tomatoes on couples (26)

Ahmedabad: Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists on Friday threw rotten tomatoes at couples celebrating Valentine’s Day on the banks of Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad. Couples were seen running to save themselves when a large group of Bajrang Dal workers suddenly thronged the place and started throwing tomatoes at them. Some of them tried to escape in their vehicles while others ran for cover. No complaint has been lodged with the police so far in connection with the incident. Hundreds of couples were present at the Sabarmati riverfront on Friday morning to celebrate Valentine’s Day. VHP and Bajrang Dal organised programmes in the city to protest “indecent” celebration of the day. Bajrang Dal city president Jwalit Mehta, who led the charge, told PTI that they had been going to colleges in various parts of the city over the last few days to “educate” students about the negative influences of imbibing western traditions and aspects of their culture. “Many students supported our endeavour. But, many had thronged the riverfront today. We threw rotten tomatoes at them and they ran away from there,” Mr.Mehta said. “There is nothing wrong in imbibing positive aspects of western culture, but VHP and Bajrang Dal are against obscenity in the name of westernisation. Valentine’s Day is one such obscene celebration,” he said. Later, the activists burnt Valentine’s Day cards on the same venue. (The Hindu 15/2/14)

 

50. Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal celebrate ‘Tomatina festival’ on V-Day (26)

Ahmedabad: Continuing their age-old protest against Valentine’s Day celebration, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists on Friday targeted young couples sitting on the Sabarmati riverfront by throwing tomatoes at them. Around 9 am, a large number of couples — mostly college students — gathered at the riverfront behind HK Arts College to celebrate the day of love. Suddenly, a mob of more than 20 people, who claimed to be VHP and Bajrang Dal members, arrived at the spot and began their novel protest by throwing tomatoes at the couples. This unprovoked and violent attack on lovebirds created panic and saw everyone running helter-skelter for safety. However, it is alleged that despite trying to get away, some of the activists targeted the girls riding pillion with tomatoes. Such was the impact of this blitzkrieg that within minutes the entire riverfront was as barren as a desert. As usual, police did arrive at the spot, but could found no one, who would register a complaint against the mob. Still, in the afternoon, Navrangpura police inspector RV Desai lodged a complaint on behalf of the police. In the complaint, Desai alleged that more than 20 people threw tomatoes at youngsters “to get cheap publicity”. The accused include several VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders, including Jwalit Mehta, Nikunj Parekh, Samir Patel and Girish Solanki. According to VHP spokesperson Jay Shah, VHP and Bajrang Dal have been protesting against Valentine’s Day celebration since long. Justifying the act, he said: “We received several complaints from citizens about the riverfront being misused by young couples, who can be spotted indulging in indecent activities. This makes it difficult for a family to visit the place. Thus, we have decided to take action against them on Valentine’s Day.” (DNA 15/2/14)

 

51. Brahmavar ignores bandh call; Bajrang Dal workers turn violent (26)

Udupi: Tension prevailed in Brahmavar town for some time Saturday morning as Bajrang Dal activists tried to enforce a “bandh”, leading to an altercation between them and supporters of the Congress party. The police resorted to mild lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. According to the police, the situation became tense when Bajrang Dal activists tried to forcibly down shutters to protest against the arrest of one of their activists, Hiriyadka Dinesh Mendon, at around 10 a.m. But since some shopkeepers did not respond to the call, the activists stoned a travel agency and a police jeep at Kunjal Junction and tried to ransack cloth shop near the Bus Stand. The supporters of Congress party, who arrived on the spot, questioned the forcible methods being used by the Bajrang Dal activists to close down shops. K. Jayaprakash Hegde, Udupi-Chikmagalur MP, and Pramod Madhwaraj, MLA, visited the Brahmavar police station and urged the police to take legal action against the guilty. The business establishments, which were closed for some time in the morning, later opened and functioned as usual. Buses and auto rickshaws too functioned as usual. Deputy Superintendent of Police Prabhudev Mane told The Hindu that the situation was peaceful in Brahmavar. A platoon of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) and two parties of District Armed Reserve Police had been stationed in Brahmavar as a precautionary measure, he said. As many as three cases had been registered against Bajrang Dal leader Sunil and 50 others at the Brahmavar police station on charges including rioting and unlawful assembly. “We have already arrested two persons – Anil and Ganesh, we are on the lookout for the others,” he said. (The Hindu 16/2/14)

 

52. 15,000 ‘Sants’ to Campaign for Modi (26)

New Delhi: Over 15,000 ‘sants’ (holy men) will campaign for the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi across the country, in the run-up to 2014 elections. At a recent meeting of the ‘sants’ under the banner of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), it was decided they should play a role in the elections and fan out in different parts of the country to elect a Modi-led government. “In the meeting the ‘sants’ outlined the public awareness programmes keeping in mind the 2014 general elections for Lok Sabha. Jagadgurus, Mahamandaleshwars, Sant-Mahants – all under the auspices of this movement would reach out to every voter in the electoral fields right down to the block development areas to make them watchful and exercise crucial interests in the nation and the national society,” the VHP statement issued here said. The statement added, although these ‘sants’ were not supporters of any political party but they would marshal massive public support for Narendra Modi. Last year in the Maha Kumbh Mela the ‘sants’ had decided to support Modi.  The VHP has already set up state-level committees in which over 15,000 ‘sants’ would join across India to lead public awareness campaign. (New Indian Express 21/2/14)

 

53. Each Hindu couple should have five children: VHP’s Ashok Singhal (26)

BHOPAL: Vishwa Hindu Parishad convenor Ashok Singhal said here on Saturday that unless conversions were stopped immediately, the day would not be far off when Hindus would be reduced to a minority in this country. Addressing a press conference, he said it has become “imperative” for each Hindu couple to have five children. The VHP convenor heaped praise on BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi over a number of things. Singhal said the VHP has nothing to do with the BJP but maintained that it would certainly support Modi in the next Lok Sabha elections. He said the government, which would be formed under the prime inistership of Modi, would not come under pressure from any quarter including the US. (Times of India 23/2/14)

 

54. Digvijay says VHP’s conversion remark meant to cause rift, political gain (26)

New Delhi: Vishwa Hindu Parishad convenor Ashok Singhal’s statement about conversions has not gone down too well with the Congress, with its party leaders saying that it was devised to cause strife for political gain. Talking to reporters on Sunday, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said, “Whatever Ashok Singhal says is scripted to cause rift for political gain.” And demanded that the BJP express their view on his statement. Digvijay was reacting to the VHP leader’s statement where he said it had become “imperative” for each Hindu couple to have five children each. Stirring a hornet’s nest on Saturday, Singhal said that unless conversions were stopped immediately, the day would not be far off when Hindus would be reduced to a minority in this country. (Zee News 24/2/14)