Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 13 April 2015

Category: Uncategorized


1. Dalit woman gang-raped in Haryana village (2)

CHANDIGARH: A Dalit woman on her way to a marriage was abducted by six men, taken to a field and gang-raped at Roopgarh village in Jind district of Haryana on Tuesday. It is the second such recent incident in the State after the gang rape of a Nepalese woman in Rohtak. The victim, who is from Harsola village in Kaithal district, was travelling with a relative. When their car reached Patiala Chowk, two of the accused, who were drinking nearby, spotted her. They and the others attacked the car with rods and smashed its windows. They beat up the woman’s relative. The woman was taken to a nearby field and assaulted. When she raised an alarm, the accused threatened to kill her. They hurled casteist abuses at her. She managed to reach the Sadar police station and file a complaint. The police registered a first information report by invoking sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code. Five of the accused have been identified as Chandrasekhar, Manoj, Jitendra, Kala and Sandeep, all of Kandela village. Superintendent of Police, Jind, Abhishek Jorwal said medical examination of the victim confirmed rape. A manhunt has been launched for the culprits. Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Kiran Choudhary said the law-and-order situation in Haryana had gone from bad to worse and dastardly attacks on women had been on the rise. The government has not yet commented on the incident. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

2. Groups demand a Dalit CM for the State (2)

RAICHUR: Janandolana for Dalit Chief Minister, a conglomeration of 50 groups representing various Dalit communities, demanded the Congress high command to replace Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with a Dalit candidate. Addressing a media conference at Reporters’ Guild here on Sunday, K. Shivaram and N. Murthy, the leaders of the Janandolana, alleged that the Dalits had been systematically kept out of power even 68 years after the Independence. They also blamed Congress for using Dalit and minority communities as its vote-bank and depriving them of enjoying power. “Lingayat leaders ruled the state as Chief Ministers for 23 years, Vakkaliga leaders for 18 years, Brahman leaders for 8.5 years. The leaders of other numerically smaller communities could also become chief ministers. However, the leaders of Dalit and minority communities which are relatively bigger in terms of numerical size have not assumed power as chief minister owing largely to systematic conspiracies,” N Murthy charged. He verbally attacked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for his role in “defeating Parameshwar” in the last assembly election. “It is none other than Siddaramaiah who made an all-out effort to defeat Parameswhar for clearing his way to Chief Minister post. Parameshwar who was completely engaged in election campaign across the state for Congress victory could not concentrate on his own constituency. Taking advantage of his absence in the constituency, Siddaramaiah ensured his defeat,” Murthy alleged. K. Shivaram, former IAS officer and leader of Chalavadi Mahasabha, alleged that Dalit leaders were systematically sidelined and deprived of Chief Minister post despite they led Congress to power in many assembly polls. “There are many able leaders in Dalit community, such as Mallikarjun Kharge, G. Parameshwar, K.H. Muniyappa, Motamma, Anjaneya, who can efficiently lead the state as Chief Minister on the path of development. Our campaign is not for any one particular leader. We want the Congress high command to choose any one Dalit leader for the post,” he clarified. The leaders announced that over 10,000 Dalits would march to Delhi for pressurising the Congress high command to make a Dalit leader chief minister of Karnataka. “If our demand is ignored, all Dalit groups will work against Congress right away in all coming elections. We will ensure that Congress will be reduced to politically irrelevant as Aam Aadmi Party uprooted its base in Delhi,” Murhty warned. Dalit leaders Ravindranath Patti, J. Lingaiah and others were present. (The Hindu 15/3/17)

3. UP: Day after ‘attack by Gurjars’, three Dalit families flee Pilibhit village (2)

Lucknow: A day after a mob of Gurjar community allegedly attacked three Dalit families ransacking their houses and beating up women and children in Nuria police station area of Pilibhit district, the families left the village on Sunday morning fearing more attacks. Four persons including two women had sustained injuries in the attack. The families were targeted in response to the alleged elopement of a Gurjar girl with a youth of one of the Dalit families on March 10. After the attack, a case was registered against 22 persons, including the girl’s father who has been arrested along with three others on Saturday. Incidentally, the girl’s father, after his arrest, too, got an FIR registered against the Dalit youth, Vijay Pal, his uncle and two cousins on charges of abducting his 19-year-old daughter for force-marriage. Heavy police force have been deployed in the village to avoid any untoward incident. Additional Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Sudhir Kumar Singh said Pal’s family had left the village on Friday morning while the Gurjar community attacked the other families later in the night. Village pradhan Anand Prakash, a Gurjar, told The Indian Express that three Dalit families, including that of Vijay Pal, his uncle and another relative, have left the village, which has a population of around 1000 with a predominantly Gurjar population (nearly 80 per cent). Pal is a daily-wage labourer at a factory in Uttrakhand, the pradhan added. Station Officer, Nuria police station, Shamshad Ali said the girl left house for some work on March 10 and did not return. Her family, informed by others that she had eloped with Pal, did not inform the police and carried out a search of their own, the SO said. Four persons identified as Gaurav, Prempal, Sunderlal and the girl’s father were caught from the spot when the attack took place. Upon the arrival of the police, members of the Gurjar community staged protest following which police had to use force to disperse the crowd. The injured have been identified as Mayadevi, Suman Devi, Raju and Sohanlal. They were sent to district hospital for treatment. Later, Sohanlal got an FIR registered against 22 named and 40-50 unidentified assailants at the Nuria police station on various charges, including arson and SC/ST Act. (Indian Express 17/3/15)

4. Upper caste men ‘urinate’ in dalit youth’s mouth in Tamil Nadu (2)

KRISHNAGIRI: A group of non-dalits in a Tamil Nadu village allegedly attacked a 20-year-old dalit youth and urinated in his mouth. The incident happened during a temple festival at Karuvanur in Krishnagiri district on March 2. M Aravindhan (20), who is working as a welder at a private company in Bangalore, visited his native village to participate at a temple festival on March 2. “I went to the temple with my relative R Dinesh (20). Some caste Hindus used filthy words against us when they saw us,” Aravindhan said. When the duo opposed it, the group attacked them. The caste men later dragged both of them to a nearby toilet and continued to beat them up. Aravindhan fell on the ground. When he asked for a glass of water, the men allegedly urinated in his mouth. Meanwhile, Dinesh, who managed to escape, alerted his family members. They rushed to the spot and rescued Aravindhan. The next day, he was admitted to Dharmapuri Government Medical College and Hospital. “I suffered several injuries when they attacked me,” the victim told TOI. Meanwhile, he lodged a complaint with the Kallavi police. However, the police allegedly refused to register a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “They just registered an assault case against unknown people,” he said. Meanwhile, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kuravan Pazhankudiina Makkal Sangam (TNKPMS) S Ravi urged the Kallavi police to register the case under SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “Police officials told me that they would extort money from the non-dalits in return for not registering a case against them. So, we have decided to take up this issue to the court,” Ravi said. When contacted by TOI, the Kallavi police said they had registered a case and the investigating was going on. “We will alter the case once we confirm whether the dalit youth was harassed or not,” they said. (Times of India 18/3/15)


5. 3 Dalit Girls Found Dead in Uttar Pradesh, Families Allege Gang-Rape and Murder (2)

Lucknow:  Three Dalit girls from Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria district, who had gone missing since Friday, were found dead in a field on Saturday. The families of the three girls suspect it to be a case of gang-rape and murder. Two of the three girls were minors and belonged to the same village, Katiyari. According to the families of the girls – aged 18, 13 and nine – the three had gone to the fields to collect fodder around noon on Friday but did not return. The next day their bodies were discovered in the fields by a local and had injury marks on the neck and head. The police claim the case to be a fallout of a one-sided love affair. The main accused, Sonu, from the same village, was in love with the eldest girl who had rejected his advances, prompting him to take this step. Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria said “Sonu had made up his mind to kill the girl. They killed the other 2 girls to remove evidence. This is not a case of rape”.The police are waiting for the post-mortem report before calling it a rape and murder case. “The bodies bear head injury which seems to have caused the death. The case has been filed and we will look whether there was any sexual offence,” said Manoj Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Deoria. Of the 4 accused, 2 have been nabbed by the police while 2 are still absconding. (NDTV 22/3/15)

6. Homeless Dalit families protest outside Tahsildar’s office (2)

RAICHUR: As many as 25 Dalit families of Tidigola village in Sindhanur taluk, whose houses were alleged burnt in the presence of police as per court orders on Monday, camped outside the office of Sindhanur Tahsildar on Tuesday, protesting the action. While the women prepared food in the office premises, the children, babies and aged were exhausted in the sweltering heat. “We have been living on 11 gunta land bearing survey number 2/1 at Tidigola village for the last 25 years. The original land owner, Yankareddeppa, claims that he had donated the land to government in 1986-87. The owner and his followers along with a police constable with a court order forcibly dragged us out of our homes on Monday and burnt our homes, which were later cleared with an earth mover,” the agitating families said. Addressing at the agitation site, Mr. H N Badiger, state convenor of Jaati Nirmoolana Chalavali, verbally attacked the taluk administration for its “inhuman action” against poor Dalit families. “The bureaucratic apparatus from top to bottom is indisputably working for the creamy layer of society and crushing the downtrodden and marginalised sections under its iron heels. The Tidigola incident, where the concerned authorities neither served prior-notices to poor Dalits nor made alternative arrangements, clearly showed how democracy functioned at grassroots level,” he said. He demanded for a stringent legal action against all those involved in the case, including Turvihal Police Sub Inspector and Sindhanur Circle Inspector for their alleged support to the “miscreants who destroyed the homes of the Dalits”.He warned that the Dalit families would continue to stay at the Tahshildar’s office if they were not provided with permanent shelters. The agitating families later submitted a memorandum to Tahshildar M.Gangappa with a list of demands which included paying compensation and providing alternative and permanent shelters for the homeless, registering First Information Report based on the complaint lodged by the grieving families, amongst others. Representatives of various organisations, including Ramesh Patil Berigi of Karnataka Raitha Sangha, Nagaraj Pujar of Revolutionary Youth Federation of India, B.N. Yaradihal of Trade Union Centre of India and Basappa Kadabur of Hamalara Sangha participated in the protest and expressed their solidarity to the agitating Dalit families. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

7. Attack on dalits on rise in Haryana (2)

CHANDIGARH: The change of guard in Haryana has not improved the condition of dalits in the state if the data on crime against the community tabled in the assembly is anything to go by. During Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP regime in the state, there was at least one attack on dalits in Haryana everyday from October 26 to February 28. According to the documents presented in the House, 146 crimes, including rapes, murders, dacoities and assaults, were committed against dalits during the said period. Cases were registered against 358 persons and 142 of them are still on the run. In backward classes’ case, 292 persons were booked for 98 crimes against the community and 151 accused are yet to be arrested. This data was tabled in the assembly in response to a question by INLD MLAs Ranbir Singh Gangwa and Ravinder Baliani. In his reply, chief minister M L Khattar said the best possible measures had been put in place for the protection of dalits and backward classes. During the previous Bhupinder Hooda regime, 238 cases of crime against dalits were registered in 2010 and 257 in 2013. Secretary general of INLD R S Chaudhary said, “After the new government took over, we had expected that they would be able to control the atrocities against dalits. However, things are going from bad to worse.”Chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit Organizations Ashok Bharti alleged that the BJP lacked political will to curb crimes against dalits in Haryana. “Dalits had lot of expectations from the new government. We were disappointment on Day 1 itself as Khattar did not induct any dalit in his cabinet. Only one dalit was appointed as a minister of state,” said Bharti. (Times of India 25/3/15)

8. Dalits, ‘upper’ castes at daggers drawn in Hassan village (2)

Hassan: The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes over celebrating Ramanavami at Nittur in Hassan taluk have deepened with both of them filing complaints against each other with the Hassan Rural police. Ananth, a Dalit, was allegedly assaulted by ‘upper’ caste people on March 26 following differences between the two groups over putting up a banner on Ramanavami celebrations in the village. Ananth, who is being treated at the Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences, filed a complaint against seven people under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Hassan Rural police had taken two persons into custody following the complaint registered on March 27. Later, representatives of the ‘upper’ castes filed a case against 16 people, all Dalits, levelling charges of attempt to murder. The police registered the complaint.Dalit organisations alleged that the police had registered the complaint against innocent persons. Satish, Hassan district president of Samata Sainik Dal, said, “The differences between Dalits and ‘upper’ castes began in Nittur three or four years ago as many Dalit families started accepting Buddhism. Time and again, the ‘upper’ caste people had picked quarrels with Dalits. On March 26, ‘upper’ caste youths tried to put up a banner close to a retail shop belonging to a Dalit. As the shopkeeper pointed out that the banner would end up as an obstruction to people, the Dalits were assaulted. Now, they have filed complaint against those who were not in the village on the day,” he said. Hassan Deputy Superintendent of Police Jayaram said the cases were registered based on the written complaints submitted by both the groups. The police would take appropriate action after investigation, he added. (The Hindu 29/3/15)


9. Government actions add to plight of Attappady: tribal leaders (6)

PALAKKAD: Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement in the Assembly on Tuesday that government officials had failed to effectively expend the funds sanctioned for the welfare of tribespeople in Attappady was only one side of the reality, assert tribal leaders and activists. According to them, transfer of honest officials and replacing them with incompetent persons at the behest of mafias had also contributed to the crisis in the tribal belt where almost all development initiatives are at a stand still now. “Most of the multi-crore tribal welfare packages announced in the recent years by the Central and State governments for the Attappady region are remaining unimplemented with the authorities failing to depute a full-time project officer for the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP). The ITDP that handles tribal developmental works worth several crores of rupees for Attappady has been remaining headless for the last seven months after project officer P.V. Radhakrishnan was transferred out following political pressure. Though an officer, who underwent disciplinary action while working in Idukki, was appointed, he went on leave,” said R.J. Rajendra Prasad, who works with voluntary organisation ‘Thampu.’ “The officer was the first native to be appointed in the post but was transferred to Kasaragod due to alleged pressure from the contractor lobby. The government posted an assistant project officer last month but the situation turned complicated with the officer who went on leave refusing to transfer charge to the assistant officer,” he said. Another honest officer who was shifted out from Attappady recently was K. Krishnan Kutty, the special officer for tribal affairs deputed by the Home Department. Though he earned appreciation from higher officials for taking serious efforts to prevent tribal land alienation and sexual abuse of tribal women, he was promoted and transferred as demanded by the mafias. The office of special officer was closed for ever after the transfer. The Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) also was remaining headless as its director was removed from the post recently. Though the charge was given to Ottappalam Sub Collector, the IAS officer has to find extra time for AHADS amidst busy schedules of district administration. Replying to questions in the Assembly on Tuesday, Mr. Chandy said that sanctioning of funds alone would not solve the problems in the tribal hamlets. Dedicated service of officials was also imperative. “The Chief Minister is partially true. In the absence of coordination among departments, 186 community kitchens opened last year to provide nutritious food, especially to pregnant and lactating tribal women, had lost steam. Funds crunch is also disrupting their daily functioning,” said M. Sukumaran of the Attappady Samrakshana Samiti. “There is severe shortage of doctors and paramedical staff in hospitals and primary health centres in the region, despite a promise by the government to pay those willing an additional allowance of Rs.20,000 per month. The government tribal specialty hospital is still facing shortage of doctors and equipment,” Social activist P.M. Raveendran said. “The promise of appointing an IAS officer with proven track-record to coordinate the packages still remains unfulfilled. Though retired IAS officer S. Subbarayan was posted as special officer for Attappady packages, he was later given the charge to set up the Palakkad Government Medical College. With the government giving priority to the medical college, the special officer left Attappady to focus on it and never returned,” Mr. Raveendran said. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

10. Gandha colony tribals living in penurious condition (6)

Somwarpet: Tribal people at Gandha colony in Somwarpet are living in a pathetic condition. They lack drinking water, and live in ramshackle houses. Despite various claims of development by panchayat bodies and the State Government, their status has not changed. Majority of the colonies in the taluk are devoid of basic facilities including the title deeds, road and electricity connection. The residents of Gandha colony still depend on left bank canal of Harangi. When the canal goes dry during summer, the residents walk for two kilometre to fetch a pot of water at Yadavanadu. The colony has 10 children, two puerperal women and one pregnant woman. The children in the colony fall sick very often. Jenukurubara Muthappa said “the government had constructed six houses two years ago for name sake. However, the house is of poor quality. The rain water enters inside the house during monsoon. The houses might collapse at any time.” The children in the colony still depend on kerosene lamp to read. “We do not even get two litres of kerosene in a month. The road leading to the colony is in pathetic condition. As we have to walk beside the canal, we fear the attack by wild elephants in the evening,” said students. Taluk social welfare office Ramegowda said “a borewell has been dug in Gandhada colony. There was delay in electricity connection. The forest department is not cooperating to provide facilities to the tribal colony. The ZP CEO has directed forest department to cooperate to lay pipelines to supply water. The problems will be solved in the future.” (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

11. Literacy rates of STs far below national average: Par panel (6)

New Delhi: Despite government efforts to promote education among the Scheduled Tribes (STs), their literacy rates as compared to the national average have remained low, a Parliamentary Committee has said this week. The literacy rate as per Census 2011 is 73 per cent but for STs is 59 per cent only. The House panel also flagged the female literacy rate, saying it is also lower as compared to the national average. “The overall literacy gap amongst the various groups and STs has come down from 19.77 per cent in 1961 to 14.03 per cent in 2011, a scrutiny of state-wise literacy data reveals that in most of the north eastern states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, STs are at par with the general population. “While in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, which have sizeable ST population in remote areas, the literacy gap is as high as 18 to 26 per cent,” the committee has noted. It has also exhorted the government to view the large disparity in literacy rates of STs in these states, which have lagged in almost all socio-economic parameters, and promote educational development for STs on a “mission mode”.The panel also stated that it was unhappy with the fact that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs till date does not have the complete data about the total number of Ashram schools in states and UTs, as according to them the requisite information is awaited from some of the states. Keeping in view the “sub-standard food and bad quality” of personal care products being provided to the ST students in the Ashram schools, the committee has recommended that the ministry should ask all the state governments to take such complaints seriously and conduct appropriate inquiries in this regard and also ensure strict compliance of the standards laid down under the Right to Eduction Act (RTE). “The Ministry has stated that the states are being requested to provide good food and quality personal care products to tribal children in Ashram schools and hostels will also be asked to deal with complaints seriously and conduct appropriate enquiries. “The committee may be apprised of the remedial measures taken in the matter so far,” said the report. The committee therefore reiterated that the Ministry should pursue the matter vigorously with the state governments /UTs and obtain the information without further delay. In order to bring greater transparency and efficiency, the committee recommended the Ministry to furnish a detailed statement on the number of proposals received, rejected, approved and those pending with reasons therefore state-wise during the last three years. The committee said it was dismayed to note from the reply of the Ministry that the said detailed statement is not being prepared and urged the ministry to do the same at the earliest. The committee also urged the Ministry to implement the recommendations or suggestions of Professor Thorat Committee report on educational requirements of STs for the better functioning of the Ashram schools. The objective of the scheme (Establishment of Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan Areas) is to provide residential schools for Scheduled Tribes including PTGs in an environment conducive to learning to increase the literacy rate among the tribal students and to bring them at par with other population of the country. (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

12. Tribal forum expresses concern (6)

Kokrajhar, March 16: The Tribal Belts and Blocks Protection Forum expressed serious concern over the huge encroachment of indigenous belts and blocks by illegal settlers and urged Delhi and Dispur to take strong measures under the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, which was amended in 1947. A meeting was held yesterday at Rupnath Brahma Memorial Bodo Sahitya Sabha Bhawan in Kokrajhar to discuss numerous issues pertaining to protection of indigenous lands, particularly in the BTAD and Assam in general. Members of the forum from the BTAD attended the meeting, which was chaired by Manik Kumar Brahma, president of the forum. Attending the meeting, Rakeshwar Brahma, MLA of Mazbat, said, “Huge encroachment of tribal lands has adversely affected the demographic pattern, resulting in manipulation of electoral politics of Assam. It is an open secret that indigenous lands, especially in tribal belts and blocks, have been illegally encroached upon, violating the land law as given in Chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886.” The forum said the 32 tribal belts and blocks of the state were not protected from the illegal occupation of non-tribal people, many of them with suspect nationalities. Official records said over 3 lakh bighas in belts, blocks and sub-plan areas in the BTAD are under encroachment. The forum president said the panel has been formed to work and raise the land alienation issues of indigenous people of Assam. The organisation is also concerned about the vast deforestation because of gross negligence of the state government. The organisation also demanded the update of the NRC on the basis of 1951 census instead of 1971, especially in tribal belts and blocks for safeguarding the indigenous population of Assam. (The Telegraph 17/3/15)

13. Tribals in Bengal to use Facebook for development (6)

Kolkata: Taking their friendship from the virtual to the real world, more than 600 “educated and privileged” Facebook users belonging to West Bengal’s tribal communities will meet on April 5 to discuss strategies to harness social media for tribal development. The second ‘Kolkata Adibasi Facebook Meet’ aims to unite youngsters and adults from the tribal communities who have established themselves in various careers. “We are trying to translate the virtual friendship into real bonding so that this platform can be used to promote development and unity among the tribal members,” Pradip Kumar Hansda, one of the organisers, told IANS. He said the responsibility lies with the accomplished members of the tribal communities to foster growth and progress for the rest. “The educated and privileged youths of the tribal society need to take up issues and provide solutions. Since they are active on social media, we believe it could be a catalyst in bringing about change. Youngsters are already buzzing with ideas and this platform will help give those ideas shape,” Hansda said. As many as 642 users of the popular social networking site have been invited to the day-long meeting at the Victoria Memorial Hall grounds. Most of the invitees are members of Facebook groups such as ‘Santal Students and Youth Unity’ and ‘All India Adibasi Employees and Teachers Association’. “Most of the people are from Bengal tribes such as Santals and their clans like Murmu, Soren etc. We have members of the tribe from neighbouring states of Odisha and Bihar as well. There are tribes from other parts of India too. We have started with Bengal and we want to take it to the national level,” Hansda said. (Business Standard 21/3/15)

14. ‘Hindu Malayali’ community resents denial of ST status (6)

ERODE: Students and elders belonging to ‘Hindu Malayali’ community converged at the district collectorate on Monday to express resentment over denial of Scheduled Tribe status to the community. Representatives of the community lamented that benefits accruing from the Union and State scholarships, educational assistance and welfare schemes have eluded school and college students belonging to the hilly areas of Kadambur, Bargur and Olaiyur. They urged the district administration to expedite the process of issuing ST certification, citing consideration of ‘Hindu Malayali’ as ST by the Tribal Research Institute. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

15. Rape of tribal girls: four more held (6)

KALPETTA: A special mobile squad led by Y.R. Restem, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Wayanad, arrested four persons, including a woman, on Tuesday in connection with a case of sexual abuse of three minor tribal girls in the district. The arrested were identified as Prajish, 33, of Kadachikkunnu, Ratheesh, 30, of Rippon, Bajitha, 26, of Padivayal, and Rajesh, 28, from Tamil Nadu. Bajitha is a relative of the victims, the police said. The police had arrested six persons on Sunday on the charge of sexually exploiting the children studying in standards V, VI, and VIII. The police said the accused allegedly raped the victims at different places in the district, including two lodges here, with the connivance of Bajitha and Rajesh for the past year-and-a-half. Prajish was the first accused in the case, Mr. Restem said adding that the police were in search of three more persons involved in the case. The accused were charged under various sections of the IPC, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Atrocities Act, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Those accused were produced before the District Court and remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

16. MP high court slaps notice on top officials over tribals’ PIL (6)

Indore: After hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) over inhuman living conditions of tribals residing near Mandu in Dhar, an Indore bench of High Court has issued a notice to top officials of various concerned departments. The bench has given four weeks time to the principal secretaries of department of public health and family welfare, rural administration and development, Madhya Pradesh road development corporation ltd, managing director of MP paschim kshetra vidyut vitaran co. ltd and to the city commissioner and collector of Dhar to respond to the PIL. Filed by tribals of the area, the PIL brings into the court’s notice the lack of medical facility, unavailability of roads and other basic amenities in the area. As per the PIL, four pregnant ladies have died on their way to hospitals in 2013, which throws light on the lack of basic medical facilities in the area.  A woman named Kusum recently delivered her child on the way to the hospital but unfortunately the child couldn’t be saved. One 75-year-old Hagariya was suffering from Typhoid and villagers took him to the hospital 4 km away from the village by using bed sheets, the PIL states. “These two people Kusum and Hagariya filed the PIL. The court has issued notice to seven respondents and sought answers,” said Shanno Shagufta Khan, the advocate of the petitioners. As per the PIL, there are approximately 35,000 tribals living in six villages in Mandu district namely Ambapura, Ratitalayi, Bhatkala, Bandhav, Pipladiya and Malipura. However, the residents of the area have only two options in terms of medical facilities —Mandu Hospital and Nalsa Hospital. This two hospitals are approximately at a distance of 4 to 13 km from these villages that register no less than 8 to 10 medical emergency cases every month. Hindustan Times 27/3/15)

17. Over 2,000 tribal farmers to form cooperative, trusts and company as part of NABARD’s plan

NEW DELHI: Farmers in tribal states are joining hands to form corporate structures as the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Farm to Fork’ programme begins a quiet rollout even as the much-criticised APMC law is yet to be exorcised. Over 2,000 farmer organisations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will be incubated to grow into a cooperative society, trust and ultimately, a company, as part of the plan being implemented by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the country’s largest development lender. “We have already identified over 300 farmer groups…We will be hand-holding them, helping with registrations and business process re-engineering to facilitate their take off,” Nabard chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala told ET. These organisations will get help at each level — from sourcing of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides to machine requirements for management of farms, processing of produce, marketing and linking up with large value chains. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act has been amended in some states to allow farmers to sell perishables directly to consumers to help farmers get better value for their harvest. However, even where the act has been amended, constraints on farmers and large customers remain, such as multiple registration requirements and limitations on sourcing of perishable fruits and vegetables. Nabard will use a Rs 200 crore fund set up by the government to provide initial-stage funding besides additional money through its NBFC arm. The move is aimed at facilitating creation of structures that would take the country’s farm sector to the next level by bringing in cost efficiencies. The government has identified agrireforms to enhance productivity and value as a key focus area “Land holdings in the country have come down from the 80s…Thus, farmers organisations can help in bringing costs down and making agriculture more efficient,” Bhanwala said. These structures permit pooling of land so that farmers can come together and benefit from greater use of technology and reap the benefits of scale.Nabard has also launched a digitisation programme for self-help groups in rural India that can be expanded to offer multiple products, including government services and the sale of consumer goods. “I don’t mind if an FMCG company wants to use the platform to sell its products,” he said. The bank funded 44 lakh self-help groups through a programme called e-Shakti. The pilot digitisation project was started in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand. This platform will allow members to receive transaction information through SMS, a facility that till now has been used only by banks. It also uses the Aadhaar identity programme, which helps curb the practice of multiple loans. “There are 74 lakh SHGs of which 44 lakh are bank funded…We are now looking to digitise them by providing tablets which is on a platform hosted by Nabard,” Bhanwala said, adding that the second pilot project is being launched in Dhule in Maharashtra. The programme will be expanded to 10 districts before a countrywide rollout, he added. (Times of India 30/3/15)


18. 291 rape cases registered in Delhi in Jan-Feb this year (8)

New Delhi: Over 290 cases of rape have been registered in the first two months of this year, government said in Rajya Sabha today. Replying to a question on rising crimes against women in the national capital, Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said that 291 cases of rape were registered in Delhi in January and February this year. As many as 662 cases of assault on women with intent to outrage their modesty too were registered during the period, in addition to 212 cases of insult to the modesty of women. This year till February 28, 438 cases of cruelty by husband and in-laws were also registered, apart from 19 cases of dowry deaths. In 2014 and 2013, 2,166 and 1,636 cases of rape were registered in Delhi respectively, while in 2012, the figure was 706 only. Chaudhary also said that almost 5,200 CCTV cameras are being installed at 85 locations in Delhi at a cost of about Rs 333 crore to check rising crimes. “The project for installation of approximately 5,200 CCTV cameras at 85 identified locations in public places in Delhi at a total cost of around 332.96 crore has already commenced,” he said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

19. In Delhi, women are still tortured for giving birth to girls (8)

New Delhi: Sweets if it’s a boy. But faces hang when a girl is born. That’s how an attendant at a government hospital describes the arrival of a newborn in Delhi. This lingering stress of bearing girls without giving birth to a boy allegedly drove a 27-year-old woman in Ambedkar Nagar to kill her three daughters and attempt suicide on Monday. Despite social campaigns, stricter laws and welfare schemes, many mothers are still tortured for producing a girl child. And not just domestic violence, women have to go through emotional stress, frequent jibes and insufficient meals as a price for not bearing a son. “Since I raised my voice against my husband and in-l aws, I have come across several women who shared that they had to go through multiple abortions because their families didn’t want girls. One woman was made to abort five or six times. Things have just become worse,” said Dr Mitu Khurana, the first woman to file a case under the PNDT Act in 2008. Her husband’s family tricked her into having a sex determination test when she was carrying twin girls and later forced her to terminate her pregnancy. “There is no support system for women like me who want to make a choice and bring up their daughters. When I went to the authorities to complain, I was told to go back and give my husband a son. The government says Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. But how can a mother do that?” Khurana asks. The ministry of Women and Child Development identified five districts of the Capital in 2013 that had a skewed child sex ratio (CSR). Of south-west, west, north, north-west and east, south-west Delhi had the lowest CSR at 845 girls per 1000 boys. In a UGC-funded study by the Institute of Home Economics in 2011, 44% of 200 married couples said they wanted a boy as their first child. Sixty-one percent of them were graduates and 4% were under treatment to have a son. “It’s still a huge problem cutting across all strata. Patriarchal mindset is deep-seated in our culture which says that daughters are a paraya dhan while a boy can provide moksh (salvation),” said Soha Moitra, regional director-North, Child Rights and You. Most women who do seek help from NGOs or Delhi Police find it difficult to demand action against their tormentors. “Those from poor backgrounds simply want us to counsel their families so they can get back together. They hardly even admit being hit. They know they have nowhere to go as they are not independent or educated,” said a Delhi Police official dealing with women’s issues. “However, those from well-off families are  clearer about walking out of the marriage. Women in such situations suffer from huge emotional trauma,” the official said. “Mothers are very happy to have a child be it a girl or a boy. It’s the fear of the future that troubles her,” said Vartika Nanda, associate professor at Lady Shri Ram College, who works on women’s issues. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

20. Govt plans to amend anti-dowry harassment law (8)

New Delhi:  Plans are afoot to amend a criminal law that will allow compromise and settlement between husband and wife at the onset of trial in dowry harassment cases, a move that comes after frequent misuse of the provision to trouble men and their near relatives. Under the proposal, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will be made a compoundable offence with the permission of the courts as suggested by the Law Commission and Justice Malimath Committee. “A draft note for the Union Cabinet seeking to amend Section 498A of the IPC, making it compoundable, has been sent to the Law Ministry for drawing up the draft bill,” a Home Ministry official said. Now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable which provides for immediate arrest of the accused. Conciliatory effort by the warring sides is virtually impossible. A husband or his family members are presumed to be guilty till they prove their innocence in the court. The guilty is punishable with a jail term of up to three years. There have been allegations that in many cases, husbands and their relatives are often charged with false dowry harassment cases by their wives or her family members when some marital problems arise. If the offence is made compoundable, misuse of the law may come down hugely as there would be scope for initiating conciliation proceedings and out-of-court settlement. Permission from a court will be a guarantee against attempts where a wife may be compelled into a compromise by her husband or in-laws, the Home Ministry official said. Now, if a dowry harassment case is proved wrong or proved that the law is misused, only Rs 1,000 penalty is slapped. But the amendment provides for a Rs 15,000 fine. Another new section is expected to be inserted to allow an accused to escape jail by paying a penalty. Opposing the move to dilute the anti-dowry provision of the law, senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising said it is a law which gives relief and protection to harassed woman and it should be continued. “Violence against women is a violation of human rights. There is no compromise of that. I would disagree with the government move,” Jaising told PTI. The Supreme Court had in a judgement in 2010 said as it stood now, the law had become a “weapon in the hands of disgruntled women”. It had also observed that serious re-look of the entire provision is warranted by the Legislature. “It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases,” the apex court had said. Section 498A was introduced in early eighties to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives involving newly-married brides. A spate of dowry deaths in Delhi and elsewhere led to a campaign by some leading women members of Parliament pushing the government to bring the amendment. A punishment involving imprisonment of up to three years is provided in the present law. The expression ‘cruelty’ has been defined in wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. The Law Commission recommended that the offence under Section 498A should be made a compoundable offence with the permission of Court. Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reform also recommended that it should be made compoundable as well as bailable. Last year, the Home Ministry had asked all state governments to be judicious in slapping Section 498A of IPC in matrimonial disputes as the provision may be used as “weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives”. In an advisory to the states and union territories, the Ministry had asked them to instruct their police officers not to automatically arrest a person when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41, CrPC (When police may arrest without warrant). (Deccan Herald 15/3/15)

21. 59% Indian women are anaemic: Study (8)

MUMBAI: A study to analyze women who have undergone preventive health check-ups across the country show that anaemia and vitamin D deficiency are rampant across different age groups. Both may lead to several ailments, ranging from mild aches and fatigue to bone diseases and even cancer. As many as 59% women were found to be anaemic in the country, with the eastern region having a significantly higher prevalence at 72.12% than the rest of the country. Around 45% women from the western region were found to be severely lacking in adequate haemoglobin levels in blood. Around 25 lakh women had undergone testing for anaemia between 2012 and 2014. Among women who underwent lipid profile tests, around 31% were found to have at least one abnormal parameter. Here too, women from eastern India topped the list with 34.8% having abnormal levels of triglycerides, LDL, HDL or complete cholesterol. Women from the western region fared better here with nearly 70% showing the right levels. The thyroid disorder was found to be present among 27% of the women tested from across the country. The survey also found that the deficiency of vitamin D was rampant with 76% across the country having lower levels. (Times of India 17/3/15)

22. Law protects women all along: experts (8)

TIRUCHI: A “Know Your Law” programme to raise awareness about women’s legal rights was held by Cauvery College for Women, under the auspices of the Centre of Advocacy and Research and Snegam Trust, in the city on Wednesday. Advocates B. Shanthi and J. Jeyachandran of the District Legal Committee were those who addressed the gathering of around 200 students, briefing them about the legislation available to women in distress while simultaneously cautioning them against misusing the law. “Women in India are protected by law from birth to death,” said Ms. Shanthi, “but how many of us are aware of what is legal or not? Three years after the Nirbhaya gang-rape incident what has grabbed headlines recently is the documentary that has interviewed one of the rapists, and his regressive comments about women,” she added, referring to the now-banned BBC production India’s Daughter. She said limiting women’s movement in public was not practical as the number of women workers on night-shift jobs had gone up. “It’s important for women to speak up when they face sexual harassment, but don’t misuse the law to get your back on your spouse or in-laws,” said Ms. Shanthi. “Victimising your in-laws with exaggerated complaints will be harmful for the family in the long run.” According to Mr. Jeyachandran, women in India, despite being at risk, have access to a “very strong and clear legislation that not many are aware of.” Commenting on the growing divorce rate in the city, he said: “Women’s expectations of marriage and their life partners have gone up and these are largely influenced by what they see on television or in the movies. The courts would prefer couples to settle their differences amicably on their own rather than spend long years waiting for verdicts.” Gajalakshmi, president, Snegam Trust, said that more should be done to stop marginalising sex workers, transgenders, and women living with HIV/AIDS. “Women have been facing sexual violence for a long time, perhaps it is only now that we are speaking about it more openly. “Young women should develop their skills and use their education to work for those who are socially disadvantaged.” R. Murugan, president of the college’s governing council and V. Sujatha, principal, also spoke. (The Hindu 20/3/15)


23. 10% of dowry cases false, government plans changes in law (8)

NEW DELHI: Every year more than 10,000 complaints of dowry harassment are found to be false. Given that close to 90,000 to 1 lakh cases are investigated every year, the figure makes it one of the most abused laws in the country. Government is now working on a proposal to make Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code—that deals with offences of dowry demand and cruelty by husband and in-laws—compoundable. This means that the law, if amended, would have the provision of settlement between the warring couple if the court allows the same. As the law stands now, the offence is non-compoundable and non-bailable. This leads to immediate arrest of husband and in-laws with onus to prove their innocence on them. It also rules out any effort at reconciliation. Sources in home ministry said that the ministry sent a draft note for the Union Cabinet to amend Section 498A of the IPC to the law ministry for drawing up a draft bill. Making dowry law compoundable was also among recommendations made by the law commission and Justice Malimath Committee. The new law would also have penalty provisions of Rs 15,000 as against Rs 1,000 now if the case is found to be false, said sources. However, it would not be easy to get an amendment such as this through easily as women’s rights activists have been vociferously opposed to such moves in the past. The argument against any dilution of the law is that it is the strength that several economically dependent and helpless women have against dowry harassment. A dilution effected due to over 10% false cases will affect millions whose cases may be genuine. Arguments in favour have always stressed that those who are really in need hardly approach the police against in-laws due to various societal pressures and it’s only those looking to ‘exact revenge’ and having robust economic strength who reach the courts. In a recent order, the Supreme Court had said Section 498A had “dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.An effort by National Commission for Women to amend Dowry Prohibition Act came a cropper after government rejected the recommendation last year. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had in December, 2014 informed Lok Sabha, “The NCW had recommended certain amendments in Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the ministry has taken a considered view on the matter and decided to drop the amendment proposed by NCW in the present form after taking into account the comments of the high-level committee on the status of women and the ministry of home affairs.” (Times of India 22/3/15)

24.  ‘Maharashtra IAS officer raped girls under threat’ (8)

Pune: More sordid details have emerged in the case of a senior IAS officer who was arrested by the Pune police on charge of sexually assaulting four schoolgirls in the Sinhagad Road area here. According to the schoolgirls, Maruti Sawant (58), Director-General of the Maharashtra Council of Agricultural Education and Research (MCAER), had allegedly threatened to kill them if they refused to give in to his wishes. As a result, the eldest of the girls, now aged 13 and studying in Class VII, had been raped for three years but was scared to confide it to her parents, said the police. The sexual assault came to light when the victims told a school counsellor, who alerted the principal. Sawant, who lured the schoolgirls by offering money to buy school books and sweets, used to show obscene photos on a computer before sexually assaulting them, said the police. Pune police retrieved liquor bottles and packets of contraceptives from the flat owned by Sawant’s father-in-law on Sinhagad Road, where he used to exploit the victims. “We verified all details at the municipal school where the girls studied,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Swargate division) Milind Mohite. The accused, who has since been sacked by the State government, has been remanded in 10-day police custody. (The Hindu 22/3/15)

25. Spiralling Trend in crimes against Women in Assam (8)

GUWAHATI: Against the backdrop of unabated violence against women in various parts of the country, there has been a spurt in the number of crimes against females in Congress-ruled Assam over the last decade. According to official records, heinous crimes like rape as well as social evils such as dowry and witch-hunting had claimed the lives of as many as 1,589 women in the state during 2005-2014. “During 2005-2014, altogether 68,329 cases of crime against women were registered. A total of 78 women died due to rape while 1,388 others were killed in dowry-related cases. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 123. The number of rape cases registered during the period was 15,931,” state Agricultural Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the Assembly on Monday while replying to a query. The year wise break-up of the crimes against women registered with the police were 3,562(2005), 3,907 (2006), 4,547 (2007), 5,021 (2008), 6,209 (2009), 7,326 (2010), 7,075 (2011), 8,268 (2012), 10,757 (2013) and 11,657 (2014) respectively. Except for 2011, when there was a slight dip in the crime graph compared to the year-ago period, there was a general upswing. “In 2014, the number of crimes committed against women and registered with the police was 11,657. The number of rape cases registered was 2,047. Altogether 13 lost their lives in these cases. There were also 205 deaths in dowry-related cases while six others were killed after they had been branded as witches,” the minister informed the House. “Similarly in 2013, 10,757 cases of crime against women were registered. The number of rape cases recorded was 1,960. Of them, 14 had lost their lives. The number of women killed in witch-hunting cases was 18 while 170 others were killed in dowry-related cases,” Hussain said. He informed the House that altogether 47,298 people were arrested in connection with the cases and that 44,877 had been chargesheeted. The court had convicted 1,385 of them so far while the trial of the rest was in progress. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

26. Women power line to get ‘power angels’ soon (8)

VARANASI: ‘Women Power Line’, a toll free helpline for women being harassed by obscene callers and road Romeos, the brain child of UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, is about to witness some major changes soon. IG Woman Power Line Navniet Sikera, who was in the city for the expansion of four-digit helpline on Tuesday, said that the second phase of the Women Power Line is selection of a couple of girls from rural and urban areas who could assume the role of ‘power angels’. “The state government is taking every necessary measure to curb incidents of eve-teasing. Under this initiative, one-two girls from rural and urban areas would be chosen and given status of special police officers. These ‘power angels’ will work as a link between girl students, Women Power Line and the police,” he said. It is an extension of the drive started in Lucknow and aims to encourage girls to speak out against harassment, child marriage and other issues. He further said a total of 3,23,581 calls were received at WPL till Monday night, out of which, 3,17,626 calls related to crime against women were attended and solved. As per data collected by 1090 Women Power Line within two years, maximum were cases of harassment over phone. “Usually, the issues get resolved after counselling with parents. Presently, cases against 372 people have been filed against harassment and been sent to jail,” said Sikera. Sikera discussed all the significant pointers of the 1090 helpline through a power point presentation and also, interacted with the girl students. He assured the girls that ensure that all the complaints are heard immediately and anonymity is maintained. Later, he asked the girls to take oath to raise their voice against such crimes and be independent. Finally, he gave tips to the cops of all the four districts to act immediately after WPL centre receives the complaint on phone. (Times of India 26/3/15)


27. India’s 13 million child brides, their 6 million children (14)

Nearly 17 million Indian children between the ages of 10 and 19—6% of the age group—are married, many of them to older men, newly-released census figures reveal. This is an increase of 0.9 million from the 2001 census figure. The legal age for marriage is 18, so some involved may have been adults, but it is unlikely both partners were. Of these married children, 76%, or 12.7 million, are girls, according to census data. Only four million boys in this age group are married, reinforcing the fact that girls are significantly more disadvantaged. More boys were married in 2011 at 4 million compared to 3.4 million in 2001.  The number is constant for girls. Uttar Pradesh has the most married children (2.8 million), followed by Bihar and Rajasthan (with 1.6 million each). IndiaSpend has previously reported that India is ranked 6th among the top 10 countries that report child marriages among females. Since the number of married boys is much lower than that of girls, it is clear girls are marrying older men. For example, Uttar Pradesh has 2 million married girls in the age group of 10-19 years, while 2.8 million in total (boys & girls) are married in the age group; Girls account for 71% of the total married people in this group. It’s the same for other states. Source: Census; shapefile from Datameet;  Six million children were born to couples married in the age group of 10-19.  The majority of these children were boys (3 million). Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of children born to children: 1 million. A UNICEF study pointed that early marriage hinders educational attainment, which then leads to poor maternal health and higher infant mortality rates. Child-bearing at a young age is detrimental to the health of both the mother and the infant. This is why child marriage affects women more than men, other than the fact that men are less likely to be married as children. India’s maternal mortality ratio (the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births) has gone down from 254 in 2006 to 190 in 2014, but it is still higher than the ratio in most other countries. Infant mortality rate (number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births) has come down from 68 in 2000 to 56 in 2014, but is still too high and short of human-development targets. States with higher child marriage rates report higher maternal as well as infant deaths. The exception is Maharashtra which has a high rate of child marriage but still maintains a low maternal mortality ratio of 68. The reason for this could be improved healthcare services, as this IndiaSpend report has explained. Married children are part of the 47% of India’s population that is currently married. The age group of 35-39 years had the highest number of married men with 40.2 million, and the age bracket of 25-29 years had the highest number of married women with 44.6 million. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

28. 27 kids, mostly girls, rescued from bonded labour in Ajmer (14)

AJMER: At least 27 children, who were working as bonded labourers in a poly packing industry at Palara village near here, were rescued on Wednesday. The freed children include 24 girls. “We received a call three days ago and we conducted a recce of the area. We passed on the information to police and also to the labour department,” said Nanu Lal Prajapati, district coordinator of child helpline. The rescued children belong to nearby villages of Badgav, Sandaria, Kalyanipura and Palara. They were all from poor families and were working for 12 to 14 hours a day in a poly packing industry. Most of the children were girls and in the age group of 8 to 14 years. “We found that these children were working there for the past seven months and were kept in the factory premises in shabby conditions and were paid wages of Rs 55 to 60 for working 12 to 14 hours,” said Prajapati. During medical examination, most of the children were found underweight and malnourished. The rescued children were produced before Bal Kalyan Samiti which handed over these children to their families. Meanwhile, sources said that as the state government have no rehabilitation programme for child labourers, things are not improving, “As poverty is the main reason for child labour, rescuing them and handing back to the family means snatching a little food from them and returning them back to bonded labour,” said a specialist. (Times of India 12/3/15)

29. 57 rescued children sent back home (14)

HYDERABAD: Fifty seven child labourers from West Bengal, who were rescued from different workshops in old city, were sent back to their native place on Sunday. Of the 57 children, 30 were rescued from a bag making unit at Nawab Sahab Kunta in Falaknuma, while the remaining were rescued from goldsmith workshops in Gulzar Houz and Charminar. They were kept at the Government Observation Home for the last two months. “We contacted the West Bengal government and after completing necessary formalities, we are handing over the children to them,” District Child Protection Officer, Md Imtiyaz Raheem said, adding that the West Bengal government will look into the rehabilitation aspect of the children. The children were taken in a special bogie arranged in the East Coast Express by South Central Railway authorities. Officials of Child and Welfare Department, Government Railway Police and NGO’s representatives are accompanying them. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

30. Child slavery ‘most heinous crime against humanity’: Satyarthi (14)

United Nations: Describing child slavery as the “most heinous crime against humanity,” Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday called for a greater political will in the global development agenda to bring an end to the scourge affecting millions of children worldwide. Satyarthi told the UN that the number of child slaves has not decreased in the last few decades, but has stagnated at about 5.5 million. “We have not made progress in (ending) the most heinous crime against humanity. The most shameful commentary on the present times on the society is child slavery still exists.” Satyarthi was at the UN headquarters for a special briefing organised by the NGO Relations Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI). The Nobel Peace Prize winner said there must be explicit language in the sustainable development goals to abolish child slavery. He gave examples of several young boys and girls whom he rescued from bonded labour, saying their childhood and sense of innocence is lost when they are exploited and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The question of abolishing child slavery and restoring the childhood of millions of boys and girls has to be answered with “utmost political will, utmost priority, we have to feel inside us the sense of urgency,” he said. Satyarthi, the founder of grassroots non-profit ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, said nations must come up with innovative ways and build strongest possible partnerships to put an end to child slavery. He called for strengthening the UN system and stressed that there is a serious need of deeper and broader inter- agency cooperation. “We have to bring the UN agencies closer for a holistic policy thinking and responses to the problems of children in the world,” he said appealing to the UN to be more “proactive” in building partnerships with the other stakeholders. Satyarthi expressed hope that the scourge of child labour can end in his lifetime but said that concerted efforts from governments, corporates, civil society and public was needed. “I am very confident that I will see the end of child servitude in my lifetime. It was a non-issue 30 years ago… I refuse to accept that some children are born to live without human dignity and without their rights. We cannot compromise, it is non-negotiable,” he said. Satyarthi said there has been progress over the last few years to tackle child labour and everyone has a “moral responsibility” to end it. (Zee News 18/3/15)


31. Modi invokes farmers’ children to pitch for Land Bill (14)

Hussainiwala (Punjab): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked the welfare of farmers’ children to justify the Land Bill as he maintained that efforts are being made to “mislead” the farming community over the new measure. Pitching for the proposed new legislation that is facing stiff resistance from almost all opposition parties, he said it is necessary to bring about development which will benefit the farmers and their families as well. “Efforts are being made to mislead farmers in various ways. I talked about it yesterday also in my ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme,” Mr. Modi said addressing an event organised in the memory of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on their martyrdom day. He said if the nation makes progress, it will benefit the farmers as well as their future generations, many of whom want employment in areas other than farming. “If there is no development, what will happen to your children? Do you want them to live in ‘jhuggi jhopris’ (slums) of Delhi and Mumbai? Development will bring benefits for the farmer, their children as well as their villages,” the Prime Minister said. The controversial Bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier this month but has got stuck in Rajya Sabha because of a united opposition which has stepped up its campaign against the measure. Talking about corruption, he said it had “destroyed” the country. Targeting the previous UPA government, he said that the coal-block allocation scam was “bigger” than assessed by the CAG. He said that the CAG’s assessment of the loss in the coal-block allocation scam was much less than what it actually was. When the CAG concluded that the loss was to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore, there was “disbelief about such a huge figure”. “There was also a ‘zero loss theory’,” he said targeting the previous UPA ministers who had contended so. After the scam came to light, Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204 coal blocks, the Prime Minister noted. “This happened as soon as we came to power. It was their sin but we faced a situation where power plants were about to face closure on account of lack of coal. So, we decided to go for auction. “Out of 204 coal blocks cancelled, only 20 have been auctioned so far and more than 180 are still left. Since an honest government is in place, Rs two lakh crore was deposited in the national treasury on account of auction of these 20 coal blocks,” Mr. Modi said, adding that it will benefit the poor. Slamming the previous Congress-led government without naming it, he said, “They left no areas” (in terms of corruption). “LED bulbs were purchased in 2014 at Rs. 300 apiece. When we came, we decided the rate of a bulb should be Rs. 80 each. So on each bulb, we saved Rs. 220. You brought us here because of our honesty, we did it,” Mr. Modi told the gathering. He also talked about the “crisis” being faced by farmers, first on account of deficit rainfall last year and now due to hailstorm, and promised to do all that his government can along with the states. He said he had told his ministers to get an assessment conducted of the losses. “A survey has started. The states and the Centre are with you in this crisis situation. We will not hesitate in giving whatever help we can,” the Prime Minister said. At the same time, he referred to his government’s new scheme — Soil Health Card Yojana — and said it is aimed at benefiting the farmers as they can assess how much water and fertilisers they require for farming their land. He also announced that a new horticulture research institute to be set up in Amritsar would be named after Bhagat Singh. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

32. ISIS recruits 400 children since January: Report (14)

BEIRUT: Islamic State has recruited at least 400 children in Syria in the past three months and given these so-called “Cubs of the Caliphate” military training and hardline indoctrination, a monitoring group said on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the children, all aged under 18, were recruited near schools, mosques and in public areas where Islamic State carries out killings and brutal punishments on local people. One such young boy appeared in a video early this month shooting dead an Israeli Arab accused by Islamic State of being as spy. A French police source said the boy might be the half-brother of Mohamed Merah, who killed three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse in 2012. “They use children because it is easy to brainwash them. They can build these children into what they want, they stop them from going to school and send them to IS schools instead,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the British-based Observatory. Islamic State declared a caliphate last year in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in both countries. It has beheaded or shot dead Syrian civilians, combatants, foreign aid workers and journalists and has released videos appearing to show children witnessing or participating in some of the killings. The group persecutes people across sects and ethnicities who do not adhere to its ultra-hardline doctrine. The group may be resorting to children because it has been having difficulties recruiting adults since the start of the year, with only 120 joining its ranks, Abdulrahman said. This was partly due to tighter controls on the Turkish border, where foreign fighters tend to enter, he added. Islamic State has encouraged parents to send children to training camps or has recruited them without their parents’ consent, often luring them with money, said the Observatory, which tracks the conflict using sources on the ground. At the training camps, the children learn to fire live ammunition, fight in battles and to drive, it said. Islamic State also recruits children as informants and as guards for its headquarters as well as welcoming children with birth defects into its ranks, the Observatory added. (Times of India 24/3/15)

33. CBSE glare on sexual abuse in schools (14)

The Central Board of Secondary Education has moved to check sexual abuse of schoolchildren on campuses after taking a tough stand on cyber-bullying and ragging. The board, last week, issued a circular to all affiliated schools to ensure no child suffered from this crime and listed out certain steps as preventive measures. Defining the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the circular reads: “The challenges of gender inequality, eve teasing and sexual abuse in school environment call for increased awareness and creating synergy among parents, teachers and schools. In order to ensure strict compliance of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the CBSE has taken several initiatives and actions for creating awareness about sexual exploitation of schoolchildren.” The board has suggested schools to form a committee, which may consist of principal/vice-principal, one male teacher, one female teacher, one female student, one male student and one non-teaching employee. The panel would serve as a complaints and redressal body. However, improved response system and alert administrative machinery is required to take immediate action on reported cases of misbehaviour. “We have a student council where we have boys and girls of the school, the vice-principal and male and female teachers. The council looks after problems faced by the students and conveys it to the school administration,” said Anita Chaudhary, principal, Tribhuvan School. The CBSE has asked the schools to report sexual abuse as soon as the institutions come to know about it. The board has made training compulsory for teachers to attend to adolescent (gender) related issues, conduct of adolescent education programmes and special activities that promote gender equality and sensitivity. The notice also states: Camps on sensitisation of girls on health and sanitation issues, karate/self-defence training should be conducted at regular intervals. Programmes like folk dance, nukkad natak, poster competitions, quiz, debate, and exhibition can also be conducted to foster gender equality”.”Last week, a leading Patna-based school was involved in the issue. This stringent step of the board will check these kinds of activities inside the campus,” said Shingini Singh, a Class IX student of Radiant International. Schools have been also asked to put up complaint/suggestion box so that students can make written complaints. (The Telegraph 25/3/15)

34. Provide affordable public transport for students from slums: child rights panel (14)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government should provide affordable public transport facilities, so that children of slum residents can travel to schools, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has recommended. The commission recently passed an order saying as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, it is the duty of the state government to arrange public transport services for children living in slums, so they can access schools. The order was given in connection to a case filed by Door Step School, an organisation based in Grant Road. The organisation had complained that several places in the city such as Ganesh Murthi Nagar, Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar, Shiv Shakti Nagar in Backbay, Cuffe Parade – where a majority of residents belong to the scheduled castes and tribes or other backward classes – do not have access to schools. “A majority of children who are residing in these slums are in the 6-8 age group, and so they cannot travel on their own. Their parents are daily wage workers and are unable to accompany them,” reads the complaint filed by the organisation. “So BEST bus services are required at concessional rates in these areas.” Many children were being deprived of school education as their parents could not afford to pay the hiked BEST fare, which goes against the provisions of the RTE Act, the complaint stated. “It is the duty of the state under the RTE Act to provide education to children between 6-14 years and cheap public transport services to access that education,” said AN Tripathi, secretary of the commission. (The Hindustan Tmes 27/3/15)


35. Christians, Muslims to gain as govt links loans with population share (7)

NEW DELHI: The BJP government is asking public sector banks to lend to each minority community in line with its share of the total minority population within the 6% quota fixed for all minorities. The move will result in higher credit flow to Muslims and Christians. Under current rules, banks have to mandatorily earmark 15% of their priority sector loans to minority communities. Priority sector lending in turn is mandated as 40% of all bank loans and includes those to agriculture and micro, small and medium enterprises. Census 2001 figures for the population of various minority communities shows that they put together constituted about 19.5% of India’s population. Muslims were around 69% of the minority population, Christians 12%, Sikhs just under 10% and the rest about 9%. While these shares may have changed somewhat in the 2011 census, yet to be released, they are unlikely to have changed drastically. Therefore, the new norms would mean that about 4% of all bank loans would go to Muslims, around 0.7% to Christians and 0.6% to Sikhs. Against the stipulation, banks were providing 16% of the priority sector loans to minorities at the end of December 2014. Although the rule has resulted in higher flows to this segment following the UPA government’s decision in June 2007, studies suggest that Muslims and Christians have not benefitted adequately, while some other minority groups like Jains, Parsis and Sikhs account for larger chunks of bank loans. As a result, the minority affairs department has already flagged the issue to bankers and the finance ministry has stepped in now. “It has been desired by secretary, ministry of minority affairs in nodal officers’ meeting to increase the percentage share of lending to each minority community in proportion to their respective share in minority population,” said the agenda note for a meeting of bank chiefs on Wednesday. In addition, it asked state-run banks to open branches in minority-concentrated areas to ensure proportionate credit flow. (Times of India 12/3/15)

36. Take action against those attacking minorities: MPs to government (7)

New Delhi: “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. Members in Rajya Sabha on Monday sought stern action to check growing attacks on minorities citing instances of rape of a 70-year-old nun in Bengal and demolition of a church in Haryana, with the government saying communal amity must be maintained at all costs. D Raja (CPI), who had given a notice for suspension of business to take up a discussion on the matter, said it was a serious situation that minorities were not safe. “With great pain and agony I raise this issue. A 70-year- old nun in West Bengal has been raped. A church under construction has been demolished in Haryana. There is increase in attacks on Christians in the country. It is very shocking. Right wing extremist forces have become very aggressive.    “Can we safeguard the secular fabric of our nation? It is a serious matter and it concerns all the people of the country. I want that the business of the House be suspended and this issue be discussed under Section 267,” Raja said. He also cited the example of a senior BJP leader making a controversial statement in Guwahati that God only resides in temples and nowhere else. “What is happening in this country,” he asked. Agreeing with Raja, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the state governments should take necessary action in such cases and book the culprits. He also agreed for a discussion on the issue after proper notice. “In its an important issue. We are against such incidents.    Communal harmony should be maintained in the country. No one has any doubt on this. Everyone has the right to practice their religion and all state government where such incidents are happening should take stern steps against the guilty and those responsible for such incidents,” Naqvi said. Raja was supported by Ali Anwar Ansari (JD-U), Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) and Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) who also sought a discussion on the issue. Indicating provocative statements by various people, Sen also said there have been “repeated use of abusive language” which were not being stopped despite assurances by the Prime Minister.    “Ministers including the Prime Mnister have assured, but the next day or even on the same day, inflammatory speeches are made to divide people on religious and caste lines. What is the sanctity of assurance made by the Prime Minister,” the CPI(M) member asked.  (DNA 16/3/15)

37. Nun Rape Case: No arrest yet, bandh in Ranaghat (7)

Kolkata: Even 72 hours after a septuagenarian nun was raped in a convent in Nadia’s Ranaghat, the CID, which is investigating the case, has failed to make any arrest, although some more people were detained for questioning. The delay in apprehending the culprits has sparked anger in both the Christian community and the local public. The shopkeepers in Ranaghat kept their shutters down on Tuesday. “We are observing trade bandh in this town as a mark of protest to the brutalities which were perpetrated on a mother-like figure. We want immediate arrest of the culprits,” Samiran Paul, a spokesperson for the local business association, said. The locals also took out a rally in the town. Students from Jadavpur University and Presidency University also visited Ranaghat in a show of solidarity with the students and teachers of Convent of Jesus and Mary High School. On the other hand, local Trinamul Congress workers also took out a rally to protest the blockade of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s convoy on Monday. The horrific crime has sent shockwaves not only in the state and country but also abroad. Vatican City is sending a representative to Ranaghat on Wednesday. “A delegation from Vatican City will be arriving on Wednesday afternoon to meet the nun at the hospital and the students of the Convent of Jesus and Mary,” Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza said. A delegation of state minorities’ commission, led by vice-chairperson Maria Fernandes, visited Ranaghat. She came to the conclusion that dacoity was not the real objective behind the crime. (Asian Age 18/3/15)

38. Haryana church vandalism: NHRC issues notice to state government (7)

New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to Haryana government asking them to send a report on desecration of an under-construction church in Hisar and the steps being taken to protest the religious places of minorities in the state. According to an official statement released today, the commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Haryana calling for reports within two weeks. They have also been directed to report what steps were being taken for the protection of religious places of minorities in the State, it said. The notices were served after the commission took suo motu cognizance of a media report that an under construction Church in Hisar district of Haryana was attacked on March 15. Police had registered a case against 14 people in this connection and the main accused Anil Godara was arrested on Tuesday from Hisar and taken on remand. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar was vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman on Sunday, triggering tension in the area. The complainant, Father Subhash Chand of Williwarsh church, stated that the group fragmented the cross and installed the statue of Hanuman and a flag depicting Lord Ram and threatened to kill him. (The Asian Age 19/3/15)


39. ‘Protect the rights of minorities’ (7)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights organized a protest meeting at Sardar Baug near Lal Darwaja against various state and national issues on Friday where human rights activists participated from across the state. The participants from 10 NGOs including Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), ANHAD, INSAF, Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) and Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) advocated non-tolerance against atrocities against weak sections of the society, upholding of constitutional rights and public awakening to address social issues. Father Cedric Prakash said that right from tribal issues to the issues of the farmers, the voiceless have been pushed into margins. “It was our effort to voice our concerns and bring the issues to the fore. Our demand was to uphold the high values established by our constitution,” he said. Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad diocese said that everyday media reports atrocities ranging from brutality on six-year-old girl in Ahmedabad to rape of a 72-year-old nun in West Bengal. “Woman safety is a big concern today. We will have to change our attitude towards the issue. Public awareness is only possible solution,” he said. (Times of India 21/3/15)

40. Minorities are patriots: Rajnath (7)

New Delhi: Terming Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments on conversion as a veiled message to minorities to confine themselves to their respective faiths and not interact with society, Prabha Joseph, member of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission, said: “If the conversion propaganda against Christians was true then the community would have been larger than two per cent of the population as till very recently we ran a large number of private schools and hospitals in the country. Several BJP leaders studied in our schools; were they converted?’’ Apart from prising open the conversion debate — partially capped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month said “everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence” — Mr. Singh sought to assure the gathering at the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions here that the government would do everything to protect the minorities and allay the sense of fear gripping them. In an oblique reference to some Sangh Parivar outfits questioning the patriotism of the minorities, he said: “I believe the minorities of our country are patriots and their patriotism should not be questioned.” Further, he dwelt on India’s diversity; stating that this is a country which respects all religions and believes in peaceful co-existence. “We have all 72 sects of Islam living here peacefully,” he said. Without directly referring to Sangh Parivar propaganda of Christianity being brought to India by the colonial powers, he flagged the fact that Kerala houses one of the oldest churches in the world. After the day-long deliberations, participants uniformly stressed the importance of India’s multi-religious character and emphasised the need for the country to develop as a whole. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

41. Minorities panel to visit Mumbai (7)

MUMBAI: A five-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is on a two-day visit to Mumbai to hold meetings with leaders of various minority communities. But a few members of those communities have expressed reservations about the visit as it has not been widely publicised. “This will only mean that the commission will decide which community leaders it wants to meet. The meeting should have been publicly announced to make themselves accessible to all members of the minorities who have grievances. The NCM website too does not reflect that it has raised significant issues about minority welfare in the past few months,” Dolphy D’Souza, former president of Bombay Catholic Sabha, said. But NCM chairperson Naseem Ahmad said: “We have been holding meetings with various community leaders. Our office has sent invites to them.” Two members of the commission are slated to visit the Archbishop of Mumbai at his residence on Friday. “The schedule was decided much before the Navi Panvel church attack. But given the circumstances, I will definitely raise my anxieties with them,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, told The Hindu . Mr. Ahmad said the members of the commission had already met leaders of Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities on Thursday. (The Hindu 27/3/15)


42. Why foreigners cant pray at Taj mosque, asks Muslim body (7)

AGRA: Taj Mahal Masjid Intezamiya Committee, which claims to make arrangements for namaz in the monument’s mosque, has sought revoking a seven-year-old ban on foreigners offering Friday prayers, especially from SAARC countries, at the monument. At present, only locals can offer namaz in the mosque on Friday. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for Taj Mahal’s maintenance, has refuted the committee’s claim of making arrangements for prayers at the Taj’s mosque. It also said that according to rules, only locals who have been traditionally offering namaz at the mosque could be allowed. The department also. The committee has been raising this issue for many years, and recently sought information under an RTI query regarding who can offer prayers at Taj. The reply stated that a 2008 gazette notification mentions Taj will be open on Friday only for those “offering customary afternoon prayers”. The committee contends that it was nowhere written that foreigners cannot offer prayers. Committee’s chairman Syed Munawwar Ali said, “The ASI is discriminating between Indian and foreign Muslims. Till 2002, foreigners were offering prayers here, but then ASI stopped it citing security reasons, which is unfair.” ASI officials, however, said from the time the Taj Mahal came under its protection, only those who have been offering namaz have been allowed entry during Friday prayers. Earlier, Taj Mahal used to be closed on Mondays for tourists and the archaeological body allowed entry to local Muslims to offer namaz on Fridays. In 2001, the weekly closing day was changed to Friday and locals were allowed to offer Juma namaz between 12pm and 2 pm. When contacted, ASI superintending archaeologist N K Pathak said, “No new changes have been made in the rules. As far as foreigners are concerned, they can offer namaz at two mosques located outside the monument complex at east and west gates.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

43. Muslims protest to get back collegeMohammed Wajihuddin (7)

MUMBAI: Kicking off its campaign to get the Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari back from government control, members of the Ismail Yusuf College Campus Bachao Sangharsh Samiti held a demonstration outside the college on Monday. “The government must remove all encroachments, declare Ismail Yusuf College a minority institution and hand over the college and its nearly 54 acre land to a suitable Muslim trust to develop it as a world-class university,” said Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman (Mumbai), Observer Research Foundation. The protesters announced a massive morcha at Azad Maidan on March 25. “Today is the formal beginning of our movement. Sir Ismail Yusuf gave Rs 8 lakh in 1914 to set up an institution of higher learning for Muslims though its doors have been open to all since its inception in 1924,” said M A Khalid of the All India Milli Council. Amir Idrisi of the Association of Muslim Professionals said efforts were made to start a dialogue with the government, but the latter seems adamant to go ahead with its plan to establish a law university and an educational hub on the college premises. “We are not against the law university but it should be established elsewhere, not on a piece of land which was bought with an endowment fund to establish a massive institute of higher learning for Muslims,” said Idrisi. He announced that on Thursday, former Congress MLA Yusuf Abrahni will lead a group of activists to forcibly occupy the college. Activist Sajid Shaikh said that a series of corner meetings have been planned to mobilize people for the protest rally at Azad Maidan. (Times of India 17/3/15)

44. ‘Ghar wapsi’ issue to figure at Muslim Personal Law Board meet (7)

Lucknow: The issue of ‘ghar wapsi’ programme by some Hindu organisations is likely to figure prominently in the three-day meet of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) scheduled to be held in Jaipur from March 20. “The Jamaits and the Board have already clarified their stand on the issue. It’s only a propaganda,” AIMLPB General Secretary Maulana Nizamuddin said. He said that though the matter has not been included in the general agenda, it would be raised in the meeting. “Thought should be given whether the country will progress or get destroyed. What does this ‘ghar wapsi’ programme mean?” he asked. “Tomorrow you will tell Christians to become Hindus, the next day you will tell Muslims to become Hindus. Is it a joke? It’s like insulting the entire community,” he said. He said the agenda of the meeting was general in nature and such contentious issues were not included in it. “It is a secular state where all communities exist since long,” he said. He said a campaign was being carried out against Muslims, but generally such issues are kept out of the agenda. “But, if some questions crop up, the board give its reply,” he said. To a question, he dismissed as “politics” the ban on beef by the Maharashtra government. “It’s all politics,” he said. “Whether it is Maharashtra or Kolkata, not only Muslims, but other persons also eat beef,” he claimed. He said the issue did not pertain to Muslims alone. But, the business of many persons and companies would be affected due to the ban. (DNA 17/3/15)

45. All India Muslim Personal Law Board Hits Out at Modi Government, Questions Silence on ‘Ghar Wapasi’

Jaipur:  The All India Muslim Personal Law Board today had some strong words for the Narendra Modi government, as it questioned the Prime Minister’s silence on controversial issues, including ‘ghar wapasi’ – the campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. “Ever since Modiji came to power, the Hindutva forces have become stronger,” Abdul Rahim Qureshi, the General Secretary, said at the Board’s 24th meeting in Jaipur today. “The ‘ghar wapasi’ programme is gaining ground and the VHP is polarising the atmosphere and spreading anti-Muslim feelings… Ever since the new government has taken over, there is a conspiracy to convert the country into a fascist state,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board said there was a need for the government to make all citizens feel secure in an atmosphere where their best interests were safeguarded. Mr Qureshi also strongly criticised the Rajasthan government’s recent decision to make Surya Namaskar compulsory in all schools, and demanded the withdrawal of the controversial order. “This is anti-Islam and the government should immediately withdraw the decision. Islam does not permit for such practice,” he said, adding, “This is absolutely wrong to impose such things on Muslims.” “Internal stability is necessary for the peace and development in the country and the governments, both Central and states, should work in this direction instead of announcing such decision which affects our religious freedom,” Mr Qureshi said. The Board also rejected calls for amendments to the Muslim personal law, saying such changes struck at the roots of religion. (NDTV 23/3/15)

46. Muslim population no issue, conversion is, says home minister Rajnath Singh (7)

NEW DELHI: Home minister Rajnath Singh, in comments that would run counter to the line often used by hardline Hindutva elements, said on Monday he had no issues with the pace of growth of the Muslim population in the country, but railed against religious conversions and exhorted minorities to take the lead in pressing for an anti-conversion law. “It does not matter how many Muslims are there. If their population is increasing, let it increase. We have no issues. But the cycle of conversions must stop,” Singh told a conference of state minority commissions in Delhi. The comments come at a time some hardliners in the Sangh Parivar have expressed their annoyance at what they allege is the fast pace of growth in the country’s Muslim population and have exhorted Hindus to procreate more to counter this. India’s Muslim population probably rose to 14.2% in 2011 from 13.4% in 2001, the government yet-to-be-released census data is expected to show. While Singh appeared conciliatory to Muslims, he struck a hard line against religious conversions — a topic that has of late been sought to be linked with the Christian community. Members of the Sangh Parivar have in recent weeks sought to link service done by Christian institutions with religious conversions. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat last month stirred up a controversy when, referring to conversions, he said there was a “motive” behind the service rendered by Mother Teresa. Singh appeared to echo similar sentiments. “Why do we do conversions? If we want to do service, let us do service. But should service be done for the purpose of religious conversion? Cannot we decide that we will go worldwide to do service but conversion will not be our target but only to serve humanity?” he asked. “Can’t we live without respecting each other’s faith. What is the necessity of conversion. Can’t a religion survive without involving in conversion?… People say conversions are done by people on their own accord…that there is freedom for conversions. Do not do this (conversions). Leave it,” he added. The home minister said he was posing three basic questions. “First, is conversion necessary? Second, can a religion not survive without conversions? Thirdly, if anybody tries to change the demographic character of any country, will anyone tolerate it? In US or Europe, if I go and try to change their demographic character, isn’t it a crime on my part? Why should I do this? Let that country’s identity remain. That country has a culture, let it be. Why do we want to change it?” he said. Singh also blamed the Congress government for creating an “atmosphere of insecurity” among minorities and said the Narendra Modi government was reversing this. He termed the controversy around ‘Ghar Vapasi’, or reconversion of minorities back into the Hindu faith, as “misunderstandings and rumours” and said a solution needed to be found. The home minister lamented that the majority community had to ask for an anti-conversion law and not minorities. “In other countries, minorities demand that anti-conversion law should be made. India is the only country where it is not so. In our country, the state of affairs is such that we have to say and demand that there should be a debate over anti-conversion law. Why is there such a state of affairs? It will be good if you think over this and debate it,” he said… (Times of India 24/3/15)

47. Muslim bodies want UP govt to challenge Hashimpura court order (7)

LUCKNOW: Various Muslim organisations, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board, today asked the Uttar Pradesh government to challenge the verdict of a Delhi court in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case in a higher court. Additional sessions judge Sanjay Jindal in his March 21 judgement acquitted 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel of charges related to the killing 42 Muslims who were picked up from a village in Meerut, giving them benefit of doubt for want of evidence. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind would decide their strategy in their upcoming meeting on March 28 while the Shia Personal Law Board will take up the matter seriously at its meeting in the second week of April. AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Nizamuddin alleged that the decision of the lower court, which came 28 years after the massacre, was a result of failure on the part of the state government. He said the case should have been disposed of in four- five months but due to “lackadaisical attitude” of the government the case was dragged for 28 years.The ruling Samajwadi Party, however, said it would take a decision whether to challenge the lower court order only after reading it thoroughly. “We will go through the order and then only take a view,” said Rajendra Choudhary, SP spokesperson. Nizamuddin said though the lower court had acquitted all the accused, it had admitted there was a massacre in Hashimpura. “The government should challenge the order in a higher court,” he said. Echoing similar views, spokesman of Shia Personal Law Board Maulana Yasoob Abbas said the court order has disappointed the family members of the victims. “We will strongly take up the matter in our executive meeting likely to be held in the second week of next month,” he said. Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind state chief Ashhad Rashidi also demanded that the government challenge the lower court order. He said the government which itself accepts that only because of Muslim votes it came to power, it should strongly take up any matter pertaining to the community. “The matter would be discussed in Jamiat’s Ijlas-e-Aam (biennial conference) on March 28 in Lucknow,” he added. (Times of India 26/3/15)


48. Christians resent restrictions on preaching religion (7)

ERODE: Members of Akhila Indiya Christhuva Valibargal Munnetra Iyakkam staged a demonstration here on Tuesday resenting restrictions imposed on preaching Christianity. Though the Constitution has guaranteed democracy and secularism, and unity in diversity, there was no positive reflection at the ground level for practising and preaching Christianity, the protesters said. They called upon the authorities to desist from creating hurdles in the functioning of schools, organisations, and hostels run by Christians. Restrictions faced by Christians in constructing prayer centres and churches must be lifted, they demanded. Preachers were not only denied permission to hold prayer meetings, but also were booked by the police department in “false” cases, the speakers said. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

49. 15 killed in Lahore church-bombings, Christians go on rampage (7)

Islamabad: At least 15 people were killed in bomb attacks at two churches on Sunday in Pakistan’s Lahore city, triggering violent protests from the minority Christian community which took to the streets, killed two suspected attackers, smashed vehicles and clashed with the police, media reports said. Two powerful explosions rocked the Catholic Church and Christ Church in the city’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 70 others, Pakistani daily Dawn reported. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted in Lahore, the capital city of the Pakistani province of Punjab, soon after the blasts, the daily said, adding that a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashed vehicles. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protestors also clashed with the police. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians took to the streets and blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar city in the country’s northwest, in the city of Multan and in Quetta in the southwest, according to Geo TV. The report said two men suspected to be associated with the bombings were burnt alive by a mob in the presence of the police. Seven policemen were deployed for the security of the churches, said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Haider Ashraf, of which two constables were killed while four others sustained injuries in the attack. A man blew himself up outside one of the churches when a police guard stopped him from entering, Geo TV quoted a witness as saying. Police were collecting forensic evidence from the blast sites and would not confirm the report. Rana Mashood, a government spokesperson, said the government was determined to tackle the issue of militancy and asserted that “terrorists will be brought to justice”.He said they were not looking at the event as an attack on a particular community or members of one religion, according to Dawn. Christians constitute around two percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million and the community has been a target of terror attacks as well as riots in recent years. “We are not separated by religion, this is an attack on Pakistan, and we feel their pain,” the report quoted Punjab Education Minister Mian Mujtuba Shuja-ur-Rehman as saying. Sunday’s attack was the worst on the community since 2013, when twin suicide attacks at the All Saint’s Church in Peshawar’s Kohati Gate area left at least 80 people dead and over 100 others injured. Meanwhile, missionary schools in Karachi and across Punjab will remain closed on Monday in protest against the attack. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the blasts and expressed grief over the loss of lives in the attacks. (New Kerala 15/3/15)

50. Haryana Village Tense After Church Attack; 14 People Booked (7)

CHANDIGARH: Tension prevailed in a village in Haryana’s Hisar district on Monday after an under construction church was attacked and vandalised by miscreants and the idol of a Hindu god was placed inside the premises. Police officials said on Monday that 14 people were booked for rioting, damaging place of worship, theft and promoting enmity following a complaint from the church priest in Kaimri village in Hisar district, 260km from here. No arrests have been made so far. The attackers allegedly damaged the cross at the church and took away some other items. The priest told media that certain activists of the Bajrang Dal and others had threatened him earlier. He alleged that the same people could be behind the attack on the church. “I was threatened by Bajrang Dal activists and other locals last month,” the priest, Subhash Chand, said. Haryana has a BJP government since October last year. Local residents in the village alleged that the priest was trying to construct the church despite the fact that there was no Christian in the entire village. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

51. Nun gangrape: 8 held, police faces heat (7)

Kolkata: The Christian missionary school at Ranaghat in Nadia, where a septuagenarian nun was gangraped by robbers, was reeling under threat for the last four months. But the district police allegedly remained silent. With this revelation coming to light on Sunday, the police, now under the scanner for its failure, detained eight suspects for questioning as governor Keshari Nath Tripathi condemned the attack.

In the morning, a delegation of the West Bengal Commission for Women led by its chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee visited the Convent of Jesus and Mary High School and spoke to its senior officials. Sisters and nuns were seen in tears while narrating the ordeal to them. Later, Ms Mukherjee said that the institute received threats twice. She elaborated, “On November 13, a day before the Children’s Day, some miscreants threatened the school officials to kill them. The second threat came over phone seven days before the March 14 incident. The school authorities soon lodged a complaint with the police. But no action was taken. Had the police acted, the crime would not have happened. The police failed in its job.”

In Kolkata, the governor expressed his concern over the incident on the sidelines of a programme and said, “It is very sad. No one should insult any religion or the people engaged with any religious institute. I am confident that the state government will act strongly to catch the culprits.” During the day, superintendent of police (Nadia) Arnab Ghosh said that eight youth were detained following raids in Ranaghat and other places. While grilling them extensively, the CID found that the face of one of the suspects partially resembles to that of one of the four accused seen in the CCTV footages, sources disclosed. The CID is not ruling out the possibility of an old grudge behind the incident. A high alert has been sounded by the police since Nadia is located at the India-Bangladesh border. Forwarding the images of the accused to the Border Security Force, the CID sought assistance from the Central force to catch them. Meanwhile, school students took out rallies in and around Ranaghat to demand justice and oppose the political parties’ beeline. In the afternoon, when a BJP delegation went to visit the school, they were greeted with strong opposition by the school. (Asian Age 16/3/15)

52. Delhi Archbishop Couto condemns attack on Christians (7)

New Delhi: Delhi Archbishop Anil J.T. Couto on Monday strongly condemned the recent attacks on Christians, including the one on a convent in West Bengal, in which a nun was gangraped, and destruction of an under-construction church in Hisar and called for immediate action by authorities to maintain peace and harmony. Archbishop Couto also observed that frequent unwarranted remarks and irresponsible statements made by leaders of both religious groups and political parties hurt the sentiments of minorities and created an atmosphere of hate and suspicion towards other faiths and communities. “I strongly condemn the brutal and heinous attack on Sisters of Convent of Jesus and Mary in West Bengal and destruction of a church under construction in Hisar, Haryana. I also condemn the bomb attacks in Lahore yesterday. Any form of violence in the name of religion needs to be stopped immediately through a collective and strong political will by the governments, both at central and state levels,” the Archbishop said. Maintaining that hate campaigns against the Christian community and the Christian faith by fundamentalist and extremist religious organisations in the past preceded large scale violence against the Christians community, he called for an immediate action by local police and civil authorities to stop such campaigns and maintain social peace and harmony. He also expressed anguish and concern at the continued hate campaign against the Christian community and other minorities perpetuated by frequent and irresponsible statements made by various leaders of religious groups and political parties. An under-construction church in Kaimri village near Hisar, Haryana, was yesterday vandalised by a group and the cross replaced with an idol of Hanuman, triggering tension in the state.

In another incident, a 71-year-old nun was allegedly gangraped by dacoits in a convent school in Nadia district of West Bengal, evoking an uproar across the state. A CID probe has been ordered in the incident but no one has been arrested yet. The gang also decamped with Rs 12 lakh kept in the almirah. (Asian Age 17/3/15)


53. Nagaland Catholics condemn repeated attacks on Christians (7)

Kohima: Expressing concern over the increasing acts of violence against Christians and the “apathy” of the Union government, the Catholic Association of Nagaland (CAN) alleged that ever since the new government had come to power at the Centre, several churches had been attacked in the country’s capital. In a statement recently, CAN stated it was horrified at the “inhuman, undemocratic and appalling fanatical position” adopted by some members of the dominant religion in the country. “From north to south of the country, violence against Christians has been unabated,” it stated. CAN termed the most recent attack in West Bengal, where a 72-year-old nun was gang-raped, as “most detestable, despicable and utterly loathsome act.” It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told church leaders on February 18 that every citizen had the right to follow any faith without being coerced and had vowed to protect all religious groups in India and also asserted that his government would not allow any religious group, belonging to majority or minority groups, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. “The promises of the Prime Minister have been mocked,” CAN stated. Concerned over the growing attacks on the Christian community across the country, 19 incumbent and former Christian members of Parliament met in New Delhi on Friday to chalk out a strategy to counter these attacks and project the community’s immense contribution to the nation. The meeting was attended by several senior members including former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma from Meghalaya, Derek O’Brian from West Bengal, Jose K Mani of Kerela, former Nagaland chief minister and present MP Neiphiu Rio, Oscar Fernandes, P J Kurian and Rabi Barnard among others. (Times of India 23/3/15)

54. Six arrested for MP church attack (7)

Jabalpur/Mumbai: Amid widespread outcry over an attack on a cathedral and a church-run school in Jabalpur in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the police Monday arrested six people belonging to a right-wing Hindu group but let them off on bail soon, drawing flak from the Christian community. But in neighbouring Maharashtra, also ruled by the BJP, a probe into Saturday’s attack on a Navi Mumbai church was yet to make any breakthrough even as the issue triggered a heated debate in the Assembly, leading to the Opposition walkout. The police identified those arrested in Jabalpur as Dharam Sena leader Yogesh Agrawal and his associates Nitin Rajak, Prateek Pyasi, Anurag Choukse, Abhishek Choukse and Sharad Rao. According to Additional SP Isha Pant, they had been booked under Sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief) and other relevant sections of the IPC. They were, however, granted bail by the Cantonment Police, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each. The church authorities expressed disappointment over the grant of bail immediately after the arrest. “We are not at all happy. The action (arrest) appears just a formality. We want that they be punished,” a church spokesperson said. A delegation of Christian community led by Vicar of Peter and Paul Cathedral Father James D’Souza met Jabalpur IGP D. Sriniwas Roa and lodged a protest over the bail granted to the accused and handed over to police the CCTV footage of the attack. The incident took place on March 20 night when some members of the minority community were allegedly assaulted by Dharam Sena and Bajrang Dal activists. (Asian Age 24/3/15)

55. Christian institutions to hire armed guards (7)

KOLKATA: Christian institutions have been advised to strengthen security, and hire armed guards if possible, in the wake of the Ranaghat horror. No formal instructions have been issued but the two churches under whose tutelage various Christian congregations function in the state have sent out advisories to have a structured security in place — a far cry from the elderly durwans, armed with a stick, at best. “We cannot ignore the urgency of this any more. Armed security is the need of the hour. We never thought that things would come to such a pass,” said Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Roman Catholic church, second in command to the Archbishop who heads the church in Bengal. “Many congregations, especially those in remote areas, do not have that kind of money, but security cannot be compromised with any more,” Gomes said. Bishop Ashoke Biswas of the Church of North India has already issued a circular to all CNI schools on this. “From private security guards to CCTVs and view cutters, we have taken a large number of measures because our schools have big campuses,” said Supriyo Dhar, secretary, La Martiniere Schools. The home department has asked Kolkata Police to keep a close watch on religious institutions and nearby localities. Beat officers have to keep records of their rounds of such places, say sources. The local police will vet the security staff of these institutions. Police have been told to increase their presence at the various hostels and ensure that more armed cops are on duty at night near such “sensitive” locations. The church heads are happy at the concern showed by the state government. “But we cannot accept the fact that the accused in the Ranaghat tragedy are still at large. The fact that they were at the spot in close proximity of police is just unacceptable. Private and armed security is our only answer to the changing situation. We cannot take any chances,” said a church official. (Times of India 25/3/15)

56. Christian missionary meet attacked (7)

Lucknow:  Alleged right wing activists attacked a meeting of a Christian missionary outfit in Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajganj district. Several people were injured. According to police sources here, a few dozen right wing workers attacked the meeting being held at Belwa Ghat in the district on Wednesday, alleging that the missionary people were engaged in conversion. Sources said the attackers were armed with sticks and did not spare even women and children. A case was registered against a former district chief of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad  and some others after a complaint was lodged by Peter Masih, organiser of the religious meet. Security personnel have been deployed at the village, police said. Earlier too, right wing activists targeted such meetings in different parts of the state. They have warned that they will continue to use force to thwart what they allege is conversion of Hindus into Christians by luring them with money and jobs. (Deccan Herald 27/3/15)


57. J&K govt approves 3,000 posts for Kashmiri pandits under PM’s package (13)

JAMMU: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kashmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue.: The Jammu & Kashmir government on Tuesday approved 3,000 supernumerary posts to Kashmiri pandit migrants under the Prime Minister’s package in the Valley. “The state government has approved 3,000 supernumerary posts for Kahsmiri pandit migrants under PM’s package in Valley,” a senior officer of the state government said. Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs and relief and rehabilitation, Syed Basharat Bukhari held extensive discussions on relief and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. In this regard, Bukhari directed the relief commissioner to collect data of migrant unemployed youth who are registered as Kashmiri migrants in Jammu or outside the state besides enjoining the youth to submit their details within a period of 20 days. While taking stock of the relief and rehabilitation measures for Kashmiri migrants, the minister directed the reconstitution of the Apex Advisory Committee (AAC), an apex body of representatives of Kashmiri migrants, who migrated from the Valley. “Creation of 3,000 supernumerary posts for providing employment to migrant youth in the Valley under PM’s package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants was also decided in the meeting,” he said. It was informed in the meeting that presently 18,589 families are drawing relief of the 41,117 migrant families. District wise, Srinagar has the maximum number of migrant families at 13,491 followed by Anantnag which has 9,291. During 2014-15, an amount of Rs 127.28 crore has been incurred on cash assistance, food grains, building infrastructure facilities in camps and on civic action programme for migrant families. The facilities and living conditions in various camps including Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagiti were also informed in the meeting. The minister said that he would carry out on spot inspection of these camps in due course of time to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions. In order to address various issues of the migrant families, the minister directed the Secretary Revenue for constitution of a grievance cell in the office of additional secretary revenue. ITimes of India 11/3/15)

58. Need for effective treaty with Bangla stressed (13)

GUWAHATI, March 14 – Highlighting the urgent need for a repatriation treaty between India and Bangladesh for effectively deporting the illegal migrants from Assam, the Axom Jatiya Gana Sangram Parishad today organised a seminar on the topic ‘Why do we need an Indo-Bangladesh repatriation treaty’ and launched a public awareness campaign on the issue. Introducing the topic, Dr Aroop J Kalita, chief convenor of the forum, said that the treaty was a must for facilitating a concrete mechanism for deporting migrants from Bangladesh. Stressing the fact that in the absence of a concrete mechanism to deport the illegal migrants, the authorities only push back the detected Bangladeshis from the border, the Parishad said that eventually the expelled migrants re-enter India, as the Bangladesh government does not formally receive them. The Parishad argued that a large portion of illegal migrants do not fall under the jurisdiction of the existing extradition treaty between the two countries due to some legal hitch. Throwing light on the legal aspects of the problem of illegal infiltration, Dr Ramesh Chandra Borpatragohain, Dean, Faculty of Law, Gauhati University, said that the issue was no longer a national issue. “It is an international issue because it involves two sovereign countries, and therefore, this has to be dealt by the principles of international laws. “Since the entire issue of deportation has become vague in the absence of a properly laid down mechanism, and given the Supreme Court’s recent directions on the issue, it is the bounden duty of the Government of India to immediately negotiate it with the Government of Bangladesh and sign a repatriation treaty to resolve the entire problem,” he added. Advocate Durlav Mahanta, while speaking on the occasion said that it was necessary to raise the issue in Delhi from a political perspective as the pressure groups of the State were not strong enough to make a difference in policy making. Former bureaucrat Dr Rohini Kr Baruah gave a historical perspective of the entire issue. Several noted personalities spoke on the occasion. (The Assam Tribune 14/3/15)

59. Thousands of Afghan refugees facing harassment flee Pakistan (13)

Torkham (Afghanistan): Crossing back into his native Afghanistan from Pakistan, Nezamuddin wept as he recounted the hardships his family of 11 had faced in their years as refugees, troubles that only grew insufferable after a recent terror attack there killed 150 people. “Whenever there was a bomb blast they would arrest us for it, beat us up, take our money,” said Nezamuddin, who goes by one name like many Afghans. “Now I don’t know how I am going to look after my old father, myself and my mother.” Since January, almost 50,000 Afghans like Nezamuddin’s family have passed through Torkham, double the amount of all refugees returning through the border town in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many like Nezamuddin say they fled Pakistan over increased harassment by police who told them to return to Afghanistan, a country many have never even seen, putting new pressure on both countries to find solutions to the decades-old flow of refugees. There are some 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan and up to an estimated 1.5 million unregistered Afghans live there, said Abdul Quadir Baloch, the Pakistani minister responsible for refugee issues. Exact figures remain elusive as tens of thousands cross the border daily. Pakistan initially welcomed waves of Afghan refugees after the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. But as years progressed, attitudes hardened. Many now see Afghan refugees as criminals or militants or taking jobs from Pakistanis. Then came the Dec. 16 Taliban attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, in which 150 people, most of them children, were killed. Suddenly, Afghan refugees reported increased harassment by authorities checking their documents, demanding bribes and telling them they had to return to Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said. At Torkham, Afghan refugees now pour over the border with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some arrive on foot, others in rented trucks with family members huddled between bags, boxes, mattresses and suitcases. Awal Khan, a father of seven, spent 35 years in Pakistan, arriving as a baby when his parents fled after the 1979 invasion. Khan said he worked as a daily laborer, earning just enough to feed his family. Serious harassment began after the school attack, he said. “They went house to house, looking for Afghan refugees. They forced us to leave,” he told The Associated Press. “I have no house to live in and no money to rent one. We will have to live in a tent.” Syed Liaqat Banori, who heads the Islamabad-based Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid, said authorities often harass Afghan refugees following security incidents but this time was much worse. (Zee News 16/3/15)


60. J&K govt ambiguous on west Pak refugees’ issue: Hurriyat (13)

Srinagar: Hardline Hurriyat conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Saturday accused the Jammu and Kashmir government of taking an ambiguous stand on west Pakistan refugees, saying the state was under no obligation to rehabilitate them. The Hurriyat was reacting to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s statement that the state government will ensure employment opportunities for the West Pakistan Refugees in the private sector. “The government has ambiguous stand with regarding to the Pakistan Refugees and it seems that the government is shying away from expressing their stand,” Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar said. (Zee News 21/3/15)

61. Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees (13)

SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation. “The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,”  All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday. He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending  minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989. “J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated. The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989. Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting  minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands. “We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said. The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to. Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable. “The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said. The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homesoin the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

62. Rijiju visits refugee camp (13)

KANCHEEPURAM: Framing of a refugee policy will be considered if needed, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju has said. Talking to reporters at the Sri Lankan Refugee Camp at Gummidipoondi in Tiruvallur district, on Tuesday, the Minister said that all humanitarian support was being extended to refugees in the country, even though India was not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. When asked whether the present government was contemplating of signing the treaty in view of the influx of refugees faced by border States,  Mr.Rijiju said as of now there was no such proposal. Earlier, addressing refugee camp inmates, the Minister assured them that as long as they stayed in the country, the Indian government would take care of them and extend whatever necessary help in association with the State Government. He complemented the State government for providing basic civic amenities and other steps initiated to provide good care to the refugees in the camps. Meanwhile, representative of the Gummidipoondi refugee camp, P.Sivakumar, in his memorandum stated that five per cent of the refugees were willing to return to their homeland in view of the steps initiated by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. Further, 30 percent of them would wish to return after the completion of the education of their children, whereas five per cent preferred to stay in India, it added. Stating that some Sri Lankan Tamils, living in camps and as well as outside, were languishing in the absence of registration as refugees, the memorandum made a request that they too should be registered as refugees. (The Hindu 25/3/15)

63. UNHCR says highest ever number of asylum applications submitted by Pak in 2014 (13)

Karachi: A report has revealed that more than 26,000 applications seeking asylum were received from Pakistan in 2014, the highest-ever number of such applications received from a country on record, making the nation the sixth largest source of asylum seekers. A report published by the UNHCR titled “Asylum Trends 2014,” showed that about 26,300 applications were submitted by asylum seekers in Pakistan, which is slightly over four percent higher than 25,200 applications received in 2013, reported The Express Tribune. The UN agency noted that although the increase was nominal, just 4.3 percent higher than previous year’s numbers, yet in comparison to the global increase of approximately 45 percent last year, it was the fourth consecutive annual rise for the country. While request for asylum to Italy from Pakistanis rose by more than 100% from 3,000 claims in 2013 to 7,100 last year, the number of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Hungary decreased significantly from over 3,000 claims in 2013 to just 300 last year. Barring Italy, Germany and United Kingdom were the other major destinations for asylum seekers from Pakistan with 4,000 and 3,900 applications, respectively. (New Kerala 27/3/15)


64. Attorney General’s office under RTI ambit, says Delhi HC (1)

New Delhi: The office of the Attorney General for India (AGI) is a public authority falling under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Delhi high court held on Tuesday. In a ruling that would make the office of the top law officer answerable to public, the HC said AGI was a constitutional functionary and its role was not limited to merely acting as a “lawyer for the government of India”. Under the RTI Act, any government office or authority or any organisation substantially funded by government would come under the purview of the transparency law. Justice Vibhu Bakhru also refused to accept the government’s contention that nature of information or advice rendered by the AGI was “privileged” and not amenable to disclosure under the RTI Act. “Merely because the bulk of the duties of the AGI are advisory, the same would not render the office of the AGI any less authoritative than other constitutional functionaries,” Bakhru said. The HC also refused to consider the government’s argument that there was practical difficulty in providing information under the Act as the office of the AGI did not have the requisite infrastructure, saying, “This cannot be considered as a reason for excluding the applicability of the Act on a public authority.” The office of AGI can refuse to disclose all such information or data which falls under the Section 8 of the RTI Act, the HC ruled. (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

65. RTI query reveals over 12,000 posts lying vacant in Maha police dept (1)

This was in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to the DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. As many as 12,115 posts in Maharashtra Police department are lying vacant, out of which the highest 2,708 vacancies are of sub-inspectors, an RTI query has revealed. There are total 2,19,986 posts in Maharashtra Police department out of which 2,07,871 are filled. There are a total of 12,115 posts lying vacant, Public Information Officer P K Ghuge said in response to a RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali to DGP of Maharashtra state police force headquarters. Galgali had sought information on the total number of employees as well as sanctioned and vacant posts in the police department. The police department has 6,951 sub-inspectors presently, whereas the required number is 9,659. Thus, 2,708 posts of police sub-inspectors are lying vacant. Besides, three posts of additional DG out of 25 are vacant, whereas eight posts of special inspector general of police are not filled out of total 47. The other posts lying vacant include five out of 36 of deputy inspector general, both posts of inspector general (technical), 30 out of 265 of superintendent of police/deputy commissioner of police, 209 out of 686 deputy superintendent of police/assistant commissioner of police (unarmed), 50 out of 87 for armed deputy superintendent, 471 out of 4,447 of assistant police inspector and 1,030 out of 18,804 of assistant sub-inspector. Galgali also sought information about the number of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Muslim officers in Maharashtra Police. Ghuge informed that the recruitments were not done on the basis of religion, but on different caste categories. (The Hindu 15/3/15)

66. State info panel imposes Rs 25K penalty on dy secy (1)

BHOPAL: State Information Commission has slapped a penalty on an officer for withholding RTI information. Chief information commissioner KD Khan imposed Rs 25,000 penalty on deputy secretary of urban administration development department for not giving RTI information within 30 days. This is the second time in a month when an officer has been summoned by the commission for misusing powers vested in public information officer (PIO). The action comes for withholding information demanded by a senior union leader over a query on a government letter. “The action will make them make them think twice before they misuse the act, MP State information Commission under secretary,” Parag Karkare said. Karkare said, “For some PIOs, Rs 25,000 is a pittance as they gain more by concealing the information. For greater transparency, either a heavy penalty should be imposed or there should a strong deterrent.”.. (Times of India 16/3/15)

67. Can’t penalise political parties for not following RTI: CIC (1)

New Delhi: In a blow to transparency in political parties, the Central Information Commission Tuesday said it cannot penalise parties for failure to implement the information watchdog’s order bringing them under the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The reason: the parties have not appointed the Central Information Officers against whom any action can be taken. In an order winding up its inquiry on failure of six national political parties to comply with its June 2013 order, the commission said penalties cannot be imposed on any leader or member of a party as they were not government servants. The CIC said that the failure to comply with the order has not resulted in any demonstrable loss to the complainants. It also asked the Department of Personnel and Training to fill in legal gaps. The order, given on a complaint of RTI activist Subhash Agrawal and the Association of Democratic Reforms, was issued by a bench of three former bureaucrats, Vijai Sharma, Manjula Parashar and Sharat Sabharwal, who have also applied for the position of the Chief Information Commissioner. The commission said the legal position was that imposition of penalty and award of compensation cannot be considered. Other bodies may refuse to abide by the CIC directive citing this order, Aggarwal said. “It is true that CIC has limited powers but it can always approach a court to get its orders enforced,” said former Chief Information Commissioner AN Tiwari.  India’s first chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah agreed with him. Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said that in 2009 the CIC had faced similar situation where the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) refused to comply with its order. The CIC issued a notice asking why it should not launch criminal against the department secretary, he said, adding, “Strangely, the CIC does not seem to have adopted such a course of action in this case”. “Even Presidents/Secretaries of political parties could be taken as deemed CPIOs in absence of appointment of CPIOs by defaulting parties,” Agrawal said. (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)

68. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

69. RTI query results in Rs 1.87 cr recovery from toll operator (1)

New Delhi: An RTI application from a citizen helped National Highway Authority of India to detect overcharging of toll on a Bangalore toll plaza resulting in recovery of Rs 1.87 crore. The applicant P A Burge, in his application, stated that he wants to know the reasons for which the user fee was being charged at Rs 20 and Rs 40 whereas it should have been Rs 15 and Rs 35 respectively. Soon after his RTI application landed in the NHAI offices, a surprise check was carried out Hattargi user fee plaza which showed the commuters were indeed charged extra. “The respondent stated that the issue of imposing penalty for excess collection toll fee by toll collecting agency has been taken up with NHAI Headquarters and an amount of Rs 1.827 crore has been recovered for the same. The excess amount of toll fee collected by the agency has also been refunded to NHAI by the toll collecting agency,” Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad noted in his order. He said the fact that the appellant’s RTI application made the officials of the NHAI to investigate into the matter and to stop the excess collection of user fee from passengers, is commendable. “This not only led to the recovery of the amount of 1.827 crore along with interest to the NHAI but notice boards came up on all toll booths, displaying that the excess user fee of Rs 5 can be collected by the passengers, after producing proof of identification and excess fee charged,” he said. Azad said the Commission, therefore, appreciates the fact that the complainant has raised a very pertinent and an important issue involving public interest through his RTI application, which has been promptly redressed by the public authority. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

70. Haryana state information commission slaps Rs 25,000 fine for not giving information (1)

GURGAON: A former state public information officer (SPIO) and superintendent of Bhondsi Jail has been fined Rs 25,000 for not providing information on an RTI seeking details of food given to inmates between June 1, 2014, and June 21, 2014. Harinder Singh, currently the superintendent of Panipat Jail, has been penalized by an order of the state information commission (SIC) dated February 19. The fine will be deducted from his salary in five installments, said SIC registrar Urvashi Gulati. The RTI, filed on June 21, last year had sought copies of the ration provided to inmates of Bhondsi Jail, complaints received from jail inmates about inferior/short supply of food items and files related to illness/food poisoning of inmates. “The superintendent on complaints and illnesses. So, I filed a first appeal with IG prisons in Haryana, but didn’t get any help from there. Then I filed a second appeal before Haryana state information commission, which issued a show-cause,” said RTI activist Harinder Dhingra on Tuesday. (Times of India 25/3/15)

71. Order bringing Attorney General’s office under RTI stayed (1)

New Delhi: A Delhi High Court order that had brought the Attorney-General’s office within the ambit of the Right to Information Act was stayed by a Division Bench on Wednesday on an appeal by the Union Law Ministry. The court said it needed to go through the decision of the single judge Bench and stayed the order until the next date of hearing on April 27. “We will hear the appeal filed by the Law Ministry and have to stay the order of the single judge, otherwise the purpose will not be served,” said the Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw. On March 10, stating that even under common parlance, the office of the Attorney-General has always been understood to mean a “constitutional authority,” the single Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru had refused to accept that this office was outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act and further directed the Attorney-General’s office to reconsider the RTI application that it had rejected on these grounds. The ruling came on a hearing of a petition challenging an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) . The CIC had held that the office of the AGI was not a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. The petition also challenged a letter by the AGI refusing all information to the petitioner under the RTI Act. “An office that is established under the Constitution of India would clearly fall within the definition of Section 2(h) (definition of public authority of the RTI Act). Even in common parlance, the AGI has always been understood as a constitutional authority,” the single judge had said. The judge also referred to a precedent of the Supreme Court which held the office of the AGI to be a “public” office. “In this view also, the office of the AGI should be a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” the court had said. (The Hindu 28/3/15)

72. RTI Activist Dares Odisha Government Over IIM Issue (1)

BALANGIR:An RTI activist has challenged the State Government’s stand that the Centre was not willing to set up IIM in Western Odisha due to lack of air connectivity. The RTI activist of Balangir, Hemanta Panda, who had sought information in this regard, claimed that there is no guideline which would hinder establishment of IIM in this part of the State. In support of his claim, Panda cited the case of Srimore in Himachal Pradesh where the Centre has decided to establish an IIM. Stating that there is no airport near Srimore, Panda said the nearest railway station is located 70 km from the place. “The State Government is playing with the emotion of people of Western Odisha over IIM location,” he said. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)


73. This man cycles 40 miles every day to teach Lucknow’s slum children (11)

Lucknow: Every day, Aditya Kumar cycles around 40 miles with a heavy load of books and his few possessions on the back of his battered old bike to bring education to India’s slum children. The science graduate has dedicated his life to teaching in the slums of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, and home to some of the country’s most deprived communities. He takes no money for his lessons, which he gives all over the city, parking his bike up wherever he is needed and staging an impromptu outdoor lesson. “These children do not know what a classroom looks like. Until I met them, they had no reason to visit a school,” Kumar told AFP during one of his lessons, gesturing to a group of rapt-looking pupils. A Right to Education Act passed in 2009 guarantees state schooling for children from six to 14 in India. But education activists say schools are often overcrowded or inaccessible, or that the quality of teaching is so poor that children simply stop going. Poverty is also a major driver, with India home to the largest number of child labourers in the world. Kumar, who does not know his exact age but thinks he is in his mid-40s, has been conducting his mobile school for around two decades, with no fixed curriculum and no standard text books. Most of his pupils are under 10 and have no education at all. He teaches them functional English and mathematics, with the aim of getting them to a standard where they can start going to a regular school. “I can relate to the lives of these kids. I know how tough life can be for want of an education,” says Kumar. As the son of a poor labourer who wanted his children in paid work as soon as they were able, Kumar had to fight to go to school. He managed to find a place in a government-run establishment, but he ran away from home when he was a teenager because his parents insisted he stop studying and start earning his keep. For a while, he lived on the streets, before meeting a teacher who spotted his potential and helped him graduate from university in science. In return, Kumar helped his new mentor with his teaching — and found his vocation in the process. He has no teaching qualifications, however, and says he never had any ambition to become a proper school teacher. He believes he can make more of an impact on literacy through his mobile school, which he says reaches around 200 children a day.Government figures show that around 97% of children of primary school age are in education, but campaigners say the true figure is far lower. Many of those who do attend classes are failing to learn the basics, according to a major, annual survey of school children in rural areas released in January. Only one quarter of children aged eight could read a text book meant for seven year olds, the survey of 570,000 students found. “Overall, the situation with basic reading continues to be extremely disheartening in India,” the survey, by Indian education research group Pratham, concluded. Kumar’s solo efforts are applauded by child rights activists, including teacher Roop Rekha Verma who said it was “no mean feat” teaching from a bike. “I am so glad that his efforts have exposed so many underprivileged children to the world of words,” the former vice-chancellor of the University of Lucknow told AFP. “And with this exposure these children now have a reason to attempt accessing newspapers and books,” she said. But she stressed much more needed to be done to help India’s millions of impoverished children facing bleak futures receive an education. To earn money, Kumar occasionally does paid tuition for private students. But mostly he lives on charitable donations, sleeping on the streets like many of his pupils. When Limca — the makers of a soft drink that publishes India’s answer to the Guinness Book of Records — wanted to honour him for his work in 2014, the certificate had to be mailed to a well-wisher as Kumar has no fixed address. “I am used to it,” he told AFP. “I have learnt the art of surviving.” (Hindustan Times 11/3/15)

74. School Student Strength Declining in State: Study (11)

BHUBANESWAR: The number of students in primary and upper primary schools in the State is reducing drastically. A recent study conducted by the School and Mass Education Department has brought to the fore the alarming trend. Official sources said between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the number of students in the schools run by School and Mass Education Department has come down from 52,39,597 to 49,24,453, a drop of 3.15 lakh. During 2010-11, there were 50,856 primary and upper primary schools in the State. The number increased to 52,521 in 2011-12. But, the number came down to 51,594 in 2013-14 as 927 schools were closed. A New Delhi-based organisation, ICRA, was entrusted to study the reasons of reduction of the number of students in primary schools in the State. In its study, the organisation has attributed poor quality of teaching, poor parent-teacher interaction, lack of resources and migration for livelihood for the declining trend in the students’ strength in primary education sector. Besides, the study has highlighted other important aspects for decline in school enrolment. ICRA has suggested orientation of parents, refresher training and capacity building programmes for teachers, maintenance of school report cards, preparation of monitoring plan and linkages with other departments like Women and Child Development to work out action plan for retaining students in schools. The report has also recommended evolving a tracking system for children, involvement of community-based organisations for ensuring enrolment, need for increasing school leadership to check the drop in number of students. After implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, the School and Mass Education Department is emphasising on enrolment through various schemes including Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

75. A Project to Improve Educational,Living Standards of ST Students (11)

KOZHIKODE: A three-year project has been started by Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) aiming to improve the educational and living standards of Scheduled Caste students studying in Model Residential Schools (MRS) in the state. The project, funded by the Ministry for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes and supported by the Education Department, is the first of its kind started by the state. In line with the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in the country, MRS were designed to provide quality education for children belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line families. “The aim was lost midway when those Model Residential Schools failed to produce not even a single achiever,” said CREST Associate Programme Coordinator Vinod Krishnan. “Nine schools were selected from the state and personality development classes are being given to them, by including 60 days extra classes, complementing the syllabus,” he added. The selected model residential schools are in Punnapra (Alappuzha), Peermade (Idukki), Keezhmad, Aluva (Ernakulam), Vadakkanchery and Chelakkara (both in Thrissur), Thrithala and Kuzhalmannam (both in Palakkad), Ullyeri (Kozhikode) and Udinoor (Kasargod). The current MRS in Kozhikode district is functioning in a rented building. Most of the other Model Residential Schools do not have staff quarters and those with quarters, do not have primary facilities like water connection. So, teachers do not prefer to stay there. Week-long workshops are planned for each schools in the first phase. Eminent scholars will interact with the students and instill in them confidence. Instead of getting secluded from the society, they will be creatively motivated to succeed in life. To MRS, students are admitted up to class five, on the basis of an entrance examination held in February every year. Classes will begin in June as in the case of other schools having state syllabus. Usually the intake preference is for children from SC (60 per cent), and the rest belonging to children from BPL families and ST. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

76. Capital’s schools violate education act, force students to sit for tests (11)

New Delhi: Nursery admissions may be under the scanner in the city but schools tend to get away with violating the Right to Education Act when it comes to admission in senior classes. While the RTE clearly states that for admissions between classes 1 and 8 schools cannot ask students to write tests or appear for interactions, schools in the city routinely ask students seeking admission in classes 5, 6 and 8 to do so. The latest in the list of these schools is Modern School, Barakhamba Road. The school invited aspirants who wanted admission in class 6 for an interaction. A list of candidates who were shortlisted for admissions was also put up on the website on Tuesday. When asked about the scheduled interaction, the principal of the school, Vijay Datta, asked for some time to ‘find out about the notice’. He however, did not respond to calls and messages after that. The website of the school shows the link where the names of the shortlisted candidates can be seen. The link, however, became inactive on Wednesday. Hindustan Times has a copy of the original notice posted on the school website. According to the notice, the interactive session will be held on March 21 at 9.30 am. Parents have been asked to drop the children to school at 9 am and pick them up by 11 am. According to activists, this is not the first time this has happened and several other schools do the same. “Every year, we get a large number of complaints by parents regarding similar tests being conducted by schools in senior classes. In the admission season, most of the attention is centred on nursery. Schools in the city are, however, guilty of flouting RTE guidelines,” said Khagesh Jha, member, Social Jurist, an NGO that works in the field of education. Another anomaly that Jha points out is that schools refuse to implement EWS quota reservations in non-entry level classes. According to rules, 20% of the students admitted in classes above nursery, kindergarten or 1 are supposed to be from the EWS category. This is because schools were given land on very low rates. “Schools are supposed to notify admission vacancies, along with the seats for EWS category, clearly in admission notices. None of them, however, do it,” Jha added. (Hindustan Times 19/3/15)


77. Right to education delay: 250 BPL kids await admission (11)

JAMSHEDPUR: The process of mandatory Below Poverty Level(BPL) children’s admission under Right To Education Act 2008 seems to be yielding no results as 250 poor candidates still await admission call from private English medium schools. Several candidates hailing from poor economic background, have submitted the requisite documents to their neighbourhood schools for seeking admission in accordance with the provisions of the RTE Act but they are still waiting for a call from the respective schools. “It’s over a few weeks since I am waiting for a call from the school. Hopefully, my ward will get free admission according to RTE Act,” said Rita, who lives in Gandhi Ashram in Sakchi. Rita is keen to get her child admitted to the nursery class of Dayanand Public School, Bistupur. The case of Videsh Jal, resident of Devnagar is also the same. “The school (MNPS) did not find my son eligible for admission in nursery as school claims he is over admissible age which according to RTE guidelines is not correct. I have approached the school again hoping to get a positive response soon,” said the poor father. Like Videsh and Rita, several BPL parents have claimed that schools have put their candidates on waiting list at entry level classes. It is learnt that several English schools have resorted to delaying tactics to thwart free admission of the BPL candidates in their respective institutions as mandated under RTE rule. (Times of India 21/3/15)

78. School education min wants CBSE schools under state vigil (11)

BHOPAL: To crack the whip on schools affiliated to CBSE, school education minister Paras Jain said CBSE schools should also be monitored by respective state governments. Jain was participating in a meeting of education ministers of various states chaired by HRD minister Smriti Irani, pertaining to new education policy in Delhi on Saturday. Meanwhile, uniform courses should be taught in all states of the country. For this, NCERT textbooks should be made compulsory in all states. BEd/DEd courses should be revamped for strengthening teachers’ training courses. Private school teachers should be given five years more to complete the professional courses as per Right to Education (RTE) Act. Jain also said RTE clause of not failing any student till class 8 should be revoked and board exams should be introduced in both classes 5 and 8 to improve results. English should also be made compulsory from class 1. Teaching of Hindi should be made compulsory under three-language formula in all states for making Hindi lingua franca of India. Besides, it can also be considered there would be no pressure of passing or failing exams in Hindi in non-Hindi states. (Times of India 22/3/15)

79. Right to Education struggles to make an impact (11)

New Delhi: Only 29 per cent of the seats reserved for disadvantaged students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act were filled in 2013-14, finds a new study. In Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, the percentage of seats filled was as low as three per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively. The top performing states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan together accounted for half of the national fill rate. The study, a collaborative effort of the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, Central Square Foundation, Accountability Initiative (Centre for Policy Research) and the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy draws on the District Information System for Education (DISE) 2013-14 data to provide a comparison of fill rate of RTE quota seats across private schools in 28 states. The report points out that of the 2,06,000 private unaided schools with Class I, only about 45,000 schools reported enrolling students under the provision in 2013-14. The states of Rajasthan (65 per cent), Delhi (48 per cent) and Uttarakhand (43 per cent) had the highest school participation rate, while Andhra Pradesh (0.1 per cent), Odisha (1 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (2 per cent) reported having the lowest school participation rate. According to Ashish Dhawan, founder and chief executive officer, Central square foundation, “even after five years of RTE, state rules and notifications of this provision are not clearly defined, this is leading to ineffective implementation across states.” (Business Standard 25/3/15)

80. Eligible Kids Miss Out on RTE Seats (11)

UDUPI: With the minority status of seven schools remaining unresolved in Udupi and Brahmavara blocks, eligible students will miss out on 161 free seats in these schools this academic year of 2015-16. There are 1,067 free seats in 74 schools in Udupi district. According to the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every school should reserve 25 per cent of its total seats for poor children aged between six and 14 years. However, the clause is not mandatory for schools with a minority status. The minority status is given to schools that have a large number of minority students. As a result, there were many schools lining up for the status. These seven private schools were among those claiming the status. Last year, parents admitted their children to the seven schools under the impression that education would be free of cost under the RTE. However, the schools moved the High Court claiming that they were minority institutions and could not reserve free seats. This forced the parents to pay the fees as the last date for filing the applications for free seats under the RTE was over. With the schools having approached the High Court, the students will miss out on 161 free seats. Deputy Director of Public Instruction of Udupi, Divakar Shetty, told Express that the process of accepting applications for the RTE seats was initiated, but not for these seven schools due to the stay order. He also said that the reimbursement grant of `1.54 crore given by the state government has reached the District Education Department and will be disbursed to the schools. Udupi District Education Officer Srikanth Urs said the issue has been brought to the notice of the office of Commissioner of Public Instructions. However, the issue would be solved by next year, he said. On the status of the RTE seats in the district, Urs said the admission process began on March 20. In case the students do not turn up for the seats, a second round of admission will be initiated, he added. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)


81. Chhattisgarh PDS Scam: .. (21)

CHHATTISGARH:  Chhattishgarh police investigating the multi-crore rice procurement scam appear to have prima facie cleared Chief Minister Raman Singh of any involvement in it. Speaking exclusively to NDTV, Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Gupta said, “Prima Facie there does not seem to be any involvement of the Chief Minister in the rice procurement scam under investigation.” Mr Gupta’s statement comes in the backdrop of multiple raids conducted last month, where the police seized more than 300 documents and recovered Rs. 4 crores in cash. As many as 28 raids were carried out, mostly on Civil Supplies Department officials, across the state. Sources tell NDTV, that there are more than two dozen names of officials ranging from peons to department heads. These names were a part of meticulously maintained payoff records. Sources say, more than 50 entries were labelled as “for CM Sir” and the corresponding payoff amount against them is more than Rs. 50 Lakhs. “CM initials in the seized papers could also refer to Chinta Mani Chandrakar – an officer in the civil supplies department,” says Mr Gupta adding that his department will not spare someone because of their influence of position. The opposition in the state however is not convinced. A galvanised Congress has kick started a Padyatra to the capital where supporters are expected to converge on March 16 in a show of strength. “We want the Chief Minister to resign and the CBI should conduct the investigation” said Bhupesh Bhagel, Chhattisgarh Congress chief, who is leading the protest. Chhattisgarh has often been touted as a model state for its Public Distribution System by the BJP where subsidised rice is available to lakhs of poor families at Rs. 2 per kg. Reacting to the allegations, Mr Singh said “the Anti-corruption branch is conducting the investigations and will present its findings to the court”Sources tell NDTV that investigations could be complete within a week followed by filing of the chargesheet soon after. (NDTV 12/3/15)

82. Poverty kills 50% Trauma Centre head injury patients: AIIMS study (21)

New Delhi: Extreme poverty leads to the death of nearly 50% of patients with severe head injury cases within six months of their discharge from the trauma centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, an internal study has found. Almost all of them slipped into a vegetative state after sustaining severe head or spine injury, and the families did not have enough means to meet their nutritional requirements and provide nursing care, underlining the importance of hospice facilities that are scarce in India. The doctors at the centre followed up on 2,500 discharged patients from the neurosurgery department over a period of five years, starting 2008. Patients were observed for a maximum of one year before being declared vegetative. “These people belonged to migrant families in the Capital and usually were the sole breadwinners who left their village in search of work. Their wives were unable to generate enough money to keep them alive, especially with three-four kids to take care of,” said Dr Deepak Agrawal, senior surgeon at the trauma centre. The trauma centre – the only functional one in the Capital — gets about 200 injury cases in a day, of which about 40% suffer head or spine injury. 10% of those need admission, which means the hospital requires 10-15 vacant beds daily. In hospitals such as AIIMS, where shortage of beds is a daily problem, these patients with no chance of recovery– at least six at any given point – occupy beds for the want of any hospice facility. Over 3,300 people die in road accidents everyday in India and nearly a third of them result in severe head injuries but hospice facilities are scarce, resulting in terminally-ill patients occupying care beds and denying them to some acutely-injured patients. Due to lack of enough research, however, there is no consolidated data to gauge the enormity of the problem. About 20% of those discharged from the AIIMS trauma centre are in a vegetative state, which means there is no responsiveness and awareness due to irreversible injury to the brain. All these people need is nursing care to avoid bed sores and chest infection. These patients can’t eat regular meals; a mixture of a glass of milk, sugar, soybean powder and a little ghee or oil is what they require three times a day to survive. As most of the people in a vegetative state come from a very poor financial background, the families are unable to bear the maintenance cost. “We have seen many families get wiped out due to this problem. It’s high time the government takes note and focus on rehabilitation of such people or at least provide some financial assistance to their families,” Dr Agrawal added. (Hindustan Times 16/3/15)


83. India among 5 nations accounting for half of world’s hungry (21)

New Delhi: Five middle-income countries (MICs) which displayed strong economic growth in 2014 – India, Brazil, China, Mexico and Indonesia – account for 363 million, or a half, of the world’s hungry, according to a report released on Wednesday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The 2014–2015 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) called on Governments of these middle income countries to reshape their food systems to focus on nutrition and health, close the gender gap in agriculture, and improve rural infrastructure to ensure food security for all. “It may seem counterintuitive, but these growing economies play a key role in our ability to adequately and nutritiously feed the world,” said Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI, in a statement. He added that important strides towards global food security had been made in 2014, it was crucial to “keep these and other food policy issues high on the global development agenda to ensure we eliminate hunger and malnutrition worldwide”. The study noted that distribution specifics needed to be ironed out for India’s National Food Security Act that aims to provide subsidised food to 67 per cent of the population, while it also praised the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme that aimed to open 7.5 crore bank accounts for poor households. Sanitation link The report highlighted the link between sanitation and nutrition, using findings from Bangladesh to show reduction in open defecation helped reduce the number of stunted children who were taller than those living in comparable areas with similar economic standing in West Bengal. Of the five countries highlighted in the IFPRI study, India measured poorest in terms of stunted children at 47.9 per cent, as compared to 35.6 per cent in Indonesia, 14 per cent in Mexico, 9.4 per cent in China and 7.1 per cent in Brazil. “It has become clear that the factors that influence people’s nutrition go well beyond food and agriculture to include drinking water and sanitation, the role of women, the quality of care giving, among others,” Fan said. The report also included a perception survey undertaken in January comprising responses from 1,000 individuals, most employed with NGOs, academic circles and Government/policy sectors, across 55 countries. Only 8 per cent of young respondents – those under 30 – believed that global hunger could be eliminated by 2025. Nearly 70 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with food policies in their own countries and a significant perception gap existed between sexes with only 23 per cent of women satisfied with prevalent food security measures as compared to 44 per cent of men. (HBL 20/3/15)

84. State’s poor kids left high & dry on World Water Day (21)

Guwahati: It has been 22 years since the UN started observing March 22 as World Water Day to focus on those who are not blessed with access to clean water, but the benefits have not reached people in Assam’s poverty-stricken hinterlands. Children in particular, who are malnourished and anaemic, are in serious risk of being affected by water-borne diseases like Fluorosis and arsenicosis. A balanced diet could help them combat these diseases, but for the poor, this is a distant dream. Prolonged exposure to arsenic causes cancer of bladder, kidney, lung and skin. It affects the central and peripheral nervous systems and can cause birth defects and reproductive problems. Former retired chief engineer, public health engineering department, and water crusader A B Paul, who is credited with pointing out fluoride and arsenic contamination in Assam for the first time, said, “Malnourished children are vulnerable to fluorosis and arsenicosis. Studies show that animal protein is essential in fighting these diseases.” According to the last National Family Health Survey, 41.1% children in the age group of three to five years are stunted and 35.8% are underweight. Besides, over 67.8% adolescent girls were found to be anaemic. Malnourishment and anaemia are rampant among tea garden communities. Studies show that water in nine districts of Assam contain fluoride beyond permissible limit. For arsenic, the number is 21. Around 1,970 villages, home to about 7.22 lakh people, are severely affected by arsenic contamination. (Times of India 23/3/15)

85. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)

86. Centre should not hurry implementation of National Food Security Act: ICRIER (21)

NEW DELHI: The Centre should not “hurry” the implementation of the National Food Security Act in the rest of 25 states and UTs given the present level of unpreparedness and “apprehensions” over its delivery, says an ICRIER paper. The NFSA, passed by Parliament in September, has been so far rolled out in 11 states and Union Territories. The rest of 25 states/UTs have not implemented it yet. The deadline for implementing it has been extended twice, to April 4. The law aims at providing legal entitlement to 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person per month at Rs 1-3/kg to two-thirds of the country’s population. “However, given the present level of unpreparedness and uncorrected systemic inefficiencies of the state PDS machinery, the likelihood of states defaulting on even the extended deadline is high,” said the ICRIER working paper co-authored by former CACP chief Ashok Gulati. “Therefore, the immediate suggestion is not to hurry the NFSA implementation process, especially not without satisfying its pre-conditions in each state,” it said. This time should be used to carefully re-visit the objectives of the Act and provisions looking for efficient ways to attain them, it added. Highlighting key challenges in implementing NFSA, the paper observed, “There are wider apprehensions that the Act will fail to deliver on the promises made or will deliver at a huge cost, which may not be worth the price.” The bigger operational challenges include ensuring the adequate supply of grains every year, lowering per person entitlement or population coverage particularly when the population is expanding, unpreparedness of the implementing states, and slowing down the natural process of agricultural diversification by increasing the relevance of rice and wheat in the system, it added. On unpreparedness of implementing states, the paper said that the progress on the public distribution system (PDS) improvement initiatives is both slow and below expectations. “….states have been implementing the NFSA with old TPDS beneficiaries being rechristened as NFSA beneficiaries instead of undertaking fresh surveys/efforts to identify beneficiaries. This is undesirable and does not conform to the reform process initiated under the new system,” it said. As on August 1 2014, 100 per cent identification of beneficiaries has been completed only in six states – Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan – out of the 11 NFSA implementing states. The identification is still partial in the remaining five states – Bihar (87 per cent), Delhi (44 pc), Himchal Pradesh (73 pc), Madhya Pradesh (88 pc) and Chandigarh (40 pc). (The Economic Times 30/3/15)


87. MGNREGA downsized in R’than in past 5 yrs (14)

JAIPUR: The funds earmarked annually under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Rajasthan have been downsized by over 70 per cent in the last five years. In 2009-10 around Rs 8,731.32 crore was allocated under the scheme which was gradually cut down to Rs 2,960 crore in 2013-14. The programme has fallen off track as the Congress and BJP governments in the state could not utilise the sanctioned funds completely, which eventually led to decrease in the funds sanctioned. The slow pace of implementation of the scheme is evident from the fact that number of beneficiaries have also fallen by over 90 per cent in the last five years. In 2008-09 around 25 lakh families were given 100 day jobs. The number dropped to just two lakh families in 2013-14. Agreeing upon the facts, the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Surendra Goyal said the scheme is a demand oriented and the demand for work has been constantly falling. “The decrease in number of beneficiaries is due to decrease in demand for work. This is also the reason that funds could not be fully utilised in the last few years, which led to reduction of annual funds sanctioned under the programme,” said Surendra Goyal. However, experts feel that root cause of all the problems is the inability of the state government to converge the 14 line departments with the scheme. Due to various reasons many departments were reluctant to converge with the programme. A team of local officials was also sent to Madhya Pradesh to study the convergence model in the MGNREGA. But none of the governments could replicate the model in proper spirit. “Under the convergence model, MGREGA workforce is used to complete various works of government department. The material is supplied by the department concerned and workforce is paid under the scheme. It’s dual benefit as department save labour cost and also demand for work generates under programme,” said a rural development department senior official. Many legislators of the ruling party are of the view that according to National Sample Survey there has been a sharp increase of 50 per cent in rural labour force. Despite this, the demand for work in MGREGA has been on a constant decrease. “It’s true that government’s efforts for the convergence of departments with the programme have not been satisfactory. Our government is taking the issue seriously and I hope to get good results in future,” said Gulab Chand Kataria, the Home Minister and the second most powerful person in the BJP government. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

88. Ghost workers, fake job cards mar MGNREGA implementation (14)

Gaya: Implementation of MGNREGA, the flagship employment guarantee and poverty alleviation scheme introduced by the UPA, is replete with instances of ghost workers, fake job cards, non-existent schemes and siphoning-off public fund in fraudulent manner in Gaya district. Eleven job card holders of village Chabura under Konch block of the district deny having either worked or received any payment for MGNREGA work but their names appear on payment register of the panchayat. They allege, the local mukhiya, alongwith her husband and a section of government officials siphoned off Rs 40 lakh on the basis of forged documents. For example, Sharda Devi, Suresh Yadav, Bachchu Sao, Baleshwar Yadav, Laita Devi, Joot Das and Yogindra Yadav are shown to have worked and received payments ranging between Rs 9,180 and Rs 25,734. Yogindra says though he has been issued a job card, he has never been offered job and yet an amount of Rs 25,734 has been withdrawn in his name by manipulating documents and putting false signatures. The villagers also suspect the involvement of bank officials in the ongoing racket. Not only that Kamlesh Yadav does not even live at his native village Baithi under Konch block as he is in a private job in Rafiganj area of Aurangabad district. But records show him as MGNREGA beneficiary having received Rs 7,000. Md Arif Khan of village Gohchak under Atri block in the district is an affluent farmer and owns 20 bighas of multiple crop land. Khan also owns a tractor. But block office reports show Khan as a job card holder who has regularly been doing earth work under the scheme. Records show that 400 trees have been planted at Solara village graveyard under Paraiya block of the district, barely 15 km from the district headquarters. Besides tree plantation, a handpump was also shown to have been installed. There is any trace of any tree or handpump . MGNREGA Lok Pal Rai Madan Kishore has been flooded with complaints of fraud. He has so far recommended realization of more than Rs1 crore from the fund managers and legal action against the scamsters. According to left activist SB Bhaskar, in many cases, the victims of fraud have been coerced into accepting having done work, while, in fact they neither did any work nor received any payment. (Times of India 15/3/15)

89. Fewer jobs as Delhi ‘neglects’ rural scheme (14)

New Delhi, March 15: Millions of villagers are on course to missing out on livelihood-sustaining work under the national job scheme this year if figures released by the government are any indication. The figures suggest that by the time this financial year draws to a close, far fewer families will have benefited under the scheme compared with 2013-14, while the number of persondays of work generated would also drop significantly. According to official data furnished by junior rural development minister Sudarshan Bhagat in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) had generated 135 crore persondays of work till February 17. The scheme, which provides for up to 100 days of work in a year for every rural household, generated 220 crore persondays in 2013-14. The number of households covered under the scheme was 48 million in 2013-14. The coverage till the middle of February this year was a little over 38 million (see chart). Experts said the scheme, a flagship project started by the UPA government, was unlikely to generate 85 crore mandays of work in the 40-odd days remaining in this year – counted from February 17 – and might not cover another 10 million families. The corresponding figures for both 2011-12 and 2012-13 were higher than this year too: they show that the scheme generated 218 crore persondays of work in 2011-12 and 230 crore persondays in 2012-13. The number of households employed was also higher – 50.6 million in 2011-12 and 49.8 million in 2012-13 – Bhagat said in a written reply. Social activist and former National Advisory Council (NAC) member Harsh Mander said the demand-driven scheme, implemented by panchayats, had been neglected ever since the BJP-led NDA assumed power at the Centre. “It is impossible to match the achievements of last year in generation of persondays and coverage of households. This is because the government has been systematically neglecting the scheme,” Mander said. Many states, including Bengal and Tripura, have complained that implementation has been affected because the central government, which shares the cost of material with states but bears the full expense on wages, delayed releasing funds. Jean Dreze, a former NAC member and economist, said he too had great doubts whether employment generation in this financial year would come “anywhere” near the corresponding figures last year. “The central government certainly bears a heavy responsibility for this – there have been unprecedented problems with the flow of funds this year, mainly due to the central government’s lack of commitment to the programme.” Mander said the ministry had selected 2,500 of the country’s 6,500 blocks for focus, which means the scheme – which involves mostly labour-intensive work like de-silting of water bodies and building embankments and roads, as decided by the panchayat concerned – might not be getting the attention required. The government had set aside Rs 34,000 crore for the scheme for 2014-15 but the finance ministry had cut the allocation by Rs 3,000 crore in December. The allocation for 2015-16 is Rs 34,695 crore. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has denied that the scheme is being neglected, has said the government might give another Rs 5,000 crore, depending on the availability of funds. Mander, however, said workers were not getting wages on time. “If poor workers have to wait for months to get their wages, they would not be interested to place demands for work. That is why there has been a drop in job creation and coverage of households.” Under the scheme, panchayats are to hold gram sabhas where families can place their demand for jobs. Social activist Shekhar Singh said the decline in the number of beneficiaries would ideally mean that the economic condition of villagers had improved. “But the economic condition of all rural people has not improved. There is still distress migration of labour. What is clear is that panchayat officials are not accepting the demand for MGNREGA work,” he said. Since the panchayats don’t get funds on time, they don’t entertain the demand for work, he added. (The Telegraph 16/3/15)

90. One crore workers to be covered under welfare fund (14)

VIJAYAWADA: The government is keen on inducting one crore workers from the unorganised sector into the Unorganised Workers Welfare Board, a scheme that was announced last year, according to Joint Commissioner of Labour M.N. Varahala Reddy. Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Zonal Sports Meet, organised by the Labour Department at the IGMC stadium here on Wednesday, he said the government had prepared a comprehensive plan for the unorganised sector, which included motor transport workers, pushcart vendors, auto drivers, domestic workers and coconut sellers, besides announcing a Rs. 5 lakh accident benefit policy for them. “The Central government’s policies such as Aam Aadmi Beema Yojana will also apply to them,” he added. Mr. Reddy said the Labour Department, which was earlier an enforcement-oriented outfit, had turned into a welfare-oriented one. “The new capital city is attracting a new workforce. We are fully prepared to nurture them for the new challenges. We are expecting around three lakh new workers entering the 13 districts to give an image makeover to Andhra Pradesh,” he added. According to Mr. Reddy, the emerging State has plenty to offer to the modern-day work force including IT, mechanical, electrical and electronics professionals, as several state-of-art facilities are expected to come up. He said the government was also keen on imparting training to children of workers to prepare them for future. “This is a platform for them to prepare for future challenges,” he added. Mr. Reddy said Vijayawada had a tremendous scope for hospitality and health sectors in the days to come, hence the demand for quality workers would always be in the ascending order. (The Hindu 19/3/15)


91. Changes in EPF, Child Labour Acts may be tabled next month (14)

The Centre is likely to introduce two Bills in the Parliament session next month to amend EPF and Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in Hyderabad today. Observing that changes are required in different laws in public interest, he said amendments are proposed in the EPF Act to benefit more workmen. The proposed amendments to the Child Labour Act would be discussed with the inter-ministerial group, said Dattatreya, who holds independent charge of the Labour Ministry. The government is keen on improving the ease of doing business in the country, but there will be no compromise on the rights and security of workmen, he said. “EPFO, with the help of technology, is gearing up to update annual accounts for 2014-15 of about 14 crore members in April first week. All members will have their provident fund balances by the end of first week of April, which is historic,” he said. The government is also working to extend social security benefits to the workers of unorganised sector, bringing into its fold a large number of workers under social security ambit, he said. Hailing the passage of crucial Bills in Parliament recently, Dattatreya alleged that the Congress and Left parties were trying to defame the NDA government through a false campaign that it is “pro-corporate.” Noting that it is the right of political parties and MPs to voice their views, he, however, said it is not proper for them to disrupt the Parliament and government’s business. He emphasised that the government’s endeavour is to provide employment opportunities to the youth, and said the ‘Digital India’, ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ programmes of the NDA government would provide large scale job avenues. The Labour Ministry would be instrumental in providing employment and work opportunities to one crore people in the next two-three years, Dattatreya said. Alleging that the Land Acquisition Act passed by the UPA government had certain defects, he said the compensation for loss of land has been increased four times by the NDA government now. The governments would take up land acquisition only for public interest projects like railways and not for private persons or companies, he assured. Highlighting that Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya laid emphasis on ‘Antyodaya’ (welfare of poorest of the poor), Dattatreya said the Narendra Modi government would not take any decision against the interest of the poor and downtrodden. (Business Standard 22/3/15)

92. 3.65L jobless youth in Punjab, just 352 got allowance (14)

CHANDIGARH: Two Punjabs seem to be existing side by side when it comes to money power. One is facing its worst unemployment crisis and the other that is spending extravagantly. State minister Ajit Singh Kohar on Tuesday, in a reply to Congress leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar, said that 3,65,771 unemployed people in Punjab were registered with the employment exchange. The number is the maximum for the corresponding period between March and December in the last five years. While Kohar did not have the number of jobless who received government allowance till date, an RTI reply with Jakhar revealed that a paltry 352 had been receiving a monthly allowance. The grant has been fixed at Rs 150 for those who are matric pass and Rs 200 for those who have studied up to class 12. However, according to the Economic Survey 2014-15, the average per capita income expenditure for the ruralites has now shot up to Rs 2,345, only behind Kerala at Rs 2,630 in India. This comes as no surprise as most residents in rural areas make trips to foreign countries, either for a vacation or jobs and purchasing big cars. Around 23 lakh people across rural precincts Sangrur, Moga, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur had applied for fresh passports and 1.97 lakh from the same areas purchased two wheelers and four wheelers. Among urbanites, the expenditure is Rs 2,794 — considered low when compared to other states. The report also reveals that per capita income in Punjab has increased, albeit marginally, to Rs 49,529 and Rs 47,854. The government data also said that about 36,000-odd have been provided jobs. The youth unemployment rate, for the age group of 15-29 years is reeling at 7.7% in rural area and slightly less at 6.3% in urban Punjab. (Times of India 25/3/15)

93. Rs.279-crore works under job scheme (21)

KANNUR: Works estimated at Rs.278.85 crore will be carried out in the district in 2015-16 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). This was disclosed in a district panchahyat meeting held here on Wednesday which approved the District Poverty Alleviation Committee’s action plan for the next fiscal. As per the action plan, the amount will be spent in 19,304 works. The meeting decided that the MGNREGS works would stress on protection of natural resources. The other works include 6,809 works estimated at Rs.139.88 crore for protecting individual assets of the weaker sections, 220 projects for developing basic infrastructure required by self-help groups, and 5,158 works with a total estimate of Rs.54.62 crore for developing rural infrastructure. (The Hindu 27/3/15)

94. Kerela Government will Take Efforts to Bring Khadi Workers Under MGNREGS: Minister (14)

KANNUR:Minister for Rural Development K C Joseph has assured that the state government would continue its efforts to include workers of Khadi and Village Industries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Inaugurating the state-level exhibition organised jointly by Kerala Khadi and Village Industries Board and National Khadi and Village Industries Commission at Town Square here on Sunday, the minister said that the government’s efforts to include the Khadi sector under MGNREGS had not succeeded.However, the government would continue to exert pressure on the central government to incorporate Khadi workers as the beneficiaries of the employment guarantee scheme to ensure steady wages, he added. The minister regretted that the Khadi workers are poorly paid and are devoid of social security. In o rder to save the Khadi sector from decline, it should be ensured that the workers are paid a decent remuneration for their work. There should be schemes to ensure the welfare and social security of these workers, he added. The minister also inaugurated the first sale of the exhibition. Khadi Board vice-chairman K P Nooruddeen presided over the function. P K Sreemathi MP, A P Abdullakutty MLA, district panchayat president K A Sarala and District Collector P Balakiran spoke. The Khadi expo is being organised in connection with the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. Products from more than 70 units under the Khadi and Village Industries Board would be on display at the expo. (New Indian Express 30/3/15)


95. Allotment of RTEseats through online lottery system begins (25)

Bengaluru:  The process of allotting seats under the reserved quota of the RTE Act took place here on Wednesday through the online lottery system for the first time in the State. Justice Y Bhaskar Rao, Lokyukta, inaugurated the online system in the presence of Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar and Education department officials. Mohammed Mohsin, Commisioner for Public Instruction, said that the school education department received around 3.89 lakh applications of which 2,57, 942 will be eligible for allotments. As many as 1,11,329 seats are available in 11,202 schools this year, he added. Of these as many as 57,797 seats are for class I and 53,532 seats are for UKG.  The online lottery seat allotment system involves three processes – cleansing and updating process that weeds out duplicate and double forms from the database, randomisation process that generates a unique ID for eligible candidates. Finally the lottery number ranking process assigns lottery numbers to applicants based on the unique ID. The system then allots seats based on the lottery numbers of candidates, priority mentioned and the reservation claimed such as ST, SC or OBC. Vacant seats in each category will be transferred to the next category, said Mohsin.   Candidates from weaker sections of the society such as orphans, transgenders, HIV patients, children with special needs, migrant children, streetchildren will be given seats directly without any lottery process. There is no income limit for SC, ST, Category 1 whereas for OBC candidates, the income limit has been divided in three slabs namely – Rs one lakh and below, Rs one lakh to two lakh, above Rs two lakh to 3.5 lakh. As many as 50,175 applications have been received from SC candidates for 34,074 seats. So far as ST candidates are concerned, 13,262 applications have been received for 7,901 seats. Lastly, for OBC as many as 1,72,527 applications have been received for 69, 354 seats.  Speaking at the programme, Rao said that the Lokayukta would be watching the entire process closely for any instances of corruption. “All those education officers and schools who are either indulging or encouraging corruption will not be spared. The government has taken a good step to eradicate corruption,” he said. He highlighted the need to bring tribal children, who could not apply through online means, into the fold of education. There are around 42 lakhs such tribals in need of education , he added. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

96. SC to pronounce verdict on quota for Jats on Tuesday (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce judgment on Tuesday on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the reservation for Jats by including them in other backward class (OBC) category. The judgment, reserved on December 17, 2014, will be pronounced by a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. The batch of petitioners, while challenging the United Progressive Alliance government’s decision to extend reservation to Jats by including them in OBC category, had contended that Jats were politically and socially advanced and the decision to extend reservation to them was politically and electorally motivated. The UPA government had announced reservation for Jats on the eve of general elections held in May 2014. Ironically, the Narendra Modi government too backed the UPA decision to extend OBC reservation to Jats saying that it was not inspired by electoral considerations but a bonafide decision in public interest. “As regards the averments that the central government with a motive to gain benefit for the ruling political parties in the forthcoming general election issued the said notification, this fact is denied as unfounded,” the central government had said in its affidavit filed in the apex court August 11, 2014. “It is a submitted that the central government has acted bonafide and in public interest,” it had said. Seeking the dismissal of the petition by OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti and others challenging the extension of OBC reservation to Jats in nine states, the affidavit had said: “In the present case, the advice tendered by the National Commission for Backward Classes was rejected by the cabinet for the reason that the commission has not adequately taken into account the ground realities.” (Business Standard 16/3/15)

97. Chalavadi community urged to participate in survey (25)

RAICHUR: Upholding the imminent Social, Educational and Economic Survey in the State as a “good move” to know the actual socio-economic status of different communities, Chalavadi community leaders called upon community members to take part in it. Addressing a media conference at Reporters Guild here on Monday, Mr. Chalavadi Narayana Swamy, Chairman of Karnataka State Forest Development Board, said that the survey would help the government understand the social, educational, economic conditions of communities and better design focussed welfare programmes. “Chalavadi community members are known by 40 different names in different regions. All the names are synonyms to Chalavadi and we therefore appeal the community members to mention their caste as Chalavadi only, so that the numerical size of the community could also be ascertained,” he said. Mr. Swamy opposed the extending of the same reservation facilities that Scheduled Castes enjoy to those who had converted from different Scheduled Castes to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religious faiths. “One choosing and following a religion one wants is one’s own unquestionable right. A person, however, once converted from a Scheduled Caste to another religion would no longer belong to the category and so cannot claim reservation and other facilities offered to Scheduled Castes. Therefore, the people will have to carefully choose their religious and caste identity during the survey,” he said. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

98. Supreme Court verdict on Jat quota a blow to politics of reservation (25)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict asking the government to move away from caste-centric reservation for backwards deals a blow to politics of reservation often played in the most blatant manner just before polls. The verdict is landmark for several important reasons. First, it forces the policy makers to think creatively beyond caste for identification of socially and educationally backward classes. For decades successive governments have found caste-based quota an easy way out to achieve the constitutional goal of equality to undo historic injustice to backward castes in Hindu society. Second, the fact that the SC rejected old data to justify inclusion of Jats in the OBC category and emphasised that all citizens were advancing on every front – social, economic and education — should serve as a reminder to politicians and bureaucrats who are not in sync with the changed social realities and continue to have a 20th century mindset. The top court has given them a jolt. The constitutional mandate under Article 16(4) and Article 15(5) that deal with reservation in jobs and education respectively is to ensure equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The government’s affirmative actions are based on positive discrimination. But the manner in which reservation policy has been pursued by successive governments — irrespective of their political ideology — created social discord and deprived many deserving socially and educationally backward groups of its benefits. Reservation policy, if not properly thought out, becomes even more discriminatory, rather than a means of achieving social justice. Be it the 1990 decision of VP Singh’s government to introduce quota in jobs for OBCs or the 2008 decision of the UPA-I government to extend it to education — the decisions led to prolonged agitation and social unrest. In both the cases the SC verdicts had the calming effect as it enjoys public confidence more than that enjoyed by the legislature or the executive. What made the 1992 Mandal verdict acceptable was the court’s decision to put a 50% ceiling on reservation and exclude the creamy layer among OBCs. The top court has once again shown judicial statesmanship by displaying a progressive and realistic approach to reservation that would ensure that “only to the most distressed” benefit from it. A similar approach is needed to rationalise reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by excluding the rich among these communities. This would ensure that only the most deserving SC and SC candidates get the benefit of reservation. Left to politicians, such progressive decisions would never happen. If judges can innovate, why can’t politicians? (Hindustan Times 18/3/15)


99. 33 per cent women quota in UT police (25)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday announced 33 per cent reservation for women in police forces of Union Territories, including the national capital, for posts from constables to sub-inspectors, in a bid to make police more gender-sensitive. The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday gave its nod to the decision, which came against the backdrop of rising demands for preventing crimes against women, particularly in the backdrop of the brutal 2012 Delhi gangrape case . The government said the decision will also instil confidence among women and enable them to approach police without hesitation for seeking protection and assistance. This decision will help augment the number of women in the police force of all UTs and the Delhi police so as to make them more gender-sensitive, it said. The reservation will also cover reserved categories like SCs, STs and OBCs. Notably, after the brutal December 16 Gangrape case, the Justice Verma Committee, which recommended major changes in criminal laws, had also flagged this issue. The government on Friday noted that a “skewed police force” is a major practical barrier in effective implementation of legislations intended for the protection of women. “The police is the first line of interface between citizens and the law enforcement machinery. It has been observed that many women do not approach the police as they may have to confide or report the incident to a male police officer. “This is particularly so in respect of sex-related crimes,” it said. Meanwhile, over 758 Appropriation Acts, which have lost relevance and are clogging the statute books, are set to be repealed as the Cabinet cleared a proposal to bring a bill in this regard. The move is in line with the NDA government’s decision to do away with irrelevant laws, including Railways (appropriation) Acts. (Asian Age 21/3/15)

100. SC ruling on Jat quota warning bell to political class (25)

The Supreme Court’s verdict quashing the government’s decision to grant politically-dominant Jat community the OBC (Other Backward Classes) status in nine northern states is  futuristic. The verdict sounds a warning bell to the political class which used reservation as a potent weapon to grab votes. Dealing with challenge to the March 4, 2014 notification, the court strikes at the root of the problem. It has been noted that political considerations played a bigger role in granting such status. Without mincing words, the court went on to point out the need for review of the list every 10 years as per the Constitutional mandate. This would definitely not have hurt the deserving and deprived ones. In the instant case, the demands of politically-organised Jats were long pending as they were already declared OBC in their respective states. The underlying message by the apex court to the political class is very clear. The perception, mathematical formulae evolved on the basis of social and educational indicators or relative inclusion of other groups could not be used to form the basis for providing such largesse by the state. In the 1992 Indira Sawhney case (Mandal), the SC held that the terms “backward class” and “socially and educationally backward classes” are not equivalent and further that in Article 16(4) of the Constitution backwardness contemplated is mainly social. So, the court said that a social class could be understood as an identifiable section of society which may be internally homogenous (based on caste or occupation) or heterogeneous (based on disability or gender, say transgender). Thus, neither caste nor historical injustice could be the sole determinant factor, the court said. In identity politics, these have been the only basis for such preferential treatments. Backwardness is a manifestation caused by the presence of several independent circumstances which may be social, cultural, economic, educational or even political, it said. “Owing to historical conditions, particularly in Hindu society, recognition of backwardness has been associated with caste. Though caste may be a prominent and distinguishing factor for easy determination of backwardness of a social group, this court has been routinely discouraging the identification of a group as backward solely on the basis of caste,” the SC bench observed. The affirmative actions by the state as envisaged under the Constitution must be meant for the most deserving. This could be ascertained if new benchmark or criteria are put in place. Certainly, contemporaneous statistics and not outdated data as seen in case of Jats could be look into. According to the SC, new practices, methods and yardsticks have to be continuously evolved moving away from caste centric definition of backwardness. This alone can enable recognition of newly emerging groups in society which would require palliative action. “The recognition of the third gender as a socially and educationally backward class of citizens entitled to affirmative action of the state under the Constitution in National Legal Services Authority Vs Union of India is too significant a development to be ignored,” the court noted. “In fact, it is a path finder, if not a path-breaker,” the court remarked while emphasising the need for the state to observe high degree of vigilance for discovering new emerging forms of backwardness. The “historical injustice” that manifests in caste identification could result in “under protection of the most deserving backward class of citizens”… (Deccan Herald 24/3/15)

101. PM Vows to Address Jats’ Quota Woes within Legal Framework (25)

NEW DELHI: With the perception on the Land Bill still loaded against the BJP-NDA Government, the Centre on Thursday reached out to Jats and paid heed to their demands on reservation, which was struck down by the Supreme Court recently.  When the 70-member delegation, accompanied by the BJP MPs from Jat-dominated states, called on  Modi, he not only heard them ‘carefully’ but also assured a solution from within the ‘legal framework.’ The delegation also met BJP chief Amit Shah.  “The Prime Minister carefully listened to the issues raised by the delegation. He said the government was studying the Supreme Court ruling and would try to find a solution to the issue from within the legal framework,” a statement from the PMO said, adding that other issues related to the community also figured in the discussions. The PM urged the delegation to take the lead in implementing the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme, an initiative aimed at saving the girl child. The SC order to scrap the reservation for the Jats under the OBC quota, a decision which was announced by the UPA Government in nine states ahead of the 2014 polls, has been a headache for the NDA Government. (New Indian Express 27/3/15)

102. Government firm on opposing dalit tag for converts (25)

NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to oppose the demand for dalit status for “converts” to Christianity and Islam, arguing that only Hinduism recognized “caste system” and “untouchability” that led to the creation of a special category called Scheduled Castes. An interesting reason cited to red-flag the demand is that the Constitution provides reservation in legislatures to dalits and tribals to “compensate for the social injustice” suffered by them over centuries and extending this benefit to converts would impinge on the rights of SCs/STs. While the move was expected after social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot made the government stance plain in an interview to TOI on October 10 last year, it is now learnt that his ministry detailed reasons to the Union law ministry to oppose in Supreme Court the petition seeking SC status for converts.The unambiguous opposition from the BJP government is a sharp departure from the UPA regime’s strategy to buy time – in 2005, entrusting a national commission to study the issue and in 2011, deciding to wait for ‘socio-economic caste census’ for data to commission further studies. As polarizing as it is complicated, the issue is rooted in the reasoning that SC status — limited to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists — should be made religion-neutral, thereby opening it to Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Islam and Christianity. Strongly objecting to the demand, the BJP government argues that “untouchability” was a peculiar aspect of Hindu religion that “denied to disadvantaged castes the fundamentals of human dignity, human self-respect and even some of the attributes of human personality”.Linking this “evil practice” exclusively to Hinduism, the government says mere social “backwardness” cannot put converts at par with dalits whose backwardness arises from the traditional practice of “untouchability”.The Centre argues that recognizing SC among followers of Islam and Christianity would amount to violation of the basic tenets of these religions since they do not recognize the caste system. Besides, stretching the quota frontiers to Christianity and Islam would necessitate an increase in the quantum of reservation which would result in the upper ceiling of 50% being breached, the Centre argues. According to the Centre, identifying dalit converts is not easy – since conversions have been happening over several centuries, the caste of an individual’s forefathers cannot be ascertained, especially where the descendants have left the original caste-related occupation. On the contrary, the government argues that dalit converts form part of OBCs in states and at the Centre, benefitting from job reservations and welfare schemes catering to backwards as also religious minorities, adding it would be “iniquitous” to grant “converts” the benefits targeting SCs. Crucially, the apprehension that rendering the SC list religion-neutral would encourage conversions, expressed by minister Gehlot in his interview to TOI, does not figure in the social justice ministry’s list of reasons to oppose the demand of dalit Christians/Muslims. (Times of India 30/3/15)


103. Disabled denied dignity, rights by uncaring city (1)

Guwahati: Notoriously unfriendly towards differently-abled persons, the city’s attitude, many feel, has worsened. “Accessibility in public places for the disabled is a major problem. Though Guwahati seems to be one of the fastest-growing cities in South East Asia, it is yet to improve facilities for the disabled. If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s almost impossible to move around in the city. I have faced so many problems. All my friends have my ATM pin as I find it difficult to operate the machines,” said Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, a city-based NGO that works for the differently-abled. Ali added that he has approached the administration of Kamrup (Metro) district to take steps in this regard. “Some good steps have been taken, but a lot remains to be done. We need political will and a holistic approach to help the disabled. We do not want sympathy, but the right to live with dignity,” he said. Medal-winning para-athlete Suvarna Raj, who was in the city recently to be felicitated, also expressed her unhappiness over the lack of facilities for the disabled in the city. “I feel Guwahati has a long way to go in terms of being accessible for persons with disabilities. I am a wheelchair-user and the organizers of the event were aware of this. Still, there wasn’t any provision of a ramp on the stage. I had to be carried up to the stage before the prize distribution began and made to sit behind the dignitaries before the ceremony started. This was most upsetting,” she had said. Bhaben Barman, principal of Guwahati Blind School, termed lack of awareness a major hurdle. “Even guardians are not aware of how to go ahead. Around 10% of our students face problems in travelling. Of late, some NGOs have started coming forward to help people with disabilities,” said Barman. (Times of India 11/3/15)

104. HC to probe antecedents of human rights organizations (1)

MADURAI: Shocked over reports of many office-bearers of private “human rights organisations” facing heinous criminal charges including murder and extortion, the Madras High Court Bench here has decided to find out the antecedents of such people and their sources of funding. Passing interim orders on anticipatory bail applications filed by as many as nine such individuals based in different districts under the jurisdiction of the High Court Bench, Justice P.N. Prakash has directed the police to file reports listing out criminal cases that had been booked against them. The judge also appointed advocate Veera Kathiravan as an amicus curiae to assist the court in deciding the cases and directed the counsel for the petitioners to submit documents relating to incorporation of the organisations, details of their bank accounts and the activities undertaken by them. He has further directed the High Court Registry to club all advance bail applications filed by those claiming to be office-bearers of human rights organisations and list them for hearing on Monday in order to give a quietus to the issue after hearing their counsel, the prosecution and the amicus curiae. The orders have been passed on applications filed by Ulagappan alias Alagappan facing a case registered by Ponamaravathy police in Pudukottai district, Rajaraman alias Bharathiraja booked by Gandhi Market police in Tiruchi district, R. Vijayabose booked by Kottar police in Kanyakumari district. Identical orders had been passed also on petitions filed by D. Senthil Servai facing a case booked by Karaikudi North Police in Sivaganga district, P.L. Lawrence booked by Colachel police in Kanyakumari, S. Ratheesh (Pettai police in Tirunelveli district), Balamurugan (Nilakottai police in Dindigul district), Raman (Manapparai police in Tiruchi district) and Chinnaiya alias Chinnaiya Baskar (Pudukottai town police). (The Hindu 15/3/15)

105. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)


106. NGO alleges rights violations in destitute home (1)

SHIMLA: Gross violation of human rights of poor inmates residing at the government-run Nari Sewa Sadan in Mashobra near Shimla has been alleged by a Shimla-based NGO. It claimed that breaking all set norms, a newborn girl of an abused unwed inmate was separated from her mother and shifted to Kids Home in Shimla. It further claimed that last rites of dead inmates were not being performed as per their religious faith. While interacting with media persons in Shimla on Sunday, Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, said that information gathered under RTI revealed that out of total 30 inmates, about 26 are suffering from severe mental illness and many are physically disabled. He said that they are unable to manage themselves during menstrual cycles and to meet nature’s call. He said one unwed woman, who was brought to the destitute home from Una some months ago, delivered a female baby in the last week of January. “When the government was busy celebrating Beti Bachao campaign on International Women Day on March 8, the newborn was separated from her mother, violating the guidelines of government of India which state that mother’s milk is mandatory for child’s health. Now the girl is staying more than 10 kilometers away from her mother,” he added. He said that information gathered under RTI showed that inmates were never checked up by any endocrinologist. He said that inmates were suffering from different psychological problems but have no access to any psychological counseling. Ajai Srivastava demanded a high-level inquiry so that responsibility could be fixed for violation of human rights of the defenseless destitute inmates. (Times of India 23/3/15)

107. NGO complains to UN against attacks on Christians (1)

MUMBAI: Mumbai based NGO Watchdog Foundation has complained to the United Nations against the increasing attacks on Christians in India. The letter states, “Citizens particularly belonging to Christian denomination have been subjudicated by the fundamentalist organisations operating freely in India under the very nose of the federal/state Government. There have been attacks on the community, churches being vandalised, nuns being raped and murdered. We feel there fermented Western apathy towards gross human rights abuses committed by the fundamentalist groups in India.” The NGO has urged the UN as custodian of humanity to interrogate the “so called world largest democracy” to see if it deserves it so proudly it claims. “Whilst Indian regularly stakes a claim for being model multicultural society built on principles of secularism, the reality is that across India ethnic cleansing of religious minorities at the hands of fundamentalist organisations is a regular feature. Despite the Indian Prime Minister being chided by none other that US President Barak Obama, nothing has changed. Today one more church in Panvel, near Mumbai has been vandalised.” ”It seems to us that only the political system of India attract any kind of scrutiny by the Westerns media during General Elections campaign.Every General Elections India gets billed as worlds largest democracy, but what about the sufferings of the minorities. If this trend is not arrested in time this beloved country shall go the same way as some of the Gulf Countries are facing internal strife.” (Times of India 23/3/15)

108. Sathasivam likely to be next chairman of NHRC (1)

New Delhi: Kerala Governor P Sathasivam is understood to have given his consent to the Centre to be considered for appointment as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) when its present chief K G Balakrishnan completes his term in June. A former Chief Justice of India (CJI), Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala following the resignation of Shiela Dikshit in September last year. However, with Balakrishnan’s five-year term due to end on June 6, the search for his successor has led to the Centre seeking to know Sathasivam’s mind in this regard, highly placed sources said. The post of NHRC chairman has always been held by a former Chief Justice of India since the panel was set up in 1993. Prior to Balakrishnan, other CJIs who graced the post include Ranganath Misra (1993-96), M Venkatachaliah (1996-99), J S Verma (1999-2003), A S Anand (2003-2006) and S Rajendra Babu (2007 to 2009). When approached, Sathasivam apparently evinced interest in playing a more active role like that of the NHRC chairman, which would involve his vast experience as a judge compared to a rather ceremonial role in Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, the sources said. On March 15, Sathasivam broke the tradition and expressed concerns over the disruptive behaviour of legislators in the Kerala Assembly when the state budget was presented. His office even issued a press note saying that the ugly nature of the events justified invoking Article 356 and reporting as such to the President. Under this Article, the President can dismiss a state government or dissolve a State Assembly or keep it under suspended animation in the event of a failure of the constitutional machinery in that state. This was after the Legislature Secretary had informed him about how the Speaker’s chair was forcibly wheeled away and thrown into the well of the House and his public address system destroyed. The ruling United Democratic Front, including Finance Minister K M Mani, had disapproved mention of Article 356. But the Opposition Left Democratic Front has welcomed it, saying their stand has been validated. Interestingly, Sathasivam was appointed Governor of Kerala in the middle of a raging debate over whether such political appointments will compromise judicial independence. This was for the first time a retired CJI was appointed to serve as a governor of a state. (Deccan Herald 26/3/15)

109. Advance bail denied to ‘human rights activists’ (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday dismissed en masse 16 anticipatory bail applications filed by people accused of deceiving the gullible by misusing the words ‘human rights’ in name boards and letterheads of non-governmental organisations run by them. Justice P.N. Prakash refused to grant the relief to any of them on the ground that they should be necessarily subjected to custodial interrogation. He also observed that “all people can be fooled sometimes, some people can be fooled at all times but all people cannot be fooled at all times.” Shocked that some of the petitioners were advocates, and some others were murder case accused, the judge pointed out that in the recent years, “it was observed that name boards and banners bearing titles such as ‘human rights organisation’ have suddenly mushroomed in every nook and cranny of the State. “Self-proclaimed human rights activists have surfaced everywhere, flying the flag of the United Nations and other organisations on their vehicles… and including the names of eminent personalities such as former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwati in their letterheads. “With visiting cards and letter pads so printed, these individuals are emboldened to interfere not only in public affairs but also in the affairs of the common man. No one dared to question them fearing that they are part of the State machinery.” The issue came to the adverse notice of National Human Rights Commission, which on September 25, 2009, and December 29, 2010, asked the State government to crack down on such dubious organisations and make sure that no private organisation used the words ‘human rights’ in its name. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission itself lodged complaints against as many as 16 organisations across the State for misusing the term. “All these measures did not deter the petitioners herein from closing down their shops and they were continuing to carry on with their activities with impunity under the very nose of the police, perhaps with their blessings,” the judge added. He also recorded the submission of advocate Veera Kathiravan, appointed as amicus curiae , that the dubious organisations diverted funds received from abroad for their subversive activities. (The Hindu 27/3/15)


110. Clarify on when beef order was notified, says HC (19)

MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Wednesday sought a clarification from the state government on the date when the new Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, which bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks and makes the possession or sale of beef a crime, came into force. The court’s direction came after advocate Yusuf Muchhala, counsel for Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers’ Welfare Association, told the court that its animals, which were being taken out from the Deonar abattoir, were seized. The government claimed that it had notified the law on March 4. Advocate Muchhala claimed that the notification had not been produced during the court hearings either on March 3 or March 5. It was only when the association pointed out that the law could not come into force unless it is published in the official gazette that the state seemed to have furnished a copy at the Deonar abattoir. The advocate further claimed that it was only on March 9 that a copy was given to them and it was available on the government website. Advocate Muchhala cited judgments which stated that a law could be enforced only after it was in public domain. The police had seized the cattle before the law was notified, the advocate contended. The HC asked the state to place on record the documents related to publishing the law in the official gazette. While earlier, cow slaughter was banned, the new rule that was granted sanction by the President of India in February 2015, added bulls and bullocks to that list. (Times of India 12/3/15)

111. Haryana makes sale of beef a non-bailable offence (19)

CHANDIGARH: After Maharashtra, Haryana on Monday passed a much more stringent bill banning sale of beef. According to the legislation, the rigorous imprisonment for selling beef would be five years — same as that in Maharashtra — and the fine of up to Rs 50,000. The western state has kept it at Rs 10,000. In case the convict fails to pay the fine, in Haryana he/she will have to spend up to one year more in jail. The Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Bill 2015, passed by the assembly unanimously, bans sale of all kinds of beef. As per the law in force so far, sale of beef was banned but there was no prohibition on packaged beef. This distinction has also been removed. “No person shall sell or offer for sale or cause to be sold beef or beef products..,” reads the bill, which was tabled in the assembly by animal husbandry minister Om Prakash Dhankar on Monday. According to the bill, a person convicted of cow slaughter can be sentenced up to 10 years in jail, apart from a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. There is provision of additional imprisonment of up to one year if the fine is not paid. The bill makes both violations — cow slaughter and beef sale — non-bailable. During the trial for cow slaughter and sale of beef, the burden of proving the innocence would be on the accused, much like other most stringent laws like the Dowry Act. The bill also mentions that any person found indulging in export of cow for the purpose of slaughter either directly or through his agent can be sentenced up to seven years of jail term with a fine of up to Rs 70,000. Any person desiring to export cows out of the state will have to apply for a permit from the government stating the reasons for which they are to be exported along with the exact number of cows and the name of the state to which they are proposed to be sent. Such persons will also file a declaration that cows for which permit of export is required will not be slaughtered. However, no permit for export of cows will be issued for a state where cow slaughter is not banned… (Times of India 17/3/15)

112. Collegium illegal: Govt (19)

New Delhi, March 18: The Centre today defended the controversial National Judicial Appointments Commission, saying the existing method of selecting judges was “illegal”, but struck a conciliatory note as it pleaded with the Supreme Court to give the new system an opportunity to work. Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, however, gave no hint when the NJAC would come into force, replacing the collegium system. The NJAC bill, which has got presidential assent, has not been notified yet. It was on this ground that Rohatgi sought the dismissal of a batch of petitions that have challenged the commission’s constitutional validity. “Lordships will test the validity of an act only when the law is brought into force, when it is capable of affecting the rights of the people…,” Rohatgi told the bench of Justices A.R. Dave, J. Chelameshwar and Madan B. Lokur. Alternatively, he urged the judges to refer the issue to a Constitution bench of at least five judges as it involved a question of law. “Should your lordships decide to entertain the petitions, then it must go to a five-judge bench,” he argued. In August last year, Parliament had passed the NJACBill, 2014, and an amendment bill to replace the collegium system, under which a panel of five judges used to select judges for the high courts and the Supreme Court. It led to the petitions that challenged the commission’s validity on the ground that it affected the basic structure of the Constitution that had accorded primacy to the Chief Justice of India in the appointment of judges. Under the NJAC, a panel of six members – the CJI, two senior-most judges, the Union law minister and two eminent experts – will select and transfer judges. Rohatgi referred to jurist Fali Nariman’s argument to contend that the existing system was illegal. Nariman had said the Narendra Modi government had ignored the earlier NDA regime’s bill of a better variant of the NJAC with primacy to the judiciary, as suggested by the Justice Venkatachallaiah panel. He said the Venkatachallaiah commission, too, had said there should be an NJAC and the power of appointment should not be vested only with the judiciary, thus disagreeing with the collegium system. “According to us, the present collegium system is illegal,” he said. “(But) Venkatachallaiah is not a statute. Today, Parliament is not accountable to Mr Fali Nariman or Mr Venkatachallaiah,” he said. Ideally, the court should “allow the (new) system to work, see how it works and not nip it in the bud”, he said, but avoided any assurance on when the law would be notified. Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushayant Dave supported Rohatgi, saying the arguments of the petitioners are “based on fallacy”.Santosh Paul, appearing for the NGO Change India that opposes the NJAC, cited the example of the UK judicial commission on which the NJAC is modelled. He said: “No politician is part of the (UK) commission. Affiliation to any political party is considered an encroachment of judicial independence.” He said a constitutional amendment comes into being on the date it gets the President’s assent. In this case, the assent came on December 31. The arguments will resume tomorrow. (The Telegraph 19/3/15)


113. PIL filed over difficulties faced by non-custodian parents, children while meeting at family courts

Mumbai: A PIL has been filed in the Bombay High Court to bring to the court’s notice the difficulties faced by children and non-custodian parents who are not permitted to meet outside the cramped Child Access Room in the children’s complex at family courts. Petitioner Kishwar Mirza has alleged that in spite of guidelines being issued to the family court, non-custodian parents are not allowed to meet the child outside the Child Access Room during the pendency of the parents’ divorce case. According to the petition, guidelines named “Child Access & Custody Guidelines ” formulated by an NGO named Child Rights Foundation, and the Guardian Judges of the Family Courts in the State of Maharashtra, were circulated to the Family Court Judges and Marriage Counselors across the state by the Registrar, High Court in January 2011. “However, the same has not been implemented/approved brought into force/effect, and the same merely lies idle on the desk of the benches of the Family Courts,” the petition says. The guidelines reportedly detail the mode and manner in which access/visitation is to be provided to the non-custodial parent. The petitioner has urged HC to approve the guidelines and direct the principal judge of Family Courts to implement them. Moreover, the petition requested the Court to permit a Panel of renowned practicing psychiatrists to visit the Family Court to ascertain the medical/psychological conditions of the children and submit a report accordingly. The petition says that the children are exposed to a litigating environment which is “ruining and poisoning their normal growth”. Alleging that the non-custodian parent feels as if he or she is meeting a jail inmate at the Children’s Complex, the petitioner urged the court to frame guidelines pertaining to the issues. (Indian Express 24/3/15)

114. After 66A is scrapped, Sec 67 of same Act lands Chennai techie in jail (19)

CHENNAI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of Information Technology Act saying the clause struck at the root of liberty and freedom of expression. It, however, does not mean that sending abusive messages through a computer or communication device will exempt an offender from conviction. A cyber culprit can still be sentenced under similar provisions of the IT Act, IPC and state-enacted provisions that criminalize harassment. A software engineer learned this the hard way. Srinath Nambudri of Karnataka will now cool his heels in prison for one year on the charge of harassing a woman colleague after she spurned his advances. The cyber cell of the CB-CID, in December 2011, had registered a case against Nambudri under various provisions including Section 66A of IT Act (sending offensive and menacing electronic mail. On Tuesday, even as the Supreme Court said Section 66A of the IT Act was unconstitutional and struck it down, a city court, perhaps following the dictum, absolved him from conviction under the section. But he was found guilty of charges under Section 67 (punishment for publishing or obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act, 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation, if threat be to cause death or grievous hurt) and 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC, along with Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998. According to police, Nambduri was working as a software engineer at TCS, Siruseri. He was attracted to a colleague, and expressed his love to her. When she spurned his advances, an infuriated Nambudri started sending several obscene and derogatory emails to her from April 2011. On one occasion, when the woman went to the US on an official visit, he emailed malicious contents about her to the company’s head. Nambudri also sent a morphed nude picture of the woman to her brother. “He continued to stalk and eve-tease the woman electronically for several months,” said special public prosecutor Mary Jayanthi… (Times of India 26/3/15)

115. Anti-dowry legislations must not be anti-men, demand activists (19)

NAGPUR: Men’s rights activists have always harped on the misuse of Domestic Violence Act and anti-dowry laws. They are now further upset about a proposed amendment to section 498A of Indian Penal Code, which makes it a compoundable offence. The activists feel that this will only lead to an increase in the number of false cases and abuse of the law. NGO Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) has objected to the proposed amendment, while also making several suggestions that can help implement the law in a better way. SIFF describes as state sponsored extortion the move to favour feminists through biased laws without consideration of men’s abuse. The organization has demanded that divorce and dowry related cases be dealt with in a more accountable way. “Even the government acknowledges the extensive misuse of dowry laws in the country. It’s not a new phenomenon. We have been bringing it to the attention of authorities for years,” said SIFF president Rajesh Vakharia. He added that the judiciary itself was responsible for this misuse, as it has focused on making the laws so women-friendly that it has ended up making it abusive towards accused men. SIFF presented several examples to point out how the Criminal Procedure Code is broken blatantly by the police and judiciary in cases of marital discord and dowry. Despite the rules, police don’t provide any counselling before registering a case under both laws. Moreover, they arrest the accused and even their relatives against whom a complaint hasn’t been made, without a warrant. Bail petitions of accused in these cases often take months to be cleared even if a man is willing to cooperate in the investigation. No action is taken against a complainant or her relatives even if they physically abuse the accused or his relatives. Even if cases linger on for years, judges take no action on women for not attending hearings. “It is sad that instead of working to resolve these procedural hurdles, which result in abuse of men, the government is planning to make this law compoundable. It is already compoundable in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. After the law was made compoundable, the misuse of this law increased manifold in these states,” said SIFF spokesperson Jyoti Tiwari. ..(Times of India 26/3/15)

116. Draconian anti-terror measures a concern: Former chief justice (19)

MUMBAI: While terrorism needs to be condemned, counter-terrorist measures, including draconian laws too are matters of concern, said chairperson of National Human Rights Commission and former chief justice of India Justice KG Balakrishnan. At a conference on international terrorism in Mumbai on Sunday, Justice Balakrishnan said anti-terrorist laws have put a large number of people in jail without trial and conviction. “It is a matter of worry,” he said. Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, chief justice of Bangladesh, said his country always supported global war against terrorism, but its ability to combat terrorism is undermined by weak institutions, porous borders and limited law enforcement capacity,” he said. NGT chairman Justice Swatentar Kumar likened terrorism to free air capable of transcending borders and checks. He urged members of younger generation and students to be aware implications of terrorist acts. Justice Chauhan, chairman of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, said government should focus on employment policies across the nation, especially in border regions, so that hungry and unemployed do not land in the trap of rival nations. (Times of India 30/3/15)


117. Activists threaten case on Omar Abdullah (1)

Srinagar:  A civil society group in Jammu and Kashmir said on Wednesday that it will file a criminal case against National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah if a senior police officer stands by his allegation that as chief minister he had asked him to “bump off” separatist leader Massarat Aalam when arrested in October 2010. The police officer, Syed Ashiq Hussein Bukhari, a former senior superintendent of police (Srinagar range), had earlier claimed that that the then chief minister had on hearing about the arrest of Mr. Aalam from the outskirts of Srinagar city on October 18, 2010 after a four-month hunt, asked him (Mr Bukhari) on the phone why he had been arrested and not bumped off. The former police officer, who had after his retirement announced to join (now) the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, also reportedly said that apart from getting a cash reward of `1 million earlier announced by the government for information leading to the separatist leader’s arrest, he was given additional `1.5 million by the then chief minister “from his own pocket”. The police officer also claimed that Mr Abdullah paid him `1.5 crore through four cheques for his “outstanding work”. The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said in a statement here, “These allegations confirm the truth that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have known. That extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances and other crimes have been routinely used by the Indian state to control the population of the state.” It added, “Fake encounters, as proposed by Omar Abdullah in the case of Massarat Aalam, has been a regular tool of the State. Further, money – in the form of cash rewards for these crimes – has fuelled and sustained the work of various armed forces personnel, including police, in carrying out the necessary crimes.” The JKCCS said that the allegations levelled by the former police officer “merely substantiate the pre-existing evidence on the numerous fake encounters and other crimes committed in Jammu and Kashmir” and reiterated the demand for impartial and fair investigations to uncover the truth of past violations, including attacks on political leaders such as the killing of separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz in 2008. “The reported statement of Omar Abdullah is also reminiscent of an earlier reported statement of January 13, 2001 of the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah that his orders to the police are ‘wherever you find a militant, dispatch him to Allah as I do not want to fill jails’. “This mirrors the later Indian Army Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations released on December 31, 2006 which speaks of ‘neutralizing all hostile elements in the conflict zone that oppose or retard the peace initiatives and secondly, at transforming the will and attitudes of the people”. The group also said that Mr. Bukhari himself has numerous allegations of human rights violations against him in addition to responsibility, directly and/or under the principle of command responsibility, for the killing of 18 persons in Srinagar, upon him taking control of Srinagar as SSP in June 2010. “The present reported allegations must lead to formal proceedings i.e. criminal investigations. The cynical use of the media by criminal insiders to score personal political points is not a substitute for formal criminal proceedings,” it said adding “Further, while Ashiq Bukhari reveals part of the criminal enterprise, as did former Army Chief (retired), General V.K. Singh earlier regarding Army funding in Jammu and Kashmir and the role of then SSP Anantnag, Farooq Khan, in the Pathribal fake encounter, numerous others remain silent and continue to enjoy the comforts of the State”. The JKCCS further said the latest revelations by former police officer “must lead to a public accountability of all cash rewards given to armed forces including police which as Indian State mercenaries have committed crimes in Jammu and Kashmir…The corruption that fuels crimes must be investigated, along with the crimes themselves.” The group spokesperson and human rights activist Khurram Parvez added, “As an immediate step, ex-SSP Ashiq Bukhari must stand by his statements and we will file a case against then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.” (Asian Age 12/3/15)

118. Custodial Torture Case of Dalit Farmer goes to CB-CID (1)

CHENNAI: Madras High Court has directed the CBCID to probe the alleged custodial torture of a Dalit in Kaveripakkam  police station in Vellore district while granting him Rs 2 lakh as  interim compensation. Justice T S Sivagnanam gave the directions recently while disposing of a writ petition by Poovarasan, an agricultural labourer of Athipattu village. According to petitioner, he was arrested on the night of September 23, 2014 and taken to Kaveripakkam police station where he was beaten up brutally. He was produced before the District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate in Wallajahpet around noon the next day, who referred him to a local hospital for medical examination. As the injuries were heavy, the doctors there referred him to the Government Hospital in Vellore. Even then, according to the  petitioner, the police made an attempt to kidnap him when he was on way to the hospital in an ambulance. However, he was brought back to the court following the intervention of the magistrate, who after chiding the police personnel, granted bail to the victim. As Poovarasan could not expect justice from the local police, his counsel V Suresh of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties, filed the writ petition in the High Court. He also demanded a compensation of `50 lakh for the sufferings underwent by Poovarasan at the hands of the police. Based on the medical records, produced by the Public Prosecutor, the Court concluded that the injuries on Poovarasan was inflicted at Kaveripakkam police station on September 23, 2014. The records suggested that the injuries were inflicted using wooden rod. The Judge observed that there is sufficient material to come to a prima facie conclusion that  Poovarasan was assaulted on the premises of the Kaveripakkam police station by police personnel. Surprisingly, the counter affidavit filed by Vellore Superintendent of Police does not deal with these issues, except merely denying all the averments made by the petitioner, the Judge noted. It does not speak about the action taken on the petitioner’s complaint dated September 26. Further, the Judicial Magistrate in his order dated September 24, has noted the fractures and multiple injuries sustained by the petitioner and suggested treatment and hence, he had granted bail. All this made out a prima facie case, Justice Sivagnanam said. Hence, the court directed the local police to forward the complaint given by the petitioner on September 26, 2014 to the Director General of Police who in turn must entrust the investigations to a competent officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBCID. The Court observed that till the investigation is completed by the CB CID and a final report is filed, the petitioner was entitled for an interim compensation of Rs 2 lakh and left it open to the petitioner to work out his remedies after the conclusion of the proceedings. (New Indian Express 17/3/15)

119. Centre to take final call on AFSPA: J&K Governor (1)

Jammu: J&K Governor N N Vohra today noted that the final decision on the continuation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state would be taken by the central government. “Keeping in mind the fact that the situation is steadily improving, the government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’ and this in turn, would enable the central government to take a final view on the continuation of the AFSPA in such areas,” he said while addressing the joint session of the state legislature. “In this context, the coalition government will thoroughly review the security in J&K and examine the need and desirability of all the special laws which are being applied in the state,” he said. Vohra maintained that there has been “progressive improvement” in the security environment in the state. “In the recent years there has been progressive improvement in the security environment. To build greater and sustained public confidence, the coalition government is committed to ensure that the people of the state are enabled to fully enjoy the peace and normalcy dividend,” he said. The Governor pointed out that the government would also address the concerns of the people living on the border and those in the remote and far flung areas of the state. Vohra added that the state would work on returning the land taken by the security forces to its owners. “A very important step which the government will implement shall be to ensure that all lands, other than those which have been given to the security forces on lease, license or through acquisition under the provision of the land acquisition act; must be returned to the rightful legal owners within a given time frame,” he said. (Business Standard 18/3/15)


120. ‘They treated us worse than animals’: SFI activists in Shimla allege police brutality (1)

Shimla: Amid allegations of police brutality and torture, a Shimla court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of six Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists, who are in jail following violent clashes with the police outside Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday. The activists, including SFI state president Puneet Dhanta, were arrested on charges of rioting and lawlessness. They were protesting against decisions, including a fee hike, taken by the Himachal Pradesh University and the state government. Outside prison, SFI activists who were part of the protest allege they were beaten up and tortured at the police station. One of the activists, Pallavi, who sustained injuries to her face, has sought shelter with a local family fearing arrest. Another activist, Lokinder Kumar, showed torture marks all over his body and said he can’t walk, sit or eat properly. Kumar, who has also been named in the FIR, had an additional charge added against him for allegedly escaping from police custody from the local hospital, where he was taken for a medical test.SFI national president Dr V Sivadasan, who was also injured, is being treated in New Delhi. He was granted bail on Friday. Rama Kant Mishra, CPM’s 62-year old office secretary, said he too was treated in an “inhuman manner” at the police station along with other SFI activists. Mishra says he was was not part of the agitation, but was rounded up from the CPM state office along with other SFI activists. He was in the office after addressing the SFI rally, and was planning to return to Delhi, when he was picked up. Mishra said, “I pleaded with them not to beat me up as I am a heart patient. Three-four people pounced on me with lathis. They hurled abuses when I asked if they were carrying search warrants to enter the CPM office. They treated us worse than animals.” “Sivadasan was stripped naked, kicked repeatedly by policemen. I saw lying on the floor, being beaten non-stop.” Kumar, too, recounted a similar experience. “I was saving some women activists during the lathi charge. At one point, I felt I might die, so I raised up my hands and surrendered. But they showed no sympathy and thrashed me.” SP, Shimla, D W Negi said, “I won’t deny that some SFI activists, who were taken to the police station, may have been dealt with sternly. After all, they were not taken there to be worshipped or rewarded for creating lawlessness .”.. (Indian Express 22/3/15)

121. AFSPA to be gradually scrapped from Jammu and Kashmir: Mufti (1)

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedJammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad SayeedTwo days after twin terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir killed three security personnel, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Monday said his government would initiate the gradual process of scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state. “There are certain reservations as far as the Defence Ministry and some army officials are concerned, but we will try to start the gradual process (of scrapping AFSPA),” Mufti told the state Assembly. “Until you completely revoke AFSPA, make your people accountable,” he said. Referring to his recent discussion with GOC-in-C Northern Command Lt Gen DS Hooda, Mufti said, “I told him that you have to have a standard procedure.” On the alleged encounter in which two youths were killed in Budgam district, he said, “Two people were fired upon by the army and killed, but I came to know that when prime minister was informed about it, he ordered an enquiry into it. “The two boys were not terrorists but innocent civilians. He (the PM) asked the army to take the responsibility.” Mufti said the prime minister made sure that the culprits in the Machil Fake encounter case too were punished. “In Machil Fake encounter case, they killed innocent people for medals but the army court-martialed them and made sure that they were punished,” he said. (India Today 23/3/15)

122. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

123. Gujarat: 61 people died in police custody in 5 years (1)

Gandhinagar: As many as 61 persons died during police custody in the last five years, the Gujarat government today informed the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel said this while replying to Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani who had sought details about custodial deaths. In her written reply, Patel stated that a total of 61 persons have died in police custody in the last five years (as on November-2014). Out of these, thirty died a natural death, while thirty others committed suicide. Surat city registered seven deaths in police custody, including four suicide cases. Others include Banaskantha district (five deaths) Ahmedabad city (four deaths), Anand (three), Morbi (three), Bhavnagar (three) and Kutch-West (three). (Zee News 26/3/15)


124. TV channel targeted for talk show (1)

Chennai: The office of Tamil news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked on Thursday by a motorcycle-borne gang with crude bombs, just days after it was forced to cancel the telecast of a programme at the instance of Hindutva outfits. No one was injured in the incident. The bombs stuffed in a food carrier and a ‘soap box’ exploded outside the office, but caused no damage to property. While the city police arrested six persons involved in the attack, the president of Hindu Ilaignar Sena, Jayam A. Pandian, surrendered in a Madurai court claiming responsibility for the incident. Around 3 a.m., four men on two motorcycles hurled two bombs into the compound of the channel’s office on the Guindy Industrial Estate. Both exploded with a loud noise shocking security personnel N. Janakiraman and S. Rajasekar on duty and mediapersons on night shift in the building. It was a low-intensity blast as the bombs were assembled using firecrackers, the police said. CCTV cameras installed on the office premises captured the images of the attack and a preliminary examination by the police of the footage revealed dark pictures of the suspects, who were spotted loitering in the area 30 minutes before the attack. On Sunday, a cameraman of Puthiya Thalaimurai was attacked allegedly by some Hindu Munnani cadres, who had gathered outside its office to protest against the scheduled telecast of a controversial debate by the channel. The debate was on the question whether the ‘thaali’ (the ‘mangalsutra’ worn by married women) was still relevant in this day and age. Hindu outfits claimed it was an affront to Hindu culture. Chennai Police Commissioner S. George said the six persons involved in the attack were — Venugopal (29), Saravanan (24), Siva (22), Murali (32), Raja (22) and Mahadevan (27) — all employees of a travel agency owned by Jayam Pandian in Koyambedu here. A motorbike used for the crime and unused crackers were seized. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

125. Ban on airing India’s Daughter to continue (1)

NEW DELHI: Remarking that media trials tend to influence judgments, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said although it had no objection to screening of the BBC documentary India’s Daughter , the matter can only be decided after a verdict regarding the fate of the convicts by the Supreme Court. The Division Bench further said that whether the ban be lifted or not can only be decided by an appropriate Chief Justice’s Bench. “We are prima-facie not opposed to airing of the documentary, but only after the Supreme Court decides the appeals,” said a Division Bench of Justices B. D. Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva. It also refused to pass any interim orders on the appeal asking for the ban to be lifted. “Had it been originally placed before us, we would have asked you to place material before us on why ban be lifted. But it has come here from the Roster Bench of the Chief Justice, so we will not pass any interim orders. Let the Roster Bench decide it,” the court said. The judges spoke at length over the subject of media trials influencing court decisions. “Media trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously, a pressure is created and it does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused. Whether he [accused] has shown remorse or not will be considered at the time of his sentencing. Why not wait till the Supreme Court decision?” The petitioners in the case also said that such a ban might result in more gags. They added that the video had anyway spread via the Internet, with no law and order situation arising, so they could not see a point to its ban. Though the Court partly agreed, it also said that it was forced to impose these restrictions since sub judice matters are being reported brazenly these days. The government had claimed that permitting the video will mean, giving the convict a platform to air his views, which were only derogatory statements against the victim. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

126. 75 media persons killed in Syria since 2011: Report (1)

Geneva: Journalists paid a heavy price for informing people about the sufferings in the Syrian conflict, with at least 75 media persons being killed in the war-torn country since March 2011, a report said on Tuesday. The findings of the study by the Swiss-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) were presented at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) here on Tuesday, Xinhua reported. “During the past three years, Syria was the most dangerous place for journalists to work,” the PEC said in a statement. It noted that a peak in the horror was reached when three journalists — Kenji Goto of Japan, and Steven Sotloff and James Foley of the US — were beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The PEC also expressed concern over the fate of Mazen Darwish, the director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, who was detained in February 2012 along with his two colleagues, Hani Zitani and Hussein Al Ghurair, and called for their immediate release. Syria, along with the neighbouring Iraq, has faced the brunt of the IS, which controls large territories in the two countries. The IS had proclaimed a caliphate under its ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the areas it controls in the two countries. The PEC is a non-governmental organisation with special consultative UN status, and was founded in June 2004 by journalists from several countries with the aim of strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest, or on dangerous missions. (Business Standard 17/3/15)

127. Attack on TV channel condemned (1)

KRISHNAGIRI: Condemning the recent attacks on writers and a private news channel, the district media came together on Monday to voice their protest against the rising acts of violence. In a demonstration staged at Anna Statue near here, the media came on board to condemn the hounding of Tamil writers including Perumal Murugan, Puliyur Murugesan and the last week’s crude bomb attack on a private television channel. The protestors wanted both the State Government and the police to prevent such attacks. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

128. Bombay High Court bats for freedom of speech (1)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday in its order held that a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the government or its measures by way of criticism or comments so long as he does not incite violence against the government or do so with the intention of creating public disorder. A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar passed the ruling while hearing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe. The PIL was filed after the arrest of Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on September 8, 2012. Trivedi was arrested after a sedition charge of section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code was slapped on him for drawing cartoons and caricatures allegedly insulting the national emblem and Parliament. Soon after the petition was filed, the state government had come up with a draft circular for police stations on how to handle such cases. The court, however, continued hearing the petition on the limited question of invocation of section 124 A of IPC and the permissible lawful restriction on the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of public order. The judges in their order clarified that they were not hearing the petition with respect to any offence alleged to have been committed by Mr Trivedi. While disposing of the petition the judges asked the government to widely circulate the guidelines to all authorities concerned. An FIR under the sedition charge was filed against Mr Trivedi after his cartoons were displayed at the movement started by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare. The judges, however, after seeing those cartoons observed, “Having seen the seven cartoons in question drawn by the third respondent (Trivedi), it is difficult to find any element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” The judges further said, those cartoons “were full of anger and disgust against corruption prevailing in the political system and had no element of wit or humour or sarcasm.” According to judges for that reason the freedom of speech and expression available to Trivedi to express his indignation against corruption in the political system in strong terms or visual representations could not have been encroached upon when there is no allegation of incitement to violence. (Asian Age 18/3/15)


129. Government welcomes SC judgment on Section 66A: Prasad (1)

New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, on Tuesday, Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said people in power should be tolerant and liberal towards criticism. “We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court. The government is committed to free speech. India is a democratic country and free flow of ideas should be respected. We do not seek to curtail any right,” Prasad told reporters in a press meet here. The minister, however, said it was important to have self-regulation as well when expressing thoughts in social media. “There are lakhs of people in India indulging in social media. I am a supporter of self-regulation and would like to say it is important to have self-regulation,” he said. He said social media platforms should also practise some ‘self-restraint’. Earlier in the day, he said the government did not favour gagging dissent or honest criticism on social media. Prasad said: “We respect communication of ideas on social media, not in favour of curtailing honest criticism, dissent on social media.” Earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 66A violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech. “Section 66A of the IT Act is struck down in its entirety,” said the apex court bench of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. “Our Constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law (Section 66A) is vague in its entirety,” said Justice Nariman pronouncing the judgment. The minister said the government absolutely respects the right to freedom of speech and expression on social media and has no intention of curbing it. “Only reasonable restrictions apply on social media, as they do in routine normal day to day life in the physical world under Article 19(2) of the constitution of India. We will have to understand that we cannot set a different standard of public morality for speech & expression in cyberspace from speech in other mediums and in the public domain,” the minister added. The Supreme Court has “read down” Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act which states that “upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner”. Taking a dig at the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Prasad said: “When the UPA Govt came out with draconian provisions under 66A, BJP in opposition firmly opposed it and said that ’66 is unacceptable in current form’. BJP resolutely stood up against the censorship and blocking on social media done by UPA government.” “Once in government, it took its opposition to the draconian provisions of 66A on record in Court Proceedings. New Affidavits filed by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government in Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly show the marked difference in the approach from UPA Govt.,” he said. “NDA government, in what can be dubbed as a landmark moment in India’s Internet history, has accorded the same amount of freedom of speech and expression that a citizen of India is granted in normal life under our constitution by our founding fathers,” Prasad added. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

130. Scrapping of Section 66A of IT Act: Khushbu says social media should have self-regulation

CHENNAI: Newly appointed national spokesperson of the Congress, Khushbu Sundar, on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order that scrapped Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. However, she said there had to be some self-regulation within the social media. “Whether it is celebrities or politicians, or others, they have to draw a line beyond which they should not cross,” Khushbu said here. She was answering questions at her maiden press meet, a after she was appointed as the Congress spokesperson. She defended party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s month-long sabbatical saying, “He is a human being.” “Rahul has taken leave of absence and everybody has to wait till he comes back,” she said. Asked whether she had left the DMK because she felt strongly about the lack of democracy in that party, Khushbu said she had not mentioned the reasons when she quit the party last year and would never be provoked to reveal it. “I can only say that my respect and regard for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi remains undiminished,” she said. On the possibility of her being named as the party’s CM candidate for the 2016 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Khushbu said it was hypothetical and it was too early to speak about that now. On some detractors saying that she had little knowledge of state and national issues, Khushbu dared them to ask her questions. “I was appointed only last evening as a spokesperson and am not a member of the party’s planning committee,” she said. She took a dig at AIADMK leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and chief minister O Panneerselvam saying “Amma remains within her house, while OPS has only now dared to sit in the CM’s chair in the state assembly.” Responding to another query, she played down factionalism within the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee saying all were members of one party. (Times of India 25/3/15)

131. Scribes stage House walkout (1)

Shillong, March 25: Journalists in Meghalaya today walked out of the press gallery in the Assembly – when chief minister Mukul Sangma replied on a discussion on state budget, as a part of the boycott against him for calling the media “publicity houses of terrorist organisations”.More than 50 reporters from the print and electronic media, as well as photographers, walked out of the House as soon as Mukul stood up to speak. Media houses in Meghalaya have started to boycott the chief minister since March 23 after he refused to withdraw derogatory statements he had made against the media on the floor of the Assembly recently. On March 10, while replying to a motion on the government’s failure to promote tourism in Garo hills Mukul lambasted national and local media for “negative reporting” about the Northeast, including Meghalaya. Despite the demand from the media to withdraw such remarks, Mukul on March 20 said in the Assembly that no words spoken by him during the course of his reply (on March 10) were unparliamentary. He said every member of the Assembly enjoys the privilege to speak in the House, adding that any attempt to gag the members amounts to breach of that privilege. Disapproving of Mukul’s stand, the mediapersons feel no legislator has the right to make sweeping statements against anyone in the House and hide behind legislative privileges.Meghalaya, which drafted a sports policy many years ago and could not come up with the final draft, has contemplated entrusting the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong to prepare the much-awaited policy. Replying to a question raised in the Assembly by Independent legislator Saleng A. Sangma, sports and youth affairs minister Zenith Sangma said the state government was planning to entrust IIM Shillong with preparing the policy and that this would require at least seven to eight months. Zenith said a state resource group was constituted on May 20 last year headed by former home minister, R.G. Lyngdoh, the president of Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA), to prepare the draft policy. However, the group had only two sittings till today and has not been able to complete the exercise tasked to it, though it was assigned to complete the drafting of the policy within two months. The Opposition, however, attacked the government for its failure to finalise the sports policy as it is still at a drafting stage. They also sought a clarification from the minister if a sports quota would be included in the proposed sports policy. (The Telegraph 26/3/15)


132. RTI query on Gujarat riots stonewalled again by PMO (7)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office has once again refused to release details of the correspondence during the Gujarat riots between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, citing “third party objections.” RTI activist Subhash Agarwal wrote to the PMO in December 2013 seeking complete copies of correspondence between Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Modi between February 27, 2002, the day the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in Godhra, and April 30, 2002, by when the worst of the post-Godhra riots was over. After first refusing to give the information, a decision overturned in appeal, the PMO replied to Mr. Agarwal in April 2014 that it was seeking consent of third parties. (The Hindu 11/3/15)

133. Muzaffarnagar riots: Displaced people to get pension benefit (7)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: The state government has decided to extend the benefit of the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ to almost two thousand persons displaced due to the Muzaffarnagar riots. “The benefit of Samajwadi pension scheme would be provided to the displaced families affected by the riots in the district. Some 2,065 people who were displaced because of the riots in Jolla, Paldi, Shafipur, Loee Sarai and other places have filled-up the forms, which will be scrutinised, to provide them the benefit of the scheme,” additional district magistrate, Indermani Tripathi said. The district authorities have identified 45,245 people for the ‘Samajwadi Pension Scheme’ which included two thousands riot-hit victims. (Times of India 15/3/15)

134. Section of media to blame for biased coverage of riots’(7)

HYDERABAD: Studies have revealed that sections of the media were biased in reporting communal incidents such as the post Godhra riots in Gujarat and the violent aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, said eminent journalist N Ram. Addressing a gathering at the Manuu conference, Ram said a report by the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Editor’s Guild had noted that a section of the media had adopted a “general culpability in adopting a celebratory attitude” after the demolition of the mosque. He said that PCI report described that the Hindi media had played a “karsevak role”.Touching upon the post Godhra riots, Ram said, “There was a differential coverage between the English and Gujarati media. While the national media was applauded for truth telling, the mischievous role of the Gujarati newspapers is a fact that fact-finding missions have said cannot be glossed over. Fuelling disorder is a criminal offence.” Ram also said that UPA – II had withheld the 2011 census data which showed an upward trend in the Muslim population. This, he said, was in view of the 2014 elections. Blaming the media partly for the portrayal of Muslims, eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta said Muslims were the “usual suspects” in terror attacks. “So many Iftekhars and Irfans have been caught and later other groups were found to be involved. Anybody who is kept in police custody for six months or a year is ruined for life,” he said. He noted that movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. “Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” Touching upon the subject of Muslims in newsrooms, Gupta said: “Muslims in media are trusted as anybody else. Newsrooms are not inclusive in terms of caste.” Noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said that the media houses are concerned about an increase in TRP which has led to a negative portrayal of Muslims. Many media houses invite Muslim intellectuals from the north, thereby ignoring the voices from the south, he said. “If you want a Muslim voice, don’t get him from Delhi of Lucknow but from Hyderabad,” he said. He noted that a Muslim parliamentarian such as Asaduddin Owaisi was unlikely to be invited on a debate on the land acquisition bill because the media was more interested in a “Togadia versus Owaisi” debate. “Movies in the 80s and 90s perpetuated the stereotype of Muslims being terrorists. Sunny Deol films were totally communal. That was when global terror began and profiling began.” (Times of India 18/3/15)

135. Communal post on FB triggers tension in Bhandara (7)

BHANDARA: Timely action by Bhandara police prevented a flare-up between two communities after a Std X student’s derogatory Facebook post briefly sparked tension in the city on Monday night. The student posted an objectionable photograph about a place of worship of Muslims while a friend of the boy wrote a derogatory remark about Prophet Mohammed on the post. This led to members of the aggrieved community barging into the boy’s friend’s house and thrashing him. Police registered an offence under relevant sections of IT Act and Indian Penal Code. The juvenile offenders will be produced before the court on Wednesday. The situation of the town is peaceful and under control, police said. Sources added that the juvenile student would regularly attend camps of right-wing organizations and was in close contact of their activists. According to reports, the 16-year-old boy, who is appearing for his Std X examination, sent the image in question to his friend via Facebook. His friend added an offending remark to the photograph and broadcast it among his friends. One of the friends is a Muslim and he informed members of his community about the post. Enraged, some members of the community went to Bhandara police station and lodged a complaint against the mischief mongers. Some others barged into the second student’s home in the night and thrashed him. Police were informed and rushed to the student’s home. Seeing this, the mob fled from the scene. The student was rushed to government general hospital at Bhandara. The student’s mother lodged a police complaint, mentioning the names of five youths. These youths have been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the IPC. On Tuesday, a group of activists met superintendent of police Kailash Kanse and demanded the arrest of another fifty persons who, the activists claimed, were involved in the attack. The activists said they were not satisfied with the replies given by Kanse. Kanse told TOI that the juvenile students were using the social networking site to create tension between two communities and their guardians should be watchful about their activities. The juvenile student appeared for his Std X examination under police protection on Tuesday. (Times of India 18/3/15)


136. Curb hate speech that triggers communal riots, says Teesta (7)

CHENNAI: Communal flare-ups get noticed only when the violence takes place. But the events that cause the flare-ups should be duly dealt with so that they don’t take place, said Teesta Setalvad, well-known civil rights activist on Friday. In her speech during a seminar held in the city, Setalvad recalled the history of communal violence in the country and said that despite stringent laws in place, hate speeches often went unpunished in the past. Young people are impressionable and get swayed by hate speeches but premier educational institutions do not seem to care about the impact these speeches are having on their students. “College campuses like IITs and Banaras Hindu University do not have a problem in people like Subramaniam Swamy attacking certain communities while delivering speeches,” she said. Teesta also asked the younger generation to step out of their classrooms and social media to understand real history. Pointing out that the trigger factors for communal violence vary from place to place, Setalvad said there was a need to engage judges and policemen with people on the ground to get a clear picture of the situation leading to and following communal violence. “After 2002 post-Godhra communal violence, we were able to file many cases pertaining to it only after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) went on a field visit and recorded statements,” said Setalvad, who runs Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO that filed petitions on behalf of the victims of Godhra riots. (Times of India 21/3/15)

137. Political parties react cautiously to court verdict (1)

New Delhi: The massacre of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Meerut’s Hashimpura locality must rate as one of the most shameful cases of custodial killings in independent India. Yet the recent acquittal by a Delhi court of the 16 accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary on March 20, 28 years after the event, has evoked a muted response from political parties, leaving the outrage to civil rights groups. If the Congress’s Pramod Tiwari, a minister in the UP state government in 1987, has been reported accusing both the prosecution and the investigating agency (CB-CID) of failing to do their duty sincerely, BJP State president Laxmikant Bajpai, while avoiding comment on the court’s decision, has blamed the prosecution for not being able to prove its case, while pointing out that the Congress had been in power at the time of the incident and that the Samajwadi Party is currently ruling UP. Mr. Bajpai, however, failed to mention that the BJP was in power at the Centre (1998-2004, and from May 2014 onwards) and in UP (1991-92 and 1997-2002) in the intervening years. The incident took place on the Congress’s watch – it was in power both in UP and at the Centre — in 1987 and the party evidently does not want to draw attention to that by being vocal on the judgment. The BJP apparently does not wish attention to be drawn to the fact that the episode occurred during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and corresponding anti-Muslim violence that eventually propelled it to power in UP in 1991. As for the SP, currently ruling UP, and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has been in power in the State more than once over the last 28 years, both have merely expressed their sympathy for the Muslim victims. The strongest response has come from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that has demanded that the verdict be appealed and the case “strongly pursued” in a higher court. In a statement, the party said, “The acquittal due to insufficient evidence highlights the callous manner in which the prosecution of those guilty for communal killings are being conducted.” PAC personnel had rounded up close to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, during Hindu-Muslim riots, shot them dead and dumped their bodies in water canals — 42 bodies were later discovered, while there were five survivors who surfaced later. This incident led to a long legal battle in the courts. Now, a lower court in Delhi has acquitted all the surviving accused for lack of evidence. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

138. Clean chit to Tytler in 1984 riots case: ‘Upset’ Phoolka to file protest petition (7)

NEW DELHI: Expressing his disappointment over the CBI’s move to file a closure report giving clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 riots case, senior advocate HS Phoolka on Wednesday said that he would file a protest petition regarding the same. Phoolka said it is very unfortunate that the CBI quietly filed the closure report giving clean chit to Tytler on December 24, 2014. “There has been a hearing in the court after that but this matter has been kept top secret and confidential. Why a matter of such great importance is kept confidential? The people want to know,” he told ANI here. Phoolka also lashed out at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, for keeping silent on the entire episode despite being aware of the CBI’s move in this case. “The Akali Dal and the Gurdwara Committee were aware of it and even they did not inform the people. When Jagadish Tytler was given a clean-chit in 2009 during the UPA Government, the Akali Dal and the BJP raised such a hue and cry in the Parliament that the house had to be adjourned,” Phoolka said. “Now when their government is in power, they quietly want to ensure that Tytler is given the clean-chit,” he added. The senior advocate further said that he would file a protest petition challenging the clean-chit given by the CBI to Tytler. “Fortunately, till today, the court had not accepted this clean chit, we will definitely protest (against) this. We would have done this earlier if we were aware of it,” he said. Tytler was among the three prominent leaders named in the reports on anti-Sikh riots case. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which claimed the lives of almost 3000 Sikhs, were triggered by the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. (Times of India 25/3/15)

139. Kishtwar riots: Final inquiry report changes line, indicts ex-minister Sajjad Kitchloo (7)

Srinagar: Former Minister of State for Home and sitting National Conference legislator in the Upper House of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, has been indicted by a one-man judicial commission that inquired into the communal riots that left three dead and over 80 injured in Kishtwar on Eid in 2013. The Commission, headed by retired High Court Justice R C Gandhi, indicted nearly five dozen people, including senior IAS and IPS officers, for their role in the violence. Among the officers named are then IGP (Jammu) Rajesh Kumar, then DIG (Ramban-Doda-Kishtwar) Ashkoor Wani, and the then Kishtwar DC and SP Mohammad Saleem Choudhary and Dr Sunil Gupta respectively. Kumar is now director of the Sher-e-Kashmir Police Academy in Udhampur, Wani is DIG, Traffic in Jammu, Gupta is SP, Leh, and Saleem Choudhary is with the Rural Development Department.The Commission has recommended a probe into the role played by civil and police officials posted at that time in Kishtwar town, sources said. It has hinted at a “larger conspiracy” behind the communal clashes, pointing out that the rioters had come prepared with containers full of kerosene. Sources said the Commission has referred to the deposition of a police officer who had, quoting a forensic report, said kerosene was poured before residential and commercial buildings were torched. During a nine-hour rampage, rioters had torched a large number of buildings on August 9, 2013. As the violence spilled to other places, the then Omar Abdullah government had imposed a curfew in various areas of the state, and put Kishtwar out of bounds, including for the media. The inquiry has, however, exonerated the bodyguard of local BJP leader Sunil Sharma, now Minister of State for Revenue and R&B, of the charge of inciting trouble by ramming his motorcycle into people in the Eid procession. Quoting witnesses who said he was beaten up by the mob, the Commission has said that the man appeared in fact, to have been a victim of the violence. It was Sharma who told reporters on Sunday that the Commission had indicted Kitchloo in its final report. The indictment for playing an active role in the violence comes a year after the same commission of inquiry had, in its interim report, exonerated him of “any involvement at any level” in the riots. Kitchloo on Sunday expressed surprise over the report, and both the National Conference and Congress termed it “suspect”, and described the inquiry as “partial”. “I don’t think so (that the Gandhi Commission has indicted me). How is it possible that he will indict me? He had given me a clean chit in the interim report,” the former MoS Home told The Indian Express. “It is all politics. Everybody in the state knows who planned the riots, and why.” Justice (retd) Gandhi himself said many witnesses had come forward after he submitted his interim report. “I won’t say (whether Kitchloo has been indicted or not). You read both the reports and then draw a conclusion,” he said. The National Conference said the contradictory reports reflected on the credibility of the Commission. “We have not seen the report as yet. If the media reports are true and Justice R C Gandhi Commission has indicted Kitchloo, it puts a big question mark on the credibility of the commission,” NC provincial president Devendar Rana said. “If he (Justice Gandhi) has now indicted Kitchloo, it means that either the earlier report, or the latest report is politically motivated. Either way, it makes the Commission of Inquiry suspect,” Rana added. Kitchloo, who was also the Kishtwar MLA at the time of the riots, had resigned after the BJP accused him of having played a partisan role in the violence. After the Gandhi Commission’s interim report said “no evidence” had been found of his “involvement at any level, though he was in the town that day”, Kitchloo was re-inducted as MoS Home. “It seems that the Justice wants to keep happy whosoever is in the government,” Ghulam Nabi Monga, senior Congress leader, said. “Had he (Justice Gandhi) written in his interim report that there was a prima facie case against Kitchloo, this would have been understandable. But how can you declare somebody innocent in the interim report, and accused in the final report?” Communist leader M Y Tarigami said he was “surprised”, and demanded an “objective assessment of the whole situation”. “The fact is that certain elements vitiated the environment, polarised the situation for political ends,” Tarigami said. “There is a vested interest of some outfits to polarise the state. That was evident from the recently held elections as well.” The PDP said it had not gone through the report. “Let’s first go through the report,” chief spokesman and Education minister Nayeem Akhtar said. “It would be then sent to the cabinet for a decision. We have not seen the report and it would not be proper for us to comment at this point of time.” (Indian Express 30/3/15)


140. Speculation peaks over RSS reshuffle (26)

NAGPUR/MUMBAI: Amid intense speculation on a major reshuffle at the top level of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the outfit will meet for its triennial three-day conclave beginning Friday in Nagpur. Would Dattatreya Hosabale, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, be elevated as the executive head of the RSS? And would Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi, the organisation’s man and second-in-command, step down the RSS hierarchy? There is a strong buzz that Mr. Hosabale, who is from Karnataka and currently holds the position of the joint secretary (sah karyavah), could be elevated to the post of sarkaryavah, the executive head of the body. The sah karyavah, who technically controls the organisation’s actual functioning, is essentially the second-in-command and just one rung below sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat. Mr. Joshi currently holds that post. Even as there is a strong buzz within the RSS that Mr. Joshi could step down, sources hinted that he could be asked to assume new duties in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

141. RSS’s Nagpur meet decides on inclusive Hinduism as key strategy for next 3 years (26)

NAGPUR: “One well, one temple and one crematorium” for all Hindus— that’s going to be the key strategy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the next three years as it seeks to unite all those who profess the faith by ending caste discrimination and bringing back to the fold those it sees as having moved away. It’s also looking to make the Northeast a focus area, expand in the south and push to give regional languages greater importance as opposed to the learning of “a foreign language”. These were among the themes that emerged at the Sangh’s Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Nagpur, where more than 1,400 representatives discussed ways of taking the saffronBSE 4.38 % agenda forward. During the three-day meeting that concluded on Sunday, the RSS took stock of a caste survey it had commissioned recently in more than a dozen states. Karyakartas were asked to make presentations about discrimination and ways of countering it, a project that Sarsangchalak Mohan Bhagwat is said to be keen on. Sevaks were asked to intensify programmes in all states in the coming months by organising ‘janajagran’ committees. “Last month, the Sangh itself had organised an event where we had called saints and heads of mutts who practice untouchability or some sort of caste discrimination to reason with them,” a senior member said. Additionally, the RSS had conducted drives to engage the migrant tribes of Uttarakhand that venerate Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap but were said to have drifted away from Hindu traditions in recent times. Also, more RSS leaders have been paying respects at Buddhist diksha bhumis (conversion venues), members noted. “The number of people attending programmes to listen to Hindu dharma has increased,” RSS general secretary Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi said. “This shows there is a growing interest among the community in being one.” The symbol of the Pratinidhi Sabha this time was Rani Gaidinliu of Nagaland who fought the British and opposed conversions of tribals to Christianity, suggesting the Northeast is a priority area for the RSS. One of its projects focuses on “making them aware of the similarities that exist in their birth, death and worship rituals with Hindu rituals,” said a member. Joshi said the focus of the Sangh for the next three years will be samavesh (inclusion) and samiksha (analysis). “We have reached only 54,000 villages now but the fact that we could open shakhas in 10,000 new kendras in the last few years shows there is an interest.” The sabha also passed a resolution demanding that that elementary education should be in the mother tongue or in state languages as “a person learning a foreign language gets alienated from his surroundings, traditions, culture and values of life”.The Sangh is planning a drive to increase the number of shakhas in southern India, the blueprint of which was prepared in the sabha. New chiefs were named for the southern units on Saturday and the growth plan will be discussed in a few days. More than 25 affiliated groups working in the educational, intellectual, political, cultural and social fields presented their report cards on Saturday and Sunday. RSS leader J Nandkumar said Sangh-run educational institutes had registered tremendous progress in the last three years. “The plan is to expand to every district, to reach out to as many households,” he said. In the coming months, activists will meet state education officials to look at the prospects of increasing the focus on regional languages. Senior RSS leaders feel previous attempts to unite Hindus had not succeeded because of differences within. “This year is (former Sarsangchalak) Balasaheb Deoras’s 100th birth anniversary. He chose the first non-Brahmin sarsangchalak and opened multiple doors to Dalits. We at the Sangh feel this is the best time to intensify the drive,” one member said. He added that reports presented by the karyakartas highlighted the need to intensify the effort. “For instance, in Bihar, our study shows that people over the age of 50 are not willing to change but they are open to us talking to their children about it.” The mood at the first Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister was upbeat with over a nearly 30% increase in shakhas and sevaks in the last few months. With Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah camping out at the Sangh hostel for all three days and holding crucial meetings with Bhagwat, the evenings were said to have been filled with political discussions, including plans for elections in Bihar, West Bengal and other states besides the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that there were at least two detailed discussions on the vacant general secretary positions in the BJP and a cabinet reshuffle. A senior RSS member said political decisions have never been a key element of Pratinidhi Sabhas. “For the RSS, the BJP is just one of the frontal organisations among its 42 affiliates. It makes more sense for the Sangh to focus on organisations such as the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) or educational institutes that directly fall under it and can take the agenda forward,” one member said. (The Economic Times 16/3/15)

142. VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi stokes fresh controversy, says Mahatma Gandhi was a British agent

Lucknow: In comments that may trigger a huge controversy, firebrand Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi on Tuesday called Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi a British agent. In an apparent dig at Mahatma Gandhi, the controversial VHP leader said India got freedom from the British rule not by spinning the charkha, but because of sacrifices made by brave sons like Veer Savarkar and Bhagat Singh. Addressing a Hindu Sammelan in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district, the saffron clad leader further said that every Indian national, whether Hindu or Muslim, should be allowed to bear only two children. If somebody opts for more than two children then that person should be deprived of all the government facilities, the Sadhvi opined. She further said those who do not chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai’, “Vande Mataram”, insult the national flag and those who indulge in cow slaughter have no right to live in India. Sadhvi Prachi is not new to courting controversies. In the past she has several times made remarks at public functions which created huge political uproar. She had earlier kicked up a storm by saying that if persons of other community produce 40-50 children, then Hindus should also raise four children. Last month the VHP leader had stoked a controversy by making inflammatory remarks on the issue of ‘love jihad’. The latest hate speech came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to party leaders to restrain from making controversial comments which can overshadow his government’s agenda of development and economic reforms. (Zee news 18/3/15)


143. VHP will campaign to fight untouchability (26)

New Delhi: After its “ghar wapsi” campaign, seen by many as a strategy for Hindu consolidation, came under criticism, the VHP seems to have changed tack to propagate its views. Citing a resolution passed during the 1969 “Udupi conclave” of saints, which said “Hindava sarve sahodaraha (All Hindus are brothers)”, senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Saturday said the organisation will launch a nationwide campaign against “untouchability”. The Sangh Parivar is of the view that the ostracism of people belonging to the so-called “lower caste” is one of the main reasons for religious conversion. The Parivar’s “ghar wapsi” campaign is aimed at bringing back to Hinduism those who converted. Maintaining that all Hindus are “genetically and racially” the same, the VHP leader said there is no place for untouchability in the Hindu religion. Giving details of the action plan regarding the campaign against untouchability, Mr Togadia said all Hindus, including SC/STs, should be allowed to enter temples, drink water from the same well as others, have the same crematorium and every Hindu family should adopt an SC/ST family and should share food and participate in functions with them. He said VHP leaders, saints and volunteers will visit more than six lakh villages to propagate the message against untouchability, which is against Hinduism. Mr Togadia, who reportedly doesn’t share a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he has been “too busy” with his work to assess the performance of the BJP government at the Centre. On the issue of beef ban in some states, he said in the name of personal freedom, one cannot disrespect the tradition and culture of the country or else there could be reactions. On the recent developments in J&K, including the release of separatist leader Massarat Aalam, Mr Togadia said: “Massarat Aalam has been released. Terror attacks are rising. The nation is watching… The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, with his actions, has compromised national interest.” He, however, declined to comment on the BJP’s decision to ally with the PDP but insisted that “national interest and national security should not be compromised”. The Hindutva firebrand leader also batted for the abrogation of Article 370, a long-time demand of the BJP, saying that the VHP remains committed to it. He also took a swipe at those blaming Hindutva groups for attacks on churches. “Churches had been attacked in Pakistan and Syria as well but Hindus should not be blamed for everything,” he said. (The Asian Age 22/3/15)

144. Hindutva forces gaining ground: Muslim board (26)

JAIPUR: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said here on Sunday that Hindutva forces had been emboldened after the new government came to power and a conspiracy was on to convert India into a fascist state. The three-day 24th national-level convention (general meeting) of the Board, which concluded here, decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi only ‘if required’ to take up the problems faced by minorities. Over 200 members deliberated upon the political situation in India, particularly in the wake of the ghar vapsi conversion campaign and attacks on minorities. In a resolution passed at the meeting, the members condemned various State governments for introducing Surya Namaskar and yoga in schools, saying religion should be disassociated from education. The meeting condemned the continued attacks on minorities and attempts at conversion, which, the members said, did not augur well for the country. Muslims wanted good relations with their Hindu brethren, it was said at the meeting. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board was created to adopt strategies for the protection of Muslim personal law, importantly the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Briefing presspersons after the meeting, AIMPLB secretary Mohammed Abdul Rahim Qureshi said the participants condemned the Centre’s ‘failure’ to act against Hindutva forces. Calling upon Muslims to come together, the resolution said: “Islam needs to be presented in the right perspective to the world.” (The Hindu 23/3/15)

145. Chhattisgarh congress walks out on allowing employees to participate in RSS activities (26)

RAIPUR: Slogans of “Jai shree Ram” and “Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega” (saffronisation would not be allowed) echoed in the Chhattisgarh assembly on Wednesday as the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress members indulged in a game of one-upmanship over the government’s recent decision allowing its employees to participate in activities of RSS and ‘shakhas’. Accusing the government of attempting to “saffronise” the employees, Congress legislators also staged a walkout to protest against the Speaker’s decision disallowing a discussion (under rule 131) on the subject. Congress leader Amit Jogi raised the issue during the zero hour and said the RSS cannot be called a non-political organisation. Accusing the government of politicisation of its employees, Jogi said the decision was wrong as all employees were bound by the Constitution. Joining him Congress legislator, Satynarayan Sharma, and other MLAs said the matter was serious and they would not allow the saffronisation of the administration. The MLAs further sought discussion on the issue under the rule 131. Speaker, Gaurishankar Agrawal, said he had received the notice for discussion and would consider it in due course. When he disallowed the discussion, Congress MLAs started shouting slogans – ‘Bhagwakaran nahi Chalega and Bhagwakaran band karo (stop saffronisation) – and staged a walkout. Countering their slogans, BJP MLA Mahesh Gagda and others started shouting slogan-’Jai Shree Ram’ inside the House. The sloganeering continued till the time the Congress workers walked out of the house. The Chhattisgarh government had last month revoked the ban on the participation of government employees in RSS activities. The decision had then also provoked a strong response from the opposition. (Times of India 25/3/15)

146. Sangh gets Appsolute makeover to spread ideology, connect with youth (26)

Lucknow: Locating a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha or information about its ideologues and ideology is now just a click or a touch away on your smartphone. The RSS has launched seven mobile phone applications with aim to widen its youth base by spreading its “nationalist thoughts”. The move, a senior RSS functionary said, came after the Sangh realised the power and reach of the social media, which was evident by the role it played in BJP’s massive win in last year’s Lok Sabha elections. The applications are now available on the android phones. One of the applications is ‘RSS mobile’ with which one can locate the nearest Shakha. So far, locations of shakhas being organised in three cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad (RSS calls it Bhagyanagar) and New Delhi, can be found through this application. The application also hosts a number of other features such as a panchang as per Hindu calender, Sangh Samachar (news reports of RSS), books on RSS, wall papers and Sangh parivar’s songs among others. Quotable quotes by thinkers and leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, philosopher Chanakya among others and profiles of all former Sarsanghchalaks and present RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is also available. ‘Prerna Suman’, another application, provides the biography of RSS founder K B Hedgewar, RSS ideologue Madan Mohan Malaviya, socialist Ram Manohar Lohia and first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. (Indian Express 30/3/15)


147. Three killed, 23 injured in Manipur blast (12)

Imphal :  At least three people were killed and 23 injured in a powerful bomb blast at a crowded marketplace here in the Manipur capital on Wednesday evening, police said. Some media reports said four people were killed in the explosion triggered by a separatist outfit. “An IED (improvised explosive device) planted near a chicken shop at Khwairamband Keithel exploded, killing three people on the spot and wounding 23 others, including women,” a police official said. Inspector General of Police Clay Khongsai had earlier told IANS that three people were dead and 21 were injured. The injured, most of them either shoppers or vendors, were immediately taken to the central government run Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). Local media reports said another man succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, taking the toll to four. Police officials were unavailable to confirm the death of the fourth person. RIMS sources said the condition of at least six of the wounded was critical. Among those killed, two were non-locals. One was identified as Mithu Yadav, a resident of Bihar, while the identity of the other person was yet to be ascertained. The third person killed in the blast was identified as Md. Suman Khan, a resident of Kshetri Awang Leikai of Imphal East district. Police officials along with additional security forces have rushed to the spot and launched a combing operation to nab those responsible for the blast.

Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, told reporters: “We have asked police to nab the militants responsible for the blasts at any cost.” Manipur has about 40 militant outfits. While more than 20 armed groups have tripartite ceasefire agreements with the state and central governments, the Coordination Committee, an umbrella group of six militant outfits, has been rejecting an offer of peace talks. (Business Standard 11/3/15)

148. 13 Militants Killed in Pakistan (12)

KARACHI:  At least 13 militants have been killed in two different search operations by Pakistani security forces in the restive Baluchistan province in last 24 hours, a minister said today. Baluchistan Home Minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters in Quetta that the insurgents were killed in two separate operations yesterday night and today morning in the Dera Bugti district. Bugti said seven militants were killed yesterday by Frontier Corp troops while six more were killed today morning in the Dera Jun and Rustom gasfields in Dera Bugti. “On Wednesday operations were carried out in Pirkoh areas of Dera Bugti and seven militants were killed in armed clashes with the security forces,” he said. The militants were involved in targeting security forces and blowing up gas installations in the district, a spokesman said earlier today. Rocket launchers, improvised explosive devices, bombs and other weapons were recovered from the militants, who belonged to a defunct militant group operating in the area, he added. Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan province is rich in minerals and resources but has been hit by violence from separatist groups since the death of tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in a military operation in the area in August, 2007 during the tenure of former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Bugti said that insurgents belonged to the Baluchistan Republican Army (BRA). (New Indian Express 12/3/15)

149. Pakistan mourns church victims, Christians protest (12)

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday mourned the dead in the deadly suicide attacks on two churches in Lahore that killed 15 people, as Christians took to the streets to denounce the ghastly massacre. Provincial governments declared Monday a day of mourning. All missionary schools and colleges were shut across the country, officials and the media reported. Security was stepped up in churches and missionary institutions while patrolling by police and Pakistan Rangers were enhanced, Dunya TV quoted officials as saying. Prayer ceremonies were held in churches across Pakistan on Monday. Two powerful explosions on Sunday rocked the Catholic Church and the Christ Church in Lahore’s Youhanabad area, home to the country’s biggest Christian population. The churches are separated by half a kilometre. Jamatul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack which took place as large crowds were in the area to attend the Sunday prayers. Violent protests erupted at the site after the blasts, with a 4,000-strong Christian mob armed with clubs smashing vehicles and setting fire to two suspected terrorists. Television footage showed dozens of stick-wielding men ransacking the city’s metro bus terminal. Protesters also clashed with the police. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the anger and grief of the Christian community in the wake of the terror attack strengthened the government’s resolve to counter terrorism. “Our Christian community has rendered invaluable services to the motherland, particularly in the social sector, and we consider them as our honour and pride,” Sharif said. Pakistan’s Christian community on Monday took to the streets in Faisalabad and Lahore. Protesters gathered at Faisalabad’s Millat road where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw, Dawn online reported. They also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway. Following the mob attack on the metro bus terminal in Lahore, authorities curtailed bus routes on Monday. In Karachi, hundreds of Christians blocked roads. There were also demonstrations in Peshawar in the country’s north-west and in the cities of Multan and Quetta. On Monday, police registered cases over the twin bombings. Senior Superintendent of Police Rana Ayyaz Saleem said discussions were on file a case over the retaliatory violence too. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar described the church bombings as tragic and said the extremists appeared intent on dividing Pakistan. He said attacks on mosques and churches depicted the “wretched condition” of terrorist outfits outlawed by the government. The minister said further steps were needed to eradicate militancy in the country. (Business Standard 16/3/15)

150. India demands UN action against terror threats to Afghanistan (12)

United Nations: India has lashed out against the “systematic state supporta” from outside to terrorist organisations bent on destabilising Afghanistan and has called on the UN Security Council to act immediately against the threat from these forces. Speaking at a Security Council debate Monday on aid to Afghanistan, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said, “It is terrorism and not tribal differences or ethnic rivalries, which is the main source of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan.” “Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s report to the Security Council last month on Afghanistan and international security backs up this view of India,” he said. “These terrorist groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT, are active despite the efforts of the valiant personnel of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) and the international coalition forces,” Mukerji said. “It is obvious that their activity cannot be sustained without systematic state support from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.” Although he tactfully avoided naming names, singling out Lashkar-e-Taiba made clear the source of the “systematic state support.” The terror group is based in Lahore and operated training camps in Pakistan-administerd Kashmir, a fact acknowledged by the US State Department. “Reports indicate these groups are mutating into more virulent forms, in a region already impacted by terrorism,” Mukerji added. “The Council must act against this threat with a sense of urgency.” Ban’s report said that “the rise in the overall number of security incidents recorded indicates a mounting challenge to the Afghan security forces from insurgent groups.” Highlighting the growing violence, it said, “In 2014 there were 22,051 recorded (insurgent) incidents, which surpassed those of 2013 by 10 per cent. In terms of incidents recorded over the past 13 years, 2014 was the second-highest, after 2011.” Acknowledging that “as anticipated, violence has escalated”, Pakistan’s newly-appointed Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi asserted that her country’s “military operation has targeted all terrorist groups without distinction”.The trend of Afghanistan warming towards Pakistan and China under the new government of President Ashraf Ghani and Beijing’s backing for the Islamabad-backed dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban was in evidence during the Security Council discussions. Ban’s report set the scene by referring to last month’s China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue in Kabul. It said, “Both China and Pakistan pledged to support the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.” The three countries discussed “the peace and security situation in the region, as well as the need to deepen trilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and security”, it added. Lodhi said Afghanistan and Pakistan “share a vision of a partnership built on multiple pillars of common security and economic interests”. She added, “We welcome China’s closer engagement in promoting reconciliation and economic development in Afghanistan.” And Afghanistan’s Permanent Ambassador Zahir Tanin reciprocated, “We welcome the new phase of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan towards the shared goal of peace and reconciliation.” And as for Beijing, he added that Kabul would like to “express our appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for its help facilitating the peace process”.Ban’s special representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom mentioned among reasons for “renewed hope for peace” the dialogue between Islamabad and Kabul on peace, trade and security. Wang Min, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative, said that the international community should adapt to the new reality in Afghanistan and promote a broad-based reconciliation process. (Business Standard 17/3/15)


151. J&K assembly passes resolution against terror attacks in Samba and Kathua (12)

NEW DELHI: J&K assembly on Sunday passed resolution against attacks in Samba and Kathua districts of Jammu and urged government of India to take up the issue with Pakistan. Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed condemned terror attacks in Jammu, saying it is a conspiracy to derail peace process. “If they (Pakistan) wants peace, reconciliation, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, its establishment must control them (terrorism),” he told the J&K assembly after opposition created a ruckus demanding adjournment of the question hour. This is the first statement that has come from the CM after the twin attacks in Jammu.Expressing hope that peace would return to Jammu and Kashmir soon, he said, “People of J&K have given a mandate. My suggestion is to introduce a resolution to condemn such attacks. “This is not the first attack that has taken place in the state. I am sure peace will soon return as it happened during 2002-2007,” Sayeed told the assembly. “If Pakistan wants friendship with us (India), then they will have to help bring in peace to the state. Pakistan will have to tell people involved in such attacks that they should desist,” Sayeed said. He said during the tenure of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf “peace prevailed” on both sides of the border and Line of Control. Earlier, confusion and noise marred the budget session proceedings of the J&K assembly as the opposition demanded a resolution over the twin terror attacks in Kathua and Samba districts. As the house assembled for finance minister Haseeb Drabu to present budget proposals for 2015-2016, National Conference and Congress legislators demanded a resolution in the assembly over the terror attacks on Friday and Saturday. Efforts by Speaker Kavinder Gupta failed to bring the situation under control following which some ruling BJP legislators tried to move into the well of the house.Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed told the opposition that if they respected the dignity of the house, they should not interrupt its normal proceedings. He said a resolution on the subject could be taken up for discussion. Asserting that these attacks were attacks against peace in the state, the chief minister requested the speaker that the house should pass a unanimous resolution condemning the attack. Devinder Rana of the National Conference said his party had already brought in a resolution in the house which the speaker said had been disallowed. Not satisfied by the chief minister’s statement, all the opposition National Conference legislators led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah walked out.Securitymen during encounter with the militants Rajbagh police station in Kathua district. On Saturday, two militants had opened fired and lobbed grenades at an Army camp in Meshwara area of Samba. Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar had later informed the Parliament and media that the two militants were killed in the heavy gun-battle that followed. On Friday too, two heavily-armed terrorists, posing as soldiers in Army fatigues, had stormed a police station and killed three people before they were gunned down at Rajbagh in J&K’s Kathua district. “The two back to back terror attacks in Jammu is an attempt by the militants to boost their morale which has come down due to the Army operations (in the state),” Parrikar had said. (Times of India 22/3/15)

152. Gujarat anti-terror bill, an old wine in new bottle (12)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, which replaces the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill, continues to include the provision of interception and confessions as admissible evidence. The bill is likely to be tabled in the House for discussion and approval on March 31, the last day of the ongoing Budget session. These were some of the points of conflict in the earlier bill, which was designed on the lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and rejected in 2004 and 2008 by the then Presidents A P J Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, respectively. The bill has been passed for a third time by the Assembly, but it is still pending with the President. The state government has once again prepared a new draft of the bill and rechristened it to cover terrorism. However, the proposed GCTOC Act also applies to ponzi and multi-level marketing schemes to control economic offences, besides large scale gambling and “cyber crimes having severe consequences”.The contentious provision of admissibility of evidence collected through intercepted calls of the accused has been justified in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’, saying it was “considered necessary to enact a special law with stringent provisions, including the power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication.” As per the clause-14 of the new bill, evidence collected through “interception of wire, electronic or oral communication… shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the court”. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam, however, had in 2004 objected to the particular clause-14 and returned the earlier GUJCOC bill to the government led by the then CM Narendra Modi, asking it to remove the provision. Later in 2008, the bill was passed after deleting the clause related to interception of communication, as per Kalam’s suggestion. The new bill says that every accused will have to be furnished with the order of the relevant authority under which the interception was authorised or approved, in not less than 10 days before the trial. However it allows for “…the period of 10 days may be waived by the judge trying the offence if he comes to the conclusion that it was not possible to furnish the accused with the aforesaid information ten days before the trial, hearing or proceeding and that the accused may not be prejudiced by the delay in receiving such information”. Earlier, the GUJCOC Bill was also rejected by Patil, who had suggested some more amendments. One of them was to eliminate the provision which allows confession made before a police officer to be admitted in the court as evidence. However, ignoring the suggestion, the state government had once again passed the bill in 2009 for the third time and sent it for President’s approval. The bill is still pending with the President. In the new bill, the government has retained the provision related to confession made before a police officer in clause-16. It is proposed that the officer should be of Superintendent of Police (SP) rank or above. (Indian Express 26/3/15)

153.  ‘Over 80,000 Pakistanis killed in U.S.-led anti-terror op’ (12)

Islamabad: More than 80,000 Pakistanis, including over 48,000 civilians, have been killed in the decade-long U.S.-led war against terror in the country, according to a new report. The report, titled “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror”, was released by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Global Survival, The Express Tribune reported on Sunday. The report, dealing with the conflict from 2004 until the end of 2013, shows that a total of 81,325 to 81,860 persons — including 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 5,498 security personnel and 26,862 militants — lost their lives in the terror operation. It also said that around 1.3 million people were directly and indirectly killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of U.S.-led wars in the regions during the same period. One million people were killed in Iraq and 220,000 in Afghanistan as a result of the war, it said. “The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware,” the authors of the study said. “And this is only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries could also be in excess of 2 million,” they said. The report scoured the results of individual studies and data published by United Nations organisations, government agencies and non-governmental organisations. (The Hindu 29/3/15)


154. ‘Maoist violence has declined in the country’ (12)

VELLORE: Maoist violence has declined in the country from 1,000 killings during 2008, 2009 and 2010 to about 300-odd now, K. Vijay Kumar, special security adviser, Union Ministry of Home Affairs said. “This is a sign that two-third violence has come down. But that does not mean that they (Maoists) are incapable of causing hiccups and giving surprises,” he said. He was here for a programme at the VIT University on Wednesday. Speaking to The Hindu , he said there were two to three Maoist-affected States that were being concentrated upon. “Chattisgarh and Jharkhand contribute about 30 per cent each that is two-third in the country. The governments are trying to tighten efforts here,” he pointed out. “The Central government has a good policy in dealing with Maoists. It has a two-pronged approach for bringing in development and rehabilitation and also for surrender of Maoists,” he mentioned Mr. Kumar said they were concentrating particularly on Chattisgarh and Jharkand. “Overall, State governments have done well in coordination with the Centre,” he noted. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

155. No ‘Rambo-style’ operations in Naxal areas, SOPs being revised: CRPF (12)

New Delhi: CRPF will desist from undertaking any “Rambo”-style operations in the Naxal-affected areas even as the standard operating procedures in that regard are being rejigged, the chief of the country’s largest paramilitary force has said. Also, in the Left Wing-Extremism operations theatre, more than one lakh central security troops, apart from state police forces, will now be able to get better feed and intelligence data from technological gadgets as the NTRO’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) base has now been operationalised right inside the Naxal hotbed in Chhattisgarh. “We don’t need to do Rambo-style operations… we don’t want that. When we ask our boys to perform a task (in Naxal- affected areas), they do it with a prompt sincerity and hence it is our responsibility to see that they are safe,” CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra told PTI. The former Odisha DGP, who took charge of the lead anti-Naxal operations force a few months back, said that the operations of the force will now be more focused and intelligence-based rather than being done by deploying security personnel in “herds” to effect a Rambo-type offensive that requires a huge number of boots on the ground. “We believe quality operations with specific intelligence should be the aim. I have already said all large operations where a large mobilisation of forces is required will need to get clearance from the headquarters,” the DG said. He added that the SOPs in this regard were being “fine-tuned and rejigged”. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief, after taking charge of the three-lakh-strong force in December of last year, had made it known that his “top priority” was to ensure fewer or zero casualties involving personnel in anti-Naxal operations. Mishra had earlier said that such operations, where there are a big number of troops on the ground, leads to larger visibility of personnel in the operation area, thereby making them vulnerable, tired and easier to be spotted and identified. Close to 100 security personnel were killed in these operations last year with the major cause of death being Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks or ambushes staged either by Naxal or security forces. The DG, who has toured almost all the major Naxal-violence affected states, said that the new UAV base in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai was a step in the direction of giving better intelligence and technical aid to the troops on the ground. The UAVs were till now based in Andhra Pradesh and used to undertake sorties from there under directions of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). Efforts to get the UAV base located in the Naxal heartland gained momentum after security forces complained about the delay in the help being provided by these machines owing to the distance from their base to the scene of Maoist activity. .. (Indian Express 15/3/15)

156. Kerala: Two civil rights activists released on bail in Maoist attacks case (12)

Thiruvananthapuram:  Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to two civil rights activists who had been arrested in connection with suspected Maoist attacks. Advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper, an employee with state insurance department, were arrested in the last week of January this year in connection with an attack on the NHAI project office in Kochi. They were known as ultra Left sympathizers in Kerala. Both were charged under section 13 (b) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Several intellectuals and Amnesty International India have demanded unconditional release of Sarathy and Cooper. Sarathy was taken into police custody from Kozhikode, where he addressed a press conference to announce a meeting to be held in protest against the “Maoist hunt of police.” On the same day, Cooper was taken into custody from his office in Kochi. Police had earlier stated that both of them were not involved in the attack on the NHAI office, but were active in frontal organizations of the Maoist movement under the guise of human rights activists. Cooper had challenged police action saying that how the police could arrest him on the reason that he had possessed notices issued by a registered human rights organisation. (Indian Express 17/3/15)


157. 2 police jawans die in Naxal ambush (12)

CHANDRAPUR: Two police jawans were killed in an encounter between Gadchiroli police and Naxalites in Hekker forest in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli on Sunday. Reports that one more jawan was injured in the gun battle could not be confirmed. Sources claimed that search operations were underway in the forests under Jambiagutta outpost since last five days following intelligence about Naxals camping in the area. While the police party was returning to the base after the daylong search operation late in the afternoon, they were ambushed by Naxalites in Hekker forest, around 25km from Jambiagutta outpost. Reports suggest that a fierce gun battle took place in which two jawans were killed and one was injured. The dead jawans have been identified as Joge Atram and Swaroop Kumar Amrutkar. Sources claimed that Joge Atram was a fresh recruit and inducted into the force only a couple of months ago. Earlier, he had served the police force as a special police officer (SPO). The Naxalites who laid the ambush fled into the jungle following rising pressure from police side during the encounter. Police have so far not made any claims about casualties to the Naxal side. There were reports of Naxals triggering a landmine blast during the encounter, but they could not be confirmed. Bodies of the two dead jawans had not been brought back to Gadchiroli till the filing of this report. (Times of India 23/3/15)

158. Jethwa Calls upon Tribals to Shun Maoists for Growth (12)

NARAYANPATNA (KORAPUT):In a bid to dissuade the people from joining the Maoists and repose faith in security forces, Yeshwant Jethwa, IG, South West range, on Wednesday called upon the tribal youths to join hands with the administration for development of their area. Addressing a mammoth gathering during a community policing programme at Narayanpatna, the epicentre of Maoist activities in the KBK region, Jethwa pointed out that people of the bordering pockets of the area were neglected due to Maoist activities. The Red rebels are the root cause of backwardness of the area and their activities should be stopped for all-round development of the tribals, he said. Stating that Odisha Police and para-military forces have stepped up efforts to wipe out Maoists in Narayanpatna, Bandhugam and other pockets, Jethwa sought the support of locals. “We are ready to end the Maoist menace but locals should join hands and boost our efforts”, he said. Speaking on the occasion, Koraput Collector Yamini Sarangi highlighted the development schemes meant for Maoist infested areas and called upon the people to avail the benefits. Among others, Koraput SP CS Meena, BSF DIG AK Sharma also addressed the people. During the police-public interaction programme, locals sought development of infrastructural facilities and security for those who have been fighting against Maoists. During the programme, festive mood gripped Narayanpatna for the first time in over a decade. The locals, who have been living under the shadow of Maoist fear, danced with the men in uniform and participated in games organised on the occasion. The police administration also organised a health camp where over 500 people were screened. The locals said earlier it was not possible for the administration to host even a normal event due to the presence of Maoists and CMAS activists. However, regular combing operation by the police and BSF could free Narayanpatna and Bandhugam from the clutches of Maoists. Over 200 hardcore Maoists have been arrested, over 2000 CMAS activists including their leader Nachika Linga surrendered and a dozen Maoist camps destroyed in the bordering areas in past couple of months. (New Indian Express 26/3/15)

159. 2 CRPF personnel injured in bomb blasts triggered by Naxals (12)

Raipur: Two CRPF personnel were on Friday injured in separate pressure bomb blasts triggered by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said. The blasts occurred at separate spots near Fundri village when the paramilitary personnel were conducting anti-Naxal operations under Bhairamgarh police station limits, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela said. The security personnel accidentally came in contact with pressure bombs planted by the Maoists in Fundri hills area that exploded, injuring sub-inspector B B Rai and constable Ravi Hari Patil belonging to 199th battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), he said. Reinforcement was rushed to both the places and the injured personnel were brought to Bijapur district hospital. Later, they were airlifted to Raipur for treatment, he said. A combing operation was underway in the region to nab the culprits, he added. (Indian Express 27/3/15)

160. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (The Economic Trimes 28/3/15)


161. Offence cases against children pending trial: HC seeks details (1)

Bengaluru: The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday asked the government to give the number of cases of offences against children pending for trial in various courts in the State. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy also asked the State what specific steps had been taken to trace 782 children, who remain untraceable from among the 2,523 registered cases of missing children, between January 2014 and October 2014. The Bench was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by the High Court’s Legal Services Committee and Justice and Care, a non-profit organisation, complaining about the increase in instances of trafficking of children and women. (The Hindu 13/3/15)

162. US jails sex-trafficked kids in human rights abuse, groups say (1)

Washington: The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday. Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes. But most US. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region. Criminalising child victims of the sex trade traumatises youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission. “When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers` control,” they said in prepared remarks. Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the US Justice Department says. One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court. Despite US federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbour” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again. By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the US government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking. “I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.  The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognised its judicial authority, no court case can be brought. Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department`s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalised as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognises that “tragically it still occurs”. Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.” Government officials spelled out a series of programmes they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking. A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programmes. (Zee News 17/3/15)

163. Woman among three held on trafficking charge (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Two Town police arrested L. Leela (38) of Ganjipeta for allegedly indulging in trafficking of young women along with two other persons in Chennai. According to Two Town Police Station Inspector Mallikarjun Rao, Gopalan of Chennai and Srinivasa Rao of Gudur had employed Leela to lure young women for jobs as housekeepers in Malaysia and Singapore, with the intention of employing them in the flesh trade business. Leela was first exposed in a sting operation by a television channel and later after seeing the reports, Nookaratnam of Ganjipeta approached the Two Town police and lodged a complaint accusing Leela and the two at Chennai for trafficking women. Talking to The Hindu , Nookaratnam said that she was one of the earlier victims of Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. “I was sent as a housekeeper on a tourist visa to Malaysia a few months ago. On reaching a city in Malaysia, I was taken to a beauty parlour and groomed up. And later put into flesh trade by force. My passport was taken by the organisers and it was a torturous experience, entertaining over 10 clients on a daily basis. After two months I was sent back,” she said. According to the Inspector, Leela was also one among the many who ventured to go to Singapore or Malaysia for better earnings, but was told by Srinivas to lure a few other women, so that she could earn some incentives.It was learnt that she had already sent a woman by name Raju from the city and was in the process of gathering a few more, when she was exposed. The police are on the job to apprehend Srinivasa Rao and Gopalan. Meanwhile, the City Task Force have taken into custody Sai Prasad, a law student, who was responsible for processing the passports. (The Hindu 18/3/15)


164. HC directs district judge, CJM to speed up trafficking trials (1)

PUNE: The Bombay high court has directed the principal district judge and the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Pune to ensure that cases of trafficking of minor girls and women are assigned to the sessions judge who can give priority to their trials. The high court has also directed them to take steps to ensure that there is no delay in magisterial courts committing the proceedings in such cases to the sessions court. It further gave a month’s time to the district judges and CJMs across the state to give their views on a set of proposed guidelines for speedier trials in such cases. The bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice G S Kulkarni passed a four-page order to this effect on March 19 while hearing a criminal PIL filed by NGO Freedom Firm against the commissioner of Pune police others. Among other things, the NGO has raised various issues regarding the proceedings under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act, 1956, and offences under the Indian Penal Code in relation to trafficking of minor girls and women and has proposed certain guidelines for speedier trial of such cases. The petitioner, represented by lawyer Gayatri Singh, has pointed out that cases remain pending for many years due to reasons like the accused not being traceable. But the victims, many of whom are minors at the time the offence was committed, remain in children’s homes and are not released as the criminal case concerned is pending. Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai placed on record a report filed by senior police inspector of the Faraskhana police station, detailing the cases pending in the Pune sessions court. The bench referred to this report and observed, “Many cases are pending since 2007-08. It also appears that in many such cases, which are pending for as long as four to seven years, the accused are not traceable in spite of issuance of non-bailable warrants and proclamations.” Pai submitted that unnecessary delay occurs on account of the time taken by magisterial courts to commit the cases to the sessions court. She further submitted that often the accused, particularly those charged with trafficking, go absconding after they are released on bail and police also find it difficult to trace the persons who stand sureties for such accused. As such, the investigating officer should be given an opportunity to verify the existence and antecedents of the sureties before the accused, who face charges of trafficking and running brothels, are released on bail, she said. She suggested stringent conditions for bail in such cases, like the accused being asked to file an affidavit mentioning the names, addresses and other particulars of sureties and giving the investigation officer an opportunity to verify such particulars before granting bail. Pai submitted that instead of granting bail to the traffickers, the trial court ought to see that such cases are expedited and the trial should preferably be completed in six months. The bench referred to these submissions while observing that the principal district judge and the CJM should take steps to ensure that there are no delays in the committal proceedings and that the cases be referred to judges who can give priority to trial of such matters. (Times of India 22/3/15)

165. 1,000 Children Missing, Jharkhand Emerges Trafficking Hub (1)

KHUNTI, JHARKHAND:  Jharkhand has emerged as India’s trafficking hub with thousands of tribal boys and girls, particularly minor girls being trafficked out of the state each year to Delhi and beyond. More than 4000 children went missing from the state in the last 10 years, and over 1000 are yet to be traced. Most of the missing children are from tribal communities, particularly minor girls who are trafficked to Delhi and beyond. While most of these girls go out for work, there has been a rise in the case of sex trafficking in the state too. Take the case of a 14 year old girl, trafficked from Khunti in Jharkhand to Sangrur in Punjab this January, and sold for Rs. 1 lakh to a 55-year-old man, as a child bride. She had been kidnapped after she was taken on an outing by a woman from her village, who has since been arrested along with four men.Another couple from Khunti , haven’t heard from their 12-year-old daughter since last November last, when she vanished from their home while here parents were out. The alleged trafficker has been arrested, but there is no trace yet of the girl. “Maybe someday my daughter will realise this is home and make noise, who knows,” says the emotional mother, who works at a stone crushing unit. Activists say the number of trafficked children is hugely under reported, and that the actual figures could be in lakhs. Rishi Kant , who runs Shakti Vahini, says, “Delhi has emerged as a major destination for these girls. Most of them are taken there to placement agencies with no registration, etc.” There is some good news too. Sub inspector Aradhana Singh has been in charge of Khunti’s child trafficking unit since 2014. Her catch in the last year was 20 big traffickers, including the biggest of them all, Panna Lal Mahto , who in the last decade could be responsible for the trafficking of over 20,000 girls. “I don’t think just his arrest makes any difference . He has a network of agents we need to break ,” says Sub Inspector Singh. (NDTV 23/3/15)

166. Jharkhand to enact legislation to contain trafficking, says Das (1)

RANCHI: Chief minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said the government would soon introduce legislation to check human trafficking. “We will make an Act to stop trafficking, which not only exploits people economically, but also exploits them mentally and physically,” Das said at the end of the two-day 4th Anti-Trafficking in Persons Conclave. Das said young women from Jharkhand were taken to other states and were promised good payment, but most of them they were exploited. “I have come to know that brokers give their victims only Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 (per month as salary) instead of the actual promise of Rs 12,000-13,000, and pocket the remaining amount… This situation calls for formation of an act to regulate these agents and placement agencies,” said the chief minister. Das also promised to introduce a nother legislation that would enable seizure of traffickers’ properties that could be developed into skill training centres and schools. “Trafficker Pannalal Mahato possessed properties worth crores of rupees by selling girls. A law will be passed so that such properties can be confiscated and developed to open schools and training centres for trafficked children,” Das said at the conclave that was organized by the US Consulate General and NGO Shakti Vahini. The chief minister said the money in the proposed corporate social responsibility would be used for rehabilitation and training of trafficking victims and companies and industries would be asked to utilize the CSR money to provide skill development training. (Times of India 29/3/15)


167. Coalgate scam: Manmohan Singh, Birla accused (5)

New Delhi: A special CBI court here on Wednesday summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in the Coalgate scam, a significant development that is likely to have a cascading effect on the country’s political situation. The case pertains to the allocation of Talabira II coal block (in Orissa) to Hindalco in 2005 and involves industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, who, along with former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, have also been summoned as accused. The court observed that the former PM was “roped” into a criminal conspiracy to “accommodate” a major private company in coal block allocation. Dr Singh held the coal portfolio in 2005. Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar in his order clarified that he was fully conscious of the observations made by him as the then minister of coal was none else but the then Prime Minister. “It will be also not wrong if I say that while coming to such a conclusion about prima facie involvement of the then Prime Minister in the present matter this court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realisation the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole,” he said. If found guilty, the accused may face punishment of up to life imprisonment as the court has taken cognisance of offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants or by banker, merchant or agent under the Indian Penal Code and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The court noted that Dr Singh chose to keep the coal portfolio with him and “prima facie he cannot claim that being the Prime Minister he could not be expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case”. It said the “omission” of not referring the request of Hindalco to the screening committee in accordance with established procedure prima facie showed that it was a “conscious decision” by the accused to accommodate Hindalco in a joint coal block comprising Talabira-II and Talabira-III coal blocks. It observed that Dr Singh’s approval in violation of established procedure and already approved guidelines “clearly resulted in defeating the efforts of Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) “to establish a 2,000 MW power plant in Odisha”. “His (Dr Singh’s) action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, which was a PSU, and facilitated windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco,” the judge said….  (Asian Age 12/3/15)

168. Coalgate: Manmohan Singh to move Supreme Court against summons (5)

NEW DELHI: Manmohan Singh’s lawyers, led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, are likely to move the Supreme Court to challenge the trial court’s order summoning the former PM as an accused in the alleged irregular allotment of Odisha’s Talabira II coal block to a joint venture of Hindalco. The option of moving Delhi HC to challenge the trial court decision, the normal course of grievance redressal in a three-tier justice delivery system, is ruled out because of a July 25, 2014 apex court order, which monitored the CBI probe into the alleged irregular coal block allotments during the UPA and previous NDA governments and cancelled all 214 allocations during that period. “We make it clear that any prayer for stay or impeding the progress in the investigation/trial can be made only before this court and no other court shall entertain the same,” the July 25 order said. Special Judge Bharat Parashar, trying the coal scam cases investigated by CBI under SC supervision in his summoning order focused on Singh’s role, not as PM but as coal minister. The trial judge said Singh as coal minister allowed reopening of the allocation “even though he himself had permitted approval of the minutes of 25th Screening Committee recommending allocation of the same block to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), a PSU”. “Repeated reminders from PMO, written as well as telephonic, to ministry of coal to expeditiously process the matter in view of letters received from Kumar Mangalam Birla prime facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by PMO in the matter,” the judge said. Singh’s action, the judge said, defeated NLC’s efforts to set up a 2,000-MW power plant in Odisha. “His action prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, a PSU, and facilitated windfall profi ts to a private company, Hindalco.” Sibal thinks little of the trial court’s order and feels it would meet a fate similar to the summons issued to Sunil Mittal and Ravi Ruia by the 2G spectrum scam trial court. SC had quashed the summons to the industrialists. Asked if the strong opinion of the trial judge posed diffi culty for Singh, Sibal said: “The conspiracy and criminal breach of trust charges perceived by the judge from the investigation report and accompanying evidence have no (legal) limb to stand on.”  ”If taking an administrative decision and asking the coal ministry to expedite the process could land a PM in litigation, that too as an accused after he demits office, then every PM would be wary of taking such decisions for the fear of being summoned as an accused. There’s no evidence to even prima facie conclude Singh indulged in any wrongdoing, forget corruption,” he said. (Times of India 13/3/15)

169. Kerala assembly chaos echoes in Parliament (5)

New Delhi: The fracas in Kerala assembly today found its echo in both Houses of Parliament, with Congress and Left members from the state indulging in a verbal spat and the Chair disallowing them from raising of the issue. As soon as the Question Hour began in Lok Sabha, members of Left parties and Congress from Kerala raised the issue that soon turned into a verbal spat, prompting the government to urge the Chair to ensure that the issue is not allowed to be raised in the House. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to disallow them from raising the matter as it pertained to a state legislature. In the Rajya Sabha, K N Balagopal (CPI-M) tried to raise the issue during Zero Hour but was disallowed by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, saying whatever references made about Kerala Assembly have been expunged. Balagopal got up to raise the issue of the happenings in Kerala when the budget has to be passed by the state assembly and alleged that top leaders of the ruling coalition UDF were facing charges in the bar bribery scam. Kerala Assembly today witnessed unprecedented and ugly scenes as Finance Minister K M Mani, facing allegations in the bar bribery issue, presented the state budget amid stiff resistance by LDF-led Opposition who tried all means to thwart his attempt. In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge tried to raise the issue of attack on Tamil T V channel allegedly by a Hindu outfit, but the Chair disallowed him. (Deccan Herald 13/3/15)

170. Number of women caught in bribery cases rising (5)

AHMEDABAD: Till 2012, the number of women caught as primary accused or intermediary in a bribery case by state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) was minuscule. However, in past three years, the number has shot up steadily. In past six months the agency has caught eight women across the state on graft charges including two class I officers. The percentage however in overall cases is less than 5%, admits ACB officials. “A case is a case for us and we don’t see gender when it comes to registration or investigation of cases. However, it is a fact that the number of women getting booked in graft cases have gone up,” said a senior ACB official. ACB officials said that in most of the cases where the women were caught, it was found that their husbands were involved as middlemen. “While in one of the case the accused husband was working in her office as a clerk, in another the woman’s husband used to deal on her behalf and get her files for clearance. Thus, they were made co-accused in the cases,” said an official. Officials cited an interesting case registered in 2014 where they had received a complaint of corrupt practices at a village in north Gujarat. The village had a woman sarpanch. During their investigation, ACB found that it was the sarpanch’s husband who used to get money for getting the work done while the sarpanch did not know about it. ACB had arrested the man in the case as they did not find evidence against the sarpanch. (Times of India 17/3/15)

171. With Auctions, Corruption is Disappearing from India: Jaitley (5)

NEW DELHI: Corruption is disappering owing to the way the government is managing the allocation of the country’s natural resources, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said citing the on-going auctions of spectrum and coal mines whose earlier allotments were cancelled by the Supreme Court. “Corruption is disappearing from the Indian dictionary, if you see spectrum, coal,” Jaitley told the Lok Sabha in his reply to the debate on his first full union budget presented last month. Addressing an intervention by a Congress member, the finance minister said: “In spectrum, you brought in a host of cases, in coal…all the corruption was caught by the Supreme Court, the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General). Referring to the former prime minister in this connection, Jaitley said that “Manmohan Singh in his first two months in office in 2004 had said coal blocks should be auctioned, but till 2014, nothing had been done”.”Today because of this faulty decision, we have a situation in which the former PM has been caught. In future, there should not be a situation in which an ex-PM is summoned by court.” In fact, in a move designed to be doubly sure about coal allocations this time around, the government is re-examining the e-auction of coal blocks won by Balco, Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) and BS Ispat. JSPL was the successful bidder for Gare Palma IV 2 and Gare Palma IV 3 mines, Balco successfully bid Gare Palma IV/1, and BS Ispat bagged Marki Mangli III mine. The central government has asked for a review of the bidding process of the mines by the nominated authority, which has published the results of only 8 out of 13 mines that have been auctioned. The bids for the five undeclared blocks closed in five to eight rounds, while difference between the opening price and closing price was much lower than other blocks, a coal ministry source told IANS on Tuesday. For instance in case of the Brinda and Sasai block, bidding opened at Rs.1,802 per tonne and closed at Rs.1,804 per tonne. Similarly, bidding for the Meral mine opened at Rs.725 a tonne and closed at Rs.727 a tonne. (New Indian Express 18/3/15)


172. SIT to probe land allotment scam (1)

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Home Secretary has constituted a five-member Special Investigation Team to probe the 13-year-old industrial workers land allotment scam of Panipat – in which affluent people had fraudulently applied for 897 plots meant for the workers. Earlier the State Chief Secretary had submitted his status report to the Lokayukta in the case. The investigation into the scam, in which 31 people had been named in the First Information Report, had got murkier after it was alleged some officials of the State Vigilance Bureau and Haryana Urban Development Authority had colluded to scuttle the probe. The Lokayukta has now asked the Special Investigation Team to complete its probe within six months. However, Right to Information activist P.P. Kapoor, who had first brought the case to light when he had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court several years ago, has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter alleging that certain officials of SVB had earlier tried to thwart the investigation. It was in January this year that the probe gathered momentum with the Lokayukta directing the Director General of Police to file an investigation report into the case which pertained to wrongful allotment of plots meant for industrial workers to influential people. While the allotments were made by the Om Prakash Chautala government, even during the 10-year Congress rule the case made little headway as no arrests were made in the multi-crore scam. Mr. Kapoor had moved the Lokayukta on June 26, 2014 and subsequently the ombudsman had directed the Chief Secretary (Home) to file a report within 45 days. However, when for over five months the investigation report was not submitted, the Lokayukta on January 8 directed the DGP to submit the report. The case pertains to allotment of 897 freehold residential plots for industrial workers in Panipat by Haryana Urban Development Authority in 2002. Following complaints about irregularities in allotment, State Vigilance Bureau had started investigations in December 2005. Subsequently, through his RTI petitions, Mr. Kapoor exposed how several plots were allotted on fraudulent applications. He also filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2008 and submitted a list of 85 ineligible allottees, many belonging to influential and affluent families. The court had then directed SVB to probe the matter. The Bureau later submitted that false affidavits and fake experience certificates were used for applying under the scheme and a case was registered against 21 persons. But Mr. Kapoor alleged delay by SVB in investigation and attempts by HUDA to protect its officials who made the allotments. (The Hindu 21/3/15)

173. Coal scam much bigger than it was thought: PM (5)

Hussainwala: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the coal blocks allocation scam during the tenure of the previous UPA government at the centre was much bigger than the figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report. Addressing a martyr’s rally after paying homage to martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at their memorial in Hussainiwala in Punjab’s frontier district of Ferozepur, the prime minister made a direct attack on the UPA government over the coalgate scam. “The coal scam was thought to Rs 1.76 lakh crore as per the CAG report. Some people said that the amount was exaggerated. It has turned out to be much bigger than that figure. Only 20 coal blocks out of 204 blocks have been auctioned by our government so far and over Rs.two lakh crore has already collected. Rest of the coal blocks yet to be auctioned. Imagine how much more money will come for the development of the country,” Modi, sporting a yellow turban, which is symbolic to martyr Bhagat Singh, said. “Corruption has ruined our country,” he lamented, adding that martyrs like Bhagat Singh had not sacrificed their lives to see the country in this situation. Highlighting another scandal related to purchase of LED bulbs by the UPA government, Modi said: “The previous government bought LED bulbs at Rs.300 per bulb in 2014. We have bought the same for Rs.80 apiece. There was rampant corruption everywhere.” Modi arrived here Monday afternoon and paid homage to freedom struggle martyrs Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The prime minister placed a wreath at the martyrs’ memorial and bowed with folded hands. (Business Standard 23/3/15)

174. Himachal governor declines Dhumal’s prosecution (5)

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision to decline sanction for the prosecution of former chief minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal is all set to snowball into a major legal controversy. Responding to the developments, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday made it categorically clear that it’s now for the courts to decide the issue. Acting on a plea by Dhumal, the governor asserted that enough evidence was not there to prosecute the BJP leader. The Rajasthan governor, who holds additional charge of the hill state, called for the documents relating to the case and made his observations in a communication to the state, official sources said. The state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau filed a charge sheet against Dhumal and three top government officials, who are now retired, on March 13 for alleged misuse of position when Dhumal was the chief minister in 2007. Official sources said that in a knee-jerk reaction to summoning of the records, the government on the same day filed the charge sheet. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for favouring Indian Police Service (IPS) officer A.N. Sharma. Clarifying his government’s stand, Virbhadra Singh said the government decided to file charge sheet in the court after previous governor Urmila Singh, whose term ended on January 24, advised the government that there was no need for her intervention to grant prosecution sanction against Dhumal. The chief minister told reporters here that Urmila Singh took the call after taking legal opinion and taking into consideration Supreme Court rulings. Refusing to comment on Governor Kalyan Singh’s decision, Virbhadra Singh said: “He (the governor) might be advised to write this way.” The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau last June registered a case against Dhumal for alleged misuse of position. Former IPS officer Sharma, who is also named in the first information report (FIR), had applied for voluntary retirement from the police service to contest the 2007 assembly elections on a BJP ticket. But he did not get the ticket. At that time, the Congress led by Virbhadra Singh was in power in the state. In the 2007 assembly elections, the BJP returned to power. The BJP allowed Sharma to withdraw his resignation to rejoin the service. The BJP government led by Dhumal promoted Sharma to the rank of inspector general of police. The FIR was registered under different sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Then chief secretary Ravi Dhingra and then home secretary P.C. Kapoor, whose prosecution sanction was granted by the court on March 11, were also named in the case. (Business Standard 24/3/15)

175. Congress to target BJP in 3 states on corruption (5)

New Delhi: The Congress has made three BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, its target on the corruption issue and decided to raise malpractice in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board and rice scam in the Chhattisgarh PDS scheme in Parliament next month. “We are exposing the Rs 4,000-crore betting scam in Gujarat soon,” Congress officials said.While the party is mounting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act on the reports of scams in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it has demanded Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to be made an accused in the Vyapam scam. On Wednesday, AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi demanded that Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh step down and the PDS rice scam be probed by a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge. While the Gujarat Assembly polls are due in January 2018, MP and Chhattisgarh would go to the polls expectedly in December the same year. A change of guard in these three states by the BJP leadership could be seen as a victory for the Congress and if these chief ministers continue till the polls, then the Opposition will make corruption and scams a major poll issue. Scams in 2G spectrum and coal blocks allocation during the UPA regime became a major poll issue against the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections along with the allegations of irregularities in the Commonwealth Games. Building a case against the PDS rice scam in Chhattisgarh after a diary surfaced containing names of the alleged beneficiaries, Mr Singhvi said: “In the garb of providing rice at Rs 1 per kg under the much-touted PDS scheme, the BJP government in Chhattisgarh has created a well-oiled corruption machine in connivance with rice mill owners… to earn thousands of crores in kickbacks and commission.” At a joint press conference attended by top party leaders from Chhattisgarh and AICC general secretary B.K. Hariprasad, Mr Singhvi also accused the Raman Singh government of resorting to corruption in distribution of commodities like salt, gram flour, kerosene and wheat. The magnitude of the scam could be gauged from the fact that during the past 11 years of the BJP rule in Chhattisgarh, the amount spent from public exchequer on procurement of paddy as also procurement and supply of various PDS items through the State Civil Supplies Corporation is approximately Rs 1,50,000 crore, the party said. Mr Singhvi alleged that the diary of one Shiv Shankar Bhatt of the State Civil Supplies Corporation revealed the story of “unprecedented corruption of unimaginable magnitude” by the chief minister, his wife, sister-in-law and in-laws as also some state ministers and officials. The Congress leader claimed that commissions were paid by millers for adulteration of bad quality rice in good rice meant for distribution under PDS. State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel and CLP leader T.P. Singhdeo were present at the press meet. Mr Singhvi said the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), probing the scam, has recovered two more diaries exposing the “well-oiled wheel of corruption”. Demanding an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court/high court judge into the scam, he said this was necessary as the ACB chief has himself conceded that it was beyond him to even think of probing those in the highest echelons of the state. The Congress also wanted Mr Singh to quit as chief minister to ensure that there is a “fair and impartial probe”. Mr Singhvi said so far only 12 junior-level employees of the corporation have been arrested in connection with the scam. (Asian Age 26/3/15)


176. ‘Sunderbans hardly prepared for climate change, migration’ (9)

Kolkata: The fragile Sunderbans – the largest mangrove forests and delta region spread over both Bangladesh and India – is “hardly prepared” for climate change-related issues, experts said here on Thursday. Policy makers, academicians, civil society organisations and community development experts said gaps in preparedness in the face of submergence of islands in Sunderbans and the consequent mass migration needs to be addressed “immediately” and at a global level. “Bay of Bengal harbouring all coastal countries – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Indonesia – have the highest record of disasters historically and the frequency of disasters is six times more in this region than that in any part of the world,” said climate change expert Saroj Dash. He was speaking at the third sub-regional workshop on community resilience to climate change in Bay of Bengal organised by World Vision India. The previous editions of the workshop were held in Odisha (2012) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (2013). “Sunderbans flanked by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world and one of the most densely populated region on earth. It is hardly prepared for even partial submergence and consequent mass migration,” said Dash, regional technical co-ordinator, climate change, Concern Worldwide, an international humanitarian organisation. Observations such as these will be part of a charter that will feed into two forthcoming key global events – the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, and finally targeting the Sustainable Development Goals 2015. Aiming to build resilience to climate change in the region, the charter will focus on women and children. “Women and children are the most vulnerable because of food security, health and migratory issues. “Their identities and empowerment have a lot to do with their homes and if that is washed away due to floods and other disasters, then they suffer,” said Ardhendu Sekhar Chatterjee, a leading figure in sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry. In addition to highlighting adaptation, biodiversity, climate change impact monitoring and assessment, experts also called for building up more active networks of parliamentarians of countries in the Bay of Bengal. “The need of the hour is to build up more and more active networks of MPs to combat climate change. Capacity development of parliamentarians could also have a positive impact on international climate negotiations,” said Mukul Sharma, regional director-South Asia, Climate Parliament. (New Kerala 12/3/15)

177. MPCB slaps notice on Sterlite for violating green norms (9)

AURANGABAD: The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Friday issued a show cause notice to industrial giant Sterlite Technologies Ltd for allegedly violation of consent conditions following a case involving dumping of hazardous acid, a byproduct of the company, into the Kham River. The MIDC Waluj police had on March 28 arrested five persons, including a corporator and a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader, for allegedly dumping spent hydrochloric (HCL) acid in the river passing through the Waluj industrial area. Eventually, the police and MPCB found that spend hydrochloric acid was a by-product of the Sterlite unit. The board stated that the company has violated the consent norms under Section 26 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and under section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 and under the Hazardous Waste Management Handling and Trans-boundary Movement Rules, 2008.. “The consent obtained by the company for manufacturing of optical fiber, silicon tetrachloride (SiCl4), glass performs, power generation, hydrogen, oxygen and by-product as Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), HCL and Sodium Hypochlorite was valid up to June 30, 2014,” read the notice. “However, it was obligatory on the part of the company to comply with the conditions stipulated in the consent,” it added. The MPCB said when the company had shown HCL as a byproduct in consent and on paper, it was sold as byproducts to parties. But ultimately it was observed that it was dumped into the Kham River illegally, polluting the river and violating the provisions of the Environment Act, it added. The MPCB stated that though the renewal consent was approved by it at a meeting held on September 23, 2014, the company failed to submit the required documents till date. “Whereas, the inspector of the Waluj police station has found seven tankers carrying HCL near the banks of the Kham River standing on the premises of Gujarat Freight Transport Office early on February 2 morning. One tanker disposed the entire acidic effluent containing spent HCL willfully and purposely into the Kham River through pipeline,” the notice stated. “All the seven tankers were detained by the police and an FIR has been lodged against the seven tankers disposing spent HCL acid with the Waluj police station. On the request of the Waluj police station, the MPCB sub-regional officer collected effluent samples from all seven tankers. The analysis reports of all the effluent in the tankers were found highly acidic in nature with pH less than 1 and high Total dissolved solids (TDS) and chlorides,” it added. “Moreover, when the MPCB officials visited the industry for investigations, it was found that the seven tankers carrying HCL acid were found to be of Sterlite and was sold to contractors of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Kalyan. The industry did not bother to comply with the environmental Laws and was negligent towards pollution prevention,” the board stated in the notice. The board has instructed the company to submit its reply within seven days after the receipt of the notice. If it fails to do so, the board then would issue directions to close down its manufacturing unit and direct authorities concerned to disconnect water and electricity supplies. Anil Bhadauria, Sterlite plant head, Aurangabad facility, said, “Our plants have always followed the best standards in manufacturing and research, and we remain committed to our stated goals of quality and environmental sustainability.” “The byproducts are allowed to be sold to recyclers/end-users as per provisions of law. These companies are responsible for utilising the same. Sterlite is in no way connected with the recent incident of HCL disposal,” he said. “We have already initiated legal action against companies involved in the incident. Besides, we have also invested close to Rs 50cr in setting up ‘Advanced pollution control systems’ at our Waluj facility and effluents are treated 100% within the facility,” said Bhadauria. “The management will now ensure that HCL containers are fitted with GPS system to track their movement henceforth to avoid any nuances in future,” he added. (Times of India 14/3/15)

178. NGO seeks execution of NGT order in Delhi (9)

New Delhi: The All India Lokadhikar Sangathan has written to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee urging immediate execution of the National Green Tribunal’s order to shut down stainless steel pickling units in Wazirpur, New Delhi. “We are in the process of moving an application before the Tribunal soon for the execution of the directions due to the continuous pollution of river Yamuna because of negligence by the DPCC in not taking action against illegal functioning of industries,” said Girish Kumar Pandey, President of the All India Lokadhikar Sangathan. In its order of January 22, the NGT had asked DPCC to shut down 17 pickling units. The NGT had also directed the DPCC to ensure that no unit should operate without the consent of the Pollution Control Board in the region. The tribunal had issued notices to several industrial units in October 2014 for discharging harmful effluents into drains that empty into river Yamuna. (HBL 16/3/15)

179. Concern over pollution by power plants in VidShakti Singh, (9)

NAGPUR: The environment activists and NGOs from across the city on Tuesday gathered to discuss and formulate plans through which they could make a difference to prevent ecological damages taking place in Vidarbha. According to majority of such NGOs, by setting up power plants in Maharashtra concentrated across Vidarbha, the water resources and forests of the region were being compromised at the cost of supplying power to other parts of the state. The discussion took place in the meeting organized by RTM Nagpur University Alumni Association (RTMNUAA) at Nagpur University Library, where Advocate Shrihari Aney was guest speaker. NGOs like Vidarbha Environmental Action Group (VEAG), Vidarbha Connect, Shrusti Paryavaran Sanstha and other local organizations took part in the meeting. Aney said, “Adivasis and farmers, who formed the major human resource of Vidarbha, were being treated absurdly. By creating reserved forests for power plants the government had simply knocked out Adivasis who otherwise used forest for their own livelihood.” Talking about the power plant harming the farming sector, Aney said, “The government instead of creating canal irrigation for farmers to use water is selling the same to power plants.” On this, the RTMNUAA secretary Sudhir Paliwal said, “The upcoming Adani Power Plant project undertaken at Pench will basically steal surplus water from Pench river. The river being the artificial reservoir created by early fishermen is still being used for breeding fish. The complete reservoir is going to be ruined to entertain the upcoming project, hence wasting water as well as livelihood of those fishermen.” Another troubling factor discussed was of Koradi Power Plant, which was continuously emitting mercury, thus polluting its lake. He also told, “Koradi has been majorly supplying fish and milk to Nagpur, which are highly infected with mercury.” According to Paliwal, National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been suggesting eco-friendly norms for setting up as well as running the thermal power plants where the radio activity in the ambient air should be measured regularly. “We also suggested instead of investing fresh water of the city in such power plants, treated sewage water be used,” he said adding the state government had been openly neglecting these suggestions. (Times of India 18/3/15)


180. NGOs asks Centre to stop building mega dams (9)

IMPHAL, March 19 – The North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF) has asked the Government of India to stop construction of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam project, 2700 MW Lower Demwe HE project and the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam. Expressing strong disapproval over the Union Government’s decision and its initiation of building mega dams and various other multipurpose hydroelectric projects across the entire Northeastern States, NEDF, a conglomerate of different NE-based NGOs, has demanded revocation of all such policies including Manipur Hydro Power Policy 2012 in public interest. This was conveyed to media persons at a hurriedly called press conference here by the NEDF. The press meet was attended by NGO activists from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and NEDF members. The NGO representatives expressed serious concern over the aggressive plan of the Government of India to construct more than 200 mega dams across North East which will lead to complete destruction of the rich biodiversity of the region, without addressing the needs of the local populace. They further alleged that such move to construct mega dams was initiated without impact assessment and without prior informed consent of the people. The Forum further asked the international funding agencies like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japanese Bank of International Cooperation to discontinue financing energy projects without recognising the traditional right of indigenous people over their land and without taking free, prior and informed consent. The forum members further demanded the decommissioning of all the non-performing mega dams. It also asked the government to assess the performance of previously failed and underperforming dams in the region. It further asked the government to cease the militarisation in the name of development in the NE region and respect the human rights of the indigenous people as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of People, 2007 and recommendation of the World Commission on Dam. (The Assam Tribune 20/3/15)

181. mIndia should prepare to face extreme weather, warn scientists (9)

Bengaluru: Around the same time as Cyclone Pam flattened the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu early this month, untimely rains and hailstorms lashed Maharashtra in India destroying at least 5.5 million hectares of winter crops. That was a big jolt to the nation still recovering from the worst calamity of its kind in Uttarakhand in June 2013 when thousands perished in flooding and landslides induced by heavy rains and, in September 2014, from the flash floods in Srinagar, the deadliest to hit the valley in 60 years. The list of extreme weather events that crippled life in India in recent times gets longer when one includes the July 26, 2005, downpour — the heaviest in recorded history — that flooded the entire city of Mumbai and the August 6, 2010, cloudburst in Leh that dumped 14 inches of rain in two hours. It was not just the extreme rain events that have surprised weathermen. The longest heat wave that swept northern India in June 2014 drove Delhi’s temperature to 47.6 degrees Celsius, the hottest in 62 years. According to Global Climate Risk Index, published by Germanwatch, India is one of the three countries (besides the Philippines and Cambodia) affected by the most extreme weather events in 2013. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that “rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events”.”There has been a 50 percent increase in extreme rainfall events during the past 50 years in India,” Jayaraman Srinivasan, chairman of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bengaluru, wrote in the journal Current Science after the Uttarakhand disaster. “During the past few months there have been a few unusual weather events but there is no clear indication that these are related to global warming,” Srinivasan told IANS. “I would argue that earth’s weather and climate are governed by non-linear processes, and hence one should expect unusual weather events now and then.” He, however, added that “extreme rainfall events will increase as global warming proceeds unabated, and hence it is absolutely essential for us to be prepared to tackle more extreme rainfall events in the future”. Bhupendra Nath Goswami, former director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, says his studies have shown that the occurrence of “extreme rainfall events” had been increasing over the country in the last five-six decades. “We can say with a high degree of confidence that this increasing trend is due to global warming,” Goswami told IANS. Global warming, Goswami said, “increases the moisture holding capacity of the atmosphere and makes it more convectively unstable, facilitating a stronger rain event. “Because the atmosphere has become more unstable over the whole country, one or more such events can occur anywhere at a given time.” Goswami said that all climate models predict an increasing trend of these extreme events into the future. Therefore, “there is strong reason to prepare ourselves to face the potential disasters associated with increasing frequency and intensity of these events”.”This erratic behaviour is a regional manifestation of climate change,” says R. Krishnan, a senior scientist at IITM, who has made a detailed analysis of long-term climate data sets. “Our findings show that the pronounced surface warming of the Tibetan Plateau has altered the spatial distribution of atmospheric temperature, strengthened the sub-tropical westerly winds over the region and created favourable conditions for increased variability of the Western Disturbances activity,” Krishnan told IANS. Western disturbance is a low pressure system that originates over the Mediterranean sea and moves eastwards, bringing winter rain and snow to the north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent. Some British scientists suggest a possible link between the extreme events in mid-latitudes and rapid loss of the ice cap that covers the Arctic Ocean….  (Zee News 24/3/15)

182. Centre mulls giving 90 per cent afforestation fund to states (9)

MUMBAI: In a bid to boost afforestation activities, the Centre is mulling to hand over 90 per cent of the Rs 36,000 crore compensatory afforestation management fund directly to all the states, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said. The fund was created from the penalties collected from corporates for not meeting the mandatory compensatory afforestation drives. “We want to pass on Rs 33,000 crore or 90 per cent of the compensatory afforestation management fund worth Rs 36,000 crore directly to the states to boost the environment activities across the country,” the Union minister of state for environment, forests and climate change said during an Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) event here late this evening. The minister, however, said that for the funds to be directly transferred to the state, the Forests Act has to be amended. The Centre is also planning to bring in a new set of regulations by amending the existing ones. “We are planning to introduce the new set of laws and regulations during the second part of the ongoing Budget session. The idea is to ensure concrete action for greening the forests in degraded forest land,” Javadekar told PTI on the sidelines of the event. The minister outlined the blueprint on policy measures by his ministry and the government while addressing the gathering earlier. Stressing optimum use of advancing technology, he said, “We want to incorporate latest technology to change environment protection via focused regulatory mechanism through three pertinent measures namely, round the clock pollution monitoring of 3,026 industrial units in the seven most polluting sectors; leveraging satellite technology to monitor projects, and finally GPS-based management monitoring and compliance regime to ensure implementation.” Talking about the initiatives being undertaken by the government towards maintaining a balance between development and ecology, he said, “We are in mission mode, not commission mode. With our clean water, clean air, clean energy mission, we are determined to change and allow growth on one hand and protect the environment on the other.” “We will be going to the upcoming Paris Agreement on climate change in December with a positive agenda with a view to increasing the energy efficiency by 20-25 per cent in all sectors,” he added. (Times of India 25/3/15)

183. Environmental laws being reviewed to give more teeth: Prakash Javadekar (9)

HYDERABAD: The Centre is reviewing all environmental laws with an aim to give them more teeth and hand severe punishment in cases of encroachment and violation, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday. Speaking to PTI here, Javadekar said two Forest Acts, and one each in environment protection, air, water and bio-diversity govern the whole environmental regime. “We are reviewing all these laws to make people participatory in it … make them more meaningful and give more teeth. Instances of violations and encroachments will be severely punished,” he said. The minister said the government will come out with draft laws after completing the review work, he said. Earlier, interacting with joggers at KBR Park here, Javadekar said India is currently faced with the problem of shrinking space and limited resources. “We (India) are just 2.5 per cent of the world’s land mass, and we are 17 per cent of the (global) human population and 70 per cent of cattle population. It’s a huge pressure on land resources,” he added. (Times of India 28/3/15)


184. Farmer who took part in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ kills self (20)

MUMBAI: A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday.Image for representation A farmer from Vidarbha region who had attended the ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed suicide, said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil here on Wednesday. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Modi had addressed a series of ‘Chai pe Charcha’ programmes which received tremendous response. “Farmers who had participated in ‘Chai pe Charcha’ with Modi, are committing suicides,”  Patil, NCP group leader in Maharashtra Legislative  Assembly, told reporters in the Vidhan Bhavan complex, while referring to the suicide committed by Vithal Rathod (45), who hailed from Dabhadi village in Yavatmal. He had committed suicide on February 24. “On March 20 last year, Modi held a ‘Chai pe Charcha’ at Dabhadi village in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. He assured farmers that if they elect him, he will solve all their problems. It’s nine months since he (Modi) came to power. Farmers waited for a long time, but with no relief coming, Rathod committed suicide,” he said. He said Rathod committed suicide “due to burden of loan”. “It is the biggest failure in the country that the assurance given by its top leader cannot give confidence to farmers,” Patil said. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

185. Farmers want govt. to ensure them guaranteed income (20)

BENGALURU: With two days left for the presentation of the State Budget, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha president Kodihalli Chandrashekar on Wednesday demanded that the government ensure them guaranteed income by setting up a farmers’ income guarantee commission. But differing in terms of approach, Economist Abdul Aziz advocated the need to consider farmers as a “special social category” on the lines of oppressed sections such as Dalits and backward classes so that they too would get support guaranteed from the government for their welfare, including reservation in jobs and education. Expressing concern over the plight of farmers at a seminar on ‘Farmers and budget’ organised by the KRRS and Hasiru Sene here, Mr. Chandrashekar alleged that both the State and the Centre were looking at the agricultural sector only from the point of food security of the country and they did not have concern for the welfare of farmers. Alleging that the Union Budget had ignored agricultural sector and focussed only on corporate welfare, he said farmers were now looking forward to getting some support from the State Budget. University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, Vice-Chancellor H. Shivanna assured farmers of holding a meeting with their representatives to elicit their views and conveying them to the government. (The Hindu 12/3/15)

186. Farmer suicides: 20 yrs on, no relief yet for families (20)

HYDERABAD: The official claim notwithstanding, governments of AP and Telangana have failed to pay compensation to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide due to mounting agricultural debts. As many as 28,358 farmers committed suicide in Telangana and 12,016 in Andhra Pradesh in the last two decades, according to National Crime Records Bureau. But rights activists claim that only 4,442 ryot families in Telangana and 2,200 families in Andhra Pradesh received the much-touted compensation from the government under the ‘economic support and rehabilitation package’. This in other words means that a mere 15% of farm families in Telangana and 18% in AP actually benefited from the compensation package. A fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) on Sunday visited five villages in Chevella and Vikarabad mandals of Ranga Reddy district to ascertain the government claim that compensation is paid immediately to the kin of farmers, who committed suicide. The HRF team led by its general secretary VS Krishna randomly selected families of seven farmers, who had ended their life unable to bear frequent crop loss and consequent financial burden. The team was surprised to find that only one of the seven families had actually got the compensation. The HRF members interacted with the farmers at Kesaram, Kammeta, Kandlapalli, Dannaram and Pileru villages. Kummari Ramulu, a tenant farmer, who grows cotton in Kesaram village of Chevella mandal, killed himself unable to cope up with the pressure of money lenders from whom he borrowed about Rs 3 lakh for cultivation. He consumed pesticide on November 17, 2014. Even after four months, no government official visited the family for verification and payment of compensation. There are two more victims in the same village, whose families do not even know that they are entitled to compensation. Of the seven families the team visited, only one from Pileru village in Vikarabad mandal has received the compensation. “This clearly shows the careless attitude of the officials. Even after several months no official has visited the devastated families. Farm suicide is a crisis of unimaginable proportion. The least the government could do is to ensure the families are looked after,” Krishna said. When contacted Chandra Mohan, RDO of Chevella, who chairs the compensation committee, said they are trying to speed up the process of verification to pay compensation. “We are trying to verify as many cases as possible so that the families do not suffer. It is true that there has been a delay in the verification process, but I have instructed officials to get data at the earliest.” (Times of India 16/3/15)

187. Farmer unions begin 4-day protests in Malwa (20)

BATHINDA: Demanding five-marla residential plots for homeless, financial assistance to families of labourers who committed suicide, arrears of MNREGA scheme and old-age pension, hundreds Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union members on Tuesday started a four-day dharna at deputy commissioners’ offices in more than half a dozen districts in Malwa region. Dharnas were held in Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Barnala, Mansa, Sangrur and Bathinda. As the protesters were not allowed to hold a dharna near the district administrative complex in Bathinda, they held it at children’s park. “Punjab government in 2014 had promised to allot plots to homeless labourers, but has not done it till now. The government has also failed to financially compensate the suicide-hit families and is not giving money meant for MNREGA and pension to deserving persons,” Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union state president Jora Singh Nasrali and general secretary Lachman Sewewala said. (Times of India 18/3/15)


188. Two more farmers end lives, one die of shock due to crop loss (20)

Kota: Two more farmers allegedly committed suicide while another died of shock after seeing their crops destroyed in untimely rains, police said on Sunday. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on Saturday evening in Ladpur village of Keshoraipatan police station area of Bundi district, they said. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops caused by recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm, they said. The body was found hanging from a tree in a field, police said, adding, a case under section 174 of CrPc was registered in this regard. In a second such incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village of Boodadit police station, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land on Thursday evening. The body was found among the bushes on the way to nearby village, police said, adding, that after conducting post-mortem the body was handed over to the family members. In another incident, Rameshawar Tiwari (68), a resident of Hanotiya village of Kota district died on Friday. According to the family members, Tiwari suddenly fell ill and restless after seeing the damaged crops of coriander over his 40 bighas of land. He was rushed to hospital where the doctors declared him dead. Meanwhile, farmers at Jalunda village of Bundi district claimed that no survey team or relief work has reached them yet. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had visited villages in the district here on March 20 where she met farmers, who have suffered crop and livestock losses, and expressed solidarity with them. When asked about the survey and relief work, ruling BJP MLA from Ladpura area of Kota Bhawani Singh Rajawat said the state government has already announced a relief package to the rain-affected farmers and ensured that assistance to the farmers would reach within five to six days. State president of Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sandeep Singh Choudhary demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. He also demanded exemption of electricity bills for the affected farmers for the next six months. At least 11 farmers have died so far in Kota division of Rajasthan. (Zee News 22/3/15)

189. 89 farmers have committed suicide: Gujarat Government (20)

AHMEDABAD: The State government which has been claiming that no farmer in Gujarat has committed suicide has admitted that in the state 89 farmers have committed suicide in the state since 2010. However of these 11 suicide were directly related to failure of crop of increase in debt due to farmer. In reply to the question of Viramgam MLA Tejashreeben Patel, the state government said that of the 11 death in three and half years there were three suicide related to increase in depth due to agriculture, while another eight death were due to increase in debt and 78 suicides were due to other reasons. The Government has stated that no farmers had committed suicide due to crop failure. The Government said that the three suicide which were committed due to increasing in debt due to Agriculture one each death was reported from Amreli, Bhavnagar and Surat district. These three suicides occurred in seven months of July. Also due to increase in debt the eight death were reported from three from Jamnagar, two from Porbandar and one each from Surendranagar, Gandhinagar and Dang. The officials said refusing to quote said in 2014 there was a delay in the rains and the farmers who had gone in for early sowing were forced to commit suicide. Similarly the other eight deaths which were reported due to increase in debt was because the farmers were getting money from private lenders instead of going to the banks. However, farmers union refusing to be quoted said that these eight debt were also directly related to the agriculture as the farmer is forced to borrow money if he does not good income of his produce. Also of the 78 suicide deaths also the government has tried to divert it to other issues. “One should go and inquire each case and they will find out that all the deaths were due to increase in debt of the farmers due to failure of crop.” (Times of India 24/3/15)

190. ‘Give aid to farmers in Rajasthan’ (20)

The Opposition Congress Wednesday demanded a similar relief package to Rajasthan farmers as the one given to the farmers in Jammu and Kashmir following the natural calamity there last year. Claiming that farmers are committing suicide due to heavy rains and hailstorm, Congress MLA from Sapotara Ramesh Meena accused the BJP government of not providing compensation to farmers. “The farmers are severely distressed as they see no hope of government relief. The government must write off their loans and electricity bills,” he said, adding that 14 farmers have already taken their lives as they are counting losses from crop damage and loss of cattle. “J&K was given special assistance of Rs 1,000 crore but Rajasthan is not being provided special package despite the fact that the BJP is in power at both the Centre and the state,” he said. Relief minister Gulab Chand Kataria, however, claimed that the state government has acted swiftly. “Families of farmers who died because of rains and hailstorm have been provided Rs 3 lakh. The government had transferred money online into the accounts of district collectors on the basis of their demands,” he said. According to him, the Girdawari report would be submitted in the next three days after which the farmers who have suffered more than 50 per cent damages would be paid relief. Kataria however asked the legislator not to link suicide deaths with those affected by the natural calamity. He said that the government has been verifying cause of their suicide. Meanwhile, two more farmers committed suicide in Kota division bringing the total number of farmers’ suicide because of financial distress due to hailstorm. So far, seven farmers have died in Bundi, four in Kota and three in Baran districts. Premshaker Meena (20) allegedly hanged himself on Saturday evening. Premshanker committed suicide as he was deeply distressed after seeing the destruction of his crops the police said. In another incident, 21-year-old Vinod Meena, a resident of Ramnagar village allegedly consumed poison after seeing the damaged crops in his four bighas of land. Rajasthan Pradesh Kisan and Khait Majdoor Sangh President, Sandeep Singh Choudhary has demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per bigha of land for the rain-hit farmers across the state. (Asian Age 26/3/15)

191. Ban on potato export led to farmers’ suicide: Opposition (20)

Kolkata: Experts and Opposition leaders heaped criticism on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Government’s policy of banning the export of potato to the neighbouring States for its reduction in demand in these States. They said that the decision was not financially logical and had contributed to reduced prices of potato this year leading to farmers’ suicide. State’s Agriculture Minister Purnendu Basu refuted this statement. So far, 17 potato farmers’ suicides have been reported in Bengal. In 2013, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had imposed restrictions on export of potato to other States to curb its rising price in Bengal, which continued for one-and-a-half years. These restrictions were however eased last year. Encouraged by the profit gained from potato farming last year, farmers had sown potato in more than 4 lakh hectares of land. The chairperson of the Pradeshik Krishak Sabha, the peasant wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Madan Ghosh said that the West Bengal Government’s decision to restrict the export of potato to neighbouring States left them with no choice but to increase their own yield of potato. “As a result, traders from other States lost interest in importing potato from West Bengal and our farmers lost an essential means to sell their crop,” he told The Hindu here on Sunday. Mr. Ghosh said that the potato production this year had crossed 1 crore tonne compared to the normal yield of 90 lakh tonne. “So the State government’s decision to purchase 50,000 metric tonne directly from farmers is grossly inadequate,” he said, adding the State’s cold storages maximum capacity was only 65 lakh tonne. Speaking in the same vein, professor of Economics and Rural Development in Vidyasagar University Sebak Kumar Jana said that the decision to ban export of potato was not financially logical. “If there was adequate infrastructure to set up more cold storages, such a loss to farmers could have been avoided,” he added. Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Joyashree Roy, however, said that to associate potato farmers’ suicide directly the with low price of the crop would be scientifically justified. Mr. Basu, however said that the restriction on potato export was imposed to prevent large-scale shortage of the crop in Bengal as it was illegally exported to Uttar Pradesh, which had low crop production in 2013. “So, it was a positive step by the State Government that prevented the acute shortage of potato in West Bengal,” he told The Hindu . Mr. Basu said that some dishonest potato traders were also responsible for the present crisis as they were not buying potatoes from farmers to pressurise the State Government for their vested interests. (The Hindu 30/3/15)


192. Farmer outfit begins 4-day sit-in against proposed Land Acquisition Bill (4)

BATHINDA: Accusing the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of taking anti-farmers steps, including taking up Land Acquisition Bill in the parliament and failing to implement the Swaminathan commission recommendations about fixing minimum support price of crops by giving 50% profit over input costs, peasant organization BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) on Tuesday started four-day protests outside the offices of deputy commissioners across the state. At Bathinda, police stopped the protesters from holding dharna at the DC office and had to be organized at Children’s Park. BKU activists had a heated exchange with the police over denial of right to protest outside the DC office. They also accused the Punjab government of failing to provide compensation to suicide-hit farm families. The organization also demanded that compensation be raised to Rs 5 lakh per family from the current Rs 2 lakh. BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “The Modi government has decided to make certain amendments in the Land Acquisition Bill taken up by the previous UPA government, but it has been learnt that the proposed changes in the bill are tailor-made for big business houses and are not being made keeping the interests of farmers or small landowners in mind. We want complete justice to farmers and will reject any bill that is not in line with the aspirations of the farming community.” (Times of India 11/3/15)

193. Amendment to land Act a ‘death warrant to farmers’ (4)

BALLARI: Chamarasa Mali Patil, president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene, has described the Bharatiya Janata Party -led National Democratic Alliance government’s amendment to the Land Acquisition Act as a “death warrant to the farmers”. He told presspersons here on Sunday that Union government was working against the interest of the working class, especially the farming community, which was evident by the clauses incorporated in the amendment to the Act that would enable forcible acquisition of land. “The acts of Mr. Modi are contrary to what he had promised prior to coming to power. Going by the manner in which his government is functioning, ‘achche din kabhi nahi ayenge’. The amendments brought in are aimed at giving a red carpet welcome to multinational companies and the corporate sector without any hassles,” Mr. Patil alleged. He said that the farmers would stage a dharna at New Delhi on March 18 to press for withdrawing the amendments. “Around 3,000 farmers from all over the State will participate in the New Delhi chalo programme,” Mr. Patil said.

“Diabetes, hyper tension among other health hazards have become common among the people with the introduction of hybrid seeds. One cannot imagine further deterioration of public health with introduction of GM seeds. With that in view the government should completely ban their use in the country,” he said. If Mr. Modi did not respond to the farmers demand positively, we will be compelled to launch ‘Modi hataao, Desh ko bachao’ campaign, he said. Darur Purushotamgouda, president of the district unit of the KRRS and Hasiru Sene, was present. (The Hindu 16/3/15)

194. Rights of Polavaram displaced not documented: report (4)

HYDERABAD: Details of the rights of tribals living in the submergence area of the Polavaram Project, as enunciated by the Forest Rights Act, are not even documented, before which the tribals are being displaced, said a fact finding report by a city-based voluntary organisation. The organisation, Human Rights Society, through a press meet on Monday, revealed that the individual and customary traditional rights of the tribals have not been codified and gazetted by the governments yet. Even before it is done, they are being displaced with a nominal compensation. While releasing the report of a fact finding team which visited seven affected villages, N. Rajeswara Rao, the general secretary of the society, demanded that details of the rights of each individual, his family, his community, lands under cultivation, and grazing lands should be documented along with traditional customary rights and boundaries of the community enjoyment areas. It should be done under the supervision of Grama Sabha, and the recommendations accepted by the government. Former AP High Court justice A. Gopala Rao, who headed the team, noted that revenue records in the villages were fudged so that names of outsiders are replaced by the names of original tribal residents who will end up not receiving any rehabilitation package. Nobody in the seven villages have received the relief and rehabilitation settlements, he said, and pointed out that even while increasing the project cost since 2005, it has not occurred to the government to increase the amount payable for those being displaced. Though land for land and house for house are on offer, land and housing plot are separated by long distances, unlike in the present villages where they are adjacent to each other, Justice Rao said. The team visited the villages named Mamidigondi, Devaragondi, Ramayyapeta, Thota Gondhi, Singanapalli, Pydipaka and Chegondipally, which are the first to be submerged by the project. Team members demanded that the government conduct meetings, interact with the gram sabha and local politicians, and preparing a road map based on mutual agreement and consent, before laying the next brick for the project. The issue of rehabilitation should be discussed by the State and Central governments within these parameters. The package should be as per the directions by the monitoring committee, and if the package is found to be lagging in reference to the fixed benchmarks, construction should be deferred or stopped. In the interests of the rights of the project-affected families, the area of relocation should be declared as Scheduled Area, so that the protection and benefits of being Scheduled Tribes are not lost, Mr. Gopala Rao demanded. (The Hindu 17/3/15)

195. Consent of land owners must for acquisition in U.P. (4)

LUCKNOW: Land for the development of State-funded projects in Uttar Pradesh will now be acquired through mutual agreement with land owners and land holders. The new system of land acquisition was granted approval by the State Government in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Informed sources said the system has been introduced to tide over the delay in acquiring land under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and to prevent any legal tussle with land owners. The compensation for the land acquired in urban areas will not be more than two times the market value/circle rate and in the rural areas not more than four times the market value/circle rate of the land. The land owners will also be paid for the property, trees and standing crops on their land. If land cannot be acquired through mutual agreement, then action would be taken under the provisions of the 2013 Act and the concerning government orders, an official said. Approval was granted to the Uttar Pradesh Goonda Control (Amendment) Bill, 2015. A significant feature is the inclusion of the provisions related to cattle smuggling, sexual exploitation, child labour, bonded labour, beggary and the illegal trade in the removal of body parts in the Amendment Bill. The Uttar Pradesh Gangster’s and Anti-Social Activities (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was also given the Cabinet approval, informed sources said. The Government has also decided to increase the pension (“sammaan raashi” ) to the MISA ( Maintenance of Internal Security Act ) and DIFR (Defence of India Rules) detenu during the Emergency ( June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977 ) by Rs. 4,000. They will now get a pension of Rs. 10,000 per month. The Cabinet decision would be effective from the date of the Government Order (GO). Pension to freedom fighters and their dependants has also been increased by Rs. 3.189. They will now be entitled for a pension of Rs. 12,000 per month and this decision will also be effective from the date of the GO. Among the other decisions, sources said, was the approval for The Uttar Pradesh Braj Planning and Development Board-Bill, 2015, which entails the integrated development of Mathura and the Braj region. The proposed Board would be headed by the Chief Minister. The Braj Planning and Development Council is also proposed to be constituted. Meanwhile, the land identified by the Revenue Department will be given free of cost on 90 years lease to the Agra Development Authority for the development of a “Roadside Café Street” of international standards on the Agra-Fatehabad road. A roadside café street on the lines of those in London and Paris would be developed on 7120 square metres of land. (The Hindu 18/3/15)


196. Meets with farmers for land acquisition to start in fortnight (4)

NASHIK: Meetings with farmers for acquisition of land for industries at Gonde and Sinnar will be started within a fortnight. Allotment of plots to industries at the proposed additional industrial estate at Talegaon-Akrale village in Dindori tehsil near the city is expected to start by June-end. The issue of land acquisition came up during the Zilla Udyog Mitra (ZUM) meeting on Friday. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) has identified around 5,000 hectares of land at various locations across the district for the estate in different stages of acquisition. District collector Deependra Singh Kushwah said, “With an aim to speed up the acquisition process, negotiations with farmers at Gonde and Sinnar for acquisition of land for the estate would be started in the next 15 days.” The MIDC has earmarked 128 hectares of land for the development of the new industrial area at Gonde village near Igatpuri and 127 hectares at Sinnar. MIDC regional officer (Nashik region) Ramdas Khedkar said, “We have already started the process of acquisition of 113 hectares at Sayane in Malegaon tehsil. Of this, 60 hectares have been acquired and we are in the process of getting the rest of the land. Of the Rs 36 crore approved, we have already distributed Rs 21 crore to the concerned farmers. In Dindori, we have notified 922 acres for developing an additional industrial estate of which we have acquired 500 acres. The process to develop infrastructure there has been started by our engineering department. Actual allotment of industrial plots at the additional industrial estate in Dindori is expected to begin by June-end.” Khedkar added, “We have earmarked 128 hectares at Gonde and 127 hectares in Sinnar. We need to hold meetings with the farmers to speed up the land acquisition process there. In Yeola, we have already acquired 109 hectares and we are in process of developing the infrastructure.” (Times of India 21/3/15)

197. Tribals, activists burn copies of land acquisition Ordinance (4)

NIYAMGIRI (ODISHA): Hundreds of Dangaria Kandha tribal men and women joined a large group of anti-displacement activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti atop the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha’s Kalahandi district on Sunday and burnt copies of the land acquisition Ordinance recently promulgated by the Narendra Modi Government. The tribals and activists, who came together at the end of the three-day annual Niyam Raja Parab atop the hills, resolved that they would continue to oppose the “pro-corporate” Ordinance till it is withdrawn. The activists announced a State-wide agitation against the Ordinance that they say goes against the Forest Rights Act rendering the Gram Sabhas powerless. Copies of the Ordinance were also burnt by many people’s organisations at various places across Odisha simultaneously to strengthen their opposition to the Centre’s move. The tribals, who won their battle against mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta for its existing one million tonne per annum capacity alumina refinery, also vowed to strongly oppose any move by the Centre to consider handing over of Niyamgiri to the company in the future. The Samiti is also opposed to the existing alumina refinery which is being run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a Vedanta group company, as the same is adversely affecting the ecology in the area. The Samiti is contemplating to move the court of law seeking permanent closure of the refinery, said Samiti leader Lada Sikaka. The annual cultural festival is being organised in a big way since the anti-Vedanta agitation by the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti gained strength several years ago. It is attended by tribals from 112 villages in the Niyamgiri hills. (The Hindu 23/3/15)

198. Cabinet will decide fate of land bill: Jaitley (4)

New Delhi: Prevented by a near-united opposition from tabling the bill on fair compensation towards land acquired for development, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the union cabinet will take a decision on its future. “You’ll have to wait for the cabinet to take a decision,” Jaitley told a conference co-hosted by the external affairs ministry. “There is an opportunity for all of us, at least for the states that want to implement these provisions. They can’t be stopped by those who don’t want to implement these provisions,” the finance minister said. “You can’t have a situation like this: Where one state says ‘I will not grow’ and ‘I will also not allow others to grow’. This is not an acceptable economic proposition,” Jaitley added, just ahead of a cabinet meeting that was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But there was no word on the land bill from the meeting. Even as the government managed to get parliament to pass some key legislations like the ones on insurance, mining and coal blocks, it did not have the strength to push the land bill in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. Officially called the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2005, it was passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house, on March 11. The government has maintained that it had promulgated an ordinance on this earlier after wide consultation with 32 states and union territories and that several opposition leaders, in fact, had even supported it in the past. In his latest periodic radio address, this time to farmers, Prime Minister Modi said lies were being spread on the new land acquisition bill, asserting that the proposed law was in their interest as it will improve infrastructure, employment, output and incomes in rural areas. “Misinformation which is being spread, that it (the bill) is against farmers. It’s a conspiracy to keep the farmer poor. It is part of the conspiracies not to take our nation forward. We have to protect ourselves from this, save the country, save the farmer,” he said. The new bill, proposed by the National Democratic Alliance, government, has evoked resistance from activists as also political parties, especially the Congress that wants the provisions of the land bill passed in 2013 be restored. As the bill has not been passed in parliament, the ordinance amending the 2013 Act will lapse. (Business Standard 25/3/15)

199. New land bill is ‘great’ threat to food security: CPI (21)

New Delhi: In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’.CPI on Thursday appealed to all the political parties and farmers to reject the new land acquisition bill, alleging that it was brought by the NDA government to “snatch” away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. The party also claimed that it will be a great threat to food security in coming days. CPI also said that the BJP Government’s proposals for 18 industrial corridors will engulf more than 35 per cent of cultivable land which will pave the way for thousands of villages to disappear and crores of people will loose their livelihood and this will bring a social chaos. In a resolution moved by senior party leader Atul Kumar Anjan in the ongoing 22nd Party Congress in Puducherry, it has urged farmers and other stakeholders to forge “broadest” possible unity to defeat the “nefarious” designs of BJP government while observing May 14 as a ‘All India Protest Day’. “The bill has been brought by BJP-led NDA Government to allow foreign and local corporates, land mafia and builder lobby to snatch away the multi-crop irrigated land of farmers. This will be a great threat to our food security in coming days. “The CPI calls upon to all political parties to reject this bill in Parliament and save the rural people from a catastrophe,” the party said in a statement. The party said that while the new proposal of the government has withdrawn the clause of 80 per cent consent of farmers before their land is acquired, it also withdraws the social impact assessment which is an issue of “paramount importance”.”A genuine fear on Land Acquisition Bill 2015 has began haunting agrarian community,” the statement said. Meanwhile, during the Plenary Delegate Session, the draft Political Resolution approved by the National Council of the party was introduced. It analysed the current political situation and outlined the political tactics to be adopted by the party in the coming period. (DNA 26/3/15)


200. UN report: Campaign has reduced mother and child deaths (3)

United Nations: A UN initiative to improve the health of women and children that attracted USD 60 billion over the past five years has led to a decrease in maternal and child death rates in all 49 targeted countries, according to a report. It cited declines in mortality rates for children under age 5 between 2010 and 2013 in the target nations ranging from 58.3 percent in Haiti to 16.3 percent in Bangladesh, 13.2 percent in Liberia, and 7.5 percent in Afghanistan. It also reported drops in the maternal mortality rate in the same period ranging from 22.9 percent in Zimbabwe to 16 percent in Ethiopia, 9.1 percent in Myanmar, and 3.9 percent in Vietnam. Despite “historic progress,” the report said, more than 17,000 children died before the age of 5 every day in 2013 around the world, which meant an annual total of 6.3 million. And it said 2,89,000 women died from complications from pregnancy or childbirth that year. Globally, the report said, 60 per cent of maternal deaths and 53 per cent of under-5 deaths occur in countries affected by conflict, displacement and natural disasters.”Through continued political commitment, an increase in innovative financing and strong partnership we can realistically end the preventable deaths of women and children within a generation wherever they live,” UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting to launch the report. The report credited the UN’s “Every Woman Every Child” campaign for many of the gains in the 49 priority countries. Those gains include 870,000 new health workers, a 193 percent increase in treatments to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and a 25 percent rise in skilled care at births and in post-natal care for women. “Since 2010 alone, the world has saved the lives of some 2.4 million women and children,” Ban said. “More children are receiving medicines to combat diarrhoea, more babies are receiving proper nutrition and the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.” The UN chief said more women are also giving birth at health facilities and more women and girls are receiving sexual and reproductive health services that “they want and need.” Ban said the goal now is to end “the appalling tragedy of preventable deaths” and keep investing in the health of women, children and adolescents. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

201. Concern over High Infant Mortality Rate (3)

GUNTUR:Former president APJ Abdul Kalam has emphasised upon the need to do away with prescription of unnecessary diagnostic tests while describing the practice as ‘diagnostic pain’. Inaugurating the Ramesh Super Speciality Hospital here Sunday, Kalam said that a doctor should possess two hearts, a biological heart and a kind heart, so he/she can provide treatment irrespective of their financial standing. Pointing out at the high maternal and infant mortality rates in India, which was mentioned in the WHO’s latest report, he stressed conducting more research on the ways and means to address the issues and provide quality treatment to the needy. He listed out the virtues that those in medical profession should possess and also made the doctors and other members of medical fraternity present on the occasion take oath to address the ‘diagnostic pain’. Union minister for urban development M Venkaiah Naidu said that health was a vital cog in the development of a nation. Everyone should contribute to the improvement of the health sector, for the key for development of many countries and improvement of their wealth had been betterment of health services, he observed. The government was taking every measure to fulfill all the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act. Development should not just get concentrated in Tullur, but also spread to Guntur, Vijayawada and other cities in the capital region, if it was to become truly a world-class capital city, he opined. The government sanctioned Rs 1,000 crore for improving basic infrastructure facilities like drainages and drinking water. But then, a change of mindset was required among people towards the government and the PPP model of development should be encouraged, the Union minister opined. Speaker Kodela Sivaprasad Rao, ministers P Narayana, R Kishore, K Srinivas, P Pulla Rao, MP R Sambasiva Rao and Dr. Ramesh were present. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

202. Improper biomedical waste disposal poses riskSulogna Mehta,(3)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Walk past any GVMC garbage dump at Ramnagar, Maharanipeta or the areas around King George Hospital (KGH) and you can be sure to spot used syringes, saline bottles or bandages strewn around dustbins. Rag-pickers and GVMC staff rummage through these bins and stray animals litter the hazardous biomedical waste on the roads – an open invitation to HIV, Hepatitis and other infections. Though biomedical waste should be properly segregated and then incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts, in reality the norms are often flouted blatantly and hazardous waste is dumped in regular garbage bins, jeopardising the health of denizens. To blame are the ignorance and apathy of hospital staff and those collecting the waste as they don’t segregate it properly in respective colour-coded disposal bins. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags. Black bags are meant for throwing remnants of food, red bags for plastic disposables such as catheter, gloves and IV fluid bottles, while yellow bags are meant for disposing human waste including used dressing pads, plaster, and needles and so on. Also needle tips need to be destroyed in needle cutters and hubs disposed of in red covers. Commenting on the improper segregation, a senior surgeon from King George Hospital (KGH), said, “Even though the paramedics, ward-boys and staff are trained, they callously dump the waste in any bin that’s close at hand, irrespective of colour codes. There’s neither proper supervision nor any disciplinary action being taken for these acts of omission,” he said. The lack of timely availability of colour-coded bags, especially the frequently used yellow and black bags, also poses another problem. “The bags collected from various wards are overfilled and their mouths are not tied properly. Stray dogs cause a spillage while searching food,” pointed out another senior doctor. B Sivaji, director, Maridi Eco Industries (Andhra) Private Limited, the company that’s responsible for treating biomedical waste in the city, too blames the negligent hospital staff for the sorry state of affairs. “Our vehicles daily collect one to five tonnes of waste from various hospitals. Despite repeatedly training the staff and management of government and private hospitals, they don’t segregate the waste in respective colour-coded bags properly.” There are also allegations that used saline bottles are sold and syringes and needles not destroyed before being disposed. “Sometimes, hospital workers sell used saline bottles outside for Rs 50-Rs 100 and these are recycled or reused, putting public health at risk. Needles are also disposed of without breaking them in needle cutters exposing rag-pickers, GVMC sanitation staff and even our garbage collectors to the risk of HIV and other dangerous ailments if they come in contact with them,” Sivaji alleged. However, the staffer of a private hospital from Ramnagar alleged that though they do segregate the biomedical waste, the vehicles that carry the uncovered biomedical waste litter them on the road. According to official figures, one to five tonnes of biomedical waste is generated daily from various hospitals in the city and brought to the disposal site at Kappuluppada on the city outskirts. Per hour, around 250 kg of waste is incinerated at the five-tonne capacity plant, which has been leased out by the government for 33 years to Maridi Eco Industries. As per norms, biomedical waste should be segregated at the hospital itself and put into colour-coded bins or bags, treated and incinerated in a separate plant at Kappulupada on the city’s outskirts. (Times of India 17/3/15)


203. TB a Socio-Economic Disorder, Say Experts (3)

BENGALURU :Tuberculosis is not the responsibility of the health system alone; the society has to be aware and chip in too, say experts. Dr Shashidhar Buggi, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said, “Societal factors contribute to tuberculosis. Overcrowding, malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, smoking, poverty and societal situations contribute to TB infection. All of us are infected with the TB bacteria yet not all of us develop the disease. This is probably because we live in a clean house in a clean area, eat nutritious food and do not have chronic bad habits.” “If the infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, and rates of TB, malaria and dengue are known, one can predict the state of  society in that country. They are all interlinked and must be controlled to control TB,” he said. In 1990, about 44 out of one lakh people were dying because of tuberculosis in the state. This has decreased to 24 per lakh in Karnataka, said a source at the Department of Health. Detection of co-infection of TB and AIDS in people has become more treatable as well. Death rate due to co-infection has fallen from 25 per cent to around 11 per cent in the last 4-5 years, the source added.  A senior officer at the department told Express that the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) has been running for 14 years and its success rate is 85 per cent. “We are able to detect and treat more patients than we could earlier. The TB-HIV package to treat co-infection patients was introduced in 2008. Death rates have fallen because of the effectiveness of the programme,” he said. He added, “We have a Cartridge-based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test to detect TB in HIV patients. We had five machines till last year, now we have seven more. He said the officials at ART (Anti-Retro-viral Therapy) centres are being trained in a phased manner. Government set-ups have been asked to prioritise HIV patients and give early diagnosis, he added. (New Indian Express 24/3/15)

204. 33,689 cases of TB in Mysuru since 2003 (3)

MYSURU: As many as 33,689 tuberculosis (TB) cases had been detected in Mysuru district between January 2003 and February 2015, according to figures from the Health Department. World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 every year. The National TB Control Programme was launched in the district about 12 years ago. The sputum test of 3,46,858 suspected cases of tuberculosis had been undertaken since the launch of the programme till date, and 33,689 persons had been diagnosed with the disease. “These patients have been treated and 80 percent completely recovered,” a release said here. Primary health centres (PHCs) in the district have been equipped with facilities to conduct sputum test under the national programme. TB patients were also subjected to tests for HIV and diabetes. TB patients receive Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS), recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), at nearby hospitals and anganwadi centres. DOTS providers were being given honorarium for their services to the patients, the release added. Under the DOTS, patients are supposed to take medicine in the presence of a doctor or a nursing staff during the intense phase of treatment, which lasts two months. This makes the treatment effective and the patients compulsorily take medicines without fail under the department’s supervision and evaluation. (The Hindu 24/3/15)

205. Rs.34 lakh for KFD-hit areas in Wayanad (3)

KALPETTA: The Tribal Development Department has sanctioned Rs.35 lakh to disburse provision to the tribal people in the Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever-hit areas in the district. The amount was sanctioned under the food support project of the department, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes P.K. Jayalakshmi said in a press release here on Wednesday. Earlier, the department had allocated Rs.10 lakh to the Health Department and Rs.9 lakh to the Animal Husbandry Department to execute preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease, Ms. Jayalakshmi said. Apart from this, the department would hand over Rs.2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased as solatium and Rs.10,000 each to the KFD-affected persons, the Minister said. (The Hindu 26/3/15)

206. India has highest number of deaths of children under five years of age (3)

NEW DELHI: India accounts for the highest number of deaths of children under-five years of age with 50% of such deaths caused mainly due to malnutrition, a new policy paper has said. The paper, prepared by Forum for Learning and Action with Innovation and Rigour (FLAIR), estimates more than 15 lakh children below five years of age died in India. Flair is a non-government organization engaged in policy research and analysis. A report by Unicef on child mortality also endorses the figure. According to the Unicef report, about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. While India accounts for 22% of the total under-five children death worldwide, Nigeria contributes 13%. Lack of basic sanitation in India is seen as a key reason for severe child malnutrition burden. The policy paper suggests states like Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim, where 80% or more of the rural population have access to toilets, have the lowest levels of child malnutrition in India. However, child malnutrition rates are high in states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand where most households are without toilets. “Unhygienic environment combined with high population density creates a perfect storm for diseases to thrive, and malnutrition to flourish,” says Dr Raj Bhandari, advisor-health & nutrition in Flair. Bhandari, who has co-authored the paper, is also technical consultant to Unicef. According to Bhandari, the absence of sanitation exposes children to infectious diseases such as typhoid and diarrhoea, which rob them of their ability to absorb nutrients and make them vulnerable causing comorbidity. Apart from poor sanitation, food and nutrition insecurity, lack of health care and extremely poor conditions of public health including water are considered primary reasons of malnutrition. Highlighting the need for adequate public policy and finance, the paper says though there has been in general an increase in allocation in food and nutrition programmes between 2011-12 and 2014-15, but the share of nutrition schemes in total Union and respective state budgets have been highly inadequate considering the grim status of malnutrition. “There is an urgent need for the government to introduce nutrition as a development indicator in various other schemes such as the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),” Bhandari said. While the paper appreciates the Centre’s move to give more funds to states, it points out that states should be able to utilize the funds in the right manner and implement schemes with proper monitoring. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 28/3/15)


207. Depressed man kills wife and 2 kids, claims they were HIV +ve (3)

Betul (MP): A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. DH Illustration. A 40-year-old civil engineer allegedly killed his wife and two children in a forest near here, claiming that he committed the offence out of depression as he, his wife and daughter were suffering from AIDS, police said today. The accused (name witheld) surrendered before Amravati police in Maharashtra yesterday. The incident took place on the intervening night of March 3-4 when the engineer, working with a PSU at Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, was returning from his hometown Amravati with his family, police inspector S K Singh told PTI today. He stopped his car close to Gaunighat under Multai police station limits near here and after alighting from it, he pushed the vehicle into a gorge. The accused then descended from the hill and set the vehicle with his family inside on fire, he said. After this, he claimed to have allegedly made a futile attempt to hang himself to death.

However, later he felt guilty of killing his family and surrendered before the Amravati police yesterday following which he was brought here, the inspector said. Police later recovered the bodies of his 38-year-old wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 2, he said. During interrogation, the accused told police that he was under depression after contracting AIDS in Delhi. He said that his wife and younger daughter too were HIV positive because of which he was quite disturbed. The accused claimed that earlier too he and his wife had planned to kill their children and end their lives by consuming food laced with poison on March 1 at Amravati, but dropped the idea at the last minute, the police officer said. Meanwhile, the family members said that they were unaware of the accused and his family being infected with HIV. Police have booked the accused under sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of IPC, Singh said adding, further investigation was on in the case. (Deccan Herald 11/3/15)

208. Old data hides spurt in HIV positive cases, say NGOs (3)

Here’s a paradox: The government of Bihar has the most schemes for persons with HIV/AIDS, and at the same time apathy, inefficient reporting, gaps in the health delivery system and red tape are pushing the state towards an HIV epidemic. Even as the spread of HIV seems to have been brought under control in the southern states, Bihar, once known as a ‘low prevalence’ state, has over a lakh of HIV positive persons, with new detections happening practically every day. The issue was brought up on Friday, during discussions on the release of a study of ‘Issues affecting PLHA’ (People Living with HIV/AIDS) in Patna district attended by NGO representatives, doctors from primary health centres of two blocks, ICDS functionaries and Women’s Development Corporation (WDC) representatives. The questions being asked were: “Why doesn’t Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) update its obsolete data? Why is the procurement and dispensing of ART medicines inconsistent? Why is there no reporting on indents? Why is BSACS reluctant to engage with NGOs and networks of people with HIV and AIDS?” These questions just hung in the air. No representatives from BSACS were present. They ignored the invitation, it seemed. “BSACS hasn’t updated its data base for ages. In the absence of current data, we are forced to use 2011 data. Yet, ART centres and ICTC centres are updating their records on a monthly basis. If BSACS Patna cannot afford a data entry person, may be the NGOs should offer some technical assistance,” said Dr Diwakar Tejaswi. The old figures do not give the true picture of the HIV incidence in the state. One of the key findings is that the number of PLHA who have actual access to the government schemes for PLHA is very small (so far about one per cent for Antyodaya and two per cent for Parvarish). PLHA may have heard of some schemes (such as the Shatabdi AIDS Yojana) but are clueless about how to go about applying for the benefits in the absence of proper guidelines and procedures laid down and publicized by the government. “I am happy to say that in spite of the bottlenecks, the Parvarish Yojana (which is a stipend for HIV positive and affected kids) has finally kicked in, and some 24 beneficiaries in two blocks will soon receive their allowances,” said Sanjit Singh, a representative of CHMU, the organization that released the report of the study. “Every month, we come across at least two more people with HIV,” said a PHC staff from Maner block. A WDC official called for greater coordination and synergy between NGO networks and government so that they could address the issues of women with HIV in certain short stay homes, citing a case from Vaishali district. Women with HIV have the heaviest burdens to bear. “Women with HIV continue to face multiple threats such as physical and emotional violence, especially from the husband’s family, and widowhood often means that the woman loses the support of in-laws. In many cases, the woman either returns to the parents’ home or lives on her own with her dependants,” read the document. The ART delivery system remains problematic. Essential tests such as the CD4 count are often not conducted either due to non-availability of kits or for some other ‘technical’ reasons. One of the recommendations from the survey, readily endorsed by the primary health centre personnel, was that medication for opportunistic infections could be made available to the PHC, so that it could be readily available to PLHA, rather than have them travelling several kilometres to the government hospitals. “HIV testing kits should be given to PHCs. After all, it is at the PHC where antenatal care is given. If the HIV test can be done as well, it would further help in detecting prenatal HIV cases and ensuring proper PPTC and safe delivery of the child,” said a doctor. “Copies of the study and the recommendations from the conference will be presented to government departments concerned as well as BSACS. NGOs are not here to confront BSACS or government, but to work together with them to improve the system,” CHMU coordinator Chandy told the delegates. (Times of India 14/3/15)

209. HIV+ Lankan Man Dropped Off on TN Boat (3)

RAMESWARAM:In a bizarre incident, a Sri Lankan national who has confessed to being HIV positive, was alleged to have been forcefully dropped into a boat of Indian fishermen by an unidentified Sri Lankan national in another boat, near Katchatheevu on Sunday. According to police, the unidentified Sri Lankan national intercepted the Indian fishermen in their boat near Katchatheevu and made them take one David Gajendrachith (42) of Puttalam with them. After the Sri Lankan had dropped Gajendrachith in the Indian fishermen’s boat, he sped off in his boat toward Sri Lanka. The four fishermen Naina Muhammed, Valli Muthu, Samaya Muthu and Arumugam from Mandapam handed over Gajendrachith to the Mandapam police on Sunday evening. The senior police officer in charge of the inquiry, said that Ganjendrachith confessed to being HIV positive and was carrying tablets for the illness with him. The police said he did not possess a passport. “We have registered a case and are investigating the case from all angles,” said the officer. (New Indian Express 16/3/15)

210. HIV/AIDS sets alarm bells ringing in Chhattisgarh (3)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh has failed to secure maternal health, besides remaining a laggard in promoting use of contraceptives as an alternative to female sterilization, according MDG India Country Report 2015. Also, high HIV prevalence among youth, pregnant women and adults remain a cause of concern. In the third part of series on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) achieved by state, TOI analyses how Chhattisgarh and neighbouring MP fare on both parameters at national level. Among major states, maternal mortality rate (MMR) (i.e. maternal deaths per one lakh live births), ranges from 61 in Kerala to 300 in Assam (highest) in 2011-13. MMR in BIMARU states of Bihar/Jharkhand (208), Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh (221), Rajasthan (244), Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand (285) and Orissa (222) was reportedly much higher than all India level estimates (167). Four states UP, Bihar, MP/CG and Rajasthan together contributed to 67% of MMR in the country. Chhattisgarh and MP were also going to miss MDG target for 2015 (150.7) by a huge margin of 40 points. Maternal mortality rate (MM Rate), number of maternal deaths in age 15 to 49 per lakh of women was also among highest (20.2), only below UP and Rajasthan and almost double that of national average (11.7). Life time risk or probability that, one women of reproductive age (15 to 49) will die due to child birth within six weeks after delivery was 0.7%, higher than average. As per the sample registration system estimates of 2011-13, 68% of maternal deaths were women in the age group of 20 to 29 years. Though Madhya Pradesh along with Andhra Pradesh is expected to achieve universal coverage of births by skilled health personnel up in 2015, the proportion has actually dipped in the state from 2009 where it was 56.4% and would be 50.5% in 2015. There have been around 2,500 deaths because of HIV/AIDS in 2011 (last available date). This was lower than MP’s 3,324 while highest was Andhra Pradesh (31,347). However, prevalence of HIV in youth, young pregnant women and adults was much higher than MP and more than national average in youth category while at par in the rest. Also Chhattisgarh reported double the number of new infections (4,565) than MP (2,387)in 15+ age group which is a cause for concern. This could be attributed due to the fact that condom use rate was lower in Chhattisgarh than MP (2.9 and 4.8 respectively). Both states were also lower on condom use rate among contraceptives use in India (5.2). While female sterilizations remain the preferred choice of contraceptives in both urban and rural pollution, it doesn’t protect against HIV incidence. MP and Chhattisgarh reported more than two lakh malaria cases in 2014 out of the 10.7 lakh total cases in the country with over a lakh cases reported from the latter state. MP reported more deaths in 2013 but fewer deaths than Chhattisgarh in 2014. More than a 1,000 deaths were reported pan India in 2013 and 2014. 85% cases in 2014 in CG were caused by Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which is critical as it is prone to develop severity and death. (Times of India 22/3/15)

211. Single-window system to extend facilities to AIDS patients (3)

MANGALURU: The district will get a single-window system to extend various government facilities to those affected by AIDS. The Aids Prevention and Control Unit to be set up at the district hospital will act as the single window agency, said Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim. He was chairing a meeting on AIDS prevention here on Monday. The unit is being set up as per the directions from the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society to make the required documents available to those suffering from AIDS to help them get various government benefits. Mr. Ibrahim said those suffering from the disease may directly approach the unit or NGOs concerned to avail government schemes. The government aims to bring those affected by AIDS to to the mainstream of society as they hesitate from availing social security schemes. The government is providing financial help to the children, aged below 18 years, of those affected. Also, the government is reimbursing the travel cost for patients who visit ART centres for treatment. District AIDS Control Officer M. Kishore Kumar said that 7,549 people had been identified as HIV positive since 2007 in the district. Some facilities have been provided to them, including housing, self-employment scheme and Antyodaya ration card. (The Hndu 25/3/15)

212. Highest HIV+ cases in four years (3)

MEERUT: In a recent disclosure by the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) for AIDS at P L Sharma district hospital the city recorded highest number of HIV+ cases in four years. Statistics reveal a marked increase of 50% in the number of patients testing positive between 2011 and 2014. A total of 102 positive cases made of 84 males, 17 females and one transgender were recorded in the past year. In comparison, 2011 had a total of 68 HIV+ cases. Interestingly, 2013 showed a steep drop in the number of positive cases. Dr J P Singh, in-charge, ICTC, said, “Maximum cases in AIDS are caused by unprotected sex. Sex education in schools is necessary so that young people can protect themselves.” Yogesh Kumar, counsellor, ICTC, too agrees that one of the primary reasons for the spread of AIDS is the practice of unsafe sex. Singh further adds, “There is an increase in the number of patients visiting the centre from 2,222 in 2011 to 7,054 in 2014. This points to the fact that the disease has become less of a taboo. We just hope that awareness levels would also increase simultaneously.” Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 26/3/15)

213. Ex gratia granted to HIV-infected (3)

GUWAHATI, March 28 – Under the Assam Chief Minister’s special package of ‘One time financial assistance to widows of HIV/AIDS patients’, the Assam State AIDS Control Society (ASACS) released an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to 50 HIV-infected/affected widows of the State during the financial year 2014-15. The scheme was launched by the State Government in 2012 and since then a total number of 272 HIV-infected/affected widows have benefited with this scheme. Till date, an amount of Rs 2.72 crore has been spent under this scheme. The scheme has covered 155 beneficiaries and in 2013, 1,4 67 beneficiaries benefited under this scheme. (The Assam Tribune 29/3/15)