Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 18 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Over 14,000 RTIs pending in rajasthan (1)

Jaipur: Rajasthan, the state pioneered Right to Information (RTI) is now a laggard. While, the government’s reluctance is understandable and babus would create hurdles in providing information was also expected but surprisingly state information commission has also failed to meet the expectations. A report prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan and Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) reveals that more than 14,000 appeals have been pending before the state information commission. This is after the commission rejects more than 50 per cent appeals filed with it. The incremental rate of application has also increased since the central RTI act was implemented in 2005. The fact that the government never fulfilled all posts of information commission has also hampered its work to a great extent and raises doubts about the government’s intentions. Yet, it is about more about attitude so when the commission rejects appeals in big numbers, the government and bureaucracy are unlikely to bother, which shows in the report based on information collected on 20 departments in 33 districts, only 42 per cent people got information in the first year. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

2. UPA spent Rs 187 crore on Bharat Nirman ads in 2013-14 (1)

NEW DELHI: The UPA-2 government spent nearly Rs 187 crore on publicizing its much touted ‘Bharat Nirman’ programme in 2013-14, 80% more than the previous year. In response to an RTI query by activist Subhash Agrawal, the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity said the Manmohan Singh government spent Rs 186.98 crore in the election year 2013-14 compared to Rs 100.95 crore in 2012-13, Rs 86 crore in 2011-12 and Rs 47 crore in 2010-11. However, the details of NDA government’s spending on “India Shining” campaign were not available, according to DAVP, the nodal agency of government spending on advertisements. The DAVP said it did not have records pertaining to expenses incurred on ‘India Shining’ campaign run in the election year in 2003-04 during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “Our campaign wing has intimated that records pertaining to the campaigns — India Shining and Mera Bharat Mahan — are no longer available with it. Computerization of records was done from 2007 onwards,” the central public information officer of DAVP said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

3. Private schools too come under RTI Act: CIC (1)

NEW DELHI: In a significant order, the Central Information Commission has ordered that private schools, whether public authority or not, must provide information on service records and salaries. The order came on an RTI plea filed by an ex-employee of Jindal Public School with Directorate of Education seeking a certified copy of service book and other details from her past employer. The Directorate of Education provided the information available with them but the school refused to furnish the reply, saying RTI Act did not apply on it. Private unaided schools had challenged an earlier CIC order in court which said that schools must give information related to vacant seats, EVS quota but would be exempt from providing information on disbursement of salaries, public budget estimate of receipts etc. Information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu directed the school to provide the information, reasoning that provisions of RTI Act applied on private schools since they were governed by laws such as the Delhi Education Act. Directing the school to disclose information sought by its ex-employee, CIC said the school was duty bound under Sections 4 and 8 of Delhi Education Act, 1973 to abide by the regulatory conditions of service, payment of salaries as prescribed for which the school has to maintain records which provide an “inherent and implied” right to information to their employees. “Under Right to Education Act, 2009 also, the recognized school is under an obligation to appoint eligible teachers and provide them with prescribed wages. This also reveals that it has given inherent right to information to the teachers from their employers,” Acharyulu said. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

4. Only 0.6% RTI pleas frivolous: Study (1)

A study, “Who uses the RTI Act and for what?” conducted by the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RAAG), was presented in the ‘Western India RTI Convention 2014′. The convention, a joint initiative by the Mahiti Adhikar Manch and Department of Civics and Politics of the University of Mumbai, was held at the Kalina Campus of the Mumbai University. RAAG initiated the study in the backdrop of the earlier statements made by former PM, Manmohan Singh that the RTI Act was misused and “vexatious” applications were filed. “The idea was to see how many vexatious applications were filed as was suggested by the PM,”said Anjali Bharadwaj, one of the authors of the study. Around 4,000 applications were filed across the country with various SICs asking for details about, and copies of, the applications by people between 2005 and 2008. “Since there is no definition of vexatious applications, we tried to derive one of our own,” said Amrita Johri, co-author of the study. Applications that can be tagged for the “misuse” were divided under several heads like vexatious, frivolous, requiring voluminous response, infringing privacy, seeking information covering a long time span, very lengthy application or asking too many questions or questions on too many topics, among others. “Our findings indicate that less than 0.6% of the applications were conceivably vexatious or frivolous, or sought to infringe privacy,” said Bharadwaj. Only 2% required voluminous responses, and 1% sought information that covered a long time span (over 10 years). The study stressed that the government continued to be reluctant to provide suo motu information as 54% applications were asking information that should have been declared by the government on its own. About 20% applications were such that they did not require usage of the RTI Act. Only 26% of the applications asked for information that was not required to be disclosed proactively, either publicly or privately to the applicants. The study stated that 68 % of the information was sought as a response and only 44% wanted documents for their applications. A bulk of the applications were about one or more public authorities (26%), followed by information about specific villages or sub-districts (10%). Specific locations (17%) and specific localities (4%) were other popular subjects. An overwhelming 90% citizens felt that political parties should come under the RTI Act. Average length of the applications was 119 words, but after revised updates, it was 116.2 words, as compared to the 150 words permitted. A number of recommendations were suggested, including nomination of public information officer responsible for ensuring proactive disclosures and private sector be informed about their obligation to give information and governments bring out a guide indicating what types of information can be accessed from private bodies under what provisions “any other law.” (DNA 8/6/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. Pakistan stoning: Woman’s husband wants justice (1)

Lahore: The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was beaten to death outside Lahore’s high court for marrying against her family’s wishes vowed to fight for justice. Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked outside Lahore’s grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers including her brother and father, who has been arrested, police said. Three-months pregnant Parveen, whom police earlier identified as ‘Farzana Iqbal’, had gone to testify in defence of her husband Muhammad Iqbal who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into the marriage. Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home village of Jaranwala where he had gone to bury Parveen earlier that day, Iqbal said: “We demand justice. We were being threatened since we got married.” The 45-year-old said he and his wife had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 12. “On Tuesday as we were going to court from our lawyer’s office almost 30 people attacked us, including her father, brothers and cousins,” he said. The group of 10 or so people accompanying him were overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack and fled in all directions, he said. “One of her brothers shot at her but missed, then the women in their group fell upon her and her brother and father finished her off,” said Iqbal. “The most painful thing is that nobody came forward to save my wife, the police were there and hundreds of lawyers were there along with ordinary men, but they all just watched like spectators.” A police officer said Parveen’s father Muhammad Azeem had been detained while five others two brothers and three cousins remained at large. Another police officer, told AFP police were launching raids in the Nankana Sahib district to arrest the accused. Despite the gruesome and public nature of the killing in Pakistan’s most liberal city, media reaction has been relatively muted indicating what activists said was a growing apathy amid rising extremism. (Asian Age 29/5/14)

 

6. Child Abuse: NHRC Notice to Collector (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to Keonjhar Collector on the issue of pouring of boiling water on a three-year-old tribal boy at an anganwadi centre in the district last month. Two aganwadi workers had perpetrated the crime on the child, Parsuram Munda, because he had touched the cooked food. The incident occurred on May 9 at Anganwadi Centre-1 at Khendra under Jhumpura block in the district. Acting on a petition filed by human rights activist Prabir Das, the NHRC has sought a report from the Collector within four weeks. According to the petitioner, anganwadi workers Subhashree Giri and helper Soudamini Naik allegedly poured boiling water on the boy for ‘touching and desecrating’ eggs and cooked food. The child suffered about 40 per cent burns. Munda was admitted to the Community Health Centre at Jhumpura from where he was shifted to District Headquarters Hospital. Doctors found that the skin on the stomach of the child was severely burnt. The police registered a case on the basis of an FIR filed by the boy’s mother. Parsuram’s parents alleged that the incident occurred because they belonged to Munda tribe and were looked down upon. In his petition, Das stated, the incident called for a proper inquiry and stringent action should be taken against the duo while suitable compensation must be awarded to the victim. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

7. Enhance old age pension, food grain amount: NHRC

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended the State Government to enhance the amount paid as old age pension and the quantity of food grains under the Annapurna Yojana, besides directing the Chief Secretary to submit an action plan for improving the conditions of the poor and destitute people who are facing starvation and unable to avail medical facilities at the old age. The historic order from the apex human rights watchdog came pursuant to the petition filed by renowned rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy. Pertinent to mention here that Harischandra Yojana for performing the last rites of poor people have been initiated and implemented during the proceeding of the case as the petitioner sought a scheme to help the poor people for the last rites. In the initial petition filed by Radhakanta in 2011 maintained that Kuntala Nayak and Kusha Nayak died in Hinjilicut Block of Ganjam district due to failure of Government in ensuring them free medical treatment and food during old age. The petitioner had urged the Commission to intervene in the case and to ensure the basic human rights of the surviving member of the family. Considering the petition the NHRC had issued notice to the State authority and sought response over the issue. On June 27, 2012 the Commission observed and directed thus: “The Commission perused the report and observed that the district authorities have not intimated date of death of the wife of Kusha Nayak, date from which the monthly pension of `200 was being paid to them. The Annapurna rice (10 kg per month) was allotted to the couple since February, 2012, but how many times it was issued to them. The Commission further observed that the report is sketchy and does not cover the factual details of the incident and the action taken by the State Government. In his rejoinder on July 26, 2012 Radhakanta had stated that the report of the district authorities admits that the victim Kusha Naik was leading a life in poverty at extreme old age without any attendant or living family member. The Government had been paying him a meagre old age pension of Rs 200 and 10 kg of rice per month which was not adequate for the poor old man. (Pioneer 4/6/14)

 

8. NHRC writes to states on gender sensitization (1)

Chennai: With the escalation of crime against women in the country, the National Human Rights Commission on Friday asked all state governments to take immediate steps to introduce lessons on gender sensitisation in school curriculum. “The National Human Rights Commission has seen with concern several recent media reports of sexual assault in different parts of the country, violating human rights of girls and women. “Wherever and in whatever number these incidents have happened, the commission deplores all such acts, which have a direct bearing on human rights, including right to life, dignity and liberty,” the commission said in a statement. The commission has also noted that women have been assaulted in many instances when they step out of their homes to answer nature’s call, since there is no toilet facility at their residences. The rights panel has asked all stakeholders, including individuals, governments and civic agencies to work towards building a toilet for each household among their other priorities. The panel said it is necessary to take immediate steps to introduce topics or subjects at school which would instil gender sensitivity among children. (Deccan Herald 7/6/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. I will eat right now if AFSPA is repealed, says Irom Sharmila (1)

New Delhi: Manipuri civil rights activist, Irom Sharmila, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), broke down before a Delhi court on Wednesday. Sharmila had been brought to court in a case registered against her for attempting to commit suicide. The AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, confers special powers to armed forces to respond at will in the “disturbed areas” to maintain law and order. A number of activists have come out against the act — which is also in force in J&K. Standing before the court with a pipe in her nose – through which she has been force-fed since November, 2000 – Sharmila told the court she would eat her first bite in over a decade right there and then if the “draconian” AFSPA was repealed by the Modi government. Just a day before her appearance in Patiala House, Sharmila’s family had told the media that she hoped to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in Delhi in order to talk about the repealing of AFSPA. Sharmila, who appeared before the court in pursuance to a production warrant issued against her, claimed that wide scale discrimination was being meted out to the people from North East. The 41-year-old activist-poet also told Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain that she never intended to commit suicide and her fast was just a protest against AFSPA. “I love my life very much,” she assured the judge as her eyes welled up. During the proceedings, when the court told her that she would be given exemption from physical appearance due to her health condition, Sharmila insisted on being there, saying “It is my case and I want to be physically present in the court during the proceedings.” The court, during the hearing, also recorded the statements of two policemen, who were arrayed as prosecution witnesses in the case in which the Manipuri activist is facing trial. The court has fixed the matter for July 17 for recording of statements of other witnesses in the case. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

10. P.A. Sangma seeks Modi’s intervention in Meghalaya custodial deaths (1)

Shillong, May 31 : National People’s Party (NPP) supremo Purno Agitok Sangma Saturday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the twin custodial death in Meghalaya. Sangma, who is the lone NPP member in the Lok Sabha, has also asked National Human Rights Commission chairman K.G. Balakrishnan to institute an inquiry into the twin custodial death. In his letter to Modi, the former Lok Sabha speaker highlighted the prevailing law and order situation and the violation of human rights in Garo Hills districts in western part of Meghalaya. He also asked Modi to instruct the relevant authorities to take necessary and appropriate action in the twin custodial death. There were two custodial deaths in Garo Hills this month. Witson Sangma, arrested on charges of supplying explosives to the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), was found dead in police lockup of Chokpot police station Wednesday, while Balsan Marak, accused of illegally confining, kidnapping and torturing 12 women, died at the Tura Civil Hospital May 20. Civil society groups, including the Garo Student’s Union have announced a non-cooperation movement June 2 in the five districts of Garo Hills over the custodial deaths. Meanwhile, curfew was on Saturday relaxed for eight hours at Chokpot block in South Garo Hills district, two days after it was imposed following mob violence over the death of Witson Sangma, officials said. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

11. SHRC Directive Against Lock Up ‘Dress Code’ (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has asked the DGP to initiate action against those police officials who keep people in lock up by forcing them to wear only underclothes. Rights Commission chairman Justice J B Koshy  issued the orders in this regard on Tuesday on a complaint filed by C Joseph, a native of Amboori here. In his complaint, Joseph stated that police officials were humiliating the suspects  by forcing them to remain in the lock up  cladding only inner wear or with newspaper to cover their nakedness citing that they would commit suicide if they were allowed to wear normal dress. Justice Koshy said it was a serious violation of human rights to make them wear only the inner wear while putting them in lock ups. It is also a crime under the Police Act, he observed. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

12. The rot behind the prison bars: Urgent need for reforms (1)

There has been a 100 percent increase in deaths of inmates in Tihar jail. Thirty five prisoners have died there in judicial custody in 2013 in comparison to 18 in 2012. This is not all. Such horrifying news often keep on coming from Ghaziabad, Rohini and the country’s other jails. All this, once again, has brought into sharp focus the working of our prison administration. It goes without saying that the state of Indian prisons is so deplorable that less said about it the better. These are the walled houses of cruelty, torture and defiled dignity. The jail manuals are antiquated, the architecture is primitive and the attitude of jail authorities is not only indifferent, but unpardonably dehumanising. Subhuman living conditions, prison riots, jail-breaks, suicides, custodial deaths and frequent escapes are regular occurrences.  All this notwithstanding, we have to accept the prison system as a necessary evil and reform it with a sense of urgency. As per our judicial philosophy, jails are expected to serve four objectives:  retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. Crimes that disrupt society have to be punished and hence criminals must pay by losing part of their freedom.  Law-breakers ought to be segregated so that they do not harm innocent people. Future crimes have to be prevented by making the delinquent understand that the infringement of law is not permissible in a civilized society. And when the jail term ends, the prisoner should be able to return to the mainstream as a law abiding citizen Ironically, the ground realities are different. No jail in the country has the resources for keeping prisoners in healthy surroundings. No prison has an imaginative reformatory system governed by upright officers who want to bring about a change of heart in a criminal. In that event, jails make hardcore criminals even out of ordinary offenders. Insanitary conditions, shortage of food, medicines and medical staff, laxity, mismanagement and corruption in the prison administration only add to the misery. The government has still to evolve guidelines for prison management on modern lines. Although the subject has been examined in depth by four committees since 1919-20 and in four landmark judgments of the Supreme Court in 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1990, the fact remains that prison authorities pay scant regard to the guidelines evolved. They do not adhere even to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners, 1995. Worse still, their decisions are dictated by a piece of legislation — the Prisons Act 1894 –  which was enacted by a colonial regime that saw jails as places to break the back of the nationalist movement. The Union government should evolve a standard jail manual applicable throughout the country with the help of human rights activists, judges, lawyers and eminent criminologists. The root cause of all the problems in the country’s 1394 jails is overcrowding. In some cases, jails are filled to 500-600 per cent more of their official capacity, as widely reported. For instance,  Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, has a sanctioned capacity of 804 inmates, but statistics reveal that 2,300 prisoners are currently lodged in it. In Bihar, jails have a capacity of about 21,750 inmates but house over 38,000. Similarly, Asia’s most prestigious Tihar jail houses 13,500 inmates against its authorised capacity of 6,250.The position in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal is no better. The influx of new inmates adds to the problem. It goes without saying that overcrowding is as much a violation of the “right of life” as denial of a “speedy trial”. .. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. ‘Won’t trample media freedom’ (1)

New Delhi: Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday assured the media that its freedom will be intact under the Narendra Modi-led government. Adding that external curbs will not work on the media, he recalled days of the Emergency in 1975 when media was gagged by the state. Dissent has a place in a democracy and “we will always welcome constructive criticism”, added the Minister of State (independent charge) for Information & Broadcasting taking charge of  the ministry. “Modi ji ke netritva mein aayi sarkar media ki swadheenta ko akshun rakhegi (The Modi-led government will keep media freedom intact),” Javadekar said, and recalled how “we fought” curbs imposed on media in 1975 and how “we were in jail for 16 months”. “We believe freedom of press is essence of democracy…it gives people choice in a rainbow of differing opinions. There is no external regulation that works in the media. In 1975, media freedom was trampled upon but we fought it,” the minister said. Asked about recent cases where several youngsters had been arrested for allegedly posting anti-Modi messages on social media, Javadekar said those cases had been registered under the IT Act by the respective state governments and the Centre had no role. Javadekar said Modi has said though BJP has the numbers to run the government, it needs the cooperation and support of all to run the country. “Rajnetaon aur media ki zimmevari banti hai ki loktantra ko safal banayein (success of a democracy lies on the shoulders of political leaders and the media).” Asked whether state-run broadcaster Doordarshan will be allowed to edit important interviews (in reference to the controversy over DD for removing a chink of Narendra Modi’s interview in the run-up to the elections), Javadekar’s response was: “Bilkul nahin (Not at all).” He further said “change in work culture is what we promised” and it will be delivered. He added priorities would be worked out after consultation with all stakeholders. On his predecessor Manish Tewari’s views that there was no need for an I&B ministry, Javadekar said, “It doesn’t take much time to end an institution, but it takes a lot of time to build it. We’ll take stock of everything and will not waste whatever is good.” On whether any important decisions taken by his predecessor would be reversed, he said, “Jo achha hai woh chalega, jo nahin hai woh nahin chalega.(What’s right will continue, what’s not won’t).” (Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

14. Prakash Javadekar resolves to strengthen press freedom (1)

PANAJI: Prakash Javadekar, Union minister of state for information and broadcasting and environment and forests on Saturday said his I&B ministry will strive to strengthen press freedom in totality. In his keynote address at the GoaFest, his first public function since he was sworn in as MOS, Javadekar said the government will take digital media, print media and electronic media into confidence in order to find solutions to pending problems. He said consultations will precede informed decisions in larger public interest. The government will also strive to improve Doordarshan and All India Radio such that people love them and they give real competition to the existing channels. The minister also urged self-discipline by the media, saying the government will then have no role to play in monitoring the media. Responding to a question whether people need to be careful while making posts on social media, Javadekar said social media is governed by the IT Act which is 10 years old. “Every freedom is accompanied by some responsibility. People need to know the Lakshman Rekha which needs to be preserved,” he said. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

15. One held in Odisha for journalist’s murder (1)

BHUBANESWAR: Unidentified men stabbed 35-year-old Tarun Kumar Acharya with sharp-edged weapons in a lonely place when he was riding a motorcycle on his way to home at Bikrampur from Khallikote town, about 135 km from here. Acharya was a stringer of a local television channel and a reporter of a local news paper. Anirudha Singh said a family feud might have led to his murder and Acharya’s own brother and two others were believed to be behind the crime. The incident has nothing to do with journalism, he said. Police have formed two teams and they are conducting raids to nab the assailants, said Anirudha Singh. The murder was condemned by the opposition parties and journalist associations in the state. The state government should order a CBI probe and pay compensation of Rs.50 lakh to Acharya’s family, the Odisha Union of Journalists said in a statement. Bharatiya Janata Party state spokesperson Sajjan Sharma said the murder has showed that there is no law and order in the state. “We demand that police should immediately arrest assailants,” Sharma said. Hundred of activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist staged a demonstration in Bhubaneswar Thursday to protest the journalist’s murder. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

16. Civil society activists question PM’s ‘silence’ on attacks on dissent (1)

NEW DELHI: Prominent citizens and civil society activists on Saturday questioned the “silence” of the Prime Minister’s Office on the recent “blatant” attacks on free speech of writers and academicians and demanded that these constitutional rights be protected. The citizens in a joint statement said that in the last fortnight there had been a “resurgence” of attacks to curb the right to free speech and expression of those who did not “share the euphoria, hope and enthusiasm associated with recent election results”.The statement said the brutal lynching of an innocent young professional in Pune, following the arson and rioting in reaction to a Facebook post, is evidence of a “continuing atmosphere of intolerance and fear that threatens our democracy and must be stopped immediately”.It said such attempts to curtail the right to free speech and expression have been recurring over the past two decades, irrespective of the political party in power. (Economic Times 8/6/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

17. Social Welfare Department to Probe Suspected Child Trafficking (1)

THRISSUR: The Social Welfare Department will hold a detailed investigation into the suspected child trafficking incidents in the state in the wake of the suspected trafficking of 456 children below the age of 12, detained by the Railway Police at the Palakkad Junction railway station on Saturday, said Social Welfare Minister M K Muneer. The department will peruse the documents submitted by the officials of the orphanage where the children in the Palakkad incident are boarded. Those children with no valid documents will be rehabilitated. A three-member committee has been formed to conduct inspection at all the orphanages in the state, the Minister said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, he said that stringent laws will be enforced in the state in two weeks to curb the trafficking of children to the state in the guise of study purpose. “Though transportation of children to and from the state for study purpose cannot be curbed, the government will not allow child trafficking under the garb of studies,” he said. “The committee that was assigned to look into the suspected cases will complete the exercise in a time-bound manner. Those children with valid documents will be handed over to respective orphanages and children without valid documents will be returned to their respective places after the inspection. Besides, stringent action will be taken against institutions that lodge children without valid documents,” the minister said. He said the department has initiated steps to deport 12 Bangladeshi immigrants, who are staying at the elderly home of the government at Ramavarmapuram here, after serving jail term for illegally staying in the state. (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

18. A case of trafficking, say Jharkhand officials (6)

Palakkad: A team of officials from Jharkhand that reached Palakkad on Sunday in connection with the detaining of 589 children from West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar at the Palakkad Railway Junction station last week has termed it a case of child trafficking. Talking to The Hindu after visiting the children sheltered at two children’s homes in the district, Jharkhand’s Labour Enforcement Officer Maneesh Sinha said the children were taken to Kerala without completing due procedures and violating key provisions of the child rights Act. Recommending an investigation, he said the children indicated that they were “purchased” by agents paying about Rs.1,500 to each parent exploiting their poverty. The team from Jharkhand included three assistant development officers and two labour welfare officers. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand Labour Commissioner Maneesh Rangan would reach Palakkad on Monday for consultations with district authorities, police, and child welfare activists on the future of the detained children. The team left for Kozhikode in the evening to meet children handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee there. Mr. Sinha said Jharkhand provided free and compulsory education to all along with free food in its schools and shelters. He said no orphanage in Kerala had contacted the State government to get children through legal process to ensure their overall development. The delegation also held talks with the railway police, district authorities, and members of district child welfare committee. The Kerala Minority Commission and the Indian Union Muslim league had claimed that poor children from the minority communities outside the State were being brought to Kerala in an attempt to provide better education and nutritious food. (The Hindu 2/6/14)

 

19. Meghalaya Girls, Mom Detained in Home, Rescued (1)

COIMBATORE: In what is claimed to be the latest in a string of human-trafficking related allegations surrounding a school in Sulur, a woman from Meghalaya and her two minor daughters who were illegally confined by an employee of the school, were rescued by police and child protection officials in Sulur on Tuesday. According to sources, the 35-year-old woman and her two daughters, aged 11 and 16, were rescued after the woman’s son, who is studying at a college in Manipur, informed the college authorities about the ‘forced confinement’ of his mother and two sisters. The college authorities then forwarded the complaint to a right-wing organisation, whose activists took up the matter with officials in Coimbatore. Local administration officials, who received the complaint on Monday night, alerted the Singanallur police, who, with the assistance of child protection officials and the anti-human trafficking police wing, raided the Sulur school and rescued the woman and her two young daughters. The three are said to be from West Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya. They were produced before the Child Welfare Committee, where they told the officials that one Lungu from Assam had brought them to Coimbatore promising that he would arrange for her daughters’ schooling. Believing his words, the woman came along with her daughters to the city. However, Lungu, an employee of the Sulur school,  confined the woman and her daughters in a separate hostel. CWC officials recorded their statement, while Lingu was detained. Police told Express that the school had courted similar controversies in the past. The school is believed to have many students from Manipur and Meghalaya, apart from students from Tamil Nadu. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

20. Trafficked and raped, tribal girl 2 months pregnant (1)

New Delhi: She had hoped her move to Delhi will help her support her family of six. But within a week of her arrival, she became a victim sexual abuse. She is now two months’ pregnant. The 18-year-old tribal girl was brought to Delhi by a woman in March on the pretext of a job. “She told the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that she was kept at a placement agency in east Delhi’s Shakarpur. She was raped not only by the owner but his friends too,” said Rishi Kant, an activist with Shakti Vahini NGO. She was repeatedly assaulted by the owner and his friends and all her requests of being sent back home went unheeded. The man kept her locked inside the agency office and made her do all the work. He would not even pay her wages. According to the girl, he was negotiating with someone to employ her in a home as a domestic help. The girl can barely speak Hindi and had come to Delhi from West Bengal. She did not even know she was pregnant till she saw the medical report. Originally a resident of Odisha, she had managed to escape by locking the placement agency owner in the washroom and stealing Rs. 1,000 from his wallet. She was found sitting at the Old Delhi railway station, looking lost, when members of Shakti Vahini found her and took her to the hospital. “An auto driver dropped her to the Old Delhi railway station where she was sitting quietly and looked very scared. A person, who was from her village, noticed her and informed the West Bengal police. They informed us and we rescued her,” Kant said. The NGO informed her mother, who works at a tea garden in New Jalpaiguri and earns barely Rs. 70 a day.  Both mother and daughter will now return to their hometown but are scared of the rape stigma attached to her.

“The police need to investigate the case thoroughly and find out the culprit. If we don’t take action, such people will continue to assault women,” said an activist working with the NGO. (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

21. Assam becoming a hotspot for child trafficking (1)

New Delhi: Now penniless and without a clue about how to rescue their 12-year-old daughter Lakshmi, who went missing over eight months ago from their village in Assam, Deepak Munda and his wife are in the Capital looking for their child and stuck with no means to return home for over six months now. The couple is now staying at a shelter home run by non-government organisation working in the area of child rights, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA). Holding up a black and white photocopy of their only child sitting in The Hindu office on Friday evening, the couple narrated the ordeal they had been through. “Our child was kidnapped by an agent in Assam and brought to Delhi. This we got to know through our people in the village and so we came here in search of our child. We even tracked her down to the placement agency and when we went there we were told that if she works for two-three more days she will get her entire month’s salary. So we waited and even handed the placement agency owner the money we were carrying. This, he said, was to be used as transport charges for Lakshmi,’’ said Deepak. Now, six months later, the couple are yet to get back their child and have no money left even to feed themselves. “Whenever we go to the agency, they abuse us and throw us out. We even threatened them with police action and still there is no result. We will go back to Assam only after getting our child back,’’ said Deepak, holding onto the shoulders of his wife, who silently sobbed. Sadly Deepak and his wife aren’t alone in this tragedy. Also ‘stuck’ in Delhi for over a month is Sadan Tanti from Assam’s (Dulahat tea garden) whose two granddaughters – Unita (15 years) and Sunita (17 years) – went missing. “While my eldest granddaughter went missing several months ago, recently even her younger sister was ‘kidnapped’ and reportedly brought through a placement agency to Delhi,’’ said Sadan. Carrying the passport photo’s of his grandchildren he has been going to various placement agencies with help from BBA. “So far I have only got to know that my girls have been ‘trafficked’ to Mumbai. So I will now go to Mumbai. I cannot go back home without my granddaughters. I have a son who is mentally unstable and these girls are all I have to live for,’’ he added. In the city looking for his sister, who went missing from the same area as Unita and Sunita, is also Jisoya Tanti, who has been in Delhi for over two weeks now. Narrating his story, Jisoya said: “My sister was kidnapped by a local agent and after I came here I got to know that she was kept as a bonded labourer in some house. But now I have got information that she has managed to run away from the place and I have no whereabouts of her. I have appealed to the Delhi Police and have been putting pressure on the placement agencies to find my sister but so far nothing has materialised.’’ Refusing to go back along without his sister, Jisoya said: “I am stuck in Delhi till I find my sister. Where can I go? I need to know if she is dead or alive.’’ Meanwhile, Assam has in the recent years emerged as one of the ‘hotspots’ for child trafficking according to child rights activists. BBA founder Kailash Satyarthi speaking about this large-scale child trafficking, specially from Assam, said: “The place has become a hub for child trafficking and there are areas here which are notoriously unsafe for children. Many placement agencies are earning huge profits by bringing in children from these States to the Capital and also sending them to Mumbai from here.’’ He added that in the past three years alone, over 77 Assamese children who were trafficked have been rescued after BBA lodged complaints. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

22. UP: Dalit sisters gangraped, hung in public; (2)

Badaun (UP), May 29: In a brutal incident of human violation, two teenaged-cousins were gangraped and then hung to a tree in a village in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. The two girls were missing from their homes since Tuesday. Their bodies were found the very next morning from a tree in Katra village in Ushait area. The incident triggered protests in the area when the villagers blocked police access to the site until they were convinced that action would be taken. Citing police apathy, the villagers demanded suspension of all police officers on duty in Ushait police station. Following this, FIR was registered against seven persons including constables Sarvesh Yadav and Rakshapal Yadav, who were suspended. Villagers alleged that the police had refused to file an FIR on Tuesday night. As police awaited the postmortem report of the two girls, the four accused-Brijesh, Awadhesh and two other unidentified were arrested, said SP Chauhan. Police are awaiting the postmortem report of the two girls. (One India 29/5/14)

 

23. 3 Dalits Killed in Row Over Path to Graveyard (2)

TIRUNELVELI: Members of an intermediate caste have allegedly murdered three persons belonging to Dalit community in a dispute over the route to the graveyard near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli on Sunday. Sources said, K Murugan (40) and R Venugopalan (42), natives of Udappankulam are working as drivers in Coimbatore. On Sunday, they came to Sankarankoil to attend a family function at Malaiyur. After the ceremony, they went to meet Murugan’s elder brother, Kaliraj at Udappankulam. Later, Kaliraj went to drop the duo, in his two wheeler, at Sankarankoil. However, the trio was attacked by some miscreants at a distance of two kilometre from Udappankulam. They died on the spot. There was enmity between the Dalit community and a dominant intermediate caste regarding the route to the graveyard. The Dalits were denied the rights of taking their dead ones through the main street, where the intermediate caste lives. Instead, they were taking the dead bodies through another route, sources said. On information, Tirunelveli SP Narendran Nair, Madurai DIG Anandkumar Somale, DSPs Vanamamalai, Kalivarathan, Pichai, and Tiruvengadam police inspector Krishnasamy rushed to the spot to control the situation. More than 100 police were deployed in this regard. The dead bodies were sent to Tirunelveli Medical college Hospital for postmortem. Tiruvengadam police registered a case and are investigating. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

24. Uttar Pradesh: Another girl raped, hanged from tree (2)

Sitapur, June 4 : After the Badaun case, another minor was allegedly raped and later hanged from a tree in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh, said reports on Wednesday. A 15-year-old was allegedly abducted by six men when she went out of her house to relieve herself and her body was later found hanging from a tree, said reports. “My daughter was raped and killed by our 40-year-old neighbour and his friends. That old man wanted to marry my daughter. When we objected, he did this crime,” said the girl’s father. The police said they have booked the six men for murder. The post-mortem examination report of the girl is awaited. Two Dalit minor sisters were allegedly gangraped and then hanged from a tree at Katra village in Badaun district on May 27. The cousin sisters, aged 14 and 15 respectively, were reportedly missing since May 27 night. (New Kerala 4/6/14)

 

25. One in four Dalit women face harassment due to a lack of toilets: Report (2)

One in every four Dalit women faces harassment due to a lack of toilets, reveals a study conducted by WaterAid International. The report also stated that only 13% of Dalit households in these states had sanitation facilities, and that 26% of Dalit women that had to resort to open defecation had reposrted some form of humiliation. 6% of these women had also reposted sexual harassment. The full report, to be released later this year, has taken into account 9,644 Dalit households, from rural villages in four Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In UP, the survey was conducted in Allahabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Etawah, Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Kanpur Dehat, Rae Bareli, Sitapur and Sonbhadra. Between 15 and 20 Dalit majority villages from each district (based on the 2001 census) were selected to give a representative sample. In total, just over 500 households from villages in each of the 20 districts were selected for interviews, comprising a total sample of 9,644 households. The WaterAid India survey was undertaken in 2013 in partnership with the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR). WaterAid International has released the extract from their study on open defecation in response to the gangrape and murder of two girls in Katara village in Badaun. The forthcoming report is based on the caste-based discrimination and sexual harassment Dalit women face due to open defecation. “Priority needs to be given to end open defecation and to put in place the resources needed to significantly increase access to basic toilets. We call upon governments around the world to back proposals at the United Nations for everyone, everywhere to have basic sanitation, as well as clean drinking water and hygiene services, by 2030,” said WaterAid chief executive Barbara Frost. Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak, who had sent a team to the village for a survey said that the report had come at a right time, and that it stated what many women faced in the country. “I have seen, heard and felt through my several yeas in the field of sanitation that Dalit women are the worst-hit. Vulgar jokes, catcalls and sexual harassment is rampant. While the government claimed that only 100 houses in the village has no toilets, my team has found that all 406 houses in the village has no toilets,” said Pathank. Pathak who has written to PM Narendra Modi on Monday asking for resources to build toilets in every homes in the country, said that he is hopeful that the PM will respond positively. (DNA 4/6/14)

 

26. Haryana rape protestors evicted from Jantar Mantar (2)

New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Wednesday morning evicted more than 70 Dalit families from Jantar Mantar. They had been camping there for two months to protest the gang-rape of four minor girls in Haryana’s Bhagana village on March 23. The Dalit villagers said they were evicted around 5am without prior notice despite having sought permission for their protest. “No person can protest at Jantar Mantar for more than a day and these people housed themselves here for over two months now,” said SBS Tyagi, additional commissioner of police (Central range). Before their eviction, the protestors said men of higher castes frequently pick up Dalit women in their village when they go out to relieve themselves. None of the cases are reported. “Upper caste people do not allow Dalit households in our village to have toilets and the women generally go to the fields to relieve themselves either before sunrise or after sunset,” said Jagdish Kadla, a member of the family of one of the victims. The youngest of the four gang rape victims is 13 years old. She had her class five exam the day before she was raped allegedly by the family members of the village head. She and the other victims aged 15, 16 and 17 years were picked up from the field across their neighbourhood where they had gone to relieve themselves. “Five men forced us inside a car, rolled up the windows and took turns to rape us,” said one of the victims (Hindustan Times 6/6/14)

 

27. Dalit groom beaten up in M.P. village for riding a horse (2)

Chhattarpur: A Dalit groom was allegedly forced to get down from the horse he was riding as part of a pre-wedding ritual and beaten up by upper caste men at Sadwa village in the district, the police said here on Sunday. The incident took place two days ago, when Manoj Ahirwar (21) went around the village on horse-back seeking the blessings of village elders, said Chhattarpur’s Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Neeraj Pandey. As per village “tradition”, only upper-caste grooms are “allowed” to ride on a horse, while lower castes have to go on foot to seek the blessings of elders. The police said they had arrested seven people identified as Ladle Yadav, Khadia Yadav, Ammu Yadav, Mitthu Yadav, Jaahar Yadav, Ram Singh and Pavrat Pal, while six others, including village headman Khuman Singh, were absconding. Some persons in the groom’s procession also allegedly made some comments leading to the scuffle, with upper caste men objecting to the “violation” of village “tradition”. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

28. Panel discusses dalit boycott issue (2)

SANGRUR: State scheduled caste commission held meetings with district officials on Sunday to sort out issue of landlords boycotting dalits in Bopur village in Sangrur district. Commission chairman Rajesh Bagha met the officials and asked them to settle the issue and take stern action against persons found guilty. The panel also formed a five-member committee to solve the issue. Landlords in Bopur had socially boycotted dalits on May 16 when they claimed their right to 27 acres of village common land earmarked for the community. The plot was to be leased out to landless dalits for farming for an amount which would be decided by tenders. However, till now, tenders were grabbed by landlords with proxy dalit candidates. Angry over the dalits’ move to take the land on lease for cultivation, landlords had boycotted dalits last month. Commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi had visited the village on May 29. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

29. Govt to tax tobacco more to reduce consumption (3)

NEW DELHI: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan is for levying increased taxes on tobacco and tobacco-related products to discourage its consumption. Releasing a report on the economic burden of tobacco related diseases in India on Thursday, the minister said he will be writing to the finance ministry soon seeking necessary action on the issue. “It makes perfect economic sense to regulate the use of tobacco in order to achieve the goal of controlling non-communicable disease in India. Tobacco use is a preventable risk factor for major diseases and the resultant economic consequences,” Vardhan said, releasing the report, compiled by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). The report, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated direct and indirect costs from all diseases caused due to tobacco use and four specific diseases namely, respiratory diseases, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It estimated that the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 amounted to a staggering Rs 1, 04,500 crores — 12% more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health care in the same year. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) shared the highest burden (Rs 3,600 crore) of direct medical and indirect morbidity costs on account of tobacco use, followed by respiratory diseases (Rs 2,800 crore), tuberculosis (Rs 2,300 crore) and cancers (Rs1, 400 crore). “Of the 13 states which were part of the study, Uttar Pradesh shared the highest (28%) of the estimated health cost burden followed by West Bengal (13%) and Andhra Pradesh (12%),” said one of the researchers. WHO representative to India Nata Menabde said raising taxes is one of the strongest weapons to fight out tobacco and this is what the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control mandates. “A tax increase that raises prices of tobacco products by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco consumption by 4% to 5%.Essentially, as tax goes up, death and disease goes down. Raising taxes on tobacco is a win-win situation. It is good for people’s health and good for the economy,” Menabde said. The WHO recommends that share of excise tax for tobacco products should be increased to 70% of retail price. “The tobacco dependence treatment should be mainstreamed into the existing health care delivery systems,” said Dr Monika Arora, director, health promotion, PHFI. (Times of India 30/5/14)

 

30. High performance gap in healthcare infra, manpower availability in Gujarat: study (3)

Ahmedabad: Acknowledging the importance of health performance in overall human development index (HDI), a study by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has laid out certain performance gaps in Gujarat’s health sector. Performance gaps in areas like life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate and neo-natal rates have been found to be pretty high in Gujarat as compared to other states, according to the study titled ‘What Determines Performance Gap Index of Healthcare in Gujarat?’ Authored by Shreekant Iyengar and Ravindra Dholakia of IIM-A, the study attempts to identify the gaps in performance of the health related outcome, output and input indicators from the best performers in each indicator. The gap would indicate the distance that Gujarat has to cover to reach the best performance in the country in each indicator. A higher value of this index indicates more gap from the best and thereby a relatively poorer performance of Gujarat. Moreover, the paper also reviews the trends in health performance of Gujarat over time and also estimates the effectiveness of the state in converting its health inputs to outputs and outputs to outcomes. Indicators such as health infrastructure and manpower, among others were looked into to assess performance gap of Gujarat. For instance, gap has also been found in total government hospitals and number of available beds at 96 per cent and 64 per cent, it further states, while adding that the state will have to enhance health expenditure in order to reduce these gaps. “It is only the maternal mortality where the performance gap is low at 22 per cent putting Gujarat relatively near to the top performer. The performance gap of Gujarat in terms of the Indian system of medicine AYUSH (Ayurveda Yoga Unani Siddha Homeopathy) is also extremely large for the number of hospitals (99 per cent), beds (81 per cent) and dispensaries (86 per cent),” the study states. In terms of manpower availability (numbers per hundred thousand of population) in the public health system of Gujarat, the gap for the number of general doctors at primary health centres (PHC) is 90 per cent and for the specialist doctors at community health centre (CHC) it is as high as 95 per cent. “Moreover, considering the total number of doctors and nurses in the state, we find that the performance gaps are relatively lower at 50 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. However, the gap in terms of the total number of AYUSH doctors (66 per cent) is again quite high. The gaps for total and government doctors in Gujarat show that the non-availability of doctors is more severe in the public health care system than overall level in the state,” the study further states. Meanwhile, the study called for enhancing expenditure on health in Gujarat which it termed as a challenge. “The process of expanding infrastructure and increasing manpower would require significant public expenditure to be incurred. This can be placed as a major challenge to the state towards achieving better health outcomes and finding its place in the top performers among the states in the country,” the study concluded. (Business Standard 5/6/14)

 

31. ’1 in 10 adults in country has thyroid’ (3)

CHENNAI: One in 10 adults suffers from some thyroid related disorder, said health minister Dr C Vijaya Bhaskar on Thursday. Speaking at a national workshop organized at the Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital on ‘advanced management of thyroid disorders,’ the minister, quoting recent studies, said thyroid disorders affects 42 million people in India. “Studies in eight major cities in the country have shown that one in 2,640 neonates have thyroid dysfunction,” he said. Thyroid, the most common endocrine disorder, is common among women and it also puts them at a risk of cancer and cardiac issues, he added. Pointing out that the state is moving ahead rapidly in terms of healthcare development, the minister said, “Maternal mortality rate has reduced in the state at 68 per every one lakh live births in 2013 from 450 per one lakh live births in 1980. Infant mortality rate, too, has reduced over the years at 21 per every 1000 live births in 2012 from 93 in 1980.” The Tamil Nadu Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, since its inauguration three months ago, has treated 20,500 out-patients and over 1800 in-patients. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

 

HIV/AIDS

32. HIV prevalence among women sex workers falls (3)

HYDERABAD: There is some heartening news on the AIDS front. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Female Sex Workers (FSW) in the State has gradually decreased from 11 per cent to seven per cent now. Officials of the Andhra Pradesh States AIDS Control Society (APSACS) say measures at spreading awareness on safe contraceptive practices as a prevention strategy for the disease has finally paid off. They point out that it is not just the prevalence of HIV: even the percentage of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among FSWs is on the decline in the State. In the last five years, STI prevalence among FSWs has come down from a whopping 18 per cent to just two per cent, a reflection of the growing realisation among FSWs on the need to follow safe practices. “The bottom-line, however, is that HIV/AIDS prevalence and STIs among FSWs has to be brought down to zero. This is very much possible, but requires concerted efforts by all over a period of time. But, definitely, we have made a lot of progress in spreading awareness on safe practices leading to the drop,” explained APSACS Joint Director (Targeted Intervention) T. Kailash Ditya. The APSACS official was addressing a meeting organised by Integrated Rural Development Services (IRDS) and Mahila Abhivrudhi Sangam (MAS) here on Thursday. The meeting also discussed threadbare a host of issues related to the sexual and reproductive health needs of FSWs and released a study report on them. According to existing data, there are 1, 44,245 FSWs in the State who are being targeted by APSACS to take up safe practices that would prevent HIV/AIDS. “There is a definite need to focus more on spreading awareness on sexual reproductive health among FSWs in our State. This will help prevent ailments like cervical cancer in addition to HIV/ADS,” Mr. Kailash pointed out. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

33. Family abandons woman after she tested HIV positive (3)

AJMER: A woman was abandoned by her family when they came to know that she was HIV positive. This was revealed when she went to a hospital after conceiving a child. She was thrown out from her house and then she went to the police but no one came to help her. The woman then took the case to court and on its orders her husband was arrested and sent to jail. This happened nearby Kishangargh, where a woman accused her husband of not even returning her personal clothes. “They have not even returned my clothes and discarded me like an animal. I went to my parents but they even fear to keep me in the family,” said the victim. According to the police, the couple got married in 2009 and has a kid. “At the time of her first delivery all reports came normal,” said the report given to the court. The report further read that last year she fell ill and was taken to a private hospital for treatment. Again last month, the woman conceived a child and was taken to hospital where she was found HIV positive. “When the family came to know about the report they abused her and threw her out of the house,” the report read. The woman then went to the police, who did not help her fearing that HIV will spread by her presence. At last she approached the court. After hearing her side the court ordered to initiate enquiry and action against her husband. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

34. District Tops in HIV Through Reused Syringe (3)

KOCHI: It’s time Ernakulam district tackled drug taking on a war footing. For, it has got the dubious distinction of being the district with the highest number of HIV patients who have contracted the disease through reused syringes, in the state. The district is also said to have the maximum number of drug addicts. The Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) has identified 5,000 drug takers in the state, of which 157 are HIV-infected and 50 per cent of them belongs to Ernakulam, said Dennis Joseph, Joint Director (targeted intervention) KSACS. Against this backdrop, the KSACS is all set to launch a drug therapy called opioid substitution therapy (OST), a medical procedure wherein the drug, ‘Buprenorphine’, is administered to the patient. “It is crushed and then given to the patient so that the effects are similar to  that of drugs they are addicted to and its dosage is gradually tapered.  The therapy will be launched across the state. In Ernakulam, measures have been initiated to set up the facility at the Aluva District Hospital, the Muvattupuzha Taluk Hospital and the Cherthala Taluk Hospital. “A team comprising a doctor, nurse and councillor will handle the therapy. Since Buprenorphine belongs to a special category, special permission is required for its administration. Hence, the team will have to undergo training from All-India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS ). The training for the Ernakulam team will commence on June 16,” he said. The high rate of drug peddling in the district is a major reason why it tops the state in drug addiction, he said. “The district has literally become a haven for drug peddlers who lure many into drug taking. There are even ‘shooting galleries’ where drug addicts converge and share a doze from a single syringe. This is dangerous,” he said.   The KSACS has identified drug addicts and HIV patients across the state through eight different projects. Dennis said that the rehabilitation of drug addicts was a strenuous task when compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics. “Once it is stopped, the withdrawal symptoms become too intense,” he said. CAPE, an NGO, will be entrusted with the task of identifying the targeted population in the district. “In 2004, syringes were distributed to curb their re-use. Hence, the main task of the NGO is to distribute the syringes and collect the used ones. Once in six months, the therapy process will be monitored and analysed,” the official said. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

35. New method to make latent HIV reveal itself identified (3)

Washington: Researchers have identified a new way to make latent HIV reveal itself, which could help overcome one of the biggest obstacles to finding a cure for HIV infection. Leor Weinberger, PhD, Associate Investigator in the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and senior author of the study, said understanding how to reactivate latent HIV is one of the major challenges we must overcome in order to find a cure for HIV. One of the properties of latency that makes it so difficult to address is that it is random-or stochastic-in nature. Random fluctuations in transcription are unavoidable and a general aspect of life at the single-cell level and lead to “noise” around the average level of gene expression. In this study, the team tested the counter-intuitive notion that compounds that increase noise in gene expression could work together with transcriptional activators to increase overall levels of HIV reactivation. The concept borrows from other fields of science such as chemistry, where theoretical arguments long ago argued that increased fluctuations can increase the efficiency of reactions. First, they screened a library of 1,600 compounds using a specialized cell line that produces a green fluorescent protein (GFP) when gene expression is activated. The team identified 85 small molecules that increased noise without changing average GFP gene expression levels. They then combined these newly identified noise enhancers with known transcription activators in a cell line that serves as a model for HIV latency. They found that while the noise enhancers could not cause reactivation on their own, 75 percent of them could synergize with activators and increase viral reactivation relative to activator alone. In fact, some noise enhancers doubled reactivation levels when combined with activators. Furthermore, they found a direct correlation between noise enhancement and the degree of reactivation synergy; the greater the noise, the greater the effect on reactivation. For the first time, these results show that expression noise and reactivation of latent HIV are directly related, and identify new candidates for the “shock and kill” approach to treating latent HIV infection. The findings have been ere published in the journal Science. (Business Standard 6/6/14)

 

36. Submit report on action taken against lab in false HIV case, .. (3)

MUMBAI: The home ministry got an earful from legislative council chairman Vasant Daokhare on Saturday when he asked it to submit in a week a report on action taken against a Kandivli pathological lab which allegedly gave a man a wrong HIV-positive report and blackmailed him. The directives came after legislators Bhai Girkar, Ashish Shelar and others blamed the home ministry for granting “favours” to the accused and the owners of ‘The Pacific Lab’, Geeta Mehra and Rajendra Mehra, by delaying the investigation. Despite assurance from minister of state for home Satej Patil that the investigation would be completed within 15 days and stern action would be taken against the Mehras, the legislators sought Daokhare’s intervention. Girkar and Shelar said the lab owners had allegedly asked for Rs 1 lakh from the man who was tested to cure him and later pressurized him to withdraw the police complaint. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

37. ‘No repeal of land acquisition law’ (4)

New Delhi: Restructuring rather than repealing the controversial Land Acquisition Act initiated by the UPA government will be the focus of new minister for rural development Gopinath Munde. He asserted that he was not in the favour of scrapping the scheme but will rather focus on providing compensation and rehabilitation to the farmers. He emphasised that one of his priorities will be asset development in the villages, which due to the integration of the three ministries will be easier to streamline. Mr Munde added that he will tackle the issue of non-timely payments under the rural job scheme, MNREGA by working in coordination with the state governments. “Ensuring timely payments under the MNREGA by coordinating with the state governments will also be on priority. Timely performance of the scheme will be assessed to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach its beneficiaries,” Mr Munde said. He, however, rejected the idea of increasing the duration of the scheme from 100 days as he said that most parts in India witness 100 days of rainfall. Another focus area he emphasised will be the rejuvenation of the drinking water scheme. “We will identify the problem areas in ensuring a permanent source of clean drinking water. The challenge is the fact that the implementing agency for the scheme are the district council and not the state agencies,” he said. He added that new groups will be added to the flagship scheme of the Congress-led UPA government, Indira rural housing scheme. (Asian Age 30/5/14)

 

38. Will use force if Campa Cola residents do not cooperate: MCGM (4)

Mumbai: Armed with the supreme court order dismissing a plea of residents of Campa Cola compound against demolition of their flats, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) today said that it would not hesitate in using force to ensure that flats are vacated by occupants. “Use of force is the last thing that we will do. If it (eviction) is happening peacefully, it’s welcome. (However) if the eviction does not happen peacefully, there is no other option than to use force. But why should there be any confrontation?” Additional Municipal Commissioner Mohan Adtani, in charge of the demolition of flats, told PTI. The apex court had yesterday dismissed the resident’s petition to stay the demolition of their flats till the court decides on a curative petition filed by the residents. “Under the SC directives, the residents are legally bound to vacate their flats, but if they fail to do so we might use force against them as last resort,” he said. Seven high-rise buildings of Campa Cola Housing Society in South Munbai were constructed between 1981 and 1989. The builders had permission for only six floors. However, one of the compound buildings, ‘Midtown’, has 20 floors and another building, ‘Orchid’, has got 17 floors.As many as 102 illegal flats in the seven buildings will be razed. Adtani said that the residents have realised after the supreme court order that they have entirely lost the case. The MCGM had asked the residents to hand over the keys of their flats and vacate them. The deadline expired on June 2. “So far they (residents) had thought that they will find a (legal) solution (against the eviction). But after yesterday’s court order they (the residents) have probably realised that they have lost the case completely, and have started vacating (their flats). This a sign of new hope for us,” Adtani said. Adtani said that the civic body will take a call on starting the demolition process after it assesses the number of flats being vacated by residents.He also said that the civic body was mulling over filing a contempt case against the illegal residents. When asked to comment on the residents’ plea to grant them an extension until the monsoon season is over, Adtani said that this was beyond jurisdiction of the MCGM. “We cannot give them any (more) time. The supreme court had already given them time on two occasions in the past. It is not within our powers (to give any relief) as it is fixed by the supreme court,” Adtani said. The curative petition filed by the Association of the Residents of Campa Cola has said that they had come across certain facts under a Right to Information (RTI) query, that were never out before. The plea had further said that the MCGM and the state had decided to regularise the illegal construction in 1985. In 2013, the supreme court stayed the demolition of unauthorised flats in the Campa Cola compound till May 31, 2014 after the BMC squad bulldozed its way into the compound to take action against illegal flats in the Society with the residents putting up a stiff resistance. (Deccan Herald 4/6/14)

 

39. Posco Faces Fresh Protest over Mining at Khandadhar (4)

ROURKELA: Renewed resentment is brewing against prospective mining by Korean steel major Posco at Khandadhar under Lahunipara block of Sundargarh district. Members of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS) with support of civil rights activist and Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantara on Tuesday announced to hold a mass convention near Khandadhar waterfall on Thursday and observe the World Environment Day as ‘Save Khandadhar’ Day. Flanked by Samantara, KSSS secretary Suresh Munda and leader of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe Bilua Naik informed that the villagers of Talbahali, Haldikudar, Phuljhor, Kuliposh, Khuntgaon, Kurda, Bhutura and Sasyakala would participate in the convention. Reiterating the need to save Khandadhar waterfall, Samantara demanded the Central and State governments to ensure no mining activities within 25 km radius of the waterfall and declare the region as National Natural Heritage. He insisted on protecting the natural habitat of the diminishing primitive tribe Paudi Bhuiyan, who along with other tribal communities, are religiously attached to the Khandadhar hill, the abode of their presiding deity Kanta Devi. He also appealed to the State Government to withdraw its second recommendation of Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco. Samantara said the greater Khandadhar waterfall in Lahunipara sustains greenery and feeds the residents of several panchayats. The waterfall merges with river Brahmani. Apart from KSSS, the Khandadhar Suraksha Samiti, Rourkela unit of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Chheliatoka Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti and Bonai Bikash Parishad (BBP) are also fighting for the same cause. BBP kicked off a post card campaign against the proposed mining at Khandadhar on March 12 urging the State Government to protect Khandadhar through post cards. BBP general secretary Babaji Sahu said above 15,000 post cards have been submitted so far. A convention would be held at Khandadhar after 13 days where a new outfit, Khandadhar Parivesh Suraksha Samiti, would be formed with representations from 56 affected villages. Following the formation of the outfit, women members would visit villages to mobilise public opinion against Posco. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

40. NH revamp left in lurch – Firm dumps Rs 940cr project (4)

Ranchi, June 5: A Calcutta-based construction company has backed out of the Jamshedpur-Kharagpur highway link widening project two years after bagging it, citing pending forest clearances and land acquisition glitches. Simplex Infrastructures Ltd has written to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) headquarters in Delhi, saying it was unable to execute the Rs 940-crore four-lane project involving 127km of national highways Nos. 33 and 6 covering Jharkhand and Bengal. A source in NHAI said Simplex, appointed the project concessionaire under build-operate-transfer (toll) in 2012, had not got a date of appointment — or time from when it could start groundwork — as forest clearances and land acquisition were held up. According to Central Vigilance Commission norms, the NHAI can give the appointment letter to a firm on contract only when forest clearances are obtained and 80 per cent land needed is acquired. The onus of readying forest clearances lies mainly with the Centre, while the state government is responsible for acquiring land. “Simplex wrote to NHAI recently saying it would not be able to execute the four-lane work. NHAI may have to go for a fresh tender. Finalisation of a new agency will take time,” an NHAI official said, requesting anonymity. Covering the dilapidated Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur stretch, 71km of the project falls in Jharkhand and 56km in Bengal. The proposed widening covered two sections, Mahulia-Baharagora on NH-33 and Baharagora-Kharagpur on NH-6. Close on the heels of this fallout, NHAI is also concerned over the slow pace of widening work on the NH-33 link of Ranchi-Jamshedpur. Ranchi-based project director of NHAI Awadhesh Kumar told The Telegraph that Delhi headquarters is “already concerned” over the slow pace of work executed by construction major Madhucon Projects Limited, which last year was appointed the concessionaire for the Rs 1,500-crore project. “The overall deadline for the project is June 2015, which we doubt would be realised,” said Kumar, who was in Delhi earlier this week and inspected the site today with NHAI chief general manager Rabindra Kumar. (The Telegraph 6/6/14)

 

41. ‘Farmers whose land will be acquired for airport upgradation to get compensation’ (4)

LUDHIANA: As the land acquisition authorities have issued notification before fixing the rates for acquisition of land from farmers for the upgradation of Sahnewal airport, the authorities are likely to give compensation to the farmers as per the New Land Acquisition act. Giving details, Kuldeep Singh, additional chief administrator GLADA, said “We have already submitted the objections from the farmers of the villages in which land is being acquired after we issued notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition act in June last year. On May 30 we also issued notification under section 6 of the land acquisition act after which we are calculating the rates for the land to be acquired”. “The process of fixation of prices of the land will be completed within a month or two. The compensation is likely to be given to the farmers before the end of this year”. He added that the farmers will be given rates as per the new land acquisition act and according to that they will get twice the rate than the collectorate rate given previously. Officials in GLADA which is acquiring the land for the project say that whereas the collectorate rate for an acre of land previously was around 35-40 Lakhs per acre but as per the new land acquisition act, the farmers may get around Rs 80 lakhs for the same piece of land. In the meanwhile farmers whose land is being acquired are not happy with the double the collectorate rate. Says Amar Singh, a farmer of Neechi Mangli, “We had heard that rates will be four times of the collectorate rate but two times is too less a price for the land. Once the authorities announce the rates for the land, we will decide next course of action”. (Times of India 9/6/14)

 

CORRUPTION

42. SIT may not get to know to know source of black money stashed abroad (5)

NEW DELHI: Even if the Special Investigation Team under Justice MB Shah succeeds in tracking most of Indian black money stashed away in tax havens, it may never be known how much of it is proceeds of crime or if money is hidden in secret accounts abroad just because its owners don’t want to pay taxes in India. It would remain a challenge to figure out what part of the black money is generated from criminal activities such as drug smuggling, arms deals, policy manipulations etc which have serious implications for national security, beyond just financial integrity. However, there is one disturbing statistics that could give an idea of the growing proportion of money generated through such criminal activities. Over 50 percent of the cases under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since it was notified on July 1, 2005 were registered in just the last one year. Under this act that deals with proceeds of criminal activities, the first conviction could be in the high profile scandal involving former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and his cronies who swindled out hundreds of crores. And the second major conviction could be in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal. Between April 2013 and March 2014 the Enforcement Directorate registered 55 cases under PMLA. And in the ongoing financial year, ED could end up registering over 90 money laundering cases. In the previous eight years (2005 to 2013) just 49 cases were registered, and not one case has ended in conviction. One of the reasons for the sudden jump could be better enforcement of PMLA, but what also cannot be ignored is the fact that many scandals have emerged in recent times. And in most of these scandals, the ED has been able to track down the proceeds of crime, which show the huge amount of kickbacks in each of the scandals. In most of these cases while money laundering to distant tax havens is one of the activities, what is noticeable is the fact that much of the bribes and kickbacks have been moved around in India itself. There are several tactics used to move them around. Real estate is a key target of investment, while buying shares in private companies at exaggerated share values and offering unsecured loans are among the ways to move around black money or pay kickbacks. In sectors like real estate, black money is staggering, and a significant portion of it could be proceeds of various crimes such as kickbacks. The SIT, to be headed by Justice MB Shah, is tasked with duties of investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution in cases of Hasan Ali and other matters involving unaccounted money, the cabinet statement had said. In Hasan Ali case, investigations have found that documents showing $8 billion deposits by him were forged. The SIT would serve its full purpose if it were to put sharper focus on the criminal aspect of black money, especially in the Indian context. PMLA cases might be a good beginning to make. Times of India 30/5/14)

 

43. 2G Case: Shahid Balwa Wants to Depose as Witness (5)

NEW DELHI: Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, one of the accused facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case, Tuesday told the court that he wanted to depose as a witness in the case to defend himself. Balwa’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal told the special CBI court hearing the case that his client wanted to depose as a witness in the case in which recording statements of defence witnesses will commence July 1. Central Bureau of Investigation counsel K.K. Goel did not object, saying to depose as witness to defend himself is Balwa’s right. Balwa’s counsel told the court that he wanted to bring six witnesses in his defence and he would be one of them. “Defence is my right. They (CBI) have produced 153 witnesses and I am only seeking to summon five to six witnesses in my defence,” said Aggarwal on behalf of his client. Aggarwal added that co-accused, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd, were seeking permission to examine a total of five witnesses only in their defence in the case. Regarding former telecom minister A. Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, also an accused in the case, Aggarwal told the court that he was only summoning some documents in his client’s defence. Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini reserved the order for Wednesday on the issue of calling defence witnesses and documents as sought by these accused. The court had earlier allowed Raja’s plea seeking to depose as a witness to defend himself in the trial. The court had on Oct 22, 2011 framed charges against 14 accused and three companies under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe. All the accused are out on bail. (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

44. CBI launches helpline against officials demanding bribe (5)

Bhopal: To keep a tab on corruption in government offices, CBI unit here has started a “citizen helpline” where people can call and register their complaints against officials demanding bribe. The agency has provided a mobile phone number and an email ID through which such complaints can be made, a statement from the CBI office here said. People can also file their complaints through a mail addressed to Superintendent of Police posted here. “Complaints against corruption and bribe related demands, can be lodged to email hobacbpl.Cbi.Gov.In or contact cell number 09425600070. Citizens can also write to Superintendent of Police, CBI, Anveshan Parisar, Char Imli, Bhopal,” a CBI statement said.   (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

45. Sub-Registrar Held in Rs 30-Cr Wadiyar Land Grab Case (5)

MYSORE: In a major breakthrough in `30-crore Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar’s property grabbing case, Lokayukta police have registered a case against more than eight people, including the Sub-Registrar, District Registrar of Stamps and Registration and two real estate agents. Four among them, arrested by the Lokayukta police led by Lokayukta SP S M Jagadish Prasad, were produced  before the Lokayukta Court on Thursday. The arrested were B K Sundar, son of Kunjappa Poojary (65) of Sulagalale village in Shanivarasanthe of Somwarapet taluk in Kodagu district, Girish, Sub-Registrar, Mysore East, real estate agents R Mahadev, son of T Raju of Janatha Layout in J P Nagar II Phase and Ravikumar, son of Lakshman of Ramakrishna Nagar E and F Block. All  the accused have been booked under different sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 463-568, 473, 473, 474, 420 and 109 read with 120 (B) of IPC, according to the first information report. According to Lokayukta police, the gift deed was registered by the Sub-Registrar Girish to help Sundar to grab the Wadiyar’s property. Initially, both  Girish and District Registrar and Deputy Commissioner of Stamps L G Hamsaveni clarified that the gift deed given on October 10, 1961 by erstwhile Mysore Maharaja has no  legal sanctity. Later, they accepted it to help the criminals who hatched conspiracy to grab the property. Finally, they helped the main accused Sundar to pay registration fee and registered the property on January 27, 2014. Girish and Hamsaveni were booked for misuse of power, fabricating of documents and connived with the private parties. Sundar has been accused of fabricating the gift deed dated October 10, 1961 to claim  200×250 ft land, about 50,000 sq ft, Survey No 1 in Maharaja’s Estate Office as his own and submitted to the Registrar’s office. Based on this, Girish registered the deed illegally by creating the documents saying that he himself took the signature, left thumb impression of late royal scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar at Mysore Race Club in Mysore on January 7, 2014 for confirmation deed. R Mahadev, a real estate agent, is allegedly involved in the deal by paying a registration fee of Rs 47.59 lakh in the name of Sundar. One more real estate agent Ravikumar has also paid `8.50 lakh in the name of Sundar, the police said. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

46. CBI wants to examine former Army chief General V K Singh (5)

NEW DELHI: Amid growing speculation that CBI may close its probe into allegations of bribery offer to former Army chief General V K Singh, the agency recently asked the newly-appointed minister to join investigations as it wanted some clarifications. The first-time MP and minister of state wrote to CBI’s that “he won’t be able to join investigations right now” as he was busy with the Parliament session. Agency officials said they wanted some clarifications from the former Army chief on his allegations against Lt Gen (Retd) Tejinder Singh and evidence provided by him. The audio recording CD, notes from personal diary and RD (record of discussion) of ministry of defence are being examined by CBI and it is planning to soon finalize the investigations. A request to V K Singh to join investigations was reportedly made by CBI during the Lok Sabha elections to which he replied recently. V K Singh’s lawyer Vishwajeet Singh, when contacted, told TOI, “CBI has been informed that our client will join later since Parliament session is going on.” CBI, however, is not very happy with V K Singh’s reply as its investigations are pending. The case has been dragging for more than two years now. Earlier, CBI officials had claimed that there is not enough prosecutable evidence in the case and it might be closed as well. It recently decided to conduct fresh forensic analysis on the audio CD provided by V K Singh as the previous examination did not reveal much. CBI had registered a case on October 19, 2012 after carrying out preliminary enquiry for nearly six months. Tejinder Singh was named by the CBI as an accused under Prevention of Corruption Act, as charges were levelled against him by V K Singh in his complaint. V K Singh had alleged that Lt Gen (retired) Tejinder Singh had offered him Rs 14 crore to clear the tranche of 1676 high mobility Tatra vehicles in the Indian Army. Tejinder Singh had met V K Singh at latter’s office on September 22, 2010. Tejinder had denied all charges levelled against him and also filed a defamation case against the former chief. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

TRIBALS

47. Gearing up for an empowered tribal affairs ministry: Oram (6)

New Delhi: Newly-appointed tribal affairs minister Jual Oram on Thursday said he would ensure his ministry has a greater say in deciding approvals to industrial and infrastructure projects in tribal areas. Oram’s statement assumes importance in the backdrop of his predecessor V Kishor Chand Deo’s recurring grouse that the tribal ministry did not have any say in such approvals. “Deo was right when he said the tribal ministry did not have much power in many matters. We will ensure it changes,” he told HT. While the tribal affairs ministry runs several programmes aimed at welfare of tribals, approvals for any industrial project in tribal-dominated land lies with the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The tribal affairs ministry’s role in such projects kicks in only when there is a case of violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA). The ministry is the implementing authority for FRA which grants tribals and forest dwellers the ownership over the land they have been living on for years. Oram said he would find a way to empower the ministry through inter-ministerial discussions. “In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ten priorities which includes putting in a place a system for sorting out inter-ministerial issues, I will discuss the vexing issue with the environment ministry,” he said. The minister also said that the tribals had, over the years, lost faith in the government machinery and that he would endeavour to win back their confidence. “The way tribals are denied their basic rights, it is only obvious they will lose faith in government. FIRs are not registered, ownership of forest land they have been living on for years are denied,” he said. These factors he said had contributed to the rise of Maoists in tribal areas.  On whether he would oppose large-scale operations on the lines of operation Greenhunt carried out by the UPA government, he said, “That’s something the home ministry will decide not us. While the MHA will treat as a security problem we will treat it as social problem,” he said. (Hindustan Times 29/5/14)

 

48. Anti-Posco Villagers Pin Hopes on Jual (6)

ROURKELA: The anti-Posco villagers opposing the proposed mining at Khandadhar in Bonai Assembly segment are upbeat over the elevation of BJP Lok Sabha member Jual Oram as Minister of Tribal Affairs. They are also buoyant after the victory of CPM’s Laxman Munda from Bonai Assembly segment. While campaigning in the segment during elections, both Jual and Laxman had taken a hard line stand against Posco. Khandadhar Mahila Suraksha Samiti president Baita Pradhan of Paudi Bhuiyan tribe said she and several others are forced to live with apprehension of losing their natural habitat for the last seven years. They have now pinned their hopes on Jual and Laxman to get relief, she said. A host of anti-Posco activists residing in several villages in the vicinity of Khandadhar waterfall said mining would destroy the scenic beauty of the environmentally rich region. Sources said though Jual won from Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, the BJP leader has reasons to worry as he polled 47,684 votes from Bonai against 52,926 secured by hockey icon and BJD nominee Dilip Tirkey. Moreover, the CPM legislator of Bonai also won with a narrow margin of 1818 votes against his BJD rival Dayanidhi Kisan. Before his victory, Jual had said, “At no cost, iron ore mining would be allowed in Khandadhar as local tribals are emotionally and religiously attached to it. Posco should be ousted from Odisha for larger interest of the State and nation.” Four months ago, the BJD-led Odisha Government had made its second recommendation to grant Prospective Licence (PL) to Posco at Khandadhar. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik resuming office for the fourth consecutive term, the BJD Government is likely to push for mining in Khandadhar region. Jual said his stand over Khandadhar remains unchanged and he is committed to protect it from mining. In fact, Posco’s mining proposal will be reviewed by the NDA Government in which Jual is a Cabinet Minister. The CPM legislator also reiterated Jual’s stand. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

49. ST/SC Land Commission may be formed in Jharkhand (6)

Jharkhand Industry and Tribal Welfare Minister, Champai Soren today said he was contemplating to set up a land commission for ST/SC people for speedy disposal of pending land related cases. “We are contemplating to form an ST/SC Land Commission in the state to facilitate speedy disposal of land-related cases involving ST/SC people,” Soren told newsmen here. Soren said he would soon discuss it with Chief Minister Hemant Soren to give the proposal a concrete shape. He said he would soon write a letter to Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in this regard. Soren regretted that hundreds of cases were pending in the court for years across the state and the poor tribals were unable to afford to fight the lengthy legal battle. (Business Standard 4/6/14)

 

50. Tribal MLAs oppose inclusion of Dhangars in ST category (6)

Mumbai: An all-party delegation of 25 MLAs and Ministers from tribal areas of Maharashtra on Thursday asked Governor K Sankaranarayanan not to recommend to the Centre the inclusion of Dhangar and other non-tribal communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Maharashtra. The delegation comprising ministers Madhukarrao Pichad, Shivajirao Moghe, Padmakar Walvi, Deputy Speaker Vasant Purke and MLAs from various political parties told the Governor that all tribal MLAs will resign from the legislature if the government recommended inclusion of Dhangar and other communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Some political parties, “with an eye on Assembly Elections”, were assuring Dhangar and other communities of inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes, members of the delegation said. This had caused a deep unrest among tribals communities in Maharashtra, they said. Claiming that a large number of non-tribals had already usurped the government jobs meant for tribals through bogus caste certificates, the delegation urged the Governor to protect the Constitutional rights of tribals. A Raj Bhavan spokesperson said the Governor assured the delegation that he will discuss the matter with the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. (Zee News 6/6/14)

 

51. Tribals Pledge to Prevent Mining in Khandadhar (6)

BUDHABHUI ( SUNDARGARH ): Hundreds of members of anti-Posco tribal communities including the Paudi Bhuiyan tribe on Thursday pledged to save the bio-rich reserve from mining.  Braving scorching heat, members of various tribal communities with traditional weapons reached the venue from far-flung villages of Lahunipara block in Bonai sub-division of Sundargarh district. Under the aegis of Khandadhar Suraksha Sangram Samiti (KSSS), they vowed that they will lay down their lives, but not concede ancestral land for mining. Paudi Bhuiyan tribe head Bilua Naik administered the oath. They also observed the World Environment Day as Save Khandadhar Day. Later they went in a procession and held a meeting at Budhabhui. The anti-Posco movement in the tribal hinterland got a boost with leaders of various anti-displacement movements in Odisha joining hands. Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhay Sahoo, Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Parfulla Samantara and Coordination Committee of Western Odisha Farmers Organisations’ convener Lingaraj were present among others. Talsara Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi and Sundargarh unit CPM secretary Banamali Dhupal attended on behalf of CPM’s Bonai legislator Laxman Munda. They appealed to the Central and State Governments to ensure that mining operation is not allowed in 25 km radius of the waterfall and national natural heritage status is accorded to the site. They demanded strict implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the region to recognise the forest dwellers’ community ownership and habitat rights on forest. Claiming that the Khandadhar region resembles all features of Niyamgiri, Samantara said the State Government should abide by the Supreme Court order related to Niyamgiri which makes it mandatory to take prior approval of the local Gram Sabha before recommending mining right to Posco. They also appealed to all anti-displacement outfits and political parties to fight jointly to help preserve the natural heritage, traditional ethos, culture and customs. They warned that the agitation will be intensified if the Central and State Governments refuse to concede to their demand. KSSS secretary Suresh Munda said various tribal communities should be allowed to lead a natural lifestyle. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

52. Hindu gods cast spell on ST tag report (6)

New Delhi, June 8: Communities should not be denied Scheduled Tribe status just because they follow the “Hindu way of life”, a panel appointed by the UPA on the eve of the general election has suggested. The recommendation comes at a time many tribes have been shifting gradually towards mainstream Hinduism and away from their animist and nature-worshipping traditions, anthropologists say. Many among the 700-odd communities on the Scheduled Tribe list too have been following Hindu practices — some of them, perhaps, after having gained the status. However, one of the five current criteria for inclusion on the list is “indication of primitive traits” — which seems to require adherence to the traditional animist practices. Now this criterion has been dropped from a set of six new criteria suggested by a committee headed by Union tribal affairs secretary Hrushikesh Panda, which has also recommended the inclusion of 30 new communities. (See chart) Sociologist Andre Beteille criticised both the old and the new criteria, saying they were based on “political considerations” and not on any “academic definition”. Beteille blamed the “attraction of the quota” — the Scheduled Tribes have 7.5 per cent of government jobs and higher education seats reserved for them — for the clamour for inclusion in the list. “The communities that are already in the list do not want others to come in,” he said. “The middle class people from communities that are outside the Scheduled Tribe list want to get into the list because they want a share in the quota. That is why these criteria are coming up.” Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram did not want to comment on the recommendations but said he would examine the report soon. His predecessor, V. Kishore Chandra Deo, endorsed “Many studies have shown that some tribal the Panda panel’s suggestions. He told The Telegraph that many hill tribes were being denied Scheduled Tribe status because of “rigid” (dated and narrow) criteria and “long bureaucratic scrutiny”.  communities follow Hindu practices,” said Soumendra Patnaik, a Delhi University teacher and president of the Indian Anthropological Association, a professional body of anthropologists. “The study by Surajit Sinha on the Bhumij community of West Bengal has established that a section of the Bhumij community was following Hinduism in the 1940s.” C.R. Sathyanarayanan, deputy director of the Anthropological Survey of India, said: “In many mountain landscapes in southern India, tribals have started following the Ayyappa culture. They should not be left out of the Scheduled Tribe list for that reason.” Lord Ayyappa, the deity of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, is considered by believers to be the offspring of Shiv and Mohini, the female incarnation of Vishnu. Deo, the former Union minister, said the Saara tribe had fallen victim to the Odisha practice of spelling tribal names differently in different areas. He cited how the Shabar were included in the Scheduled Tribe list but the Saara — who Deo said were Shabar tribals living near Khurda — were not. The Registrar General of India, a home ministry arm that oversees censuses and collects demographic data, has ruled that the Saara are not the same as the Shabar. But Panda’s panel has recommended Scheduled Tribe status for the Saara. The demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe list is a major issue in many states, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Nearly two lakh people from the Dora community in Koraput had threatened to boycott this summer’s general election if not granted Scheduled Tribe status. If a community is to be included in the list, the state government has to send a proposal to the Union tribal affairs ministry, which forwards it to the Registrar General and, if it agrees, to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. If the commission gives its nod, the ministry prepares a bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order of 1950 to include the new communities. After both Houses pass the bill, the government notifies the new communities’ Scheduled Tribe status. (Time of India 9/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

53. Parrikar’s charges mischievous, say Fr Prakash (7)

PANAJI: Fr Cedric Prakash, whom Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar likened to Ram Sene chief Pramod Mutalik for allegedly spreading religious discontent, has described Parrikar’s statement as ‘extremely mischievous and very unfortunate.’In a press release, Prakash said that his talks in Goa, during his visit here in March, were focused on the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of people are deprived of their legitimate rights, both in Gujarat and in other parts of India. Prakash stated that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Gujarat government in 2003 goes against the Indian Constitution, particularly Article 25 which guarantees every citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. “It also goes against Article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief,” Prakash said. Prakash asserted that there is sufficient data to prove that the so-called development of Gujarat is a myth. Denying that he has abused any religion to create ‘discontent’, he said that his closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly to the majority community. The Catholic Association of Goa (CAG) expressed deep disappointment with Parrikar’s statement, where the chief minister compared Muthalik to Prakash, terming them as ‘two sides of the same coin’. In a press release issued by CAG, Brig (Retd) Ian da Costa said that as a long-time resident of Gujarat, Prakash felt compelled to speak about the ground realities there. CAG urged Parrikar to substantiate his charges against Prakash. (Times of India  1/6/14)

 

54. KCR keeps his promise of priority to SCs, minorities (7)

Hyderabad: The oath-taking ceremony of the first chief minister and ministers of the newly-born state of Telangana began at 8.15 am at Raj Bhavan, which was packed with people from all walks of life, including the kin of those martyred in the cause of Telangana, industrialists, sportsmen, etc. Slogans of “Jai Telangana” and “Jai Mana Rashtram” rent the air. The new CM, Telangana Rashtra Samiti president Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, dressed in his trademark white shirt and pants and a vermilion tikka on his forehead, took the oath of office in the name of God. Many of his Cabinet colleagues took it in the name of Pavitra Hrudayam (conscience). The first CM of the fledgling Telangana state bowed to the crowd and received a bouquet of pink roses from the governor after taking the oath. As predicted by this newspaper, Mr Rao retained the SC, ST, BC and minorities welfare portfolios, municipal administration and urban development, energy, coal, GAD and all other portfolios that have not yet been allotted. Mr Ali took the oath after Mr Rao. Dr Rajaiah, a dalit from Station Ghanpur (SC) constituency, was the third to take the oath. By appointing the two men as his deputies the CM demonstrated that he had kept his promise to give priority to minorities and SCs. (Asian Age 3/6/14)

 

55. Police failed to anticipate trouble: Minorities panel (7)

PUNE: State minorities commission chief Munaf Hakim blamed the city police for its “absolute failure” to anticipate trouble and take preventive measures to check the violence that followed the objectionable posts on social networking sites last Saturday. Besides damage to public property, the violence resulted in the brutal murder of a youth in Hadapsar on Monday night. Lack of intelligence inputs has also contributed to this failure, Hakim said here on Saturday. “The violence was not a sudden reaction,” the minorities panel chief told reporters, pointing to a systematic build up by the elements who wanted to target a particular community by misusing technology and circulating hate messages. “Over the last one year, organisations like the Hindu Rashtra Sena have consistently tried to disturb the city’s social fabric and create tension by displaying provocative banners. We wonder why the seriousness of all this was not taken into account. Adequate preventive measures ought to have been in place,” he said. “If a city as big as Mumbai could be kept peaceful in the wake of objectionable posts, I can see no reason why the situation in Pune could not be anticipated and controlled,” Hakim said, adding, “This calls for a serious review of our intelligence network.” Hakim and other members of the commission visited various locations in the city, including Hadapsar and Bhosari, where violence occurred between May 31 and June 2. They held a meeting with top police officials to discuss what went wrong and what was needed to be done. “We will submit our report to the chief minister in the next two days,” he said and called for stern action against those responsible for the violence. Hakim avoided commenting on whether it was the state government’s failure that reflected in the police’s inability to curb violence. “It was for the police commissioner and the government higher-ups to work out measures needed to curb violence. The commission has no role to play in this,” he said. He also declined to comment on the failure of ministers and legislators, including deputy chief minister and Pune’s guardian minister Ajit Pawar, to visit the violence hit areas. “As commission members, we are here to examine the situation on ground, collect information from the police and submit our report to the government. It is only after we get all the information that we will be in a position to say who was responsible for the violence,” he said. Hakim defended the commission’s visit six days after the murder as had the commission visited on the day after the violence, it risked facing the allegation of siding with a particular community and interfering in the police’s effort to curb violence. (Times of India 8/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

56. Fall in Muslim representation in Cabinet sets MIM thinking (7)

Hyderabad: The sharp fall in Muslim representation in the Parliament has set the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen thinking. The party feels there is an urgent need for the community to emerge as an independent political entity at the national level. “The community should do serious introspection on this. The Majlis is ready to support any initiative in this direction,” says Majlis president Asaduddin Owaisi. The Majlis leader feels the decline in Muslim MPs’ strength doesn’t auger well. Not a single Muslim MP got elected from Uttar Pradesh and in the entire south just four Muslims were elected. “Is India heading towards majoritarian form of democracy,” he asks. The election results are an eye-opener in that they clearly showed how the ‘secular parties’ had failed to transfer their votes to Muslim candidates while the community plumped for these parties religiously. Parties like Congress, SP, NCP did not succeed in transferring their votes to Muslim contestants with the result the BJP gained wherever Muslim population was more than 15 per cent, he reasons. “It’s a pity that the BJP could not ensure success of its lone Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain,” he feels. He, however, gave credit to the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Benerjee, for bucking the trend and sending eight Muslim MPs from West Bengal. The Hyderabad MP favours redrafting of the electoral strategy by Muslims. He wants the community to support the Majlis or the Muslim League at the national level so as to avoid dispersion of Muslim votes. “If 23 Muslim MPs have been elected it is solely due to the community support. Other parties have no role in their election,” remarks Mr. Asaduddin. He strongly protests the remarks of Minority Affairs Minister, Najma Heptulla, ruling out reservations to Muslims and the move to stop benefits under the Sachar Committee report. But he doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Let’s wait and watch. I want them to disprove me,” is all that the Majlis leader would say about the new dispensation. While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to forge friendly relations with neighbouring countries, the Majlis leader wants him to invite the Hamas leaders also as India had always extended solidarity to the Palestinian cause. Mr. Asaduddin plans to meet the TDP leader, N. Chandrababu Naidu, after he takes oath as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to discuss minority issues in the State. The Majlis will seek allocation of at least Rs. 1,000 crore budget for minority welfare. The other demands include effective implementation of Urdu as second official language, housing, education and setting up of skill development centres in Anantapur, Hindupur and Kadapa districts. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

57. Shahi Imaam Punjab slams Heptullah (7)

LUDHIANA: Coming down heavily on minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah for her remark that Muslims are not a minority in India, Shahi Imam Punjab on Saturday asked the minister to resign on moral grounds. Addressing mediapersons, Shahi Imam Punjab, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Saani Ludhianvi said that while making such a derogatory statement, Heptullah seems to have forgotten that she became the minority affairs minister because she is a Muslim. He added that if she, in her capacity as minister, can’t talk of the rights of Muslims, she has no right to lead the minorities. He claimed that Heptullah was opposing the wakf property and Sachar committee report to just pay back the Modi government for giving her a cabinet berth. He added that Najma is speaking the language of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP and said that it won’t be tolerated. He asked the home minister and BJP president Rajnath Singh to clear the air on the statement made by his colleague. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

58. Muslim techie beaten to death in Pune, 7 men of radical Hindu outfit held (7)

Pune: A YOUNG IT professional was killed, allegedly by members of a radical Hindu outfit, as he was returning home Monday night, after derogatory pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray uploaded on Facebook triggered communal tension across the city over the weekend, police said. Police identified the victim as Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, a 24-year-old from Solapur district, who worked as an IT manager with a private firm in Pune. They said seven people, aged between 19 and 24 years, have been arrested. They were associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena, a radical outfit active in the state, police said. The Crime Branch also called Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai for questioning. He was later arrested in connection with an earlier case at Pune Cantonment police station, relating to distribution of objectionable pamphlets in March this year. Shaikh was reportedly assaulted near his rented home in Bankar Colony, Hadapsar, as he was returning with a friend, Riyaz, after offering namaz at a masjid, around 9 pm. Riyaz alleged that Moshin was targeted because he was wearing a skull cap and had a beard. “I ran from the spot and called his brother Mobin for help. However, by the time Mobin came, Mohsin was badly beaten up and the assailants were about to leave,” he told The Indian Express. A police team reached the spot soon but the assailants fled from the spot, leaving behind their motorcycles and wooden sticks. Police seized three motorcycles that helped in identifying the assailants. The arrests were made on Tuesday. Mohsin was admitted to a private hospital where he was declared dead around 1 am. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV) Manoj Patil said all seven accused are associated with the Hindu Rashtra Sena. However, before his arrest, Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Desai told The Indian Express that his outfit was not involved in the murder. “We understand that circulating derogatory pictures is a cyber crime but the problem cannot be solved by killing innocent persons. We did condemn the uploading of derogatory pictures, but we did not plan attacks on innocent persons. We have branches across the state and there is no incident of attack carried out by our activists till now,” Desai said… (Financial Express 4/6/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

59. Goa wants Pope for St. Francis Xavier’s exposition (7)

Panaji, May 31 : Goa, where Catholics comprise nearly 30 percent of the state’s 1.4 million people, wants to invite Pope Francis to the exposition of Spanish saint Francis Xavier, scheduled to be held later this year. The external affairs ministry would be requested to invite Pope Francis for the exposition, union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik, elected from Goa, said Saturday. “If the Church makes the request to invite the Pope to Goa, we will help speed up the process with the external affairs ministry,” Naik said. Every 10 years, the remains of the missionary saint, also called the “Patron Saint of Goa”, are lowered from the silver casket in which they are permanently stored, for viewing by the faithful. Earlier, the body was on permanent display. However, after church authorities noticed deterioration of the corpse they decided to have it viewed only once every 10 years. St. Francis Xavier, who hailed from Navarra in Spain, was sent by the then Pope as an apostolic nuncio (ecclesiastical diplomat) in 1541 at the request of the king of Portugal, after explorers led by Afonso de Albuquerque captured the city of Goa. He was also responsible for initiating the process for the Spanish Inquisition in Goa, which saw tenets of Christianity imposed by force and violence on Goan subjects. After his death in 1552 in Shanchuan, China, his body was first ferried to Malacca in Portugal. In 1637, it was placed in the newly-built Basilica of Bom Jesus, built by the Jesuits in Goa. Believers regard it as a miracle that the body has survived for nearly 500 years, while sceptics argue that the mortal remains of the saint have been embalmed which has ensured its survival. A festival is held every year Dec 3, with nearly a million believers paying homage, some even walking hundreds of kilometres to the church complex in Old Goa. (New Kerala 1/6/14)

 

60. Priest Worked for Refugee, Tribal Welfare (7)

SIVAGANGA:  Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, was appointed as director of the Dindigul unit of Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organisation, after he completed his theological studies at the Theological Centre in Beski College, Dindigul. He then started working with Sri Lankan refugees and tribal people in Kodaikanal. “He always urged us to visit Kodaikanal to understand the plight of tribal people,” said his father Antony. Antony, who along with his family, organised a special prayer in their house for the safe return of his son, said, “Whenever he talked to me, he would enquire about my health. He visited us in February to attend the first death anniversary of his mother Mariya Thangam. He stayed with us for a month.” Prem Kumar’s brother Manoharan said, “Officials from the Indian embassy in Afghanistan spoke to us today morning and assured us they would rescue my brother soon. We hope Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa would also urge the Central government on this.” (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

61. Family of abducted priest pleads for his safe return (7)

New Delhi: A day after Indian Jesuit priest Alexis Prem Kumar was abducted from Herat province of Afghanistan, his family has pleaded for the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to intervene and secure his safe release. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials on Tuesday to review the situation and also discussed the frequent attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan. “The incident is being tracked very closely,” an official said. So far, no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the kidnapping but details have emerged on how the abduction was carried out. Kumar, 47, is the Afghan director of Jesuit Refugee Service — an NGO that works with Afghan refugee kids. He had been working there for the past three years and was visiting a school for refugee kids on the day he was abducted from Sohadat village, 24 km outside Herat. Deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Nadir Fahimi said six gunmen had abducted Kumar without using any force and may have taken him to Gulran district. He said authorities were working with district elders to mediate his release. “We are trying to get him back safely,” said provincial governor Fazelullah Wahidi. “Since this was the only Indian charity in the region, whoever planned the kidnapping had a fair idea about the target,” said a source. The priest’s 77-year-old father Anthony, a retired teacher, told PTI that Kumar went to Herat in 2011 to do social work and help poor people. “He came home in February and left for Afghanistan in March. He used to talk to us frequently over the phone and always said that there was no problem from militants,” said Anthony. “I request the government to take necessary steps immediately to rescue my son from the militants,” he added. The abduction comes just days after heavily-armed gunmen had tried to storm the Indian Consulate in Herat. (Hindustan Times 4/6/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

62. Most recommendations of Nanavati Commission already implemented: Phoolka (7)

AMRITSAR/PATIALA: The recent statement of SAD leaders over the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi that theyt would get the Nanavati Commission report implemented is contradictory to the fact that most of the recommendations of the commission were implemented by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-I government, especially those against Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. Union cabinet minister Harsimarat Kaur Badal, daughter-in-law of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, had stated on Tuesday that Akali Dal would get the Nanavati report implemented in letter and spirit to get perpetrators of the heinous crime behind bars. The statement came after she took over as Union food processing minister in the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. However, contrary to this claim, months after Nanavati Commission report was tabled in Parliament in 2005, the then Union government had referred the cases against senior Congress leaders to CBI, which registered FIRs against Tytler and Sajjan. The report was submitted in February 2005 and tabled in Parliament in August the same year. CBI registered cases against Sajjan and Tytler in October and November 2005. The rehabilitation package announced by Manmohan Singh in 2006 and was not included in the recommendations made by the commission, said sources. “This is not a well thought-out statement. We must keep in mind that all recommendations of the Nanavati Commission have been implemented by the Central government. The commission had recommended registration of only four cases, against Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. These four cases were registered and investigated by CBI. Making a hue and cry for its implementation now would serve no purpose and would be a wastage of time,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader H S Phoolka, who fought cases of riot victims and was “appreciated” by Justice G T Nanavati for his assistance rendered to the commission. “Rather, the only body that can dig out correct facts and bring perpetrators of crime to justice is the special investigation team (SIT)”, said Phoolka. Asked to elaborate, Phoolka added, “Justice Nanavati had mentioned in his report that 241 cases were closed by police and were never sent for trial to courts. But, unfortunately, it recommended reopening of only four cases. Guilty could be punished if the leftover 237 cases were reopened. For this purpose, he said Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi had constituted an SIT to reinvestigate the 237 cases closed by the police. The Modi government should immediately make the SIT functional and get these 237 cases probed again.” (Times of India 29/5/4)

 

63. Muzaffarnagar riots’ inquiry panel records statements of 33 victims (7)

Muzaffarnagar: The one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice (Retd) Vishnu Sahai recorded the statements of 33 more victims here on Tuesday. More than 700 victims have submitted their affidavits to the commission in connection with the riots. Earlier, statements of 248 riot victims were recorded and the commission would continue recording the statements of rest of the victims, Justice Sahai said. Over 60 persons were killed and more than 40,000 displaced in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in September last year. The commission was constituted on September 9 to probe the Muzaffarnagar violence starting from Kawal incident on August 27 till September 9. Failing to submit the report within the stipulated time of two months, the commission was granted an extension of six months in November last year. (Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

64. Pune attack follows social media posts (7)

Pune: The Pune police said Mohsin Shaikh from Solapur was beaten to death when he was on his way home after evening prayers. The incident was a fallout of communal tensions in the city after morphed images of Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook. According to a senior police official, a group of youths from the Hindu Rashtra Sena took to the streets after the social media posts, targeting Muslim settlements. “Motorcycles found at the place where Mohsin was beaten up led to the suspects,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Manoj Patil said. Mobs from both sides had gathered, the police said. Riyaz, who was with Mohsin during the attack, told The Hindu: “I was saved because I don’t have a beard and wasn’t wearing a skullcap. Mohsin was targeted because his appearance revealed him to be a Muslim.” Riyaz said that Mohsin was beaten as he ran to seek help. He was admitted to a private hospital, where he died of injuries on Tuesday. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

65. Twenty injured as Hindus, Muslims clash over sewer line in UP village (7)

Shamli: They had been living harmoniously for decades until work on a sewer line ruptured ties between Hindus and Muslims at Chausana village in UP’s Shamli district late Wednesday night. The two communities clashed over displacement of a Hindu place of worship for the purpose of laying down a sewer pipeline, which was proposed by the Muslim pradhan of the village. While the Hindus were against it, the Muslims went ahead with the construction work leading to tension. A riot broke out in which more than 20 people were injured. Many suffered serious head injuries and were referred to hospitals in Delhi, Meerut and Chandigarh. Locals told The Indian Express the Muslims proposed an underground sewer line through the Hindu place of worship — an 80 square yard plot having idols of deities. After protests, it was decided that the sewer line would be diverted, but the sewage pipe would discharge the untreated water next to the plot. This infuriated the Hindus who opposed the proposal. On Wednesday, around 10 pm, when the Muslims were working on the site, a 90-year-old Hindu woman alerted her sons and soon a large group reached the site to stop the construction. When the Muslims saw them coming, they called their men and a clash broke out. Both sides reportedly used bricks, stones, lathis and swords. While police called it just a “clash”, a case of rioting and attempt to murder has been registered on the complaints of both communities. While the Muslims claimed they started the work only after the Hindus gave their consent, the Hindus claimed otherwise. Munni (32), whose husband sustained a severe head injury, said the moment the clash broke out, she ran to the police outpost barely 100 metres away, and the officers on duty ignored her. “I told them that our men were getting killed but the two officers sat there sipping tea. They asked me to go home and wait till one or two people are dead and then approach them,” she said. “I ran to the spot myself. When I reached there I saw two of our men lying on the ground bleeding profusely. With the help of my neighbour and children, I dragged the two of them to a safe place.” She alleged that when she arranged for a car to rush his husband and other injured to the hospital, the Muslims blocked all the exit points of the village. “The police came after everything was over. They just took a round and said everything is ok. When I asked them as to why they did not take action, they said they did not have orders from above,” she said. The family of the pradhan, Mohammad Irshad, however, alleged the Hindus came armed and attacked them. “We were just doing our work… (Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

WOMEN

66. Outrage over gang rape, murder of cousins in U.P. village (8)

BADAUN (Uttar Pradesh): In a crime that is rapidly gathering casteist and political overtones, two teenage girls from a backward community were raped and murdered allegedly by three brothers of the Yadav community in the village of Katra in this district. The girls, who were cousins, had left their house together at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and walked toward the nearby open field as there was no toilet at home. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree 250 metres away from their home at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday after neighbours and relatives began a frantic search. “We have arrested one of the brothers, Pappu Yadav, and a hunt is on for the other two,” DIG Bareilly R.K.S. Rathore told The-Hindu. The State government on Thursday suspended three policemen, including constable Sarvesh who has been detained for interrogation. The others are Katra Saadatganj police outpost in-charge Ram Vilas and head constable Chatrapal. IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta said autopsy confirmed the cause of death of the two girls as “ante-mortem hanging”. It was also “indicative of rape.” Although the parents informed the police immediately after the girls failed to return, the policemen asked them not to worry. The villagers immediately fanned out in all directions to trace the girls. After the bodies were found in a mangrove, they informed the police, who however made no effort to come to the crime scene. Only when irate villagers gathered and sought action against the killers and the police chowki staff did the policemen reach the spot. The villagers, however, did not allow the policemen to lower the hanging bodies, but relented after local politicians BSP MLA from Jalalabad Neeraj Maurya, Bhagwan Singh Shakya of the Maurya Samaj and Brijpal Shakya of the Congress pacified them. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav justified the suspension of three police officials charged with laxity. (The Hindu 30/5/14)

 

67. Gujarat CM Seeks Help from Holy Men to Save Girl Child (8)

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel has sought co-operation from religious leaders in its movement to save the girl child and prevent female foeticide. “I make a request to holy men to expedite the movement to save the girl child,” she said, addressing a religious event in Junagadh district. Patel also cited the Gujarat government’s success in the movement against female foeticide which resulted in moderating the state’s gender ratio. “Gujarat government has been successful in eradicating female foeticide. So, today the state’s sex ratio is 904, while a few years ago, it was 804,” she said. The first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat has also stressed the need for equal rights to women. “In this 21st century of science and technology, we must ensure that girls are given equal rights and education. We must make sure that girls will also be given an equal chance to participate in each and every sector,” Patel said. Gujarat health minister Nitin Patel, Rajkot MP Mohan Kundaria and BJP leader Parshottam Rupala attended the religious event along with religious leaders. (New Indian Express 1/6/14)

 

68. UP again: Woman judge raped, forced to drink pesticide (8)

Lucknow: Rapes continue to plague Uttar Pradesh — a woman judge was raped and an attempt was made to kill her in Aligarh, said the police. The attack comes just days after the gang rape and murder of two minor girls in Badaun that has caused a nationwide furore. Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters Image used for representational purpose only. Reuters The woman judge was found unconscious in her official residence on Monday. She was drugged and badly injured. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nitin Tiwari told IANS that based on the complaint of the victim’s brother, a case of rape has been registered. “As of now, no medical has been conducted and we are waiting for the victim to be in a position to testify,” he added. Officials told IANS that a half-empty bottle of pesticide was also recovered at the crime scene and it is feared that after raping the judge, the assailants force fed her pesticide. She has since been admitted to a hospital where her condition continues to be serious. After a complaint was lodged by the brother of the victim at the Civil Lines police station, police lodged an FIR and are on a lookout for the assailants, officials said. (First Post 3/6/14)

 

69. 17,800 cases of crime against women reported in Maharashtra (8)

Mumbai: Whopping 17,800 cases of crime against women and 3,456 cases of crime against children were reported in Maharashtra in the year 2012, the State Economic Survey report for 2013-14 today said. The report, tabled in the state legislature, said that among cases of crime against women, 1,839 cases of rape; 1,140 cases of kidnapping; 329 dowry deaths; 7,415 cases of domestic violence; 3,935 cases of molestation, 1,294 cases of sexual harassment and 366 cases of illegal trafficking were reported. It said 212 children were murdered in 2012 and 917 cases of rape against children were reported that year, while 893 children were kidnapped, besides 199 children were found abandoned. There were 1,482 cases of crime other than rape, kidnapping and dowry deaths against women, while 1,023 cases of crime against children other than rape, murder and kidnapping were reported, the survey report said. (Zee News 4/6/14)

 

70. Horrified at reports of violence against women in India: US (8)

WASHINGTON: The United States has said it is “horrified” at reports of sexual violence and murders in India and it also applauded the role of individuals, government officials and civil society groups working to protect the survivors. “Like so many in India, we were horrified to learn of these violent sexual assaults and murders. Our thoughts are with the victims families during this difficult time,” state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Tuesday. Harf was responding to questions on the brutal gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls last week in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district. “As we have said, changing laws and changing attitudes is hard work,” she said. However, Obama administration had praised the role of government officials along with civil society groups working to protect the survivors in the country. “We applaud the many individuals, government officials, and civil society groups in India that are working to protect the survivors, to prevent gender-based violence, to help it try to change what is really hard to change,” she added. The former USIBC president, Ron Somers, said the urgent need of the hour is to double-down on law and order, particularly to protect women and to administer the law fairly to all sections of society. “The headlines of the recent rape case are becoming all too frequent. This tragedy is a blight on all humanity, affecting all of us directly. The damage such an act perpetrates on India’s image is real. Investors and travellers the world over hesitate and pause while considering basic safety,” he said. “Recognising that law and order is a state subject, and knowing that crimes of hate are acts of violence that respect no national borders, if only the central government could set a model example to spur best practices for keeping the peace, protecting the innocent across all of India, this is the urgent need of the hour”, Somers said. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

71. Teenage girl raped, sets herself ablaze in Jaipur (8)

Jaipur: A 17-year-old girl attempted suicide by setting herself ablaze after she was allegedly raped in Mahesh Nagar area of Jaipur, police said on Thursday. The 25-year-old accused identified as Manish lives as a tenant in the same building where the victim lives with her parents. The incident took place on Tuesday when the victim was alone at her house. While she was being raped, a friend of the accused identified as Rajendra Sharma was watching the criminal act from the window, they said. After the incident, the girl poured kerosene and set herself ablaze. Neighbours came to her rescue and rushed the girl to hospital, said police. “On information from the hospital, police recorded the statement of the victim on Tuesday night,” ACP-Sodala Prem Dan Ratnu said on Thursday. Both Manish and Rajendra have been arrested, he added. The victim has sustained 45% burn injuries and is being treated at the SMS government hospital here, said police. (DNA 5/6/14)

 

72. Sex ratio in Haryana improves to 881 (8)

Chandigarh: In a positive sign, Haryana’s skewed sex-ratio has improved to 881 from 875 last year on the back of measures taken by the health department, the state government said on Saturday. In the last one year, the sex ratio has improved in 12 districts of the state including the five districts of Ambala, Kaithal, Panchkula, Panipat and Mewat, where it has improved to more than 900, the spokesman said. “The slew of promotional-cum-punitive measures taken by the Health department have paid rich dividends,” the spokesman said, attributing credit to the pro-active policies adopted by the state’s health department. The various steps taken by the health department to improve female sex ratio include improving health facilities on one side, and punishing those found involved in female foeticide or sex determination of the unborn child, the spokesman added. The Health Department has cancelled registration of 37 illegal gender detection centres and sealed ultrasound machines of 38 centres between April, 2013 and March, 2014, the spokesman said. Besides, seven doctors have been convicted under the PNDCT Act and their names removed from the register of Haryana State Medical Council for five years. In the last two months, 22 FIRs have been registered for the violation of the PC and PNDCT Act 1994. In addition to this, all villages showing positive improvement in their sex-ratio will be rewarded under the scheme ‘Best Village’, the spokesman added. The health department is trying to meet its target of improving the sex-ratio to 900 females per 1000 males. (Zee News 7/6/14)

 

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

73. Proposed Kerala airport hits environment barrier (9)

CHENNAI: The multi-crore private Greenfield airport in Aranmula near Sabarimala shrine in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala has again hit a roadblock with the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directing KGS International Airport Ltd to stop construction at the project site. The Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council (AHVPAC), private individuals like K P Sreeranganathan and others had petitioned the tribunal stating the project was located in an ecologically sensitive area near the holy river Pampa. Also, because of its location near the Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy temple, the project faced stiff resistance from the devotees, as it could cause structural damage to the temple. After the Kerala government provided the NOC for the project, the ministry of environment and forests provided Environmental Clearance (EC) in November 2013. Earlier in April 2013, the tribunal had stayed the project. The petitioners said the ministry had provided the EC without considering the area was a wet land comprising of paddy fields. Its conversion into an airport would affect the fragile ecosystem. On Wednesday, the bench of judicial member Justice (retd) M Chockalingam and expert member R Nagendran said the private consulting agency, Enviro Care India Private Ltd, Madurai was not competent to prepare the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or appear before the Environment Assessment Committee (EAC). Also, the EAC (constituted by the ministry of environment and forests) after granting the EC had issued recommendations for the project. These had not been followed, said the bench adding the public hearing of the project too had not conducted in violation of the compulsory provisions of the EIA. In February, the Kerala government had filed an affidavit in the Kerala high court supporting KGS Group’s claim that the proposed private airport at Aranmula would not affect Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. The company had given an undertaking to preserve the sanctity of the temple and not to interfere with its structure, said the affidavit. Chennai-based KGS Group heads the 2000 crore project spread in an area of 500 acres. More than half of the project reclaimed large swathes large swathes of low-lying marshlands (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

74. Glacier feeding Indus tributary melting fast, JNU study says (9)

NEW DELHI: This could be worrisome for Himalayan glaciers. A team from Jawaharlal Nehru University has found significantly accelerated ice melting on Chhota Shigri glacier in Lahaul and Spiti over the last 10 years. The JNU team, which has been studying the glacier for several years to understand the impact of climate change, has used meteorological data of 40 years to extrapolate the pace of ice-melt on the glacier. This is the first scientific study to have monitored a Himalayan glacier for four decades which, according to scientists, is enough time to understand the trend of glacial melt. While the Chhota Shigri glacier may give clues to glacial melt in other Himalayan glaciers, but scientists say topography and micro-climatic factors for each glacier is different. The team from the School of Environmental Sciences, JNU, has focused on mass balance—difference of ice accumulated and lost to melting since 1969. It has divided the span of 43 years into three periods. In period I (1969-85) there was a negative mass balance and ice mass loss of 5.76 metres (water equivalent) in 16 years, in period II (1986-2000) there was status quo, but in period III (2001-12) a massive 6 metres (water equivalent) was lost in just 10 years. Over the whole modeling period the specific annual MB has been negative 60% of the time. The glacier lost about 13 metres (water equivalent) in the 43 years. “This acceleration in ice melt in the Chhota Shigri glacier can surely be attributed to temperature rise. But the acceleration has not yet reached dangerous levels. Also, topographical factors influence glacial melt, so we cannot just say that the only reason for this kind of loss is climate change. Glaciers have their own way of balancing mass,” said A L Ramanathan, one of the authors of the study. The JNU team has its own weather station on Chhota Shigri glacier which has been recording weather parameters since 2009. But for this study, published in Annals of Glaciology journal recently, the team has used weather data from Bhuntar airport’s observatory close by. Chhota Shigri is at a slightly higher elevation than the airport but it can reflect the status of the glacier with a minor error margin, Ramanathan said. The steady loss of ice mass in last 10 years was further corroborated by the team by conducting studies on ground and manually measuring ice loss annually. A team of PhD researchers from JNU visits Chhota Shigri every October. Glacial melt is of concern because of its impact on water resources. “If most of the glacial mass melts, there will be more water in the rivers for a few years but later the perennial nature of rivers will be affected. For Chhota Shigri, the entire mass or what we can call the foxed deposit has not eroded yet. But melting has accelerated,” Ramanathan added. Chhota Shigri feeds Chandra river, one of the tributaries of the Indus river system. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

75. 90% of Indians concerned about improper waste management: Teri (9)

New Delhi: Almost 90 per cent Indians felt the quality of environment had immediate health implications, with a vast majority showing concerns about solid waste management, a survey conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) said. The study showed 60 per cent of the respondents felt generating less waste at the first place was the best way to deal with waste management. But a little more than 50 per cent were not willing to segregate their waste into biodegradable and non-degradable as they thought it was the municipality’s job. Close to half the population surveyed complained about non-collection of garbage from their doorsteps. Teri Director-General R K Pachauri said, “The public has to realise the benefits of solid-waste segregation. “If we want to bring about improvement in environmental quality, the foundation on which any such effort would rest, would be on public awareness.” However, on a positive note, 86 per cent people favoured a complete ban on polythene bags. Further, 90 per cent of people were aware about the climate change phenomenon. While 80 per cent believed the mean temperature had risen, 63 per cent felt the average rainfall had declined. The survey revealed a majority complained about a lag in policy implementation on all parameters including air pollution, water pollution, water supply, ground water, water conservation, waste management, forest conservation and climate change. The survey noted that there had been improvement when it came to awareness related to water usage and electronic waste. Over 70 per cent of the respondents were aware of the water being subsidized by the Centre and among them over half felt that water should be charged as per usage. Over 80 per cent people were aware of the problem of e-waste, and most of them either repaired or re-used electronic goods. The survey titled ‘Environment Survey 2014’ was conducted in eight cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Guwahati, Indore, Jamshedpur, Kanpur and Pune with over 11,000 respondents and is the third such survey conducted by the organization. (Business Standard 3/6/14)

 

76. Gwalior leads pack in polluting monsters (9)

BHOPAL: A month after World Health Organization found Gwalior as one of the top four polluted cities of the world, the 2013-14 data of the state’s pollution control board also substantiates this claim. Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board, which monitored vehicles across the state, found Gwalior leading other cities in MP with 23% diesel and 6.9% petrol vehicles emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Head office of road transport department is also situated in Gwalior. “The board sends data on vehicular pollution to the state transport department, but no action is taken. And the level of pollution remains the same,” said activist Ajay Dubey. Official records of MPPCB show that around 25,000 vehicles were monitored in last fiscal and of this nearly 1500 were found emitting pollutants above permissible limits. Gwalior is followed by Jabalpur where 10% of 1,312 petrol vehicles and 8.4% of 785 diesel vehicles were found emitting above permissible limits. In Bhopal, 3.3 % of 1,618 petrol vehicles and 13.1 % of 199 vehicles emitted excessive pollutants. In Indore, 1% of 1,358 petrol vehicles and 37.7 % of 204 diesel vehicles crossed the legal limit. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

77. Shun Plastic is NGOs’ Slogan to Mark World Environment Day (9)

VELLORE: On the eve of World Environment Day, NGOs have called upon industries to reduce pollution. They have also called upon citizens to switch to bicycles. The district administration has appealed to the people of the district to avoid polluting nature as the lifestyle and growth of people should never hamper the environment. Social activists here have suggested that the domestic garbage be segregated and handed over to civic body workers. Indiscriminate use of plastics and dumping them in public places choked the drainage and rainwater canals, which had become a breeding ground for vector borne diseases. People should start using cloth bags instead of plastic, they suggested. Hotels should avoid using plastics for packing food items. Used plastic cups, water bottles and polythene sheets used during marriage functions should never be reused. Medical waste should be handed over to designated agencies for safe disposal. Every individual should plant trees and protect them. In order to tackle water scarcity issue, every household should install rainwater harvesting system and maintain them. Treated effluent must be reused. Industries should never emit smoke from their premises. The solid waste from industries should be properly treated and reused, the activists said. Further the activists pointed out that people should switch over to solar power system to meet their requirements while reducing dependency on electricity. The emission from vehicles should be reduced. People should also start using bicycles, not only to protect environment but also for health reasons. Cancer causing smoking should be totally avoided. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

78. Gujarat govt to set up model schools for quality education (11)

Rajkot: Gujarat government will be setting up model schools that could compete with any of the private schools in terms of providing quality education. With the beginning of new academic year in mid June state government will be opening 79 model schools in 85 talukas. Out of these 12 schools will be located in tribal dominated areas of the state. These model schools will be set up under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan” (RMSA), where central government provides 72 percent funds while rest 28 percent is contributed by the state government. “We are aiming to provide quality education to the children from under privileged society and the children below poverty line (BPL) families,” said state education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. “Education provided in a model schools will be based holistic and integral approach touching upon physical, emotional and aesthetic development in addition to academics,” he added. According to education department officials, students’ enrolment process has been almost completed in model schools and academics will commence from June. “Under RMSA, state government is aiming to improve secondary education in rural areas mainly for the girls in Gujarat. These all are residential schools where students will have hostel facility,” said R S Ninama, joint director of education department. Ninama said, “Model schools will have the same facilities as of any of the private educational institutes and each class will have 40 students.” The project cost of model school is around Rs 315 crore. About Rs 4 crore has been spent on each school. Infrastructure in the model schools would include computer classrooms, security, air conditioned laboratory over and above the basic requirements. The schools will also provide meal and residential facilities to the students. (Business Standard 1/6/14)

 

79. Fifty Matric Schools Likely to be Closed (11)

COIMBATORE:  Close on the heels of the closure of nursery and elementary schools functioning without approval in Coimbatore district, the Directorate of Matriculation Education has decided to initiate action against close to 50 such Matriculation schools in the State. Sources in the Directorate of Matriculation Education said that a list of around 50 Matriculation schools functioning without approval from the Directorate would be sent to top authorities of the School Education Department and closed from June. As per the free and compulsory Right to Education Act 2009, every school including matriculation schools, can function only after getting the approval from the Directorate. Ten days ago, the District Elementary Education Department  ordered the closure of 49 nursery and primary schools in Coimbatore which lacked recognition. These schools were functioning either without adequate land or necessary certificates such as fire and safety, sanitation, building licence and stability certificate. As per norms, schools should have a minimum space of 33 cents in Corporation area, 55 cents in a municipality, one acre in urban areas and three acres in rural areas. Schools functioning without the necessary approval or after withdrawal of the approval are liable for a fine of `1 lakh and further violation will attract a penalty of `10,000 per day. Coimbatore Chief Educational Officer A Gnanagowri said, “The RTE Act is applicable to students in the age group of 6 to 11. Matriculation schools too come under the purview of the Act. Any Matriculation school that is functioning without approval, the necessary clearance from other government departments and not complying the norms with regard to land, should be closed.” “In Coimbatore district, no school has been found to have violated the norms, but we have recommended closure of one Matriculation school in Nilgiris district,” said another official who was earlier in-charge of Matriculation schools in Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

80. Call for changes in RTE reservation provision (11)

Madurai: Parents and activists working in the field of education have called for changes in 25 per cent reservation provision of the Right to Education Act. As per the Act, the schools are required to provide 25 per cent reservation to students from the weaker sections at the entry level classes. Activists and parents have expressed concern that the provision serves no purpose when implemented only at the entry level classes. The provision should be extended to at least five classes from the entry level, they have urged. “When I approached a private school to admit my daughter under the RTE Act for Class III, they declined the request stating that they will admit students under the Act at the entry level that is kindergarten,” said R. Kodeeswaran, a parent. Besides, no school notifies details such as dates when applications are issued for admission under the RTE Act, he claimed. T.V. Parvatha Vardhini, managing trustee of Littles Trust, a non-governmental organisation, said that as per legal guidelines the private schools are required to put up notifications on admissions in the school notice boards. “In most cases, no one is aware of the notifications put up in notice boards inside the school campus. The schools are supposed to notify the number of vacancies and complete admission process under the Act in May. However, many parents approach the schools for admission only in June, making it convenient for the schools to say admissions are already over,” she said. “No private school in the State has implemented the Act properly.” (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

81. Put A-School children in other CBSE schools: court (11)

Chennai: The Madras High Court has directed the education authorities to accommodate the children who studied in 36 ‘A-schools’ run by the Management of Chettinad Foundation A-School, in other recognised CBSE institutions, preferably near their place of residence, in terms of the RTE Act. The court also directed the management and the founder of the A-School Chettinad Foundation, Annamalai Chettiar, to jointly and severally pay Rs. 15,000 to the parents of the students admitted in the A-Schools as interim compensation within four weeks. Transfer certificates should be issued immediately to all the children. The parents could approach the appropriate forum for getting refund of fees and for claiming further compensation. The First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan was disposing of writ petitions by parents of children in A-Schools to accommodate their wards in some other recognised CBSE schools and pay them compensation. They submitted that the A-Schools did not have recognition either from the State or the CBSE. The institutions lacked basic infrastructure and amenities. In spite of that, hefty fee was collected. The parents made repeated representations to the authorities concerned. Though the management gave an assurance that the children would be accommodated in the nearby CBSE schools, nothing was done so far. Because of this, the future of their children was in jeopardy. The school education authorities submitted that the management had established the schools without permission/recognition. A show cause notice was issued to the management and the unrecognised schools had been closed. The Bench said the court had, in an order of October 2011, considered the same issue in detail and found that collection of fees by the A-Schools was unsustainable as the institutions were unrecognised. It was also the authorities’ stand that all the 36 schools had been closed and stringent action was being taken by the department. Hence, it was issuing the direction to the authorities. (The Hindu 6/6/14)

 

82. TRS Govt to Shut 118 Unrecognised Schools (11)

HYDERABAD: The government will shut down as many as 118 schools in Hyderabad as they do not have recognition.The grace period extended to them also has expired and now they cannot do anything except wait for the inevitable to happen. The notices and ample time provided by the district education officials could not goad them into action. They have not made nay effort to get recognition from the government. Three notices had been served on them in the last one year and yet it was water off ducks’ skin. They have to comply with a  host of infrastructure and academic requirements besides depositing Rs 50,000 for endowment fund and Rs 20,000 for inspection fee to obtain recognition. In an effort to improve the quality of education and arrest a mushroom-like growth of unrecognised schools in the district operating in hazardous conditions risking the lives of the children, Hyderabad district education officer A Subba Reddy had served the final notices on them and said no more extension of time would be given to the erring schools. According to the information available with the district education officials, in April 2013 a total number of 497 schools were found to be functioning without recognition. In the last one year, 90 such schools have been closed down. Of the 407 such schools still functioning, the department is in the process of granting recognition to 129 schools as they met the requirements. This leaves 278 schools. Of those, 160 schools which have been accorded Permission To Open (PTO) and Extension of Temporary Recognition (ETR) status. Finally, 118 schools are left which the department proposes to shut down as they did not do anything to meet the government’s requirements. The PTO recognition will last for one year and schools have to apply for ETR which, in turn, would be valid for three to five years. The ETR has to be renewed continuously after the expiry of the recognition. “All these 118 schools will be closed down without any compromise. Besides, appropriate action would be initiated against the managements for not even responding to the notices served by the district administration,” he added. It may be noted that three years of time period has been given to unrecognised schools to procure recognition from the district administration after the enforcement of the Right to Education Act (RTE) . However, neither the school managements nor officials concerned have finished the task till date owing to negligence. The DEO advises parents to verify whether or not a school has got recognition efore admitting their wards. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

TERRORISM

83. Dreaded Lashkar Militant Gunned Down in Kashmir (12)

SRINAGAR: A top commander of the Pakistan-based  Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terror outfit was killed by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday. The slain ultra has been identified as Abu Ukasha Afghani, a foreign national, and  is the seventh militant commander to be killed by the security forces this year. A senior police officer said acting on specific information about the presence of  the terror chief in village Sudal area of Magam in Handwara, a combing operation involving the Army, police and paramilitary personnel was carried out in the village early on Sunday to flush out the militant holed up there. “The militant hiding in the area opened fire on the search party after being asked to surrender. The fire was returned by the security men and in the ensuing firefight, the LeT commander was killed. The security men did not suffer any casualties or injuries,” he said. Defence spokesman in Srinagar, Lt Col N N Joshi said one 9mm Pistol, one magazine with 15 rounds and one matrix sheet was recovered from the slain militant. “ Afghani was the seventh top militant commander to be killed by security forces in 2014,” he said, adding that 10 top militant commanders had been killed by the security forces last year. A police official termed Afghani’s killing  a major jolt to LeT in Kashmir. “He had been operating in the Valley for a long time and was involved in several attacks on security forces,” he said. General Officer Commanding (GoC-in-C) of the city-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Gurmit Singh had told Express that the security forces were targeting the militant leadership to demoralise the militants and weaken the militant outfits. “Foreign militants are our enemy and there would be no leniency while dealing with them during the counter militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir,” he  had said. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

84. Terror law invoked in gender-test case (12)

Bhopal, June 1: The National Security Act (NSA), mainly used against hardcore criminals and terrorists, has been invoked for the first time against a person allegedly caught using ultrasound scans to reveal the sex of foetuses. Medical technician Kapil Pandey has been ordered arrested under the NSA, which allows detention up to a year, by Gwalior district magistrate P. Narhari after a sting operation by the local administration found the suspect allegedly involved in the illegal activity. If Pandey is found guilty under the NSA, he could face a life term or death, besides fines. Under the amended Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT Act), the maximum punishment is jail up to five years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh. Pandey is accused of having performed hundreds of tests over the past 12 years on an illegal ultrasound machine at his home to help would-be parents abort female foetuses. Narhari described Pandey as a “habitual offender” and felt his conduct was a dire threat to society. A case was filed against the technician, in his early forties, in 2012 over such tests under other laws but he secured bail. The stated goal of the National Security Act of 1980 is to prevent individuals from acting in a manner prejudicial to certain state objectives. These include national security, public order, and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community. The NSA allows detention up to a year without trial or other rights that suspects in other cases take for granted. Gwalior police said they had confiscated the ultrasound machine from Pandey’s residence and added that it did not have the registration certificate mandatory under the PNDT Act. The act prohibits sex detection, before or after conception, and makes the crime a non-bailable offence. A .32-bore revolver, four live cartridges and Rs 8 lakh in cash were also found at Pandey’s home, the police said. A separate case under Arms Act has been started. Gwalior and the neighbouring Chambal region have a dismal sex ratio of 822 women for every 1,000 men. In some blocks of the region’s Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts, at least 100 villages have sex ratios below 600. Manohar Agnani, a senior IAS officer who had served as Morena district magistrate, recalled how he had to crack down on the practice. “On one visit to an Anganwadi (government childcare centre) centre, I found that there were very few girls named in the register and scolded the anganwadi worker. Imagine my shock when she told me, ‘Gaon mein ladkiyaan ho to darj karein (only if there are girls in the village can I register them)’. That was when we started a door-to-door survey.” When Agnani visited other villages, many women confessed to him that they had abortions after discovering that the foetus was female. They had even named the doctors who conducted the tests. The practice continues in spite of separate laws in Madhya Pradesh, in addition to the central PNDT act, against such tests. A senior Delhi doctor who has been calling for stringent punishment for sex determination tests for over a decade said he could not recall the NSA being applied in any instance. But he bemoaned the fact that the real culprits often got away. “Why has this (the NSA) been applied on a medical technician and never on the big cats (doctors)?” asked Puneet Bedi, who had about a decade ago used birth records to document how prenatal sex determination had contributed to skewed sex ratios in south Delhi. “Why don’t the authorities catch and convict qualified professionals engaged in this illegal act,” Bedi asked. Health activists have long complained about the low rates of conviction in such cases. The Union health ministry, citing the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, had told Parliament in August last year that the authorities had cumulatively registered 453 cases of female foeticide over a three-year period till 2012, but only 28 people had been convicted. Share on email Share on print Share on facebook Share on twitter More Sharing Services (The Telegraph 2/6/14)

 

 85. Security forces bust Garo National Liberation Army camp in Meghalaya (12)

SHILLONG: A day after a woman was murdered by Garo National Liberation Army militants for resisting rape, a joint team of commandos from Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit and Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) intensified operations against the rebels and busted a GNLA camp in Adugre village near the Durama hills range in East Garo Hills on Thursday. A gun battle was on in East Garo Hills district since morning after security forces launched a crackdown on militant hideouts. Till the time of filing this report, it was not known if there were any casualties. “Security forces have busted the GNLA camp here,” East Garo Hills SP Davis N R Marak said. “The gun battle continues.” Police sources said though the camp was busted, the militants escaped. “Security forces are in search of the militants,” said a source. The husband of the woman who was killed denied there had been an attempt to molest or rape her. Abel Sangma told reporters the militants made her sit on a chair and accused her of being a police informer, before shooting her in the head from point-blank range. The FIR lodged by the victim’s family also did not mention any sexual assault. Following the worsening law and order situation in the Garo Hills, which culminated in the woman’s killing at Goera Rangot in South Garo Hills, the Centre rushed 1,000 paramilitary personnel to Meghalaya and sought a report from the state government. Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju spoke to chief minister Mukul Sangma and urged him to take strong action against the militants. State home minister Roshan Warjari visited the victim’s house. Chief minister Sangma said his government was offering a “one-time” peace settlement to all militant groups active in the state. He said the government would set up a special court to prosecute the militants involved in Tuesday’s crime. The state also announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for the deceased’s family. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

86. 30 years on, Khalistan war turns into supremacy battle in Pakistan (12)

CHANDIGARH: Even as Friday will mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, an IB( Intelligence Bureau) note has revealed how Pakistan spy agency ISI coronated banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) boss Jagtar Singh Tara as the new chief of global Khalistan movement to “renew aggression”.Tara’s terror group KTF had claimed the responsibility of RDX explosives recovered from a car in Ambala in October 2011 that was allegedly meant to hit 1984 riot-tainted Sajjan Kumar. “It is learnt that in a recent joint meeting of all terrorist outfits conducted by the ISI, Sikh militants were told in no uncertain terms to produce results or face consequences, including them being dislodged from their Pak bases. In that meeting, Tara was selected the new face of Sikh extremists,” the note said. The note, dated September 30, 2013, was discussed at an internal security meeting in Delhi last year with then Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The note further said that ISI has announced parting of ways with KTF and another banned militant outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). “There has been a cleavage and parting of ways between Wadhawa Singh Babbar and Jagtar Singh Tara,” the note said. The IB note also revealed that Tara has made his new residence at a place near the revered Sikh shrine Nankana Sahib. As a result of growing friction between ISI and BKI over “no major strikes in India”, Wadhawa Singh has now given the operational control to his son-in-law Satnam Singh, his son Jatinder Singh and his aide Ratandeep Singh alias Virk. It also pointed out that even Germany and UK-based followers of BKI, known as Babbars, including one Avtar Singh Sanghera (London) and Resham Singh (Germany) have shifted support to Tara. (Times of India 6/6/14)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

87. Police jawan killed in encounter with naxals (12)

Raipur: A police jawan was killed and another injured in an encounter with naxalites in insurgency-hit Narayanpur district of Chhattisagrh, police said on Saturday. The face-off took place when the joint party of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was patrolling forests of restive Orchha police station area last evening, Narayanpur Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) O P Sharma told PTI. According to the officer, the security personnel were mobilised from Orchha police station of Abhujmad region for an anti-naxal operation in the region since Thursday night. When the search party was returning to its camp last evening, a group of armed rebels ambushed it between forests of Becha and Ilam villages, located around 400 kms from here. Ultras opened indiscriminate firing on security personnel leaving two constables injured. However, naxals fled to the core forests when jawans retaliated, he added. Constable Pankaj Suryawanshi (22), a native of Narayanpur succumbed to his injuries while being taken out of the jungle last night while another injured constable Ramesh Kumar Nag (23) admitted to a local hospital, he said. The condition of the injured jawan is said to be stable, he added. Soon after getting the news of the incident, additional forces were rushed to the spot, the ASP said, adding a manhunt has been launched in the region to nab the attackers. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

88. Naxals kill youth for refusing to join outlawed movement (12)

Raipur: A tribal youth was killed allegedly by Naxals when he refused to join their movement in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, police said on Monday. Devendra Modem, 20, was brutally beaten and then axed to death by rebels at his native place Baiguda under Awapalli police station limits last night, Bijapur Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Sukhnandan Rathore said. About 20-25 rebels stormed Devendra’s house in Baiguda village, located around 450 kms away from the state capital, last evening. They demanded from the victim’s family members that either Devendra or his brother join the movement. When the family refused to give in to their demand, the Naxals forcibly took Devendra out of his home and started thrashing him. Even after being beaten up when when the victim remained firm on his stand of not joining the outlawed outfit, the rebels axed him to death, the DSP said. Security forces were rushed to the spot after being informed about the incident by the villagers, he said, adding that the body was brought to Awapalli for postmortem. Security personnel have launched a search in the region to nab the assailants, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

89. Maoists Kill Cong Worker in Rayagada (12)

RAYAGADA: Suspected Maoists killed a contractor in Sikarpai  village here on Tuesday. Gopal Chetty Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, took three gun shots on his chest. The ultras, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, then used knives to stab him. Sources said Chetty reached the petrol pump owned by him at 6 am and was waiting for a staffer when a group of five armed ultras attacked him. Before Chetty could realise anything, one among them fired  three rounds at him. When he fell down, the Maoists stabbed  him. Following the attack, they raised slogans in favour of the CPI(Maoist) and fled from the spot. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by one Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. Police recovered three cartridges from the spot. Combing operation has been launched in the area to track down the killers. Chetty, who was also a lawyer, was in the hit-list of the Maoists. The note warned that whoever is found exploiting the public or supporting multi-national companies would meet the same fate. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

90. Maoist Posters Threaten Villagers (12)

RAYAGADA: Maoist posters were found in Sirigumma and Bhalumaska villages in the district on Thursday. Both the villages come under Sirigumma panchayat of Kalyansinghpur block. Through the posters, Maoists threatened villagers of dire consequences if they worked as police informers. They also mentioned that the villagers found guilty in this regard would meet the fate of Gopal Chetty Gandhi, a contractor, who was killed by the rebels in Sikarpai village on Tuesday. Gandhi (48), also a Congress worker and panchayat samiti member, received three gun shots on his chest after which the rebels, belonging to the Basadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali Division of the outfit, stabbed him with knife. A note found near his body said, “You swallowed money of tribals. So we killed you.” It was written by Umakant, secretary of the divisional committee, police said. The note also stated that the decision to kill Chetty was taken in a kangaroo court. In fact, Maoist violence in Rayagada district has increased during the last 10 days when they committed one murder and set abalze two camps of a contractor. Through the posters and banners, Maoists have also threatened companies like RSB, Utkala Alumina, Vedanta and Aditya Birla groups which have their units in both Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. They directed the companies to cancel all the mining agreements with the State Government. (New Indian Express 6/6/14)

 

91. Twelve Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

BERHAMPUR: Twelve Maoists of Srikaulam Koraput Divisional Committee under Andhra Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maioist) organisation surrendered in Koraput district of south Odisha on Sunday. All of them were operating in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district. They surrendered before the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yashwant Jethwa and Koraput Superintendent of Police (SP) Awinash Kumar. All the surrendered Maoist militias claimed that they now wanted to join the mainstream to lead normal life. According to the SP, they would be rehabilitated as per the policy of government for surrendering naxalites. According to Mr. Jethwa, in 2014, till now at least 33 Maoist cadres or militias have surrendered in Koraput district. Most of them were from Narayanpatna area. According to him there are hints that more Maoists are planning to shun violence and surrender. The IGP urged other naxalites to take cue from their surrendering compatriots and take similar decision or face the strict action of security forces. According to the recently surrendered Maoists, they had been drawn into the Maoist organisation via the controversial tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) which is active in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas. They had joined the CMAS in 2009 and were later actively involved in building up Maoist organisation in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks. “It was suspected that they were involved in abetting several major cases of Maoist violence in the area of their operation,” said Mr. Kumar. All these surrendered Maoist militias were from Narayanpatna police station area. Out of them Lengu Habika of Narikhilwa village was the president of revolutionary peoples committee of Maoists in Narikhilwa area and was a close associate of Maoist leaders like Santu, Andru and Daya. The surrendered Maoist said they had realised the futility of violent activities of Maoist organisation. They were also critical of recent targeting of local tribal leaders of Naraynapatna and Bandhugaon area by Maoist commanders, and other violent activities which were detrimental to development of tribal people of the area. (The Hindu 9/6/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

92. BJP move to deport migrants (13)

Kohora, May 31: Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, the newly elected BJP MP from Jorhat, will launch a campaign to deport illegal migrants from his constituency. Tasa told this to reporters on the sidelines of the extended office-bearers’ meet after the election held at the Kaziranga convention centre here. “The campaign will be initiated by Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the party within the next 15 days. In the first phase of the campaign, we will appeal to illegal immigrants to leave our land and also launch a house-to-house movement urging people not to engage these immigrants in any kind of work,” Tasa said. The campaign can be seen as the outcome of Narendra Modi’s ultimatum to the illegal immigrants to leave the country after May 16. Today’s meet was organised to work out plans for the party’s strategy for the municipality elections and review the results of the party in the Lok Sabha election and assess the cause for being unsuccessful despite putting up a tough fight in the constituencies where the BJP candidates lost. State BJP president and Union minister of state, independent charge for sports and youth affairs, skill development and entrepreneurship, Sarbananda Sonowal, addressed a news conference after the meet. He said they chose Kaziranga as the venue for the meet to send a strong message to illegal migrants who have been encroaching the national park for quite some time. It was also chosen as a symbol of protest against the state government’s alleged failure to stop the menace of rhino killing in the national park. “A lot of concern has been displayed by several indigenous organisations of the state regarding the killing of the one-horned rhino and the presence of a large number of suspected Bangladeshi migrants that is threatening the very existence of Kaziranga National Park. But ironically the state government blatantly denied the issue as baseless, and even conspired to provide safeguards to them,” Sonowal said. “We will go to the root of the poaching that is going unabated and no one will be spared, including bureaucrats or even ministers, if found guilty,” Sonowal added. Sonowal said he had a meeting with Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs, regarding flushing out of illegal immigrants. The government will establish the maximum number of foreigners’ tribunals to identify and deport the Bangladeshi immigrants, he added. Sonowal said the new president of the party would be selected through a democratic process. Altogether 120 delegates attended today’s meet from 36 district committees, including all the MLAs and four of the newly elected MPs of the party. The Golaghat district unit of the BJP imposed a ban on forest minister Rakibul Hussain from entering Kaziranga, alleging his inaction in controlling poaching inside the park. The BJP has also threatened dire consequences if the minister tries to enter the park. (The Telegraph 1/6/14)

 

93. 250 Bangladeshi tribals seek refuge in Tripura (13)

Agartala, June 3 : Over 250 Bangladeshi tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, have entered Tripura seeking refuge after ethnic clashes with non-tribal Muslims in their country, an official said here Tuesday. “Over 250 men, women and children of Chakma and Tripuri tribes have taken shelter in northern Tripura’s Gandachara area along the international border since Monday after fleeing their villages in Khagrachari district,” Gandachara sub-divisional magistrate Bhaskar Dasgupta told IANS over phone. “The tribals entered India Monday and Tuesday after ethnic trouble in Bangladesh. We have asked the Border Security Force (BSF) to step up security along the unfenced border,” he said. The tribals fled the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeast Bangladesh after ethnic clashes and incidents of arson. The exact reason for the conflict is not yet known. A state home department official said Tripura has informed the union home ministry about the development. The BSF here also informed their headquarters in New Delhi and is coordinating on the matter with the Border Guards Bangladesh. In a similar incident in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares a 856-km border with Bangladesh which is porous because it extends over mountains that are densely forested. (New Kerala 3/6/14)

 

94. Priest’s Kin Pin Hopes on Govt to Rescue him (13)

SIVAGANGA: Family members of Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted in Afghanistan on Monday, were inconsolable when they visited the Sivaganga collectorate on Tuesday to submit a petition to Collector V Rajaraman requesting the intervention of the State and Central governments to rescue him. Prem Kumar’s father Antony (75), a retired schoolteacher from Variyanvayal village, broke down when he submitted the petition. “Please rescue my son alive. God please save my son,” Antony said when he spoke to the media. Antony was accompanied by his younger son Albert Manoharan, a government schoolteacher, and daughter Sagayaselvi, a private schoolteacher, to the collectorate. “My son is always concerned about the welfare of people. When he spoke to me recently, he expressed concern about the status of Iran and Pakistan refugees in Afghanistan,” Antony told Express. Manoharan said he had last received a message from Prem Kumar on Sunday. “Alexis sent me a text message about the demise of his colleague’s father in Afghanistan,” said Manoharan. Prem Kumar’s family members last contacted him when an US embassy vehicle was attacked recently at Herat in Afghanistan. “Alexis told us he was safe in the Jesuit Refugee Services office. Even then he expressed concern about the refugees there,” said Manoharan. He was studious from childhood, said his brother. “I  remember him talking about the plight of poor people he came across during his schooldays to me,” he recalled. (New Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

95. US in touch with India, Afghanistan on abduction of aid worker (13)

WASHINGTON: The US is in touch with India and Afghanistan on the abduction of an Indian aid worker from the Herat province by gunmen, American officials have said. “We are aware of the reports that an Indian national has been kidnapped near Herat,” a state department spokesperson said when asked about the abduction of 47-year-old Prem Kumar, country director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). “We are in touch with the Indian and Afghan authorities regarding this issue,” the spokesperson said. A native of Tamil Nadu, Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an educational charity, as its Afghanistan director and has been in the war-torn country for over three years. Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Kumar had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for the returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS said. The abduction comes nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The attackers were subsequently killed by the security forces who repelled the attack on May 23. On May 29, the Indian mission in Herat had issued an advisory asking its nationals to exercise extreme caution while venturing out. “We are deeply shocked by Prem’s abduction. We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and doing everything possible to ensure his safe and speedy return,” said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis. Headquartered in Rome, JRS is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

96. Tribal refugees in Tripura repatriated to Bangladesh (13)

Agartala, June 8 : Bangladesh has taken back the tribals who have been sheltering in the Indian state of Tripura since Monday following an ethnic strife in the former’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, an official said Sunday. Officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) after holding a series of meetings on the issue, said 92 of the over 350 men, women and children were repatriated late Saturday to Bangladesh in the presence of senior civil and security officials of the two countries. “After entering into Tripura, many tribals mingled with the same community people of the state. We are looking for them and if we find them, they would be pushed back to Bangladesh,” an official of the Dhalai district administration told reporters. Over 350 tribals, including women and children of over 70 families of Chakma and Tripuri tribes, have taken refuge in four villages of northern Tripura’s Gandachara area, around 200 km northeast of Agartala, along the Bangladesh border since June 2. Earlier, the Tripura government communicated the matter to the union home and external affairs ministries. An official of Tripura’s home department told IANS that Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda and Dhalai District Magistrate Milind Ramteke had separately spoken to Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Pankaj Saran to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government. The district administration has provided food and relief to the immigrant tribals. According to the Tripura government officials, the tribals, mostly Buddhists and Hindus, fled from their villages in Bangladesh after some “miscreants” allegedly attacked their homes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), a tribal dominated area in southeast Bangladesh that borders India and Myanmar. BGB officials during the meetings, however, told their BSF counterparts that tribals were not attacked. “Only a market was burnt recently and after that the fear-stricken tribals left their villages and took shelter in Tripura.” In a similar incident related to ethnic trouble in August last year, over 1,500 tribals took shelter in the border village of Karbook after fleeing from five villages in the same Khagrachari district over the reported abduction of a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh that is porous because it extends over densely forested mountains. Over 25 to 30 percent of the India-Bangladesh border is still unfenced. (New Kerala 8/6/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

97. State to Get Labour Research Centre (14)

BANGALORE: Labour Minister Parameshwar Naik announced on Thursday that the State will soon get a Labour Research Centre, which will address the problems of labourers and the unorganised sector. He said that Rs 12.60 crore had been released for the same. At a workshop on social security of unorganised labourers and contract workers, the Minister said that the area lacked many technicalities and specifications. “An official should be trained in order to effectively solve the problems of a labourer. Due to the lack of the necessary training, an interaction problem occurs leading to other issues,”he said. Quoting official statistics, he said that more than 40 lakh labourers engaged in construction activities were registered with the Labour Union. “We registered 2.25 lakh labourers last year. The Rashtriya Svasthya Bima Yojana has been extended to cover all BPL card holders,” he said. Adding that, “The Unorganised Labour Welfare Board has identified 43 classes of labourers and various welfare provisions are being made available to them.” He also announced that information centres will be set up at the Gram Panchayat level to increase registrations. “We aim to register four lakh labourers in 2014-15 and to facilitate the same we are extending the information centres that exist at the State level to Gram Panchayats.” (New Indian Express 30/5/14)

 

98. Families’ Plea to Rescue Bonded Labourers (14)

RAYAGADA: Families of 10 bonded labourers of Matikona panchayat in Rayagada block on Monday requested ADM Laxmikanta Behera to rescue the labourers from the clutches of middlemen who had sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Out of 10 labourers, three are minor. They are Anchan Himirika (13), Nabeen Himirika (13) and Babula Himirika (12). Meeting the ADM at his grievance cell, the families stated that Dilip Naik and Ramesh Himirika of Matikona village had sent 17 labourers to Benudhar Pradhan of Balugaon who sent them to Belari of Karnataka. Unable to tolerate the workload and torture, seven labourers came back last month. Rest 10 labourers were forcibly detained by their employer and not allowed to even speak to their family members since they have left. After hearing their grievances, the ADM directed the Labour Officer Narendra Raika to inquire into the matter and rescue the labourers. Hari Urlaka, who managed to escape with six others, said, “We were not given enough food despite heavy workload. When we protested, they threatened us of dire consequences. Somehow seven of us escaped, but others continue to be subjected to exploitation at the workplace.” (New Indian Express 3/6/14)

 

99. Fund to secure security – Welfare scheme for BPL category construction workers (14)

Bhubaneswar, June 3: The state government has decided to include construction workers belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category and employed on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes within the ambit of a welfare fund. “Earlier, they were being deprived of social security benefits. Now, they will be brought within the construction workers’ welfare fund,” new labour minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick told The Telegraph. The state has around 37 lakh BPL cardholders. A government notification stated: “The rural job project workers, having worked for 90 days a year, shall be brought within the fold of construction workers.” The state has around 3.21 lakh registered construction workers with many more yet to be counted. On the other hand, more than 14.99 lakh job seekers worked under the rural job scheme during 2013-14. Though the scheme beneficiaries are guaranteed unskilled job for at least 100 days a year, failing which they are entitled to unemployment allowance, they, however, do not get any social security benefit like the construction workers. The construction workers, who are registered under the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board, are eligible for a host of social security benefits. These include Rs 1 lakh home loan assistance with 2 per cent interest, Rs 1 lakh health insurance, Rs 1.5 lakh accident benefit for total disability, Rs 80,000 for partial disability, Rs 2 lakh assistance for death in accidents and Rs 1 lakh for natural death. An assistance of Rs 5,000 will also be given for performing last rites of a construction worker. Besides, Rs 20,000 assistance will be available for the marriage of a construction worker’s daughter or an unmarried female construction worker. A construction worker’s son studying in Class XI and XII will get a stipend of Rs 3,000 per year, and his daughter, Rs 4,000 per year. The rate of stipend for degree and postgraduate studies will be Rs 4,000 (for son) and Rs 5,000 (for daughter). A one-time assistance up to Rs 4,000 will be given to a construction worker for buying bicycle and up to Rs 1,000 to buy shoes, helmet and gloves. A highly skilled or skilled worker will get up to Rs 2,000 to purchase equipment. According to official sources, the strength of corpus fund of the Odisha Building and Other Constructions Workers’ Welfare Board has crossed Rs 600 crore. However, only Rs 8 crore has been spent. “The government has, therefore, decided to widen the net, so that more workers can avail themselves of the social security benefits,” said Mallick, who recently assumed office. However, board member and CITU leader Naba Kishore Mohanty said the rural job project workers should not be covered under the welfare fund for construction workers. “The scheme patterns are different,” he said. Mohanty said the state government had no contribution in providing assistance to the construction workers. “The Odisha Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund has been constituted with 1 per cent cess collected from construction firms and contractors. Rather it has failed to utilise even 2 per cent of the corpus fund. Now, it is contemplating to extend the benefits to the rural job project workers to take the political mileage,” he said. Another welfare board member and AITUC leader Souribandhu Kar was also critical of poor implementation of the social security scheme for the construction workers. “The procedures are cumbersome, and there is a lack of infrastructure at the nodal office and the district level. Benefits are, therefore, not percolating to the beneficiaries, as desired,” he said. A labour department official, however, said the department had taken several proactive steps despite infrastructural deficiencies. A financial assistance of Rs 7 crore has been disbursed during the period between October 2013 and February 2014. A state-level seva divas for construction workers was held on February 21 at Bhubaneswar and an assistance of Rs 3 crore was distributed to the beneficiaries on that day. (The Telegraph 4/6/14)

 

100. Builders warned on minimum wage (14)

NEW DELHI: Now, construction companies and private developers will face cancellation of licence for not paying minimum wages to construction workers. Noticing large-scale violations of its minimum wages order, the labour department of Delhi government has issued another order making it mandatory for all companies and contractors to pay minimum wages by cheque or electronic cash transfer to workers and declare it on the website of companies. All joint labour commissioners have been made responsible of ensuring that orders are complied with. Transactions between the employer and employee will be verified when licences under Contract Labour Act 1970 are renewed and if violations are found the licence will be cancelled. The state has decided on a 90-day time period for all employers to ensure payment of wages. To ensure compliance at time of issuance of registration certificate and licence under Contract labour Act, a checklist has been prepared. All licensing officers have to follow this checklist. The office order of the labour department opens with a statement saying, though the labour department has been revising minimum wages from time to time on basis of consumer price index number, there are large-scale violations regarding non-payment of the notified minimum rates of wages. “The department has received a large number of complaints from various trade unions, workers and even from the offices of the labour minister and chief minister,” it is stated in the order. Public advertisements have been issued by the department in various newspapers for creating awareness among employers. The contractors shall facilitate workers in opening their bank accounts. Every employer shall upload details of the category of workmen employed, wages being paid and other statutory records on their respective websites within 90 days from date of issue of this order. In case the contractor does not have his own website, this information shall be uploaded by the principal employer on his website till the contractor uploads it on his. Hard copies of all the transactions must be submitted by the employer and contractor to the registering and licensing officer of the labour department. (Times of India 4/6/14)

 

101. ‘Magistrate courts to hear cases on bonded labour’ (14)

CHENNAI: From now on, all cases concerning release of bonded workers would be heard by regular judicial magistrate courts and not by tahsildars and revenue divisional officers (RDOs), the Madras high court has held. It also ordered the immediate transfer of all such cases filed under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to the chief judicial magistrates concerned, so that trial could be held and completed in a regular court. An order was passed by the first bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, on a PIL filed by a bonded worker released from a rice mill in 2005, after 15 years of undeterred labour. In his petition, C Gajendran of Tiruvallur district explained the harassment and ill-treatment faced by him and others at the hands of a rice mill owner for more than a decade, and said they were all finally released and issued release certificates in March 2005. After the Chevvapet police registered an FIR the matter was referred to the Tiruvallur revenue divisional officer for trial. The case is still pending there along with nine other cases, he said. Questioning the very legality of Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 which empowered the state governments to permit its tahsildars and RDOs to try and prosecute the offenders, Gajendran said it was violative of constitutional scheme envisaging division of powers. Powers of executive magistrates such as tahsildars and RDOs are limited only to maintaining law and order. The petition assailed the July 17, 1987 government order of Tamil Nadu conferring on tahsildars and RDOs the power to try bonded labour cases. Noting that the state government is not justified in exercising its enabling provision in the central Act and permitting executive officers to handle judicial functions, the petitioner pointed out that on conviction the guilty could be sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment besides a fine of up to 2,000. Pointing out that the Madhya Pradesh high court had dealt with the same issue and struck down the provision, the first bench said: “It is declared that Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 is in violative of Articles 14, 21, and 50 of the Constitution, and consequently the government order dated July 17, 1987 is also quashed.” The judges then ordered all RDOs to transfer all pending bonded labour-related cases along with the relevant documents/records to the respective chief judicial magistrates, “who in turn are directed to transfer the cases to the respective judicial magistrates’. On such transfer the judicial magistrates shall make endeavor and dispose of the cases as expeditiously as possible, they added. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

102. Rajasthan shows way in labour reforms (14)

Mumbai: The Vasundhara Raje-led government in Rajasthan has taken the lead in bringing about dramatic changes to Central labour laws, which reformists have long argued are holding back job creation in the country. Labour laws form part of the Concurrent List and the Union government has often claimed pre-eminence in allowing amendments proposed by states to the legislations framed by the Centre. The Raje Cabinet on Thursday cleared state-level amendments to three critical and archaic Central government labour legislations — the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act — seeking to liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws. The related Bills will be introduced in the Assembly early next month and then referred to the President for his assent. When contacted, Raje said, “I had promised 15 lakh jobs and this is one area which desperately needs to be opened up. I don’t have a choice.” Describing it as “creating a habitat for job creation”, she said she would try to find innovative ways to further reforms. “Policy-level changes require political will. For decades, everybody has advocated an overhaul of labour laws. What we did will change the paradigm,” Rajiv Mehrishi, Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, told The Sunday Express. According to the changes in the Industrial Disputes Act, government permission will not be required for retrenchment of up to 300 workers. The Act, as it stands now, allows retrenchment of up to only 100 workers. The Rajasthan Cabinet has also introduced a three-year time limit for raising disputes and increased the percentage of workers needed for registration as a representative union from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. In the context of politicisation of trade unions, this raises the bar. As far as the Contract Labour Act is concerned, the amendments raise the applicability of the Act to companies with more than 50 workers from the current 20. In the Factories Act, currently applicable to premises with more than 10 workers with power and 20 without power, the amendments raise these numbers to 20 and 40, respectively. Senior BJP leader and former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie had recently said that should Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, he could bring about genuine federalism by allowing more progressive states to change their laws. When contacted, Shourie said Section 254 (2) of the Constitution of India allows states to enact laws that do not necessarily conform to the Central law provided they receive the President’s assent…. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

103. Children Raped, Forced to Eat Excreta at Karjat Horror Home (14)

ALIBAUG: Shocking tales of rape and torture have emerged from an illegally-run shelter for tribal and poor children in Maharashtra’s Raigad district following which two of its officials were arrested, police said today. Chairman of Chandraprabha Charitable Trust Ajit Dabholkar and manager Lalita Tonde were arrested on Tuesday after the children, some as young as 11 years old, complained about being forced to have sex among each other and with the accused. The offence came to light when one of the inmates informed her mother who approached the Raigad Child Helpline, which complained to the police. Pune-based social worker Anuradha Sahasrabuddhe of Pune Childline, who is a complainant in the case, said the children were forced to have sex with each other and with the accused and the act was even “filmed”.”The victims were forced to eat dog excreta if they resisted and locked up. If they threw up, they had to eat the vomit,” she alleged. The Karjat police have found during preliminary investigation that at least five inmates aged between 11 and 15 years, had been sexually abused. The shelter at Takve village in Karjat taluka, barely around 60KM from Mumbai, had 32 inmates in the age group of 4 to 15 years. Senior Inspector of Karjat Police Station R R Patil said the Trust was running the establishment as a residential school without necessary permission. “They don’t have any document to show that they have necessary clearances to run the establishment. It was being run illegally,” he told PTI. According to reports, the duo targeted poor families in the area and persuaded them to send their children to the shelter for better education. The unsuspecting and impoverished parents sent their children to the shelter where they stayed for 10 months in a year and spent two months of summer vacation at home. It was during the vacation that one of the victims mustered courage and told his mother about the sordid happenings at the shelter. The accused were booked under IPC sections 377 (unnatural offences), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 342 (wrongful confinement) and under sections 3, 5 and 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The duo were produced before a magisterial court at Karjat which remanded them in police custody till June 5. (New Indian Express 29/5/14)

 

104. Unicef mulls scheme to train Assam cops in child protection (14)

GUWAHATI: Concerned about the rise in cases of child labour, the Assam chapter of Unicef is mulling a programme to train police to deal with child rights issues. Ahead of the World Day against Child Labour, the UN body has already written to the state police in this regard, a Unicef official said here on Friday. Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) will organize a round-table conference titled ‘Extend Social Protection-Combat Child Labour’ on June 2. “We have already written to the state police. We are planning to train all second-level officers across the state so that whereever they are posted, they can provide the necessary service,” Vedprakash Gautam, child protection specialist of Unicef, Assam said. “We have written about the need to introduce a chapter on child rights in the curriculum in police academy,” he added. Besides, a plan of action to make accountable all the state government bodies, as far as protection of child rights is concerned, will be discussed at the conference. “Once it is in place, protection of child rights will be an easy task as maintaining data is tough. The data base also needs to be strengthened,” Gautam said. ASCPCR chairperson Runumi Gogoi said all the state government agencies will take part in the conference. The recommendations will be sent to a New Delhi convention on June 12 on the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour. Unicef and International Labour Organization (ILO) will take part in the conference. “A detailed panel discussion on challenges in addressing child labour in the state and challenges in policy implementation will be a part of the seminar,” she said. The event will cover 12 states, including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and Sikkim besides the northeast states. (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

105. ‘Children not Brought for any Illegal Purpose’ (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The recent incident in which children were brought from other states to orphanages in Kerala cannot be termed as ‘’human trafficking’’ as the children were not brought for any illegal activity, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty said here on Thursday. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, Kunhalikutty admitted that there were ‘’serious lapses’’ in the way the children were brought. However, he said said using the term ‘’human trafficking’’ was meaningless as it would only serve to create a hype. “The children were not brought here with any ulterior motives such as organ harvesting, sexual harassment, for selling them off or for using them as child labour. Punishment, if any, should be given only if any illegality is committed and not on the basis of wild allegations,” Kunhalikutty said. The minister, who holds temporary charge of the Social Justice Ministry in the absence of M K Muneer, said that the High Court was right in observing that the matter was serious. “Yes. It is a serious issue. It should not be taken lightly. Ensuring the safety of children is the government’s responsibility,” Kunhalikutty said. “But if anyone wants to bring poor, destitute children from outside the state for the purpose of giving them education and a better life, the government will extend all support. However, it should not be done in this way. All the due procedures should be followed and it should be done in a more responsible manner,” he said. (New Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

106. Jharkhand child rights panel seeks CBI probe (14)

Palakkad: The Jharkhand State Child Rights Protection Commission (JSCRPC) will urge its State government to recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the two incidents of alleged child trafficking in which 589 children from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal were brought to Palakkad in Kerala. Talking to The Hindu here, commission member Sanjay Kumar Mishra said a CBI investigation was necessary as the case involved four States and two orphanages run by religious minority groups. ‘‘The commission is for a through probe into all the angles of the case and there would be limitations to the present probe by the crime branch wing of the Kerala police. We have detected several anomalies in taking these children to Kerala by the two orphanages. The ongoing probe is satisfactory but only a central agency can lead it to a logical conclusion,’’ he said. Mr. Mishra was here to decide on the future of 167 children from his State who have been temporarily lodged at a shelter home at Pezhumkara. (The Hindu 5/6/14)

 

107. Man held for running gang with minor kids (14)

LUCKNOW: A man in late 30s, Ravi Yadav, resident of Jugauli, an old settlement in Gomtinagar located near railway tracks in Vishwas Khand, inducted children in the age bracket of 8 to 15 years to commit thefts across Gomtinagar. Working on a tip-off, a sub-inspector from Gomtinagar police station was shocked to find a paan shop owner sporting a wrist watch worth more than Rs 10 lakh. The paanwallah did not know the value of the watch as he had bought it for Rs 300 from a kid who collected garbage near his shop at Mithaiwala crossing. “Children sold items worth over Rs 22 lakh as scrap in the market,” said in charge of Gomtinagar police station, inspector Ajeet Singh Chauhan. The thieves struck at locked houses in Vishwas Khand, Vijay Khand, Vipul Khand, Vikas Khand, Viram Khand, Vivek Khand after carrying out proper recce while collecting garbage. Around second week of May, the minor children with Yadav’s help cut the iron grill and entered the house of Piyush Mishra at Nehru Enclave locality. Mishra had gone to his native village at Ballia for a 15-day period. The children stole items worth close to Rs 13 lakh from the house, including an expensive camera. The same group committed thefts in three more houses later. “The gang was busted on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday,” added Chauhan. Cops have managed to recover items worth Rs 18 lakh so far and were contacting people who purchased stolen items from the gang. Besides Yadav, two minor children had been detained. (Times of India 6/6/14)

 

108. Badaun horror stalks Delhi, public toilets unsafe (8)

New Delhi: Delhi, like many other Indian cities, has been outraged by the rape and hanging from a tree of two girls in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh under similar circumstances, but the horror is a lot closer home. The shocking number of children sexually abused in areas such as Shahbad Dairy, Nangloi, Samaipur Badli, Jahangirpuri and Haiderpur has come to light as a result of a Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by CRY (Child Rights and You). Though Delhi’s civic agencies have built public toilets in these areas, most of them either do not function or are unsafe and badly lit, or locked up. So children — like the girls in Badaun — often have to venture out after dark to relieve themselves in the open. That is usually when rapists strike. In Shahbad Dairy, her parents still curse the day in April when their nine-year-old daughter came home in tears and told them what the man had done to her. A five-year old from the same area was abducted while she was waiting for her mother who was using a public toilet. Her kidnappers tried to rape her, but she managed to give them the slip. HT spoke to victims and their relatives, and most blame a lack of security at the public toilets and poor maintenance as the main reason for what happened. “My four-and-a-half-year old daughter was kidnapped from a bus stop and taken to a public toilet in the area. These public toilets have become a den of crime. A number of anti-social elements take over these structures and play cards and drink alcohol there. She was looking for a place to relieve herself; they took her inside and raped her there,” said one victim’s father. CRY has partnered with local NGOs including Saksham, which works in some of worst areas and says that it has raised the issue of toilets several times with the authorities. “The seriousness of the issue needs to be acknowledged by the state government and stakeholders responsible for protecting the safety of the child,” said Soha Moitra, regional director, north, CRY. “The social-economic condition of the area also adds to the gravity of the situation; both the parents are required to earn to sustain the family and thus the child falls out of the safety net,” Moitra added. “The only option left is to train the kids. We have started training them on how to react in such situation. Even shouting at the right time is important. Recently, a girl was taken to a public toilet but during a rape bid she bit the hand of accused and managed to escape,” said Sant Lal, an official at Saksham. The number of attacks is horrifying, but what is worse is that there may be many more cases that go unreported. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which manages a number of public toilets, admits that lack of toilets is a major cause of concern and security is another major area. “Considering the toilets are in a bad shape we suspect that cases of sexual assault do take place but somehow they are not getting reported,” said a senior Delhi government official. “Security is a big concern for community toilets and systematically we are taking it up. We want to end open defecation by the end of this year by having safe community toilets in every area. We are aware of the fact that vulnerable groups such as women and children do have apprehension in using the public toilets and we are trying to address the issue,” said a DUSIB official. Delhi has 413 public toilets out of which 176 managed by Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board (DUSIB), 174 by Municipal Corporations of Delhi and 63 by Delhi Development Authority and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). Badaun has brought the problem into the headlines, and DUSIB wants to quadruple the budget for toilets to Rs. 15-16 crore from as little as Rs. 3-4 crore earlier. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

109.  Article 370: RSS joins row (19)

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The controversy over Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, continued unabated on Wednesday with J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asserting that it cannot be abrogated unless the State’s Constituent Assembly is recalled. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, joined issue and asked Mr. Abdullah if he thought that the State was his “parental estate.” Sources close to Union Home Minister said that Rajnath Singh had declined to speak on the controversy, as he is scheduled to take charge on Thursday. However, sources pointed out that Mr. Singh had made observations during election campaign on the subject, favouring a debate on the issue. Reacting to Omar’s remarks, RSS leader Ram Madhav said the state will always be an integral part of India with or without the provision. “What a silly argument about Constituent Assembly! Indian Constitution too was made by Constituent Assembly but amended by Parliament 100 times. Article 370 and Instrument of Accession are two separate things six years apart,’’ Mr. Madhav tweeted.Talking to reporters after the National Conference core group meeting in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah asserted that nobody other than the State’s Constituent Assembly could revoke Article 370. “How can BJP strengthen ties with people of J&K when they are hell-bent to damage the relation by virtue of Article 370?” Mr Abdullah asked. He also asked the Centre to make clear on who were the “stakeholders” it was talking to for repealing special status to the State. He said the move to re-open the issue would amount to re-opening the issue of the state’s accession with India. Meanwhile, PDP President and Lok Sabha member Mehbooba Mufti said that the Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh had put his foot in the mouth on day one of assuming office. She urged the Prime Minister to “discipline” his ministerial colleague. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

110. Justice Katju advocates uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju has come out in strong support of uniform civil code, a controversial core issue of BJP, claiming one of the reasons for the backwardness of Muslims was that there was no modernization of their personal law. “The issue of a uniform civil code has recently been raised. I am fully in support of a uniform civil code,” Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, said in a recent article. He said Article 44 of the Constitution says “the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.The Constitution was made in 1950, and 64 years had passed since it was promulgated, but Article 44 had been totally ignored, “obviously for vote-bank politics”, he said, adding that this had contributed to making Muslims backward. Katju said Article 44 was in the Directive Principles, and not the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution, but Article 37 states that “the provisions contained in this part shall not be enforceable in any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”.Contending that he had always raised his voice for the rights of Muslims, Katju said, “In fact, one of the reasons for Muslims in India remaining backward is that there was no modernization of their personal law.” Katju said in all modern countries, there is usually one common law for everybody and in India also there is one common criminal law. “Nobody objected to that, though many of these laws are against the Muslim law. For instance, Muslim law provides for stoning to death for women committing adultery, but that would be illegal under the IPC,” Katju said. (Times of India 2/6/14)

 

111. Govt tells Supreme Court it will appoint 50 more judges at Allahabad high court (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has conveyed to the apex court that it can appoint 50 more judges to Allahabad high court and that court infrastructure, including courtrooms and judges’ chambers, would be ready for them by December. The law ministry has already approved raising the strength of Allahabad HC to 200 judges, up from 160. At present, the country’s biggest HC has 90 judges, with 70 posts vacant. Chief Justice of India R M Lodha had recently said the government allocation for the judiciary was too low and that it was resulting in lack of infrastructure to accommodate judges and fill up vacancies. Soon after the CJI’s adverse remarks, the law ministry held a review meeting with the apex court’s committee on court management headed by Justice H L Dattu. The law ministry informed the SC committee that work on creating additional infrastructure to accommodate 30 more judges had also begun, besides the 50 for which courtrooms will be ready by the year end. Filling up vacancies is a major problem for the apex court with as many as 300 positions vacant against a sanctioned strength of 906 judges in 21 HCs. Working strength of these HCs are around 611, includeing permanent and additional judges. The situation is no better in the district and subordinate judiciary which faces huge shortage of judges. Against a sanctioned strength of 17,715 judges, more than 3,300 posts are vacant. Though the apex court has set a target of taking the combined strength of the judiciary to 30,000 in five years, the target looks difficult . This has already resulted in huge pendency of cases. Currently, there are more than 3.20 crore pending cases in different courts. Of this, nearly 2.76 crore cases are in subordinate courts while 44 lakh are pending in various HCs and nearly 60,000 in the Supreme Court. The pendency in Allahabad High Court is 10 lakh. Subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh have over 58 lakh pendency, highest in the country. (Times of India 5/6/14)

 

112. ‘Indian prisoners to get free legal aid from Pakistan lawyers body’ (19)

New Delhi: Lawyers Congress, an advocates’ body in Pakistan, has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails, National Panthers Party supremo Bhim Singh said on Thursday. Singh, who returned here after a 10-day visit to Pakistan, said he had taken up the issue of Indian prisoners with Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress following which it had agreed to provide legal help to them. “The Lahore chapter of Lawyers Congress has agreed to provide free legal aid to Indian prisoners languishing in jails in that country,” he told reporters. Singh said his proposal to set up a joint free legal aid committee in cooperation with Lawyers Congress (Lahore) and Islamabad and Lahore chapters of the Bar Associations to provide help to the Indian prisoners has also been accepted. He said he has filed several writ petitions in the Supreme Court and as well as other courts challenging “illegal, unconstitutional and improper arrest and detentions” of Pakistani nationals in Indian jails. He claimed that his efforts ensured release of around 300 Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails in the past 15 years. Singh said he was also facilitated by the Bar Association of Islamabad and Lahore during his visit. The Panthers Party leader said he was not allowed to visit Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by the authorities there and called it an “undemocratic decision”. “I hope that governments of both the nations realise that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir can be resolved by the joint efforts of leaders, intellectuals and social activists from both sides of J&K,” he said. Singh said he was going to organise ‘Heart-to-Heart’ talks in October and several Pakistani leaders will be invited. (Indian Express 5/6/14)

 

113.  HC nixes PIL on uniform civil code (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has declined to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) for time-bound implementation of Supreme Court”s suggestion to provide a uniform civil code applicable throughout the country. Citing several apex court judgments, which have held that the judiciary cannot direct the executive to introduce a particular legislation, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw dismissed the plea. The petitioner, Mool Chand Kucheria, had submitted in his PIL that the apex court in its 1995 verdict in Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India had suggested to the government to “secure for the citizens a uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India” and sought that the same be implemented in a time-bound manner. He had also sought a direction “for constitution of a committee of religious gurus or experts to see the smooth implementation of the said guidelines”.Disposing of the plea, the high court said even the Supreme Court did not issue any direction. “Nevertheless the fact remains that the Supreme Court, in spite of having held so, did not issue any direction as the petitioner is asking us to issue. We, therefore, do not find any ground to entertain this petition which is dismissed,” the division bench said. The high court also noted in its verdict that the apex court in Sarla Mudgal judgement had observed that “the Government would be well advised to entrust the responsibility to the Law Commission to bring about the comprehensive legislation in keeping with modern day concept of human rights.” In the Sarla Mudgal judgement the apex court had held as void the second marriage of a Hindu man who got married again after converting to Islam. The apex court had ruled that under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, a Hindu husband cannot marry a second time simply by embracing Islam without lawfully dissolving the first marriage. He would be guilty of bigamy, the Court ruled. (Times of India 6/5/14)

 

 

114. Joint sitting of Parliament to fast-track crucial pending bills? (19)

The task is cut out for the new government as the president Pranab Mukherjee addresses first joint sitting of parliament in the newly formed 16th Lok Sabha on Monday. But the new government has a huge responsibility of taking a call on 60 pending bills pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some of the important bills pending in the Upper House might get pushed by the BJP led government. They are: the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the Food and Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2014, the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2013 the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill, 2013. Establishment of the National Judicial Commission was also part of the BJP’s manifesto in the recently-held general elections. Moreover, the Narendra Modi government will also need to decide if it wants to restart the process of introducing 68 Bills that lapsed in the previous Lok Sabha. Some of the important bills like Women’s Reservation Bill, Direct Taxes Code, Micro Finance Bill, Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill and the Bill enabling the introduction of Goods and Services Tax lapsed. The Constitution provides that if a bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha and not passed by it, the bill shall not lapse on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. To pass a Bill the government requires the support from both the Houses. While NDA is sitting comfortably in the Lok Sabha with about 340 seats, in Rajya Sabha they have just 57 members.  In the current Rajya Sabha BJP enjoys support of 42 members while its ally TDP has six. Shiv Sena and SAD gave three each while RPI, NPF and MNF have one member each. While the government can easily pass Bills in the Lower House, it might have a problem in the Upper House. If such situation arises, the government can call joint sitting of both the Houses to push through key bills. As per Article 108 of the Constitution, a joint sitting of both Houses can be called if a bill has been passed by one House and rejected by the other; if the two Houses have finally disagreed on the amendments to be made in the bill; or if more than six months have elapsed after a bill is passed by one House but is not passed by the other. A joint sitting of both Houses is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker and only a simple majority is needed to get a bill passed, which is then immediately sent to the President for his assent. Under article 118 of the constitution, the President can call a joint session of both the Houses to pass any bill that is not a constitutional amendment bill. In a joint sitting, the total number of members (LS and RS) would be 795 – 545 from the Lok Sabha, including two nominated members, and 250 Rajya Sabha members in its full strength, including 12 nominated ones. With 340 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP needs only 60 votes from the Rajya Sabha in a joint sitting. The previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had used this method to pass important bill the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. Earlier it was used twice during the passage of the Dowry Prohibition Act, in 1961 and the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill in 1978. However, in 2008 joint sitting was called for the fourth time for Women Reservation Bill, but it couldn’t be passed. (DNA 8/6/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

115. Govt moots insurance scheme for farmers, use of GM technology to increase yield (20)

NEW DELHI: Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh is open to the idea of using genetically modified (GM) technology to increase farm productivity, saying the government will go for it “if it is absolutely necessary”.After taking charge of his ministry, Singh on Wednesday hinted at the possibility and spelt out his plan to launch big-ticket schemes in the farm sector including a nation-wide “rural irrigation programme” and a “new insurance scheme” to protect farmers’ income in case of crop failure. Singh’s stand on GM technology is in tune with his party’s position over this controversial issue as the BJP doesn’t categorically oppose the move. It, however, makes it clear that the transgenic foods will not be allowed “without full scientific evaluation on its long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers” – the stand taken by the previous UPA government. Sticking to BJP’s manifesto which spoke about “protection and promotion of cow and its progeny”, Singh, an old RSS hand and five-time MP from East Champaran in Bihar, said his ministry would work to conserve “indigenous breeds of cows”.In his first meeting with officials, he is learnt to have asked them to prepare a roadmap to implement the “doable” suggestions as reflected in the BJP’s manifesto including amendments in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and cooperative laws within “two to three months” (100 days). “I held a meeting with ministry officials and we have decided that we will bring ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sinchayee Yojana’ similar to the ‘Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana’ which was launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government,” Singh said. Without giving any time-frame, he said his government is very serious about launching it. He said 44% of the country’s cultivable land was bereft of irrigation facilities, affecting a majority of small and marginal farmers across the country. Emphasizing on having an effective crop insurance policy, Singh said his ministry has decided to bring ‘Kisan Aya Bima Yojna’ which would take into account average income of farmers in the last 5-7 years while devising a compensation scheme. If the government launches such a scheme, it will be a much needed improvement over the existing scheme which does not treat an individual farmer as a unit while providing compensation against insurance. The present scheme takes village or group of villages as a unit while deriving at compensation formula and therefore it invariably tends to benefit big and medium farmers. “The Centre will bear the burden of premium for insurance of average income. Farmers will take interest in agriculture only when their investment is guaranteed,” Singh said. The minister also said the government would soon take a decision on the proposal to fix minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops. Besides, there is a long-term plan to fix the MSP at 50% more than the cost of production, he added. Addressing his maiden press conference, he also emphasized on setting up more central agriculture universities in different parts of the country. Asked what he would do for his home state of Bihar, Singh said, “If India develops, Bihar will also develop.” (Times of India 29/5/14)

 

116. Vidarbha farmers to hold ‘chai pe charcha’ on Monday (20)

Yavatmal: Farmers and widows of farmers from Vidarbha region who committed suicide, will gather at Maregaon town nearly 70 kms from here tomorrow for ‘chai pe charcha’ to highlight their demands. The farmers will gather under the banner of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) for a programme titled “Kisano ki chai pe charcha aur chinta” (Discussion over Tea – and Despair). “The programme organised for farmers and farmers’ widows, seeks to draw attention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to recall assurances made by him to farmers during election campaign in Dabhadi village in Malegaon district, three months back,” general secretary of VJAS Mohan Jadhav said yesterday. “Modi had raised hopes of the farming community at his ‘chai pe charcha’ meeting in Dabhadi and asked Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to prepare a time-bound integrated solution to stop farmers’ suicides,” VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said. Their major demands include – minimum support price (MSP) for cotton and soybean to match the production cost with a 50 per cent profit margin; new crop loan to farmers after waiving their existing debt dues; bringing in new technology in agriculture and irrigation; financial assistance for farm widows and higher education facilities to their wards, etc. (Zee News 1/6/14)

 

117. GM Seeds Promoted, Farmers Go Red-eyed (20)

ROURKELA: Farmers under the aegis of Centre for Integrated Rural and Tribal Development (CIRTD), a voluntary organisation, are up in arms against use of genetically modified (GM) and hybrid seeds in Sundargarh district. The Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) is promoting use of GM seeds for maize in selected blocks on an experimental basis. On the other hand, farmers are demanding preservation and promotion of indigenous varieties of seeds which are on the verge of extinction. Sundargarh-based CIRTD has started a fight against GM and hybrid seeds and questioned the alleged move of ATMA in promoting these seeds. The district administration has, however, steered clear of the controversy by claiming that the government supply chain includes only high-yield seeds. Four days back, the CIRTD organised an indigenous seeds exchange fair to educate and encourage tribal farmers to help revive indigenous seeds and protest GM and hybrid varieties. CIRTD secretary Suru Mishra said recently 600 households were provided 50 kgs of GM seeds along with fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide in Kinjirkela, Birkaldihi, Kusumura and Saunamura villages of Balishankara block. The seeds were given to 150 households in Subdega block. Mishra said GM seeds not only pose health hazards, but also bring down the fertility of soil after two to three years of usage. Agriculture officials said the seeds production target for the district in this kharif season has been set at 1100 quintals of high-yield non-paddy crops and nearly 26,300 quintals of paddy. Rourkela-based District Agriculture Officer (DAO) PC Shaw said the Government supply chain only includes superior quality high-yield seeds supplied by the Odisha State Seeds Corporation. The GM and hybrid seeds are procured by farmers from open market. Sundargarh-based Deputy Director of Agriculture (DDA) Narendra Behera said the Agriculture Department is not involved in distribution of either GM or hybrid seeds. Denying any information about it, Behera said the local agriculture committees through the block offices might be involved in distributions of GM and hybrid seeds. (New Indian Express 2/6/14)

 

118. Punjab to work out policy on farmers’ suicides (20)

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday approved the constitution of a committee to formulate a comprehensive policy on farmers’ suicides in Punjab. Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman GS Kalkat will head the committee that will have six other members from the state government and the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The state government got detailed surveys done by three universities – Panjab University of Chandigarh, Punjabi University of Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar – from 2001 to 2011. These surveys identified about 4,500 farmers and farm labourers who committed suicides due to indebtedness, a spokesman of the Chief Minister’s Office said. Under its earlier policy, the Punjab government would give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of a farmer who ended his life due to indebtedness. “However, it was felt there was a need for preparing a comprehensive policy on such suicides, with a view not only to compensate the aggrieved family but also prevent occurrence of such unfortunate incidents,” the spokesman said. (Zee news 4/6/14)

 

119. Sops for farmers, traders in Maharashtra Budget (20)

Mumbai: With an eye on assembly elections after the drubbing it got in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-NCP state government Thursday presented a Rs 4,103.3 crore deficit Budget for 2014-15 with a slew of sops for farmers, traders and professionals. The Budget presented by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who holds the finance portfolio, in the assembly pegs revenue receipts at Rs 1,80,320.5 crore and expenditure at Rs 1,84,423.28 crore. The Budget has many relief measures for the farming community in the state where many farmers had committed suicide. “We have doubled the minimum assistance given to farmers,” the minister said, on the relief provided by the government to farmers in areas hit by drought, unseasonal rains and hailstorms. The government, he said, would pay electricity bills of the affected farmers for the January-June 2014 period, Pawar said, adding it would also pay the interest on the crop loan taken by the affected farmers, besides extending loan repayment till December 2014. The Deputy CM said no coercive action will be taken to recover the loans till then. To keep the trading community, which has disapproved of the Local Bodies Tax (LBT) introduced last year, the turnover limit for registration under VAT has been doubled from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and that for filing audit report has been increased from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Though there have been talks of the LBT being replaced with Octroi again, nothing has been announced yet. To keep urban citizens happy, the Budget has increased the minimum salary limit for profession tax to Rs 7,500 from Rs 5,000. To appease the cotton farmers, the government has reduced tax rate on cotton to 2 per cent from 5 per cent. Similarly, sugarcane sector has been exempted from the purchase tax for 2013-14. The budget provides for Rs 100.4 crore to boost the textile sector. An amount of Rs 4,255 crore has been earmarked for creation of 27,000 new jobs, Pawar said, adding an outlay of Rs 2,836 crore has been provided for road development. (Zee News 5/6/14)

 

120. BJP committed to creation of separate Vidarbha: Gadkari (20)

Nagpur, Jun 8 : Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari today said his party was committed to creation of separate Vidarbha state. Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Gadkari said the creation of separate Vidarbha was on his agenda and pointed that the party was working on it. While drawing attention to the less number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, he said that the party was keeping the issue on the agenda and noted that it would work on the situation. On the farmers’ suicides in the Vidarbha region, Mr Gadkari said considering the gravity of issue, the government was assessing the situation and was keeping it on top of its agenda. The government would take different measures to prevent the farmers’ suicides such as irrigation, proper market and adequate price to their produce. (New Indian Express 9/6/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

121. Revamp PDS: Kozhikode ration dealers (21)

Kozhikode: The All Kerala Ration Dealers Association has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revamp the existing Public Distribution System (PDS) introduced by the previous United Progressive government so as to end the hardships faced by the people of the State. The association, in a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister, said that out of 82 lakh ration card holders in the State, the below the poverty line (15 lakh) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (5 lakh) categories formed only 25 per cent of the population and they alone got sufficient quantity of foodgrains under the PDS. The majority, 62 lakh people above the poverty line category, was given only 9 kg of rice and 2 kg of wheat a month. This would not be sufficient for a five-member family even for a week. Association general secretary T. Muhammedali said the categorisation of ration card holders and large curtailment of the ration quota were a blow to middle class families in the State, who depended on the PDS for their day-to-day requirements.

‘Paddy insufficient’He said that though the staple crop of the State was rice, commercial crops such as rubber, spices, tea, and coffee were now being preferred. Paddy cultivation was nominal. The State had to depend on Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for rice. It was in this context that the Centre provided a statutory rationing system in 1963. The PDS had a provision for per capita distribution of rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosene, whereby 90 per cent of the population could draw their entire essential commodities at subsidised rates. With slight modifications effected from time to time, the PDS had gone smooth until 1997. Though there were variations in quantity in supply, the allotment was sufficient to cater to the needs of at least 75 per cent of the population. A family consisting of five members was able to get 10 kg of rice and 10 kg of wheat a week in addition to 2.25 kg of sugar, and 5 litres of kerosene for non-electrified and 2 litres for electrified houses a month. Mr. Muhammedali said the people of the State at large longed for a decision from the new government to dispense with the categorisation of cardholders and to revive the original method of per capita distribution of foodgrains to the entire population. (The Hindu 29/5/14)

 

122. ‘Main focus of Govt will be on housing, public transport’ (21)

Hyderabad, June 1:  The main focus of the new Government at the Centre would be to provide housing for all and public transport facility according to M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development. Addressing his maiden press conference after taking over as Minister, Naidu said the target was to provide housing for all by 2022. The Ministry would convene a meeting with all stake holders in this regard to chalk out a strategy which would be followed by a State Urban Development Minister’s conference, he added. “The people living in urban areas will go up from present 31 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050. We need to plan ahead from now,’’ the Minister said. To eliminate poverty in urban areas, a basic skill development programme to train people in small trades such as mobile-repairing would be taken up. “In Gujarat, the model proved to be very useful and the State Government is spending ₹800 crore while the budget allocated by the previous Government at the Centre was only ₹1,000 crore for entire country,” he added. On the opposition status for the Congress in the Parliament, Naidu said, as it failed to get above 10 per cent seats to be recognised as the Opposition, conventions and practices were being examined. “I have heard about coalition governments but not coalition Opposition. But this has to be examined and a decision has to be taken by the Speaker,” he added. (Business Line 1/6/14)

 

123. Karnataka govt to bring legislation to punish bogus ration card holders (21)

Bangalore: “On the instruction of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, we are enacting a legislaton to punish fake ration card holders to implement Anna Bhagya (scheme to provide rice at Re 1 a kg to the poor) without any obstacles,” he told reporters here. No leniency would be shown after the initiation of the process of filing criminal cases against the bogus ration card holders, the minister said. Gundurao said the government is keen on eliminating the large number of bogus ration card holders, who are affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of the Anna Bhagya scheme. He said bogus ration card holders were indulging in malpractices and even blackmarketeering of foodgrains supplied by government to help eradicate the hunger among the poorest of the poor belonging to Below Poverty Line families at Re one per kg. Already five lakh fake ration cards have been cancelled, he said. Moreover, the process of registering Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) number with the Food and Civil Supplies Department would begin next week, Gundurao said. The Food and Civil Supplies Department has made it mandatory for all ration cards holders to register their EPIC number with the department. The Minister said ration cardholders who got their cards before 2010 should also furnish EPIC and Aadhar numbers, failing which their cards would be suspended. New applicants who are yet to receive their cards would also have to furnish their EPIC and Aadhar numbers, Gundurao said. Cards will be distributed to them only after they furnish the numbers, he said. (Zee News 2/6/14)

 

124. Too Poor to Care for Him, Woman Sells Newborn Son for Rs. 13000 (21)

Jalpaiguri:  A woman from an impoverished family in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri has sold her newborn son for Rs. 13,000 because she was too poor to take care of him. The woman, Gauri Das, already has three daughters; her husband left the family a few months ago. The only source of income for the family of five is the alms earned by Gauri’s mother, who begs on the streets of Jalpaiguri. Gauri claims that though she has worked for a few days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, she was never paid for it. After hearing about the case, the administration swung into action and found the baby, but Gauri refused to take him back. “I wouldn’t have been able to take care of him. How am I going to feed him,” she told NDTV. She added that she was willing to take her son back if the government offered her some kind of help. So far, she said, the local administration had provided her with some rice, daal and sugar. A neighbour told NDTV that the family was so poor that on rainy days, when Gauri’s mother could not go out to beg, the family went without any food. The infant is currently under the care of the district child welfare committee. The state administration has given Gauri 60 days to change her mind, after which the baby will be given away for adoption. NDTV 6/6/14)

 

125. Houses for dalits, BPL families a dream in Mandi (21)

Mandi: The government has to build small houses or provide financial aid to financially weaker sections under the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojna (RGAY) and Jawaharlal Nehru Shahari Navinikaran Awas Yojna (JNSNAY). But, in some cases funds are not available, whereas the others are locked between political rivalry or fighting between councilors out to take credit of the scheme to convert it into the vote bank later on. Under the JNSNAY, the total 208 houses would have been constructed in Sundernagar and 104 houses in Sarkaghat sub-division area, but after going through long paper formalities, Sundernagar Municipal Committee (MC) could construct only 65 houses in last two years. Interestingly, rest of the 143 applicants could get first installment recently after waiting for more than two years. In Mandi town area, the proposal for construction of houses for Dalit community under the RGAY is running in files from last two years. The issue of constructing houses for dalits and poor people got momentum when Mandi MC demolished a number of dalits houses on the name of unauthorised  construction following Himachal high court orders two years ago. But there is little progress and the schemes are still running in files and the poor despite the assurance from chief minister Virbhadra Singh are waiting for the ‘legal’ shelter. “The MC lacks staff and it is the biggest hurdle in implementation of the scheme and the crunch of finance discourages its staff who are not sure whether they will get salary next month. Moreover, the urban development department always delays the implementation of welfare schemes for local urban body’s employees. The government considers local urban body’s employees as second grade employees and never bothers to improve the situation,” said Kuldeep Thakur, state president of local urban bodies employees union. Thakur said, “Encouragement, facilities, handsome salaries, security of employees convert into development, but here in the state it is just opposite, employees lack facilities at work places, less salaries, no security of health and family if met with an accident, excess work load due to lack of employees are the common feature of urban development agencies in the state and it is all depressing”. Thakur said that the RGAY and the JNSNAY need single window system for clearance, and houses be completed in stipulated time. (Hindustan Times 8/6/14)

 

RESERVATION

126. Four Minority Institutions in Delhi Exempted from OBC Quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Friday exempted four minority colleges of Delhi University from reserving 27 percent seats for students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for the 2014-15 academic year. Justice Manmohan passed the order while hearing a plea filed by Mata Sundari College seeking exemption from the OBC quota as it was minority-run institution. The order will benefit four DU colleges run by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), constituted under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act. Apart from Mata Sundari College, these are Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Guru Gobind Singh College, and Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College — all declared minority institutes. Passing the order, the court also said that these colleges shall provide reservation in admission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes as per the Delhi University’s norms, but they will not be obliged to give reservation to OBCs for this academic session. Mata Sundari College, during the hearing, contended that the reservation policy was not applicable to these institutions in view of a Supreme Court verdict on OBC reservations. The apex court had held that minority educational institutions (MEI), whether they were aided by the government or unaided, were exempted from reserving seats for OBCs, the college added. However, DU maintained that reservation rule of DU for OBC should be followed by these colleges also. (New Indian Express 31/5/14)

 

127. Centre revises OBC caste certificate format (25)

New Delhi: With government job seekers from Other Backward Class (OBC) facing difficulty in getting reservation benefit due to faulty caste certificates, the government has now revised the format to include a number of castes and communities that were added to the list over the years. The move by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) comes as the government found that intended beneficiaries were facing trouble in availing the benefits as the form prescribed 21 years ago had not updated the fresh inclusions. A set of instructions was issued in September 1993 for providing OBC reservation in services and posts under the government. A format for the caste certificate was prescribed in November 1993 along with the list of castes and communities treated as OBC till that time. Since then, a large number of castes and communities have been added to the central list of OBCs through various resolutions of Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. The format also prescribes that the certificate issuing authority should certify that the candidate does not belong to creamy layer. However, the details of the resolutions subsequent to the September 1993 resolution do not find mention in the existing format, which led to discrepancies. A senior official said the DoPT has been receiving complaints from candidates belonging to OBC about the problems they were facing. The officials cannot issue accurate caste certificates in the absence of later additions under relevant rules and regulations. In order to clear this anomaly, the official said fresh guidelines have been issued, including the fresh additions. The DoPT consulted the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) before deciding on revising the existing format. “The caste certificate issued by district authorities concerned mention the name of the caste and community of the applicant but the specific resolution under which the said caste or community was added on in the central list of OBCs is not indicated,” the official said. This led to procedural problems, he added. “All the certificate issuing authorities are requested to mandatorily mention the details of the Resolution (Number and Date) by which the caste/community of the candidate has been included in the central list of OBCs and also to ensure that he or she does not belong to creamy layer as amended from time to time,” the official said. The DoPT has also asked state governments to advise the issuing authorities on the revised format. (Deccan Herald 1/6/14)

 

128. DU admissions: Confusion on ‘Jats’ in OBC quota (25)

New Delhi: Students applying for admission to various courses in Delhi University are unsure whether the ‘Jat category’ is included under the OBC quota this academic year. The National Commission for Backward Classes had included ‘Jats’ in the National Capital Territory of Delhi by amending the central list of OBC’s vide a circular dating back to March 4, 2014. Dr. Dinesh Varshney, Deputy Dean (South Campus) confirmed to The Hindu that applications of such students falling under the 27 per cent OBC quota shall be entertained. “Students applying for statutory admission can apply by producing relevant documents. We have clarified this earlier. In case of confusion, the information centres can be approached,” he said. Though Delhi University has undertaken various steps to keep the aspirants informed about the admission process, the student welfare helplines have been flooded with calls in the last few days. “Since Friday, we have been receiving about 450-500 calls a day but on Monday we have answered more than 1,500 calls in just 6-7 hours on multiple lines,” said the Deputy Dean, Students’ Welfare. (The Hindu 3/6/14)

 

129. Persons with disabilities get 1 pc reservation in teaching posts (25)

Chandigarh, Jun 5 : The Punjab Government has issued instructions to all departments to reserve 1 per cent of the identified teaching posts in the faculties and colleges of various Universities for people with disabilities. An official spokesperson for the Social Security Department today said the state government was fully committed to implement the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 (For short 1995 Act) and take all necessary steps in this direction. He said instructions to identify such posts have been issued to all departments and they have been directed to comply with 1 per cent reservation for Persons with Disabilities as defined in Act. He said it has been reiterated to the departments that denial of appointment to the visually disabled persons in the faculties and colleges of various Universities in the identified posts would be considered as violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 15 read with Article 41 of the Constitution. They have been also apprised about the directions of the Supreme Court. (New Kerala 6/6/14)

 

130. UP Muslims to get 25% quota in new pension scheme (25)

LUCKNOW: The Samajwadi Party government is set to launch yet another populist scheme – Samajwadi Party Pension Yojana, earmarking a quota of 25 per cent for Muslim families. The scheme will aim at providing financial assistance of Rs 500 per month for the extremely poor. In the second year, this amount would be enhanced to Rs 750 per month. The new scheme will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 2,400 crore, said the director of the social welfare department. He said applications have been sought from the potential beneficiaries to complete the required formalities. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had highlighted his government’s new pension scheme aggressively in the election campaign and had also promised he would implement it soon. The government machinery started implementation of the scheme after the Lok Sabha elections when the model code of conduct provisions were lifted. The government order (GO) for the scheme states that 30 per cent beneficiaries would be from the SC/ST category, 25 per cent from the Muslim community and 45 per cent from OBC and General categories. The ruling party’s other populist schemes include free laptops for students, financial assistance of Rs 20,000 to every Muslim girl which runs by the slogan – ‘Humari beti uska kal’, the Kanya Vidya Dhan scheme and unemployment allowance etc. The Samajwadi Party had promised 18 per cent job reservation to Muslims, who constitute around 18 per cent of the population, but it has so far not been able to implement the plan. The government, however, is giving reservations to Muslims in other schemes. (Times of India 7/6/14)

 

131. Minority status for Piramalai Kallars sought (7)

MADURAI: A demand to accord minority status for Piramalai Kallars was made at a denotified tribes upheaval conference organised by Seermarabinar Nala Sangam at Keezhakuyilkudi near here on Saturday. The conference was organised to mark the centenary of the Criminal Tribes Act 1911. Claiming to be the earliest tribe in India, the participants also passed a resolution seeking Scheduled Tribe status. All the benefits enjoyed by minorities and STs should be extended to Piramalai Kallars, a resolution said. The meet wanted the government to issue community certificates for Piramalai Kallar students as belonging to de-notified tribes (DNT) as was done in some States. Ten per cent reservation should be provided to the DNT in education and employment. Their other demands included enhancement of basic facilities to Kallar reclamation schools, setting up premium institutions such as IIT, IIM in places populated by Piramalai Kallar community, provision of agricultural lands to landless people of the community and recognition of the “battle” waged by Piramalai Kallars against the British in 1920 as a freedom movement. D. Pandian, State secretary, CPI, spoke. Minister for Cooperation ‘Sellur’ K. Raju, MLAs M. Muthuramalingam and P.V. Kathiravan spoke. (The Hindu 8/6/14)

 

HINDUTVA

132. Time to review Article 370: RSS leader Indresh Kumar (26)

Jaipur: RSS leader Indresh Kumar has pitched  for a wide debate on Article 370, that grants special status for Jammu and Kashmir, to determine its usefulness in the interest of the nation. Kumar, the founder of “Muslim Rastriya Manch”, said Kashmir is an integral part of India and the Article was a “temporary” arrangement initially but it is still continuing hence it needed a proper review. “It should be reviewed whether the Article 370 proved to be beneficial and in the interests of the nation or not. It must be discussed widely in order to make people of the country understand what its advantages or disadvantages have been,” he told PTI over phone here. “If the law was a temporary provision, then why it still exists and if it was really necessary then why it is still  temporary… why Congress governments in the past did not make it permanent? And why they are afraid of a debate? “The time has come for its review to ascertain what was the gain and what was the loss the country had because of the Article 370,” he said. He said Congress wants to avoid debate on the issue because “it has nothing to tell people about its advantages.” (Times of India 1/6/14)

 

133. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief named in 23 cases, say cops (26)

Pune: Dhananjay Desai, the chief of Hindu Rashtra Sena who was arrested on Tuesday, has been in news as much for his radical speeches as his outfit’s attacks targeting media organisations. Desai, according to the police, is a history-sheeter, named in 23 cases of extortion, rioting and other crimes. It is likely that he will be questioned regarding the murder of 24-year-old IT professional Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Hadapsar on Monday. Earlier, Desai was questioned by the crime branch in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar. Formed about a decade ago by Desai, who hails from Mumbai and currently stays at Paud in Pune district, the HRS is known for its aggressive agitations on Hindutva issues. On several occasions Desai has shared stage with right-wing leaders like Pramod Muthalik of Shri Ram Sene and Himani Savarkar of Abhinav Bharat. He was chief guest at a function to release a book by Sanatan Sanstha activist Vikram Bhave, who is a convict in the Thane blast case. Desai’s outfit was involved in the attack on Star News office at Mumbai in April 2007 for telecasting a news item on a Hindu girl falling in love with a Muslim youth. Last September, the HRS was in news for its plan to hurl a footwear at actor Sanjay Dutt during a cultural programme organised by the Prisons department at Balgandharva auditorium here. The programme was cancelled, but the HRS created a ruckus at the spot following which an offence was registered at the Deccan police station. HRS activists had earlier been booked for staging protests outside Dutt’s Mumbai residence in May 2013, claiming that he was being given VIP treatment in jail. The HRS had also taken an aggressive stand in support of Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and others arrested in the Malegaon blast case. According to the police, Desai is always accompanied by bodyguards. He is known for his radical speeches and is reportedly popular among a section of youth who are said to copy even his hairstyle. A Hindu activist close to Desai said that the HRS chief was like “Robin Hood” who looted the wealthy and used the money for the cause of Hinduism. A senior police officer, however, alleged that Desai gets funds for his outfit through extortion. (The Indian Express 4/6/14)

 

134. Pune Techie Murder: 17 Hindu Rashtra Sena Men Arrested (26)

Pune: Continuing the crackdown on a little known Hindu radical outfit in connection with the brutal murder of a young IT professional in a Pune suburb on Monday, police have arrested four more of its activists, taking the total arrests in the case to 17, official sources said. The authorities are also mulling invoking the stringent provisions of Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act (MPDAA) making it difficult for them to secure bail, Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur said. Mohasin Shaikh, 28, a resident of Bankar Colony in suburban Hadapsar, was allegedly bludgeoned to death with hockey sticks by a group of Hindu Rashtra Sena men after uploading of an objectionable post on social networking website Facebook by unknown people which denigrated warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji and Shiv Sena chief late Bal Thackeray. Some media reports said the posts might have originated in a foreign country but there was no official word on it. Those arrested have been booked under various sections of IPC including murder. In addition, about 180 persons have been arrested in connection with cases related to the rioting and damaging of city buses in the area in the incidents on Sunday and Monday during the Bandh called to protest against the Facebook post. Mathur said the role of self-styled chief of HRS Dhananjay Desai in Mohasin’s case was under investigation. Desai was arrested in a case filed against him for allegedly circulating inflammatory literature after the violence. Police are also probing the conspiracy angle to the murder after emergence of an SMS circulated by the accused among themselves which said in Marathi, “Ek wicket geli (one wicket has fallen).” Asked about the possibility of imposing a ban on HRS, Mathur said such a move needed thorough investigation and documentation of the organisation’s activities and cannot be taken in a hurry. The arrested accused were produced before a magistrate who remanded them in police custody till June 9. The situation in the area continues to be peaceful with no fresh violence in the last two days, police said. An appeal has been issued to citizens not to circulate or forward provocative messages on social media or spread rumours thorough SMS. Meanwhile, in a controversial statement, the newly elected BJP MP from Pune Anil Shirole has said though the incident (murder) was “unfortunate” the repercussions of the derogatory post were “natural”.”What happened is unfortunate but after the Facebook post some repercussion was natural,” he said, but hastened to add “we are making all efforts for restoring peace in Pune, people there want peace.” Home Ninister R R Patil said strict action will be taken against those responsible for the incident. “Some people always want to create communal tension. Strict action will be taken against all those responsible,” he said in Mumbai. (Outlook 6/6/14)

 

135. Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai: a radical who cares little for law (26)

Pune: Coming from a modest family, Dhananjay Desai, head of Hindu Rashtra Sena, was just another boy until he formed the right-wing group at the age of 14 with a base in Pune. Within a few years, Desai and his group, began launching minor protests on issues related to the so called “injustice” meted out to their religion. The organisation first came into focus when it carried an attack on the office of a Marathi television channel in 2007 protesting their coverage of an incident involving a Hindu minor girl who had eloped with a Muslim boy. Considered to be a radical group, members of Hindu Rashtra Sena have also held protests against the arrests of Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit in the Malegaon blasts case. In the past decade, 34-year-old Desai has been slapped with as many as 20 cases in various police stations in Pune. The cases were mostly against rioting and giving inflammatory speeches in which Desai has secured bail. While Desai regularly gets notices from the police asking him to restrain from delivering inflammatory speeches, he says he always throws them into the dustbin. Recently when cops sent him a notice warning him not to issue provocative statements ahead of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s birth anniversary in March, Desai posted on his Facebook profile that his house is full of similar notices and every month he sells them as scrap. Desai, who is known as “bhai” among his friends and belongs to Mumbai, was most recently booked for making inflammatory statements during March. “Our interrogation reveals members of Hindu Rashtra Sena are hardcore about their ideology,” said joint commissioner of police Sanjay Kumar.

Soon after killing IT graduate Mohsin Shaikh, a 28-year-old IT graduate, members of the right wing group exchanged an ominous message on their mobiles. The message said “pahili wicket padli” or the first wicket has fallen. The killing came as a fallout of violent protests after morphed images of Maratha warrior king Shivaji and late Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray were uploaded on Facebook by unidentified persons. The police have taken off those images and a complaint has been registered. Police cracked down against the organisation and arrested 25 members of whom 17 have been charged with murdering Shaikh. The police also arrested Desai though in connection with an old case. While speaking to the media on Thursday, Pune police commissioner Satish Mathur said a report will be sent to the government on the protests that led to Shaikh’s killing. According to Mathur, the police are in the process of compiling details about the HRS in order to send proposal to the state and central home department to ban the organisation. “You have to compile enough documents backed by enough evidence before the proposal is sent (to ban any group). It is in process,” said Mathur. (Hindustan Times 6/8/14)

 

136. Muslims Will Soon Give Nod to Ram temple at Ayodhya: VHP (26)

JAIPUR: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today said it was hopeful that the Muslim community will give up its opposition to the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “We firmly believe the Muslim community will understand this truth… will respect religious sentiments… and will voluntarily give decision with regard to temple construction,” Champak Rai, VHP’s international general secretary, said at a press conference here. About expectations from the newly-formed BJP government at the Centre, the VHP leader said, “Government’s duty is to protect every citizen. Security on borders. No one should cut off head of our soldier…food inflation be reduced… every one expects this, not only VHP”.On completion of fifty years of VHP foundation, Rai said VHP would organise ‘Hindu Sammelan’ in every district of the country from November this year to February next year. (Indian Express 8/6/14)

 

Posted by admin at 9 June 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur takes over as new CIC (1)

New Delhi: Former IB chief Rajiv Mathur today took over as the new Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission. He was administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 64-year-old Mathur succeeds Sushma Singh, who demitted office yesterday, as the sixth chief of the transparency watchdog. His name was recommended by a three-member selection panel headed by outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “My priority would be to reduce pendency of appeals and complaints, and to strengthen RTI apparatus. One of the priorities of the Commission would be to ensure adherence of Section 4 of RTI Act (which mandates public authorities to disclose information related to their working in public domain) by various government departments,” Mathur told PTI. There are about 14,000 appeals and complaints pending with the CIC, he said. He will have a tenure till August 23, when he attains 65 years of age. According to rules, CIC is appointed either for a maximum of five-year term or till 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. Mathur, a retired IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, was Director of Intelligence Bureau for two-year term from December 31, 2008 and was instrumental in revamping the intelligence set up and raising the quality of intelligence gathering and sharing. He also galvanised the IB machinery and provided leadership to the organisation to face challenges, according to Mathur’s official biodata. He is recipient of the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service. Mathur had in March 2012 joined as Information Commissioner in the CIC. His predecessor Sushma Singh had joined as CIC on December 13, last year. Deepak Sandhu, Satyananda Mishra, A N Tiwari and Wajahat Habibullah have also served as CICs. There are seven Information Commissioners– Vijai Sharma, Basant Seth, Yashovardhan Azad, Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher, M A Khan Yusufi and Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu– against the Commission’s strength of 10. The CIC is mandated to resolve appeals and complaints filed by information seekers, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, against government departments or public authorities. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

2. RTI activists blow their top against info panel (1)

CHENNAI: It was a war cry against the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission. Sore with the commission’s attempts to deny them information under the Right to Information Act, several activists gathered in front of its Teynampet headquarters on Wednesday and blew conches to register their protest. They raised slogans and demonstrated for a while before being arrested. They were later released. “No other information commission has disrespected the RTI Act the way TNSIC has. The act is aimed at bringing transparency in governance and also to expose corruption but TNSIC is least bothered to protect the rights of RTI applicants” said Siva Elango, a member of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, a group that led the protest. Most public information officers (PIOs) in state government departments refused or delayed providing information to RTI applicants, he said. “TNSIC has failed to implement the RTI Act even eight years after its enactment. RTI applicants from other districts are disappointed because of this attitude of the commission.” Commission staff even berated RTI applicants, he alleged pointing out that an inactive commission was a waste of tax payer’s money. Activists also demanded the removal of chief information commissioner K S Sripathi and commissioners P Thamilselvan and S F Akbar. “We blew conches to awake the sleeping commission which has done nothing for the RTI Act in the state. We are also planning to file a petition to the governor seeking the dismissal of the commission,” said Satta Panchayat Iyakkam general secretary Senthil Arumugam. Sripathi, however, could not be reached for a comment. Earlier, in reply to a RTI query filed by TOI, the commission said it did not have records of applications filed since 2007 despite having instructed government departments to upload details about themselves on their websites. According to Sections 4 (1) (a) and 4 (1)(b) of the act, cataloging of registers is mandatory. The commission also said it did not have the number of RTI applications received by each departments or the total number of appeals. “If the commission itself violates the act, how will other departments follow,” asked Arumugam. A comparison with websites of information commissions in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala shows that TNSIC has disclosed very little information, while its counterparts have provided comprehensive data on annual reports, awareness programmes and action taken against PIOs. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

3. RTI consultant ready for the job (1)

NEW DELHI: S C Agrawal, Delhi government’s newly-appointed Right to Information (RTI) consultant, is planning to publicise the list of post offices where applications under the transparency law can be filed by people. “Giving people the details about the post offices where they can file their RTI plea would help them use the law more efficiently,” said Agrawal, fresh from a visit to Nepal where he represented India at a Transparency International’s conference. Within a few days of being appointed as consultant by the administrative reforms department, Agrawal, who himself has been active in filing RTI applications, has chalked out a blueprint for smoothening the process of Delhi government departments sharing information with public. “I also have in mind a strategy for briefing all public authorities on how to handle nuisance petitions,” said Agrawal, who would be holding workshops for government officials and college and school students. A qualified mechanical engineer from Chandni Chowk, it is Agrawal’s activism and knowledge in the RTI field that has landed him the crucial assignment of improving the Delhi government’s response to public queries. The 64-year-old consultant, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, plans to give suggestions to government officials to simplify RTI procedures and save public money. “One of my suggestions to the officials will be regarding the size of the paper used for giving a reply to an RTI applicant. Some departments use legal size paper which is longer than a normal A4 sheet. I am going to suggest disuse of legal size paper as it is difficult to photocopy,” he said. Agrawal also has a plan to improve intra-departmental communication on giving responses to RTI queries. “At present, if a query requires response from various offices of a department, each office sends a separate reply to the applicant. Not only are a bulk of these replies in the negative, the RTI applicant is flooded with dozens of letters. We are going to iron out the system for reducing paper work,” said Agrawal. The veteran RTI applicant, who takes pride in being the first Indian to use the transparency law on January 3, 2005 by filing a plea in the Supreme Court, said he was also working towards introduction of an ‘RTI stamp’, like a revenue stamp, for replacing a postal order which every RTI applicant is required to attach with a query. He said on his suggestion the post and telegraph department was also considering to increase the number of post offices in the country where citizens can file an RTI application. (Deccan Herald 25/5/4)

 

4. Nine years on, RTI yet to get fully functional in state: RTI Manch Rajasthan report (1)

JAIPUR: After nine years of its introduction, Right to Information Act 2005 is yet to see its proper implementation in the state, says a detailed report on status of RTI prepared by RTI Manch Rajasthan along with the Right to Information Assessment and Advocacy Group (RaaG) during a public hearing held at Kanoria College in Jaipur on Monday. The report was presented amid presence of noted social activist Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey. The report found irregularities in many departments and government offices. Many key offices dealing in public centric issues were found to have not kept RTI manuals, which were mandatory. It includes — Election Commission, Rajasthan Secretariat, Employment Department, Social Justice and Empowerment Department, colleges, Minority Affairs, Local Self Government etc. Some find it least important to put RTI boards indicating its office or location. Such examples include — Excise department, Finance Department, Health Department, Medical Department, Minority Affairs etc. The report doesn’t stop here. It also includes a survey prepared by interns of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The survey says 86% people were not given information on the 30-day time period according to the act. Whereas, 83% respondents say nothing happened in the first appellate, which indicates the slow pace of affairs. The survey presents an exhaustive picture of the state on the bases of 33 districts covered and information sought from 20 departments. The startling revelations say that only 42% people got the information within the first year followed by 32%, who got it between the first and the second year of them filing the query, while for rest it took over 2 years to get the information. The government’s laxity for RTI is indicated by the fact that in many departments and offices it was found that officers in-charge were lacking information relating to RTI. The survey found that 41.66% of the total departments don’t have a single widow system for the processing of RTI queries. Also, government officials failed to present RTI section 4 manual when asked. The manual, which is mandatory to keep, was found missing from various government offices. “Every government and government aided offices should implement the section 4 of this act with immediate effect without which we will not able to achieve its desired objectives,” said Roy. Section 4 of the RTI Act directs that offices which come under RTI purview that they should suo moto put the information before the public through various means of communication, including internet, so that the public need not formally apply for obtaining information. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

5. HR & CE should take over temple at Uthapuram: human rights activists (1)

Madurai: Human rights activists here on Monday urged the State government to take control of the temple at Uthapuram, a village where caste clashes erupted 19 years ago. So far, the clashes have claimed nine lives. The members alleged that despite High Court orders to allow Dalits to enter Muthala Amman Temple in the village, Caste Hindus denied them permission. “It is a violation of basic right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. Hence, the Hindu Religious and Charities Endowment Department must take over the temple,” said A. Rajini, State convenor, People’s Union of Human Rights (PUHR). “Moreover, those responsible for the attack on the revenue officials last month must be brought to book,” she added. Further, the activists charged the district administration of Theni with having a “callous” attitude towards allaying the fears of Dalits living in Melamangalam following clashes that took place in the village last month. Members of the PUHR and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) alleged that the administration had not convened any peace talks between the warring groups. Releasing the report of the fact-finding panel that visited Melamangalam, Ms. Rajini said that the victims of caste clashes were not given adequate relief under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 20/5/14)

 

6. US sanctions 12 Russians for human rights violations (1)

WASHINGTON: The Treasury Department on Tuesday sanctioned 12 Russians under a US law named after whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with a Russian government official to claim a fraudulent $230 million tax rebate. The Magnitsky affair ignited a high-emotion dispute between Russia and Washington that has included US sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators, a ban on the adoption of Russian children by US citizens and calls for the closure of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving American funding. Magnitsky died in prison in November 2009 of untreated pancreatitis at age 37, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment. His death prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and spurred efforts in Europe and the US to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. The law enacted in 2012 requires that US sanctions be imposed on individuals suspected of being responsible for or financially benefiting from Magnitsky’s detention, abuse or death, or were involved in the criminal conspiracy he uncovered. The law also requires sanctions against individuals responsible for killings, torture or other human rights violations committed against individuals trying to defend human rights or expose illegal activity by Russian government officials. Magnitsky was arrested on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with Hermitage Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar fund headed by US-born British investor William Browder. Hermitage has accused Russian Interior Ministry officers of illegally taking over assets it managed and using them to fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes from the Russian government. Sanctioned were four prison officials, a judge, court official, a law enforcement investigator and alleged co-conspirators in the fraud case. The sanctions ban US visas for the individuals and freeze any assets they have under US jurisdiction. On the list is Dr Dmitry Kratov, the sole person charged in Magnitsky’s 2009 death. Kratov, who was acquitted of negligence, is the former chief medical officer of the Butyrka Detention Center Hospital where Magnitsky was held. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

7. Pay Salary of Nurses in Two Months: KSHRC (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) has ordered that the nurses appointed as part of the Dengue Fever Preventive Programme should be given their pending salary within two months. KSHRC chairman J B Koshy ruled that the nurses should be given 9 per cent interest if the salary was not given within the prescribed time. Fifty-five nurses were appointed for the programme from the rank-list of the staff nurses on the directives of the Health Department. The DMO had extended their service and the salary till March 2013 was paid by the NRHM. However, these nurses were not paid salary from November 2013. Though the Health Director had given instructions to pay the salary from the plan fund, the DMO had said that he had not received such an instruction. In the order on a petition filed by V P Sudheeshkumar, the KSHRC said that it was improper on the part of the government not to pay salaries after making appointments.  Stating that it was violation of human rights, Justice Koshy ordered that the salary should be given from plan fund or any other fund. He also instructed the Health Secretary and Health Director to furnish details in this respect on June 16. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

8. Tribal girl rape: NHRC show-cause to Government (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the State Government asking its Chief Secretary to respond within six weeks as to why monetary relief of Rs 3 lakh be not recommended and paid to a 10-year-old tribal schoolgirl of Balangir, who was raped in a school hostel by a school peon. Adjudicating a complaint filed by human rights activist and advocate Prabir Kumar Das, the commission has observed that basing on reports of Balangir district Collector and the District Welfare Officer, it has been prima facie established that the State authorities had failed to protect the child in their custody and, therefore, the victim is entitled to get a monetary relief under Section 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act-1993. Das in his complaint has maintained that the victim was a Class IV student of a residential school at Kushumal under the Saintala police station of the district run by the ST and SC Development Department. “Around 10 pm on the night of October 29, 2013, a school peon in an inebriated condition forced his entry into the school hostel and raped the tribal girl, who was only nine-years old then,” Das has said, stating that the girl lost her consciousness. A police complaint was made by the victim’s brother-in-law, following which the accused was arrested three days after the incident under Sections 376 and 511 of IPC and Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. However, demanding an independent inquiry and seeking monetary relief to the victim, Das approached the NHRC in November 2013. (Pioneer 27/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

9. Armed Forces Tribunal gets teeth to implement its orders(1)

CHANDIGARH: The Army authorities would not be able to deny the execution of orders passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), as the central government has empowered the AFT with the powers of execution prescribed in the civil procedure code (CPC). The powers of execution of orders under CPC includes the civil arrest, civil contempt and attachment of property of defaulters till the orders are not executed. A statement regarding the empowerment of AFTs with execution powers under CPC was made on Monday by the central government before the Punjab and Haryana high court in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking powers to ensure compliance of orders passed by AFT. When the matter came up for hearing on Monday, the central government submitted that the AFT could follow the procedure prescribed under Order XXI of the CPC. Hearing this, the division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul disposed of the PIL on the satisfaction expressed by the petitioner’s counsel on the issue. The PIL filed by the founder president of AFT Chandigarh bar association, Major Navdeep Singh, had submitted that the ministry of defence (MoD) has refused to implement the orders passed by AFT even when upheld by Supreme Court. Pointing out some provisions of the Armed Force Tribunal Act ordain execution of its orders, the petitioner informed that the procedure is not laid down and neither does the AFT have powers of civil contempt. The PIL had sought directions to the law ministry to either notify or amplify the procedure of execution of AFT orders or that the AFT be directed to initiate criminal contempt proceedings in each case of non-compliance. There are more than 3000 cases of the AFT that have not been complied with by the Government on the pretext that the decisions are against ‘Government policy’. The PIL had also stated that the Chandigarh bench of AFT though is imposing costs on MoD for non-compliance of its orders but the said costs were being directed to be paid to the registrar of the AFT rather than the litigants which was not only against the concept of “costs” but also directly against law laid down by constitutional courts. The petition says that costs are hence being paid from one pocket of the government to another which itself is alien to law.  (Times of India 20/5/14)

 

10. Irom Sharmila wishes to meet Modi over AFSPA

Imphal, May 22: Activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, on a fast-unto-death since the past 10 years against alleged rights violations by security forces, wants to meet Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi to secure his help in getting AFSPA repealed in Manipur, her lawyer said on Thursday. “She has expressed a desire to meet Prime Minister(-designate) Narendra Modi to highlight the sufferings of the people through the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Manipur and in other northeastern states as well,” Sharmila’s counsel Khaidem Mani told IANS. “We will seek an appointment with the prime minister. We are hopeful that the prime minister would give Sharmila an audience to listen to her. Sharmila is optimist that the new government will surely heed her words and repeal AFSPA from Manipur,” he said. Sharmila, described as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2, 2000 in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home. AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur that have been declared “disturbed areas” because of ongoing armed militancy. Sharmila will be flown to New Delhi May 27 and will be presented before the metropolitan magistrate the next day. She would be accompanied by a doctor, two nurses, a women police team and two jail officials. She, meanwhile, indicated her support for the Aam Admi Party while rejecting Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s offer for her to join the Congress. Several human rights groups, including the North East Students’ Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA. Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the law. However, army officials maintain that it was for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue AFSPA. Human Rights Alert – an Imphal-based rights group – is not confident that the incoming National Democratic Alliance government would repeal AFSPA. “We do not foresee that the Modi government will repeal AFSPA as he has never mentioned repealing of the controversial act during his electioneering in Manipur,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, told IANS. “Nonetheless, we hope that they will repeal AFSPA,” Loitongbam said. (Oneindia 22/5/14)

 

11. Freed Indian prisoners handed over by Pak at Wagah border (1)

Lahore: Pakistan on Monday handed over 150 Indian fishermen and another prisoner held for crossing the border to Indian authorities at the Wagah border in a goodwill gesture by Premier Nawaz Sharif who is in India to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Fifty nine prisoners were released from the district prison Malir in Karachi and 92 from the Nara prison in Hyderabad, officials said. Out of the 151 people handed over to the Border Security Force at the Wagah border, 150 were fishermen and one was a prisoner in Karachi jail who inadvertently crossed into Pakistan from the Sindh border. They were brought to the Wagah Border from Karachi by buses. “After going through their papers they have been handed over to the Indian authorities,” a Rangers official told PTI. Talking to reporters fisherman Dapu Teja said he learnt bead work in jail. “I get Rs 60 per every piece I make and I know how to make bracelets, anklets, necklaces and key chains with beads,” he said. Teja was on board a ship which allegedly crossed over into the Pakistani territory seven months ago. He said there were seven people on the boat but only four were arrested by the Pakistan coastguards. “They let the three older fishermen go back as they will have been a burden here due to their age,” he said. Another fisherman named Nanji Soma said: “I am an illiterate man good enough to catch fish only but my son will not be one. He is 10 years old now and goes to school. In my absence the fishermen community back home contributed for my poor family to keep sending him to school.” “Now I will go back and work again and also pay back my friends. I may get caught again as there are not clear boundaries marked in the sea to keep us from drifting into your country but it will not happen to my son,” he said. Kamal Shah of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has appealed to the Indian government to release the Pakistani fishermen locked up in Indian jails. Sharif yesterday ordered the release of the 151 Indian prisoners and 57 boats, a day before his visit to India. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

12. Custodial death triggers anger, six cops arrested (1)

New Delhi: Six Delhi Police personnel, comprising a head constable and five constables, were arrested after a 30-year-old man died in their custody in south-west Delhi on Monday. It is alleged that the man was a victim of torture while being in detention. A mob turned violent after the incident and resorted to stone pelting outside Bindapur police station. Police used lathi-charge and tear gas to bring the situation under control.The victim has been identified as Manoj Chand, a resident of west Delhi’s Pankha Road in Uttam Nagar. Police said a call was made to the police control room around noon reporting that Manoj had been picked up for questioning. Sources said the police officers were not wearing uniform when they visited Manoj’s house. The caller also claimed that Manoj was being falsely dragged into a case of Arms Act registered with Bindapur police station. “An initial probe has revealed that Manoj was detained and taken to old Matiala police post for questioning,” said a police officer. Manoj’s health allegedly deteriorated during questioning due to which the policemen decided to take him to the nearest hospital. “Manoj was taken to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, where he was declared brought dead,” the officer added. Currently, police are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain the exact cause of the death. A protest was held outside Bindapur police station after Manoj’s family members were informed. The protesters claimed that Manoj was beaten up by police, and questioned the reason behind Manoj being taken to a police post and not the police station. They soon turned violent claiming that local police were trying to shield the policemen involved, and damaged at least four vehicles parked in the area. Senior police officers also visited the area, but failed to prevent the violence. Till late on Monday, around 200 locals continued to stay outside the police station and clashed with around 100 policemen. Taking strict action over the allegations, senior police officers ordered a case and arrest of the personnel involved in detaining Manoj. The accused have been identified as Head Constable Bhoop Singh and constables Rajesh Solanki, Rajesh, Sudhir, Uttam and Arvind. A case under sections 302 (murder) and 365 (kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code has been filed against the police personnel. “Further action in the case will depend on the post-mortem report. A departmental inquiry has also been ordered,” the officer said. Manoj’s body will be handed over to family after the post-mortem on Tuesday. He is survived by his wife Rishi and a seven-month-old child. The couple had married around two years ago. (Deccan Herald 27/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

13. Pravin Togadia’s hate speech: Despite FIR, no action (1)

RAJKOT: A month after a first information report (FIR) was registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia for an alleged hate speech, Bhavnagar police seem to be in no hurry to expedite legal proceedings in the matter. Togadia was booked for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration and disobedience of an order duly promulgated by public servant following an order from Election Commission of India (ECI). He had allegedly asked a group of residents to forcibly evict a Muslim individual, who had bought a house in a predominantly Hindu area of Bhavnagar. TOI was the first to report Togadia’s hate speech delivered in Bhavnagar. Sources said there has been no significant progress in the investigations in this case even after a month of the FIR being lodged. The police are still in the process of taking statements of local residents who attended the function chaired by Togadia where he delivered his speech. When contacted deputy superintendent of police, Bhavnagar city, R I Patel said the investigation is on and the police have sent video footages of Togadia to Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) for verification. On being asked whether the police have issued any summons to Togadia, Patel said, “The case requires ‘deep’ investigation and it will take time.”Meanwhile, VHP workers in Bhavnagar have carried out a series of protests outside the house in question purchased by the Muslim businessman. The police have enhanced security in the area to avoid any untoward incident. (Times of India 21/5/14)

 

14. BJP social media blitz against AAP (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi BJP is all set to use social media in a bid to counter the Aam Aadmi Party. It plans to use comic strips, jokes, couplets, photographs and cartoons to take on the AAP.The saffron party has finalised a social media team, which will focus on former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana said, “We would bring up all of Arvind Kejriwal’s and his party’s goof-ups and U-turns from his statements. He is a habitual offender.”Terming many actions taken by Mr Kejriwal as “unethical,” he said the AAP supremo exposed himself during his 49-day “misgovernance” in Delhi. A media adviser and volunteer for the BJP’s online campaign said, “The AAP convenor is a media-hungry person. His actions depict that he wants to be in the limelight. Here, at social media campaigns, we would take upon him and expose his gimmickry.” This cyber army would be active on almost all social websites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. In addition to this, the team would also use WhatsApp to share jokes about the party. A source said, “This time around, he raised allegations against our senior leader Nitin Gadkari. The party would never accept anything against our leaders. He seeks cheap publicity. He has double standards.” Taking a dig at Mr Kejriwal, Delhi BJP president Hasrsh Vardhan said, “Arvind Kejriwal’s only motive is to get media attention.” (Asian Age 23/5/14)

 

15. With increasing number of arrests, activists worried about online free speech (1)

NEW DELHI: Facing imminent arrest in Goa for a Facebook post against Narendra Modi, Devu Chodankar’s case is not an isolated one. The 33-year-old shipbuilding professional joins a growing list of activists and common people booked under Section 66 A of the IT Act for political remarks. In Delhi, activist Sheeba Fehmi’s review petition following a court order directing the police to file an FIR against her for “anti-national” Facebook posts was dismissed in Tis Hazari court earlier this week. Back in 2011, she had filed a complaint against one Pankaj Dwivedi, who had sent her e-mails strongly opposing her political views on Facebook, threatening her with “consequences” if she did not fall in line. The court not only ruled in favour of Dwivedi in 2012, but also directed the police to file an FIR against Fehmi for posting “anti-national” content. Fehmi, several of whose posts had been critical of then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, has now approached the Delhi High Court with the matter. Fehmi says she is strongly opposed to section 66 A of the IT act, under which Dwivedi was booked. “I had no agency in the matter when the police booked him under 66 A. He was then acquitted by the same people under the section,” Fehmi told TOI. Section 66 A of the IT Act can be employed against anyone who sends any information by computers “that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”. Chodankar has been booked under this in addition to sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 125 of the People’s Representation Act, which cover promoting enmity between groups. The Act attracted most attention in 2012 with a few notable arrests and cases. In November 2012 following the death of Bal Thackeray, a girl from Palghar, Maharashtra had been arrested for a Facebook post. She had posted a status questioning the legitimacy of the bandh in the state following the late Shiv Sena supremo’s death. Oddly, a friend of hers who had clicked “like” on the status was also put behind bars. After a national outcry, charges against the teenage girls were dropped. The same year, a businessman was arrested under 66 A for alleging former finance minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram of amassing disproportionate assets. Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s website – Cartoons Against Corruption — was also taken down under the same section back in 2012 for “sedition”. He was later arrested. “The new government should take care that this case doesn’t send out the wrong message,” says Trivedi. That very year, law student Shreya Singhal filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking an amendment of the IT Act. “There shouldn’t be a trail of suppressive cases like this. People should be allowed to say what they want. An aggrieved person can file a defamation case. His (Chodankar’s) choice of words might not have been the best, but to face arrest for this is just out of place,” says Singhal. In December 2012, in a Rajya Sabha debate, MPs such as Gyan Prakash Pilania of the BJP, D. Bandyopadhyay of the AITC and Baishnab Parida of the BJD, Narendra Kumar Kashyap of the BSP and Basavaraj Patil of the BJP had supported a resolution for the amendment of Section 66A. (Times of India 24/5/14)

 

16. Online free speech hangs by a thread (1)

BANGALORE: There’s something stifling in cyberspace — Indian cyberspace, that is. Though the web is known to offer a fresh freedom to express ideas and views, India has choked this space with speech-smothering laws. A good population of lawyers and legal experts term the laws “unconstitutional” in many of their writings available online. As editor and columnist Aakar Patel puts it: “The fourth amendment of the US said the Congress shall never pass a law that curtails the freedom of speech. But the first amendment of our Constitution says the exact opposite.” The enactment of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was to facilitate and regulate transactions and business online, but the 2008 amendment introducing the “infamous” Section 66A has dealt a heavy blow to the freedom of expression. This section mandates that any electronic communication that is grossly offensive, of a menacing character, false or misleading, annoying or even inconvenient, can attract a three-year jail term. “What is annoying or causes inconvenience is left to the police, can you believe this?” asks Sandalwood director and actor Prakash Belawadi, of laws that have curbed citizen freedom. “Aseem Trivedi was arrested for publishing cartoons termed ‘offensive’. They were made out to be seditious. It’s time we revisit such laws,” he said. In her column for Forbes India, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy said: “…Of course, a balance has to be struck between free speech, hate speech and defamation…But some of the internet speech laws are so draconian even a layman’s reading shows they are unconstitutional.” Said Patel: “There are many draconian laws that curb our freedom, but it’ll take time to change that. We should understand our laws cannot cordon off Indians surfing the web. Cyber laws must be aligned with global laws.” The new government and Narendra Modi should take this as an opportunity to make amendments and revisit such laws, adds Belawadi. The only respite for the citizenry is the matter is sub judice, with petitions questioning the introduction of Section 66 before the Supreme Court. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

17. Kejriwal agrees to furnish personal bail bond in defamation case (1)

New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal today accepted Delhi High Court’s suggestion to furnish personal bond to get bail in a defamation case filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari. The court today advised Kejriwal, who has been lodged in Tihar Jail, to furnish a bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed against him. A bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta said Kejriwal can raise whatever legal issues he wants to, once he comes out of jail and that he should not make it a prestige issue. After senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Kejriwal, sought to meet the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader in prison to seek his instruction and put forth the court’s suggestion, the bench allowed them to meet him anytime before 1 pm. The judges advised Kejriwal to furnish the bail bond and said that the same would be subject to final outcome of the legal issues raised by him. The legal issue raised by Kejriwal, in his petition seeking his immediate release from the jail, is whether bail bond is necessary in summons case when accused appears and is accompanied by a lawyer. The petition challenged the May 21 and 23 orders of a magisterial court remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed by Gadkari, saying the same was not mandatory and he should have been allowed to give a written undertaking instead. Kejriwal in his plea, filed through advocate Rohit Kumar Singh, has said the magisterial order sending him to judicial custody was “illegal” as it was based on a “completely wrong premise of law.” During the proceedings, the bench suggested that Kejriwal should furnish bail bond and challenge the magisterial orders once he comes out of jail. It also questioned how a habeas corpus, filed on behalf of Kejriwal, applies against a judicial order. A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or detainee before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful. Kejriwal’s counsel argued that his detention is “totally illegal” as only a person in custody is required to furnish bail bond. The counsel argued that Kejriwal had appeared in pursuance to summons of the court and was accompanied by a lawyer and, therefore, there was no need for him to furnish bail bond, especially when he was willing to give an undertaking. They said the requirement of pre-trial bail in the current situation is an antiquated practice which is absent in socially developed and forward nations like the US. When the accused was present in court with counsel in pursuance to its summons, then there was no need to direct him to furnish bail bond, the counsel argued. Senior advocate Pinky Anand, appearing for Gadkari, opposed the habeas corpus plea, saying such a petition was not maintainable against judicial orders. She also argued that under the law, every person is required to furnish bail bonds in such cases to ensure his presence. She also objected to Kejriwal’s conduct in the jail by having written an open letter questioning the magisterial orders sending him to judicial custody. A former Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody by a magistrate on May 21 for two days. On May 23, his custody was extended by 14 days till June 6 after he refused to furnish a bail bond when he was granted bail in the case. The magistrate had refused to review its May 21 order remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing the bail bond and had asked him to approach the higher court, challenging the decision. Kejriwal was earlier summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader, who had included his name in the party’s list of “India’s most corrupt”. On May 21, the court had granted bail to Kejriwal in the defamation complaint, saying the offence under Section 500 of IPC was bailable and had asked him to furnish a personal bond. He, however, was taken into custody after he refused to give the bail bond, saying the case was politically motivated and he does not wish to seek bail. He had said that he was ready to give an undertaking that he would appear in the court whenever required. The court had on February 28 summoned Kejriwal as an accused in the case, observing that statements allegedly made by the AAP leader have the effect of “harming the reputation” of the complainant. (Business Line 28/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

18. Nuns warn of trafficking in Brazil (7)

Vatican City: Roman Catholic nuns backed by Pope Francis on Tuesday raised the alarm over increased risks of human trafficking, exploitation of workers, forced prostitution and sexual tourism at the football World Cup in Brazil next month. The nuns, whose campaign is also backed by the US embassy to the Vatican, announced an international campaign called “Play in Favour of Life Denounce Human Trafficking”, on the risks they say will be associated with the June 12-July 13 tournament. “We need to make people conscious of what happens on the margins of big world events such as the Fifa World Cup and the suffering of those who are trafficked,” said Sister Carmen Sammut, a Maltese nun and one of the campaign organisers. “Without this awareness, without acting together in favour of human dignity, the World Cup finals may turn out to be a terrible shame instead of a feast for humanity,” she told a press conference at the Vatican. Sammut said the initiative had the full backing of Pope Francis, an avid Argentine football fan who has called several conferences at the Vatican to study ways of combating human trafficking.Sister Gabriella Bottani, an Italian nun who works in Brazil, said human traffickers and others took advantage of large events like the World Cup to exploit the most vulnerable.She said young people from the countryside are lured with the promise of a job and forced into prostitution. Children in rural areas may be kidnapped and taken to cities hosting the venues and forced to beg. Others who are already being exploited as sex workers may be forced to move to one of the 12 venue cities because they would be more profitable to their pimps. In countries like Brazil, she said, large events could also give rising to kidnapping for adoption. (Asian Age 21/5/14)

 

19. Child traffickers held, 63 rescued (1)

NEW DELHI: Sixty three children were rescued and 23 traffickers arrested from Old Delhi railway station on Wednesday morning in what police have called the biggest operation this year. The children had been brought to the capital to work as labourers, police said. The children were rescued by the Railway Police with help from NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Aandolan, Shakti Vahini and Prayas. The NGOs had been tracking the children from Razaul, where the train started, and had deployed volunteers at stations en route. Once the train reached the capital, a team led by DCP (Railways) Sanjay Bhatia and the anti-human trafficking unit of north district searched each compartment and asked 38 people and 71 children to accompany officers into the waiting room. “Kids accompanied by their parents were allowed to leave,” said Rakesh Senger from Bachpan Bachao Andolan. The traffickers claimed before police that they were distant relatives of the children. They had divided the children into groups of three or four and were travelling with them in different compartments. The children, all between seven and 17 years old, belong to remote villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “They were promised work in sweat shops, restaurants and factory outlets in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab and were told they would be paid around Rs 3,500-4,500 per month. The children will be sent to a shelter till their parents are traced,” said Rishikant from Shakti Vahini. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

20. 8 Held in Connection with ‘Trafficking’ of Kids (1)

PALAKKAD: A total of eight persons have been arrested by the Railway police in connection with the  alleged child trafficking in which 466 children were brought from Jharkhand and Bihar in the Patna-Ernakulam Express and 124 children from West Bengal in the Guwahathi Express. While the 466 children were being brought by the Mukkam Muslim orphanage, another 124 children were brought for an orphanage in Vettathoor in Malappuram. Of the eight persons arrested, three are from Bihar, four from West Bengal and one from Jharkhand. They have been charged under section 370(5) of the Indian Penal code. Of the 466 children who were detained on Sunday, 183 were transferred to the Child Welfare Committee in Kozhikode. The Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee, Jose Paul, said that 165 girls have been transferred to the Providence Home in Malampuzha and 124 boys to the Palakkad orphanage in Pezhunkara. They were the remaining children of the first 466 batch of children who arrived from Bihar and Jharkhand. The four arrested persons in connection with the trafficking of 466 children from Jharkhand and Bihar were identified as Abdul Khader Ansari, 32, son of Ghose from Chasanagar in Bihar, Mohammed Alangir, 24, son of Mohammed Ibrahim from Bhaska in Bihar, Mohammed Eidothalam, 30, son of Mohammed Bhadarudheen from Viswasani post in Jharkhand and Moulana Faisalullah, 26, son of Mohammed Ansarullah from Bhagalpur in Bihar. The other four persons arrested in connection with the transportation of 124 children from West Bengal were Mansoor,32, Bakker, 30, Dost Mohammed and Jabir, all natives of West Bengal. Jose Paul said that though only 63 of the 124 children had valid documents, all the 124 children were transferred to the Child welfare committee in Malappuram as an orphanage there had claimed them. The verification of the second batch of 124 children were conducted at the RPF mobilisation centre at the Palakkad junction. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

21. Dalits ostracised from village after tiff with upper castes in Punjab (2)

Chandigarh: Sources said the Dalit villagers were keen to get the land auctioned at a lower price, which their upper caste counterparts of Bopur village objected to. The community wanted the land leased to them for a year at a nominal price. The influential landlords allegedly threatened the Dalits over the loudspeakers. The supply lines which supplied potable water to the Dalit homes were snapped and they were warned not to use ponds and water tanks in the village. “They (the influential landlords) have blocked water supply to our homes, fields and sheds. It was also announced on the loudspeaker that anybody employing people of our community will be imposed a fine of Rs.21,000,” a Bopur Dalit said. In a memorandum submitted to Sangrur Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal on Monday, the Dalits said, the landlords have not only blocked the water supply but also stopped them from entering their fields. Many of these Dalits work as labourers in the farms of the upper caste landlords. They also alleged that their upper caste villagers also made casteist remarks against them over the loudspeaker. “The people of our community are shocked after the incident. We have requested the Deputy Commissioner to take appropriate action against the people involved in the incident,” Secretary of Guru Ravidas Welfare society, Bopur, Raj Kumar said. On Tuesday, the Sangrur district administration swung into action and restored the main water supply line in the village. But the supply line to the Sant Ravidas temple remained disconnected. “Incident like this is anti-constitutional. Though the water supply has been restored by the administration, but the issue of ostracisation and the insult done by using loudspeakers has shocked the people who may leave the village,” President of Aadi Dharam Samaj, Rajpal said. The Sangrur administration said that the water supply to the Dalit settlements has been restored. It, however, denied the Dalits were threatened by the upper caste landlords. “There was a tiff between the landlords and the Dalits over the auction of village common land. The Dalits have filed a complaint against the upper caste people. We have ordered a magisterial probe. The sub-divisional magistrate has been asked to file a detailed report. The initial probe has not found the allegations of threatening Dalits on loudspeakers. We will take appropriate action on the basis of report,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Pritam Singh Johal said. (India Today 21/5/14)

 

22. Face of Mahadalit schemes takes over (2)

Patna: Though the elevation of Jitan Ram Manjhi came as a surprise to many, JD(U) sources said Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav had decided on the Musahar leader soon after Nitish resigned from the chief minister’s post on May 17. Apparently, Nitish called up Manjhi the very next day. On Tuesday, Manjhi took oath as the 23rd chief minister of Bihar, and the first from the economically and socially backward Musahar community. Manjhi and Ravidas are the largest groups among Mahadalits, who, in turn, account for 12 per cent of Bihar’s population. Bihar has had SC CMs — Bhola Paswan Shastri and Ram Sundar Das. Manjhi, a six-time MLA, first became a deputy minister (for welfare) in the Chandrashekhar Singh-led Congress government in the early 1980s. In his second ministerial stint he was MoS for education in the RJD government in 1996. In 2005, Nitish made him public health and engineering minister. However, allegations cropped up against him in connection with a BEd scam of the RJD government, when he had been deputy to then minister Jayprakash Narayan Yadav. He had to resign. After the court cleared his name, he re-entered the cabinet with Nitish creating a new department — SC/ST welfare. As Nitish started his social engineering to cater to a new constituency of SCs minus the Paswans — the Mahadalits — Manjhi’s department played a key role in implementing its dozen schemes. Until then, Mahadalits used to be primarily a Congress constituency. The biggest scheme of this department, Mahadalit Vikas Mission, pertained to free distribution of land for building homes, with 2.5 lakh SC families as beneficiaries. The government conducted exhaustive surveys to get the exact figure of landless Mahadalits. Manjhi’s job was to coordinate with the rural development and land revenue departments to ensure the scheme was implemented smoothly. Though there were controversies and even landed Dalits got land — as reported by The Indian Express in June-July 2012 — it continued to be Nitish’s flagship scheme and even seemed to be threatening Ram Vilas Paswan’s hold on his Dalit vote-bank. Other schemes included Dasrath Manjhi Kaushal Vikas Yojana for vocational and skill development training, Mahadalit Poshak Yojana that gave Rs 500 to each student to buy uniforms and footwear, and appointment of 10,000 Vikas Mitras to monitor the progress of government schemes. Mahadalit Shauchalaya Yojana ensured each Dalit family got Rs 300 to build a toilet. Manjhi set a target of 2,33,333 toilets by 2014. Giving Rs 400 to every Dalit family to buy a radio was another popular move. Manjhi always gave credit to Nitish, who has now rewarded him. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

23. Parents abandon daughter for eloping with Dalit youth (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: The deep-rooted caste system in this backward district came to the fore again when the parents of a 16-year-old girl decided to ‘abandon’ her after she had eloped with a Dalit youth, and declined to guarantee her safety and security. After the parents at Kathayan in the Mudukulathur police limit told the local Judicial Magistrate (JM) court that they would not take the girl back and refused to give a written undertaking, guaranteeing her safety, Magistrate Mohanram ordered on Friday that she be kept in a home, though the girl insisted on going with her parents, police said. Allirajan, a temporary worker at the local electricity board, and Vanitha Rani, a farm worker, in a virtual disapproval of their daughter’s love affair with the Dalit youth, told the Magistrate that they could not be held responsible if the girl committed suicide at home when they went for work, the police said. On the Magistrate’s order, the girl was admitted to the reception home for girl children at Muthupatti in Madurai for transit stay on Friday, police said. The girl was awaiting the SSLC examination results, when she eloped with R. Saranraj, 22, a canteen manager in a private nursing home in Chennai, on May 16. On a complaint by her father, the Mudukulathur police registered a case under Section 366 (A) of the IPC (abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage) and launched a search, sending special teams to Madurai and Coimbatore. Sensing that the police were zeroing in on them, Saranraj brought the girl to Sivaganga on Thursday evening and absconded, leaving her at the JM court-I. After arranging her stay at a local home on Thursday night, the magistrate transferred the case to the JM court at Mudukulathur, the next day, police said. When contacted, CWC Chairperson R. Sakunthala said the case was not referred to the commission by the Mudukulathur court. However, the CWC would arrange further studies and safe custody of the girl, if she was handed over to it. The girl has passed SSLC, scoring 398 marks. Recently, a mother and her family members had murdered a 22-year-old pregnant woman in the district, hiring mercenaries, for she had married a man from outside the community. (The Hindu 25/5/14)

 

24. Dalit Youth Murdered, Caste Hindu Trio Grilled (2)

VELLORE: A 25-year-old Dalit youth was allegedly murdered on Saturday night. Three persons were taken for inquiry in this connection in Thiruvalam police station limits on Sunday. The deceased, identified as F Richard of Sivanandha Nagar in Thiruvalam, was found dead with multiple injuries, inside the government Kodugapuli Thoppu near Ampundi village around 6 am on Sunday. The locals who had gone to answer nature’s call found the body and alerted the police. P Vijaykumar, Superintendent of Police, Vellore, rushed to the spot and conducted an inquiry. Officials from the Forensic Wing swung into action and searched the murder spot for evidences. The preliminary inquiry revealed that two weeks back, during a temple festival, Richard  and his friends had a brawl with a group of youth, who belonged to a caste Hindu community, of Sembrayanallur village, and were participating in the temple festival. The two groups quarrelled over a trivial issue that led to fisticuffs. Following this reportedly the Caste Hindu youth assaulted Richard and his friends in the melee, said the police attached to the Thiruvalam police station. Further inquiry revealed that after the temple festival episode, on Saturday Richard had gone to Sembrayanallur to attend a funeral of his relative. After attending the final rites, Richard returned home on his bike in an inebriated condition.  He was intercepted by a group of youth who thrashed him and took him to Korgaliga Thoppu and later bumped him off. The police nabbed Basker (25) of Salavanpettai in Vellore, Madhiazhagan (27) and Sivaraman alias Kalai (20) of Sembrayanallur village for interrogation. The involvement of the trio was strongly suspected, said the police source. SP Vijayakumar said that if the evidences and inquiry prove that the three suspects were involved in the crime, and they will be arrested. Meanwhile, the brutal murder of the youth created tense moments in the locality. Police have been deployed to provided security in the area and avert any untoward incident in light of the caste clash.  Until noon, relatives of the deceased refused to receive the body  from Government Vellore Medical College and Hospital, demanding immediate arrest of the murderers. (New Indian Express 27/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

25. Shocking report: A mother dies every 2 hours in Rajasthan (3)

Jaipur: Despite increased health facilities in Rajasthan, even today one mother dies every two hours in the desert state due to delivery or delivery-related complications.Every year, 4,600 mothers die while delivering a baby in Rajasthan, revealed a study by NGO Save the Children. The NGO has demanded the government to address the loopholes in the primary health centres (PHCs) and sub-centres (SCs), so that pregnant women can deliver the child here instead of going to community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals. Save the Children state health and programme coordinator OP Singh said that on a survey conducted by the NGO on the situation of motherhood facilities, India ranked 137 out of 178 countries surveyed. In India, every 20 seconds a child dies due to diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea or malnutrition. The data of the state on safe motherhood is worrying. Singh said the state government made efforts to stop maternal mortality in rural areas, but only in about 7% of a total of 11,494 SCs do over three deliveries take place in a month. Similarly, only in 43.9% of the 1,100 24-hour PHCs do over 10 deliveries take place in a month. The figure is the same for about 3.3% of the 417 PHCs. The remaining health centres are grossly under-utilised. Singh said the government should look into these PHCs and SCs and plug in the lacunas so that maximum deliveries take place here and pregnant women do not need to go to the community health centres or district hospitals. He said that due to the lack of facilities in PHCs and sub-centres, pregnant women go to CHCs and district hospitals, and as the result, the patient load increases and proper care is not extended. According to the Annual Health Survey 2012-13, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Rajasthan has reduced by 37% from 331 to 208 per 1 lakh live births from 2010-11. However, there is still a long way to go to reduce the MMR, the official added. Save the Children advocacy and campaign coordinator Hemant Acharya said awareness is to be brought in rural areas about safe motherhood by launching a special campaign. He suggested that special schemes should be introduced to motivate and encourage health workers in rural areas.

(Hindustan imes 20.5.14)

 

26. Health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana (3)

Chandigarh, May 20 : With a view to provide health services to high risk pregnant women on priority basis in Haryana, the Health Department is actively considering to issue red OPD card to such women so as to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This information was given by Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Ms Navraj Sandhu in a two-day state level Civil Surgeon Conference organised by Health Department today. While emphasizing the need of giving priority to high risk pregnant women, Ms Sandhu said it would contribute to the reduction of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). She said high risk pregnant women would be issued red OPD card to make them avail the health services on priority basis. This investigation card would contain the details of case history of the patient and risk factors for the particular pregnant women. Addressing the gathering, Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Dr Rakesh Gupta said the Quality Monitoring Officers and District Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Consultants along with District Intervention Coordinator (DIC) and Technical Officer from support agencies like MCHIP and ASSIST (Technical partner) would support the Department at local level in every district for improving health services. These consultants would not only provide technical inputs in the health services but also monitor the processes adopted by district. He also emphasized the strengthening of capacities of ASHA and ANM to speed up the process of identification of high risk cases at grassroots level. These steps would ensure overall contribution of the Department to the reduction of IMR and MMR in the state. The Civil Surgeons need to focus on providing quality services at high delivery load facilities and also ensure proper referral linkages. At district level there should be regular Maternal and Infant death reviews and gaps identified should be filled up, he added. Director MCH, Dr Ravikant Gupta said success rate of Post-Placental Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (PPIUCD) insertion in family planning program is notable. He said Haryana has the highest PPIUCD insertion cases after Tamil Nadu in India. He said there is need to rationalise the delivery load in the district and normal deliveries should take place 24X7 at Primary and Community Health Centres. PMO/Deputy Civil Surgeon, Medical Superintendent, Quality and Monitoring Officer (QMO), DIO of all districts also attended the conference. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

27. Child Rights Body to Start Mother’s Milk Banks (3)

HYDERABAD: Balala Hakkula Sangham, an organisation for the protection of child rights, has come with a first of its kind initiative to start a Mother’s Milk Bank, in association with Lotus Hospitals, to cater to the needs of orphaned infants. Infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh is 41 per 1,000 births in 2012 and most of the deaths are due to respiratory and diarrheal causes. The main objectives of the initiative is to ensure that every baby born receives mother’s milk, to avoid bottled or animal formula milk and to provide ancillary support to breastfeeding. Donors of milk are tested for various diseases like Tuberculosis, HIV VDRL and Hepatitis before they make a contribution and will be screened by experts to rule out any virus or harmful bacteria. After a thorough screening procedure, the milk is donated to the needy children free of cost. The average volume of milk taken is between 50-150 ml. “Experts say on an average, lactating women can produce 600 ml milk per day and 300 ml should be sufficient for their little ones. The minimum requirement for children without a feeding mother is 150 ml per day,” said Balala Hakkula Sangham general secretary P Anuradha Rao. For women who donate their milk, it helps them too as it would increase prolactin levels, preventings benign tumors in them. The contributed milk is refrigerated and transferred to the bank in large containers. Later, it is pasteurised at 62.5 degree centigrade for 30 minutes, which preserves the milk from 80 percent of immunological factors, destroying pathogens, including HIV virus. The pasteurised milk can be stored for six months, in the freezer for 48 hours, and six to eight hours at room temparature. The milk will be donated on first come first served basis. Campaigning for donors will begin on the International Day for Protection of Children on June 1. Mother’s Milk Banks will come into operation from the first week of August, which is the International Breast Feed Week. Breast milk contains various proteins and enzymes such as Immunoglobulins, Lysosomes and Lymphocytes that kill bacterial cells and increase immunity. “Breast milk is every child’s right. Unfortunately there are instances where a child is deprived of this valuable right. In such a circumstance, the child can still be fed with breast milk through the breast milk banks,” Anuradha Rao said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

28. Hospital, doctor to pay patient in Chennai (3)

CHENNAI: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF), Chennai (North), has asked a hospital and a medical consultant to compensate a patient who was discharged after he was wrongly diagnosed with HIV. R. Mohandoss, president of the DCDRF, Chennai (North), directed Sooriya Hospital in Saligramam, and neurosurgeon K. Subramanian to pay Rs. 50,000 each to the complainant, E. Chankrasekar of Mangadu, with 9 per cent interest per annum from June 3, 2004 till date of payment. They have also been asked to pay Rs. 10,000 towards costs. The complainant was referred to K. Subramanian for a surgery and admitted to Sooriya Hospital on May 8, 2004. On May 10, 2004, the doctor informed the complainant that according to tests reports he was HIV positive. The doctor then discharged him without performing the surgery. Mr. Chankrasekar then got himself tested at a private lab in Tambaram as well as Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine, and found that he was not infected. The forum stated that the hospital and doctor had discharged the complainant without treating him for cervical spondylitis due to the stigma of HIV infection, and pointed out that such an act would have caused mental agony and trauma to the complainant. (The Hindu 21/5/14)

 

29. New regimen to reduce HIV risk to infants (3)

JAIPUR: New multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimen has been initiated in the state aiming to further reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission from HIV infected mother to her newborn. The decision has been taken to promote birth of HIV-free children. The Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) has initiated lifelong multi-drug antiretroviral (ARV) regimens for all pregnant and breast-feeding women living with HIV. The transmission of HIV from infected mother to her newborn is one of the leading causes of spread of HIV. According to RSACS, it is estimated that 5.2% of total HIV infections are due to transmission of HIV from mother to newborn. To deal with it, earlier the RSACS was providing single dose of Nevirapine to such women at the time of labour pain to prevent the HIV transmission from mother to her newborn baby. But, from May 19, the RSACS has changed its strategy. Health department’s project director (AIDS) Dr SS Chauhan said, “From an HIV infected mother, the risk of vertical transmission of HIV to newborn is 30%. But, a single dose of Nevirapine reduces the risk to around 15%. So far we were giving single dose of Nevirapine to pregnant women at the time of delivery. But, still the high risk (up to 15%) remained the cause of concern for us. Now, to bring down the percentage of risk of vertical transmission of HIV from mother to her newborn, we have initiated the lifelong ART (triple drug regimen). The multidrug ARV regimen would further decrease the risk from 11% to up to 5%. It will be the major benefit of the new multidrug regimen.” The triple drug regimen includes — Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz. The three drugs would be administered to the women living with HIV and her infant. The drug would continue lifelong to reduce mortality and morbidity in mothers and children. The RSACS is spreading awareness of HIV testing among pregnant women. They take consent of pregnant women for HIV testing. If the women test positive for HIV, they link the women with anti retroviral therapy centre. Also, they put effort to prevent the transmission of HIV to her newborn. In 2013-14, the RSACS conducted HIV testing on 4.68 lakh pregnant women and found 412 women living with HIV. In 2012-13, the RSACS had tested 3.86lakh pregnant women and found 383 of them living with HIV. They have linked the newborns with antiretroviral therapy centres. An RSACS official said that they have provided training to its staff to start the new multidrug regimen. The new multidrug ARV regimen is part of prevention of parent to child transmission (PPTCT) of HIV launched in 2001-02 by ministry of health and family welfare. (Times of India 27/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

30. Area Acquired by Kamarajar Port May be Turned Into SEZ (4)

CHENNAI: A new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) may be set up within the 650 acres recently acquired by the Kamarajar Port Limited (KPL), formerly the Ennore Port, with the KPL deciding to appoint a consultant to look into the proper utilisation of the land. Speaking at an interactive session on exports organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on Monday, the Chairman cum Managing Director of the KPL M A Bhaskarachar said that the port had decided on appointing a consultant to look into how to properly utilise the 647.8 acres of land that it took over from the Salt Department of the Government of India early in March this year. “We have decided to appoint a consultant to look into how to utilise the land and one of the options we have is to set up a SEZ or a FTZ within the property,” he said. The port acquired the land after a 12-year wait only on March 2 this year. The CMD pointed out that the port had managed to increase the draft of the vessels it can accommodate to 14.5-15 metres from the 12 metres it was earlier by dredging the channel and the basin. Consequently, the port can now accommodate much larger vessels. “We hadn’t announced it earlier because of the Model Code of Conduct being in effect, but the port has increased its draft by 2 metres to 14.5 metres. The benefit to the port is huge,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the session. “We have got a request from the Chettinad berth to dredge the berth to the same level so that they can avail of this draft. We will be awarding this dredging contract within a month and the operation will begin by June and be completed in six months,” he added. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

31. Ministry officials want Modi govt to look at land laws (4)

New Delhi: With Narendra Modi set to take over as prime minister in the next few days, the department of agriculture is proposing a comprehensive review of land ceiling laws as a first major reform in the sector. Land also figures in the to-do list of the rural development ministry. It has proposed centralisation of land records to enable smooth operation of the Land Acquisition Act initiated by the outgoing government. Officials said though issues related to land and agriculture primarily come within the domain of state governments, the Centre can advise and suggest changes. And, any changes in agricultural land ceilings have to have Centre’s concurrence. The agriculture ministry has in a presentation to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth called for a comprehensive review of the land ceiling laws, to stop fragmentation of farms and promote consolidation. At present, most states have a ceiling of 10-20 acres in holdings of irrigated land with two crops, which hampers leasing and also stops large-scale acquisition (see chart). Some officials said the farm ministry has also proposed amendments to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and boosting irrigation as other big proposals. If initiated, the proposed measures could turn out to be big reforms in the farm sector. Repeated attempts by the UPA government to review land ceiling laws and to create a centralised database of land records failed due to inadequate cooperation from state governments. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll manifesto talked of a national land use policy. This would, it said, look at the scientific acquisition of non-cultivable land and its development, protect the interest of farmers and keep in mind the food production goals and economic goals of the country. “The idea mooted by the department of agriculture is a good one. Agricultural land has become highly fragmented, with average holdings dropping below two hectares. This makes farming uneconomical for growers and also sometimes leads to reverse tenancy, like by small farmers in Punjab and Haryana,” Gokul Patnaik, chairman of Global AgriSystem, an agribusiness consulting group, told Business Standard. He said in some states tenancy laws were very outdated, which stymied any substantial land reform. “In the interest of mechanisation of farming in India and also for growth of irrigation, government should initiate steps to reform the ceiling Acts,” Patnaik said. S Mahendra Dev, director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, said the move would ensure small and marginal farmers got productivity benefits and more acres could come under mechanisation. “In some states like Maharashtra, legally there is no tenancy; in others like Andhra Pradesh, much of tenancy is only oral. So, there are a lot of discrepancies in land-related issues in states which need to be corrected,” he said. However, some also say the Centre’s move would unnecessarily muddle land issues. “Land is primarily a state subject and the Centre has a very limited role. So, there is no point in making suggestions,” said Ajay Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ advocacy group. (Business Standard 22/5/14)

 

32. UP objects to Delhi govt acquiring land (4)

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has urged the Supreme Court to recall its April 15 order allowing the Delhi government to go ahead with the process of acquiring 100 ‘bighas’ (20 acres) of land for Jamia Millia Islamia University. The land in question is along the UP border near the south east region of the capital.UP sought the maintenance of status quo on the Delhi government’s September 2011 bid to acquire around 215 bighas of land near the village Okhla, until a decision on the original suit is made. It, however, said: “If the Jamia Millia Islamia University requires land for the purpose of its expansion, it can request the government of UP and the same can be considered.” Claiming that the land came under the ownership of UP, it contended that the notification issued by the government of Delhi was illegal and without jurisdiction or authority. “Any further proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act for the remaining land will be a futile exercise, as the same is claimed by the plaintiff state as owned and under possession and there is no other owner/interested person for it,” an interlocutory application by the UP government said. It said that the disputed land was first acquired around 1882-1887 by the then Lt Governor of Punjab for the purpose of construction of ‘bunds’ (embankments), adding that it was then given to Agra canal estate, which was part of Uttar Pradesh, for maintenance and control of flooding in the river Yamuna. The UP government claimed that the ‘khatonies’ (document of title/ownership) mentioned the UP’s irrigation department as the land’s owner. It also said that the UP government had in the past provided land to the Delhi government, such as the 31.54 acres of land near Akshardham temple that it gave for the purpose of building construction during the Commonwealth Games in 2010, besides 12.12 hectare along the Yamuna bank for the Delhi Metro Rail project. The UP government also claimed that it handed another portion of land for the purpose of building a flyover near Geeta Colony. In November 2011, the apex court ordered a status quo in the matter, but modified its interim order on April 15 and lifted the stay. (Deccan Herald 26/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

33. South Asia is world’s most corrupt region: Transparency International (5)

Kathmandu: South Asia is the world’s most corrupt region and rampant corruption is preventing its people from breaking the barrier of poverty despite the fact that the subcontinent has attained strong economic growth over the past several years, a global anti-graft watchdog said here today. “South Asia now is the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption based on our studies,” said Srirak Pilpat, Asia Pacific director at Transparency International (TI), while releasing a report titled ‘Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability’. “How does a region with such strong economic growth still have such high levels of poverty? It is corruption, which allows the few to profit without answering for their actions,” said Pilpat. “As long as nobody brings the corrupt to justice, South Asia’s leaders run the risk that future growth only benefits the powerful, doing nothing to help the half billion South Asians, who still live in poverty,” he pointed out. Governments in corruption-stricken South Asia must allow anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption independently, TI said in the first comprehensive study on transparency and corruption prevention in the region. The TI report analysed how well 70 national institutions in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stop corruption. In South Asian countries, government and people who want to expose and investigate corruption face legal barriers, political opposition and harassment that allow bribery, secret dealings and the abuse of power to go unchecked, the report warned. According to TI, Nepal improved from 139th position in 2012 to 116th in 2013 out of 177 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) made public today. Despite economic growth averaging 6 per cent a year over the past two decades in the sub-continent, 31 per cent of people live on less than USD 1.25 a day, according to a World Bank report. “Corruption in public bodies that should provide basic services to the poor means that economic growth is only enjoyed by the few,” points out the report. In Nepal, corruption in government organisations remained uncontrolled due to political interference, the TI Nepal chapter said. “Governments will find transparency is the best investment they will ever make. Ordinary people can ensure their communities are served by governments, whistleblowers can save billions by exposing fraud,” remarked Pilpat. According to the TI report, 90 per cent of Nepalese believe that political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt and 85 per cent consider public officials and public servants to be corrupt or extremely corrupt. Interestingly, 72 per cent believe that corruption in the country has increased over last two years. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

34. One week to notify black-money SIT (5)

New Delhi, May 23: The Supreme Court today gave the Centre a week to notify the three-member special investigation team it had appointed to unearth the black money stashed by Indians in foreign accounts. The vacation bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and A.K. Sikri also asked the Centre to ensure that all files and documents containing information on the black money accounts are “kept under the custody of a revenue department officer not below the rank of secretary”. The bench passed the order after solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran urged the court to grant one more week’s time to notify the special investigation team (SIT) as a new government was yet to assume charge. He said the draft notification was ready with the outgoing government but since a new dispensation was taking over, the matter had been left to it. Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, the petitioner in the case, sought safe custody of the documents in view of Monday’s fire at Shastri Bhavan, which houses several government departments. “You have burnt Shastri Bhavan; don’t burn North Block (which houses the finance ministry),” the senior counsel said in a lighter vein to Parasaran. Along with the banter, Jethmalani expressed fears that documents relating to the black money case, said to be stored in Shastri Bhavan, may be destroyed deliberately. He sought the court’s intervention. Conceding his plea, the apex court asked the outgoing UPA government to keep the documents in the custody of a senior revenue department officer. Last month, the apex court had warned the Centre that failure to notify the SIT would amount to contempt. In July 2011, the apex court had directed that an SIT be set up and notified but the Centre has not yet fully complied with the order. Earlier in 2011, Jethmalani had filed a public interest litigation for an SIT to be set up to probe allegations that black money amounting to Rs 70,000 crore was stashed in foreign banks and, if this was found true, to take steps to bring it back to the country. On July 4, the then apex court bench of Justices Sudarshan Reddy (now retired) and S.S. Nijjar had castigated the government for not showing any seriousness in retrieving the money. Although the Centre opposed the formation of an SIT, the bench rejected the plea and passed an order for its constitution. The SIT was set up with former Supreme Court judge, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, as its chairperson. It is yet to be notified. “The volume of alleged income-taxes owed to the country, as demanded by the Union of India itself, and the volume of monies, by some accounts $8.04 billion, and some other accounts in excess of Rs 70,000 crore, are said to have been routed through various bank accounts of Hassan Ali Khan and Tapurias. Further, from all accounts it has been acknowledged that none of the named individuals has any known and lawful sources for such huge quantities of monies,” the apex court had said in 2011. “All of these factors, either individually or combined, ought to have immediately raised questions regarding the sources being unlawful activities, national security, and transfer of funds into India for other illegal activities, including acts against the State. It was only at the repeated insistence by us that such matters have equal, if not even greater importance than issues of tax collection, has the Union of India belatedly concluded that such aspects also ought to be investigated with thoroughness.” It added: “However, there is still no evidence of a really serious investigation into these other matters from the national security perspective.” (The Telegraph 24/5/14)

 

35. New division in place to deal with Lokpal-related works (5)

New Delhi: A separate division – to be headed by a Director-level officer – has been formed by the outgoing government to deal with all works related to the anti- corruption watchdog, Lokpal. Officials in the Personnel Ministry, which acts as the nodal department to provide administrative support to the Lokpal, said that the separate unit will help streamline the activities related to the working of the anti-corruption body, including handling of RTI applications and appeals. The ministry has appointed Anil Kumar V Patil as Director of the Lokpal Division recently, they said. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act (also known as Lokpal) provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into corruption charges against public functionaries. The Centre has already received nominations from various individuals for becoming chairperson and members of these bodies. The outgoing UPA government, however, could not appoint the chairperson and members of the much-touted Lokpal, apparently due to objections raised by BJP leaders on the selection process for the same. The UPA government had in February this year hurriedly formed an eight-member search committee which was mandated to draw up a panel of persons for consideration by the Prime Minister-led Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal. Those who been selected for the search panel included Justice (retd) KT Thomas (as chairperson) and seven members — Kaki Madhava Rao (former IAS officer), FS Nariman (legal luminary), Prof Meenakshi Gopinath (educationist), ML Kumawat (former Director General of Border Security Force), HK Dua (senior journalist and Rajya Sabha member), SY Quraishi (former Chief Election Commissioner) and Prof Mrinal Miri (Rajya Sabha member). But, in a setback to the UPA government, Thomas and Nariman had refused to be part of the search panel. (Zee News 25/5/14)

 

36. New Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges (5)

NEW DELHI: The 2014 polls were supposed to be a vote against corruption. However, they seem to have been fought on the faceless perception of it than the ground reality. In fact, all the MPs facing charges under Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) in the 16th Lok Sabha are from the BJP and its allies. An analysis of the election affidavits of candidates of all major parties and their allies shows that both BJP and Congress fielded three candidates each facing PCA cases. While all Congress candidates lost, all BJP ones were embraced by voters. BJP fielded B S Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu, both facing PCA cases, from Karnataka with positive results. The third BJP candidate who won in this category was Ganesh Singh from Madhya Pradesh. The three Congress candidates were Nitin Suresh Patil from Maharashtra, N Dharam Singh from Karnataka and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya from Assam. Similarly, BJP ally PMK’s candidate Anbumani Ramadoss facing corruption charges won his seat while two belonging to DMK, 2G-tainted A Raja and N Pongalur Palanisamy, lost. DMK was until recently a Congress ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha has four MPs facing corruption charges and all belong to BJP and its allies. In the outgoing Lok Sabha too there were four MPs facing PCA charges. Thus in terms of statistics, at least, nothing has changed. Other parties which fielded candidates with PCA cases against them include Trinamool Congress which had Bandhu Tirkey contesting from Jharkhand and Churchill Alemao contesting from Goa. Badrudin Ajmal’s AIUDF too fielded one such candidate, Paresh Baisya, from Assam while Samjawadi Party fielded Kunjbihari Jugalkishor Agarwal from Maharashtra. Among the major parties which did not field any candidate with PCA cases were AAP, BSP, BJD, AIADMK and TDP. It must be mentioned, though, that PCA cases alone are no measure of the thrust a party has on anti-corruption agenda or even the number of corrupt people it fields. For example, former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, charged by CBI in the Adarsh housing society scam, is not part of PCA list as Maharashtra governor did not give the agency sanction to prosecute him under the Act. Socio-politics scientists often argue that a variety of factors which include the advent of identity politics post-1990 along with local issues ride over the large issue of corruption when voters decide to vote for a tainted candidate. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

37. More than 250 tribals get married in mass marriage function (6)

Thane, May 20 : Predominantly tribal villages in Jawhar and Mohada talukas of Thane district came alive and were buzzing with brisk activities all day long yesterday, as over 250 tribal couples from the region tied the knot with the help of social organisations. Multifaceted philanthropic initiative Vedanta foundation, organised a mass marriage program for 252 tribal couples belonging to Jawhar taluka and Mokhada taluka in Thane, yesterday. Most of the people belonging to this tribal community, get married without any ceremony to avoid the financial burdens, which creates a huge problem for their future. Their children do not get admission into schools due to lack of parents’ identity, and even staying as a married couple is not accepted within the community. More surprisingly they have also been ignored by society for any other social events. The marriages were solemnized in traditional fashion, without exchange of any dowry or any ostentation, and all basic necessities for the marriage like Mangalsutra, Mundavane, Janwe, Kumkum, Varmala, and Padha were organised by the foundation. One of the office bearers of the foundation said that the Foundation also gifted ornaments, sarees, utensil sets, rajai, mobiles, cycles, watches, school bags, goggles, and hygiene kits like soaps to the couples, to help fulfill theri basic requirements of a married life.’Founder trustee, DP Agarwal told UNI that the foundation is also facilitating them with marriage certificates to avoid further problem within the community, and has given fixed deposits worth Rs 5,000 to each couple in the local post office and also trained 75 women with new tailoring machines to help them earn a better livelihood. “The aim of this mass marriage was to promote simplicity in marriages, discouraging dowry and providing a new beginning for the underprivileged people under the social inclusion,” Dr Lona Nayak, CEO of Vedanta Foundation said. Besides the brides, grooms and around 2,500 people thronged the venue, to have a glimpse of the unique wedding ceremony. Actress, Reema Lagoo congratulated and guided every couple to have a healthy life and appealed other organisations to come forward for such noble initiative. (New Kerala 20/5/14)

 

38. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Report (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5957 of 12189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of Scheduled Tribes do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said. About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders. Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in the state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 20/5/14)

 

39. Soni Sori Fails to Hold Sway Over Voters in Bastar (6)

Raipur: Contrary to expectations of a triangular contest in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar Lok Sabha seat during the just-concluded elections, it turned out to be a confrontation only between BJP and Congress as AAP nominee Soni Sori could not make an impact on the voters. Political experts were anticipating that there could be a three-sided clash in Bastar with the entry of 38-year-old tribal teacher-turned-activist-turned-politician Soni Sori in the fray. Moreover, the poor show by the BJP in the last year’s assembly polls in the Bastar region was being seen as another factor likely to influence the LS polls in the zone. However, it was like a cakewalk for the BJP’s sitting MP Dinesh Kashyap, who comfortably won with 3,85,829 votes, defeating his Congress rival Deepak Karma (2,61,470 votes) by a whopping margin of 1,24,359 votes. Kashyap is the son of veteran BJP leader and renowned tribal leader, Baliram Kashyap. BJP state spokesperson Rasik Parmar feels different issues influence the winning factor in both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats and they were well aware that people would not accept Sori, who had earlier been arrested on charges of acting as a Naxal conduit. “The issues were different in this election as compared to last year’s assembly polls. Both the name of Modi ji and work of Chief Minister Raman Singh orchestrated BJP’s sounding win in the general elections,” Parmar told PTI. “We were already aware of the fact that people of Bastar will not accept Sori. We were confident of our victory in Bastar Lok Sabha seat,” he said. Sori tried to attract tribal voters by issuing her manifesto on a stamp paper, but looked completely out of the race as she got only 16,903 votes and stood in the fourth position. Notably, the None of The Above (NOTA) option was the third choice of voters in Bastar as a total of 38,772 of the electorate opted for it. Sori secured only 2.1 per cent of the total 7,69,449 votes polled in the Bastar seat. In the 2013 assembly polls, the BJP had only won 3 – Jagdalpur, Narayanpur and Bijapur- out of the eight assembly segments of Bastar, which was another key factor expected to play a crucial role in the general polls. The rest of the five assembly seats- Kondagaon, Chitrakot, Bastar, Dantewada and Konta – had then gone to the Congress. Keeping in mind the political situation, the Congress had fielded Deepak Karma, whose father Mahendra Karma, founder of the Salwa Judum (declared by the Supreme Court to be illegal and unconstitutional) and former leader of Opposition, was killed in the Jiram Valley (Bastar) Naxal attack on May 25 last year, to garner sympathy votes. But this failed to make any impact on the BJP’s victory margin. In 2011, in the Bastar Lok Sabha bypoll, Dinesh Kashyap had defeated the Congress’ Kawasi Lakhma by a margin of 85,000 votes and this time his victory margin crossed 1.24 lakh votes. Outlook 23/5/14)

 

40. Tribal protest continues, enters 6th day (6)

Kannur, May 24 : The indefinite agitation of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGMS) today entered sixth day demanding protection of Adivasi families residing in Aralam Farm. The AGMS has been protesting in front of district Collectorate office for the Aralam Farm’s Adivasi residents, which is the lone tribal resettlement area in the state from wild animals. Their demands also included end to corruption and exploitation of the farm’s natural resources. The AGMS will organise a Janasabha People meet on June 5, said Geethanadhan, Coordinator of AGMS, while talking to the media. He said they are also demanding restructure of the Government’s Tribal department. According to AGMS, though there are many welfare schemes and housing schemes for the tribals as launched at various times by the government, the residents of Aralam Farm are not getting any benefit. Though the government gives advance to the beneficiaries of the housing schemes, the Tribal people at Aralam are not given the money in advance. So the contractors exploit the situation and corrupt officials support them, he said. He alleged that there was large scale corruption in the Scheduled Tribes office here and the fund for tribals is diverted to help the contractors, who build poor quality houses. In order to solve this problem the fund should be transferred directly into the account of Adivasi welfare Committees in instalments, suggested Mr Geethanadhan. He said there is no engineer even to examine the quality of work, adding that the vacancy should be filled with immediate effect. (New Kerala 24/5/14)

 

41. Odisha to enumerate displaced primitive tribal group families (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha government will enumerate primitive tribal group (PTG) families those have been displaced, but without rehabilitation or compensation. Responding to recommendations of National Advisory Council, Odisha government submitted that it was ready to undertake assessment while seeking required funds from Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The SCs and STs Research and Training Institute (SCSTRITI) would include project proposal in its work plan for the next three years from 2014-15 to 2016-17 for carrying out assessment of the status of PTGs who have been displaced with or without compensation and devise support mechanisms for ensuring livelihood. A survey conducted by the State government in 2012 finds population of primitive tribal groups was growing at meagre 5.20 per cent while PTG literacy rate was estimated at 33.38 per cent. Literacy among female PTG was 24.75 per cent, much lower than other population. Although the State government had been undertaking focused implementation of welfare schemes for PTGs, the rate of poverty was 80.95 per cent. Deforestation and loss of traditional rights on forests was another malady, the PTGs face. Around 26.43 per cent of PTGs were landless and homeless. In several southern districts, tribal groups were displaced by dam projects decades ago. Of late, mining and industrial projects were threatening to displace PTGs. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

42. BJP gains on minority vote, trust in Delhi (7)

New Delhi: The one crucial element in BJP’s historic 7-0 win in Delhi was the support it received from the minority community. The party put in a lot of effort, right from organising conferences, holding public meetings, conducting door-to-door programmes to ensure the anti-Modi image created by the Congress and AAP was dismantled. The efforts seem to have yielded results. Across all assembly segments, which are dominated by Muslims, BJP gained 5,000-25,000 votes in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. Senior BJP leaders further said the results will boost the party’s prospects if re-elections are held in Delhi assembly and they should continue to undertake such programmes. The minority cell of the BJP played a crucial role in getting the support of Muslims. For instance, in the Matia Mahal assembly segment, which is part of Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency and is dominated by Muslims, Harsh Vardhan managed to get 15,453 votes against 6,061 votes the party had won in the 2013 assembly elections. “We had worked hard in areas dominated by Muslims and constituencies such as Seemapuri, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Okhla and Ballimaran. We have gained in Okhla too where the party candidate got 39,445 votes against 23,358 votes in the assembly election. It shows that the party is getting the support of the Muslim population and they believe in our agenda of positive governance,” said a senior BJP leader. The minority cell of the Delhi BJP had also prepared a video of Narendra Modi, the party’s face this election, highlighting the fact that he and the party is not anti-Muslim. “Traditionally, Muslims are believed to be the vote bank of Congress but that notion has undergone a sea change. A number of Muslims, especially the youth, came out in huge number and supported us as we gave them the development model. Our minority cell held interactions and public meets to ensure more people came out and voted for our candidates,” said Atif Rashid, president of minority cell of Delhi BJP.  (Hindustan Times 20/5/14)

 

43. Rs 245cr approved for minority, women’s education (7)

PATNA: The state cabinet on Thursday approved more than Rs 245 crore to link women sections and minority communities with school education. The decision was made to allocate funds under the ‘Mahadalit, minorities and extremely backward castes akshar anchal yojna’. Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi presided over the meeting. The plan aims at linking 8 lakh Mahadalit and EBC women with basic school education. Four lakh of them hail from minority communities. It also entails children in the age group of 6-14 hailing from Mahadalit, minorities and EBCs with school education. Principal secretary, cabinet coordination department, Brajesh Mehrotra said the cabinet gave its nod to 15 proposals of various departments like education, health, power, social welfare and agriculture. It approved the energy department’s proposal to sanction a subsidy of Rs 2344.58 crore to the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) against the purchase of power in current financial year. A sum of Rs 780 crore at the rate of Rs 195 crore per month has been approved for a period of four months starting from April 2014. The state government will directly pay the amount to the Reserve Bank of India for the payment of monthly energy bills to the NTPC. The cabinet also okayed the proposal to make capital investment out of the state plan amount available with all the five companies of the Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited. The proposal to set up an additional 100-bed ward at Darbhanga sadar hospital at an estimated cost of Rs 25.99 crore and a 100-bed super specialty eye hospital at Rajendra Nagar to be constructed at the cost of Rs 76.04 crore in the current financial year also received the nod. The amount would be sanctioned to the Bihar State Health Infrastructure Corporation Limited. A proposal for the construction of a separate building of the centre for excellence under the ‘Anveshan’ programme at Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) at an estimated cost of Rs 42.11 crore also got the government nod. In another major decision, the government approved state share amount of Rs 1,697.42 crore against the total central share of Rs 4,000 crore under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for the current financial year, Mehrotra said. The state share would be released as and when the central share reaches. The cabinet also sanctioned Rs 1,522 crore under National Social Security Programme. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

44. HC reinstates MoS status to minorities commission chairman (7)

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday stayed the order of the state government withdrawing the minister of state status accorded to the chairman of the state minorities commission. Justice M N Bhandari stayed the order after commission chairman Mahir Azad approached the court challenging the government order dated February 4 this year. The counsel for the petitioner argued that he was appointed chairman on November 2011 and his three-year term expires only on November 22 this year. Hence withdrawing the staff and facilities of the chairman are untenable and politically motivated. The BJP government soon after coming to power, withdrew all the staff attached to the commission on December 15 and later through a government order withdrew the facilities of the minister of state status enjoyed by the commission chairman. According to Section 5 of the Minority Commission Act, 2004, the staff and facilities accorded to the commission could not be withdrawn mid-way. The court, while staying the order, issued notices to chief secretary, additional chief secretary minority affairs and principal secretary, general administration. The court had earlier stayed the order relating to state women’s commission and Bhoodan commission after the respective chairpersons approached the court challenging the government order. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

45. Kashmir Valley happy over Modi invite to Sharif (7)

Srinagar: Indian Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi’s invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing in ceremony has evoked a positive response in the Kashmir Valley. Both separatist and mainstream politicians as well as residents here have welcomed the step. “Excellent move by Modi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pakistan PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on twitter site. “At the same time I can’t help wonder what (the) BJP would have said if a PM designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing,” he added. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat, too welcomed the decision, adding this should also translate into addressing the Kashmir problem in line with the aspirations of its people. The Pakistan government says Sharif has not yet decided whether or not he should attend Modi’s oath taking in New Delhi Monday. Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has, however, dismissed the change of guard in India, saying New Delhi’s Kashmir policy won’t change no matter who the prime minister is. The man on the street in the Kashmir Valley is also looking forward to better India-Pakistan relations under Modi. “He has done the right thing by inviting Sharif… This will help undo the impression that Modi will rule India as a hawk,” said Shabir Ahmad, a 39-year-old resident of Narwara area in Srinagar. Others believe that Modi would work for peace between the two countries but for that the Kashmir problem would have to be addressed. “Let us not play the ostrich. Kashmir is the main problem. Anybody who wants to seriously apply himself to better India-Pakistan relations must strive to work for the resolution of this basic problem,” Farooq Ahmad, 53, a bank officer, pointed out. As a Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government prepares to get into the driving seat, Kashmiris say Modi could disprove all they have heard about him — from his rivals. “For us there are scary memories of Gujarat and Godhra riots. As the prime minister of India, Modi will have to prove he was not behind those events,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher.”For this to be done and seen, Kashmiri Muslims and others living outside will have to be taken on board through positive action. “He cannot rule without being every Indian’s prime minister. Winning elections is one thing but governing a vast, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country like India is a very difficult call,” he added. According to Ahmad, “the most difficult task would be working for better ties with Pakistan and winning the hearts and minds of Kashmiris”. Added Noor Muhammad Wani, 61, a resident of Shalteng in Srinagar’s outskirts: “Congress failure or deliberate reluctance to resolve the Kashmir dispute somehow gives me an impression that Modi will definitely ensure peace in Kashmir. This will be possible only if he takes Nawaz Sharif on board.” (Hindustan Times 22/5/14)

 

46. To show Muslim support, RSS ensures invites for three dozen (7)

New Delhi: The BJP may not have a single Muslim MP but the RSS wants to ensure that at least 30 Muslim faces are present for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday. It has organised invites for over three dozen Muslims, from across the country. Some of them have already arrived in the Capital. Likewise, passes have been arranged for some guests from the Christian community as well. Girish Juyal, a former pracharak working with the RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch and one of those assigned to look after the Muslim guests, confirmed the invitations. “Our effort is to ensure that a message doesn’t go out that this government has no support among Muslims,” Juyal said. During the campaign, the BJP had distributed skull caps to show Muslim presence at its meetings. Some of them may not be able to come but passes have been arranged for all, said sources. Most of the guests are associated with the Muslim Rashtriya Manch. Some are religious leaders, while a few are ordinary Muslims, sources said. Apart from Juyal, Virag Pachpore, Golok Behari and Mahiradhwaj Singh have been deputed to look after these guests. Of them only Pachpore is a pracharak, others are former RSS pracharaks. The invitees include Faiz Khan (from Raipur), Dr Salim Raj (Raipur), S K Moinuddin (Jabalpur), Tayyab Qureshi (Ghaziabad), Maulana Shamoom Kasmi (Bijnore), Maulana Shoeb Kasmi (Bijnore), Dr Sadakat Ali (Roorkie), Mohd Ashraf Asharfi (Bareilly), Imran Chaudhary (Delhi), Mohammad Afzal (Delhi), Shehzad Ali (Agra), Abbas Ali Vorah (Bangalore), Latif Maqdoom (Pune), Dr Shahid Akhtar (Ranchi), Engineer Ghulam Ali (Srinagar), Abu Baqar Naqvi (Tonk), Reshma Hussain (Jaipur), Ghani Bhai Qureshi (Gujarat), Maulana Zahid and Zahangir Alam, among others. (Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

47. Muslims are not minorities, Parsis are: Najma Heptullah (7)

NEW DELHI: Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah on Tuesday said Muslims were not minorities by any stretch of the imagination and instead Parsis with their dwindling population qualified for the tag. On her first day in office, Heptullah appeared determined to reorient the ministry by playing down its role in welfare of Muslims and dismissing the policies espoused by the UPA government. “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers don’t diminish,” she told reporters when asked how her government proposed to take Muslim welfare forward. With more questions about the community being lobbed at her, Heptullah snapped back, “This is not the ministry for Muslim affairs, this is the ministry for minority affairs.” The remarks from the experienced politician, who is the grand-niece of freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad and has played the major part of her political innings in Congress, appeared in line with BJP’s point of view. There was speculation in the run-up to government formation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may disband the minority affairs ministry or merge it with a bigger ministry like social justice, a reason why the appointment of a minister came as a surprise. However, a change of approach may be in store. Given that most of the ministry’s policies are specifically targeted at Muslims, Heptullah steered clear of giving her views on the policies or what she planned to do. “Till I get guidance from the PM, I will not draw a roadmap for my ministry,” she said. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

48.  “Missing priest” has gone into retreat: Bishop

TUTICORIN: The Roman Catholic Church has denied that Fr. Vasanthan, 34, Kudankulam parish priest, is missing. He was reported “missing” after allegedly assaulted at a meeting of priests. In a statement on Thursday, Most Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin, denied that Fr. Vasanthan was missing. He said the priest, in a letter addressed to him on May 15, had stated that he would take rest from his parish for one year and expressed a wish to spend all days of the year on a retreat. Fr. Vasanthan left the parish on May 18, the statement said. The Bishop also denied media reports that the priest was assaulted since he opposed the demand of several priests to support the Aam Aadmi Party. On a complaint from F. Suganthan, 29, brother of Fr. Vasanthan, the Tuticorin Central police filed a ‘man missing’ case on Wednesday. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

49. Indian Christian Secular Party: Name strikes blow to party in elections (7)

VISAKHAPATNAM: “What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A lot, it would seem, going by the fate of the Indian Christian Secular Party (ICSP) in the assembly elections. The party garnered barely 1,200 votes in the assembly constituencies of Vizag East, Gajuwaka and Pendurthy and political analysts attribute this dismal performance to the name, as well as the propaganda that it is an offshoot of YSRCP. The use of Christian in the name of the party has been one of the causes of its alienation from non-Christian voters, said a political analyst. “How can you have Christian and secular juxtaposed in the name of a national party? Voters would assume that the party is meant for the welfare of the Christian community only and, thus, would not be able to relate to it,” said the analyst. “The mention of Christian in our party’s name may not go down well with some educated intellectuals who may have some reservations about highlighting the name of any religion. However, considering that fighting for minorities’ rights and their protection is one of the priorities of our party, the name might not be changed,” said Esther Lepcha, the MLA candidate from Vizag East. Lepcha also blamed the false propaganda by other parties that ICSP is an offshoot of the YSRCP for the dismal performance. “Certain other parties spread the word that we are an offshoot of the YSRCP or are linked to it in some way because we happen to be Christians. We are in no way connected to the YSRCP,” she said. The members of the party have decided to strengthen their reach for the 2019 elections and are preparing for a review meeting in early June. “Our party was launched on February 21 in Hyderabad. After candidates filed their nominations, they got just a few days for campaigning for a new party, which was not adequate. However, we will soon have a review meeting in the first week of June where all the candidates and members from Seemandhra and Telangana would participate,” said Tatipudi Sriramulu, the candidate for the Pendurthy MLA seat. “We are hopeful of strengthening the party before the 2019 elections and expanding to other states. Till then we will work for the minority communities and make our presence felt,” said Lepcha. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

50. CBCI Greets Modi (7)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has greeted Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi and hoped that the new government would work for the welfare and progress of the poor, marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of the society. In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India assured the Prime Minister-designate of its prayers and wholehearted support in his efforts to lead the nation towards new heights of peace, prosperity and harmony. “The CBCI hopes that the resounding victory in the general elections should enthuse the BJP and the NDA to work relentlessly for the welfare and progress of all people, especially the poor, the marginalised, minorities and weaker sections of society,” the statement from the CBCI said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

51. Amity still eludes tense, scared Muzaffarnagar (7)

Muzaffarnagar: Months after riots broke out Muzaffarnagar district is still under a communal siege, with the district administration failing to restore harmony. Hindu and Muslim neighbours still eye each other with suspicion and live in constant fear. This distrust is strengthened by frequent killings in the area as miscreants belonging to different faiths move about freely in groups, attacking members of the other community.Latest in the spate of killings is the lynching of four youths by villagers. According to the police, in the last four weeks, six such incidents have been reported in which ten people have been killed in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining Meerut. Locals say that despite security measures and deployment of additional policemen, killings and fights break out regularly, filling villagers with fear. Most incidents involve fights between Muslims and Hindus, mainly Jats.They also claimed that the Lok Sabha election results and the overwhelming victory of the BJP had acted as a catalyst and since then the situation appears to have gone out of control. Locals claimed that rumours of renewed communal violence were flying thick and fast on counting day (May 16) but any untoward incidents were prevented by an alert district administration. “As election results started appearing to go in favour of the BJP, scores of local vendors, majority of them Muslims, downed shutters,” a resident of Muzaffarnagar said.Members of both communities admitted to The Pioneer that all is not well in the district, and it may witness more communal clashes as several anti-social elements are actively creating a rift between Hindus and Muslims. They added that such elements are not missing any opportunity to give a communal flavor to any criminal incidents in the area. “This has resulted in widening of the chasm between the two communities who have co-existed since ages. We had expected the situation to return to normal after the violence last year but the recent crisis indicates more trouble in coming days,” said Ishwar Malik, a resident of Khedi Village where the murder of Sanjeev Malik, secretary of the Bar Association of Muzaffarnagar, and the lynching of his killers took place recently. Though he attributed Sunday morning’s incident to a land dispute, Malik added that the accused persons were from the minority community. “When people came to know that the lawyer, Sanjeev Malik, was killed by Muslim youths, hundreds of people from nearby villages gathered to avenge his death. The mob calmed down only when Satbir Malik, the deceased lawyer’s father, appealed for peace,” he said. However, the angry villagers blocked roads in the area and lynched the four accused. The villagers also held a Mahapanchayat (public meet) which was attended by local MP Sanjeev Baliyan. After the incident, hundreds of policemen along with the Provincial Armed Constabulary were deployed to keep the situation under control. The lawyer’s murder is not an isolated incident. A farmer was shot on April 28 and a mob blocked the Delhi-Dehradun national highway and pelted stones at the police. Police said that Yamin (50) was gunned down by some unidentified persons from another village after an argument. On May 9, tensions sparked in city area after a student of class ten, Uvais, was shot by some youths in a mobile shop. Just after the murder, scores of people had gathered in the town and created a stir. Two days later, Amit Bhardwaj, another resident was randomly shot at by car-borne assailants who stopped him on the pretext of asking his name. He was immediately rushed to a hospital in Meerut to avoid any retaliation by residents of the area. Four days ago, a clash took place in Hajipura area, but police immediately controlled the situation. A communal clash was also witnessed in Meerut district earlier when two communities fought over the construction of a water kiosk near a mosque. The incident left one dead and 50 people injured even as police registered cases against 200 people. Meanwhile, security personnel were deployed in huge numbers at Budhana Police Station area where the four youths were lynched following the lawyer’s murder.Alok Kumar, Inspector General, Meerut Range, said they were keeping a close watch on the situation. “We quickly normalized the situation but we have deployed the police force to avoid any more untoward incidents. We have registered an FIR and the matter is being investigating,” said Kumar. However, the role of the local police came under a cloud as it tried to insulate the villagers involved in lynching of the youths. (Pioneer 21/5/14)

 

52. Communal clash in Faizabad village (7)

FAIZABAD: Communal tension gripped Ibrahimpur village of Raunahi police station area after two groups clashed over the passage of a religious procession late on Saturday night. Police resorted to lathicharge and used teargas to control the mob. According to reports, around a dozen persons have been injured in the clash. Heavy contingent of police has been deployed at the affected area and other sensitive parts of the district. Faizabad had witnessed communal riots in October 2012 in which about a hundred shops were looted and burned, two people were killed and many were injured. (Times of India  25/5/14)

 

53. Tension in Muzaffarnagar after abduction, gang rape (7)

MEERUT: Communal tensions have erupted in the riot-affected Kakroli area of Muzaffarnagar after a gang rape. “A case of abduction and gang rape has been registered against Sonu, Saddam and Kamrulzama after a medical examination of the victim [their neighbour] confirmed rape, and they will be arrested soon,” Superintendent of Police (Crime) Rakesh Jolly told The Hindu on Sunday. The suspects allegedly abducted her when she was alone at home on Friday afternoon. When neighbours tried to save her, the accused threatened to kill them. A search was launched after her parents returned in the evening, and she was found in the nearby forests. The parents immediately took her to the Kakroli police station where a first information report was lodged. Last week, two youths gang-raped a postgraduate student and shot a video in the nearby Chaproli area of Baghpat district. They allegedly threatened the girl that if she tried to complain, they would upload the video on the Internet. She, however, gathered courage and filed a complaint with the police on Saturday. In another incident, the Bijnore police arrested a gram pradhan and the father of a girl for allegedly blackening the face of her lover and parading him with a garland of shoes at Nagina on Saturday on the orders of a kangaroo court. Another person was also arrested in the incident. “The matter is serious and we will arrest all the 11 persons who participated in the kangaroo panchayat,” Superintendent of Police Anis Ahmed Ansari told The Hindu on Sunday. Parents of the boy said he had not returned home after the humiliation. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

54. Clash between two communities in Modi’s heartland (7)

AHMEDABAD: The police fired tear gas to break up clashes between two communities in Narendra Modi’s heartland of Gujarat on the eve of his swearing in as Prime Minister, officials said on Monday. Angry crowds set fire to several shops and vehicles and pelted stones at each other during the clashes in western Gujarat state’s main city of Ahmedabad on Sunday night, police and fire officials said. Ahmedabad joint police commissioner Manoj Shashidhar said officers fired tear gas to halt the violence which left four people injured. Shashidhar said an investigation was under way into the clashes which appear to have started when two cars from the different communities crashed in an accident during a marriage procession. “The incident flared up following a petty argument between people of two communities on Sunday night in Gomtipur area of the city. The situation was immediately brought under control,” Shashidhar told AFP. The incident escalated when mobs set property on fire, Ahmedabad chief fire officer M S Dastur told AFP. “Some three shops, one mini-bus and a couple of two wheelers were burnt during the incident,” Dastur said. The clashes came as Modi, chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, was set to be sworn as premier on Monday after a landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi has pledged national unity as he attempts to revive the faltering economy, but he remains tainted by anti-Muslim riots on his watch in Gujarat in 2002 that left at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead. Modi has denied wrongdoing and a court investigation found he has no case to answer. But some members of religious minorities fear a rise in communal tensions under a Modi government and warn they will be sidelined at the expense of the Hindu majority. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

55. Sexual assault case: Asaram to remain in jail, SC to hear bail plea on July 3 (8)

New Delhi: Controversial self-styled godman Asaram, who has been behind bars since August last year for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl, will have to remain in jail for now with the Supreme Court on Monday putting off hearing on his bail plea till July 3. A bench of justices BS Chauhan and AK Sikri adjourned the matter and posted the hearing for July, after the court’s annual summer vacation, on a bunch of petitions filed by the 75-year-old seeking bail and dropping of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Asaram has challenged the minor status of the alleged victim, claiming that she was born in 1995 and not in 1997, as stated by her father. The Rajasthan High Court had earlier in February denied bail to Asaram in the case of alleged sexual assault of a minor girl in his ashram in Jodhpur. The controversial spiritual guru has been lodged in the Central Jail in Jodhpur since his arrest in August, 2013. (Zee news 20/5/14)

 

56. Will Women’s Reservation Bill see the light of day… ? (8)

New Delhi: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women MPs since the first election in 1952, 61. It had the maximum number of women candidates, 668 and the highest women voter turnout in numbers. The women MPs are 11.3 per cent of the total members of parliament, nowhere near the 33 per cent mark that the Women’s Reservation Bill seeks to implement. The Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. “It is the will of the men in the parliament and not that of the women which is required to pass these Bills. Though I am proud of the fact that women were a significant part of this election, the same thing should be reflected in the parliament,” Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Najma Heptulla said. Some of the other Bills pending in the parliament which pertain to women include, The Constitution (110th Amendment) Bill for reserving half the seats in panchayats for women and The Constitution (112th Amendment) Bill reserving one-third of elected seats in municipalities for women. “Since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a majority in the Lok Sabha now, the Bills should be passed. These Bills were brought into the Rajya Sabha by the Congress and so I don’t see them opposing its passage,” Heptulla said. “If there is a problem in the proceedings I am ready to ask the BJP to call for a joint-sitting of both the houses and get the bills passed,” she added. Currently the NDA with 398 members in Parliament crosses the halfway mark of 394, with the combined strength of both houses being 788. The BJP has 42 members in the Rajya Sabha while the Congress has 68. Though a joint session was called in 2008 for the Women’s Reservation Bill, it could not be passed. According to Heptulla, Mulayam Singh-led SP and Mayawati-led BSP are the only two parties who are against certain sections of the Bills and may not let them pass. Apart from Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leader of opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Hema Malini and Maneka Gandhi, other prominent women elected to the 16th Lok Sabha include Kirron Kher, Poonam Mahajan, Uma Bharti, Dimple Yadav, Moon Moon Sen and Meenakshi Lekhi. Congress had the largest number of female candidates, 57, while BJP fielded only 37. While 28 of the 37 BJP women candidates won only four won from the Congress. West Bengal has the largest tally of women winners at 14 who will be entering the new parliament. According to data released by the Election Commission, out of a total of 8,251 candidates, 668 were women, which is the highest ever. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 556 women had contested. General Election 2014 saw the total voter turnout of 66.48%. Out of this the male voter’s turnout was 67.17% and female voter’s turnout was 65.71%. According to the EC, female voter turnout (in percentage) was higher than male turnout in 16 states and UTs. 59 women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election. The number of women members in 2004 was 45, and in 1999 it was 49. The least number of women in the Lok Sabha was 19 in 1977. (DNA 22/5/14)

 

57. Women-only cab service launched in Kochi (8)

Kochi: With the support of the Kerala government, a women-only cab service called “She Taxi” has been launched here to ensure safety and empowerment of the fairer sex. Kochi is only the second city after Thiruvanathapuram in India to have such a facility focused for women. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy launched the “She Taxi” facilities at an event here. A similar service was introduced in Thiruvanathapuram six months ago. Kerala government’s department of social justice is backing the venture which has been conceived and implemented by The Gender Park and has actress Manju Warrier as its goodwill ambassador.  “She Taxi has become a women empowerment model for countries across the globe to emulate,” Chandy said at the launch event Monday. “The She Taxi has grabbed global attention after its successful introduction in Thiruvanathapuram. Even the authorities in the UAE are actively looking at the possibility of similar cab services for women,” he said. To begin with, Kochi will have a fleet of ten cabs. Later, Kozhikode will become the third city in the state to launch She Taxis, said M.K. Muneer, Kerala’s minister for panchayats and social justice.“We are planning to roll out 250 She Taxi cabs in all major cities across the state,” said Muneer. She Taxi was launched in Thiruvananthapuram Nov 19, 2013, with five cabs.  The customised pink-and-white taxis, supplied by Maruti Suzuki India, are fitted with best-in-class technology such as GPS, precision metering systems and in-car LCD systems. They also have a number of safety features such as emergency alert switches for drivers and passengers and safety alert mobile application for women drivers. (Pioneer 22/5/14)

 

58. Women’s Participation in NREGS Drops (8)

BHUBANESWAR: With women’s participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on a decline in the State, the Odisha Government has asked the district collectors to adopt women-specific plans to reverse the trend. Apart from specific types of work which are favourable to women, facilities at the work sites and if possible, incentives must also be provided to district coordinators, the collectors have been told. In last couple of years, participation of women in NREGS has gradually declined in Odisha, posing a worry for the Government. What’s worse, the figures are even below the national average. From 39 per cent in 2011-12 to 37 per cent in 2012-13, the share has now dropped to 33 per cent in 2013-14. This, despite special provisions in NREGA to promote women’s participation. However, the nature and condition of work, burden of responsibilities at home and labour market are some of the factors that prevent the women’s participation from improving. To arrest the trend, the Panchayati Raj Department has asked the collectors to study the composition of women workers at work sites and the nature of work to understand why the participation has dropped. Special attention must be given to widows, deserted and destitute. The gram panchayats must identify such women and ensure they are provided at least 100 days of work. Similarly, pregnant women and lactating mothers must also be treated as a special category. The Department has identified at least 18 types of works which should be offered,  preferably to women. Such works should be identified and implemented close to their houses. Similarly, the GPs have been asked to identify at least one work which remains operational round the year for women. “The circular on ensuring at least one community project in each revenue village must be strictly followed. This would mean women workers are engaged in MGNREGS in their own village, mostly those living in hilly and difficult terrains,” Director, Special Projects NB Jawale said in a circular. The districts have also been asked to follow the example of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where women’s participation is above 80 per cent because of availability of economic activities for women self-help groups. This strategy must be adopted in districts where National Rural Livelihood Mission is implemented. The collectors have also been asked to put in place an incentive system to push women’s involvement. If participation exceeds 70 per cent, the district programme coordinators must be provided incentives. Flexible work hours, making available amenities such as shades, drinking water and child care should be provided to improve the participation. According to the Panchayati Raj Department, participation of women in NREGS is less than 33 per cent in the districts of Sonepur, Sambalpur, Puri, Nuapada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Khurda, Kendrapara, Jharsuguda, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Bhadrak, Bargarh, Balasore and Angul which need immediate attention. (New Indian Express 25/5/14)

 

59. CSR to work ‘meri shakti meri beti’ campaign in Haryana (8)

New Delhi, May 19 : In a bid to eliminate from the society the practice of sex determination of embryo, the Centre for Social Research (CSR) is all set to roll out “meri shakti meri beti” campaign in Haryana. The campaign started by the CSR and supported by the German embassy aims at addressing gender biased sex-selection, replicating best practices in combating sex-selective abortion and mend the gap in the regional approach for sex selection by coordinating cross-jurisdictional programming. According to the 2011 Census report, Gurgaon city and Manesar town have an extremely low sex ratio of 854 girls per 1,000 boys. The region is highly stratified across the economic spectrum, with a high-earning urban class and a large and growing population of rural migrants from surrounding regions, the report says. Speaking about implementing the plans, CSR director Ranjana Kumari said: “We are hopeful and confident that by partnering with other grassroot level NGOs, ‘meri shakti meri beti’ project will be a success. Community watch groups and committees against sex selection are also being formed that will keep a constant check on incidences of female foeticide in this region.” The project has already been implemented successfully in the national capital in the last couple of years and now aims at raising awareness about pre-natal sex determination and prepare stakeholders and community members for deeper engagement to curb the declining sex ratio in the region, she said in a statement. (New Kerala 19/5/14)

 

60. Srinagar: Husband, in-laws demand dowry, burn 20-year-old with acid (8)

Srinagar: A shocking incident of domestic violence has left a 20 year newly wed woman with burnt hands and feet in Srinagar. The woman has alleged that her husband and in-laws demanded dowry and subjected her to inhuman torture and threw acid on her. “A year back 20 year old women of Gujran village of Rajouri District married accused 24 year old Mohammad Razaq, a labourer who used to work in Gulf. After marriage, her husband and his parents started to torture her and demand dowry. Her in-laws even used to keep her hostage for days together,” SP Rajouri Mubashir Latiffi said. In her statement, the woman alleged acid was first thrown on her hands and lower limb on February 9 by her husband and in-laws as a result of which her both hands suffered massive burn injuries. She alleged some local leaders intervened in the matter and assured her that her husband would pay her money for treatment. However, she resented when nothing was done to treat her for two months and she was confined in house. With the help of her father, she approached the Rajouri police on Friday. The police have registered a case in against her husband and his parents. (CNN IBN 25/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

61. NGT notice to Centre, Odisha over Posco green nod (9)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the state pollution control board and Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to reply within three weeks regarding extension of environment clearance (EC) for Posco’s steel plant project at Paradip. “Let reply be filed within three weeks from today with advanced copy to counsel for appellant, who may file rejoinder within two weeks,” the court said today in its daily order posted on its website. Hearing a case filed by environmentalist Prafulla Samantray, the green court today asked the Central and the state governments to clarify the questions raised about the re-validation of environment clearance granted on 7 January, 2014. The EC for the steel plant was extended as per an order issued by NGT in 2013. While hearing another case related to forest clearance and tree felling at proposed plant site of Posco, the court had asked the MoEF to re-validate the EC granted in 2007. The original EC in 2007 was granted for 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) steel plant of Posco along with its captive port and other facilities. However, in the re-validated EC, the MoEF has granted the clearance for four million tonne plant and said there is an inbuilt provision to build another steel mill of 4 MTPA capacity later. The petitioner, in a fresh appeal filed in last week of March, said the re-validation approved in January this year and the original EC granted in 2007 was cleared without looking into ground reports submitted by experts and hence is illegal. “The EC was illegal and that’s why the court admitted our prayer to hear the matter,” said Samantray. (Business Standard 20/5/14)

 

62. Cry to save reserve forest from zoo inside (9)

Bangalore, May 22: Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have been a threat to Iron Men and some gents in khaki shorts when he was in power but never to other species. Now a zoo named after him is at the centre of a battle raging around the fate of assorted animals such as sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. Conservationists are up in arms against the upcoming project — the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Zoological Park — inside a reserve forest that already houses a bear sanctuary in north Karnataka. The project — inside the Billikallu West Reserve Forest — has been a bone of contention ever since the then BJP government ordered in November 2010 to develop it in the current location in Kamalapura, in Bellary district, where the Daroji Bear Sanctuary is located. Although it was supposed to come up at Munirabad in neighbouring Koppal district, the project was shifted to Bellary, the home district of former tourism minister Janardhana Reddy who showed a lot of interest in getting the zoo to enrich tourism potential in his turf. The mining baron apparently exerted pressure to shift the project before he was arrested in the mining scam and was sent to jail in September 2011. Work is on in 350 acres carved out of the 55sqkm reserve forest. The Daroji Bear Sanctuary that houses more than 150 sloth bears is nearby in the same forest stretch. Some 380km north of Bangalore, the zoo site is 15km from Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire and a major tourist hub. By positioning the zoo close to Hampi, the government plans to capitalise on the local tourist presence. But the contention of wildlife activists is that zoo animals would be dangerous for the wild animals as they could transmit diseases usually borne by captive inmates. The reserve forest is home to animals like sloth bears, wild boars, leopards, pangolins, simians and hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. This prompted two wildlife activists to file a PIL with Karnataka High Court recently. But the court being in summer holidays is likely to hear the petition only in June. The petition sought judicial intervention to quash the government order that led to the shifting of the zoo to the reserve forest. One of the petitioners, Santosh Martin, told The Telegraph it would be disastrous to have a zoo inside the forest area. “Pristine forest should not be destroyed for the sake of a zoo which can be built elsewhere,” said Martin, a former honorary wildlife warden of Bellary. “This is a corridor for many animals and a nesting ground for endangered birds. Much of the biodiversity in the area will be lost forever if the zoo is built,” he said. “There could be outbreak of diseases from zoo animals that can threaten the existence of the animals in the wild. Not just that, the zoo will give rise to commercial activities that will destroy the area’s serenity.” But the authorities feel the outcry is unreasonable. “It’s not as if the entire flora and fauna in the Billikallu forest would get destroyed,” R.S. Suresh, additional principal chief conservator of forests and member secretary of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka, said. …(The Telegraph 23/5/14)

 

63.  ‘Just planting trees is not enough’ (9)

Visakapatanam: Every living organism is dependent on one another and it is this healthy coexistence among different species that strengthens the ecosystem. The disproportionate percentage of plant and animal life will adversely affect the environment and lifestyle of mankind. Coinciding with the International Day for Biological Diversity being observed in the city, members of India Youth for Society along with Green Pals Club spoke on the importance of safeguarding the planet and various means to protect multiple species. Every individual should step out of his or her comfort zone and come out with effective solutions to enhance the overall ecosystem, they felt. “Though agricultural biotechnology leads to better yields, it has its own negative impact on health. The need of the hour is to adopt traditional organic farming techniques over contemporary methods,” Professor in Zoology, Andhra University C. Manju Latha, one of the invitees, said. President of India Youth for Society Appala Reddy said that one’s responsibility does not end by just planting trees. “We need to move beyond the planting drive and take serious measures to nurture them for a longer period. This apart, several showrooms and retail outlets join hands to cut down trees because they block the visibility of their hoardings. We want to meet concerned officials and request them to take necessary action against such persons,” he said. According to N.B. Murthy of Green Pals Club, factors like deforestation, global warming and climate change have an impact on the extinction of various species. Before it becomes too late, he said, it is necessary to join hands and take little steps to strengthen the green world by all means. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

64. Rs 30,000-cr to undo damage done by mining in Karnataka (9)

Bangalore: The country’s first programme to mitigate the adverse impact of mining on the environment – forests, wildlife and the local community -is set to take off in Karnataka soon. With the Supreme Court having given it the green signal recently, the state government will set up a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, in a month with an initial corpus of close to Rs 4,000 crore. The court, while rejecting the Karnataka government’s plea for allowing it to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, ordered the state to set up a Section 25 company under the Companies Act. This company will formulate and implement projects under the Comprehensive Environment Plan for Mining Impact Zone (CEPMIZ), a senior official in the state government said. “Karnataka will be the first state to undertake such a massive and ambitious environment project. It could become a model for replication elsewhere in the country,” said Tushar Girinath, secretary, department of mines, Karnataka. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court, in its report dated February 3, 2012, had recommended the establishment of a special purpose vehicle for taking ameliorative and mitigative measures according to the CEPMIZ around the mining leases in the districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur. “As directed by the Supreme Court, we will have to form a Section 25 company within a month and start implementing the environment rehabilitation projects. This company will be in existence for the next 30 years and spend at least Rs 30,000 crore for repairing the damage done by mining to the environment in the three districts of Bellary, Chitradurga and Tumkur,” Girinath said. The SPV will implement not only afforestation programmes but also a whole series of development works in the areas of education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and training, roads, minor irrigation, among others…  (Business Standard 25/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

65. 28 schools issued warning for ignoring RTE admissions (11)

CHENNAI: The directorate of matriculation schools in Tamil Nadu has issued a warning to 28 schools in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts to comply with the 25% reservation of seats stipulated under the Right to Education Act. This warning came after a complaint filed by city NGO Becoming I Foundation. The directorate also forwarded the complaint to the Central Board of Secondary Education as several of the 28 schools mentioned are affiliated to the CBSE. “It is unacceptable for private schools with state and central government approval to defy the orders of the government,” the statement said. “All schools have received the warning from the directorate and we have put up notices on the board so that it is convenient for parents. The RTE admission process is underway but we request parents to bring their income certificate when they come to get the applications because we have no other way of determining their eligibility,” said K R Nandakumar, general secretary of Tamil Nadu nursery, primary, matriculation and higher secondary association. However, a volunteer with Becoming I Foundation said, “We visit schools in the city everyday to help parents with the application process but none had put up anything on the notice board or were helpful to the parents.” In its complaint, the NGO had listed several prominent schools in the city as refusing to issue application forms under RTE. Some had refused outright, while others claimed to have filled up their quota already. Some claimed they were not even aware of the RTE Act. The directorate also recognised that several institutions pose as minority schools and refuse admission. The body has promised strict action against these schools if they are not certified by the government as minority institutions. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

66. Saffron outfit wants Modi govt to revamp education (11)

NEW DELHI: “Total change” in education complete with new textbooks and a new pedagogy that promotes modernity with Indian base is what has been demanded by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from the new government. RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra of SSUN, who also runs Shiksha Bachao Andolan, told TOI, “I am meeting Narendra Modiji after the swearing-in. We have already sent our demands. Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education.” Batra’s recipe to revive education includes institutional reform as well as creation of a new moral universe. He wants amendment in the RTE Act so that provisions like ‘no-detention’ can be reworked. His outfit has demanded that after class X and XII, the “super energy” of children should be channelled for social work that includes mandatory service in slums and villages. Batra wants An All India Social Service Mission that will conduct three-month course to achieve it. Schools should adopt some villages and universities should adopt at least 50 villages, he says. Batra, who played a vital role in the saffronisation of education during the earlier NDA regime, says in all subjects the first chapter of school textbooks should be entirely devoted to highlight India’s contribution in various fields. “From physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and religion, Indian contribution to world civilisation should be taught to students,” he says. Batra said, “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base.” He says there should be common thread to bind syllabus and textbooks “through values of Indian tradition, social consciousness, patriotism and spiritualism”. He regrets that “due to Macaulay’s education, Indians have become intellectual slaves of the West”.Batra says he had pointed out 70 mistakes in the existing NCERT textbooks many of which were rectified after a court verdict. But he alleges that mistakes have been restored now. His list of grouse with NCERT textbooks is long, ranging from inadequate teaching of Indian history to, what he claims, untruthful depiction of heroes like Shivaji. He is also angry that Hindi textbooks have poems written in Persian. “It has destroyed Hindi. Also there is no place for Sanskrit,” he says. As for institutional reforms, he wants an All India Autonomous Education Commission on the lines of the Election Commission. “It will look after primary to university education. There will be no interference of government except funding,” he says. He also wants revival of the old proposal to have Indian Education Service through an all-India examination. “IAS officers are jack of all trades, master of none,” he says. Batra also wants four-year teachers’ education course immediately after class XII and linkage between academic and vocational education. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

67. ‘No Clarity About RTE Among People’ (11)

CHENNAI: The School Education Department in the city has received a total of 2,635 applications for the 6,600 seats available under the Right to Education (RTE) quota till date. A senior official of the department said that there had been a gradual increase in the number of applications compared to last year, when 1,600 applications came. However, this did not bring a smile to the faces of parents and social activists, who complain that 25 per cent quota in the city schools won’t be filled up as there is no clarity about the Act among the people.  With only a couple of weeks left for schools to reopen for the next academic year, parents are finding it hard to get the applications and many of them have been turned away from schools. A Devaneyan, director, Thozhamai, who helps parents living below the poverty line to access the application forms, said that there was no clarity on the Act whether it was applicable to the aided and minority institutions or not. He said many parents who don’t have identity or resident proof docuemnts may not be able to meet the May 31 deadline because of the Lok Sabha elections. “Parents were unable to get the documents on time because the Revenue Department, was focusing on elections,” he said. Officials said that the deadline to submit applications had been extended to May 31 following the elections. The decision to extend the deadline is a welcome step, said State convenor, Campaign Against Child Labour, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry P Joseph Victor Raj. But he feels that RTE being implemented under different boards makes it complex. While the State is only monitoring primary, private, elementary and matriculation schools, most parents below poverty line who aspire to provide Central Board of Secondary Education for their children don’t know where to get applications. “They are uneducated but all they want is to provide quality education for their children,” said Devaneyan. A  State government official said that CBSE applications under RTE arebeing scrutinised by the Regional Director. “There are contradicting figures of the total availability of seats under RTE in the States as those are being filled. Initially, the figure was given as 56,682 and then it rose by a couple of thousand, said Joseph. “There is a need to have a White Paper in this regard, which provides details about the number of seats available in the State as well as those being filled during 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic year, so that schools are properly reimbursed,” he said. (New Indian Express 24/5/14)

 

68. 8 top priorities for the HRD ministry (11)

1. Strengthen the Right to Education. The Vajpayee government had made education a fundamental right in 2002. The first task should be to help states with funds so that trained and qualified teachers are recruited. Allocation for education must go up at least 6% of GDP. 2. We are producing thousands of educated youth who are not employable. To make education in line with the requirements of the job market, a big push is required in skilling. Bulk of the new jobs will be in industry (manufacturing, particularly) and in the services sector. We need to produce an army of skilled personnel for them. The private sector should be roped in for this. 3. Modi should reverse BJP’s opposition to allowing foreign universities to open campus in India. Even if Ivy Leaguers are not interested initially, many A-grade institutions like Carltech and Duke are keen. The bill is pending in Parliament. Once legislation is in place, FDI would flow. Already, 100% FDI is allowed. 4. A quality audit of IITs/IIMs needed. IITs should be asked to pay attention to research. It has become a factory producing engineers. IIMs should be given deemed university status so that it attracts genuine research in the fast changing economy. Despite expansion, there is a scope for more IITs/IIMs. 5. The syllabus of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the vehicle of RTE, should be recast. Top priority should be given to teaching English. Across India a new aspirational class has emerged that feels constrained by the lack of knowledge of English. 6. Mid-Day Meal needs a serious revamp. HRD ministry needs to get into a mission mode to ensure hygienic food reaches children. Cook-cum-helpers should be given better and regular remuneration. 7. UPA’s promise of 6,000 quality schools the district level, 2,500 through the private-public partnership (PPP) mode, didn’t take off. The new government should kick start these schools with qualified teachers and syllabus that bridges the urban-rural divide. 8. The huge gap between central and state universities needs to be bridged. In this regard, UPA’s Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan should be bolstered. This is the first time that Centre is doing something for state universities. Initial response of states has been positive. (Times of India 26/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

69. Afghan attack: Taliban fighters kill 10 policemen (12)

Kabul: Taliban fighters have struck in two Afghan provinces, targeting the country’s police forces and leaving at least 10 policemen dead, officials said today. In northeastern Badakhshan province, a large group of insurgents attacked several police checkpoints late yesterday, forcing the police to retreat and triggering gunbattles that were still raging on today. Six policemen were killed there. And in eastern Laghman province, insurgents wearing head-to-toe burqas, the traditional women’s covering that encompasses the female body, launched an attack on a district base belonging to the local police that killed four policemen. The attacks are part of the Taliban spring offencive that was launched last week in a renewed campaign of assaults on the Afghan police and military. This season, the offencive is expected to be an important gauge of how well Afghan forces can face the insurgents once foreign combat forces leave at the end of the year. In the attack in Badakhshan province, a large group of Taliban simultaneously hit several police checkpoints in Yamgan district. Gen. Fazeluddin Ayar, the province’s police chief, said the fighting started late yesterday and was still underway today. Reinforcements were sent to the location but the police were forced to pull back tactically from the area and were now fighting the Taliban forces in the mountains around the district, Ayar said. He added that Afghan Army helicopters were flying over the district as the battle raged on below. Apart from the six officers killed, five insurgents have also died in the gunbattle and three police officers were wounded, he added. The Taliban said their mujahedeen, or holy warriors, raised the insurgents’ white flag above the Yamgan district headquarters in Badakhshan in a sign of conquest. The other attack, in Laghman province, started early today morning with insurgents dressed as women opening machinegun fire and firing rocket-propelled grenades into the local police base in Alingar district, said Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. Zwak said four members of the Local Police were killed and that there were causalities among the Taliban but gave no more details. The Taliban claimed responsibility both for the Badakhshan and the Laghman attacks in a statement to media, saying they are part of the spring offencive named Operation Khaibar, after a famous battle from the time of the Prophet Muhammed. This time, the Taliban spring offencive comes as voters prepare to go to the polls for the second round of presidential balloting on June 14. The Taliban have pledged to disrupt the vote with bombings and other violence, although the first round of voting on April 5 passed relatively peacefully. (Business Standard 21/5/14)

 

70. Suspected terrorist arrested in robbery of Mumbai jewellers in Delhi (12)

New Delhi: A suspected terrorist, associated with militant outfits of Punjab, has been arrested alongwith three of his associates in connection with the sensational robbery at DBG Road area in Central Delhi last week when two Mumbai-based jewellers were robbed of diamond jewellery worth more than Rs 1 crore, police said on Friday. “The accused, identified as Avtar Singh (47) alias Bittoo has previously been convicted in two TADA cases and one case of murder,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Central) Alok Kumar. He has been a member of All India Sikh Student Federation and Bhindrawala Tiger Force. He has been convicted in a TADA case of Civil Lines police station in Delhi. He is also convicted in another TADA case in Punjab when one AK-47 with 100 cartridges and 2 pistols of .32 Bore with 50 cartridges were recovered from his possession. His younger brother namely Paramjeet alias Pamma, Age-42 years was arrested in the year 1997 for the murder of Chief Minister Beant Singh along-with his associate Jagtar Singh Hawara. Avtar Singh’s three associates, Gurjeet Singh (30), Anil Luthra (19) and Amit (24) have also been arrested with him and gold and diamond jewellery to the tune of approximately Rs 35 lakh have been recovered at their instance. Six members of the gang have already been arrested by the Crime Branch. Stolen jewellery worth 20 lakh was recovered from them. During further investigation, it was established that one of the workers at a jeweller’s shop where the complainant used to visit for sale of his jewellery items, had tipped off the robbers. Critical analysis led police to locate Avtar Singh, one of the masterminds of the heist who had carried out exhaustive reccee of complainant’s movements. This accused was learnt to have been involved in terrorist activities and also a member of certain terrorist groups/outfits. Several teams were dispatched on probable hideouts including NCR and neighbouring states. However, his movements could only be known after lots of efforts at the local level from where he was finally arrested. Sustained interrogation of Avtar Singh revealed the role of his accomplices and the team was able to track them down and arrest them. The incident took place at around 8:45 PM on May 15 in the congested area of Desh Bandhu Gupta Road when two Mumbai-based diamond merchants traveling in a car were intercepted near Liberty Cinema by bike-borne assailants. (Zee News 23/5/14)

 

71. Twin blasts case: NIA gets custody of IM operatives (12)

Hyderabad: A local court on Saturday allowed National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take custody of two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives — Tahsin Akhtar alias Monu and Zia—ur Rahman alias Waqas — involved in the 2013 Dilsukhnagar twin blasts case, for questioning. The accused were brought from Delhi on a transit warrant and produced before the court here. Though the probe agency requested 20 days’ custody of the accused, the court granted only 15 days. The duo will be under judicial remand till June 23. A special court in Delhi on Friday allowed the plea of NIA Hyderabad seeking three days transit remand of the two accused. NIA had earlier claimed before the court that Tehsin and Waqas had “exclusive knowledge” about the plans of IM to carry out terror attacks in the country in future. It had also said that IM Indian chief Yasin Bhatkal, his aide Asadullah Akhtar and other top operatives of the banned terror outfit were in touch with Tehsin and Waqas. Tehsin and Waqas, along with other alleged IM operatives, Mohd Maroof, Wakar Azhar and Mohd Saqib Ansari, were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in March this year. The twin blasts, triggered by powerful IEDs, planted near Konark and Venkatadiri theatres in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, had left 17 dead and 100 injured on February 21, 2013. (The Hindu 24/5/14)

 

72. Judge quizzes application of MCOCA in terror case (12)

Mumbai: The judge of a designated Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court, conducting trial against 23 alleged members of the banned organisation Indian Mujahideen (IM), has directed defence lawyers and the prosecution to make their submissions on application of MCOCA on the case. The court would start recording evidence only after it is satisfied that the law is applicable on this matter. According to advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari, who is part of the defence lawyers’ team representing some of the accused on behalf of Jamiat-e-Ulema Maharashtra, special judge A.L. Pansare last week directed defence advocates to make arguments on why MCOCA is not applicable on this case. The prosecution was asked to make submissions on how the law is applicable. The court has posted the matter for arguments on June 18 as Mr Ansari informed the court that advocates Sharif Shaikh and Khan Abdul Wahab, who would be arguing, are busy with the Mumbai trains blast case as the final arguments are underway in that trial. The 23 people have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. One of the reasons for postponing the arguments was that another defence lawyer, Ishrat Ali Khan, also informed the court that his senior has challenged the application of MCOCA in this case in the Bombay high court. The matter is posted for after the court’s vacations so they would be able to make their submission after the hearing is over in the high court. There are 23 persons facing trial in connection with sending mails to media houses and government houses before blasts in Surat, Delhi and Hyderabad. They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for being a member of IM, the Arms Act, Explosives Act and Information Technology Act. They are also charged under MCOCA. (Asian Age 26/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

73. Six of Naxal gang suspected to have killed TRS leader held (12)

Hyderabad: Six members of a gang allegedly belonging to former Naxal leader Nayeem, who is on the radar of Andhra Pradesh police in connection with the murder of TRS leader K Ramulu, were arrested in Thiruvananthapuram today, police said. Ramulu, a member of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) executive committee and brother of former top Maoist leader Sambashivudu, was shot dead by unidentified persons on May 11 in Nalgonda town of Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, fugitive Nayeemuddin alias Nayeem had emerged as the prime suspect behind the killing of Ramulu. “We have got information on arrest of six persons in Trivandrum. It is still not clear whether they are members of Nayeem’s gang. Their involvement in the killing of Ramulu is also not confirmed…However, we are sending a police team to Kerala to interrogate the arrested persons,” Nalgonda district Superintendent of Police T Prabhakar Rao told PTI. Sambashivudu, a TRS polit bureau member, was hacked to death by unidentified assailants using sickles and swords also in Nalgonda district in March 2011. Incidentally, Nayeem was listed as the main accused in the murder of Konapuri Ilaiah alias Sambashivudu. The district police had in April 2011 arrested five of the 12 accused in Sambasivudu’s murder and claimed that the accused killed Sambashivudu at the behest of Nayeem. Even Ramulu had earlier told a private TV news channel that his life was under threat from Nayeem. Police had also suspected the role of Nayeem in the murder of Ramulu. (Pioneer 20/5/14)

 

74. Five IEDs planted by naxals recovered in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Five improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suspected to have planted by Naxals to harm security personnel during just-held parliamentary polls, were recovered today in insurgency-hit Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The joint team of security personnel found five IEDs – four of 5 kgs each and a 15 kg one stealthily placed beneath Chhingnar-Muusalnar road under Geedam police station limits, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Narendra Khare said. A team of 195 battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force was mobilised in the restive Geedam region after getting a tip-off about the explosives being planted in the Chhingnar area, the SP said. When they reached near the place they spotted five IEDs packed in steel containers averting a major mishap, he said. Besides, a 50-meter wire was also recovered from the spot.  Prima facie it appears that the explosives were allegedly planted by rebels to target the security personnel during last month polling in the region. However, security personnel strictly followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) while moving through thisroute foiling the evil design of ultras, he said. The IED was immediately destroyed by the bomb disposal squad, the SP added. (Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

75. IB raises alarm over growing Maoists activities in Punjab (12)

Chandigarh: Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. The Naxal insurgency is not limited to the eastern or central parts of the country. It is slowly advancing in the north too. According to a recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) internal report, the banned CPI (Maoist) is operating through 128 frontal organisations in Haryana, Delhi (NCR), Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala. Though IB’s internal report has established growing Naxal activities in Punjab, there is no information about the exact number of frontal organisations active in the state. While no arrests were made recently, the Jalandhar Police in January 2009 arrested Jai Parkash Dubey from Phillaur, a senior Communist Party of India (Maoist) Naxalite, who was trying to revive Naxalism in the state. Former chief minister and newly elected Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh in his address delivered during the Chintan Shivir in Jaipur on January 2013 had said, “All 22 districts of Punjab have reported Naxal activities. When I was the chief minister, only two districts had Naxal presence,” Captain Amarinder Singh said. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too, during a state plan meeting in New Delhi in April 2012, had warned the Planning Commission functionaries. “The farmers are facing challenges like falling agriculture income, rising agriculture debt and high farm investments. If nothing is done soon to deal with this impending crisis, there would be Naxalism in Punjab,” Badal had said. Director general of Punjab Police Sumedh Singh Saini, however said no naxal activity has been noticed in the state, and refused to comment any further. Meanwhile, the IB report states that while eight CPI (Maoist) frontal organisations are active in Haryana, activities of nine frontal organisations are under scanner in Delhi NCR. The Naxal connection to Delhi and Gurgaon was established on Friday when the Special Task Force arrested a zonal commander of a naxalite outfit. Krishna Mochi alias Abhay alias Ajay was nabbed from Salarpur area of Gautambudh Nagar. Mochi was wanted in connection with an October 2013 attack on CRPF jawans in Bihar’s Gaya district. During his interrogation, Mochi confessed he was treated in a Gurgaon hospital after he was injured by the Bihar Police on March 19 in an encounter. “The probe is on and we are trying to establish his (Mochi’s) connection with Gurgaon. We have not received any official communication regarding his involvement in any Naxal activity in the area,” Gurgaon Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Vivek Sharma told MAIL TODAY. This is, however, not the first time that a Naxal movement has been established in Gurgaon. Former minister of state for home Jitendra Singh had said in Rajya Sabha on August 22, 2012, that a number of organisations sympathetic towards the Naxal movement had protested during unrest at Maruti’s Manesar plant in 2012. Meanwhile, though no Naxalrelated violence has been reported in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand, the IB had found at least two Naxal frontal organisations active in Uttrakhand during the 2013 landslide and floods. There are also speculations about the presence of Nepalese Maoists in Himachal Pradesh. (India Today 22/5/14)

 

76. Police, naxals exchange fire in Balaghat (12)

Balaghat: Police and naxals exchanged fire in a brief encounter in forest area near Raasimeta village in the district on Thursday, a senior officer said. The incident occurred when police confronted the ultras on a tip off that they are arriving in the area to collect “donations” from pluckers of Tendu leaves, district SP Gaurav Tiwari told PTI. Naxals then fired at police who returned it, forcing the Reds to beat a retreat in deep forest. “Neither any naxal nor any police jawan was injured in the firing,” Mr. Tiwari said. He also dismissed the report that any Maoist cadre was killed in the firing or a dead body found at the spot. Police have seized belongings of ultras, mostly of daily use, the SP added. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

77. Naxals spreading base in urban areas: Nagpur police (12)

Pune: The arrest of Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba has proved yet again that Naxalites are spreading base in urban areas, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Nagpur range, Ravindra Kadam said. The Maharashtra police is monitoring cities such as Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur, he added. Prof. Saibaba was part of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, an organisation banned by the Andhra Pradesh and Odisha governments. He aided in the spread of Maoist ideology internationally, Mr. Kadam claimed. “Prof. Saibaba was involved with many human rights organisations. We have to investigate to what extent he could influence them,” he said. Stating that the police case against him was strong, he said he could lead them to many other urban cells. Organisations that promise to fight for a cause as a front for luring and radicalising youth was a tactic that the police had been able to crack, Mr. Kadam said. “There are also efforts to tap into the unorganised labour in industrial areas in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” he said. According to him, this was being done through the Golden Corridor Committee established in 2009, which was responsible for mobilisations in the region. Claiming that Kabir Kala Manch, a cultural organisation whose members were arrested over alleged links with Naxalites last year, was one such front, Mr Kadam said: “Expressing dissent is allowed, but within limitations.” The KKM should come out and condemn actions of Naxalites if their goal is pure, he added. (The Hindu 28/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

78. Pre 1971 Bangladeshi settlers are Indians: Meghalaya HC (13)

Shillong: In a historic judgement, the Meghalaya High Court has said that Bangladesh nationals who have settled in this north eastern state before March 24, 1971 should be treated as Indians and they be enrolled in voters’list. The judgement was based on a petition by over 40 refugees from Bangladesh, who were denied enrolment in the electoral roll by the district administration citing their citizenship was doubtful. These refugees hailing from Amjong village near the Assam-Meghalaya border in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district moved the High Court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner. Justice S R Sen, in his May-15 order, directed the district Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and enrol them in voters’ list before the next elections. Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh. “It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India much before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village,” he said. Ruling out that they are Bangladesh citizens, the court said there was no scope for their deportation and directed the state government and the Centre not to disturb them, but to give them proper rehabilitation. The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council. (Zee News 21/5/14)

 

79. BJP Govt Kindles Fresh Hopes for SL Refugees (13)

RAMANATHAPURAM:  With Narendra Modi set to assume charge as Prime Minister of India, the Lankan Tamil at the Mandapam transit camp are hopeful of a new lease of life. The change of guard at Centre has kindled hope in the minds of Lankan Tamils, who expect a more proactive role on the part of Indian government to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils living in the northern province of the island nation. Sri Lanka witnessed armed conflict between LTTE cadre and Lankan armed forces in 2009, during which thousands of Lankan Tamils fled to India to save their lives. Meanwhile, the attitude of UPA government at Centre, which maintained silence when Tamils were subjected to torture disheartened the refugees. With the BJP government set to assume office next week, the Lankan Tamils are hopeful that India will intervene to ensure peace and a dignified life for Tamils in Sri Lanka. The historical victory of AIADMK in the Lok Sabha elections also has kindled hope in their minds. Viyakulan (name changed) of Jaffna revealed that the Lankan Tamils have pinned their hopes on the AIADMK  government in Tamil Nadu and the BJP government at Centre. The two parties were sympathetic towards the Tamils who were tortured by the Lankan forces. (New Indian Express 22/5/14)

 

80. Pope to see Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan (13)

Amman: On the first leg of his three-day Mideast trip, Pope Francis will get a firsthand look at the plight of Syrian refugees and witness the toll the civil war next door is taking on Jordan. Francis frequently has lamented the plight of refugees, denouncing the “globalisation of indifference” that often greets them in their newly adopted homelands. At the same time, he and his predecessors have decried the flight of Christians from the Holy Land, insisting recently: “We will not be resigned to think about the Middle East without Christians!” After meeting with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the royal palace, Francis is due to celebrate Mass on Saturday in Amman’s International Stadium. The Vatican expects some 25,000 people to attend, many of them Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Later, he will meet one-on-one with refugees and disabled children at a church in Bethany beyond the Jordan, which many believe is the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism. Christians make up about 5% of Syria’s population, but assaults on predominantly Christian towns by rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad’s rule have fueled fears among the country’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists in the revolt. Christians believe they are being targeted in part because of anti-Christian sentiment among Sunni Muslim extremists and partly as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad. The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Francis wants to offer comfort to all Christians who live in the region and encourage them to stay. “These Christians are living stones, and without their presence, the Holy Land and its holy sites risk becoming a museum,” Parolin told Vatican Television on the eve of the trip. Jordan last month opened a third camp for Syrian refugees, a stark indication of the strains the civil war is creating for the country. The sprawling facility is designed to accommodate up to 130,000 people and potentially become the world’s second-largest refugee camp. Jordan is hosting 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, or 10% of its population. Jordanian officials estimate the real number is closer to 1.3 million. For the Syrian Christians who will greet Francis, his presence is a chance to show the world their hopelessness as the conflict drags on. “We are very happy because he will see Christians in the Arab world, he will see us and see our suffering,” said Nazik Malko, a Syrian Orthodox Christian refugee from Maaloula who will be among the 600 or so people to greet the pope at Bethany beyond the Jordan. “We wish that peace will be restored in the whole world, and in Syria.”… (Hindustan Times 24/5/14)

 

81. Lanka nabs returning Indian refugee family (13)

Colombo: Sri Lanka Navy has detained a family of five who were trying to enter the country via sea after staying in India as refugees for a few years, the police said on Friday. Police spokesman and superintendent Ajith Rohana said the family members were arrested on Thursday off the coast of Talaimannar in the north as they were returning via sea. They had fled to India in 2004 from Mannar and spent time in Rameshwaram. The Navy intercepted their boat on Thursday. The family members included three youths aged 21, 19 and 15 years and their parents aged 44 and 38, Mr Rohana said.The motive of their fleeing Sri Lanka would be investigated, he said. There was a large influx from Sri Lanka’s north and east to Rameshwaram by boats during the decisive military clashes between the LTTE and the Army five years ago. Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan nationalist party has asked Norway to immediately handover an Oslo-based LTTE leader to face a criminal trial in the country. In a letter written to the Norwegian ambassador, the Jathika Hela Urumaya also known as the National Heritage Party accused Perinpana-yagam Sivaparan, alias Nediyavan, of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. “We urge Norway to immediately handover Nediyavan to Sri Lankan authorities so that he can be tried for all his many crimes against the state of Sri Lanka and the people of Sri Lanka,” JHU chief Champika Ranawaka wrote in the letter. According to Mr Ranawaka, Nediyavan, LTTE’s top military leader, lives freely in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Mr Ranawaka accused Nediyavan of conducting terrorist activities against Sri Lanka. He said that recent investigations have confirmed Nediyavan’s involvement in attempts to revive the LTTE. Mr Ranawaka is also a minister in the President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government. (Asian Age 25/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

82. MGNREGS: Ombudsman gets 136 complaints from GPs  (14)

Mangalore:  Ombudsman of Dakshina Kannada district for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has received 136 complaints from different gram panchayats, on the illegality in the implementation of the MGNREGS,  since August 2010. According to the available statistics, the cases include 60 cases related to delay in payment of wages, 11— on misappropriation of funds, 34—illegalities, 17—denial of employment, denial of employment card—1, misuse of job card—2, lack of transparency in implementation—5 and three related to action plan. In 26 cases, a sum of Rs 36,10,984 have been recovered and deposited in the State treasury. All the cases have been settled. The Ombudsman has imposed a fine of 78,000  in 58 cases on the officials who were responsible for the illegality in the implementation of the scheme in Dakshina Kannada district. He has ordered for departmental inquiry in five cases. Warnings have been issued in 57 cases. The Ombudsman in Udupi district has received 33 cases in the last two and half years. After the DK Ombudsaman took additional charge of Udupi, he has received four cases related to delay in payment of wages, denial of payment for Kayaka bandhu, and denial of unemployment allowances. ‘All the complaints are against gram panchayats. The gram panchayats from where the complaints have come are Balpa, Markanja, Hariharapallathadka, Kollamogru, Aranthodu, Mandekolu, Panja, Bilinele, Mundoor, Shiradi, Aithoor, Kaukradi, Kutruppady, Puduvettu, Maladi, Kaliya, Nidle, Kaniyoor, Barya, Mithabagilu, Marodi, Kalmanja, Andinje, Shibaje, Aladangady, Kotekaru, Konaje, Neerumarga, Beluvai, Muchoor, Thenkamijaru, Talapady, Paduperara, Kuppepadavu, Harekala, Edapadavu, Kandavara, Balkunje, Aikala, Kinya, Munnur, Kinnigoli, Gurpura, Amblamogaru, Alike, Sajipamooda, Perne, Karopadi, Kanyana, Peruvai, Vittal, Kavalapadoor, Pilathabettu and Veerakamba. When the Act was implemented in DK, many had doubted the success of the programme in the district. However, over the years it has brought in a ray of hope among families hailing from poor background, especially among Koraga, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Many families have improved their livelihood by levelling land, taking up public work like construction of drains, afforestation, planting of fruit-bearing saplings, water conservation programmes and so on, said Ombudsman Sheena Shetty to Deccan Herald. (Deccan Herald 21/5/14)

 

83. India among countries that systematically violate workers’ rights, says report (14)

Islamabad, May 22 : India is reportedly ranked among countries where systematic violations of rights of workers are widely reported. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an alliance of regional trade confederations that advocates for labour rights around the world gave India a score of 5+ on a scale of 1-5 on the The Global Rights Index: The World’s Worst Countries for Workers. Countries were ranked on a scale of 1-5 with 1 considered best and 5 worst, on the basis of standards of fundamental rights at work in particular the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, The Express Tribune reports. Meanwhile, Pakistan scored 4 along with countries like United States, Kuwait, Bahrain on the index. Central African Republic, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine were described in the report as the worst country to work in. Due to breakdown of the rule of law, workers were reported to have no guarantee of rights in countries that scored a 5+ on the index. (New Kerala 22/5/14)

 

84. Labour ministry to examine laws with a focus on MSMEs (14)

New Delhi: Amid the BJP-led Central government talking about reviewing ‘outdated’ labour laws, a committee, under the ministry of labour, has called a meeting on May 28 to “examine all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises”. The key agenda item for the meeting is to relax labour laws for small scale units. A senior official told The Indian Express that given the new government’s intention to make India a hub for cost-competitive, labour-intensive mass manufacturing, the timing of the meeting is significant. “An order has already been sent to all the concerned stakeholders including employees’ organisations, employers’ organisations, state governments, DIPP, MSME, and women and child development department, among others. The meeting is on examining all aspects of labour laws affecting micro and small enterprises,” the official said. “The committee will consider how to amend the definition of factory in small scale industry,” the official added. The committee has representations from all the concerned stakeholders. It would also discuss issues ranging from multiplicity and complexities of labour laws, rationalisation of inspections to difficulty in affecting changes in service conditions and maintenance of records. Amendments in the labour laws have also been sought by the ministry of commerce and industry to promote manufacturing in India under the national manufacturing policy. The meeting would also see discussion on labour law flexibilities sought by the ministry including employment of women in three shifts, temporary status of employees; flexibility to downsize; number of hours per shift; social security scheme for the work force among others. “The DIPP is already engaged with the labour ministry on amending section 25 FFF(1A) of the Industrial Dispute Act. The DIPP has said that the section should be extended to the manufacturing sector as well,” the official said. The section applies only to mining operations, saying if a mining undertaking closes down due to exhaustion of the minerals in the area, no workman shall be entitled to any notice or compensation if the employer provides him/her with alternative employment with effect from the date of closure at the same remuneration as he was entitled to receive and same terms and conditions. As Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, who will take oath as Prime Minister of the country on Monday, undertook a series of steps to make its labour laws flexible. The state amended the Industrial Disputes Act in 2004 to allow greater flexibility in the labour market for Special Economic Zones. It also allowed the firms within SEZs to lay off workers, without government approval by giving a one-month notice to the worker. By implementing such reforms, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs, Gujarat experienced a 60 per cent (Financial Express 26/5/14)

 

85. Treat Maternity Right as Women’s Birthright (8)

Maternity benefits are denied, rather than given. A study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that in a majority of countries, women are not given the ILO-recommended four weeks of leave at the minimum, with at least two-thirds of the monthly salary last drawn. It reached this conclusion after studying the maternity-related legislation in 185 countries and territories since 1994. Thus, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention is in force only in 34 per cent countries. This does not redound to the credit of the international community. One redeeming finding is that no country has cut the duration of maternity leave since 1994. Women in India are entitled to better benefits than their counterparts elsewhere. For instance, they are statutorily entitled to 14 weeks of paid leave. But in practical terms, a majority do not get such benefits. Women in government or public sector service get much better benefits than 14 weeks’ paid leave. However, in other sectors, they are cheated of maternity benefits on one pretext or another. In the sunshine Information Technology sector, they do not get any special treatment. They are not allowed flexi-time or facilities to work from home. More often than not, all that they get is annual earned leave. Often, they are forced to return to work soon after delivery. In the unorganised sector, where a majority of the working women are employed, maternity leave is unheard of. They are forced to work as agricultural and construction labour till almost their D-day and have to return to work as soon as possible. The ILO has rightly pointed out that maternity laws are, for all practical purposes, beyond the reach of a majority of Indian working women. For a country, which extended adult suffrage to women along with men and where women enjoy equality of rights, this isn’t encouraging. There is an Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, to take care of the needs of women in the unorganised sector but alas, it is rarely made use of. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

86. Modi govt to restructure MNREGA, implement land acquisition law (14)

New Delhi: Narendra Modi Government will restructure UPA’s flagship programme MNREGA by linking employment with development in rural areas and “rigorously” implement the new land acquisition law. Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who took over as the Minister for Rural Development today, said that proper implementation of recently enacted Land Acquisition law and Modi’s key electoral plank that every household will be provided sanitation and drinking water will be his priority. Munde, who is also the Minister for Panchayati Raj and Sanitation, said that the rural job scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) will be restructured to ensure development of villages and provide employment to rural poor. “I like this scheme. This scheme is best for villages. Basically, people get employment,” the Minister said about MNREGA–an ambitious Act passed by the UPA-I aiming at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household. Noting that he supported the scheme during a debate in Parliament, Munde, however, said there were “problems” in its implementation. “Proper management was a problem, proper disbursement of money was a problem. I think the MNREGA money should go to the development of villages and people should get employment. “I want to link the programme with the progress of villages. Development of villages and employment will go together,” Munde said. Asked about the Land Acquisition Act enacted by the UPA government, Munde said this was a “very good” legislation supported by BJP in Parliament. “Now this is my responsibility, this law should be implemented. I will do this rigorously. For last 20 years, people were demanding this new legislation,” he said. Asked about the industry’s concerns, he said, “The bill is passed. I am happy that implementation part has come to me.” Speaking on sanitation and drinking water, a key concern raised by Modi and Munde’s predecessor Jairam Ramesh, the minister said budgetary allocation for them should be increased further. “Present allocation is not enough. I will give a proper shape to sanitation programme. Toilets should be constructed in every rural house hold and public place as it is an issue involving the dignity of women,” he said. The new Minister said that development of 250 backward districts including 82 Naxal-affected ones would also be a priority. (Zee News 28/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

87. ‘Children of farmers who committed suicide need help’ (14)

Thane, May 21 : The Sambhaji Brigade of the Maratha Seva Sangh has come out and declared that it would help the cause of the more than 200 children of the farmers who had committed suicide in the state under utter duress. Addressing a news conference here today, Thane Divisional President Datta Chavan and State Chief Co-ordinator Somnath Navle said these children who needed care from the members of the society were presently housed in the ‘Adharteerth Ashram’ at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik. ”The children are living a cursed life and need a helping hand from the members of the society. These children, most of whom are in the age group of 4-13, need special care and need to be shown a way out of the fear that they carry with them following the suicide of their parents,” they said and added that the Brigade had taken up the task of providing for the needs of these children. Inmates of the Ashram, including around 70 to 80 girls, come from around 12-13 districts of the state where there had been suicides by farmers. ”We had sought assistance from the state government but it is still not coming through. The ministers and politicians who boasted of doing big things for the sake of the family of the farmers who had committed suicide turned their backs when it came to helping these helpless children. The children are left high and dry and hence the Brigade has taken up the task of rehabilitating the children and also identified a five acre plot for their sake. ”The children will be given courage to desist them from taking any extreme steps and bring them out of their sufferings,” they added. A Jagrut Jagran Rath Yatra of the affected children would be taken out in the state soon, they declared and said two-day programme for raising funds for the children would be held in Thane on May 24 and 25 where some 50 children will narrate their story. On this occasion, about a dozen people who have been doing exemplary work in their fields including teaching, sports, industry, and social work would be honoured with the Samaj Bushan award which comprise of citation and shawl and srifal, they said. (New Kerala 21/5/14)

 

88. Case Registered in Baby-Parasailing Incident (14)

KANNUR THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The police have registered a case on Thursday, under section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, in the controversial parasailing incident in which an 11-month-old girl was made to ride solo, violating child rights conventions, at Muzhappilangad beach on Wednesday. According to the Edakkad police, a medical check-up of the child was also performed as per the rules. The adventure sports event had drawn widespread criticism forcing the State Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Child Rights Commission to intervene in the issue. Human Rights Commission Chief Investigation Officer DIG Sreejith had recorded the statements of the parents of the child on Wednesday evening. Kerala State Women’s Commission member Noorbeena Rasheed deplored the incident and said that the commission will take action as it involved the violation of rights of the child. The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) has suo motu registered a case in which a 11-month-old baby was sent on a solo para-sailing trip by her parents. The Commission issued notices to Kannur Range Inspector-General, Kannur District Collector and secretary of District Tourism Promotion Council asking them to submit a report within a week. The Commission has sought details of rules governing such para-sailing trips, permissions if any, safety precautions, the condition of the child at present.  The child rights panel has also sought details of cases if any registered in connection with the incident. (New Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

89. RPF rescues 456 kids from train in Kerala (14)

Kochi: The Railway Protection Force took into custody 456 minors who were being brought in the Patna-Ernakulam Express when it reached Palakkad Junction on Saturday. The cops initially suspected that some of them were brought to be employed in hotels and shops. There were nearly 20 grown-ups along with them and they told the police that the children were inmates of an orphanage (Yathimkhana) in Mukkom and that they were returning from their native place after summer vacation. “They were all children from other states and had boarded from Badhpur near Patna. However, 150 children have no required documents to show that they are inmates of the centre teaching Arabic and other subjects. The others have no documents. We suspect they were brought here for child labour,” said a Railway Protection Force officer. The children were accommodated at the mobilisation room. Palakkad district collector K. Ramachandran and top police officials reached the station. “About 150 students have no documents with them. We’re shifting them to Muttikulangara government school as an immediate measure. An inquiry will be conducted based on which further action will be taken,” the collector said. When contacted, Mr Muhammed Haji, vice-president of the Mukkom Muslim Orphanage, said about 400 of the 1,200 inmates of the institution are from other states. “A total 210 students had gone back for summer holidays on April 8 and 12.” (Asian Age 25/5/14)

 

90. What to do when you come across missing children (14)

Madurai: Crowds that thronged the Tamukkam Grounds on Sunday evening to enjoy the Chithirai Exhibition were exposed to an important social issue. To mark the ‘International Day for Missing Children’ the District Child Protection Unit and Madurai Childline, in association with the Department of Social Defence, organised an innovative awareness programme there. “The public is often at a loss on how to handle a situation when they are faced with missing children who are either runaway or trafficked. The Childline has been set up specifically to help peoplelodge a complaint or seek help if needed,” said District Child Protection Officer M. Vijayalakshmi. The awareness programme had dance performances set to folk songs as well as a number of skits which threw light on issues of child abuse, trafficking and child labour. “The skits were performed to inform the public on how to react when they are faced with such situations. They are required to contact the Childline at ‘1098,’ the nearest police station or the District Child Protection Unit,” she said. The audience was given pamphlets with details of the Childline and the nodal agencies to contact in the case of issues related to children. Officials from the District Child Protection Unit said they had rescued three child labourers in the city last month and had taken up the issue up with the Child Welfare Committee in the district. “We booked cases against owners of the shops that employed them and made them sign an undertaking that they will never employ minors. After the children are handed over to their parents in such cases, we do the follow-up and make sure that they continue their schooling,” an official also said. The Madurai Childline is functioning in coordination with Sakthi-Vidyal, a non-governmental organisation run by Jim Jesudoss, who is also the chairman of Child Welfare Committee. Apart from handling distress calls and coordinating rescue efforts, the Childline also has a unit functioning in the Madurai Institute of Social Sciences for counselling children. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

91. Trafficking of children: Railway police yet to make breakthrough (14)

Palakkad: The Government Railway Police have not made much headway in the investigation into the suspected case of trafficking in of 589 children to the State. The railway police had detained the children who arrived in two trains at the Palakkad Junction railway station on Saturday and Sunday. Investigators have failed to get details from eight persons from Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, arrested on Monday under Section 370 (5) of the Indian Penal Code on the charge of trafficking in the children, below the age of 12. As the children speak local dialects of Bengali and Bihari, efforts of the investigators to elicit basic information such as their native place have not yielded result. Talking to The Hindu, railway police inspector M. Manu said the investigators had reasons to suspect that many of the children were from migrant families from Bangladesh. “Some of the children told us that they were refugees from Bangladesh who live in near total starvation. Poverty may have driven their parents to sell the children to those who brought them here,” he said. The railway police ruled out claims of the two orphanages in Kozhikode and Malappuram that the children were orphans and being taken to Kerala to ensure better education and other basic facilities. The police were also investigating the child labour angle and whether they were destined for schools facing division fall. Fr. Jose Paul, chairman of District Child Welfare Committee, said the children, which included infants, did not have mandatory documents such as admission papers and certificates related to birth, age, income etc. Though the arrested belonged to villages in Bhagalpur and Bankha districts in Bihar, Khodda district in Jharkhand, and Malda in West Bengal, the police believe the children may not be from these areas. Meanwhile, 73 children from the first batch were handed over to the District Child Welfare Committee in Kozhikode on Sunday. The committee was earlier entrusted with the task of safekeeping 156 children from the first batch. All the children from the second batch were handed over to the child welfare committee in Malappuram. The rest were at two shelters at Pezhumkara and Malampuzha. (The Hindu 28/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

92. 2300 courtrooms added in 3 years, law ministry tells SC (19)

NEW DELHI: The law ministry has informed a high-level committee of the Supreme Court that at least 2,300 courtrooms were added in the last three years across the country, enough for augmenting the strength of the judiciary in subordinate courts to bring down pendency of cases. Senior SC judge, Justice H L Dattu, heading the apex court’s committee on court management, met senior officials of the law ministry on Monday to review the situation on court infrastructure in different parts of the country and increasing judges’ strength. The review assumes significance considering that Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha had a day before expressed concern saying judiciary had suffered due to lack of financial resources. The CJI had said that “less than 0.5% of the central budget is spent on judiciary”. The CJI was critical of the government as he said judiciary was accorded lower priority in its budget exercise. He pointed out how in the 2014-15 budget, out of a total expenditure of Rs 17.60 lakh crore, only 0.11% was allocated for judiciary. Sources in the law ministry, however, said fund allocation was not the only the reason behind lack of court infrastructure in some states. A number of states like Punjab, Gujarat and Delhi have augmented their court infrastructure and significantly brought down their pendency of cases. The government has cleared a proposal for augmenting the strength the subordinate judiciary by over 1,400 — from current sanctioned strength of 18,000 judges to 19,421. Similarly, for high courts, the government has approved increasing the sanctioned strength from 906 at present to over 1,100. Sources said the apex court would soon initiate recruitment of additional judges for the subordinate courts so that pendency could be restricted. Subordinate courts account for over 2.5 crore cases out of a total of 3.2 crore pending. (Times of India 21/5/14)

 

93. Why not change vote counting process? SC asks Centre (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre why it had slept over the Election Commission’s five-year-old suggestion to amend the law to stop revealing EVM-wise vote garnered by candidates in an election. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana had entertained a PIL filed by advocate Yogesh Gupta, who had cited the alleged poll-eve threat by Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar to cut off water and electricity supply to a Baramati village if the residents did not vote for his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule. Though Sharad Pawar’s daughter won by 70,000 votes over a political greenhorn, it remains to be seen whether Ajit Pawar carries out his threat after the elections. But the potential for mischief by politicians had made the bench seek answers from the EC on not making the vote count of every EVM machine public. The bench even recalled the good old days when ballot papers from all booths were mixed before counting. The EC, through its counsel V Anantha Raman, told the bench that the commission agreed with the essence of the PIL and had in 2008 sent a recommendation to the Centre to amend Rule 66A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 to stop exposing voters from possible backlash from politicians humbled in the polls. It also said poll-eve threat to voters was not something new. “The EC, after receiving certain complaints from certain quarters with regard to threats received by voters of certain areas, has entered into correspondence with the Union of India suggesting amendment of the rules so that adequate precautionary steps/measures can be taken in counting,” Raman said. He added that the EC has been requesting the Centre for machines capable of ‘cluster counting’, which would connect to 15 EVMs at a time and give out total votes polled by each candidate in the fray. “This would not reveal which segment or locality voted for which candidate,” he said. The court allowed petitioner’s counsel Vaibhav Sehgal to make Union of India a party within a week. “After the competent authority of Union of India is added as a party respondent, the registry is directed to issue notice to the newly impleaded respondent, returnable within four weeks,” the bench ordered. “The competent authority of Union of India is directed to file its response so that the steps taken by the government can be made clear to the commission, and accordingly, if required, appropriate steps can be taken,” the bench said while posting the matter for further hearing on July 7. “In the present form of declaration of results, political parties become aware of the wards where they have not been voted and where they have got maximum votes. The present form of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for registration of false cases based on political vendetta against persons who have not voted for the victorious parties,” the petitioner had said. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

94. Court issues directive to Centre over PIL on Delhi statehood status (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed the Central government to apprise it on whether the constitutional amendments granting “partial statehood” to Delhi had been challenged in any court of law. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw issued the directions on a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, which has sought to declare Article 239AA and 239 AB of the Constitution, as ultra vires.   During the hearing, the court raised the question of whether the amendment had been challenged before any other court of law. “This system has been in place for decades. Has it been challenged till date?” asked the court. “While the Constitution talks only of states as the primary unit of the Union, with a small area being placed among the UTs which possibly were found not fit to be governed through separate states and/or needed to be governed directly by the Union, these Articles 239AA and 239AB create such Constitutional entities which are neither states nor UTs and are hence a structure completely unknown in the Indian Constitution,” the plea states. According to Bansal, the status of Delhi as a “half-state” was “violative of the federal structure”, which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. “In the case of Delhi, while the executive and legislative power remains with the Union, it simultaneously has also been provided to the UT council of ministers and the UT legislature…That thus there are simultaneously two executives for the same territorial region of Delhi without very definite division of authority and functioning. The same is true of the legislature because both the Parliament and the UT legislature are simultaneously operating in Delhi,” the plea states. (Indian Express 23/5/14)

 

95. Death penalty: Law panel seeks views (19)

NEW DELHI: India had an execution free run for eight years before the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru last year. The Supreme Court, which has averted at least 19 imminent executions in recent past, has asked the Law Commission to undertake a study and suggest whether capital punishment should be retained in certain category like terror incidents or should be abolished all together. On Friday, the law panel floated a consultation paper inviting comments before finalizing its recommendation. The panel in its paper has cited different standards adopted by the judiciary and the executive while treating death penalty. “While the standard applied by the judiciary is that of the rarest of rare principle, the standard applied by the executive in granting commutation is not known,” it said while emphasizing the need for an informed debate on the issue. Despite the fact that the United Nations had adopted a resolution calling upon countries to establish a moratorium on executions and abolish death penalty, India is one of the 59 countries which still retain the capital punishment. The SC has also asked the Law panel to look into UN resolution and examine “whether death penalty is a deterrent punishment or is retributive justice or serves an incapacitative goal.” The commission proposes to collect death penalty related data from various trial courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court. Prison authorities will also be requested for data on death row conditions, the paper said. The commission may also involve various law schools to conduct qualitative and quantitative research on various death penalty themes. (Times of India 25/5/14)

 

96. Lokpal & judges bill on Prasad table (19)

New Delhi, May 27: Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today said the government might revisit the Lok Pal act and a bill that seeks to give the executive a say in the appointment of judges but avoided a direct reply on the new regime’s stand on homosexuality. Prasad, who is also in charge of telecom, said the right investment climate would be created for attracting foreign direct investment. But the Union minister, who assumed charge this morning and was closeted with law secretary P.K. Malhotra and other department officials for over an hour before he met reporters, asserted that the BJP-led government would not brook “corruption, extraneous factors and influence” in the name of foreign investment. Prasad, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, said a national judicial commission was part of “our manifesto” and the new government would, if needed, take a fresh look at the bill, which has been passed in the Rajya Sabha and needs clearance from the Lok Sabha. “It is part of our manifesto to have a national judicial commission. Surely, we will go through the existing instrument and if there is a need for (improvement), we may consider it,” he told reporters. The bill, which relates to appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, seeks to replace, among others, the collegium system in which judges appoint judges. The proposed commission that the bill envisages will include the Prime Minister, the leader of Opposition and eminent jurists, apart from judges. Asked about the anti-graft Lok Pal law, Prasad said he would have to “go into” the details of the act. “It has been passed in the House after final improvements by the select panel. In my new role as the Union law minister, I will look into it,” he said. Prasad said the government would give top priority to promoting arbitration and conciliation as alternative systems to address disputes to avoid clogging and to create a favourable investment climate. He also voiced the new government’s opposition to imposing retrospective tax on overseas deals. Asked whether he endorsed the previous government’s decision to apply retrospective tax on companies like Vodafone — a dispute that reached the Supreme Court — he said retrospective taxation should be “avoided… because India needs investment”. “Our manifesto is clear, we want a stable regime. Those who invest in India must have an assurance of a stable, fiscal policy and legal regime. But any wrongdoing, corruption or extraneous reason will be visited very seriously.” The minister said “improvement of infrastructure, creation of more courts, more computerisation, more judges and also creating all other enabling atmosphere to improve access to justice” would be high-priority areas. “For good governance, good legal access is essential. We will work in this direction,” he said. On the gay sex law, however, Prasad appeared evasive. “We will have to examine the Supreme Court judgment. I will have to examine what is the nature of the government’s direction,” he said, asked whether the government was opposed to the deletion of Section 377 under which gay sex is a criminal offence. The penal code section has become a contentious issue after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutional validity but granted the government liberty to delete the provision. The previous UPA government did not accept the gauntlet thrown down by the apex court. Prasad said the government would shortly constitute a special investigation team in accordance with the apex court’s directive to unearth black money stashed abroad. “(Unearthing) black money is part of our manifesto. A proper SIT for unearthing the black money will be set up. The black money issue is our priority area,” he said. On ending capital punishment, Prasad said the government has to take into consideration judgments from the apex court and views of various sections of the society. (The Telegraph 28/5/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

97. Farm bodies plan agitation against Punjab govt (20)

AMRITSAR: In the wake of increase in the number of farmer suicide cases from Malwa region, several farm sector organizations have decided to launch an agitation against the government seeking fulfillment of their demands. General secretary of the Border Area Sangarash Committee Rattan Singh Randhawa said at least 10 such incidents have been reported from Bathinda, Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa districts between April 10 and May 10, forcing the organizations to start a fight for the fulfillment of farmers’ demands. The number of suicides, however, could not be officially confirmed. Randhawa alleged that the government downplayed the issue and has never given a true picture of the situation. He said in many cases the family members didn’t even report the incident due to social pressure. The farmer organizations are unhappy with the government scheme of granting Rs 2 lakh compensation to the kin of the person who committed suicide. They also want the government to exclude rich farmers from the free electricity scheme. General secretary of BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said, “Rs 2 lakh is too little for the family members of the deceased.” According to him, one of the major reasons for the farmers committing suicides is harassment by bank employees and money lenders. “Suicides will never end by arresting farmers, auctioning their properties and humiliating them in public. It has to be stopped immediately as first preventive measure,” he stated. Giving reference to the Punjab Land Reforms Act under which a family unit (husband, wife and children) couldn’t own more than 17.5 acres of fertile agricultural land, he said official figures state that there is about 17 lakh acre surplus land. “This land should be distributed among landless farmers and farm laborers,” he said. He added that the BKU (Ugrahan) was also in favour of levying income tax on rich farmers, withdrawing free electricity facility and subsidies from them. Punjab agriculture secretary K S Pannu said a survey by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; and Punjabi University, Patiala had stated that about 4,800 farmers had committed suicide between 2000 and 2011. “A policy for framing a scheme regarding financial assistance and other relief to farmers would be ready within three months,” he added. (Times of India 22/5/14)

 

98. Agriculture: Invest in irrigation and tech, help farmer earn better (20)

Nearly two-thirds of India’s population still depends on agriculture for its livelihood, yet only 14% of the country’s GDP comes from this sector. Obviously, agriculture is being forced to support far more people than it can. That is why over 9 million people left farming and the number of landless labourers increased by 36% in the past decade. Yet, agriculture is essential to ensure food security for the country. Although food production has touched new highs in recent years, productivity needs to increase rapidly if anticipated future needs are to be met. Increase productivity (yields) of food grains, vegetables and other cash crops, which lag behind international benchmarks; for this, end dependence on rain by massively expanding irrigation network, provide better seeds and other inputs, ensure soil health and boost local varieties. Strengthen agri-extension services to deliver new technologies and modern inputs to farmers. Modi has used some of this in Gujarat with good effect. Develop agricultural markets with deep linkages with small producers, including transport infrastructure, as well as infrastructure for storage and warehousing, including cold chains. Ensure remunerative prices to farmers and competitive wages for agricultural labourers. Implement thoroughgoing land reforms to unleash the potential of small landholders and the landless; 67% of land is held by small, marginal and semimedium farmers with holdings of less than 4 hectares, there were 8.6 crore landless labourer households in India in 2011; this is the force that land reforms can tap into. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

99. Loan waiver to put a burden of Rs.1,500 cr. in Medak (20)

SANGAREDDY: Loan waiver to benefit 2.9 lakh farmers. It will put burden of Rs.1500 cr. on State exchequer in Medak district. Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao, during his campaign, had promised to waive farming loans up to Rs. 1 lakh. As the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is all set to form the government in Telangana state on or after the ‘appointed date’, i.e. June 2, the famers in the region are eagerly waiting for Chief Minister designate K. Chandrasekhar Rao to sign the file related to the loan waiver. The loan waiver would be a great relief for farming community in general and Medak in particular, where 113 famers had committed suicide last year alone. It was estimated that about 2,200 farmers had taken the extreme step since 1995 in the district and in the last six months the figure touched about 30. Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao, during his campaign, had promised to waive farming loans up to Rs. 1 lakh. According to officials, the loan waiver would benefit about 2.9 lakh famers of the about 4 lakh famers in the district. Various banks in the district have extended loans to the tune of about Rs. 1,300 crore last financial year. Most of the farmers had stopped repayment of loans with the hope that that the new government would waive their loans. Officials are putting the total burden due to loan waiver at about Rs. 1,500 crore. Actually the tendency of farmers not repaying bank loans started after Telugu Desam party president N. Chandrabau Naidu made the promise of farm loan waiver during ‘Meekosam’ visit in November 2012. “Mr. Naidu asked the farmers not to pay the farm loans stating that he would waive them after coming to power. This made the farmers to hold back repayment with a hope that all the parties will follow him. Actually that was what happened with almost all major parties announcing the same decision,” said a bank officer on condition of anonymity stating that the actual figures come out when a policy decision was taken. (The Hindu 23/5/14)

 

100. Fall in prices of tea leaves puts farmers in a quandary (20)

KATTAPPANA: The sudden fall in the prices of green tea leaves has put small-scale tea growers in a crisis in the prime season beginning with the summer rain. The factories of main tea estates, the sole agencies that procure green tea leaves, are collecting the leaves at Rs.6 to 7 a kg as against the previous price of Rs.16 a kg. There are an estimated 12,000 small-scale tea growers who provide tea leaves to the factories. The factories sometimes reject the leaves, leaving farmers with no other option but to abandon the plucked leaves. Small-scale Tea Growers Federation State chairman Y.C. Stephen told The Hindu that there were a number of farmers in areas such as Calvery Mount, Upputhara, Kunjithanny and Bison Valley. In areas where there were no procuring agencies, the farmers themselves transported the leaves to the factories. If the transportation got delayed, the bundle would become unfit for use. He said that had the three factories proposed for small-scale tea growers in the Idukki Package were set up, it would have come as a solution to their woes. Even if the leaves were rejected by the factories, the farmers had to pluck the leaves in time to maintain the plants.P.P. Mathew, a farmer at Upputhara, said they got the highest yield in the two plucking after the summer rain. If a farmer got 500-kg yield in the two plucking after the summer rain, the entire yield during the year might not cross more than twice that. Farmers usually plucked leaves by hand every 15 days and if it was machine cutting, it would take 40 days for the next yield, he said. Njanasikhamani, a farmer at Valardi, said the farmers had to suffer losses if the tea leaves were sold to distant factories as they had to bear the transportation cost. Shiby, a farmer at Thankamani, said the factories kept the rate at as low as Rs.3 a kg while the prices of tea dust remained high, he said. Mr. Stephen said farmers did not get financial aid for natural calamities as growing tea came under the Industries Department. He said the small-scale tea growers should be brought under the Agriculture Department and a minimum price should be ensured for the green leaves. (The Hindu 26/5/14)

 

101. Vidarbha farm widows await concrete steps by Narendra Modi on agrarian crisis (20)

Nagpur: Hundreds of farm widows from Vidarbha have huge expectations of a relief and rehabilitation package from the newly-elected BJP government at the Centre to combat the agrarian crisis in the region. Some widows who were indirectly a part of ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ on March 9 this year at village Dabhadi of Vidarbha region during the election campaign, have brought to notice core issues like cost, credit and crop failure resulting in deep distress and despair among farmers. Bebitai Bais President Vidarbha Farm Widows Association (VFWA) said, “More than 10,000 innocent people affected by Vidarbha agrarian crisis due to crop failure of their main cash crop cotton and poor market price since 2004 have seen an era of farm suicides, which is spiralling.” Those affected are still awaiting relief of family pension, land right restoration ,food-health and education security and right to live with respect and dignity. We hope Modiji will provide the much needed healing touch as promised in the manifesto,” farm widow of KBC fame Aprana Malikar and Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti said in a communication here. The Samiti has urged adoption of minimum support price (MSP) formula recommended by the National Commission of Farmers and also keep promises of giving fresh crop loan to crisis ridden, debt trapped and distressed farmers. They are also expecting that the Centre will revamp the mechanism of fixing MSP acknowledging that farmers are not benefiting by the current policy. We hope the long pending demand of cotton farmers will be fulfilled but the experience of cotton farmers in the last NDA government was disappointing as it allowed free import of more than 20 million cotton bales and entry of MNCs in the agriculture sector in the name technology, Tiwari added. (Business Standard 28/5/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

102. Monsoon readiness makes food security top Agriculture Ministry agenda (21)

NEW DELHI: Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth will review the country’s preparedness for a poor monsoon during the crucial khari planting season as well as other issues relating to India’s food security at a meeting with top bureaucrats today. The issues are likely to be on top of the new government’s agenda as weak rainfall can hit farm output and increase food inflation, which had shot up to 20% in 2009 after a drought and remained stubbornly high after that. Agricultural secretary Ashish Bahuguna and Anup Kumar Thakur , secretary department of animal husbandry, are expected to attend the meeting. Sources said officials have prepared presentations on drought preparedness in the wake of forecasts that El Nino would disrupt the monsoon, and another on the future growth of agriculture sector in the country. The IMD has already forecast a weak monsoon and said it is closely monitoring the El Nino phenomenon, which is associated with changes in surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific that lead to floods or drought in different parts of the world. “The government’s top priority as it takes over is to ensure that prices of essential commodity remain stable. In this regard the agriculture ministry will have to work to make sure that food production is not badly hit by the weather as monsoon rainfall is likely to be weak this year,” said a government official. (Economic Times 21/5/14)

 

103. Haryana govt cancels licenses of 14 PDS depot holders (21)

Chandigarh: Haryana government today cancelled licenses of 14 depot holders in a drive against irregularities in distribution of essential commodities under the targeted Public Distribution System. “State Food and Supplies Department has cancelled licenses of 14 depot holders and forfeited security deposit of 15 dealers worth Rs. 36,500,” an official spokesman said here. A police case was also registered against a depot holder, he said. Essential commodities are being provided to people through 9,218 fair price shops in the state, he said, adding of the total fair price shops in the state, 6,524 are located in the rural areas and 2,694 in urban areas. As many as 77 fair price shops are located near industrial units and 22 near schools or hostels, he said. (Hindustan Times 21/5/14)

 

104. 84% Delhi students confident of India’s growth: survey (21)

New Delhi: About 84% of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Delhi NCR feel that India’s growth story will remain intact in future and thus prefer to settle in the country for better career prospects, says a survey conducted by the research bureau of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The remaining 16% are of the view that moving abroad would help them repay their education loans and attain good finances and better living standards for themselves. The study, titled Youth Economics: Career Expectations Survey, was undertaken during November 2013-February 2014 to understand the perception of students in terms of their career expectations, sources of income and managing finances. About 3,000 students that included undergraduates and postgraduates across colleges in Delhi NCR participated in the survey. It revealed that students are grappling with multiple challenges such as lack of financial resources for pursuing education vis-à-vis ever increasing prices and lack of employment opportunities. Regarding their plans for career development, 55% of the respondents said that after completing their graduation/postgraduation, they want to become self-sustainable financially as early as possible, while 29% of the respondents were thinking about going for further studies. Twelve per cent wanted to start their own venture while 4% said they would want to join their family business. Of the total job aspirants, around 44% of the students said  that they would prefer private sector jobs for excellent growth opportunities, fabulous remuneration packages and challenging roles. While 36% respondents preferred government jobs as they were in favour of a good combination of job security and privileges, stability and satisfaction. The remaining 20% surveyed students did not differentiate between  public or private sector jobs. According to the survey, about 16% students borrowed money to meet their day-to-day expenses due to high inflation. About 53% of them have curtailed expenditures by 35% in times of inflationary pressures in terms of food, clothing, transportation and entertainment while 14% of the students opted for part time jobs and tuitions; 12% of them used previous savings. However, 5% of the respondent students said there is hardly any impact on their finances during the times of high inflation.

The survey reveals that a large share of the students (73%) were found to be financially dependent on their parents, while 19% of the students were dependent on scholarships or stipends, part time jobs like assisting accounts, giving tuitions etc and the remaining 8% were dependent on small home-based businesses like trading, direct selling etc. As per the survey, almost all the students felt that volatility in global and domestic economic scenario have impacted their career planning. (Hindustan Times 22/5/14)

 

105. Central African children fleeing to Cameroon: UN (21)

New York, May 24 : Nearly 30 children – the youngest a baby – died in the past month fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations refugee agency on Friday confirmed, renewing its appeal for USD 22 million in urgently-needed funds to help the growing number of people taking “a journey of starvation and death” in search of safety in Cameroon. “Since mid-April, the rate of deaths among refugee children has been particularly high,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the agency (UNHCR) said in Geneva. Between 14 April and 18 May, at least 29 children died, most of them at therapeutic feeding centres, which they reached gravely ill. “Dehydration, hypothermia and severe anaemia had been the main causes of death,” said Edwards. Acute malnutrition rates are up for the groups arriving in Cameroon. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 25 per cent are malnourished, as compared with a global emergency threshold of 15 per cent. UNHCR added that in the worst-affected area of Gbiti, about 400 kilometers east of Yaounde, the severe malnutrition rates among new arrivals is close to 40 per cent. Since early December, refugees from CAR have been arriving in Cameroon, many of them after having walked for weeks through the treacherous bush. At present there are at least 85,000 refugees in some 300 villages. WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said the situation of refugees and third country nationals in Cameroon was “dramatic” and living conditions in camps were likely to deteriorate with the onset of the rainy season. Arrivals apparently decreased last month after anti-Balaka militias, who had attacked refugees along the way, blocked the main roads leading to Cameroon. Edwards said “the journey people were making from CAR is a journey of starvation and death.” A number of people were severely wounded, he added. Some with knife cuts, gunshot wounds, and people arriving in an extremely poor physical shape, often a result of having lived in bushes for weeks. The UNHCR has requested USD 22.6 million for its programmes, of which only USD 4.2 million have so far been received. In addition, the Regional Refugee Response Plan for CAR, which includes UNHCR and 14 partners in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, is only 12 per cent funded at present. Meanwhile, an eight-month emergency feeding operation in Cameroon at USD 15.6 million has so far not received any contributions, according to WFP. Fighting in CAR has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature following a 2012 rebel-led coup and has since become more brutal with reports of ongoing human rights violations and clashes that have left 2.2 million in need of humanitarian aid. Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in CAR, had called on the anti-Balaka militia to lay down their arms, and on the opposition, former Seleka fighters, to enter the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Support from the international community would be in vain if the parties did not act responsibly for the long-term stability of the country, a UN spokesperson said on his behalf. (New Kerala 25/5/14)

 

106. Food security experts to submit action plan to new NDA govt (21)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Setting an agenda for food security with focus on toxic chemicals-free organic farming, noted trade and food security experts led by Vandana Shiva and Devinder Sharma are on a mission to prepare a comprehensive action plan on food security, which will be presented to the new government at the Centre. “We must have a national mission to grow more food. When every fourth Indian is hungry and every second child is malnourished, we have a major food and nutrition crisis. Growing more of Monsanto’s Bt Cotton or hybrid corn is not a solution to hunger,” said Vandana Shiva. “We must lower costs of production to reduce farmers’ debt and suicides – 2, 84,000 suicides is an emergency and it should be addressed as one. This means organic farming which is good for the environment and people’s health should be encouraged. Instead of bringing in big corporations through FDI in retail, we must create diversified markets, to promote fresh food. Every village, every town must have farmers markets to get rid of the middle men – including the corporates,” she added. “If corporate lobbyists and neo liberal economists have their way, the new government’s food and agriculture policies will be a clone of the policies of the UPA government. We will have more farmers’ suicides, more unemployment, higher food prices, junk food and disease. Crisis of prices and jobs will deepen, ” said Vandana Shiva. Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma, who chairs the New Delhi-based forum for biotechnology and food security, said any move to reduce import duties on fruits, vegetables and dairy products so as to augment supplies would ruin the market for indigenous products and affect the livelihood of farmers here. “Import duty cut is what the European Union is demanding under the on-going EU-India Free Trade Agreement negotiations. It will only flood India with cheaper and highly subsidized imports,” he said. “Higher import duty on imports with subsidies to farmers and setting up an income commission to ensure income to farmers, should form part of the new government’s food security, agriculture and trade policy,” said Devinder Sharma. “Ensuring a corruption-free Food Corporation of India (FCI) regime, an effective public distribution system, insulating farmers from vagaries of agrarian crisis by offering fair price, income guarantee for farmers and sustainable agro-ecological farming to ensure safe food free from toxic chemicals for consumers should be the agenda for the action plan on food security by the new government,” said Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture steering committee member Sridhar Radhakrishnan. While, Vignana Bharathi’s national science movement secretary general A Jaikumar said a meeting was held with food security experts including Vandana Shiva last week to chalk out a background paper on the action plan, which would set the agenda for a new paradigm shift towards food and agriculture security. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

RESERVATION

107. Third gender awaits admission in universities, colleges (25)

LUCKNOW: Even after the Supreme Court on April 15 recognised transgender people as the third gender, they are yet to avail opportunities in education. Despite the formal recognition, neither Lucknow University nor the two prominent colleges – National PG and Isabella Thoburn (IT) are liberal to the third gender when it comes to pursuing higher education. Speaking to TOI, LU admission coordinator for UG courses, Prof Praveen Naggar said, Discussions were held whether to offer transgender as a third option for applicants. It was finally turned down in the absence of a government notification.” Any transgender seeking admission in LU will have to choose male or female as their gender. According to the judgment, the third gender can now be admitted to campuses and work places under the third category and will be given reservation as OBCs. Similarly, National PG College that kicked off its admission process on May 6 too didn’t offer the third gender as an option. We had a detailed talk on the topic. We had almost finalized to include it but there was no formal notification from the government. The government should initiate action,” said Rakesh Jain, admission coordinator, NPGC. IT College, however, showed no interest to include the third gender option. College principal Vinita Prakash said, We did not think about it. At least this year, we are not including it. May be from the next academic session, the third gender option will appear in the application form.”The exclusion of transgender in the campuses has come as a disappointment for the community. The transgender community has been marginalized for a very long. I feel some advocacy needs to be done. Community based organizations will approach as a consortium to the government and seek inclusion in universities and colleges,” said Arif Jafar of Bharosa trust that closely works with LGBT community. Jafar added that there are quite a number of third gender who are eager to study. The society is opening up. Earlier, transgender people were not considered part of mainstream society. There has been discrimination in early school and so there was no question of higher studies till now.”(Times of India 20/5/14)

 

108. ‘Riots, reservation and ration cards cost Samajwadi Party dear’ (25)

BAREILLY: For Samajwadi Party, it’s time to introspect. An outfit which did exceptionally well in 2012 (during assembly elections) had to face the wrath of the same people two years later. Apart from the “Modi factor”, three ‘R’s: riots, reservation and ration cards contributed immensely in the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, feel senior leaders. The youth, in particular the educated ones, who voted overwhelmingly for a new SP leadership under the foreign-educated Akhilesh Yadav, became its worst critic when the state public service commission introduced the policy of three-tier reservation for OBCs in government jobs. A scenario like the anti-Mandal movement of the 90s gripped the entire state with eastern part being worst affected. At this moment, support for the disgruntled sections of the student community came only from the saffron party, whose leaders even went to jail during the anti-reservation movement in 2013.Talking to TOI, BJP leader Yogesh Shukla, who went to jail after sharing platform with anti-reservationists, said, “For youth who had been lured into the SP fold with doles of laptops, tablets and unemployment allowances, it was the worst nightmare come true. Thanks to the court which intervened and forced the state government to withdraw the controversial decision.” But it wasn’t just the general category which drifted away from the SP. Even the OBCs blamed the government for failing to live up to its promise, said Shukla. Commenting on the development, sociologist Ashish Joshi said, “Reservation in government jobs turns best friends into bitter rivals. This time, it was the state government which earned the wrath of the student community from both reserved and general category.” The SP’s failure to implement the Food Security Act and its decision to clamp down on preparation of ration cards in the state till the conclusion of parliamentary elections hurt the middle class and poorer sections of the society. This was the period from 2013 onwards when public distribution system of the state came to a grinding halt with no new ration cards being prepared. While talking to TOI, SP’s national general secretary Rewati Raman Singh hesitatingly accepted, “There was a yearning for change among the masses and Modi occupied the centre-stage in this paradigm shift in the mind of voters. But this does not mean that our government faltered on any front.” As regards to the three ‘R’s, he said, “It was the saffron party and its frontal organizations which fomented communal trouble and we acted with alacrity in controlling it. On the issue of preparation of ration cards and implementation of Food Security Act, the central government was not willing to shoulder the responsibility of providing funds. Moreover, there was no categorization of people living below poverty line. But one must also realize that we were the first to waive the irrigation tax on farmers in the state and provided them uninterrupted supply of fertilizers and manure round-the-year from 2012.”.. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

109. Court annuls ZP member’s caste certificate (25)

Madikeri: Complainant K J Dundappa demands ZP membership suspension and withdrawal of facilities provided under ST quota. The Madikeri AC Court has annulled the caste certificate (Marata, ST) of Kodagu Zilla Panchayat Member S N Rajarao. Based on the report submitted by Civil Rights Enforcement Directorate Additional Director General of Police, AC Abhiram G Shankar has passed the order suspending the caste certificate on May 17. The copy of the order is with the Deccan Herald. Questioning the caste certificate produced by Rajarao, Meda/Gauriga Kshemabhivridi Sangha President K J Dundappa had approached the court and had urged to suspend the membership of Rajarao. Bhagamandala constituency was reserved for ST during ZP election in 2010. The BJP had fielded Rajarao. K J Dundappa from Meda/Gauriga community was his opponent. During the election Rajarao had submitted a caste certificate stating that he belongs to Marata community in Kodagu. Objecting to the caste certificate, Dundappa had claimed that Marata community comes under ST in Kodagu. Maharashtra Kshatriya community comes under 3B category. Inspite of belonging to Maharashtra Kshatriya community, Rajarao had submitted a false caste certificate. Following the writ in the High Court, the court had directed the Civil Rights Enforcement Directorate Additional Director General of Police to probe into it. Based on the report, the court had directed the committe under Deputy Commissioner to look into the issue. Following the direction, Mysore ADGP had visited the district and submitted a report on May 17. Complainant K J Dundappa said “my son Suresh had contested from Koodige ZP constituency in 2005. Rajarao had contested as a Congress candidate. (From 2010, Rajarao is in BJP). He had submitted ST caste certificate. I have been fighting since then. Criminal case should be filed for submitting false caste certificate. The facilities enjoyed in the name of ST should be withdrawn and ZP membership should be suspended.” (Deccan Herald 25/5/14)

 

110. Forum Smells Corruption in G’barga Varsity Recruitment (25)

GULBARGA:  The Hyderabad Karnataka Pradeshada Horatagala Samanvaya Samiti has alleged that Gulbarga University Vice-Chancellor E T Puttaiah passed an order for recruitment of 53 teaching posts without following reservation rules under Article 371(J) of the Constitution. However, Puttaiah refuted the allegation saying all norms have been followed. As per the Article, 80 per cent of the posts should be reserved for candidates of Hyderabad Karnataka. Samiti president Lakshman Dasti told reporters here on Sunday that the Samiti members will stage an indefinite dharna at the university from May 29 till Puttaiah withdraws the order and passes a fresh one to recruit as per the provisions of the article. Dasti alleged that the V-C, whose term ends in a month, passed the recruitment order illegally and encouraged corruption. As per a government order, a Vice-Chancellor whose term ends in three months cannot pass a recruitment order, he said. Dasti alleged that Puttaiah did not follow the reservation criteria properly since most of the seats have been allotted to SC/STs, the other categories did not get jobs. He also alleged that of the 388 vacant teaching and non-teaching posts, the university is filling up only 53 teaching posts. Puttaiah on the other hand refuted the allegations and said no rule was violated in the recruitment drive. When Express asked him about the 53 recruitments without following the reservation criteria, Puttaiah said that when he took over as V-C in 2010, he found that not many were recruited in the past 25 years. So, he asked the officials concerned to list out the vacant posts and he wrote to the state government to fill 143 teaching posts and about 200 non-teaching posts. The Finance Department of the state government, Puttaiah said, informed the Higher Education Department in February 2013 that it would permit the recruitment of only teaching staff, and that too just 53 out of the 143 posts. The university was then informed and the recruitment order was passed. Puttaiah said that as per the State Universities Act, V-Cs can pass recruitment orders even on the last day of their term. On allegation of not following the reservation rule, he said each department was allotted only one or two posts and hence local SC or ST candidates were given priority as per the government rules. Local people of other castes will be given priority for the remaining posts, he said. (New Indian Express 26/5/14)

 

111. Minorities 4.5% sub-quota as good as dead? (25)

NEW DELHI: With the advent of Narendra Modi, it may well be the end of ‘Muslim quota’ promulgated by the Congress. Social justice minister Thavarchand Gehlot told TOI that the BJP government was opposed to 4.5% sub-quota for minorities because it was reservation based on religion which was “unconstitutional”. Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah also said she was opposed to minority reservation because quota killed the “spirit of competition”.The strident calls may end the Centre’s aggressive stance to fight the quota case in the Supreme Court where it is awaiting review. The sub-quota was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Centre had filed a review in the apex court. If the upfront opposition from the newly-appointed BJP ministers is any indication, the Centre may reverse its stance or even withdraw the review petition from the apex court. The comments from Gehlot and Heptullah indicate that both ministries, which powered the sub-quota, appear set to renege on the stance taken by them under the UPA. In December 2011, the Centre carved out 4.5% quota within the 27% reservation available to OBCs. The sub-quota was earmarked for backward communities belonging to religious minorities who form part of the OBC list. While the sub-quota caters to all minorities like Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists, it has come to be known as ‘Muslim quota’ because Congress planned to bait the largest minority community through the policy. It was announced just ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Rahul Gandhi made it the principal campaign plank in his speeches, flagging it as evidence of Congress’s concern for Muslims. While Heptullah decried reservation as being “no solution to deprivation”, social justice minister Gehlot was combative, telling TOI that 4.5% sub-quota smacked of reservation based on religion. “It is not allowed by the Constitution and BJP is against it,” he said. Gehlot said the sub-quota for “minorities” was “unnecessary” because backward communities among all religious groups were part of the OBC list and availed the 27% reservation in jobs and education. In fact, indicating that this could be the end of the sub-quota, Gehlot said giving benefits based on Sachar Commission and Rangnath Mishra Commission, the key reference points under UPA, was a bad idea. “They are not required,” he said. (Times of India 28/5/14)

 

112. Najma Heptullah rules out reservation for Muslims (7)

New Delhi: Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah, the senior-most members of the newly sworn-in council of ministers, has said the minorities needed a “level playing field” in society, but reservation was not the answer. “The minorities are more backward than other backward (groups). But their development needs are the same as that of the majority (communities). Therefore, they need a level playing field,” Heptullah told HT. Heptullah, the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent freedom fighter who became the country’s first education minister, said the new government would like to continue many existing welfare programmes for minorities as possible, but virtually ruled out reservation, a dogmatic demand of Muslims, India’s largest minority community. “Reservation on the basis of religion is not permissible under the Constitution. Nor is it the solution. It kills the spirit of competition,” she said. Azad is known for his contribution in setting up key academic institutions such as the University Grants Commission, Sangeet Natak Akademi and the elite Indian Institutes of Technology. Heptullah said education was still one of the main needs of the community. She however said these were her preliminary views and her ministry would formulate a policy of robust development of the minorities once she is able to sit down with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss matters pertaining to her ministry. The previous UPA government had announced a share for disadvantaged Muslims in jobs and education within the larger quota for Other Backward Classes, but could not implement it because of legal hurdles. The matter is now before the Supreme Court. (Hindustan Times 28/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

113. Build Ram temple in Ayodhya, Congress’ Waghela tells Modi (26)

Gandhinagar: Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Shankarsinh Waghela on Wednesday asked PM-elect Narendra Modi to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya within the constitutional framework now that the BJP has got an absolute majority, in a statement that could embarrass the Congress. “When (Lal Krishna) Advani ji took out the Rath Yatra, BJP was at the climax (sic) in terms of votes but (Atal Behari) Vaypayee had to make compromises because of NDA. “Now, BJP has a majority on its own. If NDA comes along, it is good. If not, build a Ram temple in Ayodhya within the Constitutional framework,” Waghela said at a special session of the Legislative Assembly called to bid farewell to Modi, whose tenure as Chief Minister ended on Wednesday after ruling Gujarat for 12 years. Waghela, who had roots in the RSS and BJP, also spoke of BJP’s promise of enforcing a Uniform Civil Code and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir valley. Waghela had parted ways with BJP in 1996 to form his Rashtriya Janata Party and became Chief Minister before joining the Congress. While touching upon the contentious issues, in his sarcasm-laced speech, Waghela also referred to Godhra, a sore point in Modi’s otherwise remarkable political career, where the burning of Karsevaks in Sabarmati Express train triggered communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002. “Godhra has played important role in the lives of two people from Gujarat who became Prime Ministers of India. Morarji Desai was deputy collector of Godhra when riots broke out in 1969 and he was accused of bias (in handling it). After that he left the job and joined politics and later became prime minister,” Waghela said. Then turning to Modi, Waghela said, “You spent life as a Pracharak in Godhra and Vadodara and I would not wish to go into what happened in 2002.” “During the campaign many things were promised like giving jobs to youth and controlling inflation. Once you take oath, pressure will come on you to fulfill all these promises. “You have said you will bring down inflation by 25 percent over the next six months. We will not ask you any questions till you complete one year (in office). But we will seek answers after one year about inflation,” he said. On the issue of black money, Waghela suggested constituting a committee under yoga guru Ramdev to bring it back. Ramdev, facing several criminal cases relating to alleged financial irregularities by his firms, had strongly backed the BJP during the election campaign. Waghela also asked Modi to resolve all pending issues Gujarat had with the UPA government at the Centre. He listed the issues like delay in construction of gates on the Narmada dam, gas prices and coal linkages for power plants in the state over which the Gujarat government under Modi was critical of the Centre. (Indian Express  21/5/14)

 

114. Saffron outfit wants Modi govt to revamp education (26)

NEW DELHI: “Total change” in education complete with new textbooks and a new pedagogy that promotes modernity with Indian base is what has been demanded by the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from the new government. RSS pracharak Dinanath Batra of SSUN, who also runs Shiksha Bachao Andolan, told TOI, “I am meeting Narendra Modiji after the swearing-in. We have already sent our demands. Political change has taken place, now there should be total revamp of education.” Batra’s recipe to revive education includes institutional reform as well as creation of a new moral universe. He wants amendment in the RTE Act so that provisions like ‘no-detention’ can be reworked. His outfit has demanded that after class X and XII, the “super energy” of children should be channelled for social work that includes mandatory service in slums and villages. Batra wants An All India Social Service Mission that will conduct three-month course to achieve it. Schools should adopt some villages and universities should adopt at least 50 villages, he says. Batra, who played a vital role in the saffronisation of education during the earlier NDA regime, says in all subjects the first chapter of school textbooks should be entirely devoted to highlight India’s contribution in various fields. “From physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, history and religion, Indian contribution to world civilisation should be taught to students,” he says. Batra said, “NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base.” He says there should be common thread to bind syllabus and textbooks “through values of Indian tradition, social consciousness, patriotism and spiritualism”. He regrets that “due to Macaulay’s education, Indians have become intellectual slaves of the West”. Batra says he had pointed out 70 mistakes in the existing NCERT textbooks many of which were rectified after a court verdict. But he alleges that mistakes have been restored now. His list of grouse with NCERT textbooks is long, ranging from inadequate teaching of Indian history to, what he claims, untruthful depiction of heroes like Shivaji. He is also angry that Hindi textbooks have poems written in Persian. “It has destroyed Hindi. Also there is no place for Sanskrit,” he says. As for institutional reforms, he wants an All India Autonomous Education Commission on the lines of the Election Commission. “It will look after primary to university education. There will be no interference of government except funding,” he says. He also wants revival of the old proposal to have Indian Education Service through an all-India examination. “IAS officers are jack of all trades, master of none,” he says. Batra also wants four-year teachers’ education course immediately after class XII and linkage between academic and vocational education. (Times of India 23/5/14)

 

115. Building Ram temple not only aim of bringing BJP to power: VHP

New Delhi: Building the Ram temple was not the only aim to ensure that BJP came to power, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal said on Thursday. AFP AFP “Our aim was only one: that we come to Parliament with a big majority. Only building the Ram temple was not our aim. We wanted to come in such large number that the Ram temple is also built subsequently and no one dares to bring the temple down,” he said at an event organised by industrialist BK Modi in New Delhi. Claiming that the relevance of minority vote bank is over, he said Muslims should make sure that they are not used as vote bank. “When such a big political event has taken place in the country, Muslims should make sure they are not used as vote bank and they should also not allow it to happen. Just as the whole society has come together for the betterment of the nation, they should also join in and work for the prosperity of the nation”, Singhal said. Singhal said till now vote bank politics was in play during elections and that too in the “garb of secular politics, which has been exposed”. People of the country can now understand that how significant it is to chase Muslim votes and how relevant it is to chase Muslim votes, its relevance is not visible now, he added. “In this country, vote-bank politics should not be done, whether it is division on basis of caste, religion, or community.. the country gets weakened because of all this.. and till now this used to happen due to which coalition government would come to power,” the VHP leader said. “One party coming to power was not possible earlier because everyone was busy dividing the country. I believe Narendra Modi has brought the country and its people together,” he said. He said reservation has nothing to do with vote bank. “Reservation came into existence because 15 percent of our people were termed untouchables (Dalits). I believe untouchables should be given an opportunity to move ahead,” he said. (First Post 23/5/14)

 

116. VHP compares Modi to Prithviraj Chauhan: He will restore Hindutva rule (26)

New Delhi: Comaparing Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi to Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal on Saturday said the new government will help restore “Hindutva’s lost rule” by facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, imposing a Common Civil Code and banning cow slaughter. “There was a large section in the country that dreamt of the return of our lost rule. After Prithviraj (Chauhan), it is now that Hindutva has got the reins of Bharat,” Singhal told a press conference here. Saying that a Ram Temple in Ayodhya would be built soon under the Modi-led regime, he said, “Mazboot sarkar bani hai, mazbooti se banega  (It is a strong government, a strong temple will be built)… the responsibility of Ram Temple has come on the new government, and they should do it.” Listing the VHP’s priority issues, he said, “Common Civil Code is not only a key to the fundamental unity and integrity of Bharat, but its implementation is also binding in the light of the Supreme Court’s decree. Legal prohibition of horizontal religious conversions is a necessity to ensure peace and well-being of the society.” (Indian Express 25/5/14)

 

117. Development over Ram temple: VHP’s Praveen Togadia sings a different tune (26)

Agra: Vishwa Hindu Parishad International Working President Dr Praveen Bhai Togadia on Tuesday made it clear that despite BJP enjoying a clear majority in Parliament, the VHP does not place the Ram temple issue over development of the country. Talking to IndiaToday.in, Togadia said that even though the Ram Temple is part of the BJP manifesto, it is just one of several other issues like common civil code and abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution will be dealt with in their due time. “The priority of the Modi government should be the development of the country and the VHP will fully cooperate with him in this quest,” he said. Togadia’s comment is in sharp contrast to VHP leader Ashok Singhal’s statement on Saturday, a day before Modi was to be sworn in as PM. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Singhal had compared Modi to Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan and hoped that the new government will help restore “Hindutva’s lost rule” by facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, imposing a Common Civil Code and banning cow slaughter. “There was a large section in the country that dreamt of the return of our lost rule. After Prithviraj (Chauhan), it is now that Hindutva has got the reins of Bharat,” Singhal had said. Maintaining that a Ram Temple in Ayodhya would be built soon under the Modi-led regime, he had said, “Mazboot sarkar bani hai, mazbooti se banega (a strong government has come to power, the temple will be built soon).” Talking to IndiaToday.in, Togadia added, however, the government should not lose its focus on key issues like expelling illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and fully integrating Kashmir into the Union of India. Asked what he felt about the fact that despite a clean sweep in the region, none of the Braj MPs had been given a place in the Modi Cabinet, he said that it was a Prime Ministerial prerogative and he has probably chosen the best team for the hard work he sees ahead of him for the next five years. Not everybody is convinced though with this sudden change of tone in the hardline Hindu organisation’s development over temple remark.   Social activist and former UCO Bank director Rajkumar Nagrath said that it is both reassuring and suspicious that the VHP, which so vehemently promulgated the theory of a Hindu nation, has suddenly stepped back from its previous stance and is talking about development before temple. (India Today 28/5/14)

 

Posted by admin at 29 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Citizens’ movement tries to create awareness about Lok Adhikar Act (1)

Mumbai: A citizen movement called Lok Adhikar launched in April has started working towards creating awareness among public about a little-known Act, which after Right to Information Act (RTI), is the second law that gives power to the public and guarantees timely delivery of public services. The members attached with the movement have also written a letter to chief minister Prithviraj Chav-an and are trying to meet him to demand a better implementation of the Act. The Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005, was passed in the same year as the RTI, however, few are aware of it. The Lok Adhikar is calling it the “Right to Service Act” and to create awareness, it had organised a public meet on Tuesday at the Indian Merchant Chambers that was attended by many prominent citizens and member of NGOs like RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, Sanjay Ubale, Nitai Mehta of Praja, Gerson da Cunha of AGNI, Shashi Baliga, Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch and many others. This law mandates all agencies of the state government to declare timelines within which it will provide public service through the Citizens Charter. Incidentally, a government department must have a Citizens Charter detailing the nature of services it offers the citizens and the time frame within which those services are to be provided. As a Citizen Charter is an important factor of this Act, it says this should be displayed prominently in the department as well as be available on its website. It is also to be noted that while the RTI only provides information, this Act can take things to the next level and get work done, as citizens can file complaints against timelines of Citizens Charter not being followed. (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

2. 812 personnel deployed for security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra: RTI (1)

Mumbai: A combined total of 812 police officers and security personnel have been deployed for the security of 84 VIPs in Maharashtra, with 52 men accorded to guard only Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his MLA daughter, a RTI query revealed. The information came in response to the query filed by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Dhurve, who sought to know the total number of police and security force deployed for the protection of political and non-political VIPs in Maharashtra. Sushilkumar Shinde and his daughter Praniti have been accorded Z-Plus security, and have a total of 52 security personnel guarding them, while Union Home Minister’s wife Ujwala Shinde has been granted a Y-category security and has a total of 14 personnel for her security. However, Ms. Praniti, while speaking to PTI said the security provided to her family was “unnecessary” and they want their security withdrawn. “We are provided security as per protocol, but we have not asked for any security. We do not even use the security provided to us. I have even written a letter to the state Home Minister and the Director General of Police to withdraw our security. We want it to be used for better purposes,” she said. The 12 VIPs that are entitled to Z-plus category security include Maharashtra Governer K. Sankaranarayanan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R.R. Patil and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. While there are a total of 46 security personnel guarding Mr. Chavan, there are 31 for Ajit Pawar. 25 personnel are deployed for the security of PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria are among the 18 persons that have been granted Z-category security and have 15-22 personnel guarding them. A total of 19 VIPs in Maharashtra that have been provided with Y-category security include Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Samajwadi Party Maharashtra Unit President Abu Azmi, sitting Congress MP Milind Deora and former Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. Justice Mridula Bhatkar has also been provided with Y-category security while Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, Ratan Tata is among the 27 VIPs that have been provided with X-category security. Both of them, however, have declined to accept any police protection. Additional Commissioner of Security and Protection Branch Kiran Shelar said the protection to VIPs is provided on the instructions of the committee which reviews the security threat to them. “There is a committee that makes an assessment and reviews the threat perception on VIPs frequently. Then committee then instructs us to provide security cover based on their assessment. No security is provided to anybody without specific orders from the committee,” Mr. Shelar added. Activist Vihar Durve, who obtained the information through RTI, has demanded that security cover for VIPs should be reduced and diverted to safeguard women. “A large number of security contingent provided to VIPs is a cause of concern for the common man. Their security can be reduced and diverted to provide security to women and senior citizens. Public money should not be wasted on unnecessary security for VIPs,” Mr. Durve said. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

3. Whistle-blowers Bill gets President’s assent  (1)

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in February. The law provides for an institutionalised mechanism to protect, and thus encourage, those who disclose information on corrupt practices or abuse of power by government officials. The Bill was first passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011. The law makes a provision for inquiry into the disclosures and also prescribes punitive measures to curb frivolous complaints. According to the Centre, it supplements the Right to Information Act in fighting corruption. In 2004, the government introduced a resolution to empower the Central Vigilance Commission for protecting whistle-blowers. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

4. EC Has No Data on Status of Poll Code Violation Cases of Last Three LS Polls (1)

MUMBAI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has no data or records on ‘status’ of various cases pertaining to violations of the model code of conduct in last three Lok Sabha elections, an RTI query has revealed. City-based activist Anil Galgali had filed an RTI query in this regard. He also sought to know the “minimum and maximum action” being initiated by the ECI against politicians concerned in the mandatory time limit, if any, in cases of poll code violations. “There are no records or data maintained with the Election Commission on the status of cases of violation of model code of conduct filed before it,” the ECI Under Secretary A K Pathak said in his reply. The official said there is no standard policy or the mention of any provisions of law enforced that enables the body to take specific action against the violators of the poll code. Pathak said there was “no specific time limit to decide on a particular case of violation and that the actions are taken on the basis of priority as per the prescribed procedure”.The reply stated that since there has been no compilation of information on record, the RTI query seeking information on the ‘status of cases of violation of model code of conduct stood rejected under section 7 (9) of the RTI Act, 2005. Pathak said the compilation of record would have put unnecessary burden on the resources of the ECI. Reacting to this, Galgali said, “It is disheartening to see that there is no time limit under which the EC would be bound to take action against errant politicians. Strong policies need to be formulated to change the image of the EC, which is now largely seen as a toothless tiger.” (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

5. RTI activists nail govt on huge expenditure (1)

Shillong, May 14: The Meghalaya government is incurring huge expenditure on political appointees, with whistle-blowers calling it “mind-boggling”. According to RTI activists, the government spends an astounding amount on such “unnecessary appointees”. This money, they said, could have been utilised for various development activities or help solve unemployment in the state. The expenditure incurred on political appointees came to light today when members of the National Khasi Union (NKU) exposed it through information they had received through the Right to Information Act, 2005. The union sought the information from the Meghalaya finance department on the perks and facilities provided to political appointees holding various posts such as chairman, co-chairman and deputy chairman, among others. The union said only for one political appointee, who holds the post of chairman, the government spends nearly Rs 10,54,000 per annum (Rs 87,833 in a month), including one-time amount of Rs 2 lakh for furnishing hishouse. The total expenditure incurred only for one chairman comes to around Rs 12,54,000 in a year. The other expenditure incurred for the chairman includes travel and dearness allowance, expenditure on office staff such as stenographer, special assistant, personal assistant, typist, driver, additional driver, one grade-IV staff in office and five at the residence. The chairman has got one telephone in office and a phone at home. The chairman’s post, especially in government-run public sector undertakings (PSUs), is drawn mostly from sitting legislators or former members of Parliament or former legislators. For a person holding the chairman’s post, his/her rank in the government is categorised as A+ and enjoys the same TA/DA as provided to a grade-I officer. NKU general secretary Samborlang Diengdoh told reporters that according to information received so far, there were around 60 political appointees appointed in various boards and corporations run by the state government. “There are more political appointees and more information is awaited. If one political appointee can avail of huge benefits from the government, the kind of money spent on other political appointees is mind-boggling,” Diengdoh said. Stating that political appointees were “unnecessary” as it resulted in wasteful expenditure of public money, Diengdoh said crores of rupees were spent by the government on political appointees. The NKU also sought to know from the government contribution of political appointees to the state. “What have these political appointees contributed to the state? Instead of spending onthem, the government could have utilised the money for various development activities in rural areas, including the border, pay salaries of teachers and Anganwadi workers as well as create jobs for educated unemployed youths in the state,” Diengdoh said. The NKU will soon compile a list of educated unemployed youths who could have benefited from this money, Diengdoh added. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

6. Information Commission exempted from bifurcation (1)

HYDERABAD; While every other State government department is speeding up the process of internal bifurcation before the appointed day, the A P Information Commission’s static status seemed to have created confusion among RTI activists and appellants. In the Finance Department Government Order (GO) Ms No. 100 dated May 12, 2014 which pertains to the reorganisation of government departments, the commission also found a mention. “Many of us were of the opinion that the department will be divided. Some of the complainants were also confused on whom to approach in case it is divided,” said an RTI activist. However, the commission has been listed in the tenth schedule of the Union government which exempts the commission along with a few other departments from being bifurcated for a certain period. This would mean the information commissioners will continue to hold the same portfolios and discharge their duties. “The commission will function as it is for a period of one year,” said Jannat Hussain, Chief Information Commissioner. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

7. NHRC seeks state reply on girl’s death (1)

CUTTACK: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a show-cause notice to the state government, seeking reply why compensation of Rs 3 lakh should not be paid to the family of a seven-year-old girl, who was crushed to death in her school when a cupboard fell on her last year. The chief secretary has been asked to reply within six weeks. The NHRC has also asked the government to submit a report on the death of 28 people in Balangir after allegedly consuming contaminated water in the last three years. A petition was filed, alleging that eight persons of Adendunguri village, 12 of Dhanradadar and eight of Rampur died after consuming water high in fluoride content from tubewells. “Though the government officials were aware of the problem, they made no arrangements to supply water to the affected villagers,” it added. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

8. PUCL seeks NHRC intervention for release of professor (1)

New Delhi: People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Thursday has sought National Human Rights Commission’s intervention for the release of the Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, who was arrested by the Maharashtra police last week for his alleged links with the Maoists. The PUCL has also demanded a comprehensive enquiry into the matter by the NHRC. “In view of the severe 90 per cent locomotor disability and cardiac problem suffered by Saibaba, the NHRC should immediately intervene to get Saibaba released from the prison so that he can get expert medical attention, utilise the services of a personal attendant and also be able to access toilet facilities adapted to his personal needs,” said the human rights organisation in a statement. “Such a demand is not unreasonable as the Supreme Court itself has stressed the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of the arrestee, it argued. “During the present arrest, the Gadchiroli police violated all mandatory provisions relating to arrest,” alleged the human rights organisation. “The harsh and violent manner of effecting the abduction and arrest of Prof Saibaba is unacceptable and condemnable in a democracy which claims to follow rule of law. Saibaba had always cooperated with the police authorities whenever they wanted to question him as part of their investigation,” said the PUCL. The PUCL has argued that Saibaba has been a human rights activist  and this is the reason why he has been arrested. “For the police, he represented a major threat to their lawlessness and therefore, they have been trying to somehow implicate him in some case or the other” it said. The PUCL has alleged that Saibaba is the latest victim of the Maharashtra police’s attempts to silence and intimidate anyone from daring to take up the human rights issues of Maoists while continually challenging state terrorism. (Deccan Herald 15/5/14)

 

9. Civil society seeks lasting solution in Bodoland territorial areas district (1)

GUWAHATI: Civil society groups on Wednesday staged a demonstration here to demand permanent peace in Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). People from all communities participated in the peace meet organized by Concerned Citizens of Assam here on Wednesday and urged the Prime Minister to bring about a solution to the violence and increase security in the region. They demanded long-term security arrangements for the vulnerable areas of BTAD for at least five years. They said this would thwart attacks by extremists who usually target the innocent to pressurize the government. “It has been seen that security measures are in place for about two months after such incidents take place. Then the areas become vulnerable to attacks by miscreants again. The government should take immediate steps in this regard,” said Raju Narzary, one of the organizers of the peace meet. “We demand a thorough and objective inquiry into the various socio-political, economic and extremist factors that are instrumental in the recurrence of violence in BTAD,” he added. The demonstrators also advocated immediate seizure of all illegal arms from various rebel groups and individuals. “Existence of illegal arms is one of the most influential factors which give rise to repeated occurrence of violence in Assam,” he added. The demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, governor and the chief minister. Some participants, mostly writers, activists, social workers and peace-loving citizens from various parts of the state, condemned the brutal killings in BTAD, So far, 44 people have been killed by armed militants in this month alone. “We want punishment for the culprits at the earliest,” said Narzary. Noted educationist Surath Narzary said, without peace, no progress would be possible. “Without peace, there cannot be progress. Without progress, human civilization will not last. Hence, irrespective of differences, all divisive forces must be identified. The criminals who are involved in heinous crimes must be given stringent punishment so that justice prevails,” he said. Monirul Hussain, a professor of Gauhati University who also joined the event, expressed solidarity with the riot victims in Bodoland. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) also demanded that the state government should bring back peace in BTAD and punish the culprits. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

10. Human rights groups condemn killing of Pakistani advocate (1)

New Delhi, May 16 : Human rights and civil society groups, in a joint statement Friday condemned the brazen killing of a Pakistani advocate and human rights commission member. Rashid Rehman Khan was murdered by unidentified gunmen at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Multan last week. Khan, a Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer, was killed for defending a university lecturer against unfounded accusations of blasphemy — a charge that carries the death sentence. He had been openly warned by fellow lawyers in the presence of the presiding judge against continuing to defend the accused during the course of a hearing being held inside jail premises, the statement said. “Khan’s requests to the local police to investigate these threats had gone unheeded. He was murdered as he sat preparing an appeal asking that the blasphemy case be quashed,” it said. “Constitution of Pakistan obliges the state to ensure each individual a fair trial, assures each person of a right to an effective defence as well as assures each person of the right to hold their own views, associate with others and follow a profession,” the statement said. It said the killing of Khan for doing his duty as a lawyer amounted to a traitorous act against the Constitution. “We urge the government of Pakistan to take necessary steps toward effective investigation by higher police authorities and swiftly identify the killers and bring them to justice along with their abettors,” it said. The statement has been endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka), Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (Pakistan), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India), Gulmina Bilal Ahmad (Pakistan), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (Sri Lanka), Maldivian Democracy Network (Maldives), Rozan (Pakistan), Ruki Fernando (Sri Lanka) and Working Group on Human Rights in India. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

11. Lanka Hires Pakistan Lawyer for UN Rights Probe (1)

COLOMBO: Faced with an impending UN inquiry, the Sri Lankan government has hired a prominent Pakistani lawyer to defend itself over its human rights record and alleged war crimes, a media report said here today. Aitzaz Ahsan, a 70-year-old Pakistani legal expert, was in Colombo last week for consultations on the matter, a Sunday Times report said. His visit came after President Mahinda Rajapaksa made an appeal to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ahsan had defended Sharif when he faced charges of attempting to hijack former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s aircraft in 1999 before he was ousted as premier in a coup. On Ahsan’s advice to Sri Lanka, the report said he had asked Colombo to convene a special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) after getting the support of more member countries. He was of the view that besides the 12 countries that had voted in favour of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, only 4 more countries were needed to call such a special session.         He advised that such a session could be used to present Sri Lanka’s case to win over more members.    Ahsan’s advice has come as the UN braces to announce a panel of investigators and terms of reference for the rights accountability investigation on Sri Lanka as per the last US-moved resolution adopted at the UNHRC session in Geneva in late March.The resolution was the third in as many years censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the 30-year civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

12.  ‘Fear of consequences’ needed to stop AFSPA misuse: Omar (1)

New Delhi: There is a need to build a “fear of consequences” within laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) so that they are not misused by the Army, feels Jammu and Kashmir Chief Omar Abdullah. Talking on wide-ranging issues in New Delhi on Saturday at a conclave, Mr. Omar also dismissed suggestions mainly coming from Army that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will have bearing on Kashmir’s internal security. The Chief Minister, who has been advocating partial withdrawal of AFSPA from areas more peaceful in the state, did agree that as long as Army was involved in internal security duties, it needed a legal cover to operate. “So long as you are using army for internal security duty, they need legal cover to operate. I think we need to differentiate between legal cover and impunity. “The sort of cover they get now is they can do whatever they believe without fear of consequences. I think that fear of consequences has to be built back into the system,” Mr. Omar said. Mr. Omar along with the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had raised the issue with central leaders many a time but even his proposal for partial withdrawal of AFSPA hit a road block from Defence Ministry which, on advice of Army, red flagged it. Even the Administrative Reforms Committee favoured withdrawal of AFSPA and drafting of a new law with certain checks and balances. Mr. Omar appeared optimistic on the issue. “I am sure we will be able to withdraw some rules,” he said. Mr. Omar rejected the suggestion made by Army at various forums that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will have an adverse impact on his state. “I don’t buy that argument at all. The reason why I don’t buy this argument is that so far we have been taking credit for whatever improvement has taken place and now if we are going to blame Americans for the deterioration, then it means that improvement was because of their actions as well, which I refuse to accept,” the Chief Minister said. “Therefore, if the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan, it will have very limited consequences for the state which has been seeing good years on anti-terrorism front.” On India and Pakistan relations, Mr. Omar sought to draw a comparison between the two nations. “I don’t think India’s relationship with Pakistan is centred around Kashmir” but Pakistan’s relationship with India certainly is focused on Kashmir. “They (Pakistan) have uni-focal dimension sort of relationship with India…. For them Kashmir is everything and everything else is secondary. It is not the same for us. “While we believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an important issue and it needs to be resolved, it need not be the only issue that dogs our relations. There are host of other issues that needs to be resolved,” he said. (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

13. Elimination Case: 3 Cops Get Jail Term (1)

CHANDIGARH: Three Punjab police officers were sentenced to five years of imprisonment by Additional District and Sessions Judge Pooam R Joshi on Friday after they were held guilty in the infamous “elimination” case of Kuljit Singh Dhatt. S P S Basra, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police; Jaspal Sinngh, retired Superintendent of Police; and Sita Ram have been awarded five years jail term in connection with the 25-year-old case. Earlier on Friday, the Judge held the three guilty in the fake encounter case. Two others accused — Ajit Singh Sandhu and Sardul Singh — in the case have already died. After the verdict was announced, the victim’s family protested in court and said that it was too small a sentence for which they had to wait for 25 years. “We will go to the High Court for the enhancement of the sentence,” said Harbhajan Singh Dhatt, Kuljit’s elder brother. The sentence was awarded under sections 364, (abduction with intention of murder), 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture) and 120 B (conspiracy). A fine of `1.1 lakh each fine was imposed on the police officers found guilty and 90 per cent of the fine amount will be handed over to the victim’s family. Kuljit was killed in a fake encounter by police in 1989. Kuljit was the son-in-law of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s sister Parkash Kaur. Parkash made an appeal to the Supreme Court against the fake encounter and the apex court set up a Judicial Commission. Currently, Jaspal Singh is lodged in Barnala jail for another murder. SPS Basra retired  last year while Sita Ram was dismissed and is also in jail in connection with another case. Basra was on Friday taken into custody and sent to the Patiala Central Jail. (New Indian Express 10/5/14)

 

14. Amit Shah summoned in Tulsiram Prajapati case (1)

Mumbai: The special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court has issued summons to former junior home minister of Gujarat Amit Shah, who is also Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s close aide, and other accused in the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case. The court on Friday asked Shah and other accused to attend the proceedings on May 23. The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case on September 29, 2012 against Shah and other 18 others including many police officers. The papers of the Prajapati case were transferred to the Mumbai CBI court last month from Gujarat and Friday was the first date of hearing. Indian Police Service (IPS) officer OP Mathur and deputy superintendent of police RK Patel from Gujarat also appeared before the sessions court and surrendered. The court later released them on bail and asked them to attend the court proceedings whenever required. The court, however, rejected the bail application of another IPS officer DG Vanjara. Advocate Vinod Gujjar, appearing on behalf of Vanjara said, “We had filed the application on the ground that my client has spent more than seven years behind bars.” Vanzara, who is lodged at Sabarmati Central Jail for the past seven years, has also been chargesheeted in Ishrat Jahan encounter case. His bail application in this case has been pending. Vanzara figures in Sohrabuddin encounter case as accused No 1. He is alleged to have masterminded the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi were killed by police officials. In the chargesheet filed by CBI in the case, it was mentioned that Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi were allegedly abducted by Gujarat’s anti-terrorism squad from Hyderabad and killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005. Tulsiram  Prajapati, a key witness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by the police in Banaskantha district’s Chapri village in December 2006. The central probe agency had claimed that Tulsiram was an eye-witness in Sohrabuddin encounter and that was why he was killed in a fake encounter by the accused, many of whom are also accused in the Sohrabuddin case.? (Hindustan Times 11/5/14)

 

15. Five policemen suspended for custodial death in Villupuram (1)

Chennai: Tamil Nadu government on Monday suspended five policemen attached to the Government Railway Police, Villupuram, in connection with the custodial death of an accused on May 7 and announced a cash relief of Rs. 5 lakh to the victim’s family. The accused R. Jeyavelu had suffered a heart attack while in custody and died while being rushed to a hospital, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said while expressing sympathies with the family of the victim. She said five GRP officials, including an inspector, have been placed under suspension and that a probe was on into the matter. Due action would be taken at the end of the probe, she said in a statement here, adding that the relief would be paid from the Chief Minister’s General Relief Fund. (The Hindu 12/5/14)

 

16. Many Indians Feel Custodial Torture Justified: Amnesty (1)

New Delhi: Fear of torture in custody is widely prevalent among people across the world though respondents in many countries, including India, felt that the practice can sometimes be justified, a survey by Amnesty International (AI) has found. A new global survey by the human rights watchdog covering more than 21,000 people in 21 countries reveals that the fear of custodial torture spans all continents, AI said in a release today. According to AI, nearly half the respondents were afraid of the prospect of torture if taken into custody while more than 80 per cent of them wanted strong laws for protection against torture. However, more than a third of the respondents believed that torture may be justified. As per the survey, support for international rules against torture is weakest in India, Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria and Peru –- where less than three quarters of people agree that these rules are necessary. “Shockingly, 74 per cent respondents in India (with China, the highest number in any of the countries polled) feel that torture can sometimes be justified to gain information that may protect the public,” said the release. The statement also claimed that torture is rife across the Asia-Pacific region with China and North Korea among the worst offenders. “The shocking fact that so many people fear torture –- in some countries the majority of those polled — should spur authorities across Asia-Pacific into meaningful action. To eradicate this horrific human rights violation,” said Richard Bennett, AI’s Asia-Pacific Director. Custodial torture and ill-treatment are illegal in China but, in practice, beatings, electrocutions, forced injection of drugs and denial of medical treatment are regularly used to punish dissidents or criminals, the statement said. In Pakistan, torture is frequently used by police, intelligence services and the army, in particular in the conflict-ridden Tribal Areas or Balochistan. Authorities in Sri Lanka still routinely torture detainees, the statement said. (Outlook 14/5/14)

 

17. Torture cry spurs gherao (1)

A group of residents gheraoed Bistupur police station on Sunday to protest the detention and alleged torture of a woman in lock-up. Around 50 protesters — mostly living in outhouses of posh bungalows in Northern Town Area — demanded Bistupur thana officer-in-charge (OC) Jitendra Kumar be suspended for his alleged high-handedness related to the way a maid servant was treated. Domestic help Lakshmi and her husband Nimai Das were taken for grilling on Saturday after their employer Sunil Kumar, head of emergency ward (casualty) at Tata Main Hospital (TMH), lodged a theft FIR on Thursday. Sources said after grilling the two for hours, police had forwarded Nimai to judicial custody and allowed Lakshmi to go home. But Lakshmi, who worked as a maid in the complainant’s house, alleged police had tortured her in lock-up during interrogation. The agitated mob, which gathered around 10am, dispersed after three hours when SP (city) Karthik S. intervened and asked the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) J. Karketta to probe into the allegation. Karthik added that as it was a serious matter, he ordered DSP Karketta to start the probe as early as possible. According to complainant Kumar, gold ornaments worth over Rs 15 lakh were stolen from his home on Thursday when he and his wife left Lakshmi in charge and went out. Kumar said he and his wife found both the ornaments and the domestic help missing on their return. Apparently, the couple had kept ornaments inside a steel almirah and left the key on a table. Later, when Kumar questioned Lakshmi, she claimed she knew nothing and said she had gone to a temple. “The doctor then lodged a complaint with Bistupur police after which Nimai and Lakshmi were picked up for interrogation. While Nimai had been forwarded to judicial custody, Lakshmi was set free. She later complained that the police had tortured her in the lock-up. She added they were innocent,” SP (city) Karthik said. (The Telegraph 19/5/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

18. CBI investigation of former journalist’s suicide demanded (1)

MUMBAI: The Press Club on Monday demanded that the Charudatta Deshpande suicide case be transferred to the city crime branch or the Central Bureau of Investigation. Deshpande was found hanging in his Vasai flat on June 28. The Thane rural police are investigating the case. Deshpande’s son Gaurav and brother-in-law Mahesh Bhatkal recently wrote to home minister R R Patil expressing lack of faith in the Thane rural police. They sought investigation by an independent agency. The Press Club in its submission to Patil said that though the Vasai sessions court rejected the bail application of main accused Prabhat Sharma, the senior Tata Steel official charged under Section 306 of the IPC for abetting Deshpande’s suicide, the local police decided not to apply for custodial interrogation in December. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

19. TMC slams role of media in elections (1)

Kolkata: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on Monday voiced her strong displeasure over what she described as the “alarming role” played by a large section of the media in the run upto the Lok Sabha election which concluded on Monday. In a Facebook post, she wrote: “The partial and biased conduct of a section of the media, both electronic and print, has shocked me. There’s hardly any room for doubt that a few major cash loaded political parties have taken up control of media houses and engaged them to serve their narrow political interests, trampling down the ethics of democracy and voice of people.” Trinamul Congress Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Derek O’Brien also slammed some local news channels apparently for airing reports of violence and rigging. “A particular Bangla channel has been bashing Trinamul for months. It’s worried exit poll results will make it look silly, expose bias,” Mr O’Brien tweeted. “So what does this channel do to hide its embarrassment? It ignores Bengal’s 31,000 peaceful booths and hypes one or two stray incidents,” he added. The fifth and final leg of Lok Sabha polls in the state were marred by some violent incidents which received wide coverage on local news channels. This apparently displeased the ruling party and its leaders. Ms Banerjee’s outburst on Monday was not sudden. She has been increasingly targeting the media for the past few days. Early this month she said that 90 per cent of the media had sold themselves to BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi. “It is really tragic and exceptional that 90 per cent of media houses in India have sold themselves to Modi. They are only dancing to Modi’s tunes. A day will come when an inquiry about how media houses were sold out would be made,” she told a meeting at Talla Park. In another rally in Jangalmahal, Ms Banerjee claimed that the media wanted to control her government just as they had done with her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee but she did not allow it. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

20. India reacts strongly after Pakistan asks two Indian journalists to leave the country (1)

NEW DELHI, In a strong reaction, India on Wednesday termed as “regrettable and unfortunate” the expulsion of the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan and said not allowing independent journalists to function was a “retrograde step”.Asserting that free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognized as an important confidence building measure, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said this confidence building measure (CBM) should be safeguarded by all concerned. In an abrupt action, Pakistan has expelled the two Indian journalists, Press Trust of India’s Snehesh Alex Philip and The Hindu newspaper’s Meena Menon, posted there and asked them late on Tuesday night to leave within seven days without assigning any reason. “It is regrettable and unfortunate that the two Indian correspondents in Pakistan have been asked to leave prematurely and suddenly only a few months after their arrival there. “Not allowing independent journalists to function is a retrograde step especially as free flow of information between India and Pakistan has long been recognised as an important confidence building measure,” the spokesperson said. Asked if expulsion could be related to the ongoing ferment and debate in Pakistan about the media and the differences between various organs of state on freedom of media, he said, “We are surprised that there have been numerous allegations against India in the ongoing controversy in Pakistan on media freedom and the different views of Pakistan institutions thereto. “The stationing of journalists and free flow of information is an important CBM and should be safeguarded by all concerned.” (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

21. DMK men attack reporters in front of Stalin’s house in Chennai (1)

CHENNAI: Three reporters, including Times Now reporter Shabbir Ahmed and cameraman Jayaprakash, were attacked by a group of DMK men in front of the house of party treasurer MK Stalin. The attackers, numbering over 50 people, damaged cameras and other equipment. They kicked Jayaprakash on the chest, and he suffered leg injuries too. Jayaprakash was admitted at a private hospital after he complained of chest pain. Headlines Today cameraman Daniel was also attacked by the mob. The attack happened immediately after a DMK press briefing in front of Stalin’s house at Teynampet in the city. Reporters assembled in front of Stalin’s house after he had tendered his resignation from party posts in the wake of the DMK’s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. (Later, Stalin was said to have decided not to press for his resignation as senior party leaders advised him not to resign.) The attackers shouted that the media was responsible for party’s defeat in the elections. Almost an hour after the attack, a van carrying DMK men stopped in front of the Times of India office at Nandanam and abused and threatened the crew of Puthiya Thalaimurai TV, a Tamil news television, which was covering the attack on the Times Now reporters. Cases were registered against unknown persons under sections 147, 341 323 294 (B) 506 (1) of the IPC read with Section 3 the Tamil Nadu Public Properties Damage Act. The Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP and various journalists unions condemned the attack. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

22. Thane Sessions Court acquits 60-year-old woman tried for human trafficking (1)

THANE: The Thane sessions court has acquitted a 60-year-old woman from Bhiwandi, who was tried for human trafficking under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act (PITA). The prosecution said that the incident dated back to July 5, 2008, when the Thane police got a tip off about flesh trade conducted at a brothel in Indira Nagar, Bhiwandi. When the cops raided the place run by accused Zarina Ahmed Shaikh, they rescued two minor girls who were allegedly forced into prostitution. Shaikh was subsequently arrested. However, Thane additional sessions judge A S Waghwase observed that if the victims stayed against their wishes, they could have escaped from the brothel, but they didn’t. The judge also pointed out that the victims could have raised an alarm and there was no evidence to suggest that the room that was raided had only curtains and no doors. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that there could be any detention or confinement under such circumstances. The lawyer, defending the accused, said that there was no documentary evidence to show that the police officer was empowered to carry out investigations. Also, there was no documentary proof that the room that was raided was in possession or ownership of the accused. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

23. 2 arrested for illegal human trafficking (1)

CALANGUTE: Calangute police arrested two persons for illegal human trafficking and rescued three women on Thursday. Calangute police said that they received information about a prostitution racket being operated in Candolim and accordingly set up a trap using decoy customers. As agreed with the decoy customers, when the two pimps, Anil Kumar Srivastava and Mohan Jadhav, arrived by car at the prearranged spot near St Theresa’s Church in Candolim, they were promptly taken into custody by Calangute police. Three women who were brought along by the pimps for the purpose of prostitution were also rescued and sent to the protective home at Merces. The two pimps were arrested after being charged under Sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956. While Anil Kumar is a native of Uttar Pradesh, Mohan Jadhav is a native of Karnataka. Both were residing at Candolim. PI Nilesh Rane is conducting further investigations. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

24. Indian sentenced to 3 years for human trafficking in US (1)

Washington: An Indian has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment in the US on charges of trafficking immigrants from India into the country. Kaushik Jayantibhai Thakkar, 33, along with Brazilian national Fabiano Augusto Amorim were sentenced yesterday to serve 36 months in prison for their roles in smuggling undocumented migrants to the US for private financial gain, Acting Assistant US Attorney General Mythili Raman said. In addition to their prison terms, Thakkar and Amorim were sentenced to serve two years of supervised release, as per the order of the US District Judge Ewing Werlein in Southern District of Texas. On December 2, 2012, and January 4, 2013, respectively, Thakkar and Amorim each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to bring undocumented migrants into the US for profit and to one count of unlawfully bringing two undocumented migrants into the United States for profit. They worked together and with other co-conspirators to smuggle individuals from India into the United States, according to court documents. In support of the conspiracy, Thakkar and others recruited individuals in India who were willing to pay up to USD 60,000 to be smuggled into the US. For their smuggling operations, Thakkar, Amorim and their associates used a network of co-conspirators in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, including the state of Texas. Using this network, they and their co-conspirators transported groups of undocumented migrants from locations within India through South America, Central America and the Caribbean and then into the US by various means, including by air travel, automobiles, water craft and foot, the Justice Department said. Many of these smuggling events involved illegal entry into the US via the border between the United States and Mexico near McAllen and Laredo, Texas, it added. (Deccan Herald 18/5/14)

 

25. Seven Minor Boys Rescued in Rayagada (1)

RAYAGADA: Seven minor boys of Govindpalli in Malkangiri district were rescued from Raygada bus stand on Saturday night. Police detained Dhana Sagadia of Govindpalli in connection with human trafficking. Sagadia was taking the children to Paralakhemundi where another middleman was supposed to take them to Andhra Pradesh, said police. Rayagada Child Protection Officer Ramesh Nayak said Malkangiri DCPO has been intimated about the matter and they will hand over the children to their respective parents on Monday. Sources said the children in the age group of 11 and 16 boarded in the bus. Suspecting foul play, a passenger Dilip Bhupati informed the police who reached the spot and rescued the children with the help of Childline and CWC member Siba Prasad Mishra. The children were then sent to district hospital for medical checkup and were kept in Childline office of Rayagada. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

26. Ramdev sued for Rs 1,000 crore (2)

AHMEDABAD: A dalit rights activist has sought damages of Rs 1,000 crore from yoga guru Baba Ramdev for his controversial “honeymoon” remarks targeting Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over visiting dalit homes. Advocate Ratna Vora of NGO Ambedkar Karvaan has filed a civil defamation suit against Ramdev in the city civil court for allegedly hurting the feelings of the dalit community. “Ramdev has made defamatory remarks against dalits, especially the women of the community,” she said. Vora said, “In fact, Ramdev’s remarks were defamatory to the entire dalit community. As there are approximately 28 crore dalits living in the country, Ramdev must be made accountable to pay the damages to the entire community.” Two other lawyers had also filed criminal defamation complaints against the yoga guru before a magisterial court on April 25. The court has also ordered an inquiry into these complaints. During a press conference in Lucknow last month, Ramdev had sparked off an unseemly controversy saying that Gandhi goes to dalit houses for “picnics and honeymoon”.Two FIRs were filed in different police stations of the city, demanding criminal action against Ramdev under Section 3(1) (X) of Prevention of Atrocities Act. When criticized, the yoga guru had expressed his regrets about his remarks. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

27. Dalits pour out woes before Deputy Commissioner (2)

Mangalore: Complaints and grievances poured in at the district administration’s meeting with the Dalit leaders that is held after five months, at the deputy commissioner’s office on Thursday. Dalit leaders raised a whole lot of issues ranging from title deed problems, to eviction of poor Dalits, from lack of development in Naxal-affected areas to scholarship distribution to scheduled caste and tribe students, at the meeting. Dalit Hakkugala Horata Samiti Convener Shekhar Laila alleged that the funds sanctioned for providing basic amenities to Naxal-affected areas were not utilised for the said purpose. Pointing at one such instance, he said that the money was used for constructing a road stretching for about 1.5 km that leads to a Jain ‘Basadi’ in Savanal in Belthangady taluk, while only 150 metres of road leading to Malekudiya hamlet in the same village was asphalted. “Where are the crores of rupees released by the government going?” he asked. He also demanded to construct a road to the Malekudiya hamlet in Banjarmale near Neriya, where Malekudiyas are forced to pass through a private property. Dalit Sangharsh Samiti leader S P Anand cautioned about the pathetic condition of the quarters provided by the Mangalore City Corporation to its civic workers, at Mahakalipadpu. With monsoon only a month away, there is fear of these houses getting collapsed due to wind and rain. Lives of 36 families residing in these quarters are at risk, he said demanding the city corporation to make an alternative arrangement to them till the new quarters are built. Anand urged the administration to allot a cremation ground for SCs and STs at Niddodi. “After continuous demand, the department sanctioned two acre land on the top of the hill, which is inconvenient for cremation,” he said. A few Dalit community members raised objection over the use of ‘Harijana’ and ‘Girijana’ words, despite the ban on public usage of these words. “Those words attached to the names of the Dalits, should be removed from the RTC and other government records,” a Dalit leader said. In reply, Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim ordered the authorities concerned to remove Harijana, Girijana and Holeya words from the government records all at once. The deputy commissioner also directed all the tahsildars to convene grievance meetings in the respective taluks within a week. When asked about the employment provided to scheduled caste and tribe youth under tourism employment programme, the social welfare officer said that 30 taxis have been sanctioned to SC youth and 16 have been sanctioned to the ST youth. (Deccan Herald 10/5/14)

 

28. Rights to land tops Dalit leaders’ meet (2)

Mangalore: Rights over land — allotment or encroachment that has allegedly led to homeless labourers being displaced — was the most contentious issue at a meeting of leaders from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities held at the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Thursday. Karnataka Dalita Sangharsha Samiti said the Depressed Classes (DC) Manna land — which is reserved for the socio-economic backward – should be allotted only to landless SC and ST people. Shekar L., president of Dalitha Hakkugala Horata Samithi, alleged that “thousands of acres” of DC Manna land were given to local industries and educational institutions in Belthangady taluk. Activists said many applications requesting allotment of land to the landless were pending at MCC and Revenue Department. Among those who complained of “diversion of land” was Shivananda S., an activist from Moodbidri, who claimed that though the tahsildar had cancelled allotment of 2.70 acres of land in Mellikaru village to nine persons, who were from “outside” the state, the order had yet to be followed. “Though they were given land in 1993, they had not built houses since. The Tahsildar’s cancellation order in 2012 and its allocation to SC/ST persons has not been followed,” he said. An activist suggested that when the Revenue Department evicted landless persons for encroaching into government land, compensation for the house demolished and subsidy to construct a new house must be paid. With the complaints mounting, Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim directed Tahsildars to conduct taluk-wise meetings within a week and submit a report on the action taken on the complaints. “We will ask the district legal services authority to look into the legality of the issues,” he assured the leaders. Activist S.P. Anand said 38 houses built for civic workers in Jeppu-Mahakalipadpu were “on the verge of falling”. When an official confirmed that there was a danger of the houses collapsing during the monsoon, Mr. Ibrahim ordered officials to find alternative arrangements and evict the residents within three days. Numerous activists claimed that government colleges and aided colleges were demanding capitation fees from students admitted through the quota system. While leaders from Belthangady said government colleges there were asking for Rs. 1,000 for ‘college development’, others said even CET students were being asked to pay extra fees. Mr. Ibrahim said Block Education Officers would be asked to inquire into the allegations. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

29. Dalit murder case: Accused’s cop custody extended (2)

Mumbai: The police custody of the 10 accused in the honour killing of a Dalit teen in Ahmednagar was extended till 18 May on Monday. The police has arrested 13 persons, including three minors, in connection with the case. On April 28, Nitin Raju Aage (17), belonging to a backward community, who was in a relationship with an upper-caste girl, was allegedly murdered in Kharde village by her relatives. All Dalit factions have taken the murder seriously and the Republican Party of India and Republican Sena held two morchas in Ahmednagar to protest the killing. RPI (A) president Ramdas Athawale has demanded a high-level enquiry into the murder and said he would urge the CM and the deputy CM to appoint prominent lawyer Ujjwal Nikam for the prosecution. Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil visited the bereaved family and condoled the death of Aage. He also assured them all government help.The Jamkhed police said that the situation in Jamkhed tehsil and Kharda village was normal. Police security in the village has been tightened. Deputy superintendent Dheeraj Patil told The Asian Age that there was progress in the interrogation. “We applied for extension of police custody on Monday and it was granted,” Mr Patil said. The girl that Aage, an HSC student, was in a relationship with was the prime accused Aba Golekar’s sister. The police had said that the victim was beaten with sticks and rods and later strangled with a rope near New English School Kharda in Yeole brick kiln locality. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

30. Over 50 Dalits allege police harassment in church fest (2)

TIRUCHI: Over 50 Dalit women and men of Pokkattakudi Seshasamudram near Lalgudi in the district thronged the Collector’s Office in the city on Tuesday alleging police harassment following a dispute over their participation in the annual car festival of a church in the neighbouring Periyavarseeli village last weekend. The trouble began on Saturday after a few caste Hindus youths of Periyavarseeli village reportedly told the Dalits that they should not participate in the car festival of the Adaikalamatha Church held last week. The Dalits had returned after the incident, but some of them had questioned a youth who visited their village on Sunday. A police constable on patrol, the villagers alleged, had intervened and assaulted the Dalits without any enquiry. “We were just talking to the youth in a friendly manner asking him about the reason for being told to stay away from the festival. But the constable started attacking us. Some of us objected to his action and there was a scuffle. The constable called up his colleagues and 10 to 15 policemen descended on the scene and attacked us indiscriminately,” said N.Mohan, one of the villagers. However, police claimed there was a scuffle between the two groups necessitating the intervention of a police constable on patrol. The villagers had taken objection to this and attacked him, a senior police officer said. Cases have been registered against 11 persons in connection with the incident and two have been arrested  (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

31. AIDWA condemns Dalit youth’s murder in Maharashtra (2)

New Delhi, May 15 : The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) Thursday condemned the murder of a Dalit youth in Maharashtra in the name of honour and demanded a separate law with regard to the killings and crimes being committed of such nature. AIDWA condemns the murder of the Dalit youth in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra,” AIDWA said in a statement released here. “We demand stringent action against the perpetrators, and justice for the victims. There is a urgent need to for a separate law with regard to killings and crimes being committed in the name of honour,” it said. Nitin R. Aage, 17, was killed and hanged from a tree last week following a love affair with a minor girl from an upper caste. “The AIDWA Maharashtra unit has visited the village where the atrocity took place, and has intervened on the issue,” it said. (New Kerala 15/5/14)

 

32. Dalit man set on fire in Maharashtra, 5 arrested (2)

Nagpur: A dalit man was set on fire allegedly by a group at Kawalewada village in Gondia district of Maharashtra on Saturday. Sanjay Khobragade (50) suffered 90 per cent burns and is under treatment at Nagpur. All five accused — four men and a woman — have been arrested. The alleged attack took place reportedly over a dispute between the accused and the victim over land for a Buddha Vihar in the village. The accused are from Powar community, which belongs to the OBC category. “We have booked an attempt to murder case against the five accused on the basis of the statement given by Khobragade,” Inspector General of Police (Nagpur range) Ravindra Kadam told The Indian Express. According to Khobragade’s statement, the five poured petrol over him and set him on fire at his residence around 2.30 am on Saturday. “The five accused — Rishipal Tembhre, Madhuri Tembhre, Shriprakash Rahangdale, Bhaulal Harinkhede and Punaji Thakre — had allegedly opposed land allotment to Buddha Vihar and got the allotment by the gram panchayat cancelled,” said Kadam. According to reports, Rishipal Tembhre is a tehsil unit general secretary of the BJP. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

33. UN study shows decrease in maternal deaths (3)

NEW DELHI: Fresh data released by the United Nations shows a 45 per cent decrease in maternal deaths since 1990. An estimated 2.89 lakh women died in 2013 from complications in pregnancy and childbirth as against 5.23 lakh maternal deaths in 1990. Another WHO study, also published in “The Lancet Global Health”, adds a new dimension to maternal mortality by stating that more than one in four mothers die due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, which can aggravate during pregnancy. “Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis”, finds that this is similar to the proportion of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth from severe bleeding. The report said India has been making good progress as its maternal mortality numbers have gone down by 65 per cent from 569 per lakh live births in 1990 to 190 per lakh live births in 2013. “Together, the two reports highlight the need to invest in proven solutions, such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth, and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general, family, women’s and children’s health, WHO. According to “Trends in maternal mortality 1990 to 2013” brought out by the UN bodies, including the WHO, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 210 maternal deaths per lakh live births, down from 380 maternal deaths per lakh live births in 1990 (a 45 per cent reduction). The global reduction of MMR has accelerated with a 3.5 per cent annual decline from 2000 to 2013, as compared to 1.4 per cent from 1990 to 2000.  (The Hindu 8/5/14)

 

34. 37 Million Premature Deaths Can be Prevented by Reducing Only Six Risk Factors (3)

After the UN General Assembly agreed to reduce deaths from the top four chronic diseases in 2011, the World Health Organization created targets for premature deaths from these diseases and their key risk factors. Now, research published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal reveals that reducing six modifiable risk factors to the agreed target levels could prevent over 37 million premature deaths over 15 years. The four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disease, cancers and diabetes, while the six modifiable risk factors are tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity. There is another, more worrying side of the finding: if these targets are not reached, 38.8 million deaths from the four main NCDs will likely occur in 2025.  Reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use will likely bring the biggest benefits, say the researchers, who estimate a 50 per cent reduction in smoking by 2025 will reduce risk of dying by over 24 per cent in men and 20 per cent in women. (New Indian Express 11/5/14)

 

35. Alcohol consumption on the rise in India, World Health Organisation worried (3)

New Delhi: Consumption of liquor in India has increased during the past decade as 32% of men and 10.6% of women above 15 years of age were found to be drinking alcohol. Alcohol caused some 3.3 million deaths in 2012, whereas HIV/AIDS led to 2.8%, tuberculosis–1.7% of deaths and violence is responsible for just 0.9%, WHO study said. The revelations were made in an World Health Organization (WHO) report which cited the data of 2010. Drinking habit in populous China and India is rising fast as people are earning more money, the report said. According to the experts, alcohol abuse is emerging as a major public-health problem in the country. Shekhar Saxena, who heads the WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse department said today that alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide each year which actually translates into one death every 10 seconds. (DNA 12/5/14)

 

36. India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO (3)

New Delhi: With an estimated 50,000 deaths of pregnant women every year, India tops the global chart of countries where maximum number of mothers die every year, overtaking several nations from Asia and Africa. The data, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a week before Mother’s Day, shows only two countries account for a third of all global maternal deaths: India at 17 per cent (50,000) and Nigeria at 14 per cent (40,000). Officials in the Union Health Ministry and doctors, however, point out that though thousands of Indian mothers die because of a large population base, the nation has made progress since 1990. “India will continue to be at the top of the list for several more years because we have almost 3 crore pregnant women each year, the highest in the world. But our MMR (maternal mortality ratio) stands at 178 as against 560 in 1990,” Health Ministry Additional Secretary Anuradha Gupta told Deccan Herald. MMR is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Reduction of maternal deaths is one of the targets under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Though there has been 45 per cent reduction globally, many countries are still above the danger mark. While the WHO report takes note of India’s progress—65 per cent improvement since 1990—it says 10 nations accounted for 60 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality, and India was way ahead of its neighbours Pakistan and China. “Male domination and mother-in-law’s diktat many-a-times influence a girl’s decision to go to a healthcare centre or see a doctor,” said Mumbai-based Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. While institutional deliveries have improved from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to more than 80 per cent in 2013, there are still pockets where mothers are unable to access healthcare services. The government has identified 184 such districts across the country where renewed efforts are being made to bring down MMR further. “We have already reduced MMR by three-fourths from the 1990-level. Our target is to bring it further down to 100 by 2017,” said Gupta. Kerala has the lowest MMR of 66, while Assam has the highest of 328. UP is a close second to Assam (292). Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (87) have MMR below 100. The figures are not that rosy for Karnataka, as it has the highest MMR (144) among the South Indian states, despite recording a fall in 2010-12. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have MMR of 90 and 110, respectively. (Deccan Herald 12/5/14)

 

37. Family seeks probe into rabies patient’s sudden death (3)

NEW DELHI: The family of 23-year-old Kavita Joshi, who died of suspected rabies on Friday after being bitten by a dog in Manali, conducted her last rites on Tuesday, soon after police finished her autopsy on Delhi high court’s order. Kavita’s family and friends are unable to understand how a dog bite could lead to her sudden death within four days of her hospitalization. Speaking to TOI, her family and well-wishers said they are mulling legal options that include seeking a thorough probe into the circumstances surrounding her death. The family wants the cops to investigate if fake medicine was administered to her or if there was any kind of medical negligence. While Kavita’s father Mohan Chandra Joshi said the family will decide what to do next in a few days, their lawyer RK Saini said seeking an inquest can be an option given the nature of her death. It took a series of Delhi high court orders for Kavita’s family to first ensure she was not forcibly discharged from Max Hospital, Patparganj, and later for police to conduct postmortem. With Kavita passing away on Friday, her postmortem was stuck because of holidays on Saturday and Sunday that left the high court furious. Family friend BS Negi, who monitored the petitions filed by the Joshi family, was unable to hide his grief. “She had such a bright future. Kavita’s brother was present when the incident happened. She had offered a biscuit to the animal and its teeth just grazed her hand. Despite taking injections in Manali, her condition suddenly deteriorated nearly 20 days after the incident. The hospital authorities here didn’t cooperate,” Negi alleged. On Tuesday, while taking stock of the family’s condition, the high court advised them to approach the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) seeking a probe into her death if they feel there were lapses. The court also took exception to repeated cases of delay in post mortem. “There is a problem in structural response. There is lack of coordination between police and health department which needs to be worked out.” On this issue it tagged the plea of her family members with another case on delayed post mortems pending before the Chief Justice’s court. Justice Manmohan had intervened and asked the health department of Delhi government to order Max Super Speciality Hospital at Patparganj not to discharge 23-year-old Kavita Joshi from the hospital last week, when the panic stricken Joshi family moved court. After her death the family had to again knock on HC doors to get the post mortem done. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

38. UN report shows rich-poor longevity divide persists (3)

New York, May 16 : People everywhere are living longer, the United Nations health agency on Thursday reported, mostly because fewer children are dying, certain diseases are in check, and tobacco use is down, but conditions in low-income countries continue to plague life quality there. According to the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Statistics 2014, a girl born in 2012 can expect to live around 73 years and a boy to the age of 68. That is six years longer than the average life span for a child in 1990. With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), substantial progress has been made on many health-related goals, the report authors wrote. “The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria,” the report states. WHO’s statistics show that low-income countries have made the greatest progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by 9 years from 1990 to 2012. The top six countries where life expectancy increased the most were Liberia which saw a 20-year increase (from 42 years in 1990 to 62 years in 2012) followed by Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77 years), Cambodia (54 to 72 years), Timor-Leste (50 to 66 years) and Rwanda (48 to 65 years). Nevertheless, nearly 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, according to the findings, with large inequities remaining in child mortality between high-income and low-income countries. “There is still a major rich-poor divide: people in high-income countries continue to have a much better chance of living longer than people in low-income countries,” said Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan. Women live longer than men in general, but in high-income countries the difference is around six years, while in low-income countries, the average falls to three years. The findings among children are even more glaring. A girl born in 2012 in a high-income country can expect to live to the age of around 82, which is 19 years longer than a girl born in a low-income country. The difference for boys is 16 years. Geographically, women in Japan live the longest, with an average life expectancy of 87 years, followed by Spain, Switzerland and Singapore at 85 years. The average lifespan of men is highest in Iceland at 81 years. “In high-income countries, much of the gain in life expectancy is due to success in tackling noncommunicable diseases,” said Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO. “Fewer men and women are dying before they get to their 60th birthday from heart disease and stroke. Richer countries have become better at monitoring and managing high blood pressure for example,” he added. Declining tobacco use is also a key factor in helping people live longer in several countries. At the other end of the scale, life expectancy for both men and women is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries, including Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. (New Kerala 16/5/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

39. NGOs demand increase in HIV tests during pregnancy (3)

JAIPUR: On the occasion of World AIDS Orphans Day, the social organizations demanded that the government increases conduction of HIV tests of pregnant women to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to the newborn. The social organizations including FXB Suraksha and Positive Women Network of Rajasthan on Wednesday at Press Club appealed to the government that more women coming for institutional deliveries should be screened for HIV through counseling. FXB India programme coordinator (Rajasthan) Suraksha Lata Singh said, “May 7 is observed as World AIDS Orphan day and the state government is running Treatment & Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) centres to save the newborn from HIV transmission during their birth.” The representatives of the social organizations pointed out that once an infant is born with HIV his life becomes challenging as there have been instances of the child being shifted to shelter homes by his close relatives after his HIV positive parents died. The organizations claimed that the transmission of virus from mother to newborn could be prevented by taking some medication, which minimizes transmission chance. More the HIV testing of pregnant women is done less would be the chances of newborns being infected with the virus. Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) is already conducting HIV tests of pregnant women through counseling. They take the women’s consent before conducting the test. The RSACS said they have conducted tests on more than 6 lakh pregnant women for HIV in 2013, which could be nearly 33% of the total pregnant women giving birth to newborns every year, through proper counseling. The auxiliary nurse midwife and general nurse midwife counsel the women to take the test before she gives birth. So far, the new infections among children are 130, the social organizations claimed. (Times of India 8/5/14)

 

40. HIV patient gets violent, kills one in the Bombay (3)

MUMBAI: A 42-year-old HIV positive patient got violent in the Bombay Hospital early on Monday morning and killed a 65-year-old TB patient besides injuring two others. The accused, an Agripada resident, has been admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital for treatment, and booked for murder and attempt to murder. The deceased, Lilabihari Thakur, was to be discharged in three days. The incident took place at around 6.30 am in the general ward on third floor of the hospital. The accused, who returned from bathroom, used a saline-drip stand to attack the victims, said police. The Azad Maidan police initially registered an attempt to murder case against the accused but later added the section of murder Thakur died during treatment. The two injured were Praful Parmar (70) and Janardhan Arte (66), both being treated. Thakur’s son, Pankaj, said that his mother Miradevi has been accompanying his father since he was admitted on April 12. “On Monday morning, my mother had gone down stairs to bring medicines which were to be given to my father.At around 6.30 pm, the accused got up from his bed and removed the stand used to mount saline bottles. He later attacked my father thrice with the rod on his head. My father was bleeding profusely and meanwhile he ran towards the other ward too. He attacked two other patients too and injured them grievously,” said Pankaj, who works in a private firm as administrator. He added that while the other patients got scared, there is no correct information where the accused’s care taker was. “He had hit the other two patients on their head too,” he said. (Times of India 12/5/14)

 

41. Rights groups oppose Uganda’s HIV bill (3)

Kampala: Human rights activists Wednesday opposed a “deeply flawed” HIV bill passed by Uganda’s parliament, which they say is discriminatory and hampers the fight against AIDS. The new law, passed by parliament on Tuesday, foresees jail sentences of up to 10 years for spouses who infect each other with HIV. The bill also allows medical workers to disclose patients’ HIV status without consent, includes mandatory HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners. It criminalizes HIV transmission, attempted transmission and behaviour that might result in transmission by those who know their HIV status. “This HIV bill is yet another step backward in the fight against AIDS in Uganda,” said Maria Burnett, researcher at international non-profit Human Rights Watch. “It is founded on stigma and discrimination and based on approaches that have been condemned by international health agencies as ineffective and violating the rights of people living with HIV,” Ms. Burnett added. “It is a very detrimental bill. The law will chase away people from testing for AIDS,” AIDS activist and medical doctor Margret Mungherela said. The bill has been pending in parliament since 2010 and was passed even though the Health Ministry’s AIDS commission as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and other international agencies discouraged the law. About 1.5 million of the East African nation’s 36 million people are infected with HIV, according to the Health Ministry. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

42. Govt to Issue BPL Cards to All HIV +ve Patients (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a meeting attended by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Health Minister V S Sivakumar and Social Justice Minister M K Muneer at the Secretariat, it was announced that the government had formulated several policies to protect the 8,227 HIV positive patients in the state. For patients undergoing Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART), the monthly aid has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000. Kerala State AIDS Control Society will be entrusted with a corpus fund of Rs 3 crore towards this purpose, according to a release. “Children of HIV patients will be provided free education and scholarships. There will be no age limit for pensions given to widows of AIDS patients,” it said. All tests will be free for HIV infected patients in the labs run by hospital management committees in various government hospitals. In case a hospital doesn’t have the provision for a particular test, the government will take measures to reimburse the money spent on tests. To ensure the financial security of HIV patients, the Social Justice Department will introduce self-employment schemes. The government is also envisaging a housing project for them. Medicines that are not available at the eight ART centres in the state will be made available through Kerala Medical Services Corporation. In the eight ART centres in the state, counsellors to implement Social Justice Schemes through single window clearance would be appointed. Schemes to provide nutritious food would be re-introduced in all ART centres, according to the release. Special training will be given to those willing to provide nursing care to HIV patients. AIDS awareness will be part of the school curriculum. The Social Justice Department will protect the rights of HIV patients, through a health centre to be established in Kochi. The government has also decided that once in three months, the Chief Minister, Health Minister and Social Justice Minister would meet  to analyse the issues which affect HIV patients. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

43. Dosage of key drug for HIV+ too low to counter TB, reveals study (3)

CHENNAI: Experts may fret about overprescription of drugs for tuberculosis, but it has emerged that central health authorities’ mandatory dosage of a key drug for HIV-infected patients with the disease is too low for it to be effective. A study by National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis found that dosage of rifabutin — a second-line drug for HIV-infected TB patients — prescribed by Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) is insufficient to tackle mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of the disease, one of the leading causes of death among AIDS/HIV+ patients. “The programme recommends 150mg of the drug thrice a week. But based on our studies of blood samples collected from 17 patients, we found that for 150mg of rifabutin to work, patients would have to take the drug every day,” said Dr Geetha Ramachandran, who led the study. The subjects of the study were all patients at Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine, Tambaram. All of them had failed to respond to first-line treatment. Researchers found that the RNTCP stipulated dosage administered to seven patients was too low to counter the disease. Four of the subjects died during the course of the study. “Ten of the patients, who received a dosage of around 30mg/ml higher than that prescribed by the RNTCP, showed favourable response to the treatment,” Dr Ramachandran said. Experts say the dosage of the drug has always been a matter of debate, with doctors exercising extra caution due to possible chemical interaction of medicines for HIV and TB. “While in some countries like the US, the dosage of rifabutin has been increased from 150mg three days a week to the same amount daily, in India insufficient data and studies resulted in health authorities failing to increase the dosage,” NIRT director Soumya Swaminathan said. The researchers have presented the results of the study to the National AIDS Control Organisation. “A multi-centric study will be undertaken in different parts of the country to assess the effect of rifabutin. This could change the drug regimen for HIV-positive patients with TB,” Dr Swaminathan said. Experts say 60%-70% of HIV-infected patients are likely to develop TB, mostly those on second-line therapy. “There are several factors that may lead to poor treatment outcome, including malnutrition and other infections. The dosage of rifabutin, which kills the bacteria, is also a contributing factor which can’t be taken lightly. Although we recommend daily dosage, more studies will be required to determine the optimal level,” Dr Ramachandran said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

44. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

 

45. Tamil Nadu to compensate landowners in two phases (4)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has worked out a strategy to address the issue of compensation for land acquisition so as to ensure smooth progress of the ongoing infrastructure projects. It has combined the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 with some aspects of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, for the purpose. Under the plan, interim compensation will be initially paid to landowners on the basis of the existing system. Additional compensation will be given under the 2013 Act as and when rules under the law are available. This approach will be adopted in the cases of land acquisition initiated under Section 4 (1) of the 1894 law [publication of preliminary notification] or Section 6 [declaration of intended acquisition]. This has been reflected in a notification issued by the Housing and Urban Development Department two weeks ago for the outer ring road project. In this case, the Department has declared its intention to acquire 43 hectares in Tiruvallur district under Section 6 of the 1894 Act, but provisions of the 2013 Act for the determination of compensation will apply. The strategy was spelt out in an order issued a couple of weeks before the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections came into force on March 5. A similar approach will be adopted in the case of land acquisition for the Kannankottai-Thervoy Kandigai reservoir project proposed in Tiruvallur district. The reservoir will supply water to Chennai, a senior official says. And, using the same law, the process has been set in motion for a major bus terminus at Vandalur, on the outskirts of Chennai. Furthermore, land is acquired under three State laws: the Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act of 1978, the Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act of 1997 and the Highways Act of 2001. In late February and early March, under clauses of the 1997 law, the proceedings have been initiated for the expansion of the SIPCOT industrial complex at Oragadam near Chennai, the industrial units at Cheyyar in Tiruvannamalai district and the extension of the Coimbatore airport runway. Given the importance of land acquisition under these laws, the government has decided to continue the process for one year, choosing not to apply the 2013 law for the time being. A Bill for this purpose, adopted by the Assembly in February, is awaiting the President’s assent. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA K. Balakrishnan feels that the government should have at least kept the 1997 law out of the exemption provision as the rationale behind the 2013 law is to give owners a higher compensation when their land is bought for industrial purposes. An official says the scheme to provide interim and additional compensation, now worked out for the cases under the 1894 Act, will soon be extended to those under the 1997 law.  (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

46. Stay on acquisition of land in NCR to continue: HC (4)

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday clarified that the stay on acquisition of land and issuance of any change of land use (CLU) licences to developers to build colonies in Gurgaon and the National Capital Region (NCR) area would continue till further orders. The HC on January 23 had stayed the acquisition process and the issuance of CLU licences till the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) approves a sub-regional plan for the area. The orders were passed by the HC after hearing petitions alleging unregulated construction and development around Gurgaon and NCR without the mandatory sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, counsel for the town and country planning department informed the court that it has prepared a sub-regional plan and submitted the same before the board on February 17 on which a report is awaited. NCRPB informed the HC that it has prepared a report on the issue and sent it to the Haryana government. However, the counsel for the Haryana government submitted that it is yet to receive the report. After hearing all the parties, Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked all the parties to submit a status report on the matter and till the submission of them the stay order would continue. Petitioner Rishi Dagar and others had also challenged the proposed Gurgaon master plan of 2025 and 2031. The petitioners argued before the court that the Haryana government had permitted haphazard construction in and around Gurgaon and NCR and licences have been issued without obtaining mandatory approval of its sub-regional plan from the NCRPB. Sub-regional plan is one that a state government needs to prepare for its areas coming in NCR. (Times of India 15/5/14)

 

47. Allahabad HC sets aside land acquisition notice (4)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside the notification dated November 9, 2009 by which the land at Hazratpur in Greater NOIDA was acquired by the state government for planned industrial development. Under this notification, 73 hectares of land was acquired by the state government through Greater NOIDA Industrial Development Authority. The order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Naheed Ara Moonis, on a writ petition filed by Uday Veer of Greater NOIDA, after hearing the counsel for the petitioner, counsel for Greater NOIDA and counsel for the state government. The petitioner contended that the land of the petitioner was acquired through the notification by using the urgency clause in an illegal manner. He alleged that the villagers and farmers, whose lands were acquired, were not given opportunity to file objections in view of the urgency clause. This was patently illegal. Secondly, the counsel for the petitioner contended that the possession over the said land was also made in an improper manner. On these grounds, he urged the court to set aside the notification. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

CORRUPTION

48. Anti-corruption bureau caught 508 errant officials in four months in Maharashtra (5)

MUMBAI: A deputy collector, a public works executive engineer, a senior police inspector, and a principal of a leading college were among the 508 public servants trapped by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in 375 graft cases in the first four months of 2014. Significantly, in the entire last year, the ACB had arrested 281 erring officials in 216 cases. According to ACB records, the highest number of erring officials caught this year was from the state home department (87), followed by the revenue department (79), municipal corporations (25), state electricity distribution company (16) and land records (11). More shocking was the fact that a few senior police inspectors were caught taking bribes in police stations itself. Admitting that the data was worrying, Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria said he was determined to end the menace. “I had a meeting with all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners, and have drafted a comprehensive action plan to take on the erring officials. The results will be visible in a time-bound period,” he said. “We have prepared a list of the erring officers. We will counsel them and take action against them. But if there is no improvement, we ourselves will submit the list to the ACB for further action.” Maria said all deputy, additional and joint police commissioners have also been asked to personally monitor sensitive cases, where there is scope for corruption. “In cases where an officer can use his discretion on whether or not to arrest the accused, there is scope for corruption. We will monitor all such cases,” Maria said. An IPS official said that owing to the proactive role played by the ACB, led by IPS officer Praveen Dixit, there was “alertness in all walks of life”. “Social activists are knocking at the doors of the ACB and the results are visible,” he said. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Swadhin Kshatriya said even the revenue department has drafted a strategy to curb corruption. “We have worked out a action plan to provide a corruption-free administration,” he said, adding that more emphasis is being given on maximum utilization of information technology. “All services will be available online, as a result, there will be less scope for corruption.” Kshatriya said as there was scope for irregularities in land records, they have been completely digitized. “We have simplified rules and set a time-bound disposal for all pending revenue cases. We are set to bring e-governance at all levels.” Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade said they have taken measures to reduce corruption at all levels. “Our entire administration has been digitized and all services are available online. We are implementing all the legislation in letter and spirit, as a result, there is less scope for lower-level officials to indulge in illegal activities,” he said, adding that if citizens stop giving bribes, corruption will automatically end. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

49. CBI forms SIT to probe Saradha group, 17 other firms (5)

Kolkata: The CBI formed a special investigation team (SIT) on Monday — the last day of polling in the 2014 elections — to probe the Saradha group and 17 other such companies for duping millions in Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and the northeastern states. To be led by the agency’s joint director for the northeast zone, Rajiv Singh, the team will have officers from various CBI departments in the states, besides men from the agency’s Delhi office and specialised units. On April 10, 2013 after his company went bust, Saradha group boss Sudipta Sen wrote a letter to the CBI, detailing the involvement of some Trinamool Congress top guns as well as relatives of some Congress leaders in the scam. As the scam rocked Bengal and the neighbouring states, TMC chief and chief minister Mamata Banerjee set up a commission under a retired judge, Shyamal Sen, to initiate the process of documenting the investors and returning some money to the victims. Already more than 60 persons – agents and depositors – have committed suicide since April last year. A source in the CBI, which received the top court’s order on Friday to take up the probe, told HT that since the `20,000-crore scam involved fraud, money laundering and even hawala transactions, officers from specialised departments had to be roped in. The SIT will soon start collecting documents from the special investigation team of the Bengal police as well as the Enforcement Directorate, which are now probing the scam. It will also seek documents from the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. The Bengal police SIT arrested several persons, including Saradha group boss Sen, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh and others. ED, too, in its probe interrogated and arrested a number of persons, including Sen’s wife and daughter. Since cases have already been registered by the police on the basis of first information reports, the CBI will re-register the cases before initiating the probe. But the agency will decide on the sections to be applied, changes in the list of accused persons and incorporate any other changes that it feels necessary. (Hindustan Times 13/5/14)

 

50. CBI’s Fresh Guidelines For Probe Against Joint Secretary and Higher Officers (5)

New Delhi:  Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday issued fresh guidelines for its officers, asking them to take permission of the Additional Director or above before beginning investigation against any joint secretary and higher ranked officers in the government. The direction comes in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgement which struck down the provision of seeking mandatory prior approval by the CBI of the government to probe against officers of the rank of Joint Secretary and above. CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, who had termed it as a landmark judgement, however, had a word of caution to its officers and said “those found guilty of abusing their authority will be dealt with severely.” Mr Sinha had said the order had added more responsibilities on the CBI as a proper mechanism had to be put in place to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to this provision. “We have strengthened our already existing mechanism and due diligence will be done before questioning any senior officer,” he had said. According to the circular issued by the CBI, any inquiry against a joint secretary or above officer in the government will have to be approved by a competent authority which would be either an Additional Director, a Special Director or the Director of the CBI. It said that in case of a complaint in any CBI office against a Union Minister, the same shall be forwarded to the Home Ministry promptly for further action and the relevant file should remain in the personal custody of the head of the branch. No complaint against any such officer will be handed over to a CBI officer below the rank of a Superintendent of Police, the guidelines said. The Superintendent of Police should ensure that the departmental records are examined discreetly so that secrecy of the verification is maintained and advised to consult the records informally by contacting the concerned Vigilance Officers or the Head of the Department. During the course of verification of the complaint, a written requisition for record should normally be avoided but wherever absolutely necessary, such requisition must go under the signature of the Head of the Branch only and never of the Verification Officer, failing which, the concerned unit heads would be held squarely responsible, the circular said. “The period of three months, which is provided for completion of the verification of complaints, must be strictly adhered to and all complaints that are time-barred should be individually examined by the head of the zones and necessary direction be given in this regard,” it said. While reiterating that adequate precautions should be taken to ensure that motivated complaints or cases are not registered, the circular warned that a trend was seen that complaints were received against an officer who is on the verge of promotion. “It should be carefully scrutinised and finding out this fact should become part of the verification” and unless the information is specific, it need not be entertained, it said. A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, held as invalid and unconstitutional the provision which makes it mandatory for prior approval of competent authority for the CBI to probe Joint Secretary and above-ranked officials in corruption cases and said the protection has the propensity of shielding the corrupt. The 6-A clause of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs the CBI, says no inquiry or probe can be conducted into any offence committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 except with the prior approval of the central government. This is applicable to central government employees of the level of Joint Secretary and above and officers appointed by the Centre in corporations established by or under any central Act, government companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by that government. (NDTV 14/5/14)

 

51. 34% of MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha have criminal charges against them (5)

New Delhi: Every third MP in the 16th Lok Sabha has criminal charges while 82% of the lawmakers have assets worth Rs one crore or more, as per Association for Democratic Reforms’ (ADR) analysis. Civil society group ADR have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 541 out of 543 winners in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections filed before the Election Commission. They found that 34% of the winning candidates are faced with criminal charges. It was 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 186 (34%) have declared criminal cases against themselves,” ADR said in its detailed analysis BJP is leading the chart with as many as 98 winning candidates (35%) out of total 282, are facing criminal charges. While, 8 out of total 44 candidates of Congress are facing criminal charges. In AIADMK 6 out of 37 winners have been booked by police in some case or other. The percentage of candidates facing criminal charges is highest in Shiv Sena as its 15 candidates out of the total 18 are booked in some case or other. Trinamool Congress’ 7 out of 34 winners are facing criminal charges. ADR in its analysis also found that on an average four out of five candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have declared assets worth over Rs 1 crore. “Out of the 541 winners analysed, 442 (82%) are crorepatis,” the analysis pointed. In this category also BJP is leading as 237 (84%) out of its 282 winners are crorepatis. In Congress, 35 (80%) out of 44 winners are crorepatis. ADR also underlined that chances of candidates with criminal charges were almost double as compared to clean candidates. “The chances of winning of a candidate with criminal cases in the Lok Sabha 2014 elections are 13% while for a candidate with a clean record it is 5%,” ADR said in its analysis. The ADR was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. (DNA 18/5/14)

 

52. Mere collection of money doesn’t amount to bribery: Madras HC (5)

CHENNAI: Holding that mere collection of money from people alone would not be enough to convict public servants on charges of bribery, the Madras high court has acquitted a woman village administrative officer who was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment for taking Rs 200 for issuing a birth certificate. While the complaint was that she sought this as bribe for issuing the certificate, S Vijayalakshmi said while Rs 150 was collected as flag day charges Rs 50 was towards transport expenses. Vijayalakshmi was VAO of Keelambi village in Kancheepuram district in June 1999 when the incident occurred. In August 2008, chief judicial magistrate of Chengalpet found her guilty under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sentenced her to one-year imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 5,000. Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, setting aside the order and acquitting Vijayalakshmi last week, said: “It is settled principle of law that mere recovery of the tainted money is not sufficient to record a conviction, unless there is evidence that bribe had been demanded or money was paid as a bribe. In the absence of any evidence of demand and acceptance of the amount as illegal gratification, recovery would not alone be a ground to convict the appellant.” According to the prosecution, Vijayalakshmi demanded Rs 200 for issuing birth certificate to one Priyanka who gave birth to a child in 1999. Priyanka’s father informed the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption personnel, who laid a trap for the VAO. She was caught while receiving the money. Later, during trial, the complainant himself admitted that the VAO had demanded the money towards flag day collection and transport expenses. Justice Jagadeesan said: “I am of the considered opinion that the prosecution has failed in establishing the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt that there was a demand and acceptance of illegal gratification. Whereas, the accused has given a plausible and acceptable explanation and discharged the burden.” (Times of India 19/5/14)

 

TRIBALS

53. Woman stripped in public, asked to pay Rs 1 lakh fine (6)

RAIPUR: In an apparent imitation of controversial “khap panchayat”, a 35-year-old tribal teacher in Pathalgaon area in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh was not only beaten and stripped in front of everyone but was also asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or face boycott from village. The incident took place at Pakargaon of Pathalgaon block on April 19. Despite the fact that the woman had reported the matter naming the accused, police is still waiting to get a detailed complaint on assault and the truth in her being stripped naked to take stringent action. The teacher has now approached human rights commission and women’s commission after alleged police inaction. She was assaulted because her nephew was allegedly in a relationship with a girl of same village. According to woman’s statement given to state commission for women, her nephew and the girl belonged to same caste and wished to get married. While discussions were going on for the wedding, the girl allegedly stayed at woman’s home where her nephew Bijendra also lived but after brief counseling the girl left. However, as soon as village sarpanch Nehru Lakda came to know about the girl’s stay, he blamed the woman for misleading her and accused her nephew of rape. When the village gathered at gram sabha of April 19, the girl under pressure denied having any relationship with the boy following which sarpanch, holding the woman responsible, ordered men and women present there to beat her. The victim also complained that she was robbed off her gold ornaments while she was being assaulted. On accusations of defaming the girl, the woman was asked to pay Rs 1 lakh or leave the village with her family. “No one visits or talks to me. Moreover, I have been struggling for help from police since a fortnight but even after reporting the matter, none of the accused were arrested,” she said. Talking to TOI, secretary of state commission for women Jagrani Ekka said that a letter has been sent to superintendent of police Jitendra Mina asking Jashpur police to register a case under relevant sections. “Following the report submitted by police, commission would intervene for her justice,” she said. According to eyewitnesses, the woman was not stripped but her clothes were torn off while she was being beaten and assaulted. Hence, they said, stripping wasn’t intentional. TOI spoke to the victim, who while weeping over phone, said, “Sarpanch abused me before everyone, dragged me by hair and kicked me on ground, stripping me off my clothes. Nehru is habitual of assaulting people and has boycotted more than 10 people from village and sent many to jail.” Demanding justice, the victim said, “I have already informed police amid threats from sarpanch to withdraw the complaint.” Police had registered FIR against sarpanch. “Sarpanch and two others were arrested and released on bail. If survivor has more to say about assault and being stripped by locals, she has all rights to approach the police,” Neha Pandey, Jashpur additional superintendent of police told TOI. Meanwhile, state Congress committee president Bhupesh Baghel has formed a party level committee for examining the case. (Times of India 10/5/14)

 

54. NGO comes forward to help poor adivasi couples get married (6)

Jalpaiguri: An NGO and a tea garden management came forward and helped 26 poor adivasi couple to get married in Jalpaiguri district. Himdong Tea garden and Spandan Welfare society today organised a mass marriage ceremony at the Himdong Tea garden where 26 poor adivasi couple were married. The Spandan Welfare Society said as the poor adivasi couple were too poor they could not afford to get married so they came forward and helped them get married along with the Himdong tea garden management. (Financial Express 11/5/14)

 

55. In a first, Chhattisgarh tribal widow remarries (6)

Raipur: A tribal group in Chhattisgarh has set a new social trend in its society by allowing a widow of the community to remarry. Kanwar Samaj, considered a socially and economically-backward tribe, has decided to do away with its age-old tradition of prohibiting widow marriage in the community, when its leaders gave nod to the wedding of Chuneswari Kanwar (24), who lost her husband barely a month after her nuptial a couple of years ago. Chuneswari married Siddhartha Singh Kanwar (28), who is currently serving as an engineer in a private power company in Bhillai nearly 30 km from here, at a simple ceremony, attended by the elders of the society, in her village of Jejera in tribal-dominated Gariabandh district in east Chhattisgarh on Sunday night. “This is the first remarriage of a widow in the history of our tribal society. The social reform undertaken in the society will go a long way in helping the group fight backwardness,” Gariabandh district president of Kanwar-Paikra society Bharat Singh Diwan said on Monday. (Asian Age 13/5/14)

 

56. Tribals desert govt homes citing lack of facilities (6)

MADURAI: Tribal families in Varasanadu in Theni district who were rehabilitated have decided to desert their new homes and return to the hilly regions as they do not have access to basic amenities. The tribal families living in Yanaikajam near Varasanadu were rehabilitated in government constructed homes near Upputhurai village in the region. Twenty-four group houses were constructed for them at a cost of Rs 28 lakh, with each house costing Rs 1.20 lakh. They occupied their new homes about two months ago, little before the elections, but ever since they have been saying that they want to give up their new homes because they do not have basic amenities. The houses were constructed under the Indira Gandhi Rozgar yojana. Similar houses were constructed for the tribals in the region in various places including Arasaradi near Nochiodai, Thalaiyoothu and only the homes constructed near Kadamalaigundu have some facilities. Three families left their homes on Wednesday and went up to their old habitation in Yanaikajam declaring that it was better than their new homes. Velu, one of the people who left their new homes said that they had come here expecting better facilities than their previous ones, but the new houses were not up to their expectations. The compound wall was not constructed as promised and as there is no electricity the women are fearful of venturing outside even late in the evening. “At least in our old homes we did not a problem for drinking water as it was easily available,” they said. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

57. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Survey Report (6)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5,957 of 12,189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of STs do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said.About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders.  Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

58. Technical issues hit minorities welfare department division process (7)

HYDERABAD: With days to go before the Appointed Date of bifurcation, the minorities welfare department (MWD) said that the process of division of five out of 11 agencies under its control would be finalized only after June 2. The five entities, Urdu Academy of AP (UAAP), AP State Wakf Board, Survey Commissioner of Wakf, AP State Haj Committee (APSHC) and the Wakf Tribunal, would be divided after the formation of the new Telangana state. According to sources from the MWD, the decision to not bifurcate the tribunal is based on the fact that it is a statutory body which acts as a court of law and deals with a large number of cases. In a similar case, the AP State Minorities Commission, headed by senior Congress leader Abid Rasool Khan, would continue to function in Telangana but its formation in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh would be the government’s prerogative. “Once a government comes to power in residuary Andhra Pradesh, it will decide if a commission for minorities of the state should be constituted. The tribunal currently handles many cases which is why we want to be careful with its bifurcation. Speeding up its division could adversely affect cases which are being heard,” an official, who did not wish to be named said. With the state being allotted a quota of 5,384 seats for haj pilgrims this year, the APSHC too will not be divided immediately. “The government has decided not to divide the haj committee at least till November’s haj season comes to an end. Further, in mid-March, 3,908 pilgrims were selected by means of qurrah (draw of lots). Another 1,476 seats have been allotted in the reserved category. Bifurcation of the committee could cause problems in arrangements and inconvenience pilgrims,” the source said. Interestingly, sources said that the MWD special secretary Syed Omar Jaleel has recommended against the bifurcation of Dairatul Maarif, an institute with the objective of preserving Arabic manuscripts, which is located in Osmania University. “The institute is a repository of rare manuscripts and books. We think that it is the cultural heritage of Muslims which should not be divided. We have recommended that it functions as a single entity,” Jaleel said. He added that the bifurcation process at the department was proceeding smoothly. “We are ready for a smooth transition,” he added. The government had originally set a deadline of May 15 for all government departments to complete the bifurcation process, including division of manpower and assets, but not a single agency has been able to complete the process and many were unlikely to do so before the appointed date of June 2. “It’s almost impossible to complete the process in such a short period. It’s a mammoth exercise, a gigantic task at hand,” said a government official. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

59. Dal Khalsa cautions minorities against miscreants (7)

Chandigarh: Expressing concern over Wednesday’s violent clashes in Hyderabad, the radical Sikh organisation, Dal Khalsa, has appealed to the local leadership of both minority communities to ensure early resolution and frustrate the attempts by miscreants to escalate tensions. In a statement, spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the clashes reported from Kishanbagh after miscreants burnt a Nishan Sahib (religious flag) of the Sikh community. Mr. Singh said that while the burning of the Nishan Sahib was condemnable, certain miscreants had resorted to spreading rumours over the social media to vitiate atmosphere. Mr. Singh alleged that certain miscreants associated with Hindu right-wing organisations were spreading rumours to create further animosity between the minority communities. According to the versions of some Sikhs of Hyderabad, he said, the propaganda was carried on social media that Muslims had attacked Sardars, angry over Sikhs supporting the BJP instead of voting for the Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen. (The Hindu 15/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

60. Muslim representation to be low in 16th Lok Sabha, none in BJP’s 282 (7)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have one of the lowest representation for Muslims with just about 20 of them emerging victorious in the Lok Sabha polls in the wake of the saffron surge in the north and western parts of India. Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats, has not returned any Muslim candidate in the just-concluded elections. An analysis of the results shows that there are about 20 winners from the Muslim community. BJP, the largest party with 282 members, does not have a single representative from the community. In the new Lok Sabha, the biggest contingent of Muslim MPs would be from West Bengal with seven members followed by Bihar where at least four Muslim candidates have won. Going by estimates, there were more than 25 Muslim members in the outgoing Lower House. Trinamool Congress has at least three members from the community among whom are Idris Ali (Basirhat), Sultan Ahmed (Uluberia) and Mamtaz Sanghamita (Burdwan-Durgapur). The others minority community members from West Bengal include CPM’s Badaruddoza Khan (Murshidabad) and Md Salim (Raiganj). There are also two Congress members — Mausam Noor (Maldaha Uttar) and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury (Maldaha Dakshin) — who have won in these elections from the state. From Bihar, there are at least four Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. They include RJD’s Tasleemuddin (Araria), NCP’s Tariq Anwar (Katihar), LJP’s Chaudhary Mahboob Ali Qaisar (Khagaria) and Congress member Mohd Asrarul Haq Qasmi (Kishanganj). From Jammu & Kashmir, there are three Muslim members for the new House, including PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti (Anantnag). The remaining two, Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Baramulla) and Tariq Hameed Karra (Srinagar), are also from PDP. There are two Muslim MPs from Assam — Siraj Uddin Ajmal (Barpeta) and Badruddin Ajmal (Dhubri). Both are members of the All India United Democratic Front. NCP’s Mohd Faizal PP has won in Lakshadweep while AIADMK member Anwhar Raajhaa has made it to the Lower House from Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi, representing Hyderabad, has retained his seat. Registering its best-ever showing, BJP has won 282 seats in Lok Sabha polls, becoming the first party in 30 years to have single majority. (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

61. BJP gains on Muslim vote, trust in Delhi (7)

New Delhi: The one crucial element in BJP’s historic 7-0 win in Delhi was the support it received from the minority community. The party put in a lot of effort, right from organising conferences, holding public meetings, conducting door-to-door programmes to ensure the anti-Modi image created by the Congress and AAP was dismantled. The efforts seem to have yielded results. Across all assembly segments, which are dominated by Muslims, BJP gained 5,000-25,000 votes in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. Senior BJP leaders further said the results will boost the party’s prospects if re-elections are held in Delhi assembly and they should continue to undertake such programmes. The minority cell of the BJP played a crucial role in getting the support of Muslims. For instance, in the Matia Mahal assembly segment, which is part of Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency and is dominated by Muslims, Harsh Vardhan managed to get 15,453 votes against 6,061 votes the party had won in the 2013 assembly elections. “We had worked hard in areas dominated by Muslims and constituencies such as Seemapuri, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Mustafabad, Okhla and Ballimaran. We have gained in Okhla too where the party candidate got 39,445 votes against 23,358 votes in the assembly election. It shows that the party is getting the support of the Muslim population and they believe in our agenda of positive governance,” said a senior BJP leader. The minority cell of the Delhi BJP had also prepared a video of Narendra Modi, the party’s face this election, highlighting the fact that he and the party is not anti-Muslim. “Traditionally, Muslims are believed to be the vote bank of Congress but that notion has undergone a sea change. A number of Muslims, especially the youth, came out in huge number and supported us as we gave them the development model. Our minority cell held interactions and public meets to ensure more people came out and voted for our candidates,” said Atif Rashid, president of minority cell of Delhi BJP. (Hindutan Times 19/5/14)

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

62. Election Results: Church circular checked by BJP counterattack (7)

PANAJI: BJP’s victory in both Lok Sabha seats in Goa has brought into focus the role of the “highly influential” Church and its relationship with the government. The religious institution, whose ‘advise’ in 2012 to vote against corruption was believed to be a reason why Congress lost the assembly polls, this time issued a circular through its council for social justice and peace (CSJP) to “revitalize a truly secular republic”. It did not specify BJP, and “secular parties” could have included AAP, TMC and GSRP; but BJP took it as a boost to the Congress. BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who for two years, against his own party’s leanings, has appeared to placate the Church, including with state grants to English-medium primary schools, launched a counterattack. While Catholic BJP legislators and party-men said the circular referred to the “communal Congress” and that none in the party “feels discriminated”, BJP’s local unit stopped highlighting Narendra Modi’s ‘Gujarat model’ touting instead Parrikar’s ‘achievements’, worked aggressively in Salcete, and activated satellite organizations that led to some polarization of votes. On Friday, political commentator Prabhakar Timble told TOI the Church circular did work-”the Congress vote share in Salcete increased”-but its impact was minimal “because Parrikar and his team dared to challenge the diktat”.Respecting the people’s verdict, Fr Savio Fernandes, executive secretary, CSJP, said the circular had only offered guiding principles to voters. Parrikar too said the Church had not said not to vote for any party. On his party’s future relationship with the Church, he said, “Our approach will be the same; BJP’s relation with everyone will remain the same. We will not look different to even those who didn’t vote for us.” (Times of India 17/5/14)

 

63. Students Urged to Fight for Dalit Rights (7)

CHENNAI: Prominent Dalit activist and Supreme Court advocate Franklin Caesar Thomas condemned fundamentalists and caste Hindus for still following the ancient and outdated caste system, which does not respect equality among all. He especially spoke for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims whose SC status has been revoked due to their religious affinity. “Because of the obnoxious reservation and the caste system practised, the richest Dalit Hindus get SC status, while the poorest Dalit Christians and Muslims are not entitled to any benefits that SCs receive,” he said. Speaking at a three-day workshop conducted by the Dalit Students’ Federation, Thomas explained the several legal and constitutional aspects relating to Dalits who chose to convert to another religion. According to the 1950 Constitution order (Scheduled Caste) 19, ‘No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste.’ Thomas said that the benefits of reservation were necessary to economically empower the Dalit minorities rather than continuing to facilitate the advancement of those who have already reached heights, taking advantage of the SC reservations. He expressed the hope that the Constitution order would be amended by the new government to include the Dalit Muslims and Christians and urged them  to fight for their rights in a legal way. “I strongly believe in the legal system, although it is controlled by the Brahminic hegemony,” he added. Maduravoyal MLA Bheem Rao of the CPM encouraged the students to focus on education and economic empowerment. “Involve yourself with progressive thinkers and groups. The courage to bring about a change in ideology and opinions is a necessity,” he said. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

64. Meerut sees ‘vested interests’ behind riots (7)

NEW DELHI: An uneasy calm prevailed in Meerut’s Old City on Monday after a communal riot in Guzri Bazaar area of the city last Saturday afternoon left one dead and several injured. Residents remained huddled inside their houses as security personnel, deployed in huge numbers, kept a watch in the area. People of both Hindu and Muslim communities were unanimous in their opinion that the riots were instigated by some miscreants with the purpose to communally polarise voters in several parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh which went to polls on Monday. Violence started after an argument between two groups over the installation of a “piyau” (a kiosk offering free drinking water) next to a well outside a mosque in Guzri Bazaar. Those present at the spot claimed some Hindus objected to the minority community’s initiative to put up the water kiosk, alleging that it would later “encroach” the well which belongs to the adjacent Basanti Devi Girls School. This triggered a clash between two groups and soon tension spread to nearby areas of the Old City, where members of both the communities reportedly fired at each other, leaving many injured. Even as security was beefed up in the city, the situation remained tense on the ground with rumours of eve-teasing and weapons distribution keeping people locked up in their houses. Local Senior Superintendent of Police Om Prakash Singh said, “To restore peace and avert renewed clashes, patrolling has been intensified in the riot-hit areas and personnel from Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action force have been deployed.” Members of the minority community on Monday alleged that local BJP leaders uploaded photographs of a youth who was critically injured in the clashes on social networking sites, aiming to spread communal tension in other parts of communally sensitive region of Western Uttar Pradesh, a claim which local BJP corporator Vijay Anand rejected. Sitting few hundred meters away from the site of the clash, Suhail Zuberi, a Unani medical practitioner in his early 50s, said the “triviality” of the issue behind the clash makes it clear that riots are being triggered to make political gains. “Clashes are sparked to hijack and consolidate votes and it is in this context that people here see this incident, which has once again highlighted how fickle is the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim relation in front of the onslaught of politics of communal riots,” said Mr. Zuberi. Pointing towards prominent Hindi and Urdu dailies of the region, Mr. Zuberi said, “The news of communal riot has made it to the front pages of the vernacular press, which has only polarised people and consolidated votes in constituencies like Varanasi, and Gorakhpur, which went to polls today.” Abhimanyu Singh, a fruit vendor in the Kagzee Market, (paper market) seconded Mr. Zuberi. “Meerut has learnt to move on with life. We have reached a stage when the conspiracy to create hatred among us gets defeated by our search for better livelihood.” (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

65. Victims suffered multiple injuries in communal riots (7)

HYDERABAD: Armed personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) seemed to have fired indiscriminately on rioters on Wednesday with some of them hit by multiple bullets, underscoring complete failure of the Cyberabad police in directing the paramilitary force to exercise caution. Human rights activists wanted strong action against senior police officers, who ordered the BSF to fire, knowing well that they are trained to kill. Examination of bodies by the forensic science departments of Gandhi and Osmania General Hospital revealed multiple bullet injuries above the waist. Shockingly, Mohammed Fareed, 26, one of the three victims, was felled by four bullets on various parts of his body. Bullets pierced through Fareed’s chest, left hand, left thigh and left leg. In case of Mohammed Shujauddin Khateeb, 38, a bullet pierced through his chest, killing him instantly. The post-mortem on these two victims was conducted at OGH, while autopsy on the third victim, Mohammed Wajid, 20, was done at Gandhi Hospital where doctors said he had one bullet injury. Even among the injured victims, bullets were found mostly above the waist or in the thigh area. Among the five injured people admitted at Premier Hospital, Nanalnagar, bullet injuries were found on the upper arm and two in the forearm. In one case, bullet injury was found in the thigh. “Another injured victim was hit on his head requiring eight stitches,” said Dr K Kamalakar, CEO, Premier Hospital. Similarly, at Apollo Hospital, where three injured persons have been admitted, one has a bullet injury in his lower chest that has harmed his other vital organs including kidney, liver and gall bladder. Another has bullet injury in the arm, while the third patient suffered a deep cut in the thigh. Bullets stuck in the thighs of two victims were removed at Care hospital. Human rights activists condemned the firing and said BSF when deployed in civilian areas cannot operate like they do in border areas. “They are a trigger-happy force and fire randomly. Action has to be taken against BSF personnel who fired at people,” said Francis Raj, a human rights activist. “With President’s rule in the state, police think it can do anything. It is not good for the state that will be bifurcated soon,” Raj added. Activists said shooting was not required at that time. “Live ammunitions should never be used for crowd control,” said Mazhar Hussain, executive director, COVA. “The flag burning incident was wrong but the reaction to the incident without ascertaining the identity of the people responsible for it was also wrong,” said Nanak Singh Nishter, director, International Sikh Centre for Interfaith Relations. He further added that “culprits need to be punished whichever religion they belong to. We keep swords but we are not entitled to use them to harm others. Use of swords or stones to harm others cannot be supported,” said Nishter. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

WOMEN 

66. ‘Women Not Safe in Politics Too’

BANGALORE: Political power has not insulated women from facing gender-based violence. A recent report by the United Nations (UN) has found that verbal-sexual abuse and character assassination of women are rampant in South Asia politics. Worse, Karnataka is one of the three states in India affected by such behaviour. The study ‘Violence Against Women in Politics’ revealed that women from all parties in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were victims of gender violence. In most cases, the perpetrators were men within their party, and fear prevented women from participating as contestants and voters. Conducted between 2003 and 2013 in India, Nepal and Pakistan by UN Women and Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, the study had 250 respondents from India, including men and women in urban and rural areas, police, campaigners, Election Commission officials, judges, advocates, journalists and elected representatives. “Women risk physical violence and harassment and women politicians and parliamentarians experience violence during election campaigns and constituency visits,” the study said and added: “They experience political isolation for not following party lines drawn by male party members.”According to the report, 49 per cent of respondents in India agreed that there was verbal abuse and 45 per cent said physical violence and threats were common. An alarming 67 per cent said the perpetrators were other male contestants and 58 per cent were members within the party. “In Karnataka, while 35.8 per cent of the respondents believe that violence reduced women’s political participation, 24.69 per cent believe that it makes them more isolated,” the report said. KPCC women’s wing state president Manjula Naidu said verbal abuse, and use of slang and expletives were part of everyday life for a woman politician in Karnataka. “Men constantly sabotage and persuade you to withdraw your ticket. Once men realise that a woman is gaining political clout, they mentally harass her. Character assassination is common, but sexual and physical assault are rare,” she said. However, women from political dynasties or actor-turned-politicians do not face these hassles. “Violence reduces political participation. Reservation for women in gram panchayat and zilla panchayat elections is ensuring their participation in the electoral process to some extent,” Manjula said…. New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

67. Over 100 under-15 girls in Mumbai had abortions in last one year (8)

MUMBAI: Of the 30,000-odd women who underwent abortions in Mumbai in 2013-14, more than a 100 were younger than 15 — an age at which their peers are busy preparing for their school or board exams. Another 900-odd were in the 16 to 19 age-group, reveals data gathered from the civic administration’s public health department using the Right to Information Act. The numbers raise three concerns: one, poor sex education among teenagers, two, the possibility of the girls having been victims of sexual violence, and three, the prevalence of under-age marriages in Indian society. Sangeeta Rege of NGO Cehat (Centre for Enquiry into Health & Allied Themes) said, “The reasons could be early marriage, pregnancy as a result of sexual violence or lack of information about contraception in situations of consensual sex.” Maharashtra government data released in 2013 showed that 18% of the state’s women got married before the legal age of 18. A doctor at a public hospital said teenage pregnancies are not unheard-of in Indian society because of early marriages. “But the fact that the girl sought an abortion indicates it’s an unwanted pregnancy arising out of abuse or an illicit relationship,” he said. RTI activist Chetan Kothari, who got the data from the BMC, said it is shocking that “children of 15 or younger get into situations where they have to undergo an abortion.” Dr Nozer Sheriar of FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India) said, “It is difficult to say whether these girls were abused or whether they willingly entered into a relationship. But it reflects the need to teach our youngsters to stand up for themselves and use protection not only against unwanted pregnancy at such an young age but also against sexually transmitted diseases.” At the same time, experts praised the availability of safe abortion services in Mumbai because the girls were able to access these easily. Rege said, “The data underscores the need to ensure access to safe abortion for girls even below 15 years of age.” However, experts pointed to a peculiar problem that is being noticed with respect to teenage abortions. Dr Sheriar said that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) guarantees complete confidentiality to women who seek abortions. “However,” he said, “the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 states that every girl under 18 who is pregnant should be considered as a rape victim”. (Times of India 11/5/14)

 

68. 42 Percent Women in Odisha Face Abuse (8)

BHUBANESWAR: If the Naveen Patnaik Government returns to power post May 16, it would like to erase one blot – a scenario of growing atrocities against women that brought it embarrassment in the last tenure. Though it may have claimed to have initiated several measures to provide protection to women, its latest policy document – Odisha State Policy for Girls and Women – sheepishly admits how bad the state of affairs is. Forty-two percent women in the age group of 15 to 49 are subjected to either physical or sexual violence, the draft document admits. The national figure stands at 35 percent. That’s not all. It further says that Odisha ranks 10th when it comes to crimes against women, seventh in terms of dowry-related murders and eighth in terms of incidence of rape. Incidence of rape rose from 1,112 in 2011 to 1,458 in 2012, a 30 pc jump. Social welfare measures for women with special needs is another sector the Government would like to focus on. The policy paper says elderly women constitute about 9.5 pc of women population of the State which is also the seventh highest among large states of India. Women with disabilities constitute about 2.47 pc of the women population which is higher than the national average of 2.01 pc. The State Policy reveals that a third of the married women – between 20 and 24 years in the State – were married before attaining the legal age of 18. In undivided Koraput, the scenario is even more appalling. Except Rayagada, in all other districts more than 50 pc women have been married even before attaining the legal age to wed. Marrying well before attaining the legal age may have been a cause for the dropping child sex ratio in the State which has fallen from 953 in 2001 to 941 in 2011 though the overall sex ratio has improved from 972 to 979. Infant mortality too has remained high and girl child mortality has been higher than boys. In 24 out of 30 districts, the gender gap is huge. Similarly, a whopping 67 pc girls in the group of six months to five years are found to be anaemic besides those of six out of every ten women in their reproductive age. Though maternal mortality rate has dropped, it is still the fourth highest in India.  The policy document says that share of women workforce in the organised sector has increased from 14.9 pc in 2005 to 16.8 pc in 2011 but over 75 pc of them are still working in the agriculture sector. About 66 pc marginal workers are women in Odisha. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

69. Include rape laws in school curriculum: Women panel to UGC (8)

JAIPUR: The Nirbhaya gang rape failed to evoke any sensibilities in the society as the brutal sexual assault on girls and minors continue in the state. In the latest in the series, the case of a six-year-old girl, who was raped, brutally beaten and is still recovering in the JK Lon Hospital, indicates that more needs to be done to curb this menace. The figures released by the state women commission say that this year five cases of minor rapes had been registered at State Women Commission through JK Lon hospital till May 10. These are those cases in which victims were admitted in a critical condition in the ICU. The actual number of rape cases involving minors swelled to an all time high in first five months of 2014. Taking cognizance of rising number of rape cases involving minors and the slow pace of investigations leading to weak cases, the women commission has asked UGC and state education department to introduce chapters on laws (rape), case studies and other exercises to sensitize students on dignity of women. The commission, in a letter, said at a time when strong laws failed to curb the cases of rape indicates that much more needs to be done. Lad Kumari Jain, chairperson of state women commission, also explained that these chapters can be included in the textbooks of classes IX and X followed by compulsory exercises like short plays, skits, debate and poster competitions to involve students. “Only education can transform the stereotypes and break the old notions. In our society we don’t treat women equally neither at home nor outside and this has formed the basis of male dominance. This can be changed only if we hit this mentality which can be done at school level. I expect the education department to react to our plea and introduce content on such lines in the coming session,” said Jain. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

70. 61 Women in This Lok Sabha, Highest Ever (8)

NEW DELHI: The 16th Lok Sabha will have the highest number of women members at 61. “This is the highest number of women members elected to the Lok Sabha in the history of the country, although by a small margin. Fifty-eight (58) women were elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in the 2009 election,” said PRS. Some of the prominent women winners are Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, Leader of Opposition in the outgoing Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh and actor Kirron Kher from Chandigarh. West Bengal had the largest tally of women winners at 13. The number of women members in 2004 was 45, and in 1999 it was 49. The least number of women in the Lok Sabha was 22 in 1957. (New Indian Express 17/5/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

71. Scanner on loss of forest cover (9)

Shillong, May 8: Experts from the North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Umiam, have focused on the loss of forest cover in Meghalaya’s Jaintia hills region where cement plants are located. The reiteration on the loss of forest cover has been made through an article published in the Current Science — a fortnightly journal of research — in its April 10, 2014 issue (Volume 106, Issue 07) written by Kasturi Chakraborty and S. Sudhakar. The outcome of the study has been published under the title: The expansion and impact of cement manufacturing units and mining areas in Lumshnong, Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya. The authors said the study was carried out to observe growth of cement industries in Lumshnong, which is leading to alteration in land use/land cover from forest to non-forest categories. The study also attempted to “automatically extract” the areas of change, taking advantage of the change-detection software. “With the rapid developmental process taking place across the globe, there are several pockets widespread in North East Region of India which are becoming hotspots of land-use change. Industrial expansion is one of the main reasons for conversion of land use/land-cover classes, particularly from forest to non-forest,” the study opens. The study focusses on the impact of industrial and mining activities leading to loss of forest cover in Jaintia hills. In it, remote sensing has been used as a tool to observe the extent of land-use change using an automatic change-detection software DeltaCue to map the expansion of the cement industrial units and their impact on the vegetation in the immediate vicinity. The study highlighted the spread of the industrial units from 2005 to 2011 and loss of vegetation. Remote sensing has been universally recognised as a “highly effective and extremely versatile technology” for identification of natural resources, including forest resource, the researchers stated. Moreover, the researchers observed that the recent trend of development process in the region is leading to rapid deforestation. “Mining activities in Meghalaya have increased by leaps and bounds. Indiscriminate mining has disastrous effect leading to deforestation, destroying good soil ingredients and loss of wildlife,” the authors said. “Being rich in minerals, particularly limestone, coal, shale, bauxite, laterite, etc. the Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya has become a boon to the cement industry. The setting up of such industry exploits natural resources of the area degrades the environment and can lead to imbalance in the ecosystem. According to the IPCC special report, from 1850 to 1998, approximately 270 (+30) GT carbon has been emitted as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning and cement production,” they added. The satellite images were registered carefully using AutoSync, an automated image registration tool in ERDAS Imagine software. The satellite data of 2005 was classified to understand the existing forest in the study area. Further, the researchers stated that the 2005 image was classified by supervised classification technique into forest and non-forest classes. The classified map has forest area divided into three categories — less dense forest, medium forest and very dense forest, and other non-forest classes….  (The Telegraph 9/5/14)

 

72. Alappuzha Farmers Fear Amendment Will Badly Affect Ecology, Agriculture (9)

ALAPPUZHA: The move of the state government to make an amendment to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 has drawn a storm of protest. The state government is presently laying the ground work to make an amendment to the existing Act. The social and agricultural organisations have opposed the government’s move to help the corporates and land developers to fill paddy lands and wetland for industrial and business purposes and the amendment will sabotage the proposed policy of the state government to promote agricultural growth and sustain the ecological system in the state. The farmers of Alappuzha fear the amendment to the Act will adversely affect ecology and the agriculture sector. The implementation of the Act in 2008 helped the district protect the paddy fields of Kuttanad and other parts of the district. The Kuttanad Vikasna Samithi and Pokkali Samrakshna Samithi have asked the government to withdraw its decision to make an amendment to the Act. “The state government had implemented the Act in 2008 to put an end to illegal filling of paddy fields and wetland in the state.  Now the government is striving to make an amendment to the Act to help the private parties,” alleged Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi executive director Fr Thomas Peelianickal. In the proposed amendment, the government is aiming to allot land filling for public utility without an area limit. Private parties can fill the paddy and wetland after paying the market price of the paddy land. The new amendment is aimed to sabotage the existing Act, Fr Thomas said. The 2008 Act allows land filling only upto 5 cents of land for the purpose of construction of houses. The Act prohibits the reclamation of land for industrial or business purposes.  The paddy land can be filled or reclaimed only for the benefit of farmers. Local Level Monitoring Committees (LLMCs) were also set up in villages in the state to monitor paddy field filling. The LLMC can recommend the application to fill the land to the District Level Monitoring Committee (DLMC) after proper monitoring of the application. “If the regulation is implemented, the monitoring committees become irrelevant and it can lead to indiscriminate and uncontrolled filling of land by private land developers without the consent of the LLMCs. It aims to help private industrialists who are backing the Aranmula Airport project,” said Fr Thomas. Pokkali Samrakshana Samithi general convener Francis Kalathunkal said that the new amendment will help the land mafia to fill more paddy lands and pokkali lands in the state. “Pokkali farmers face crisis due to the vagaries of nature and the failure in the implementation of government policy of ‘alternate seasons of fish farming and paddy farming’ in pokkali lands. Rampant urbanisation in villages is shrinking the area of pokkali and paddy fields. “Landowners and fish farmers have resorted to spreading false news about the loss in pokkali cultivation as well as trying to fill the land and continue fish farming in the fields the entire year. This will adversely affect the ecology of the state.  If the government makes an amendment to the Wetland Act, it will aid land mafia,” he said. (New Indian Express 12/5/14)

 

73. Wait for green panel bench ends (9)

The eastern bench of the National Green Tribunal, proposed to be set up in Calcutta three years ago, will finally open on May 24. The bench, whose verdict can only be challenged in the Supreme Court, will adjudicate on cases related to “environment, forest and bio-diversity” in eastern and north-eastern India. “The bench will start functioning from the Finance Centre in New Town from May 24,” said Asish Senapati, the registrar of the eastern zonal bench. The jurisdiction of the bench — largest of all green tribunal benches — covers Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Metro had in November 2011 highlighted how the state government’s failure to provide space was delaying the setting up of the tribunal. This, despite a number of reminders to the state from the Union environment secretary. The state government finally provided space for the tribunal on the third floor of Finance Centre in New Town in August 2013, after the Supreme Court threatened to shift the bench to Bhubaneswar or Guwahati.A notification issued by the tribunal on May 12, a copy of which is with Metro, states that the registrar of the bench (for the eastern zone) has been authorised to “receive all the applications, appeals and all other documents including transfer applications, appeals… and (also) to issue notices to the parties concerned with effect from 24th of May, 2014, until further orders”. The tribunal has “transferred” the ongoing green cases from eastern and northeastern India — which were being heard by the principal bench in Delhi — to the eastern bench. The Calcutta bench will be led by judicial member Justice P. Jyothimani and expert member Prof P.C. Mishra. “It’s a welcome move. The eastern bench was long due. I feel that with so many cases pending, the Centre should think about having a second bench in Calcutta,” observed green activist Subhas Datta. “We hope the tribunal will be able to provide timely justice to people in cases related to environment violation. A large number of such cases are pending in the high court,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, former chief law officer of the state pollution control board. Mukherjee expressed the hope that hapless people affected by various kinds of environment violations and are not being heard by the administration would benefit from the tribunal. Tribunal sources said a bench takes on an average about six months to dispose of a case. The likely litigation cost is Rs 1,000. “If the members allow, a litigant may plead his or her case,” said an official of the bench. Dutta said the authorities should ensure that documents related to green cases are transferred from the various high courts to the bench in time. “It was a major issue when such documents were shifted to the tribunal’s principal bench in Delhi. There should not be a repetition of that during the transfer of the papers to the eastern bench. (The Telegraph 15/5/14)

 

74. Green India Mission gets appointment blues (9)

The much-delayed 13,000-crore Green India Mission has run into rough weather, on a controversial decision nominating an IAS officer to head it, despite a Union cabinet decision that it should be headed by someone from the Indian Forest Service (IFS). It was to be one of the eight Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, decided in 2008. This is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the country by greening five million hectares of forests by 2022. After a long gestation period, the Mission was finally approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in February this year. The project promises to substantially swell the environment ministry’s budget. For this year, the latter is only a fifth of the allocated Mission funds.The Mission, while seeking convergence of funds from different sources, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme, is to be run through the forest bureaucracy across the country. Keeping that in mind, the cabinet had preferred that a forest officer of the rank of Additional Director General head the mission, and that a separate Special Vehicle Society not be created. But, on April 25, an IAS officer of the rank of additional secretary was appointed Mission Director by the ministry. This led to protests by the forest service officers. The IFS Association wrote to Union environment minister Veerappa Moily on May 5, a copy of which is with Business Standard, stating their displeasure (officers also met the minister personally) “…(appointment pays) utter disregard to the said (cabinet) approval…It is humbly requested that CCEA’s decision on the matter is respected and to ensure smooth implementation in the field…”After hearing their plea, Moily on May 8 ordered the earlier order appointing the IAS officer be reversed and a forest officer be appointed.  Business Standard has accessed a copy. “It is desirable that an IFS officer of the rank of Additional Director of Forests in the ministry is nominated as Mission Director for smooth functioning of this forestry scheme. Since the Mission will be implemented by the state forest department, it will smoothen the functioning of the Mission at central and state level,” the letter said. A week after this order, the ministry is yet to comply with Moily’s directives. It would be for the next government to take a call on the turf battle between the two lobbies over the lucrative Mission. (Business Standard 17/5/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

75. Exemption for Minority Institutions to Hit Poor Students Hard (11)

KOZHIKODE: The Supreme Court verdict exempting the minority educational institutions from the limits of the Right to Education Act (RTE) will not only affect the students from the weaker sections of majority religions, but also the economically backward (those under the BPL category) sections from the minority communities. Once the order removes the 25 per cent reservation existing in the aided/unaided educational institutions coming under the minority category, it will be in effect a kind of denial of quality education to the economically weaker sections, who otherwise cannot dream of a seat in any of these institutions, say educationists. Some experts point out that the new order is applicable only to those institutions with ‘minority status’ received from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and not for all the educational institutions under minority communities. Those with the ‘minority status’ in the state are as low as 1,800. But Vidyabhyasa Samrakshana Samiti-Keralam state coordinator A Vinod said that the ‘status’ was an easily available one and those institutions with the status gained it in last one year, when the rule was expected to come out. “By leaving the choice of mother tongue to be taught at the school to the students and the government not having a say over the functioning of the aided/unaided schools, the standard of mother tongue taught in schools is sure to come down. The famed educational institutions in the world are using their mother tongue as the medium of instruction in their academic sessions. Only in our place, we are having a disregard for our mother tongue,” Vinod said. He added that the minority-run institutions can obtain the nod from the Centre, surpassing the state government’s objection, if they seek a minority status. In effect, education in these institutions will be distant dream for the students from economically weaker sections in any community. Educationist B Hridayakumari, who dismissed the new developments as impractical, said that the move would only add extra burden to the government institutions. “Though there is a meagre amount of hope behind the implementation of the verdict, this is no way going to improve the educational standards in the state,” she said. SCERT consultant Dr K N Anandan said that considering the special situation of Kerala, where more number of educational institutions are run by minority communities, the rule may not turn out to be fruitful. “A full picture of the admissions will be available only next month, after the schools reopen. If the verdict applies to all the institutions the education zone will be an open market in the near future,” he said. Meanwhile, the Kerala Sahodaya Schools Complex, on Wednesday, urged the state government to reconsider its decision to make mother tongue or regional language compulsory for imparting primary education. (New Indian Express 8/5/14)

 

76. UAE NGO to help improve education in India (11)

Dubai: A Dubai-based philanthropic group has partnered with an Indian NGO to improve education for over 1 million school children in India over a period of three years. Dubai Cares has joined hands with Pratham Education Foundation to launch a programme aimed to improve literacy among students in Grades 1 and 2, in six states across India. The charity, however, did not specify the states. The two organisations will assist local communities by strengthening programmes focused on three core issues- enhancing learning levels of beneficiaries in government schools, providing school readiness among children, and supporting the Central Resource Group, a statement issued by UAE’s official news agency Wam said. “Our partnership with Pratham will ensure quality education for children attending schools in India and will facilitate high levels of literacy and numeracy skills,” Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said. “We lay a lot of emphasis on monitoring, evaluation and learning, so this programme will also serve as demonstration sites to generate evidence and showcase best practice that can be replicated across the country to enhance the educational support system on a national level,” he said. The Dubai-based charity said the Indian education system has been handicapped by inadequate teacher qualifications, low teacher motivation, high absentees and flawed teaching methods, leading to a lack of incentives for students to stay in school. The partnership aims to reverse the school dropout rates and low learning levels prevalent in the country. India is one of 135 nations to make education a ‘fundamental right’ with the Right to Education Act (RTE) in effect around the country. Under the partnership, Dubai Cares has earmarked three programmes — to boost language skills, physical and emotional readiness, and innovation among children in rural areas — that will reach a total of 1,053,954 direct beneficiaries. The programme will be delivered to 150,000 villages in 150 blocks across the country. Similar to many Dubai Cares initiatives, the India programme is in line with the ‘Global Education First Initiative’ launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in September 2012. Dubai Cares has so far reached over 8 million children in 31 developing countries. (Zee News 13/5/14)

 

77. 3,380 get seats under RTE Act (11)

Mumbai: The first round of admission to the 25 per cent reserved seats in private schools under the Right To Education Act (RTE) took place on Tuesday in which 3,380 students were allotted seats. In all 1,539 students secured admission in 57 private schools through the lottery system, while the remaining 1,811 students were assigned seats according to the school of their preference. The lottery and seat allotment was conducted by the education section of the BMC that also announced that a second round would be held to allot seats to the remaining students. The lottery for admission to primary was conducted at IES Raja Shivaji School at Dadar in the presence of school education secretary Ashwini Bhide, education director Chokligam, deputy director N.B. Chavan, education officer Shambhavi Jogi and Amol Damdare of the Raja Shivaji School. After last year’s low seat allotment at 3,208, this year the BMC decided to conduct the admissions itself through the online admission system for the 8,243 seats in 312 city schools. The process for accepting applications for the online admissions had started on April 10 and went on till May 5 wherein the BMC received more than 6,500 applications. However, as the application for 57 schools outnumbered the seats, a lottery was held for disbursement of these seats. About 1,811 students who had applied for admissions to the other 191 schools with a reservation of 5,186 seats were also granted admission as per their choice. “The online admission and lottery system was facilitated to ensure that students belonging to the vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of the society get an equal opportunity to gain admissions to the schools so that they are not kept away from good education opportunity,” said Ms Bhide. As per the instructions of the BMC, students who have secured a seat through the lottery system will have to take admission in the allotted school by May 20, failing which their allotment will stand cancelled. (Asian Age 14/5/14)

 

78. Bengal refuses Gujarat lesson (11)

Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal has snubbed a suggestion by Delhi to follow the method devised by Narendra Modi’s Gujarat to redress complaints under the Right to Education Act in three to 30 days. “We cannot adopt the Gujarat model as the administrative set-up in Bengal is totally different from that of Gujarat. We are trying to craft a mechanism where the time limit would be two months,” Suhas Chatterjee, registrar of the Right to Education Protection Authority, said. The Trinamul government has written back to the Union ministry of human resource development, saying it would prefer to devise its own method of redressing complaints about violation of the landmark legislation that guarantees free and quality elementary education to all children aged 6 to 14. The RTE also bars corporal punishment and donations and screening tests for admission. All schools, barring minority-run institutions, are required to reserve one-fourth of their seats for economically underprivileged students. Neither government-aided nor financially independent schools can refuse to admit students throughout the year. Section 32 of the act states that state governments should settle all complaints within three months, a stipulation Bengal has done little to honour other than setting up the Right to Education Protection Authority. In contrast, the Gujarat model specifies the time needed to redress complaints under each provision of the act. Grievances pertaining to corporal punishment are to be redressed within three working days from the date of receiving the complaint. Complaints about violation of the 25 per cent reservation for underprivileged students are meant to be redressed within a fortnight, as are those regarding screening tests, capitation fee and gender discrimination. The maximum limit of 30 days is for redress of grievances regarding infrastructure, teachers not fulfilling their duties and failure to maintain the recommended student-teacher ratio of 30:1. The outgoing UPA government had written to all states a couple of months ago, showcasing the Gujarat model as the best practice. At least 10 state governments, including Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi, have since adopted the system, a source in the West Bengal Sarva Siksha Mission said. The state school education department informed the Union human resource development ministry last month about its wish to follow a different path, citing differences in the administrative framework. The RTE Act stipulates that state governments draft policies based on the guidelines incorporated in the legislation and provide clear, concise details about how students and guardians can approach the administration and how long it would take for a grievance to be redressed. “For instance, the government must specify where a complaint about corporal punishment can be filed, how long the complainant has to wait for a response from the relevant authority, what to do if the complaint is not taken up and what happens next,” an education official said. The Right to Education Act, 2009, took effect at the start of the 2013-14 academic session. On May 6 this year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the state could impose admissions on private unaided schools, except minority-run ones, if the purpose was to provide free and compulsory education to children from six to 14. Two days later, Metro highlighted how most private English-medium schools in Calcutta reserve a quarter of their seats for underprivileged students but find few takers for want of awareness and parents’ insecurity about approaching these institutions. (The Telegraph 16/5/14)

 

79. Private schools urge department to expedite decisions (11)

COIMBATORE: With Parliamentary elections over, associations representing private schools have urged the Department of School Education to act expeditiously on several important issues. With barely two weeks to go before the next academic year, which begins on June 2, the associations are seeking clarity on a range of issues starting from the minimum land requirements, closure of unrecognised schools, norms for school buses and reimbursement of fees for students admitted under Right To Education (RTE) Act. Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association general secretary G. Krishnaraj says many files submitted for recognition have been pending for months awaiting inspection by the officials. With election over and the Plus Two and Class X valuation also completed, the department officials must act with haste as the private schools are prohibited from operating without recognition, he adds. R. Visalakshi, president of Tamil Nadu Private Schools Association, says RTE Act norms limiting the strength to 30 students per class must also be revisited. The space available in the schools must be factored in while determining the strength. “Many schools which are functioning for decades have the infrastructure to support a lot more students per class. The Act is being implemented in Tamil Nadu only since 2011. Within such a short span, how can schools reduce the strength in all classes to 30?” she asks. Further, she also calls for according permanent recognition to private schools and mandating them to periodically seek certifications. At present, they must renew recognition every three years. This process alone takes almost a year, adds Ms. Visalakshi. R. Lakshmanasamy, president of Pollachi Private Schools’ Welfare Association, says the department must accord priority to the issue of reimbursing private schools for students admitted under the RTE Act. Despite two years having elapsed since the Act came into force, the Government is yet to even designate district level officers to coordinate with private schools on the issue of reimbursement. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

TERRORISM

80. Amnesty claims Nigerian military ignored schoolgirl kidnap warning (12)

Abuja: Nigeria’s military was warned of an attack on a school at which more than 200 girls were abducted by Islamists but failed to take action, Amnesty International claimed on Friday. The claim, which the military has denied, came as foreign experts arrived on the ground in Nigeria to help trace the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. Amnesty said that from 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on April 14, the authorities failed to act on repeated warnings about the impending raid in the remote town of Chibok, in northeastern Borno state. Two senior military officers interviewed by the global rights monitor said the commander was unable to muster enough troops to head to the town to stave off the attack. Up to 200 armed Boko Haram fighters abducted a total of 276 girls at about 11:45 pm after fighting a small number of police and soldiers stationed in the town. Amnesty’s Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, described the situation as a “gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians”, adding that people remained “sitting ducks” for future attacks. “The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” he said. “The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.” Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told AFP Amnesty’s “allegation is unfounded as usual”.”The report is just a collation of rumours,” he said. The US embassy in Abuja told AFP that a team of its experts had arrived in Nigeria, without specifying the make-up of the group. British specialists, including defence ministry personnel, had also landed, the Foreign Office said. The US and Britain are among a number of countries, as well as France and China which have pledged expert support, with the kidnapping raising international awareness about an Islamist uprising that has killed thousands since 2009. Nigeria had initially been slow to respond to the kidnappings and the military’s search and rescue effort has been fiercely criticised by activists and parents of the hostages. But a series of protests in the capital, a growing global social media campaign, and attention from world leaders and celebrities has put pressure on Nigeria to act more aggressively. Outrage in particular has come after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls as slaves. Amnesty said the teenagers’ abduction and detention were war crimes. …  (Zee News 10/5/14)

 

81. Social media significant for terror groups, study reveals (12)

Washington: Terrorist groups such as Al qaeda and others have increased their online presence through the use of social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, a recent study reveals. Involvement with the social media allows the terrorist organizations to entail a more vehement proactive role in associating with a younger audience, the study said. Released by Woodrow Wilson Center’s DC Commons Lab, it said that the increased use of social media by the groups created more challenges for thwarting attacks. Gabriel Weimann, author of the report, said that from the point of view of a terrorist social media provides an important advantage of anonymity and become tools for recruitment, propaganda, fundraising and training. According to news24, Weinmann argued that trying to block terrorists’ online activity is mainly counterproductive, and that it may be more useful to monitor and learn from their online activities. Further adding, that the Al Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab was removed from Twitter after the Westgate attack but it was regenerated in a few days. (Zee News 15/5/4)

 

82. India Islamic Centre Condemns Boko Haram Terror Activities (12)

NEW DELHI: The India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) Thursday “strongly condemned the terror activities” of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram which has been holding more than 200 schoolgirls hostage for over a month. In a statement released here, Sirajuddin Qureshi, president of IICC, said that no Islamic tenet approves the abduction of innocent girl students to press for any kind of demand. He said even if the demand was legitimate, this kind of act cannot be religiously justified in any manner. It is “barbaric”, to say the least. He strongly criticised the group for committing an “un-Islamic act” in the name of Islam. Qureshi also maintained strongly that the Boko Haram terrorists were not followers of Islam or Prophet Muhammad, the statement said. Qureshi appealed to the international community to help Nigeria tackle this situation and “wipe out the terror group without any delay”.He also requested prominent Indian clerics to openly condemn the Boko Haram and “bring a swift end to this prolonged crisis”.Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is currently grappling with security challenges, one of which is the insurgency of Boko Haram which also seeks to enshrine the Islamic Sharia law in the constitution. The IICC’s objective is to “promote mutual understanding and amity amongst the people of this country and to depict the true face of Islam which is most tolerant, liberal, progressive, rational”, says its website. (New Indian Express 15/5/14)

 

83. Centre extends ban on LTTE by five years (12)

NEW DELHI: The ban on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been extended by a sweeping five years with the Centre noting that the outfit has been “clandestinely” working for a separate ‘Eelam’ and fostering separatist tendency among people in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE was banned across the country in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a suicide attack. The last extension of the ban was on May 14, 2012 for two years, which period ended on Wednesday. “The Government of India, under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, has proscribed the LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’. The declaration of LTTE as an ‘Unlawful Association’ has been extended for a further period of five years with effect from May 14, 2014,” a Home Ministry statement said on Thursday. The fresh ban comes at a time when a new government is to assume charge at the Centre. Pro-LTTE parties like Vaiko-led MDMK are part of the BJP coalition, which exit polls claim could form the next government. According to the government notification issued on Wednesday, “The separatist Tamil chauvinist groups and pro-LTTE groups continue to foster a separatist tendency amongst masses and enhance the support base for LTTE in India and particularly in Tamil Nadu.” (Deccan Herald 16/5/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

84. Woman Naxal carrying reward arrested in Kanker (12)

Raipur: A woman Naxal was arrested from a forested patch of Udanpur village under Koyalibeda police station of the insurgency-hit Kanker district, a senior police official informed here on Friday. According to police Lalita (24) resident of Udanpur village and a member of Maoist Military Battalion number 2, active in the region, was arrested during search operation. Bhanupratappur Sub Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) Tarkeshwar Patel talking to The Pioneer over phone informed that a joint team of the BSF and the district police had arrested Lalita from the jungles of Udanpur about 8 kms from Koyalibeda police station.  The SDOP said, “We got information that the left wing insurgent had reached her parental home in Udanpur. On the information, police force was sent to the spot and she was nabbed. The arrested Naxal operative was member of Maoist Military Battalion and state government had declared cash reward of Rs 1 lakh each on the arrest of each member of Maoist Military Battalion,” the SDOP maintained. Lalita is a prominent member of the military wing of the CPI (Maoist) operating in North Bastar region. She is being interrogated, police said adding that the arrested woman Maoist was involved in several serious criminal incidents happened in the region inducing attack on camp in Udanpur wherein station house officer Todki and a head constable had lost their lives. She was also part of Naxal ambush on police party in Rowghat. (Pioneer 10/5/14)

 

85. 7 policemen killed in Maoist blast (12)

NAGPUR: Seven policemen were killed and two injured when Maoists blew up a police vehicle in the Chamorshi division of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday. The incident comes two days after the arrest of G.N. Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor, by the Gadchiroli police over his alleged Maoist links. Inspector Dharmendra Joshi, public relations officer of the Gadchiroli police, said a landmine was used to blow up the vehicle carrying the men of the C-60 force (Maharashtra’s special anti-Naxal unit) at 9.40 a.m. A local police officer expressed shock over the Maoists targeting police in a “plain area” such as Chamorshi, considered relatively peaceful. Police sources said the C-60 commandos launched a combing operation at Kotmi on Friday. The men returned to Yedanur after two days of patrolling on foot, and called for vehicles to reach the Gadchiroli headquarters since Yedanur is considered a “less-affected” zone. They boarded eight vehicles. The third one in the convoy was blown up near Murmuri village, police sources said. The dead are Dipak Vighave, Sunil Madavi, Rohan Dambare, Subhash Kumare, Tirupati Allam, Laxman Munde and Duryodhan Naktode of the Gadchiroli police, the Superintendent of Police said in a statement. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

86. Naxal pamphlets supporting Saibaba seized (12)

NAGPUR: Gadchiroli police on Saturday seized several incriminating pamphlets from Jambiya Gatta which is a small hamlet in Etapalli tehsil. They had been issued by the western regional committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) which was protesting the arrest of Delhi university professor GN Saibaba. The pamphlets had similar contents and condemned the action of Gadchioli police which had filed a case against Saibaba and five others, including Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, for their alleged links with Naxals. The rebels said it was a conspiracy by the authorities to terrorize intellectuals who had been raising voices in favour of atrocities against the masses. Police claimed that the wheelchair-bound Saibaba, who is currently housed in the Nagpur Central Jail, had been working as joint-secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) which acted as a frontal mass organization of the rebels. A senior official, involved in the investigation, claimed that Saibaba was engaged in coordinating the activities of the front organizations at the behest of the Naxals’ central committee based in Abujmadh on the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border. The Naxals, who have condemned police actions on RDF leaders, also highlighted the fact that false cases were being registered against the activists in a cultivated manner to suppress their voices. In the pamphlet, the Naxals have also appealed to the masses to come together to fight against state-sponsored terrorism. It has also criticized the central and Maharashtra government. Nagpur and Gadchiroli range IGP, Ravindra Kadam stated that an offence has been registered at Etapalli police station against unidentified Naxals for having issued the pamphlets. “We have invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act among others against the perpetrators,” he said. Saibaba, who was arrested on May 9 in New Delhi, was brought to Aheri the next day. However, since the lock-up did not have facilities for the handicapped, he was sent to Nagpur Central Jail. He is under magisterial custody issued by a lower court in Aheri. Saibaba has also been suspended by his college. (Times of India 18/5/14)

 

87. 436 Naxals Surrendered in Maharashtra Since 2005 (12)

NAGPUR: 436 Naxals have surrendered in Gadchiroi, Gondia and Yavatmal districts of eastern Maharashtra since the state government launched its scheme to facilitate rehabilitation of the ultras in 2005. Last week, the government extended the `Naxal Surrender Scheme’ till August 29, 2015. Interestingly, the Naxals who have laid down their arms under the scheme include 30 couples, official sources said. The authorities have disbursed Rs 3.15 crore to the surrendered rebels by way of financial aid so far. Of this, Rs 2.72 crore was from the state while the rest came from the Centre. The surrendered Naxals were also provided with bullock carts, diesel engines etc so that they could earn their livelihood in a legitimate way. Among the surrendered ultras are a state zonal committee member of Naxals, five ‘divisional committee’ members, 13 ‘dalam commanders’, 17 ‘deputy commanders’ and 166 ‘dalam’ members, besides members of Gram Rakshak Dal and Sangam groups. The highest number of Naxals — 133 — surrendered in 2008. As many as 82 rifles were recovered from the surrendered ultras. (Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

88. J&K refugees still face issues of acceptance (13)

Srinagar: Various political parties, which have a voter base mainly in the Jammu region, are trying hard to woo refugees from erstwhile West Pakistan. There are over 1.5 lakh such refugees, mainly Hindus and Sikhs, who live in border districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua. For the past 66 years, they can vote in the Lok Sabha elections, but not being permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, they have no right to vote in the Assembly elections. By law, they are citizens of India, but they do not qualify to obtain the “state subject certificate,” which confers state citizenship on the holders. They also cannot seek admission in professional colleges and do not have the right to employment in the state government. These refugess regard Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union, as the biggest hurdle in their rehabilitation. It is on these issues that the BJP, the Congress, the BSP and regional National Panthers’ Party are trying to reach out to the refugees and are promising to solve if voted to power. Though the Congress is silent on the issue of Article 370 for obvious reasons, other parties are vicariously pledging that they will bring a constitutional amendment for its abrogation. The Congress coalition partner, National Conference, and its political bête noire, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, have also launched vigorous campaigns amongst the refugees. The two parties have been opposing the demand for citizenship rights by erstwhile West Pakistan refugees. Now these parties are telling the refugees that they would make an effort to resolve their other problems and work towards creating conducive atmosphere for addressing the domicile issue too. The BJP, in particular, is trying to win over the refugees because of its stance on the Article 370 is likely to do better in comparison to the other parties. The party’s Rajya Sabha member and in-charge of J&K, Avinash Rai Khanna, on Friday met Labha Ram Gandhi, who heads the Association of the Refugees at his residence to seek his support (Asian Age 9/5/14)

 

89. Anti-LTTE operations create fears of a refugee influx into Tamil Nadu (13)

Chennai: Ten Sri Lankan Tamil refugees arrived in Rameswaram last week just as the Sri Lankan government ramped up its cordon-and-search operations in Tamil areas and been detaining Tamil youths for questioning – all to quell what the government has dubbed as efforts to re-establish the LTTE within the island nation. Political parties in Tamil Nadu that have been critical of the Indian government’s attitude toward the Sri Lankan government have not reacted to the arrival of refugees. But it does seem that at least for these refugees and more than 50 others who tried to flee to Australia recently, the situation is intolerable in their homeland. S Balakrishnan, Sri Lanka-based rights activist, says a sense of insecurity and lack of opportunities in Tamil areas can once again create a significant refugee outflow. Those who are persecuted for their past LTTE links may pay traffickers the money to arrange for an escape, he said. Among the refugees who have been detained in Puzhal prison is a former LTTE cadre. Though Balakrishnan discounts reports of LTTE resurgence saying it has been decimated, the word on many Sri Lankan lips in April was once again LTTE. The government had put up wanted posters of three men it called former cadres who were trying to revive the organisation. Noted journalist D B S Jeyaraj reports an encounter between the security forces and the cadres in the Wanni jungle in which the men were killed. There have also been reports of recent mass detentions of Tamil youths in Kankesanthurai. The Jaffna university will be closed from May 16 to 20 to prevent any student demonstrations on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the end of the war. “Stories of LTTE coming back are concoctions of the government intended to create a situation where abuses can continue. The three people who were killed had been government spies bumped off in fake encounters,” says K Ratnavel, a human rights lawyer in Sri Lanka. However, S C Chandrahasan, founder and chief functionary of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, says there is some evidence of a plot and it’s not all a bogey. Chandrahasan, who visited the Tamil areas last month, says the situation is qualitatively different and the Sinhalese soldier operating in Tamil areas is more sophisticated and understands local concerns. While agreeing that there may be “human” factors behind the recent cases of refugee outflow from Sri Lanka, Dayan Jayatilleka, who served as the permanent mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva from 2007 to 2009, says nothing dramatically different has taken place to expect a major refugee problem. “There have been roundups of Tamils by the army. But there have been no disappearances without the families being informed,” he said. Jeyaraj notes in his blog that the situation is not similar to the early 70s when the general public supported militancy. Most analysts agree that a war-weary population will not back an LTTE resurgence. Balakrishnan says a hierarchical organisation such as the LTTE cannot come back since its leadership has been decimated. The fear across Palk Bay is that a fearful Lankan government may up military activities in Tamil areas and create a refugee outflow from the island nation. (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

90. ‘Two to Six Crore Bangladeshi Migrants in India’ (13)

NEW DELHI: There are 2-6 crore Bangladeshi migrants living in India – the largest illegal migration from one country to another, a former senior officer of India’s border guards said Tuesday. “Nobody can verify the trend of Bangladeshi migrants in India but our estimation is no less than 2 to 6 crore of them in India,” former Border Security Force (BSF) additional director general P.K. Mishra said at the launch of his book “Bangladeshi Migrants – A threat to India.” “Many of them have settled between Purnia and Islampur (Bihar), which are very close to the Nepal border. In Pari Pura in Srinagar, there is a Bangladeshi migrant village,” he said. Mishra claimed that 25 percent of the items disbursed under the Public Distribution Scheme goes to the Bangladeshi migrants. “What we can give to our children are snatched by them,” he charged. “There has been 20 years of land acquisition in (Assam’s) Guwahati and Kokrajhar. Government land has been sold to migrants by the state’s revenue department,” said Mishra, alleging that the Congress government in the northeastern state has closed its eyes to all this due to vote bank politics. “The Bangladeshi chunk in India is the largest illegal migration from any one country to another,” said former BSF chief Prakash Singh. (New Indian Express 14/5/14)

 

91. Chengalpattu Special Camp to be Shifted (13)

VELLORE: The special camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees at Chengalpattu in Kancheepuram district would soon be shifted to the defunct sub-jail, which is under renovation, in Cheyyar town in Tiruvannamalai district. The special camp at Chengalpattu was one of the two special facilities in the State. Foreigners arrested under the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 (Central Act 31 of 1946) for indulging in illegal activities are remanded in these camps. A total of 36 foreigners – five Nigerians, three Bangladeshis and 28 Sri Lankans – were detained in the special camp in Chengalpattu, while about 30 others were in the Tiruchy camp. The sub-jail in Chengalpattu was converted into the special camp in 1993. “After the decades-old building became dilapidated, the State Home Department has taken the initiative to shift the special camp to Cheyyar. The department is also planning to upgrade this sub-jail to a district-level jail after razing the existing structure and creating new infrastructure,” said a police officer. The officer added that shifting of the special camp from Chengalpattu to Cheyyar was purely for administrative purposes. The renovation of the sub-jail in Cheyyar was undertaken by Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation and it has completed the work. “The Home Department has asked for the status report of the jail from the Tiruvannamalai Collector. After getting the report, the department will issue an order to shift the inmates from here to the new special camp. We are expecting the order within 10 days,” said a Q branch police officer. Collector A Gnanasekaran told Express that he had sent a report before the election regarding the pending work. “A final report will be sent to the Home Department within two days after the Revenue Department takes over the building from the Police Housing Corporation,” he said. The district administration would convene a meeting with Tiruvannamalai SP J Mutharasi before sending the report, he added. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

92. Complaint of labour law violation at poor home (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chithra Poor Home administration may have to answer for serious labour law violations with one more resident of the home filing a complaint with the Kerala Legal Services Authority on Friday. The latest complaint is related to the work that some of the residents are doing in a printing press located in the same compound. Speaking to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, the complainant said that it is a case of labour exploitation as they are provided meagre amounts annually in the name of ‘bonus’ for close to 8 hours work daily. “Most of us who work there were not allowed to complete our studies. Even if we fail in just one subject, mainly due to the lack of a conducive atmosphere to study, the administration refuses to give us the fee to be remitted for the ‘Save an year’ examination. We are asked to join for work in the press or tailoring shop right away” “In the press, work starts after 9 a.m. and it continues non-stop till 5 p.m. These days, we are not getting even public holidays. But we get an amount of around Rs. 3,000 as bonus annually. There are no monthly or daily wages. At the same time, four daily wagers appointed from outside work in the same press and are paid daily,” said the complainant. In a complaint filed last week, another resident had alleged that she was paid a total amount of Rs.28,500 as bonus, after working for 8 years. The printing press generally takes up government work only, mainly that for forms and documents needed in hospitals. The Public Service Commission is also one of the clients. “The workers from outside do the machine work, of just printing the material. We have the task of stitching and binding it. We sometimes get cuts on our fingers from working with the threads. We are appointed here as trainees but the work can be learnt in one week’s time, ” said the complainant. The District Labour Officer had visited the home on Friday following the complaints. When The Hindu contacted the Home’s Superintendent Eliamma Varghese, she said that the residents are being paid “20 per cent of the profit from sales based on their individual work and the daily wagers from outside are paid Rs. 350 per day”. “For the residents, we give an annual bonus, which is handed over to them when they ask for it. If there are complaints, we will take action according to the directive of the labour officer,” said Ms. Eliamma. (The Hindu 11/5/14)

 

93. Migrant workers’ data to be collected by June 15 (14)

Kozhikode: The city police will complete by June 15 the first phase of data collection from hotel entrepreneurs as part of issuing identity cards to migrant workers. The format of the card is ready and the distribution is likely to begin in the first week of July. Senior officers in charge of the project said most of the hotel entrepreneurs had expressed their willingness to cooperate with the data collection process. The goal of the department is to prepare a detailed record of all migrant workers recruited by hotels. In the second phase, details of workers employed in the textile and industrial sectors will be collected. The employers will be responsible for gathering the data and passing it on to the police. The Special Branch officials will coordinate the project and verify the reliability of the data collected. Cards will be issued after verifying the details through all possible sources. The workers will have to renew the card every year and surrender it to the employer if they leave the State. “Through the project, we intend to prepare an authentic record of the migrant population in Kozhikode. We will issue the card only after recording their fingerprint,” said P.C. Sajeevan, Assistant Commissioner, Special Branch. The record would help the police track the workers if they were involved in a crime, he said. The card will bear the name of the hotel, its owner, and the identity details of the worker. The labourers will have to produce the card in case of police inquiry. (The Hindu 18/5/14)

 

94. Street vending cannot take form of permanent structure: HC (14)

NEW DELHI: Street vending cannot take the form of permanent or semi-permanent structures erected on municipal land or land belonging to a statutory public body under any circumstances. It can be of two kinds – an open Tehbazari at a fixed spot or mobile hawking using handcarts – and should not affect people’s right of way. With this ruling, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a contempt petition and terminated the proceedings in a writ petition moved by Delhi Shramik Sangathan, which had raised the issue of 130 hawkers and vendors engaged in business at Harkesh Nagar in Okhla Industrial Area Phase II being removed from their site in front of a temple. Another grievance of the petitioner was that the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 was not being given effect to as the Street Vending Committees were not constituted and the street vendors had no forum where they could make a representation. Until the committees were constituted, the vendors had a right to carry on their trade. A Division Bench, comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath, on Friday said the beneficiaries whose cause was being espoused had misused the judicial process after the Court, through an interim order, directed the Delhi Police to abstain from interfering in their business. The Municipal Corporation was also directed to ensure that no garbage was dumped at the place. The judgment carried some photographs taken from a video submitted by the Delhi Police, which showed a temporary market erected using bamboo, tarpaulin and tin sheets and even refrigerating machines brought to the site. Vendors had also brought ‘malba’ consisting of retrieved bricks to surreptitiously raise temporary structures. The Judges said the action taken by the police at the asking of the municipal authorities was justified, as nobody was entitled to violate the law under the garb of court orders. The Court also said a trespasser, who was not in legal possession of a site, could not get the right to hearing before an action was taken against him. (The Hindu 19/5/14)

 

95. Expedite Aadhar Linking of Job Card Holders: Govt (14)

BHUBANESWAR: The Panchayati Raj Department has asked all the district collectors to conduct a special drive to integrate the Aadhar information of job card holders under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA). Since the Ministry of Rural Development has been insisting on migration to a Aadhar-based payment system for the wage earners, the State Government has stepped on the peddle. It has asked all the collectors to launch a special drive for updating account information of the job card holders, upload them in NREGASoft, a dedicated software for the employment programme and complete the work by June 25. During the drive, all the districts have been asked to seed the Aadhar account information of the card holders in the NREGASoft so that it is easy to move to a Aadhar-Based Payment (ABP) system. Not long ago, the Ministry had made electronic fund management system (e-FMS) mandatory in a bid to streamline the wage payment system and reduce delay. Under the system, wages are credited to the bank accounts of the workers electronically. This system is based on either National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)of the Electronic Clearing System (ECS). After the RD Ministry decided to move to ABP, districts were asked to begin the account update and merger process. However, the progress has been slow. Though there are 64,42,259 job cards issued under NREGA with 1.70 crore persons enlisted, only 64.30 lakh have any kind of accounts as of now. Of them, 35.61 lakh are active workers. The job card holders have accounts in commercial banks, regional rural banks, cooperative banks as well as in post offices. However, the information convergence on accounts has been slow. While only 25.85 lakh accounts have been frozen in NREGASoft, the link to Aadhar has been paltry, to say the least. Across the State, just about 5,175 accounts have been uploaded in the management information system so far while 3,191 of them are linked to bank accounts. The Department has asked the collectors to use the field functionaries in linking of the accounts. The BDOs have been vested with the responsibility of verifying accuracy of the information. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

96. Forum to fight for children’s safety (14)

NGOs, advocacy groups, children’s forums and academicians in the city came together on Saturday to discuss the formation of the eastern region chapter of the proposed National Action and Coordination Group Against Violence against Children (NACG). India will be the last of the eight Saarc countries to get an NACG, whose purpose is to strengthen the alliance between the governments and various groups to end violence against women and children. The group is composed of representatives of the UN, multi-lateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, children and youth groups. “Bengal is not faring well as far as violence against children is concerned — be it child trafficking, child marriage or child labour. Some of the issues are cross-national…,” said Rajib K. Halder, the additional director of CINI, who was part of the Interim Working Group that was set up in February 2013 in consultation with the women and child development ministry. The group was formed to steer the formation of the regional chapters. Halder is representing the eastern region in the attempt at creating the national body. Meetings for the formation of the northern, western, northeastern and the southern chapters will be held in the next few days. Elected representatives from each chapter will travel to Delhi in the first week of June for the formation of the national body. This will be followed by a meeting in Colombo, where representatives of all NACGs will sit with South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIVAC), which tries to prevent and respond to all forms of neglect of and violence against children. An action plan to be discussed in Colombo will focus on “child trafficking, child marriage, corporal punishment, child sexual abuse and exploitation and child labour,” Halder said. “The most important standard has to be set with education, which can be a very big answer but is not reaching all children,” said Sister Cyril, the former principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, who steered Saturday’s meeting alongside Manabendra Mandal, the director of Socio-Legal Aid Research and Training Centre. The Calcutta meeting was attended by International Justice Mission, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Sanlaap, Banglanatok dot com, Women’s Interlink Foundation, CRY and other organisations. (Telegraph 12/5/14)

 

97. Report exposes child labour on U.S. tobacco farms (14)

Washington: Although the U.S. often leads campaigns to reduce child labour in developing nations such as India, this week Washington was embarrassed by a report on the debilitating effect that tobacco plantations have had on the health of children as young seven years working there. According to a 138-page study by the Human Rights Watch advocacy group, in the absence of child labour policies that sufficiently protected children from hazardous work on U.S. tobacco farms, those employed there reported vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness, “all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.” This type of poisoning, often referred to as Green Tobacco Sickness, is said to occur when nicotine is absorbed through their skin while handling tobacco plants, particularly when plants are wet, and in addition to the short-term symptoms, “some research suggests that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have consequences for brain development.” Based on interviews with 141 child tobacco workers, ages seven to 17, the HRW report noted that many of them also reported working “long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.” With several hundred thousand children said to be working in U.S. agriculture each year, yet no data is readily available on the number working in tobacco farming. Among the children interviewed by HRW, many said that they had begun working on tobacco farms at age 11 or 12, primarily during the summer, to help support their families. Most were the children of Hispanic immigrants who lived in communities where tobacco was grown and who attended school full-time. In addition to exposure to tobacco, children working on tobacco farms were said to face other serious risks linked to their use of dangerous tools and machinery, lifting of heavy loads, and proximity to tractors spraying pesticides in nearby fields. Regarding the latter some of the children interviewed by HRW said that the spray “drifted over them, making them vomit, feel dizzy, and have difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in their eyes.” Ironically under U.S. labour law, children working in agriculture are permitted to work longer hours, at younger ages, and in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry. For example, children as young as 12 could be hired for unlimited hours outside of school hours on a farm of any size with parental permission, and there is no minimum age for children to work on small farms, HRW explained. While children in most other economic sectors are required to be 18 years of age to do hazardous work, child farm workers as young as 16 years of age are allowed do jobs deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labour. Co-author of the report Margaret Wurth argued, “As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette,” adding, “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.” Ms. Wurth said that Washington had failed America’s families by not sufficiently protecting child farm workers from dangers to their health and safety, including on tobacco farms, and that the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress ought to enact laws to remedy this. When HRW presented the latest study to ten corporations that purchase U.S.-grown tobacco grown in the United States, including eight cigarette manufacturing companies, all but one, China National Tobacco, responded and said they were “concerned about child labour in their supply chains.” “However, the companies’ approaches do not sufficiently protect children from hazardous work,” HRW said, adding that in some cases, companies allow for lower standards of protection for children in their U.S. supply chain than for children working on tobacco farms in all other countries from which they purchase tobacco. (The Hindu 14/5/14)

 

98. Child rights panel raps police for insensitivity in teen rape case (14)

DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand Commission for Protection of Child Rights has lambasted the state police for behaving insensitively in the matter of a mentally unstable 15-year-old girl who was allegedly raped and impregnated by her teacher at a primary school in Ghansali tehsil of Tehri district. The commission’s chairman, Ajay Setia wrote to the director general of police to press for the arrest of the accused. The latter was put behind bars on Tuesday. “The state police are not equipped to deal with the cases of highest sensitivity related to Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act which is a non-bailable offence. In this case, the accused was arrested on May 13 while the FIR was lodged on April 25. Police gave him enough time to threaten the girl’s family. It was after the commission’s letter that the accused was arrested,” Setia said. He added that the police neither contacted the child welfare committee nor informed a special court. This should have been done within 24 hours of filing of FIR under POCSO Act. Tehri superintendent of police Janmayjay Khanduri said, “Nobody had heard about such a heinous crime in the district before. The girl was found to be 28 weeks pregnant when her mother took her to the hospital after she complained of stomach ache. “The teacher took advantage of her mental state. Police had to seek the help of two experts from an NGO to record her statement under Section 164 of CrPC on May 1. However, as the accused, Ramesh Prasad Bhandari has not admitted to the crime, police are waiting for the child to take birth so that a DNA test can be performed,” he said. Setia also accused the police of registering the case under lighter sections of POCSO Act (3 and 4) under which the minimum quantum of punishment is five years. He said that it should have been registered under sections five and six under which the minimum punishment is for 10 years. He also objected to police’s suggestion of a DNA test saying that the court will decide about the test. With regard to rehabilitation of the girl, Jagdish Lal, sub-divisional magistrate of Ghansli, said, “The administration will bear the costs of the girl’s hospitalization and delivery and also assist in the adoption procedure of the newborn if the girl’s parents are willing.” Setia said the commission will ensure that the special court grants a rehabilitation package to the girl under the provision of the POSCO Act as the girl’s father is working as a driver in Delhi while two of her siblings are staying with their mother in Ghansali. (Times of India 16/5/14)

 

99. No Country for Labourers’ Left Out Children (14)

BALANGIR:  Pitiable is the condition of children who are staying independently with their extended families in the district. According to a study, while around 20,000 children migrate every year from the district, more than 3,000 left behind by their parents in the villages remain isolated and find it difficult to sustain themselves. Balangir is noted to be a migration-prone district from where lakhs of people migrate every year in search of livelihood. While most of the children of the migrant labourers accompany their parents, some stay back in their villages. The study revealed that the children, who stay back, lead a life of an orphan. With no support mechanism available in the villages, the children are forced to be engaged in various forms of child labour. The children living with their grandparents even shoulder the responsibility of sustaining the elderly. The ones residing with relatives perform household chores, graze cattle, collect fodder and other sundry jobs. While ill health is quite common among these children due to lack of care, they have hardly any money to consult doctors. The study further states that such children are mostly found in migration-prone blocks like Bangomunda, Turekela, Muribahal, Titlagarh, Khaprakhol, Belpara and Patnagarh. The life of an orphan for six months every year is taking a toll on these children’s health and growth. With parents away in some distant place, the children don the mantle of watchmen of their houses and are left to fend for themselves. These children are deprived of socio-psychological care, education and filial affection. Their rights are also blatantly violated. At a time when people from high income group groom their children by spending lavishly on every aspect of life, the children of migrant labourers are deprived of basic education and care. The condition of differently abled children is much worse. With parents away, these children lead a vegetative existence. Social activist Srabantika Bhattacharya, who is working on the issue, said the plight of this section of children has been overlooked. This issue goes unnoticed by the researchers unlike the children who migrate with the labourers. Different aspects of living condition of these children need to be studied properly, added Bhattacharya. Assistant Labour Commissioner Saroj Ranjit said the Government has opened seasonal hostels for these children in schools. The hostels remain open from January to June  every year to facilitate the children to continue with their studies in Government-run schools. Till now, 99 hostels have been opened in the district, he added. However, Bhattacharya said the hostels opened in the district are insufficient and fail to cater to the need of the children. Moreover, only after 20 children are identified living independently in a village, a hostel is opened for them in the nearby Government school. But in many places, the number of such children is less than 20 and hence hostels are not provided. Besides, the district administration closes the hostels from March instead of June, the social activist added. The study was conducted by Youth Centre for Development Alternatives (YCDA), a local organisation. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

100. In Islam, woman returning to earlier faith can end marriage if she likes: Delhi high court (19)

NEW DELHI: Interpreting a 75-year-old law, Delhi high court has held that a non-Muslim woman who embraces Islam after marriage but reconverts to her original faith can dissolve the union due to apostasy. Granting divorce under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939 to Sultana (name changed), a division bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and ​Justice Najmi Waziri also clarified there is no requirement in such circumstances for a woman who leaves the pale of Islam to prove her act in a trial. The mere act of apostasy dissolves the marriage if she so desires. “Were a woman married under Muslim personal law to apostatize, the marriage stands dissolved. In such circumstances, the woman is entitled to seek a decree of declaration that the marriage stands dissolved from the date of her apostatizing,” Justice Waziri explained. The bench went into the circumstances under which the pre-Independence act was passed in 1939 to emphasize, if people come or are brought into Islam from a different religion, they should be permitted to go back for which there should be no bar. The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the husband Asif (name changed) challenging the grant of divorce by a Saket family court to Sultana on her petition. Asif contested Sultana’s reconversion back to Hinduism and alleged she did it under pressure from her parents. Asif also cited Section 4 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act to contend that it prohibits dissolution of marriage only on the ground of apostasy. On her part, the estranged wife argued that for her reconversion to Hinduism no evidence is required to be led, as her mere statement ‘ipso facto’ amounts to abjuration of Islam and its tenets. She also filed an affidavit admitting to her apostasy along with two fatwas from two mufti. The wife also informed the court she had withdrawn complaint filed under Domestic Violence Act and another petition seeking maintenance. Now that she had apostatized, neither the marriage nor any right to claim maintenance subsisted. The HC agreed with the trial court verdict and ruled that Section 4 has not altered the rule of Muslim personal law that apostasy dissolves a marriage. “In the opinion of this court, all that Section 4 has done is to introduce an intervening mechanism, but to reach the same conclusion, i.e., that apostasy would not by itself dissolve the marriage and some further substantive act would be required to be done in this regard; the substantive act being the filing of a suit seeking declaration as to dissolution,” it observed. However, it rejected Asif’s argument that Sultana would have to prove her apostasy. (Times of India 12/5/14)

 

101. Don’t announce EVM-wise leads in counting: PIL (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Election Commission’s response to a PIL which demanded that EVM-wise declaration of leads in the vote counting process be stopped. The PIL by advocate Yogesh Gupta from Punjab was based on Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s poll-eve threat to Baramati villagers that their water supply would be discontinued if they did not vote for his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule. Gupta said if the votes cast in each EVM was kept secret and announced only after totalling the votes in all EVMs used in a parliamentary constituency, then politicians would not know which segment voted for which candidate. This would help voters exercise their franchise without fear. Finding the point interesting, a vacation bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice NV Ramana issued notice to the EC and sought its reply by May 21. So, the outcome of this PIL will not affect the mode of counting of votes for this general election. But if the court allows the PIL and EVM-wise results are stopped from being announced, then it would take away the excitement of ups and down in leads, intrinsic to counting of votes. “In the present form of declaration of results, political parties become aware of the wards where they have not got voted and where they have got maximum votes,” the petitioner said. “The present form of declaration of results also acts as a catalyst for registration of false cases based on political vendetta against persons who have not voted for the victorious parties.” (Times of India 13/5/14)

 

102. Govts think judiciary is a non-productive organ: CJI (19)

New Delhi: As Narendra Modi prepares to take over as Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has expressed hope that the new government would give more attention to the judiciary, which faces an uphill task of clearing a backlog of over three crore cases. “Governments think the judiciary is a non-productive organ of the state. They hardly spend on the judiciary…less than 0.5 per cent of the budget is spent on the judiciary. Let’s hope the new government gives more attention to the judiciary,” the CJI told HT. Justice Lodha said speedy disposal of cases, particularly corporate disputes, will certainly have a positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Barely 0.11 per cent of the 2014-15 central budget of Rs. 17.60 lakh crore is proposed to be spent on law and justice. The CJI said clearing the backlog needed enhancement of judicial manpower and augmentation of infrastructure. “In Allahabad High Court, almost half of the 160 sanctioned posts of judges are vacant. Even if we want to fill these vacancies, we can’t. The existing infrastructure — in terms of building and other facilities — is not sufficient to accommodate even the current strength,” Lodha said, adding “Even the Lucknow Bench can accommodate only a limited number of judges.” According to latest data available on the Supreme Court website, the Allahabad High Court has only 88 judges and over 10.22 lakh cases are awaiting disposal.

Lodha also blamed delay at the government’s end for an unusually high number of vacancies in high courts. The CJI, who has started the practice of having a regular Constitution Bench in view of a large number of cases involving constitutional issues pending in the SC, also floated the idea of having a Court of Appeal between high courts and the Supreme Court on the lines of one functioning in South Africa. “In South Africa the Supreme Court only hears constitutional matters and all appeals arising out of any criminal or civil cases are decided by the Court of Appeal. We can consider having this kind of system in India,” Lodha said, adding “It needs to be discusses and debated.” The CJI outlined five-point agenda to deal with problems facing the judiciary. Simplification of procedure, change in mindset of advocates and judges, quality legal education, promoting judiciary as a career among law graduates and augmentation of infrastructure. He said All India Judicial Service was a good idea to have well-trained judges. “But all this would need money. Judiciary should be on one of the priorities of the government,” Lodha said. (Hindustan Times 18/5/14)

 

103. New govt will call joint sittings of Houses to push through key bills (19)

NEW DELHI: The BJP has decided to take frequent recourse to joint sittings of Parliament to make sure that key legislations are not held up due to the NDA’s inadequate numbers in Rajya Sabha. Despite the BJP having a majority on its own in Lok Sabha with 282 members, and the NDA garnering 336 seats in all, the ruling alliance is short of majority in Rajya Sabha with just 64 votes. Even if all 10 nominated members, who are expected to go with the government, are counted, the NDA tally just improves to 74 seats, as against the halfway mark of 123 MPs in the 245-member House. Besides, with BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan and rebel RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav now elected to Lok Sabha, there will be three vacancies in the upper House that the NDA may seek to fill. Even though regional parties like AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have indicated that they may not reflexively come in the way of key legislations, the BJP has already made up its mind that the new government would not hesitate to convene a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament with a view to ensure smooth passage of legislations it may wish to craft. As per Article 108 of the Constitution, a joint sitting of both Houses can be called if a bill has been passed by one House and rejected by the other; if the two Houses have finally disagreed on the amendments to be made in the bill; or if more than six months have elapsed after a bill is passed by one House but is not passed by the other. Constitutional expert Subhash C Kashyap told TOI that there have been only three joint sittings of both Houses so far, leading to passage of the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1961, the Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill, 1978, and Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002. Kashyap said there was no time or frequency bar on calling a joint sitting, which was entirely a prerogative of the ruling dispensation at the Centre. A joint sitting of both Houses is presided over by the Lok Sabha Speaker and only a simple majority is need to get a bill passed, which is then immediately sent to the President for his assent. (Times of India 19/5/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

104. Harassed, Yet Another Farmer Ends Life (20)

BALANGIR: The issue of fraudulent transfer of land owned by farmers in Ghumer village to some companies for Jatropa cultivation is back to haunt the Balangir administration. Chhabi Sahu, a farmer of Ghumer under Patnagarh sub-division who had attempted suicide by consuming poison on Wednesday, succumbed on Saturday. Land of Chabbi and many more poor farmers of Ghumer and some other villages were transferred to 10 companies in a fraudulent manner in 2005 by their agents in connivance with local tehsil officials and influential people of Patnagarh to promote Jatropha cultivation. After losing his land to one of these companies, Taj Gases Private Limited of Agra, Chhabi had become a migrant labourer and last month returned from Andhra Pradesh. He was worried over the legal battle surrounding his land and unemployment. His wife said Chabbi was tensed for several years and had no job in hand. “He lost his mental balance after returning from Andhra and took the extreme step on Wednesday”, she said. Ten companies – New Ace Builder and Developers, Enercore Diesels Private Limited, Supertech Printing Private Limited, Sparsh Medicare Private Limited Delhi, LEFIN (India) Private Limited, Cladyin Hoteland Resort Private Limited, Millennium Steel Cast Private Limited, Fasteck Sofwares Private, Siyaram Energy Private Limited, all based in Delhi, and Agra-based Taj Gases – had acquired a total of 358.43 acre of land and a total of 70 sale deeds were executed.These 70 farmers belong to Ghumer, Aainlatunga, Jalapali, Kirabahal, Thelkochhapar, Ghghunghutipali of Patnagarh block; Bagdore, Rengali, Aampali villages of Belpara block and Kadalijharan and Loisingha villages under Khaprakhol block.Sources said in 2005, Mahesh Dixit of Taj Gases along with locals Bikram Acharya and Sushil Pradhan held a meeting in Ghumer where Mahesh appealed villagers to give their land on lease for three years for Jatropa cultivation. He said he would pay `7,000 per acre in return and promised them work as labourers on the land, where they would draw around `2,000 as monthly salary. Mahesh added that after three years, the Jatropa plants – cash crops that are used to generate biofuel – would be ready for harvest and the farmers would get a share of the bonus. He told the farmers that Jatropha, as an alternative fuel, could provide them with income for 30 to 40 years, without much investment. As the gullible villagers were convinced, their lands were transferred to the company overnight. Chabbi was one among them. The fraud came to light when the villagers were refused entry to their land to collect Mahua flowers. The company officials told them that as their lands have been taken on lease, they were debarred from collecting Mahua flowers. A high-level inquiry was ordered in 2007 and irregularities reported. Since then, the villagers have been fighting a legal battle to get their lands back. Prior to Chabbi, Linga Sahu and Madan Kand of the same village had committed suicide after losing their land. Balangir Collector M Muthukumar refused to comment. (New Indian Express 11/5/14)

 

105. Organic farming grows to 1,200 hectares (20)

NASHIK: The state government has increased the organic farming area in Nashik division from 800 hectares to 1,200 hectares to promote the form of agriculture and discourage use of chemical fertilizers. Two years ago, the area under organic farming, which largely depends on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control, was 100 acres. The state government mooted organic farming clusters in 2012-13 and set up eight clusters of 100 hectares each. Now, it has added four more clusters in 2013-14. Four more will be set up in 2014-15. Three clusters each have been set up in Nashik, Dhule, Nandurbar and Jalgaon districts in the Nashik division. Each cluster includes organic farming area of 100 hectares and a group of 200 farmers. This is a part of the government’s initiative to promote organic farming across the state. Accordingly, the Nashik divisional office of the joint director of agriculture of the state government has set up total 12 clusters in the division in the past two years. Speaking to Times Of India, an official in the state agriculture department, said, “Chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers are being used excessively. This causes harmful effects on the health of people. Moreover, the yield and quality of the produce also decline due to chemical fertilizers. To avoid all this, the state government had started focusing on organic farming and introduced the cluster projects for the farmers. Areas under organic farming, which was as nominal as around 100 acres in the division, have now reached 1,200 hectares following the formation of organic clusters. Our target is to bring at least 10 per cent of the total agricultural area under organic farming in the division.” He added, “In the Nashik division, we have set up 12 clusters — three each in Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon and Nandurbar districts. Overall, we have 1,200 hectares under organic farming and around 2,400 farmers are getting the benefits. Paddy, ragi (Nagali), vegetables, fruits and other corps are being cultivated as part of the organic farming cluster projects.” The farmers participating in organic farming clusters get 25 per cent subsidy of the total cost for vermin-compost projects and 50 per cent subsidy bio-dynamic compost units. “Moreover, we give a grant of Rs 50,000 per cluster for providing the farmers with training and literature. One cluster includes a group of 200 farmers. A grant of Rs 20,000 is also given to the group of 20 farmers to conduct workshop as per the stages of crops,” the official said. (Times of India 14/5/14)

 

106. ‘Sugar Factory Harassing Cane Farmers’ (20)

YADGIR: Sugarcane farmers have been suffering heavy losses thanks to the negligence of a sugar factory. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha alleged that Core Green sugar factory at Wadigera is responsible for the withering of the standing sugarcane crop in the surrounding villages in Shahapur taluk. The Sangha members allege that Core Green had reached an agreement with the farmers that the sugarcane they grow would be harvested and transported by the factory. Considering this as an opportunity, Ameen Patel, a farmer at Wadigera village, cultivated sugarcane on three acres. But the factory did not harvest the sugarcane even after nine months. Since the cane was not harvested on time the farmer suffered a huge loss. Patel’s is not the only case. There are many other growers who have been facing similar difficulties due to the negligence of the factory, the members alleged. It is said that the factory officials turned a deaf ear when the growers approached them with their problems. Sangha members urged the factory management to immediately harvest the crop in the hobli. They warned that if the demand was neglected, a protest would be launched in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office.  (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

107. UN Concerned Over Health Care for Below Poverty Line Families in India (21)

New Delhi:  A top United Nations official today expressed concerns over the health care of families who fall below the poverty line in India. “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a high priority in India. We are particularly worried about families who fall below the poverty line, when someone falls ill and the family has to struggle to pay for health care,” Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator, said at a UN-backed discussion which deliberated on India’s route to UHC. Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, highlighted the importance of substantially increasing the government expenditure on health in India which is one of the lowest in the world, at around one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She commended the policy intent outlined by the Planning Commission to increase government spending on health to 1.87 percent of the GDP by 2017. Outlining that no country has fully “achieved” UHC in a short period as there is always some gap between the need and utilisation and there is also scope for improvement of quality and financial protection, Menabde said, “Universal Health Coverage should be conceptualised as a direction rather than a destination, an idea that is relevant for India.” Speaking on the occasion, Indrani Gupta, of the Institute of Economic Growth said, the disease burden, infrastructural and personnel requirements and health financing situation are the three elements that need to be analysed to plan the design of the UHC model to be rolled out in India. “The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already suggested a list of indicators for an essential health package which need to be taken into consideration. “The roll-out process has to be accompanied by a solid management information system and monitoring and evaluation framework from the start to help in course correction based on evaluations,” she said. The discussion with WHO experts from different regions was moderated by Dr Antonio Duran, Advisor, WHO Country Office for India. (NDTV 8/5/14)

 

108. Uttarakhand: National food security scheme to be implemented from June 30 (21)

Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat has issued orders for completion of all formalities related to effective implementation of National Food Security scheme in the state from June 30. All the bottlenecks in distribution of ration cards under the scheme should be removed within a week and nodal officers for the purpose be appointed so that the drive could be expedited, Rawat told officials at a review meeting of the Food and Civil Supplies department here yesterday. Arrangements should be made for storage of adequate foodgrains in the hills to ensure that villages on char dham yatra route do not suffer from shortage of food during monsoon, he said. Claiming that the national food security scheme will benefit 61.94 lakh people of the state, Rawat said those not covered under the ambit of the scheme will get foodgrains under the state foodgrains scheme. (Zee News 12/5/14)

 

109. 82 pc crorepatis and 21 pc face criminal charges in new LS (21)

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha is getting wealthier, with an increasing number of crorepatis entering the Lower House of Parliament, as is the case of MPs with serious criminal charges against them. Private election watchdogs Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) said 82 per cent MPs of the newly-elected Lok Sabha are crorepatis, while 21 per cent have serious criminal charges against them. Among the 543 MPs in the new Lok Sabha, Sikar MP Sumedhanand Saraswati will stand out. The BJP member is the poorest lawmaker in a House that has 442 crorepatis and 121 with serious criminal charges. In 2009, the number of crorepatis in Lok Sabha was just over 300, while those with serious criminal charges were numbered at 77. Saraswati has assets worth just Rs 34,311, but the richest are from Andhra Pradesh, which sends four of the five richest Lok Sabha members. Guntur MP Jayadev Galla (TDP) is the richest with Rs 683 crore, followed by Chevella MP Konda Vishweshar Reddy (TRS, Rs 528 crore) and Narsapuram member G  G Raju (BJP, Rs 288 crore). Other richest in the crorepati club are YSR Congress MP from Kurnool Butta Renuka, with Rs 242 crore, and Congress MP Kamal Nath from Chhindwara, with Rs 206 crore. The analysis showed 237 out of 282 BJP MPs are crorepatis, while 35 of the Congress’ 44 are in the same club. All 37 MPs of the AIADMK are crorepatis. The chances of winning for a crorepati candidate in this Lok Sabha elections were 20 per cent, whereas for a candidate with low assets it was just 2 per cent. “The average assets per winner for this Lok Sabha elections are Rs 14.61 crore, whereas the average asset for each candidate was Rs 3.16 crore. In 2009, the average assets per winner of 521 MPs analysed was Rs 5.35 crore,” said the analysis. On the crime side, 112 MPs with serious criminal cases have won this time. They face charges like murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping and crimes against women. The previous Lok Sabha had around 80 MPs with serious charges against them. If one adds simple offences into the mix, the number of MPs rise to 186. (Deccan Herald 18/5/14)

 

110. Tribals a Neglected Lot: Survey Report (21)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  A 2010 survey conducted by the Scheduled Tribes Development Department had found that nearly half of the total deaths in the ST communities over the previous five years were premature or unnatural. The department recently prepared a state-level socio-economic status report based on the survey data which is yet to be published. The report accessed by ‘Express’ revealed stark disparities in the development indices of the tribals compared to the general population. According to the report, 5,957 of 12,189 deaths between 2005 and 2010 were ‘unnatural’ with 28 starvation deaths. A total of 432 persons died due to excessive consumption of alcohol/ drugs, 3,802 for lack of proper medical care, 950 in suicides, 48 in wild  animal attacks and 697 in accidents. The report which found some positive trends like a sex ratio of 1000:1031 and literacy rate of 74.44 percent, opined several other parameters required a drastic improvement. It suggested an integrated policy for the comprehensive development of the over four lakh tribals who form 1.28 percent of the total population. The report said 13.09 percent of the total families were affected by malnutrition and their number was maximum in Wayanad district, followed by Palakkad and Idukki districts. A total of 18 percent of the total families had members who were differently-abled or mentally-challenged. A total of 31 percent of families had members with chronic diseases. A total of 23.15 percent of STs do not have ration cards while a majority of those distributed were defective. Only about 51 percent of the families were included in the below poverty line (BPL) category which was a far cry from reality, the report  said. About 56 percent of the families were in debt and one-third of them had borrowed from private money lenders. Nearly 30.27 percent of persons in the 15-59 age group were unemployed. Despite reservation benefits and special recruitment drives, only 4.33 percent had government or quasi-government jobs. Social security schemes were still a dream for the majority as only 17 percent of the widows were beneficiaries of widow  pension and 13 percent of the aged received old-age pension. The dropout rate was 62 percent in general and 80 percent among primitive tribes. 70 percent of the 4762 oorus (settlements) in state did not have an anganwadi. About 9.66 percent families were houseless and 4.78 percent landless. The number of landless was high in Wayanad and Palakkad districts. (New Indian Express 19/5/14)

 

RESERVATION

111. Backward Commission recommends transgenders for reservation (25)

New Delhi: Transgenders on Tuesday moved closer to getting reservation in employment and education in public sector with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) recommending their inclusion in the central list of the OBCs. The NCBC’s decision comes against the backdrop of a Supreme Court order, which has directed the Centre and state Governments to treat the transgenders as socially and educationally backward classes to extend reservation in admission in educational institutions and for public appointments. The matter will now go to the Union Cabinet which will be required to approve the recommendation to enable the ‘Third Gender’ to avail of the benefits. “The Commission today unanimously passed a resolution to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court and decided to recommend to the Centre to include transgenders in the OBC list. Irrespective of their community background, all transgenders can avail beneifits under the OBC list,” NCBC member S K Kharventhan told PTI. Though the actual number of transgenders in the country is not available, electoral roll date of the Election Commission of India states that a total number of 23,019 people have registered themselves under “Others” category. NCBC, functioning under the aegis of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, received a letter from the ministry seeking to look into the directions of the apex court. The Commission’s role comes into play since NCBC advice is necessary to include a community in the OBC list. Invoking articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution, NCBC sources said that the communities set-out in the Supreme Court judgement are entitled to be added in the OBC list. The SC on April 15 had held that the rights of transgenders, also known as Hijras, Eunuchs, Kothis, Aravanis, Jogappas, Shiv-Shakthis etc, have to be protected as they are citizens of the country and having all rights under the Constitution like the male or the female have. (Zee News 13/5/14)

 

112. Reservation cannot be allowed to exceed limit: High Court (25)

MADURAI: Reservation in government employment cannot be allowed to exceed the percentage prescribed for various categories. Otherwise, it will result in injustice to candidates not falling within its purview, the Madras High Court Bench here has observed. “It is an everlasting principle of law that reservation cannot be allowed to exceed the percentage prescribed for reservation, and it would result in injustice to candidates falling outside the reservation category,” the Bench observed. Justices A. Selvam and V.S. Ravi made the observation, dismissing writ appeals filed by two aspirants for the post of District Educational Officer (DEO). The appellants were aggrieved at the implementation of the 200-point, and not 100-point, roster system while reservation was decided for the post. Stating that they belonged to the Scheduled Caste and the Backward Class, the litigants claimed that they would have got selected for the post by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) in 2009, had the government followed a 100-point roster system. But the Bench rejected their contention and held that the candidates could not question the roster system after having participated in the selection process, knowing that only the 200-point system would be implemented for the post as per a Government Order issued on September 15, 2007. The judges also recorded the submission of Advocate-General A.L. Somayaji that the TNPSC had issued a notification on January 23, 2009, calling for applications to fill six vacancies for the post of DEO, and on that date, the 200-point roster system alone was in effect. The Bench refused to accept the appellants’ contention that their participation in the selection process could not act as a bar on questioning the methodology adopted by the government especially when it had infringed their fundamental rights. Holding that it did not find infringement of any fundamental right of the appellants, the Bench said they had been given sufficient opportunity to take part in the written examination as well as the interview. “But unfortunately, they were not selected in view of the 200-point roster system.”  (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

HINDUTVA

113. VHP protests against ‘anti-Hindu policies’ (26)

Mangalore: As the Congress-led State government turns one year, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other organisations gathered in protest here on Monday against the alleged “anti-Hindu policies” of the State government. The protestors held a public meeting in front of the DC office where a memorandum, addressed to the Governor, was submitted. Jeetendra S. Kottari, VHP district chief condemned the State government’s decision to grant Rs. 10 lakh to the kin of Kabir, a cattle trader, who was allegedly killed by anti-naxal force personnel near Sringeri recently. He said with this the government was encouraging cattle traders to indulge in illegal trafficking. Among the “other atrocities” mentioned by the groups was the withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the anti-cow slaughter bill. (The Hindu 13/5/14)

 

114. Parallel RSS teams trigger landslide (26)

Lucknow: The BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) credited the Narendra Modi wave and the work of their booth-level teams for the landslide victory in the state. The BJP’s best-ever performance so far has been 58 seats in 1998. For the first time RSS established parallel teams and coordinators in 80 Lok Sabha and 403 Assembly constituencies. It also appointed a two-member committee at all 1.40 lakh booths across the state. RSS workers conducted door-to-door campaigns. At Varanasi, where Narendra Modi won with huge margin, workers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal formed separate teams to distribute akshat (turmeric coated rice grains). BJP state co-incharge Sunil Bansal, who looked after election management in UP on behalf of general secretary incharge Amit Shah, said that the Modi wave along with the ground level work of RSS, booth level committees of BJP, balanced social equations in ticket distribution and well planned campaign were the key factors in party’s win. RSS stood with BJP at every step, he added. Bhupendra Singh, president of BJP’s western UP region, said strategic formation of booth level committees — Amit Shah’s brainchild — set the ground for BJP’s win. In 2009 BJP won only two seats — Ghaziabad and Meerut. Former Army Chief VK Singh in Ghaziabad and ex-police commissioner of Mumbai Satyapal Singh — contesting his first elections from Baghpat — secured more than six lakh votes. Mayawati — who was predicting that her party would hold the balance of power in Delhi — and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) failed to win even a single seat. While RLD chief Ajit Singh lost in Baghpat, his son Jayant Chaudhary met the same fate in Mathura. BJP’s Swami Sachidanand Hari Sakshi Maharaj in Unnao, Lallu Singh in Faizabad, Rajveer Singh in Etah, Dharmendra Kashyap in Aonla, Kaushal Kishore in Mohanlalganj (reserved), Daddan Mishra in Shrawasti and Bharat Singh in Ballia, were in a position to win with a huge margin. They had lost the Assembly elections in 2012. RSS’s Pracharak Pramukh of western UP, Krishna Chandra, said, “Modi’s personality influenced voters. New voters wanted change and Modi was their only option.” RSS Pracharak and BJP’s organisation secretary in Kashi region Shiv Kumar Pathak said, “People found Modi to be the best option against Congress’s misrule. RSS work increased voter turn-out in BJP’s favour.” RSS’s Prant Pracharak Dr Avdhesh Pratap Singh said, “RSS and BJP had jointly projected Modi as prime ministerial candidate. RSS workers also popularised Modi’s development model.” (Indian Express 16/5/14)

 

115. Narendra Modi win, like 1952 (26)

New Delhi: There are two ways to describe the meaning of Narendra Modi’s massive victory. We can say it is a game-changer, profitably using the term “critical realignment”, a concept that basically depicts a radical shift in the social bases of political power, a shift that is not transitory but long term. A second way to explain the significance of Modi’s rise is to deploy a more colloquial term: capitalism with Indian characteristics. Either way, a new era is upon us, though I am still not entirely sure about its durability. To evaluate the significance of Modi’s triumph, we clearly need an appropriate benchmark. Just what should it be compared to? To 1977, when popular vote brought Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship to an end? To 1998-99, when a BJP-based NDA brought Hindu nationalists into the heart of India’s power structure? Or, more radically, to 1952 when, against all odds, a poor nation instituted universal franchise, allowing millions of poor to vote their wishes for the first time in human history? I would argue below that the most conceptually interesting comparison is with 1952. Let me, however, work back from the most recent comparison to the first. The NDA’s rise to power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998-99 was a watershed event. But as many commentators have noted, there was something quasi-Nehruvian about Vajpayee. Vajpayee’s manner was mild, and his oratorical style literary and polished. He kept the extreme wing of the RSS at a distance. Disagreeing with L.K. Advani, he opposed the Ayodhya movement. Though business flourished under NDA rule, Vajpayee was not market-oriented at heart. Indeed, Gandhian socialism was the initial ideological cornerstone of the BJP when it was reborn in 1980 under Vajpayee’s leadership. Modi repeatedly invokes Vajpayee as a model but, unlike Vajpayee, he is business-oriented. Moreover, he worked for the Ayodhya movement and it is still to be seen whether he can distance himself from the RSS. Our second comparison, 1977, shares quite a bit with 2014. In 1977, the Congress was not only outvoted, but the party was wiped out of north India, as it very nearly has been this time as well (though unlike now, the Congress had held the south in 1977). The great difference, of course, is that the Janata Party was a ramshackle coalition, with no identifiable core, united only by an intense and entirely justifiable anger towards Indira and Sanjay Gandhi and a highly docile Congress party. (Financial Express 19/5/14)

 

116. RSS ideologue says BJP can now tackle Ram Mandir, Article 370 (26)

New Delhi: RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya has made these suggestions in his latest blog. He writes that the BJP had to compromise with its ideology in 1999 in the wake of its tie-up with parties such as National Conference to reach at a unanimous common minimum programme for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. However, there is no such compulsion after the BJP gaining majority its own and its pre-poll allies such as Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and some Tamil Nadu-based parties should not have a problem, Vaidya writes in his Marathi blog Bhaashya. “In 1999, BJP could manage to get 182 seats and they needed support of 90 MPs from outside from parties like National Conference. So the common minimum programme had to be made with such parties and that became manifesto of the government. So the issues like Article 370 and construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya needed to be kept aside,” the veteran writes. “Now BJP had pre-poll alliance with TDP, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and some parties in Tamil Nadu, so I don’t think that they will have any problem with issues like Ram Mandir and Article 370. Though the alliance had projected issues of transparent government and development, Ram Mandir and Article 370 were part of the manifesto,” he writes. Vaidya says the BJP has got 282 seats now, which is 10 more than the required majority and the NDA has got 336 seats, if the party fulfils its promise of Ram Mandir and Article 370 without disturbing the Constitution and law, its partners should not have any issue, he opines. The RSS ideologue goes on to target parties such as Trinamool Congress (TMC) and DMK for their regional bias and says Congress should be revived in these states for the “betterment of democracy”.”… Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu will only think about their states and they do not have any thoughts about foreign policy, especially regarding Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. So Congress’s young leaders should come together and think about their defeat and there should be a change in organisational set up in Congress by allowing young leadership to prosper and come forward,” Vaidya writes. He goes on to credit RSS for BJP’s thumping victory by playing an “important role in increasing vote percentage”. At the same time, he says, the anti-BJP parties that bashed up the parent organisation of the saffron party in the run up to the general elections played “an equally important role”. (Indian Today 19/5/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 May 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

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

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

 

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

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

 

7. Civil society activists condemn Assam violence (1)

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

 

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

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

 

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

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

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

 

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

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

 

11. MNS man dies in police station (1)

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

 

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

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

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRAFFICKING

17. 5 Children Rescued, Woman Arrested (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HIV/AIDS

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

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

 

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

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

 

31. AIDS awareness programme held for labourers (3)

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

 

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

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

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

33. Tension as protesters block eviction drive in Wayanad

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CORRUPTION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRIBALS

40. Tribal girls paraded nude in Betul (6)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

43. Canacona tribals struggle for drinking water (6)

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

 

MINORITIES – GENERAL

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

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

 

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

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

 

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

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

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

 

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

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

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

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

WOMEN 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

56. Vizhinjam: NGT to Consider Petitions (9)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

60. Education Department Blamed for Low Intake (11)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TERRORISM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

69. Eight Maoists surrender in Koraput (12)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

 

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

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

 

79. Bonded labour still exists in MP (14)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

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

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

 

83. Child workers rescued from hotel (14)

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

 

84. 27 child labourers rescued from hellholes (14)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

94. Sambalpur to Adopt Integrated Farming (20)

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

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

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

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

 

96. Consumption data contradict high poverty estimates (21)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

RESERVATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

policy. (Deccan Herald 4/5/14

 

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

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

 

HINDUTVA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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