Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 24 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Sri Lanka accuses US of human rights abuses(1)

Colombo: Days before a US-sponsored resolution will be taken up against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, Colombo accused Washington of committing human rights abuses. Cabinet Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena Monday said that there were reports that the US had killed civilians during its military operations in Afghanistan. He noted that most countries were overlooking such abuses and yet making allegations against countries like Sri Lanka. “Despite all this, the Sri Lankan government will not be shaken by such allegations and will instead continue with its policies for the country,” Abeywardena said. The US-sponsored resolution was submitted before the UNHRC in Geneva last week after the document was initially circulated among Council members. The draft resolution, “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka”, is still open for amendments before it is discussed at the Council and debated on next week. The resolution notes the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s call for an independent and credible international probe into alleged violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. It also expressed concern at the alleged continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture. Already countries such as the European Union, Canada and Britain have stated that they will vote against Sri Lanka when the final resolution is submitted. (Deccan Herald 11/3/14)

 

2. Do we live in a more peaceful world? (1)

Chandigarh: Technology has made it possible for us to know about each other and communicate faster. The internet, cellphones and dish antennae have made it possible to connect with any corner of the world at the click of a button. We know of the Arab Spring, terrorist attacks, military built-up around some regions, daily bomb blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan, crisis in Syria and Somalia, threat from North Korea – and about several other volatile pockets. They generate fear and alarm about violation of human rights, worse loss of human lives. These are matters of genuine concern. So we know much about the goings-on around the world and are apprehensive about nuclear conflagration, poisonous gases, bio-chemical wars etc. Thus with advanced knowledge of the world, we carry the impression that we are living in a dangerous and violent world. Not surprisingly, we call the present as kalyug and apprehend the nearness of kaal (apocalypse). But a closer look will show that the world today is much less violent than it used to be in the past centuries. So let us make an outlandish statement that our generation lives in a safer world and try to see if that can be sustained by some arguments. There are cogent reasons behind making this unusual statement. The ancient and medieval world witnessed far too many human catastrophes, from the times of the Mahabharata. Despite all the violence that we see around us, it is much less than what happened during innumerable battles of the ancient and medieval world. Let us recollect the marauding and killing forces of Mongols and Huns. Everything perished that came in the way of the militaries of Halaku and Chengiz Khan. Today’s civilised Europe and America had thousand battles including the Crusades, the mighty battles of the Roman Empire, the Hundred Years’ War and the War of the Roses; later the fallouts of the American War of Independence and the Civil War and the French Revolution. We cannot forget the brutal purges of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Russia. Even these paled into insignificance by the horrors of Nazi Germany under Hitler. We had Nero earlier and Mussolini later. Lest we forget, the Vietnam War and before that nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by America were responsible for colossal loss of human lives. The two World Wars together led to the death of no less than three million human beings. We may also respectfully remember all the heroic lives lost by the suppressed nationalities that fought for freedom from imperial yoke. Nearer home, we may recall various battles all over the country for two thousand years. History will not forget the ravages brought by Afghan invaders, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Nadir Shah Durrani,the wanton killings by the British of Indians during the revolt of 1857 and the untold killings and human misery during the Partition Era. China had its share in the Cultural Revolution, Bangladesh during its War of Liberation and Kampuchea during the Pol Pot regime. Happily these horrors of wars have subsided during the last three-four decades, with some exceptions like Iraq. The battles that ravaged in all parts of the world claimed hundreds of thousands of life every year. While scores died on the battle-fields, many more succumbed to the injuries due to lack of medical relief — a wounded soldier had less little chance of surviving a wound received in the battle ground. Secondly, the diseases and epidemics took a huge toll of life. We may remember how villages after villages and towns after towns were laid waste by plagues and cholera that left vast swaths of habitation desolate for years and it was impossible to count the numbers of humans who perished like flies.A word may also be said about various diseases that killed human beings routinely in the absence of medical facilities. Thirdly, in various parts of the world famine was as frequent as the annual floods and the two together devastated huge areas of land and destroyed massive population. The locusts completed the remaining task by destroying the crop and in aggravating the famine conditions. Large number of people die due to road accidents these days and many because of crimes. But fortunately their number is still small compared to those killed in the past by dictators and totalitarian regimes. Ours may not be an Ode to Solitude but definitely a limerick to peace and security. There are inequalities, injustices, violence and many other ills that we would desire to vanish. But the present age still gives to the world promises of life and liberty and dignity as a gift of democracy. Let us avoid pessimism and embrace hopefulness and feel sanguine about the credo of the modern world — to live and let live. We may perhaps agree that humans today have a more secure and peaceful existence than ever before. (Pioneer 16/3/14)

 

3. Sri Lanka arrests two human rights activists (1)

Colombo: The Sri Lankan police have arrested two human rights activists on terrorism-related charges. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana told Xinhua Monday that the two activists, Ruki Fernando and a Catholic priest Reverend Father Praveen, were arrested in the northern town of Kilinochchi under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The PTA was “used” mostly during the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels but with the end of the conflict in 2009 some aspects of the law remained in force, the Xinhua report said. The police spokesman said that the main charges for the arrest of the two  activists were that they were attempting to create instability among communities and were also allegedly promoting separatism. Meanwhile, the US embassy in Colombo called on the Sri Lankan government to  ensure that due legal processes were followed in the case of the human rights activists. The embassy said that the US government was concerned over the arrest of the two activists. It urged the government to ensure the two have full access to a legal counsel. The Free Media Movement (FMM), a leading media rights group in Sri Lanka, condemned in the strongest terms the arrest of the two activists and called for their immediate release.The FMM raised concerns over the arrests at a time when human rights issues in Sri Lanka were being discussed at the UN Human Rights Council currently meeting in Geneva. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, raised concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.The US has also raised concerns and submitted a draft resolution to the UN Human Rights Council which will be taken up for a vote next week. (Deccan Herald 17/3/14)

 

4. Amnesty seeks prime ministerial candidates to show evidence of commitment.. (1)

MANGALORE: Amnesty International India is asking the declared and probable prime ministerial candidates of various political parties to clarify their positions on key human rights issues ahead of Parliamentary elections in April and May. “Political parties have sworn to uphold constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality and dignity,” said Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. “But their leaders’ actions must reflect this pledge. It is essential for everyone to know where Prime Ministerial candidates stand on important human rights questions.” Amnesty International India’s “14 for 2014″ campaign asks candidates to state their positions on issues including police reforms, marital rape, undertrial detention, impunity for armed forces, land acquisition, decriminalization of homosexuality, and freedom of expression. The candidates approached include Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, J Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. “Human rights are unfortunately often seen as fringe issues during elections. But these crucial issues should be at the centre of debates and decisions around the elections,” said Shashikumar Velath.”The next five years will show whether India is willing to be seen as a true global power by upholding human rights at home and abroad, or whether it will continue to be driven by politics and narrow conceptions of national interest. “”Amnesty International India’s “14 for2014″ human rights charter calls on political parties to incorporate 14 key human rights issues in their election manifestos. The charter includes issues of business and human rights, reforms to the criminal justice system, violence against women, the death penalty, migrant workers’ rights, human rights through education, and a principled approach to human rights abuses abroad. Amnesty International India has submitted the Charter to various political parties, both national and regional. The organization has also launched a website, www.14for2014.com, and a missed call number – 09223322777 – for people to support the campaign by pledging to vote for candidates who commit to upholding human rights. (Times of India 19/3/14)

 

5. Sri Lankan rights activist, priest freed (1)

Colombo: Sri Lankan human rights activist Ruki Fernando and Catholic priest Fr. Praveen, who were arrested in Kilinochchi on Sunday under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, have been released. The two, who had been held in the Colombo headquarters of the Police Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), were released around midnight on Tuesday, with no charge framed against them. Mr. Fernando, in a message on his Facebook page, attributed his safety and release to the support and concerns expressed by so many in Sri Lanka and across the world. “Let us try to help others who also need similar support,” he said. The arrests triggered immense concern within the country and among the international community, particularly since Sri Lanka figures prominently in the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva. When the issue of their arrest was raised at the Council, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. said the two were detained as they had been engaging with a person in Kilinochchi who reportedly had links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Late Monday, international rights watchdogs, including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the International Crisis Group, jointly issued a statement expressing shock and demanding their immediate release. Meanwhile, Kilinochchi resident Balendran Jeyakumari, who was arrested along with her daughter on March 13 by the TID, still remains in police custody. She was an active participant in rallies against involuntary disappearances, raising concern over her son who reportedly went missing in the final phase of the war. Her 13-year-old daughter, BalendranVithushaini, after a brief detention, has been ordered into probationary care. (The Hindu 20/3/14)

 

6. Human rights groups to take up Madani trial delay (1)

Bangalore: Raising concern over delay in trial of Abdul Naser Madani in the 2008 Bangalore blasts case and jail authorities denying proper medical facilities to the leader who is reportedly unwell, Alliance for Protection of Human Rights & Justice and other groups will convene a conference here on Saturday. “We want justice for innocent people. The state is biased against minorities and Dalits, and many organizations have brought to public notice wrongful arrests. We will discuss this issue at the conference,” member of the People’s Democratic Front, Nagari Ramesh, said. Accusing jail authorities of not providing Madani with proper health facilities, APHRJ’s Rizvan Bappanad said the PDP leader was in urgent need of expert medical attention. Madani was denied bail through filing of false documents in court, he alleged. Bappanad accused a prison doctor of misleading court by certifying Madani was in  ‘sound health’. (Indian Express 21/3/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

7. 75 p.c. of working women have health problems: survey (3)

Bangalore: A survey now finds that this daily “multi-tasking” is taking a toll on their health. The worst part is most of the affected women are in the 32 to 58 age group. The survey titled ‘Multi-tasking seriously affecting corporate women’s health’ was conducted by the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. The survey found that 75 per cent of the total sample size of 2,800 corporate women employees from 120 companies across 11 broad sectors had one or the other health problem. The survey covered all levels of hierarchy and the problem was found to be prevailing across all levels of seniority and grades. It was conducted in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Pune. According to a press release, the study found that 78 per cent of the sample size suffered from lifestyle, chronic and acute ailments. These included obesity, depression, chronic backache, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart and kidney diseases. “Those in the younger age group manage to cope up but are in a danger of developing problems,” the release said. About 42 per cent of the sample size was found to be suffering from lifestyle diseases such as backache, obesity, depression, diabetes, hyper-tension, and heart ailments. While 22 per cent were reported to be suffering from chronic diseases, 14 per cent had acute ailments. “A majority of the respondents said while the jobs were demanding, fear of losing them in an environment of economic slowdown and low employment generation was making things worse,” the release said. The worst part is that a majority of them do not get to visit the doctor. The reasons vary from a busy schedule to staying in denial mode, and some of them take to home remedies. Increasing medical costs also add to the problem, particularly for those at the lower strata of jobs, the release added. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

8. India, Africa should form working group on healthcare: Experts (3)

New Delhi, March 10 : India and the African countries should mull forming a working group to explore healthcare cooperation, stakeholders and experts said here Monday. “Cooperation in sharing local-level experiences in healthcare of both the regions will help,” Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of the Medanta group of hospitals, said at a discussion on “Delivering affordable healthcare solutions for Africa”. The discussion took place at the 10th CII Exim Bank conclave of India-Africa Project Partnership. Trehan said one of the similarities in the healthcare scenarios of India and Africa were that both regions have not been able to eliminate communicable diseases like malaria and were burdened with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. “A working group to explore issues of healthcare cooperation between India and Africa should be considered,” he said. Asserting that India was committed to help Africa as far as healthcare was concerned, Ranjan Chakravarti, head of transformation and business consulting at Ranbaxy, said: “The setting up of a centralised cell should be explored to address such issues. This will play an effective role in sharing experiences”.A.K. Khanna, executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals Limited, said: “In Africa, each and every healthcare provider is focusing on HIV/AIDS.” Though HIV was one aspect of the health issues facing Africa, there were others which were affecting the economy much more. “The disease burden is shifting to diabetes, hypertension and anaemia,” he said. “India also has to think of Africa as an opportunity. Medical tourism is very important and it should be developed properly,” he added. Remy Lamah, health minister of the Republic of Guinea, said: “Africa, specially Guinea, needs to improve the quality of healthcare at the national level.” “We need to focus on pre-natal care and HIV,” he added. (New Kerala 10/3/14)

 

9. Lack of medicos behind poor IMR (3)

LUCKNOW: When it comes to infant and maternal health, even Bihar is better that Uttar Pradesh. While the Infant Mortality Rate for UP is 53 per 1000, Bihar scores 43 on the same. Similarly, Maternal Mortality Rate in UP is 300 per one lakh, Bihar has a figure of 258 per 1 lakh. This was revealed at the national seminar on ‘Demographic Transition and Development: Issues and Challenges in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar’ organised by International Institute for Population Sciences at SGPGIMS. Experts claim that shortage of qualified doctors and lack of health units in UP is the reason behind this. “Against the standard of one doctor over a population of 5,000, UP has a doctor for every 8,000 which explains the crisis,” said experts. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

10. Care & cure tips for kidney patients (3)

Residents were enlightened on how nausea or dehydration caused from diarrhoea could damage one’s kidney if proper treatment is not done. According to experts, during nausea or vomiting, excess pressure is created on the kidneys. Even excessive bleeding during delivery can also cause acute kidney injury. Dr Pankaj Hans, assistant professor of the medicine department of Patna Medical College, told the audience of these facts at a city hotel on the eve of World Kidney Day on Wednesday. Hans, who is also a consultant nephrologist at Ruban Memorial Hospital, said people often take nausea and diarrhoea very lightly but these ailments should not be ignored as these might damage the kidneys. “Those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and those who smoke need to be more careful. During diarrhoea, one needs to take oral rehydration solution from time to time,” said Hans. He added that in most of the cases, kidney patients’ problems are diagnosed very late. “Most of them consult a physician, who continues to treat them without having knowledge of the actual disorder. Physicians refer kidney patients to nephrologists very late. There should be an early diagnosis programme for the detection of kidney related disorders. Even in school health programmes, only the height and weight of the body is measured. The need of the hour is to read the blood pressure of children. The state government has to take an initiative in this regard,” said the doctor. He added: “The number of kidney patients in the state is on a par with the national average. One person out of every six is suffering from kidney disorder in this country and the same situation prevails in the state.” He also pointed out the lack of necessary machines in the dialysis units in the state. “Many new dialysis centres have opened in the state but not all are properly equipped. There are dialysis centres in Purnea, Ara, Muzaffarpur and other places, which are running with one dialysis machine. For kidney patients there are different kinds of dialysis machines to be used according to his/her condition. The state government should regulate the dialysis centres. This would keep a tab on ill-practices,” said Hans. He added that a person whose kidney has been damaged should be kept on dialysis for at least four hours. “There are dialysis centres in the state which are not doing a proper dialysis of kidney patients. The units are keeping them on dialysis for less than four hours, which is not good for the patients,” he said. (The Telegraph 12/3/14)

 

11. Diabetes, hypertension often lead to chronic kidney diseases (3)

VIJAYAWADA: In 70 per cent of the cases, diabetes and hypertension are the cause for chronic kidney disease. Deterioration caused by age resulted in the disease in 10 per cent of the cases and congenital factors caused it in the remaining 20 per cent cases, said Vignesh Superspeciality Hospitals Private Limited Director and nephrologist doctor Bodepudi Chowdary. Dr. Chowdary in association with The Hindu conducted an awareness programme for employees of the Southern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh (APSPDCL) on the occasion of the World Kidney Day here on Thursday. Talking to the employees he said that the theme of the World Kidney Day this year was promoting awareness in diabetes and hypertension patients about the risks of kidney diseases. The danger the elderly faced from chronic kidney diseases had to also be highlighted, he said.Dr. Chowdary said that kidney damage usually happened without any indication. Even if the kidney functions were reduced by 90 per cent the physical indications were not serious. “Patients only experience weakness, swelling of legs, froth and some times blood in the urine so the severity is not known to them,” he said. But it was easy and inexpensive to establish kidney disorders by conducting tests or a simple scan. Usually the family doctor would be in a position to establish if there was any problem with the kidney. The levels of waste lie creatinine and urea would be high in blood and albumin (a protein) level would be high in the urine, he explained. The best way to prevent kidney damage was bringing about a change in lifestyle. Increase in exercise, reducing intake of salt, oily and fried items were needed. Consuming excessive non-vegetarian also increased the burden on the kidney, he explained. In a lively interaction session that followed Dr. Chowdary answered questions raised by SPDCL employees. To a question on the amount of water that should be consumed he said water should be taken whenever there was thirst. Explaining the link between body weight and the kidneys, he said that the average kidney was designed to deal with a body weight of about 70 kg. anything above that was a burden. SPDCL Chief Engineer K. Raja Bapaiah said changes in lifestyles were causing more people to suffer from kidney disorders and lauded The Hindu for organising such awareness programmes. Rural DE Satyanandam also shared his personal experiences of close relatives suffering from kidney disorders and the difficulties they faced. (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

12. Children at danger from third hand smoke : Study (3)

Washington: Leftover cigarette smoke that clings on to walls, furniture and toys may be a threat to young children. Such “third hand smoke” may damage DNA and cause cancer, says a study. Research suggests that “third-hand smoke” could pose a far more serious threat, especially to young children who put toys and other smoke-affected items into their mouths. Scientists reported that one of the tobacco-specific nitrosamines newly formed in “third-hand smoke” damages DNA and could potentially cause cancer. Their talk was one of more than 10,000 presentations at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas this week. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

13. NAMHHR raises concerns over maternal health (3)

New Delhi: The National Alliance of Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) with Oxfam India Thursday organised a two-day event here related to priorities in maternal health and upliftment of marginalised women across India. The event raised concerns regarding medical services and policy framework, government health programmes for tribal women, manual scavengers and migrant women. It examined the current maternal health policy on the basis of available case studies and women’s perspective particularly those belonging to marginalised social groups. Ritu Priya, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, chaired the event. The convention also saw speakers from different parts of the country like Choti Bai (Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh), Neeta Hardikar, (Anandi, Gujarat), Sudha N. (SPAD, Karnataka), Anita Ghai (Jesus & Mary College, New Delhi). “Pregnant women who belong to backward classes do not get adequate medical care in small districts of Madhya Pradesh, hence the maternal mortality rate is high,” said Vinod Pateriya, Lok Sangharsh Sajha Manch, Madhya Pradesh. “HIV positive women are not given adequate medical care, they are often referred from one hospital to another,” Sunil Kaul, the Ant, Assam said. “There is a need to increase awareness among the adolescent women who are forced into marriage and become pregnant at an early age,” health expert Sebanti Ghosh said during the event. The event also highlighted the issues of nutrition and diet during pregnancy. (New Kerala 20/3/14)

 

14. Chemists threaten nationwide agitation (3)

New Delhi: Chemists and pharmacists on Thursday threatened to launch a nationwide stir against a new government order, which makes it mandatory to maintain a separate sale-register for several hundred medicines, ranging from sleeping pills to antibiotic and anti-tuberculosis drugs. While pharmacists claimed it was impractical to maintain such a register, industry insiders said the order was not only difficult to implement with over 6,00,000 retail shops across the country, but would also fail to meet its objective of eliminating rampant drug abuse. As per the order that came into effect on March 1, 2014, retail shop owners have to maintain a register while selling drugs containing one of the 46 molecules identified by the government. These drugs were categorised under a new schedule called H-1. The register must record the name and address of the doctors, name of the patient, besides the name of the drug and quantity supplied. “This is impractical because of the patient pressure at the shops. We receive 300-400 prescriptions every day and maintaining a manual register would be cumbersome and time consuming,” said Kailash Gupta, president of the All India Chemists and Distributors Federation. Maintaining such a record will prove to be particularly difficult for government hospitals or CGHS clinics, where prescriptions make no mention of the names of prescribing doctors. The register, however, need not have a copy of the prescription. Further, prescriptions do not have to be stamped once the drug is sold by a chemist. “The notification will not serve any purpose in preventing drug abuse as the same prescription can be used to buy a medicine from 20 different shops against clinical advice,” C M Gulhati, a former consultant to the World Health Organisation, told Deccan Herald. A section of pharmacists said maintaining such a register would be duplication of efforts, as a large number of shops use software to tender bills, making prescription drugs a new tool for harassment in the hands of inspectors. “But there is no law to make the use of computers mandatory in medical shops,” pointed out Gulhati. The government came out with the notification on August 30 in an attempt to tackle the issue of drug resistance and stop the misuse of certain medicines as intoxicants. Chemists and distributors have planned a sit-in in the capital on March 24, which will see the participation of pharmacists from other states. As of now, however, medical shops will not go on strike. (Deccan Herald 21/3/14)

 

15. Unlikely volunteers ease mothers’ heavy hearts (3)

Chennai: Inmates of a shelter home for the mentally challenged give parents of young cancer patients respite from their worries. Prince Frederick on the exercise orchestrated by Chennai VolunteersAs she begins to talk about her 14-year-old son, Mallika’s voice quavers with emotion. The boy is battling cancer with an army of oncologists from the Cancer Institute. A recent MRI scan has revealed to Mallika, who has come from Thanjavur for his treatment, an intense fight is on the horizon. Mallika needs help: she cannot be enabled to stop worrying entirely, but her troubled mind can be offered a soupcon of relief. Her oppressive thoughts are temporarily beaten back, thanks to a boy who is coincidentally of the same age as her son. Fourteen-year-old Ankeeth is making paper bags and simultaneously explaining the process to Mallika and a few other women who have also brought their children to the paediatric section at the Institute, for treatment. As they conscientiously follow Ankeeth’s instructions and try their hand at making these bags themselves, these women find some respite from their worries. The most striking aspect of the exercise is that Ankeeth is not a regular volunteer: he is an inmate of Sri Arunodayam, a reception home for abandoned mentally challenged children. Ankeeth, whose left hand hangs limp, has actually come along with a couple of other members of the home, more severely challenged, to train these women in garland- and bag-making. This interface between distressed mothers of young cancer patients and the mentally challenged inmates of a shelter home has been initiated by Chennai Volunteers to promote reciprocal volunteering, which creates an environment where beneficiaries of volunteering efforts in turn volunteer for others facing difficulties that are different from their own. “Therapy for members at the home includes practice of vocational skills: besides paper bags and garlands, they make candles, wedding bags and notebooks,” says A. Balamurugan, vocational skills trainer at Sri Arunodayam. Ankeeth readily interacts with everyone who has questions about his craft. He seems to be enjoying his role as a giver and has a personal share of the healing that is taking place at the foyer of the children’s ward in the Institute. “We are witnessing such an interface for the first time,” says T.S. Manohar, administrator, Mahesh Memorial Trust, Adyar Cancer Institute. “Mothers of patients at the children’s ward watch television as they wait at the Institute. To engage them, a kolam competition was conducted recently. It was a great success: the women came up with brilliant designs, displaying unbelievable control as they created them. But what is happening today is beyond words. Besides easing the minds of these mothers, these unlikely volunteers from the Home are sending out a silent message to us. They seem to be asking us, ‘You have everything, but what have you given back’.” (The Hindu 22/3/14)

 

16. Most drug-resistant TB patients in India: WHO (3)

NEW DELHI: One in every three tuberculosis cases in the world goes undetected despite the advances made in medical science, according to data from World Health Organization. TB is the main cause for high morbidity and mortality in such patients. On World TB Day on Monday, doctors will stress on need to create awareness about the disease which affects one third of the world’s population. India has the highest number of TB patients with an estimated 1.8 million new cases taking place every year. It has also the highest number of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis patients, according to a WHO report. “I recently operated on a six-year-old TB patient who developed severe bone deformities. Three vertebrae at the juncture of her upper back and neck had been completely destroyed due to infection. She underwent a major surgery involving removal of the destroyed bones and replacing them with leg bones and plates normally used in neck surgery in adults,” Dr Yash Gulati, orthopaedic spinal surgeon at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, said. If diagnosed on time, the girl could have been treated successfully with TB medication only, he added. But hers is not the only case. According to Dr S K Sharma, professor and head of medicine department at AIIMS, most patients suffering from TB visit hospital only when the disease has reached an advanced stage. “Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi and Munshi Premchand are some famous names who contracted this disease. But there is still a stigma. The general belief is TB is a poor man’s disease but it is wrong. It can affect anyone with low immunity,” he said. AIIMS is organizing a public awareness programme on Monday to mark World TB Day. The day-long event, to be led by Dr Sarman Singh, is likely to see participation from a diverse group of health experts, researchers, government representatives, volunteers from University of Delhi, children from New Delhi Municipal Council schools, non-government organizations and industry. As per the Global Tuberculosis Report 2013 by WHO, India has the highest number of multi-drug-resistant TB patients, partly due to poor disease management by the healthcare system. Health experts stress on need for rational prescribing of TB drugs. “There have been no new drugs for TB for 50 years. If we continue to prescribe them irrationally, we will be left with nothing to treat patients with,” Dr Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant, respiratory medicine at Apollo Hospital, said. Medecins Sans Frontieres has sought the government’s intervention in preventing unregulated sale of tuberculosis drugs in the private healthcare sector, saying it has led to emergence of drug-resistant TB in the country. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

TERRORISM

17. Meghalaya to consult centre on Garo peace talks (12)

Shillong, March 10 : Meghalaya will consult the central government to initiate peace talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) rebel outfit, state Home Minister Roshan Warjri said Monday. “Since the GNLA was declared a terrorist organisation by the central government under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, it would be necessary for the state to consult the centre in the matter,” Warjri told the state assembly. The GNLA, headed by Champion R. Sangma, its jailed chairman, is fighting for a separate Garoland state to be carved out of Meghalaya in the five districts of Garo Hills. Over 150 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the last five years by GNLA rebels and more than 50 businessmen and government officials were abducted. Use of force may not be the only solution to deal with the rebels, Warjri said, adding that the state government is thinking of asking all outfits to come out for talks. “An open offer was also made by Governor K.K.Paul to all the rebel outfits to shun the path of violence and engage in a dialogue with the government,” the minister said. The GNLA later issued a statement suggesting it was prepared for talks. (New Kerala 10/3/14)

 

18. ED registers case against Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin (12)

New Delhi: In a first, the Enforcement Directorate Tuesday registered a money laundering case against ten people, including chief of banned militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, for alleged cross-border funding of terror activities in the country. The ED was prompted to register the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (Act) after it took cognisance of an NIA FIR registered against these people. The central probe agency, sources said, will look into the financing and terrorist activities by Hizbul Mujahideen from Pakistan to different militant organisations in India. (Zee News 11/3/14)

 

19. Rajapaksa says Lanka only fought LTTE not Tamils (12)

Colombo: “The war was not against the Tamils. We only fought a brutal terrorist outfit that was the LTTE ,” the president told a political gathering in the southern district of Galle yesterday. “If our war was against Tamils how could the Tamils live happily and peacefully among the Sinhalese in the south of the country,” Rajapaksa quipped. Responding to accusations that his government had promoted a culture of impunity for those who attack the island’s religious minorities, more particularly Muslims, Rajapaksa said the religious harmony and reconciliation was visible throughout the country. “I am aware that some non governmental organisations with foreign help are trying to show there is religious disharmony,” Rajapaksa stressed. The remark was a reference to his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga’s meeting with his main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe this week. Kumaratunga heads an NGO which promotes religious harmony. All these are attempts to embarrass the government at a time the UN Human Rights Council meeting is happening, the president said. Attacks against religious minorities is an issue of concern as the next UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka is to be put to vote in two weeks time in Geneva. The UNHRC is certain to adopt another adverse resolution later this month in Geneva censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE. India had backed the previous two resolutions. The US-moved resolution is expected to prompt an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses and crimes against humanity during the last phase of the military conflict which ended in 2009. (Deccan Herald 13/3/14)

 

20. Hyderabad blasts: charge sheet filed against Bhatkal (12)

Hyderabad: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed charge sheet against top Indian Mujahideen operatives, Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar in the February 2013 twin blast case. IM had hatched a high-level conspiracy to wage a war against India and carried out the blasts here to create terror in the minds of the people and to further the outfit’s activities, according to NIA. Eighteen persons were killed and 131 were injured in the deadly twin explosions at Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad. Investigation had produced evidence of all the financial help received by the accused from abroad through hawala route and other money transfer facilities, the charge sheet, filed before special NIA court in Hyderabad, says. The conspirators had carried out a test explosion on a hillock near Abdullapurmet here prior to the blasts, it says. Mohammed Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, who were arrested on the Indo-Nepal border last August, have been charged for murder and various other offences under the Indian Penal Code and Explosive Substances Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. (Hindustan Times 14/3/14)

 

21. Court issues production warrants against Bhatkal, others (12)

New Delhi: A special NIA court today issued production warrants against Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and two others seeking their presence before it on April 2 in connection with a case of alleged conspiracy to carry out terror acts in India. During an in-chamber hearing, District Judge I S Mehta issued the production warrants after Bhatkal, his close aide Asadullah Akhtar and suspected IM operative Obaid-Ur-Rehman, chargesheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for their alleged roles in the case, were not produced before the court today, sources said. They also said that Bhatkal and Akhtar are presently in Mumbai under custody of Maharashtra ATS while Obaid-Ur-Rehman was in Bangalore in connection with the cases lodged against them there. The court has now fixed the matter for April 2 for further proceedings and asked NIA to supply the copies of charge sheet and other documents filed along with it to the counsel appearing for the accused. The sources said the counsel appearing for the accused told the court that scrutiny of documents filed along with the 277-page supplementary charge sheet of NIA is going on. The court had on February 24 taken cognisance of NIA’s charge sheet in which Bhatkal, Akhtar, Manzer Imam and Ujjair Ahmed were named as accused for allegedly waging war against the country, conspiring for terrorist acts, membership of a terror organisation and radicalisation and recruitment of youths for IM. They have been chargesheeted under various sections of IPC, including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the country), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war) and under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Bhatkal and Akhtar were among the 12 top IM members listed as absconders in the 42-page charge sheet filed earlier against arrested accused Mohammad Danish Ansari, Mohammad Aftab Alam, Imran Khan, Syed Maqbool and Obaid-Ur-Rehman under various penal provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC for conspiracy to commit offences against India. (Business Standard 18/3/14)

 

22. 2 Rights Activists Arrested Under POTA in Sri Lanka (12)

CHENNAI/COLOMBO: On a day Sri Lankan police arrested two rights activists under anti-terrorism law to prevent them from spreading “communal disharmony”, ahead of voting on a resolution against the country at the UNHRC, 17 students of Dr Ambedkar Government Law College launched an indefinite stir demanding that the Centre introduce its own resolution against alleged rights abuse in Lanka. “Two people were arrested at 10.30 pm on Sunday under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They were acting so as to promote communal disharmony,” police spokesman  in Colombo said. The arrests came ahead a key meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva later this month that is expected to pass a US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka over its alleged rights abuses during the ethnic war with LTTE rebels. Human rights groups said the arrested activists were Father Praveen, Director of the Jaffna-based Center for Peace and Reconciliation and Ruki Fernando of the Colombo-based INFORM, a human rights documentation center. They were arrested from the northern town of Kilinochchi. The Kilinochchi’s police chief said: “Ruki Fernando and Rev Praveen behaved in a suspicious manner as they visited some families of those who have lost their family members.” The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution is the third in as many years on Sri Lanka’s accountability and reconciliation with the Tamil minority after the end of the 37-year ethnic conflict. Meanwhile, the US on Monday expressed concern over the arrest of the two rights activists. “The United States government is concerned about the arrests and detention of several well-known Sri Lankan human rights defenders and activists over the past week,” a US Embassy statement in Colombo said. “We urge Sri Lankan government authorities to ensure that all those detained are given transparent and due legal process, including full access to legal counsel,” it said. “With these actions, we remain convinced that continued scrutiny by the Human Rights Council is necessary,” the statement added. Meanwhile, in Chennai, the protesting law students accused New Delhi of failing to prevent the genocide of Tamils in the island nation during the final phase of war with the LTTE. “This should not continue. A separate Eelam will only be the solution to ensure a dignified life of Tamils in the country,” they claimed. (New Indian Express 18/3/4)

 

23. Four suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists arrested in Rajasthan (12)

New Delhi:  Four suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists have been arrested in Rajasthan by the Special Cell of Delhi Police. One of them, in fact, is alleged to be a close aide of jailed Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. “Four terrorists have been arrested by us. One of them has been identified as Waqas,” Special Commissioner (Special Cell) SM Srivastava told PTI. Waqas, a Pakistani national, is one of the most wanted in connection with several blasts in the country, including the serial blasts in Mumbai on July 12, 2011 that 26 persons and injured around 130. He was, in fact, identified by Bhatkal on CCTV footage as one who planted a bomb at Zaveri Bazar, one of the three sites where blasts occurred. While Waqas was picked up in Jodhpur, the other three were arrested in Jaipur. Police recovered detonators and bomb material during these arrests. The four are alleged to be members of the Rajasthan module of the banned terrorist group. (NDTV 23/3/14)

 

24. IM planned to strike at political rallies, mall & temples in Rajasthan (12)

JAIPUR: The arrests of six Indian Mujahideen terror suspects in 24 hours in Rajasthan have revealed that they were allegedly planning to carry out blasts at some locations in Jaipur including the World Trade Park, Moti Doongri Temple and Birla Temple. Other places the terrorists had conducted recee include a temple in Bharatpur where they were allegedly conspiring to strike in retaliation of the Gopalgarh communal violence that left 10 people dead in 2011. The local sources have not ruled out the possibility that the terror suspects were planning to carry out blasts at political rallies also ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Elaborate security arrangements will be planned for political rallies to be organised in coming days. Additional DG, ATS, Alok Tripathi said that the arrests have exposed an IM module which cropped up in Rajasthan in the last few months. “We didn’t want to create panic in the public, but the module had conducted recee of several places. We were trying to unravel the module for a long time, so the arrests are a huge success for security agencies,” Tripathi told TOI. Five of the six terrorists arrested since Saturday were Rajasthan natives while the remaining one was a top IM commander identified as Waqas. The Delhi Police’s special cell arrested Waqas, a top IM commander from Ajmer railway station on Saturday morning. His revelations led the police to the five other terror suspects. The five IM terror suspects were in touch with Waqas and were learning to put together bombs under his guidance, sources said. The five terror suspects include Mohammed Saqib and Adil from Jodhpur and Mohammed Maroof alias Ibrahim, Waqar Azhar and Mohammed Mehrajudeen. The three terror suspects arrested from Jaipur are engineering students. While Maroof who stayed with parents in Jhotwara’s Sanjay Nagar- D colony studied at VIT College in Jagatpura and the other two studied at GIT College in Jagatpura. Waqar and Mehrajudeen were staying at a rented accommodation at house number – 118 at Pratap Nagar’s Sector-35 and belonged to Gangapur City in Sawai Madhopur and Pali respectively. A huge haul of explosives was recovered from Sakib’s house. While interrogating him, the police came to know about one Barqat, however, he was tipped off by his aide Adil and escaped. Adil was arrested, said ADG Tripathi. The five Rajasthan natives had been recruited in IM through Mohammed Taseen Akhtar alias Monu who carries a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. Taseen had visited Jaipur and Jodhpur in June last year and had procured SIM cards on fake documents. The arrests have come in the wake of some revelations made by the National Investigation Agency in its chargesheet filed against Bhatkal in February. The security and intelligence agencies had sounded an alert in Rajasthan after the NIA chargesheet revealed that the terror outfit was using the state as its base. The chargesheet revealed that IM is recruiting people to spread its network in the state. These members have allegedly been tasked to carry out terrorist activities in the country. They are in close contact with Riyaz Bhatkal who is allegedly hiding in Karachi, the NIA chargesheet says. Posters of these terror suspects, Mohammed Taseen Akhtar, Haider Ali and Waqas alias Javed Mohammad, were splashed in several cities by the ATS in December last year requesting people to remain on alert and inform the police if they spot any of them. A reward of Rs 10 lakh had been announced on each of them by NIA. Taseen, a native of Samastipur district in Bihar, was suspected to have gained some local sympathizers. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

25. Muzaffarnagar riot camp refugees start getting voter ID cards (13)

ALIGARH/MUZAFFARNAGAR: They have been angry, agonized and dispossessed. And they didn’t even have voter cards using which they could articulate their rage. But all that might change for many of those rendered homeless by the Muzaffarnagar riots last year. NGOs working overtime and a local administration that has been hard at it have ensured that a chunk of the refugees who had lost all their documents, including voter ID cards, will be equipped by the end of this month to cast their votes. At least 25 people received their voter cards on Monday, and another 3,200 have been guaranteed they will get it by the end of the month, well in time for the polls that begin in April. “Forms 6 and 8(A) needed for the cards have been made available,” said Muzaffarnagar ADM Inder Mani Tripathi. “This brings a sliver of hope to the displaced who had lost all hope of being able to exercise their right this election.” However, for a bulk of the displaced — estimates put the total around 50,000, a substantial chunk of them without voter cards — it would be a race against time to get the document before the region goes to polls on April 10. “It will be very sad if the people who suffered in the riots do not get to exercise their right to vote,” said Faraz Badr Rizvi from Jagriti Seva Sansthan, an NGO that is helping in the mission. A large percentage of the refugees, a majority of them Muslims, is perceived to be disenchanted with the SP government. The way they vote this time, coupled with the empathy of community members outside the belt and across UP, could well be a game changer for political parties in the fray for the LS polls. Mohammad Yameen, who has been living in a relief camp for months now, said, “If the SP government really wanted to help us, we would not have been surviving like this.” (Times of India 11/3/14)

 

26. UN refugee chief warns world powers not to forget Syria conflict (13)

Washington: The head of the United Nation’s refugee agency said on Tuesday it must be ready in case Ukraine’s crisis causes refugees to flee Crimea, but his biggest worry is that “a total disaster” could occur if the international community diverts its attention away from Syria’s conflict. Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), said in an interview that little progress was being made in efforts by the United States and Russia, now at loggerheads over Ukraine, to bring Syria’s warring sides together after the collapse of talks in Geneva last month. “In the moment in which we need the most relevant countries in the world to be able to come together to narrow their differences and to try to find a way to move into peace for Syria, this tension around Ukraine will obviously not help,” Guterres told Reuters while visiting Washington to discuss Syria’s refugee crisis. “I hope that those that have the most important responsibility in world affairs will be able to understand that forgetting Syria will be a total disaster,” he said. Tensions between Washington and Moscow have risen over Russia’s bloodless seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which has brought US-Russian relations to one of their lowest points since the Cold War. The United States and European allies have threatened sanctions against Moscow, which has said people in Crimea, a small majority of whom are ethnic Russians, should have the right to secede by voting in a referendum to be held on Sunday. Guterres said his agency was preparing for the possibility of refugees from Crimea and had moved teams inside Ukraine to monitor the situation. “We are preparing ourselves for any movement of population that might occur,” said Guterres. “Until now it has not happened in a significant way, and we hope that it will be avoided,” he said. “Our hope is that things will not evolve in a way that will force large numbers of people to be displaced. We have enough problems of refugees and displaced people in the world, we can live without a new massive displacement,” he added. But Guterres said he was concerned that tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine could worsen divides that have already played out in the UN Security Council over Syria. Throughout the civil war, Russia, backed by China, has shielded Syria on the UN Security Council by vetoing three resolutions condemning Syria’s government and threatening it with possible sanctions. “I don’t think there are reasons to be optimistic,” he said of the possibility of resolving the Syrian war. “We see the war going on and on and on, not only with tragic humanitarian consequences with suffering of Syrian people that is unimaginable, but also becoming a serious threat to global peace and security, not only to regional stability but also to global peace and security.” Repeating what political leaders have said that the conflict can only be resolved through political dialogue, Guterres also said that “discreet diplomacy” was needed among the main players – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – to narrow differences and avoid a prolonged deadlock in talks. “There was never any major international crisis that was solved without a lot of silent, discreet diplomacy behind the scenes to support the public diplomacy process,” he said. “That is lacking in the Syrian crisis.” With the Syrian conflict now heading toward a fourth year this week and more people fleeing the war, the UN has warned that Syrians are about to replace Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population. There are currently more than 2.5 million Syrian registered by the UN in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but Guterres said it is believed more than 3 million have fled the conflict. “It is absolutely essential that the international community mobilizes massively to support Lebanon, to support Jordan, to support all the other neighboring countries to make sure that they are able to cope with the challenge and to preserve the stability of the region,” he said. With the bulk of UN funding for refugees focused on Syria, Guterres said other UN operations in Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo were underfunded. (Zee News 12/3/14)

 

27. ‘Exiled’ Naga activist fights for rights (13)

New Delhi, March 14: A human rights activist from Manipur, now a Canadian citizen under “compelling circumstances”, has sought “restoration” of his Indian citizenship. Luingam Luithui, who was branded a pro-NSCN (Isak-Muivah) human rights activist in the 1990s and lived in Canada as a refugee for over a decade before becoming a citizen, and his wife Peingamla have approached Delhi High Court for “restoration” of their Indian citizenship. Their premise is that they had remained “stateless” for 10 years before taking up Canadian citizenship. They said they attempted to return home more than once but had to live in “virtual exile” in Canada. The court issued notices to the ministry of home affairs, ministry of external affairs and the Indian high commission at Ottawa, Canada, on March 10 in response to the writ petition filed by the couple. In the four weeks that the court has given to the ministries to respond, the Centre will need to not only argue whether citizenship can be granted to the activist and justify its stand on citizenship rules but may also face questions on why it did not grant a visa to Luithui despite a “look-out circular” in his name being withdrawn in 2011. Sources in the Union home ministry claimed that Luithui had fled to Thailand to be with NSCN general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and had joined forces with the rebel group, a charge the petitioners stoutly deny. Luithui is the founding member of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), which is known for its fight for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. “We may tell the court that we can ask him to apply for citizenship and let him observe the mandatory wait of seven years and respect the Indian Constitution, before getting citizenship,” a home ministry official said. “There is no case against him nor are we considering him a criminal,” the source said. What is unsaid is that even after a seven-year wait, it will be the Centre’s prerogative to grant the couple Indian citizenship. Luithui’s family finds the Centre’s argument unreasonable. A relative of Luithui said Peingamla had lost her passport in Bangkok in 1994 and had applied for a fresh one but did not get one despite a high court order in September 1995 that she could be given documents to travel “on emergency basis” from Bangkok to New Delhi. Later, Luithui found out that as he was fighting a court battle in September 1995, the government had “impounded” his passport without his knowledge. This was revealed to him only when he approached the Indian high commission in Canada next year to add pages to his passport. “When he approached the high commission, he was told that his passport had been impounded following a government circular, the contents of which have still not been revealed to him,” the relative told The Telegraph. Luithui’s family members said that in 2011 it was decided by none other than then home minister P. Chidambaram that the “look-out circular” issued against Luithui in 1996 would be withdrawn. Accordingly, a “deletion circular” was issued in early 2011. An RTI application filed by the petitioners has revealed that then home secretary G.K. Pillai noted that Luithui was “not a member of any group but only an activist”. But even in October 2011, his fresh visa application was turned down. In 2012, the couple applied for a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card but the government’s answer was: “No services are rendered to refugees and asylum seekers”. Home ministry sources asserted that India does not grant PIO status to asylum seekers and refugees who have fled India. Luithui’s relative said even if that was true, the activist’s case was more complex as he was forced to live as a refugee. “They did not live as refugees willingly,” the relative said, and questioned that even if Luithui was an activist, why did the government not grant visa or passport to his wife. “This tragic violation of their fundamental rights is a direct result of unconstitutional acts and omissions, of abuse of process and of fraud and deception perpetrated by the government of India, making it impossible for them to return to India and forcing them to take Canadian citizenship after almost a decade of statelessness abroad,” the NPMHR said in a statement while welcoming the high court’s step. The case is a classic example of how developments of the 1990s in the Northeast, particularly in Nagaland and Manipur, continue to have a bearing on activists and rebels. Luithui’s case refers to events before the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) signed a ceasefire with the Centre in 1997 but it continues to impact him and his family even today. (The Telegraph 15/3/14)

 

28. Don’t allow Bru refugees to vote in relief camps: Mizoram CM (13)

Aizawl: Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has submitted a memorandum to Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath urging him not to allow Bru refugees living in relief camps in Tripura to exercise their franchise in the April 9 elections to the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat. A press statement issued by the Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee on Monday said Mr. Lal Thanhawla submitted the memorandum to the CEC in Delhi last week. The Chief Minister said that if the Bru voters wanted to exercise their franchise, they should cast their votes inside Mizoram, not in the relief camps through postal ballots. He also suggested that if the Bru voters in the relief camps insist on casting their votes in the relief camps, then their names should rather be deleted from the voters’ lists in Mizoram. Earlier, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum, having its headquarters in the Naisingpara relief camp in North Tripura district, asked the Election Commission to conduct polling for the Lok Sabha polls in the camps. The Election Commission had reportedly agreed to the appeals made by the Bru representatives. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

29. For Tibetan refugees, it is so near and yet so far (13)

BANGALORE: A section of Tibetan refugees in Karnataka can exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April 17. The Election Commission on February 7 directed the electoral officers in States to include children of Tibetan refugees aged above 18 in the electoral list “because they are citizens of the country.” However, because of a technical glitch, not all of them will get the right to vote though there are about 25,000 eligible voters in Karnataka of Tibetan origin. While those settled in Bangalore and Mysore and already registered in the rolls will vote, many eligible voters in the five settlements elsewhere in the State will have to wait till the next election. Gelek J., coordinator for the Tibetan Settlement Office, Bylakuppe, said though a few refugees in Bangalore could get the voter cards following the EC’s direction, those settled in Bylakuppe could not. For, C. Shikha, Deputy Commissioner, Mysore, did not receive any clarification on the citizenship criteria till Sunday, last date for inclusion of names in the voter list. However, Ms. Gelek pointed out that the EC had directed that the voting right be not denied to Tibetan applicants. “We are yet to get details of those who applied for voting rights during the special drive,” she said. Children of Tibetan refugees born in India between 1950 and 1987 as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955 can no longer be denied enrolment in the voter list. The EC’s move came in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order, which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees, the EC order said. According to Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha, the EC has directed the Deputy Commissioners to enrol the names of those refugees who have complied with the stipulated conditions. “The Election Commission’s move is a great relief to Tibetan refugees who are currently deemed ‘stateless’,” said Mr. Sonam, a teacher in the Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe. Tibetan Youth Congress ( Karnataka) president Lhekyeb said that he was happy with the move of the Election Commission. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

30. Bru refugees allowed to vote via postal ballot (13)

Agartala: The election commission has established rights of Bru or Reang refugees housed in camps in north Tripura to participate in ensuing Lok Sabha election in Mizoram. Announcing postal ballot voting facility for the evacuees the commission virtually turned down demand of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla who insisted the refugees should only be entitled to cast vote inside Mizoram and not in camps. Officials of Tripura election department which has to facilitate the voting exercise of Reangs stranded in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur subdivision said on Friday that the commission has set April 1, 2 and 3 to ensure franchise of eligible voters. Though around 35,000 refugees are housed, the Mizoram election department enlisted only 11,500 voters in last enumeration process. The voters represent 10 assembly constituencies in western Mizoram, but their voting is crucial for lone Lok Sabha constituency of the state. Mizoram National Font (MNF) is expected to put up a fight against Congress which won last Lok Sabha poll. One voting centre would be set up in each of the camps and the election commission would despatch an observer to oversee the voting. Tripura government has been directed to arrange logistic and security for Election Commission and Mizoram officials and assist transportation of ballot boxes to Mizoram. The Reang refugees crossed over to Kanchanpur in North Tripura district in October 1997 to escape ethnic violence in Mizoram. Their repatriation remained stalled as Mizoram government refused to budge on some political demands of the refugee leaders, but the former offered lucrative rehabilitation package sponsored by the union home ministry for the returnees. (The Hindu 21/3/14)

 

31. Industrialized nations report rise in asylum claims: UN (13)

New York, Mar 22 : A new report issued on Friday by the United Nations refugee agency found a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries over the course of last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria. According to “Asylum Trends 2013,” 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001. Afghanistan, which in the previous two years was the world’s principal country of origin for asylum-seekers, ranked third in terms of new claims behind Syria and Russia, a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pointed out. Among the top 10 countries of origin, six are experiencing violence or conflict – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan. “There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,” said High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. “This makes it all the more important that refugees and the communities receiving them are being properly and robustly supported.” For 2013, the biggest increase in asylum applicants by region was in the 38 countries of Europe which together received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims, followed by France (60,100) and Sweden (54,300). Turkey, currently the biggest refugee-hosting country in Europe due to the Syria crisis, saw 44,800 asylum claims lodged last year, mainly from nationals of Iraq and Afghanistan, while Italy received 27,800 claims and Greece 8,200. North America received the second highest number of asylum claims – nearly 98,800 in total. However, the majority of these applicants originated in China. Canada, with its recent changes in asylum policies, received some 10,400 claims – half the number seen in 2012. The United States (88,400) has long been a leading country of asylum in industrialized countries, and in 2013 was second only to Germany in the number of applications received, UNHCR noted. In East Asia and the Pacific, both Japan (3,300) and the Republic of Korea (1,600) received higher numbers of claims relative to previous years. Australia (24,300) too saw a significant rise from 2012 levels (15,800), putting it almost on par with levels seen in Italy. According to UNHCR, asylum-seekers arriving in industrialized countries undergo individual assessments to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. As such, their numbers are always higher than those who eventually get accepted as refugees. For the 44 industrialized countries mentioned in the report, acceptance rates vary widely and tend to be higher among people fleeing conflict. The agency tracks forced displacement globally and issues a number of reports each year showing trends worldwide. The three major components of global forced displacement are internal displacement, refugee numbers, and asylum-seekers (together totalling 45.2 million people, as of data from early 2013). (New Kerala 22/3/14)

 

32. 13,000 Indians applied for asylum in the last 2 years (13)

LONDON: Nearly 13,000 Indians applied for asylum in 44 industrialised countries in the last two years, figuring among the top asylum seekers in countries like Australia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Japan. The UN Refugee Agency’s latest Asylum Trends 2013 report says 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001. According to the latest data, 6998 Indians applied for asylum in 2012 – the number dipping by 16% to 5872 in 2013. While India was ranked 18th among asylum applications in 2012, it dropped to 26th the following year. Europe was the top destination for Indian asylum seekers – 6300 applications in 2012 and 2013. As many as 1393 Indians wanted asylum in Canada and US while 1162 wanted to live in Australia and New Zealand. Around 165 Indians applied for asylum in Korea. In comparison, the number of Pakistani asylum seekers increased from 23,640 to 26310 between 2012 and 2013. Bangladesh too saw a 47% increase in asylum seekers – 6583 in 2012 to 9659 in 2013. The report confirms a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialised countries over the course of last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria. Reflecting a shifting international dynamic, Afghanistan, which in the previous two years was the world’s principal country of origin for asylum-seekers, ranked third in terms of new claims behind Syria and the Russian Federation. Among the top-10 countries of origin, six are experiencing violence or conflict – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan. “There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. For 2013, the biggest increase in asylum applicants by region was in the 38 countries of Europe which together received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims. France (60,100) and Sweden (54,300) were also major receivers. The United Kingdom ranked sixth among the 44 countries, with 29,200 applications received in 2013, equal to a five per cent share of the total number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries. The top five countries of origin of asylum seekers in the UK are: Pakistan (4,507), Iran (2,946), Sri Lanka (2,246), Syria (2,032) and Albania (1,587). The number of Syrian asylum seekers in the UK in 2013 grew considerably compared to 500 claims in 2011 and almost 1,300 claims in 2012. Turkey, currently the biggest refugee-hosting country in Europe due to the Syria crisis (a registered Syrian refugee population of 640,889 as of March 18) also saw 44,800 asylum claims lodged last year, mainly from nationals of Iraq and Afghanistan. Italy received 27,800 claims and Greece 8,200. North America received the second highest number of asylum claims, amounting to nearly 98,800 in total. Here, however, the main country of origin of applicants was China. Canada, with its recent changes in asylum policies, received some 10,400 claims – half the number seen in 2012 (20,500). The United States (88,400) has long been a leading country of asylum in industrialised countries, and in 2013 was second only to Germany in the number of applications received. In East Asia and the Pacific, both Japan (3,300) and the Republic of Korea (1,600) received higher numbers of claims relative to previous years. Australia (24,300) too saw a significant rise from 2012 levels (15,800), putting it almost on par with levels seen in Italy. Asylum-seekers arriving in industrialised countries undergo individual assessments to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. For the 44 industrialised countries mentioned in the Asylum Trends report, acceptance rates vary widely and tend to be higher among people fleeing conflict. Acceptance rates for people from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, for example are between 62% and 95%.Acceptance rates from nationals of the Russian Federation and Serbia are significantly lower at around 28% and 5% respectively. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

33. Farmers’ widows to protest in Nagpur (20)

Nagpur: Scores of Vidarbha farmer widows will go on a day-long hunger strike here on Saturday on the occasion of International Women’s Day to protest the growing apathy of government and lawmakers towards the agrarian crisis while demanding restoration of their “right to live” with dignity.

The western part of Vidarbha region has been reeling under farmer suicides since 2005, farmers advocacy group, Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJS) which is organising the protest, said here on Friday.

This Protest Day is to draw attention towards demand for basic facilities like food and health security besides educational assistance to their wards, Samiti president Kishore Tiwari said in a release. Even various expert committees had factored all these in their recommendations in 2008, but the government has become apathetic, he said. (Asian Age 8/3/14)

 

34. Nationwide survey finds Indian farmers in bad shape (20)

NEW DELHI: Minimum support price (MSP) of most of the food-grains has been increased by over 100% in the past 10 years, but it hardly benefited farmers in eastern and central India as majority there have not even heard of such procurement system. The situation is equally bad in other parts — except in states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Western Uttar Pradesh — where farmers don’t get adequate price on time and therefore they have to opt for distress selling route in open market. This conclusion is part of a survey on state of Indian farmers, conducted by a Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). It also found that all the government schemes in agriculture sector mainly benefit “rich” farmers. Findings of the survey, based on interviews of 11,000 farmers of over 5,000 households in 137 districts across 18 states, show that 62% of the farmers were not even aware of the MSP system which allows public sector agencies to procure food-grains at the price fixed by the government. Though the system is aimed at helping the farmers through intensives by providing them minimum price to their farm produce, the findings of the survey show that the majority of the respondents (64%) – who know the scheme – are not satisfied with the government decided rate of crops. The CSDS, which conducted its survey at the behest of a non-political association of farmers Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), released its report on Tuesday, making many other eye-opening revelations on government’s key employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA, Direct Cash Transfer, subsidies, Land Acquisition Law, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and political preferences of farmers. It found that the highest numbers of medium and big farmers in the country, except in South India, prefer to vote for the BJP in the forthcoming Parliamentary election. Interestingly, most of the farmers don’t think corruption is the main issue in election. They find price rise is the most important issue. According to the survey, nearly 85% of the farmers have heard of MGNREGA. However, 51% of the household did not ever get work under the scheme. Nearly 57% of the respondents said the farmers would stand to lose from the Land Acquisition Law. Referring to the findings, chairman of the BKS, Ajay Vir Jakhar, said, “Farmers have got raw deals from successive governments because they are not organized. Disorganized farmers are not taken seriously and their consent for policies are taken for granted”.He said most of schemes had not got its desired result as it was not implemented and monitored properly in states. The survey also shows that 74% of the farmers do not get farming related information from officials of agriculture department. Contrary to the general opinion, the survey finds that a very low proportion of farmers are worried about “repayment of loan”.Jakhar said, “It is, perhaps, because farmers know that the government may invariably come out with loan waiver schemes, specifically before elections”. (Times of India 12/3/14)

 

35. In Maharashtra, 22 farmer suicides in three weeks: report (20)

Mumbai:  Nearly two dozen farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in the past three weeks due to massive loss of crops, a report has claimed. The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ advocacy group, claims that 22 farmers have ended their lives in three weeks, mostly in the Vidarbha and Marathawada regions. Nine of these deaths took place in just the past three days, after a prolonged and unusual hailstorm destroyed acres of crops, the group says. The Maharashtra government has not confirmed these grim statistics. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked for Rs. 5,000 crore from the Centre but farmers say they don’t expect quick relief; the process involves a report from the state government, followed by a spot assessment by a central team, before any money is sanctioned. Sources say even this amount may not be enough to compensate for the loss of crop spread over at least 16 lakh hectares. Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region is often described as ‘suicide country’ with reports of a farmer suicide every eight hours even till two years ago. Ahead of next month’s general election, the tragic deaths have fueled a political blame-game. The opposition Shiv Sena has alleged that the Congress and NCP, which co-govern Maharashtra and are allies at the Centre, are using the election code of conduct as an excuse for inaction. “I blame the system. Farmers have no godfathers. Should we talk of rules when people are dying?” said the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut. The poll code of conduct bans any political party from making announcements that may influence the voter. Senior NCP leader and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said, “I appeal to people that we will find a solution in spite of the Model Code of Conduct. We cannot resolve this in a day. There will be delays. But we will resolve it by talking to other parties.” (NDTV 18/3/14)

 

36. Farmer suicides: Maharashtra government announces Rs 4000 crore package (20)

Mumbai:  The Maharashtra government today announced Rs 4,000-crore package for farmers affected by unseasonal rain and hailstorms. The state government has also asked for Rs 5000 crore from the Centre to help farmers. The state cabinet also decided to waive Rs 268 crore towards interest on crop loans and electricity bills of Rs 200 crore of farmers. The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, decided to write to the Election Commission of India seeking its permission to make the announcement in this regard in view of the model of code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls. Sources said the compensation will be Rs 25,000 per hectare. A pro-farmer group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti claims that 32 farmers have killed themselves in the past three weeks, including 45-year-old Uddhav Nanabhau Tandale, who hanged himself in his home in Maharashtra’s Beed district this morning. The farmer suicides have taken on political overtones ahead of next month’s national election. On Thursday, it will be the theme of Narendra Modi’s ‘Chai pe charcha’ or discussion over tea campaign in the Vidarbha region, which has often been described as “suicide country.” Mr Modi, who is running for prime minister, will address a rally in Wardha before holding a “chai pe charcha” discussion at a village of debt-ridden farmers in the Yavatmal district. The BJP says Mr Modi will interact with farmers in 33 districts across India as part of the campaign. (NDTV 19/3/14)

 

37. Maharashtra finalizes Rs 4,000cr relief package for hailstorm-hit farmers (20)

MUMBAI: The state government on Wednesday evening finalized a Rs 4,000 crore relief and rehabilitation package to farmers in 28 districts in the state hit by unseasonal showers and hailstorms. The decision was timed to take the wind out of the sails of the BJP, whose prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will kick off the saffron alliance’s Lok Sabha poll campaign from Vidarbha – one of the badly hit regions — on Thursday. The unseasonal rains and hailstorms had caused heavy damage to about 20 lakh hectares crops, killed cattle and destroyed other farmland properties, leading to a spate of farmer suicides across Vidarbha, Marathwada and Northern and Western Maharashtra. The state’s relief package will benefit millions of agricultural families, and was decided at a cabinet meeting held in the evening with permission from the election commission. The package provides for compensation of Rs 10,000 -25,000 per hectare to farmers besides waiver of electricity bills for the next six months, sources said. The state will also waive off the interest on farmers’ loans and will halt recovery of loans for a few months. Of the Rs 4,000 crore, the Centre will bear about Rs 1,600-Rs 2000 crore. The formal announcement will be made by state chief secretary J S Saharia on Thursday as the election code of conduct prevents ministers from making such announcements. The grim situation following the hailstorms had begun to badly hurt the poll prospects the Congress-NCP ruling combine. The latest deaths were of two farmers, one from Rajawadi village in Renapur taluka of Latur district, and another from Khandapur, who hanged themselves from trees. Some social activists peg the farmer suicides at 80-100, far more than the average 80 such deaths that occur in the state every two months. Crops such as horse gram, wheat, jowar, and fruit crops including Pomegranate, sweet lime, grapes, mangoes, bananas, watermelons, and papayas have sustained heavy damage while vegetable crops have been fully destroyed. Modi plans to tap into the deep unhappiness and desperation of farmers by flagging off his poll campaign from Vidarbha. He will spell out the NDA’s agriculture policy, state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday. Modi will address a conclave of farmers at a village in Yeotmal and meet relatives of farmers who ended their lives. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

38. Modi’s ad campaign shows ‘dictatorial mentality’, NCP says (20)

MUMBAI: The Sharad Pawar-led NCP on Thursday objected to the ad blitzkrieg of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying it depicted “dictatorial mentality.” “The ad talks not of a BJP government, but of a Modi government. They (BJP) should realize that the days of rajas (kings) where the regime were named (after the emperor) are long gone,” party spokesperson Nawab Malik said. “In the old days, there used to be Shinde Sarkar, Gaekwad Sarkar, Khilji Sarkar, Mohgul Sarkar…. After Independence, it was Sardar Patel who abolished the princely states. Indira Gandhi later ended their privy purses,” the NCP leader said. To a query on Modi meeting farmers and widows of farmers who committed suicide, in Vidarbha today, Malik said, “a leader of traders wants to reap political benefit of the plight of farmers.” By fielding Modi from Varanasi, the RSS wants to bring in the Ram temple agenda to forefront afresh, he said. Modi’s contesting from two seats shows he lacks confidence, he added. Malik claimed that farmers in hailstorm-affected areas of Maharashtra were committing suicides due to the politics played by the opposition BJP. “BJP is aware that there are certain restrictions (on rendering relief) due to the model poll code in place. Despite this they are creating a certain atmosphere,” he said. Malik indicated that NCP would expel Vijaykumar Gavit, who was sacked as medical education minister yesterday after his daughter joined BJP, from the party too. The Congress-NCP combine would win 38 of the 48 seats in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, he said. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

39. Farm Income Commission mooted for secured income of farmers (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Farmers organisations here on Saturday demanded that political parties must spell out strategies to provide a ‘secured income for farmers’ instead of making conventional promises like increasing crop productivity or extending irrigation facilities. On eve of elections, more than 34 farmer organisations of the Odisha put forward their charter of demands before political parties. “It is a shame for the entire nation that on an average, one farmer in this country is committing suicide every half an hour and every day, around 2,300 farmers are quitting agriculture. Despite so many years of so-called agricultural development and Green Revolution, the average monthly income of an overwhelming majority of Indian farmers is far less than what their average monthly expenditure is, making it difficult for most farm households to make their ends meet,” farmers leaders who gathered here said.. “It is high time that we should stop measuring agricultural development only in the form of production and productivity. We must focus on farmers’ well-being and the net returns or income accruing to them. It is in this context, that we demand that a minimum living income be guaranteed to all farm households of this country,” said Saroj, spokesperson of Paschim Odisha Krushak Sangathan Samannaya Samiti (POKSSS), here. Farmers leaders mooted an idea of setting up of ‘Farm Income Commissions’ at the national and State level tasked with assessment of income and focused recommendations to ensure that such incomes are realised. The term ‘minimum support price’ should also be redefined through which farmers could get back its production cost and 50 per cent of production cost, he said. Farmer leaders criticised all parties for the neglect that farm livelihoods had been subjected to, and the industry-friendly anti-farmer policies being pursued resulting in massive displacement of farmers in the country. “There should be a land use policy. There should be moratorium on diversion of agricultural land for non-irrigation purposes. The land use policy, in which landless farmers and women should get priority, should be framed in gram sabhas,’ said Ashok Pradhan, convenor of POKSSS. Mr. Pradhan said government must intervene in the event of weather disturbance and sudden drop of demand in market. They also demanded agriculture should be made sustainable by keeping production cost under control. (The Hindu 23/3/14)

 

40. Punjab orders fresh survey of farm suicide-hit families (20)

BATHINDA: After remaining in a state of denial all these years, political constraints have nudged the SAD-BJP alliance government into a position of acknowledging the harsh reality of farmer suicides in the state. The shift has come after protests by farmer and labourer organizations, with some declaring their resolve to oppose SAD candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. The state government has asked three universities of the state — Punjab Agriculture University, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University — to undertake a fresh survey of suicide-hit farm families. In their earlier surveys, the varsities had identified about 6,900 families whose members committed between 2000 and 2011. However, the government had excluded 2,200 families, citing suicides due to reasons other than farm debt. Besides, the state has only recently provided Rs 64 crore to the families of suicide victims. Going by the call of farmer organizations to lay siege to the residence of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and DC offices in six districts of Malwa region, the state government acted swiftly and directed deputy commissioners to assist the universities in fresh survey. A letter has been written by the state revenue department to all deputy commissioners on March 19, wherein principal financial commissioner (revenue) N S Kang has asked them (DCs) to provide logistics to the universities for the smooth conduct of the survey. The letter has made it clear that the universities have been asked to conduct the survey to identify families where suicides have taken place up to 2013. Terming the figures much less than the suicides committed by farmers and labourers in the state in the 15 years, the BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) had provided a list of debt-ridden farm families listing out more than 8,500 suicides in only about 600 villages spanning over 8 districts and had demanded a fresh and exhaustive survey. Confirming receiving the letter, Bathinda DC Kamal Kishor Yadav said data has been provided for the survey as soon as the letter was received. “It seems more of a politically motivated step than a sincere effort to help out the suicide-hit families. If the government is really concerned, it should order exhaustive survey from the year 2000 to till date because as per our estimates more than 30,000 farmer and labourers have committed suicide in the past 14 years in the state,” said BKU Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union general secretary Lachman Singh Sewewala. (Times of India 24/3/14)

 

HINDUTVA

41. Tension in Kalladka over “insult” to RSS leader (26)

Mangalore: Violence erupted in Kalladka, with instances of stone throwing and burning of vehicles reported on Saturday evening, after a speaker at a Congress conference allegedly referred to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat as “communal”. Around 5 p.m., congress workers had gathered for a ‘harmony’ meet where local leaders and B. Ramanath Rai, Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment, spoke. However, one of the speakers allegedly said that Mr. Bhat will incite communal violence before the elections to polarise voters, said the Bantwal Town Police. A group of people took offense to this, and allegedly tried to storm into the venue. In the ensuing fight and throwing of stones, at least three Congress workers were injured, while four policemen, including Sub Inspector Sanjay Kumar, suffered injuries. They have been admitted to a nearby private hospital, said the police. With the police fearing the situation may turn communal, platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police were rushed to the town. At least two bikes were set on fire, while several establishments along National Highway 75, which runs through the town, suffered damage in the stone throwing, said the police. Police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd and the violence abated around 8 p.m. While confirming the tenor of the speech, Mr. Rai said there was “nothing” wrong in the accusations. “This is nothing compared to the inflammatory, communal speeches made by Kalladka Bhat. We have the recordings and there is nothing defamatory about it. It is the RSS men creating trouble,” the Minister told The Hindu. Responding to the speech, Mr. Bhat said he was in Bangalore and was in no way connected to the violence. Denying that he ever made inflammatory speeches, he said, “I have heard that it was the congress workers who started throwing stones when some men of the town went to peacefully register their protest against the speeches. They (Congress) are trying to provoke and incite violence by repeatedly referring to disharmony in Kalladka. These speeches are for votes before the election,” he said. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

42. RSS asks cadres to focus on national issues, not Modi (26)

NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has distanced itself from the controversy over its stance on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi. The RSS has reiterated its “non-political” posture and asked its cadres to focus on “national issues.” Comments made by the RSS top brass at the recently concluded three-day Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha in Bangalore set off speculation that the leadership was unhappy with the growing focus on Mr. Modi. On Wednesday, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said the brief to the cadres was to ensure high voter turnout and drive home the message of ushering in change. “The country is facing multifarious threats because of the inept handling of affairs in the past 10 years. Since we have widespread grass-roots presence, our cadres will educate people to make an informed choice. We need change for the better,” Mr. Madhav told The Hindu. He said cadres were asked not to canvass for an individual, but to advise voters on issues of governance and make an informed choice. “There is corruption, threats to national security, destruction of the social fabric; we will flag some of these issues and advice people to choose the next government with due diligence.” On RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat asking cadres not to root for Mr. Modi as PM, Mr. Madhav said: “Our chief’s main concern at the Bangalore meet was that RSS cadres have always been non-political.” (The Hindu 13/3/14)

 

43. Ban book with allegations against Amritanandamyi: VHP (26)

Thiruvananthapuram: Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Friday demanded the government to proscribe the book ‘Holy hell: A memoir of faith, devotion and pure madness” written by a former inmate of Amritanandamyi Mutt holding that its contents brought disgrace upon the spiritual leader. Australian born Gail Tredwell, the author, was “instigated by an international agency with an objective to defame Hindu society and its spiritual leaders”, VHP Chief Ashok Singhal told reporters here. A massive congregation of leaders of Hindu religious outfits and heads of various mutts in the country would be held at Kochi on March 23 to chalk out further course of action, he said, adding, “defaming the Hindu leaders have to be stopped”.Criticising a section of media for ‘playing up the news’, he said “the kind of seva(service) done by Amritanandamayi Ashram is unparallelled in the history of the state.” “The current events are seen as a part of a greater national and international conspiracy against the Hindu Dharma. Few fundamentalist organisations, who are envious of Hindu Dharma, are behind maligning the image of our great Saints. The book had triggered a row as it contained certain allegations and bitter experiences of Tredwell when she was an inmate of the mutt. The mutt, headquartered at Vallikavu in Kollam district, had already denied the allegations and said its functioning was transparent and “it is an open book”. (Zee News 14/3/14)

 

44. VHP moves Election Commission against government move to revert properties to Wakf (26)

New Delhi: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP today moved the Election Commission (EC) against the government for reverting the title of 123 government properties in the national capital to Delhi Wakf Board, saying the move was in violation of the model code. In a memorandum to the poll body, the VHP alleged that the notification facilitating handing over of the properties by withdrawing of acquisition by Land and Development Office and DDA was issued on March 5, when the model code came into effect. “The largesses are being attempted to confer on a minority for votes. Surely, the impact of this act vitiates the purity of election process and is an unholy attempt to win over a particular religious minority. This has been done when the Model Code of Conduct had come into operation,” the memorandum said. The VHP demanded a stay on the operation of the notification and “appropriate action” against the government for violating the model code. The decision of the government will enable the Wakf Board to take a call on the properties including selling them. Many of these properties are located in prime locations of the capital. At present, 61 of these 123 properties are owned by L&DO under the Urban Development Ministry while the rest of 62 are with DDA. Most properties are in and around Connaught Place, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, Man Singh Road, Pandara Road, Ashoka Road, Janpath, Parliament House, Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazaar, Darya Ganj and Jangpura in the national capital. (NDTV 18/3/14)

 

45. RSS moved court against Rahul Gandhi (26)

BHIWANDI: The RSS filed criminal application against the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Bhiwandi court over his recent remarks against RSS linking their role in to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Recently on March 6, addressing party rally at Sonale sports ground in Bhiwandi, Rahul Gandhi had said that RSS shot Mahatma Gandhi and now they are using his name to campaign for elections. Following to the Rahul Gandhi remarks over RSS, the BJP had demanded action against Rahul Gandhi blaming that for vote he is unnecessarily making false allegation against RSS and had also moved the Election Commission against Rahul Gandhi. Now the RSS’s Bhiwandi unit wing secretary Rajesh Kunte on Wednesday filed a complaint against Rahul Gandhi. Talking to TOI, Kunte said, “The remarks made by Rahul Gandhi against our organization were defamatory and we sought action against the Rahul Gandhi under section 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code”.Kunte further said, “Rahul Gandhi’s allegation, that RSS men killed Mahatma Gandhi, was against the court verdict in the case in which no where RSS is linked. We want that action should be taken against Rahul Gandhi who looking at Lok Sabha election is deliberately for vote bank making false allegation”.The court is likely to hear the matter on March 27. (Times of India 19/3/14)

 

46. Rajnath betrayed Hindus on Ram temple, Hindutva issues: VHP (26)

Ayodhya: Senior VHP leader Ram Vilas Vedanti on Thursday accused BJP President Rajnath Singh of betraying Hindus on Ram Temple and Hindutva issues and said he will contest Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow against him. The fire brand leader, who is also a founder member of Ram Temple movement, said he wants Singh to be defeated and for this he would take help from any political party. Vedanti is a member of VHP’s high powered committee ‘Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal’ and also a senior member of Ram Janam Bhoomi Nyas Trust in Ayodhya. He also said that he was in contact with different parties for their support for in the LS elections. Vedanti alleged that now the BJP has now become a “staunch anti-Hindu party”, as it has “kicked out” all those leaders who were connected with Ram Temple movement. “Whoever takes the name of Lord Rama in BJP, he is shown the doors. BJP has left the Ram temple issue at all,” he said. Vedanti was first elected as BJP MP in 1991 from Machhlishahr Lok Sabha constituency, then in 1996 he was again elected on BJP ticket from Pratapgarh. In 2009, he contested from Rae Bareily Lok Sabha seat on BJP ticket against Sonia Gandhi butu lost his deposits. (Zee News 20/3/14)

 

47. New twist to old chant: ‘Har har Modi’ in Varanasi (26)

VARANASI: The original line goes “Har har Mahadev, ghar ghar Mahadev”. But after a clever twist giving it a subtle Hindutva flavour, BJP supporters in this ancient temple town chant “Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi”.Not everybody is pleased. Congress leader Ajai Rai says the slogan “Har har Modi” is “a humiliation of Lord Shiva and people of Kashi”. Rai, who contested the 2009 LS polls on an SP ticket here, says: “Modi is trying to replace Baba Viswanath.” Rai, a contender for the Congress ticket this year, has raised this point in public forums. Social scientist Dipankar Gupta says the slogan “Har har Modi” has definite Hindutva allusions. “Modi is trying to pitch himself as some kind of diety,” he says. Writer Krishna Mohan believes the slogan is loaded with hidden meaning and virtually equates Modi with Mahadev. “It remains to be seen whether it backfires,” says Mohan, who teaches Hindi at BHU. Sanskrit scholars explain that “Har har Mahadev” is a chant in praise of Lord Shiva. “Har is derived from haran (to take away). It urges Mahadev to rid us of our pain,” says Narendranand Saraswati, Shankaracharya, Kashi Sumeru Peeth. In Varanasi, “Har har Mahadev” is a traditional form of greeting. BHU scholar Rameshchandra Panda recalls the Kashi Naresh (the city’s ruler) was once greeted with the “Har har Mahadev” chant. “That was a city tradition,” says Panda, who teaches Panini’s grammar. But it was also a famous battle cry that medieval Hindu kings used. Experts suggest that its usage, albeit with a twist, seeks to create the image of a warrior king. Old-timers recall hearing the “Har har Modi” slogan first when BJP’s PM candidate visited the city’s Sankatmochan temple last December. Gupta say Modi has been talking development elsewhere but has chosen Varanasi as his second constituency. This brings “his Hindutva core to the fore”.However, local BJP spokesperson Rakesh Trivedi says everyone, including Rai, is making a mountain out of a molehill. “Truth is the slogan expresses the public sentiment. That’s why it is being used in every home,” he says. That’s an exaggeration. Varanasi has over 3 lakh Muslim voters. (Times of India 22/3/14)

 

Posted by admin at 21 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. RTI activist cop fights to clean up police system (1)

NOIDA: Sushil Kaushik (45) is not like any other constable deployed at the Gautam Budh Nagar SSP’s office. A passionate RTI activist, Kaushik has filed several RTI applications against his own bosses. His upright stand against corruption has seen him facing frequent transfers and penalties, with a promotion being a wishful thought. It doesn’t faze him, however, as he says that he is working to reform the police system from within and narrow the gap between cops and people. Kaushik said that he joined the UP police force as a constable in 1989 and was first posted in Bijnor district. “I was taken aback to see how corrupt police officials could be. I saw police taking money from contractors, vendors and scrap dealers.,” he said. He would complain about his colleagues’ wrongdoing to senior officials in his early days at the department. “Later, I came to know that some senior officials themselves shared the swag. The complaints went against me,” he said. Over the last 15 years, Kaushik has been transferred to at least 15 places. “Sometimes I was transferred to a police station. When the SSP came to know about my past record, the same night I was transferred from there to other places,” he said, stating that he had been transferred to Ghaziabad, Serkot, Kalagardh, Afzalgardh, Dadri, Podi Gadwal and Noida among other places. Fed up with the frequent transfers, the constable went on medical leave in 1996, the same year he got married. He joined the force at the Dadri office soon after. When the RTI Act came into force in 2005, Kaushik found a new way to tackle the system. He has filed over 100 RTIs, mostly against senior police officers. “I filed an RTI application against five SPs from Baghpat district that year. The police department had been deducting Rs 20-30 every month from constables’ salaries in the name of education, entertainment, a mess fee and sports. This money was not audited and we did not know where it was spent,” he said. Such deductions came up to over Rs 80 lakh a month and Kaushik’s RTI ensured that such deductions were stopped. Kaushik’s struggle has had its obstacles. In 2005, an SP against whom he filed an RTI application, hired goons to teach him a lesson. Through his time in the force, Kaushik continued to study and completed an MA-LLB to better comprehend legal aspects. All police officials are not same, he says, particularly admiring Gautam Budh Nagar SSP Preetinder Singh. “He is a good person and is dedicated to serving people. I get his support in my work and he appreciates what I do,” said Kaushik, who has launched a campaign titled ‘Agar Police Satayen, Toh Hume Batayen’ (If the police trouble, tell us) to narrow down the gap between police and people. Preetinder Singh said that Kaushik is an ideal constable and he has done good work in seeking information through RTI. “I support him in his works. Once Kaushik sought for voluntary retirement, but I advised him against it,” SSP Preetinder Singh said. Kaushik then dropped the idea. Singh said he has planned to organize a Jan-Chaupal where people can discuss problem they face with police. (Times of India 8/3/14)

 

2. ‘Passport details can’t be disclosed to third party’ (1)

NEW DELHI: Passport information, just like the Permanent Account Number of an individual, is personal information and cannot be disclosed to a third party under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Delhi High Court has held while deciding a bunch of petitions moved by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). “This Court is also of the view that if the passport number of a third party is furnished to an applicant, it can be misused. For instance, if the applicant were to lodge a report with the police that a passport bearing a particular number is lost, the Passport Authority would automatically revoke the same without knowledge and to the prejudice of the third party,” a Bench of Justice Manmohan said. “After all, passport number is not only personal information but also an identification proof, specifically when one travels abroad,” the Bench added. The MEA, through counsel P. Roychoudhary, had moved the High Court challenging the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing it to provide copies of passports of third parties along with their birth certificates, educational qualifications and identity proofs to certain applicants under the RTI Act. The CIC had held that the information is not personal and that citizen’s right to information is to be given primacy over their right to privacy. Initially, the petitioners, who had either sought passport information of their estranged spouse or any other third party, were denied information by the passport office. In appeal, the Chief Passport Officer also refused to part with the information so sought. The petitioners then moved the CIC, which directed the information be shared. The CIC in its order had said: “Given our dismal record of mis-governance and rampant corruption which colludes to deny citizens their essential rights and dignity, it is in the fitness of things that the citizen’s right to information is given greater primacy with regard to privacy.” Justice Manmohan, however, held that the CIC neither examined the issue of larger public interest nor considered Section 11 of the RTI Act, which mandates that views of third party whose information has been sought needs to be invited and considered in such cases before deciding whether to disclose the information or not. The Bench said even if the CIC concluded that passport information was not exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act, it would still have to follow the third party information system under the RTI Act. (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

3. PIL Challenging Info Panel Appointments Dismissed (1)

Bangalore” The high court on Monday dismissed a PIL challenging the appointment of the president and four other members of the Karnataka State Information Commission under the RTI Act. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna dismissed the PIL filed by S Umapathi, an RTI activist. The PIL questioned the appointments of A K M Nayak as Chief State Information Commissioner as well as the appointments of D Thangaraj, a retired IAS officer, M R Pujar, a retired IPS officer, T Rama Naik, an advocate and social activist from Shimoga and Shekhar D Sajjanar, a medical practitioner from Gadag. The petitioner alleged that in addition to appointing persons with political affiliations, in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, the selection was made in a non-transparent manner in the absence of any guidelines. No Spl Counsel in Nithyananda Case The high court on Monday stayed the appointment of a special counsel in a petition against self-styled godman Nithyananda. He was accused of rape by a former disciple Arathi Rao. Hearing a petition by Vallabha Neni, the third accused in the case, Justice Abdul Nazeer stayed the appointment of Govindhan as counsel. The petitioner had contended that the State government cannot appoint a counsel in this matter. (New Indian Express 11/3/14)

 

4. Guj activist says Ramdev flouted poll code; CEO seeks report (1)

Navsari: Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer Wednesday asked the district collector to submit a report on whether yoga guru Ramdev violated the Model Code of Conduct by making political comments during a religious function here as alleged by an RTI activist. “I have asked the collector to submit a report. We will take appropriate action after verifying the claims made in the complaint,” CEO Anita Karwal told reporters in Gandhinagar. City-based RTI activist Kanu Sukhadia had lodged a complaint with Navsari collector against Ramdev on March 6 for allegedly making political comments during a religious function. Sukhadia said Ramdev while attending a ritual at Ramji temple in Navsari town on March 5 exhorted people to vote for BJP, even as some local political leaders were present in audience. “On March 3, I had informed the district collector to keep a watch on the function and stop it from becoming a political event as poll code is in effect. But, Ramdev made several political comments and openly asked people to support BJP in elections,” Sukhadia said. Sukhadia said he recorded Ramdev’s speech and the entire event and lodged complaint with collector on March 6. The CEO has now asked the collector to submit a report in this regard.  (Zee News 12/3/14)

 

5. RTI loses bite as pending appeals choke system (1)

New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi mentioned RTI 33 times in his TimesNow interview two months back. He claimed that the UPA government’s biggest contribution in its fight against corruption was the Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, HT has found that the transparency Act is slowly becoming ineffective due to pending appeals, non-action on erring information officers and attacks on RTI activists. More than 1.5 lakh appeals are pending before the central information commission (24,000 appeals pending) and state information commissions (SIC), HT has found. The Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra and Karnataka are among the worst performers, with 35,000 and 24,000 pending appeals respectively. Some of these appeals are pending since 2011. Besides, lack of disciplinary action against erring public information officers (PIOs) has led to more applications getting rejected. Across states, PIOs are penalised in less than 5 per cent of the cases, HT has found. As per the Act, the CIC or SICs can impose a penalty if the PIO has not furnished the information sought within 30 days, or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information. But since such penalties are scarcely imposed, genuine applicants get replies such as “the query is not specific”, “the documents are voluminous”, “information not available” or “the information is in public domain”. HT filed more than 100 RTIs in the past six months and found that a majority of the applications did not elicit a proper reply. Former Central Information Commissioner Sailesh Gandhi explains that in the eight years since the Act came into being, penalties have been imposed on PIOs in only 1,000 cases of the more than 1.7 lakh appeals that were disposed. “This is pathetic. If PIOs don’t have the threat of penalty, then RTI is under threat,” he added. Despite Gandhi mentioning in his RTI applications that he is a former CIC, PIOs in various Maharashtra state departments did not even bother to reply. “Most first-timers get discouraged if the PIO rejects their application on frivolous grounds. Very few go in appeal but even then the cases remain pending or the order is given after years,” says Rama Nath Jha, lawyer and director of Transparency International. As if rejections were not enough, threats to the lives of RTI activists are scaring information seekers. As per the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) data, to date around 250 individuals have been allegedly attacked, harassed, their property and belongings damaged and some even murdered for seeking information under the Act. Chief Information Commissioner Sushma Singh could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts. However, TY Das, secretary, CIC, said: “The 24,000 appeals are pending because we have a limited number of commissioners. They dispose of appeals as and when these reach them…. I would not like to comment further.” (Hindustan Times 14/3/14)

 

6. RTI commissioner pulls up Chittoor officials (1)

State RTI Commissioner Tantiya Kumari on Thursday, flayed the negligent attitude of officials in implementing the Right to Information Act and maintained that there was zero percent awareness among officials in Chittoor district. Hearing the RTI cases in revenue, higher education at Sri Venkateswara University (SVU), she directed the officers to furnish the requested information, without fail, to the appellants within the specified period. She further instructed them to maintain files and records of every case in the RTI register. Out of the 30 cases, Mr. Kumari solved 4 and adjourned the remaining. Earlier on Wednesday, Ms. Kumari adjourned nearly 50 RTI cases pertaining to Revenue Department and sent ‘show cause notice’ to the officials. She maintained that it was appalling to find the implementation of RTI Act in such deplorable conditions in the district. “It is imperative that the concerned officials (RDOs, MROs and PIOs) convey the requested information to appellants within 30 days, but many cases have surpassed the time limit. We will take strict action on the officials who have not discharged their duties properly”. Mr. Kumari also urged the government to take up awareness programmes in order to uphold the real intention of the Act.  (The Hindu 14/3/14)

 

7. Plea for women in anti-corruption body (1)

Shillong, March 14: RTI activists have demanded the inclusion of women in the Lokayukta in Meghalaya, while asking the state government to expedite the process of making the anti-corruption body functional. The state government will table the Meghalaya Lokayukta Bill, 2014 during the ongoing budget session of the state Assembly. The bill is slated to be tabled on Tuesday, the last day of the session. The bill is in tandem with the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act as enacted by Parliament recently, and it will repeal the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act, 2013. Welcoming the new bill, Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRTIM) leader Michael N. Syiem said the bill is far stronger than the previous law. He also stated that information seekers through the RTI Act, 2005 would have the opportunity to place their findings before the anti-corruption body once the bill is passed and notified. Hitherto, RTI findings largely remain within the domain of the media. But once the anti-corruption body is established, people would have the opportunity to lodge complaints based on the information collected through the RTI Act. MRTIM member Angela Rangad expressed the hope that some percentage would be considered for women to become members of the anti-corruption body. As per the bill, there would be a chairperson and four other members who would constitute the Lokayukta, and 50 per cent of them would be judicial members. However, Rangad said the bill should not be too harsh on the complainants. Else, it would deter people from filing complaints before the Lokayukta. According to the bill, whoever makes “false and frivolous or vexatious complaint”, shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to six months and with fine, which may extend to Rs 1 lakh. At the same time, she demanded that the Lokayukta comprise persons who have not been involved in any kind of corruption. She also said that a timeframe should be set for the notification of the law. )The Telegraqph 15/3/14)

 

8. EC Squatting on 200 Cases Fit for Disqualification, Says RTI Activist (1)

CHENNAI: Coimbatore-based RTI activist M Loganathan, a practising advocate and coordinator of the Federation for Sustainable Development, an NGO, has unearthed nearly 200 cases wherein no action has been initiated by the Election Commission (EC) on removing those who have been convicted of electoral malpractices from the electoral rolls. Speaking to Express, Loganathan said the information provided in the representation was gathered from replies given by various police stations across the State through RTI queries and convictions done up to October 2012. “By this time, more persons would have got convicted,” he added. “Handing out warning after warning to people to eschew electoral malpractices will not help much. Only news about punishment given to those involved in these crimes will act as a greater deterrent,” he said and added that on this count, the Election Commission has failed to act. “When a person gets convicted in electoral malpractices, the police should inform the Collector who, in turn, apprises the Election Commission. But, this is not happening at present. Due to this procedural lacunae, even after conviction, the names of errant persons continue to be in electoral rolls”, he said and urged the EC to pay serious attention to this and issue guidelines to all concerned to enforce the law. In this connection, he showed a letter from the Coimbatore Collector, dated January 10, 2011, to the Chief Electoral Officer requesting him to delete the name of a person who was convicted of  indulging in malpractices during the by-election toThondamuthur Assembly constituency in 2009, Loganathan said. He said the police and the district administration should have sent similar letters to the EC, but it didn’t happen. When contacted, the CEO said, “We have received a list of persons reportedly convicted for electoral malpractices. We will send it to the Collectors for verification. If found true, the law will be followed in this regard.” The Coimbatore-based NGO has been engaged in protecting natural resources in the State and has been carrying out a campaign against genetically modified crops. (New Indian Express 18/3/14)

 

9. College fined for denying info under RTI (1)

Bangalore: Taking the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) casually proved costly for the principal of Basaveshwara Engineering College, Bagalkot, who has been ordered to pay a penalty of Rs 15,000 for denying information to an RTI applicant. As the college receives government aid, it has to abide by the rules followed by any government college and also have a similar fee structure. Two years ago, Umapathi, a resident of Bangalore, had filed an RTI application seeking some information from the college management, but it was not provided to him. The management did not entertain the application saying the institution did not come under ambit of the RTI Act. Later, Umapathi approached the KIC. While hearing the case, Information Commissioner M R Pujar ruled that the college be brought under the RTI Act, as it enjoyed government aid and other benefits. In his next order passed on December 2, 2013, Pujar directed the college principal Dr R N Herakal to provide information if there was no High Court stay on its show-cause notice dated December 14, 2012. But the principal did not comply with the order. On March 11, when the matter was heard again, the commissioner found that the principal had overlooked his orders. Pujar ruled, “The respondent had not filed his written application for the show-cause notice issued against him on December 14, 2012, though three opportunities were given to him. Hence, it is treated that he (principal) has no explanation to offer for the show-cause notice and the commission has come to the conclusion that it is a fit case to impose penalty.” The commission imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 on Herakal and directed him to pay the amount lump sum or in three installments of Rs 5,000 per month to the government. He also directed him to pay a compensation of Rs 1,000 to Umapathi “for the loss and other detriments suffered by the petitioner.” (Deccan Herald 21/3/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

10. UNESCO urges Iraq to ensure safety of media workers (1)

New York, Mar 13 : The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom on Wednesday stressed that decisive action must be taken to ensure the safety of media workers in Iraq, following the recent killing of two cameramen. Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abed Thamer, cameramen for Al-Iraqia TV, were killed in a suicide bomb blast at a checkpoint at the city of Hilla on 9 March, according to a news release issued by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “I condemn the killing of Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abed Thamer,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said. “The number of media workers killed in Iraq is a source of grave concern. “I call on the authorities once again to ensure that those responsible for the death of journalists be brought to justice. Decisive action is needed to ensure that the media can carry out their work and the public can remain informed.” Bokova has condemned the killing of 18 journalists in Iraq since Jan 1, 2013. (New Kerala 13/3/14)

 

11. Media told to refrain from publishing paid news (1)

Dehradun: To ensure free and fair election, chief electoral officer (CEO), Uttarakhand convened a workshop for media in Dehradun on Thursday. During the workshop, they apprised the media to refrain from publishing paid news. CEO Radha Raturi said that paid news has been defined by the Press Council of India (PCI) as “any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”. PCI guidelines say: “News should be clearly demarcated from advertisements by printing disclaimers, should be strictly enforced by all publications. As far as news is concerned, it must always carry a credit line and should be set in a typeface that would distinguish it from advertisements.” Paid news misleads the public and hampers the ability of people to form correct opinions. It causes undue influence on voters and also affects their Right to Information (RTI). She reminded that paid news is an electoral offence through amendment of Representation of People Act-1951. “Use existing mechanism of expenditure ceiling to curb the menace; partner with stakeholders, including political parties and media to fight the menace and sensitise people on the subject,” she said. To deal with the menace (paid news), starting with June-2010, the ECI has issued instructions to the State and district officers to scrutinize, identify and report cases of paid news. The commission has appointed a media certification & Monitoring committee (MCMC) at District and state level; it has officers from ministry of Information and Broadcasting and state DIPR; the committee will scrutinize all media within its jurisdiction to identify advertisement in the garb of news and MCMC shall also actively consider paid news cases referred to it by the expenditure observers. “We have instructed District Election officer (DEO) to take meeting with political parties as well as media houses to alert them against surrogate advertising and paid news and consequences of violation. Political parties and media houses have been briefed and sensitised in advance at Head quarters. We have written to PCI for support to strengthen the mechanism.” Once cases are decided as paid news, the print media cases should be sent to ECI for referring it to PCI for action against the concerned media house and electronic media cases are being referred to National broadcasters Association for consideration by national broadcasting standards Authority (NBSA). Replying to media queries about violation of model code of conduct, CEO Radha Raturi said that as far as Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s residence is concerned that Additional Secretary Estate department has informed that few portion of Bijapur guest house was declared as temporary residence of chief minister on February 26 because some renovation work is in progress in Chief Minister’s residence. In another query, about Principal Secretary Tourism Umakant Panwar, who had addressed media and claimed that tourism department will organise Char Dham Yatra for senior citizens (completed 65 years), Raturi said that: “We sought explanation from him, then Panwar said that the decision was taken by Cabinet in February so it was not new.” He further said that the press conference was called to explain about Char Dham Yatra, which date was already announced in past.” (Pioneer 14/3/14)

 

12. Editors guild condemns Kejriwal’s attack on media (1)

New Delhi, March 14 : The Editors Guild of India Friday condemned the repeated attacks on the media by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal “that violate the norms of decent democratic debate”.A statement issued by the guild said “accusation against the media as being bought by a particular political party and candidate and his threat, even if it be an empty one, to send media persons to prison after an enquiry reflect an intolerant mind-set that resents any critical scrutiny”.”It is the democratic right of the free media to raise any issue and to subject any public person or party to scrutiny, and it is ridiculous to label criticism of a party or of a political leader as ‘paid news’.” It went on to say that “most parties have grown to take critical scrutiny for granted and have shown the maturity to counter and get their points of view across in a reasonable manner”.”One hopes the intolerance that is reflected in Arvind Kejriwal’s recent attacks on the media does not represent the new style of politics promised by the Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders.” (New Kerala 14/3/14)

 

13. Media has no guts to expose Narendra Modi’s Gujarat: Arvind Kejriwal (1)

Bangalore: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday the media has no guts to expose the darker side of Gujarat under the leadership of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday the media has no guts to expose the darker side of Gujarat under the leadership of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. “Has media guts to expose Modi? They are only repeating all the lies he tells in campaign speeches about the so-called development in Gujarat,” an unfazed Kejriwal told reporters here during the AAP road show underway in this tech hub. Continuing his vicious attack on the media, especially news channels, Kejriwal said the truth about Modi’s development claims was hollow. “The question, however, is which media house will dare show that. For instance, about 800 farmers committed suicide and about 16,000 small scale industries shut down under Modi’s regime. But these stark facts are neither shown nor reported,” Kejriwal said.  Recalling his recent visit to Gujarat for a firsthand account and assessment of the much-touted Modi’s development model and growth across sectors, Kejriwal said corruption was no less in that state than elsewhere. “Corruption reeks across Gujarat even 11 years after Modi became its chief minister. Why doesn’t media go there and verify what I am saying. Is it not its job or duty to tell people the harsh reality there? Will media have the courage to tell the truth about Modi’s Gujarat at least now for people to know before the general elections?,” Kejriwal said. Lamenting that some sections of the media were deliberately misleading the people by bluffing about the development in Gujarat under Modi, the former Delhi chief minister said a make-believe image was being created to influence the people to vote for the BJP. “It is not just the BJP which is desperate to grab power, but some media houses, which are showing and writing on opinion polls based on false surveys on behalf of vested interests who are keen on making Modi prime minister,” Kejriwal said. (DNA 15/3/14)

 

14. Endorsing abusive postings on social media to invite trouble (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Beware social media users about what you endorse. Not only those posting defaming contents on social media against candidates in the Lok Sabha polls will be running into trouble but those sharing such status are also bound to face legal consequences. This has been made clear by the authorities while considering a complaint lodged by Union minister and Congress candidate Kodiukunnil Suresh seeking action against defamatory postings on social media against him. Suresh, seeking re-election from Mavelikkara seat, alleged that fake and morphed pictures casting him in poor light had been appearing in social media with political intentions. Alappuzha district collector N Padmakumar, who looked into the complaint, said not only those who made the postings but those who shared them would also be liable to face legal action. Police had been asked to register a case and investigate Suresh’s complaint, official sources said. Meanwhile, senior CPM leader M Vijayakumar ran into trouble for allegedly making abusive comments against Union minister Shashi Tharoor here. Tharoor, who filed nomination from Thiruvananthapuram LS seat, said the comments of Vijayakumar involved breach of election code of conduct and he would be lodging a complaint with the Election Commission. (Times of India 18/3/14)

 

15. EC to scrutinize use of social media by candidates in elections (1)

HYDERABAD: For the first time, the Election Commission of India (EC) will scrutinize the use of internet by candidates in the general elections to be held in April/May. Political parties and candidates cannot issue advertisements in websites and social media without ‘pre-certification from competent authorities’. Therefore, candidates would now have to submit information about their social media accounts in addition to their e-mail ids and telephone numbers in Form 26 when they file their nominations. The EC has broadly identified five different types of social media – collaborative projects (Wikipedia), blogs and micro blogs (Twitter), content communities (Youtube), social networking sites (Facebook) and virtual game-worlds (Apps). “Legal provisions relating to election campaigning apply to social media in the same manner in which they apply to any other media,” Rahul Sharma, under secretary, EC, stated in the EC notification. Sharma has also written to Chitrita Chatterjee, associate vice-president, Internet and Mobile Association of India, New Delhi, and the chief grievance officers of major social networking sites on the issue of internet election campaigning. The EC has issued certain guidelines to the Internet and Mobile Association of India to ensure that political advertisements are not displayed without pre-certification. Internet sites will have to inform the EC regarding expenditure incurred by political parties and candidates when requested. In addition, internet-based media will also have to scrutinize content to ensure it is not unlawful, malicious or violative of the model code of conduct. If such content comes to the notice of the election machinery, it would have to be removed. The Media Certification and Monitoring Committees, at both district and state levels, should undertake the pre-certification of advertisements by political parties and candidates. The EC is relying on the Supreme Court’s orders in SLP (civil) N 6679/2004 dated April 13, 2014 for issuing instructions about the use of internet by political parties. Following the SC order, the commission had issued detailed instructions on the issue of advertisements by parties. “Since social media websites are also electronic media by definition, these instructions of the commission shall also apply to social media websites and fall under the purview of pre-certification,” the EC stated. While advertising in social media by political parties will come under scrutiny, the Election Commission has also turned its attention to content posted by the general public. The EC is in consultation with the ministry of communication and technology on practical ways to deal with the issue if the posts are found to be connected with election campaigning of political parties and candidates. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

16. Dalit groups in Rajasthan want certain expressions deleted from SC/ST Act (2)

JAIPUR: Dalit groups in Rajasthan have demanded deletion of expressions such as “intent,” “on the ground” and “wilful” from various sections of the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, saying they give leeway to the police and judiciary to dilute cases of atrocities through “subjective or arbitrary interpretations” of the law. Releasing a status report on the Act’s implementation in the State here over the week-end, Dalit activists said a new chapter should be added to the statute to deal with the rights of victims and witnesses, thereby explicitly granting various citizen rights to them in atrocity cases. Besides, the Act should be amended to bring in all types of negligence by public servants at various stages in their handling of atrocity cases and punishment for offences under the law enhanced to bring it on par with the Indian Penal Code. “Punishment for crimes against Dalits must be commensurate with the nature and gravity of the offences [so as] to ensure its deterrent effect,” said Centre for Dalit Rights patron P. L. Mimroth. The other group was the National Dalit Movement for Justice. In their major findings and observations in the report, the Dalit groups pointed out that Rajasthan occupied second position in the top 10 atrocity-prone States in the country, with an increasing rate of 7.4 per cent. The atrocity cases are often registered after a delay or not registered at all, investigation is kept pending for long, charge-sheet is not filed on time and cases are closed under the influence of dominant caste people or under political pressure. As a result, the acquittal rate is very high and the cases with conviction are few and far between. The report cited 199 sample cases, among which 79 were closed as “fake” by the police. Only two convictions were ordered by the court, while acquittal was awarded in 13 cases and the rest were either pending in the court or were in the process of compromise at a crucial stage. Dalit activists Satish Kumar, V. A. Ramesh Nathan and Rahul Singh also demanded appointment of a high-level committee to review the implementation of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, assess the achievement of its objectives and take appropriate and speedy action for strengthening the law for its effective implementation. (The Hindu 9/3/14)

 

17. Denial of priesthood to Dalit alleged (2)

RAMANATHAPURAM: A large number of Dalit Christians, including women, thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, protesting against alleged denial of priesthood to a Dalit theology student by Sivaganga Catholic Diocese. A five-member committee, headed by T. Thavamani from Devendra Kula Vellalar Munnetra Sangam, presented a petition at the Collectorate here on Monday, complaining that the Diocese had denied priesthood for G. Michael Raj, even after he had completed theology course as he hailed from Devendra Kula (Dalit) community. Raj had completed theology in 2012, but he was not given ordination by the diocese, dominated by a particular community, he said, and alleged that about 170 priests had been given ordination in churches in Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts but not even one belonged to Devendra Kula Dalits. Pointing out that there were 17 Dalit priests, he said they belonged to other sub-sects of the community and only Devendra Kula Dalits were given the raw deal by the diocese, he alleged. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

18. Eight held for ‘attacking’ Dalit wedding procession in Sabarkantha (2)

Ahmedabad: The Sabarkantha police have arrested eight persons for allegedly attacking a wedding procession of Dalits. The upper caste community of the village was against the Dalit family following the tradition of riding horseback in the wedding ceremony. The arrests were made on Saturday. According to the police, on March 6, Harshad Solanki, a resident of Tejpuri village in Himmatnagar taluka, Sabarkantha district, was returning  with his bride after marriage, when the procession following him was attacked by people belonging to the upper caste. They pelted stones and attacked them with sharp weapons injuring at least two dozen people, including children and women. Kodar Solanki, uncle of Harshad, lodged an FIR stating that upper caste residents of the village had threatened not to follow the tradition of riding horseback. Fearing a clash, the groom Harshad, who is a police constable posted in Himmatnagar, sought police protection for the occasion. “We were apprehensive of this attack, but nothing happened on the day of wedding and we followed the tradition. But when we were getting back after the marriage, we were attacked by a group of 30 to 40 people. We had followed the other route to enter our village. However, we couldn’t avoid the  clash,” said Alpesh Solanki, cousin of the groom. About 20 people from Dalit community sustained injuries. Three of them are said to be in critical condition. Sabarkantha District Collector Banchhanidhi Pani told The Indian Express that the situation in the village is under control and the administration is taking care of the victims. “We have assured them the expense of their treatment will be born by the district authority. Since Dalit family are apprehensive of losing their jobs in the aftermath of this incident, we have also assured them of giving jobs under MNREGA among others,” Pani said. Tajpuri houses about 30 Dalit families who are farm labourers. They are dependent on upper caste community who possess most of the farm lands. According to Alpesh, the upper caste people would not give them any employment now and Dalits will be ostracised for taking out the procession and going to police to lodge the complaint. (Indian Express 11/3/14)

 

19. Dalit girl tonsured, face blackened, paraded in Bihar (2)

Purnia: A panchayat in eastern Bihar tonsured the head of a 14-year-old orphan Dalit girl, blackened her face and paraded her through a village as “punishment” for talking to a boy. The incident of extreme public humiliation took place at Kadwa Tola village under sadar police station, about 10 km east of divisional headquarters town of Purnia on Tuesday, police said on Wednesday. “They smeared my face with ash, shaved my head and made me run around the village in that state as I was too poor to pay Rs. 12,000 fine the panchayat had imposed on me for talking to the boy,” police quoted the girl as saying. Six out of seven accused including the village headman Vishnudeo Rishi has been arrested, said Shweta Kumari, the station house officer (SHO) of Purnia women’s police station. The Bihar incident, though not as brutal, brought back memories of the gang rape of a 20-year-old tribal woman in west Bengal’s Birbhum district in January at the orders of a salishi sabha, the state’s equivalent of khap panchayats, for a similar “crime” Then too the kangaroo court had imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the girl and her boyfriend and her failure to pay up had led to the sexual assault as “humiliation”. The victim of the Bihar incident, who lives with her grandfather, told Hindustan Times through an intermediary that both her parents died a few years ago from leprosy.  She is a class 6 student of a middle school. Coincidentally, the public humiliation of the minor took place on a day when a woman lawmaker of Purnia district, Dhamdaha MLA Lesi Singh, was sworn in as a member of the Nitish Kumar cabinet. But a section of Kadwa Tola residents sought to justify the village panchayat action as necessary for maintenance of “social discipline and moral propriety”. Police “interference” in such matters was unwarranted, they insisted. As per the girl’s statement to the police, some residents of Kadwa Tola found her talking to a boy of the same village near the Gulabbagh marketing yard on Monday evening. “They tied me and the boy I was talking to and kept us hungry for the whole of Monday night. On Tuesday morning, the panchayat members slapped a fine of Rs. 12,000 on each of us,” she told the police. She said that the boy was released after his parents promised to pay the fine. Her 65-year-old grandfather supports his family of four members including the victim by pulling a rickshaw. The Purnia SHO said, “we are keeping the victim under police protection. She may be referred to a rehabilitation centre in a day or two”. (Hindustan Times 12/3/14)

 

20. Dalit students appear in board exams under police protection (2)

Ahmedabad: Under threat from upper caste community in the village, eight students of Dalit families of Tejpuri village in Sabarkantha district appeared for their board examination under police security on Friday. A police vehicle took them to their examination centre and brought them back home. On the other hand, about two dozen students of primary school have shunned their classes, while their parents are forced to go to the nearest town to buy essentials under police protection as the shops owned by upper caste would not sell them anything. This is the scene of the village where on 6 March about 20 Dalits, including children, were assaulted by a mob of 40 to 50 people, belonging to dominant Darbar community. These Dalits were coming back from a wedding when they were attacked. “We were attacked because the groom rode a horse during the wedding procession. We had been warned by the upper caste people not to do so. Can’t the grooms of our caste ride a horse during wedding,” said Alpesh Solanki, a villager. He also said that due to approaching police, the people from upper castes have stopped selling them anything. About 30 Dalit families, living in the village, are being ostracised due to FIR lodged bythe against Darbar community. So far, 14 persons have been arrested by the police while around 30 accused have left the village and are still at large. According to Sabarkantha Superintendent of Police Chirag Koradia, after attack on March 6, there was no further disturbance in the village. He said that more than 20 policemen were posted in the village to maintain peace. Koradia added that though there was no further threat, but people from Dalit community were still apprehensive. (Indian Express 15/3/14)

 

21. Dalit body seeks party tickets for real SC people (2)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Dalit Suraksha Samiti (ODSS), a body of real untouchable Scheduled Caste people in the State, on Thursday urged all frontline political parties in the State to give party tickets to real untouchable SCs as their candidates in all 24 Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats which are reserved for them. In open letter to BJD, BJP and Congress State chiefs the Samiti said, “Odisha records 16 per cent real untouchable SC population. We want to draw the kind attention of all concerned regarding the manipulative entry of 2 per cent Keuta/Kaibatra/Dhibar (Savarna OBCs) into SC list of Odisha through clandestine and fraudulent manner since December 2002 by falsely claiming themselves as synonymous of Dewar (Nomadic/Banjara) of Madhya Pradesh, not existing in Odisha thereby snatching away almost 80 per cent of the total reservations meant for the real untouchable SCs in education, employment and politics.” “We urged all the political parties not to field duplicate SC people in the elections,” said Samiti president Gayadhar Mallik.   (Pioneer 16/3/14)

 

22. Dalit bodies to unite in fight against communalism (2)

VELLORE: The Ambedkar People’s Movement has decided to unite Dalit organisations to support candidates opposing communalism in constituencies where Dalit organisations are contesting and Congress candidates in all other constituencies during the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu. A resolution was adopted at the State executive committee meeting of the Movement held under the presidentship of M. Kamalakannan at Villupuram on Friday, according to a release. Through another resolution, it also decided to unite Dalit organisations and conduct political conferences in all districts. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

23. Tsundur Dalit massacre case takes new turn (2)

HYDERABAD: Additional Solicitor General of India Wilson told a Bench of the A.P. High Court on Tuesday that a Special Public Prosecutor can’t plead for change of a Bench hearing a criminal case in the name of feelings of victims and this amounts to committing the contempt of court. The Additional Solicitor General was appearing upon the request made by the court to assist it in the case pertaining to the Tsundur Dalit massacre case. A Division Bench of the court comprising Justice L.Narasimha Reddy and Justice M.S.K. Jaiswal heard the arguments earlier on behalf of the persons convicted for over a week and then the Special Public Prosecutor, Bojja Tarakam, appointed by the State government to pursue the case, requested the Bench not to adjudicate the matter further. An affidavit was filed citing the feelings of the victims in this regard. The Bench asked for the appearance of either the Attorney General of India or any other senior law officer deputed by the Attorney General of India to answer serious questions of law arising in this case in such situation. Mr. Wilson told the Bench that the Special Public Prosecutor can’t take the assistance of anyone other than the State. It was also brought to the notice of the court that the State government has taken a stand that it has not authorised the special public prosecutor to resort to asking for change of the Bench. Mr. Bojja Tarakam said this was a unique case and he had been requested by the government to be the public prosecutor involving cases arising out of the SC /ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 18/3/14)

 

24. Dalit manifesto focuses on land rights, education (2)

KOCHI: Even as major parties are fine-tuning their political manifestoes for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kerala will get a dalit manifesto, drafted by four young dalits, following a successful Facebook campaign. The final version will be available online (https://www.facebook.com/dalitmanifesto) on Wednesday after a nine-day Facebook campaign that began on March 10. In its approach (relying exclusively on social media) and focus this would be a rare step in Indian electoral arena. The dalit manifesto sets a six-point agenda for political parties in Kerala. It broadly focuses on land, education, housing, health and entrepreneurship. The key demands of the dalit community are: 1. Land for agriculture in villages and commerce and industry in urban areas. 2. Educational stipends and grants should be increased not merely nominally, but corresponding to price index and inflation. 3. Wherever government, semi-government and private organizations set up industrial and commercial shopping complexes on land given free by the government, dalits should be given a stake in real estate 4. In IT parks and corridors, there should be an exclusive incubation park for dalit entrepreneurs. 5. Extend reservation rights to dalits among Christian and Muslim communities. 6. Make Ambedkarism part of the curriculum, deviating from the current practice of treating Ambedkar as the architect of the Constitution. The campaign is the brainchild of V B Ajay Kumar, a rights activist; Jeevachaithanyan, a software engineer; P S Pradeep, a multi-media student; and Prashant Koliyoor, an activist. “A manifesto is an important document in governance even though the common man as well as political parties tend to disregard them. When we began this, we wanted to collate the aspirations of the dalit community. This has been an encouraging exercise. It’s the first campaign among Kerala’s online dalit community and we have received overwhelming response, close to 5,000 daily,” said Ajay Kumar. Kerala has two reserved Lok Sabha constituencies for dalits – Alathur and Mavelikkara. Both LDF and UDF, the two leading political alliances in the state, have fielded dalit candidates in these mandatory constituencies but have ignored dalit community in the remaining 18 parliament seats. Ajay Kumar, director of RIGHTS, an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram, said the project has not been carried out with the backing of dalit organizations. “We will not hold a press meet (since it costs a minimum of Rs 3,000), but will release the document online. It will be interesting to watch the response of frontline parties such as Congress, CPM and BJP,” he said. ITimes of India 19/3/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

25. BSP MP, MLAs charged for UP communal riots (7)

LUCKNOW: Six months after the Muzaffarnagar riots in which at least 60 people were killed, the special investigation team (SIT) set up to probe the violence has filed a chargesheet against BSP MP Kadir Rana and a group of his supporters for allegedly inciting communal passions with inflammatory speeches at a public gathering after Friday prayers. This was three days after the killing of three youths on August 27 that triggered a two-month carnage in parts of western UP. Besides Rana, chargesheets were also recently filed against BSP MLAs Noor Saleem Rana and Maulana Jamil, apart from Congress leader Saeed-uz-Zama and his son Salman Saeed. Others facing trial are Muzaffarnagar city board member Asad Zama Ansari and ex-member of the city board Naushad Qureshi, apart from traders Ahsan Qureshi, Sultan Mushir and Naushad. DIG Muzaffarnagar Raghubir Lal confirmed that the chargesheet was filed in the court of the chief judicial magistrate. “The accused persons violated prohibitory orders enforced by local administration to address large gatherings,” police sources said. Police said people’s statements, camera footage as well as electronic evidence against some people were used as evidence to strengthen the case. Earlier, BJP MLAs Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana were charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) and sent to jail, but a high court panel dropped the charges following which they got bail. Rana and his group were booked under charges relating to promoting enmity between groups, rioting with deadly weapons, deterring public servants from discharging duties and disobedience of public servant’s orders, besides Section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act in the FIR lodged after the riots. Post investigations, the SIT team collected evidence against Rana and nine others. (Times of India 9/3/14)

 

26. Muslim sisters’ ‘nikah’ in Shiva temple in Uttar Pradesh (7)

Lucknow:  At a time when Uttar Pradesh has witnessed an increase in communal violence, a small temple of Lord Shiva at a village in the state’s Bulandshahar district,  turned into a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity when it became witness to the marriages of two Muslim girls. The “nikah” of the sisters was solemnised at the Shiva temple at the Ramnagar village of the district on Monday by the “kazi” in the presence of hundreds of people from both communities. According to reports, Iqbal Khan, a resident of the village, had fixed the marriage of his two daughters, Nazma and Muzma, with two youths of the same district. Though the nikah ceremony was scheduled to be performed at his residence, Khan wanted the ceremony to be a symbol of communal amity and brotherhood. He had also expressed his desire to some of his Hindu friends. Khan was surprised when he was approached by members of both communities a few days ago with a proposal to solemnise the nikah of his daughters at the Shiva Temple in Ramnagar. “It was like a dream come true for me,” said Khan. He readily agreed. Khan discussed the matter with the families of the two grooms, and they too said they had no objection to the arrangement. The priest of the Shiva temple also happily gave his permission. On Sunday, the wedding party of the two girls arrived at the temple for the ceremony. While the kazi performed the ceremony in accordance with Islamic traditions, a local Hindu family made arrangements for the community feast on the occasion. The two girls were given a traditional and tearful send-off by hundreds of people from both the Hindu and Muslim communities on Monday. (Deccan Herald 10/3/14)

 

27. RSS opposes minority status for Jain community (7)

Bangalore: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on the last day of its annual meeting opposed the move by the UPA government to accord minority status to the Jain community stressing that the community is essentially Hindu. Speaking at the conclusion of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi said Jains are not separate from Hindu culture. “Sangh has already said it does not support any move to divide the society as majority and minority. Jains are a part and parcel of the Hindu ethos, history and culture. Few of our traditions and rituals might be different but every culture of this land are Hindu,’’ the RSS general secretary said. The RSS functionary was reacting to the UPA government’s move to declare Jains as a minority community. In the course of the three meeting of its members, the RSS has charted out a plan for the coming year. Over 1,400 RSS functionaries who were elected by the local karyakartas across India attended the meeting along with RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat. Issues like homosexuality and live-in relationships were discussed in the meeting, but no resolutions were passed. “These are a danger to the culture. To make a law on these issues government has to consult the opinion of saints and sanyasis,” Suresh Joshi said. The degradation of family morals and counselling to prevent marriage divorces across the country had also been discussed. When asked about the recent controversy between Modi and Murli Manohar Joshi over contesting from Varanasi, he said: “BJP is capable of solving its own issues.” About Aam Aadmi Party’s performance in the next election, he said that RSS is willing to work with anyone who wants to make India corruption-free. The RSS functionary said that the meeting was keen to condemn the attack on Mata Amritanandamayi in a book called ‘Holy Hell’.The RSS had also a statement on their strategy to spread itself among the North-Eastern states by carrying the message of a woman freedom fighter from Manipur in those states. (Indian Express 10/3/14)

 

28. Denial of priesthood to Dalit alleged (7)

RAMANATHAPURAM: A large number of Dalit Christians, including women, thronged the Collectorate here on Monday, protesting against alleged denial of priesthood to a Dalit theology student by Sivaganga Catholic Diocese. A five-member committee, headed by T. Thavamani from Devendra Kula Vellalar Munnetra Sangam, presented a petition at the Collectorate here on Monday, complaining that the Diocese had denied priesthood for G. Michael Raj, even after he had completed theology course as he hailed from Devendra Kula (Dalit) community. Raj had completed theology in 2012, but he was not given ordination by the diocese, dominated by a particular community, he said, and alleged that about 170 priests had been given ordination in churches in Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts but not even one belonged to Devendra Kula Dalits. Pointing out that there were 17 Dalit priests, he said they belonged to other sub-sects of the community and only Devendra Kula Dalits were given the raw deal by the diocese, he alleged. (The Hindu 11/3/14)

 

29. To catch one chain-snatcher, 80 Muslims held in Mumbai (7)

Mumbai: In an unprecedented “combing operation” launched by Thane police in the wee hours of March 13, more than 80 Muslim males, including several minors, were detained at the Mumbra police station for over four hours, apparently to nab chain-snatchers. But those who were detained, all residents of Rashid Compound in the Kausa area of Mumbra, alleged it was done to instigate them and stoke communal feelings. Mumbra is 30 km from Mumbai and 80 per cent of its 9 lakh people are Muslim. “Police kept abusing us and screamed aatankwadion ko bahar nikalo (terrorists, come out). We stood there dumbfounded, unable to comprehend anything,” said Shamshad Nasir Pawaskar, one of those detained. Angry residents have filed a complaint, based on which Thane Police Commissioner Vijay Kamble has ordered an inquiry. “The residents have complained of police excesses and highhandedness. But it is too premature to comment,” Kamble told The Indian Express. Sameena Khan, who lives in Akbar Apartments from where 45 people were detained, said, “I was fast asleep. My husband, who is recuperating from typhoid, was discharged from hospital the same night. The police came screaming at our doors, dragged my husband out, shoved him inside the van and drove away. They did not even let him change his clothes.” She claimed policemen were waving batons at those who resisted and used bolt-cutters to break into a few houses. “If they were looking for just two men, why did they need seven vans,” asked Gulam Abbas Irani, 25, an IT consultant, who feels he was detained because of his last name. “Many of us have lived here for over 20 years. But this incident was one of its kind,” said Farida Shaikh, who was alone with her three children when the police came. “I kept telling them I am alone and that my husband is in Saudi Arabia. They did not budge. Two women constables stayed outside and men entered the house. I was in my night dress and it was humiliating to have men walk inside the house and search,” she said. Police claimed they were looking for “two men from Balochistan” who apparently stayed in Mount View building within Rashid compound. “Most of them have criminal cases. They engage in theft and chain-snatching. Two men have been in hiding and are notorious,” said a police officer. (Indian Express 15/3/14)

 

30. Kandhamal verdict: court relied on communal harmony in region (7)

Cuttack: Cuttack district sessions judge Gyanaranjan Purohit, who on Friday sentenced key accused Mitu Patnaik in the 2008 Kandhamal nun rape case to rigorous imprisonment for 11 years, relied heavily on communal harmony in the locality, which was disrupted for a brief period after the murder of Hindu seer Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. But taking into the consideration the circumstances in which the nun was gang-raped in the presence of a mob, the court felt that Patnaik did not deserve lenient sentence. Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhei were held guilty of outraging the modesty of the victim, obscene act and criminal intimidation. Digal and Badhei were sentenced to undergo RI for two years. While Digal has already been an under-trial prisoner for over four years and his sentence is likely to be set off, Badhei, who was behind bars for over a year, may go back to jail to serve the remaining period. However, the court later granted bail to both Digal and Badhei till the period the convicted persons prefer an appeal in the Orissa High Court. The 25-year-old nun said she was raped on August 25, 2008 after a mob ransacked and attacked the local pastoral centre following the murder of the seer the day before. (The Hindu 15/3/14)

 

31. Bring law like SC-ST Act to protect Muslims, says panel on Sachar (7)

Mumbai: A committee appointed by the central government to review the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar panel has suggested that a law on the lines of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be enacted to safeguard the Muslim community. The committee headed by Amitabh Kundu, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, submitted its report to the Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14. “The committee has recommended the need for the creation of a special Act on the lines of the SC/ST Act for Muslims in the country. It has been seen that the members of the Muslim community face similar challenges to that of the SC community, and in certain cases, they are more violent challenges,” sources who played a role in the drafting of the report said. The committee has suggested that the new law could supplement the communal violence Bill, which is facing political opposition. The panel has also recommended that a special sub-quota for Muslims be created within the OBC category, and has stressed the need to include Muslims in the Scheduled Castes category. The interim report identifies Muslim OBCs as one of the most deprived sections, and says many Muslim OBCs actually belong to the SC category. Dalit Muslims are currently not included in the SC category, and are notified as OBCs. In its evaluation of the implementation of the Sachar recommendations, the committee has said that while the central government has created institutions like the Minority Affairs Department to address the problems of the minority community, there is a lack of convergence and coordination in these institutions. “The institution building process to address the concerns of the minorities has been successful at central level, for which we laud the government. However it has not succeeded in creating the convergence of these institutions. There has been no coordination established between various bodies at the state and central level which is a matter of concern. There is also no punishment over the failure to implement schemes and this has led to the unsuccessful implementation of the Sachar recommendations,” the sources said. Almost seven years after the submission of the Sachar report, the Centre decided to set up a committee to review the implementation of the recommendations. The primary task of the Kundu panel, which was set up on August 5 last year, was to evaluate the process of the implementation of the decisions taken on the recommendations of the Sachar committee, and to assess the important programmes initiated by the ministry and the schemes covered by the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme. The committee had been asked to submit a report in six months. IIndian Express 18/3/14)

 

32. AP Reorganisation Act does not include Minorities Commission (7)

HYDERABAD: The AP State Minorities Commission (APSMC) does not find a mention in the 10th Schedule of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014 which specifies the ‘continuance of facilities in certain state institutions.’The Schedule lists 107 government-appointed bodies. Though agencies working for the development of minorities and their institutions such as the AP State Wakf Board, Survey Commissioner for Wakfs, Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, AP State Haj Committee and Dairatul Maarif have been listed, the Act does not include the APSMC. Reacting to this, APSMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan on Wednesday said that he has sent a letter to chief secretary PK Mohanty with a request for its inclusion. “The chief secretary will send the letters to the Centre after which the President makes the required changes and it is then is sent to Parliament for incorporating them,” Khan said. “The lists in the 9{+t}{+h} and 10{+t}{+h} Schedules are not exhaustive and the non-inclusion of the commission seems like an omission. It was after the MIM’s representation pertaining to minority welfare agencies and companies, among others, that the tenth Schedule list was expanded to cover 107 bodies and the ninth to 89 by the Group of Ministers. We had made the suggestions as soon as the bill was ready,” said MIM MLC Syed Amin Jafri. “However, clauses 74 and 75 of Part VII of the Act make provisions that these bodies can be included and that they should continue to provide their services in both Telangana and the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh,” he added. Meanwhile, after reviewing the PM’s 15-point programme which reflects poor implementation, Khan has recommended that candidates from minority communities be given one Assembly seat in each district of Telangana and the Seemandhra regions. This, he said, would ensure better results. There are only 11 legislators from minority communities in five districts of Andhra Pradesh. “Around 22 assembly constituencies in Telangana and 23 from Seemandhra with a minorities concentration between 20 and 40 percent which could yield legislators from minority communities,” he noted. (Times of India 20/3/14)

 

33. Alarm over ’2002 Guj riots video’ (7)

VARANASI: A video clipping, purportedly containing graphic images of 2002 Gujarat riots, is being circulated widely on the social media since Tuesday night. Coming close on the heels of BJP announcing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its candidate from the city, it is bound to create trouble in the communally sensitive east UP region. The video, ‘& Rioter,’ edited by one Sayed Mohammed Raqeem SM, contains visuals of charred bodies, hooliganism, riot victims and terms Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders and Modi as ‘dharm ke numayinde’ (patrons of religion). A police official with a quote and symbolic visual of judiciary has also been figured in the video. All these visuals appear in the form of a slide show with a background music, ‘Gujarat ka manjar hamne dekha hai’. A local Samajwadi Party leader and nominated corporator of Varanasi Municipal Corporation, Varun Singh, too has upload this video clip on a social networking site. He said that one of his friends shared the video with him following which he realized that “making others aware about the truth of Gujarat was a must” and he shared the video with others. His comments were also tagged with his uploaded video. Circulation of this video through social media accounts has brought the officials on their toes. DM and district election officer Pranjal Yadav said, “I have reported the matter to the Election Commission.” SSP Jogendra Kumar also summoned the crime branch in-charge and assigned him the task to ensure that “sharing of this video on social sites is checked and appropriate action taken under sections of IT Act”.This is not the first time when a hate video has emerged as a challenge for the police. Following Muzaffarnagar communal riots in 2013, a hate video was circulated through same mediums. The video, with some visuals of riots recorded somewhere in Pakistan, was shared by trouble mongers as the scenes of Mujaffarnagar riots. To put a check on this video, the then officials had announced to give cash rewards to those who would inform about the source or origin of the hate video. However, the cops had failed to trace the trouble mongers. (Times of India 21/3/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

34. Ousted Maoist commander looks for exit from Odisha forest hideout (12)

New Delhi: He was once a darling of the CPI (Maoist) leadership. From his bastion in the Kandhamal forests of Odisha, top Maoist commander Sabyasachi Panda planned and executed many daring operations for his party. But two years after being forsaken by the Maoist leadership, 45-year-old Panda is trapped now somewhere along the Ganjam-Kandhamal border with a bullet injury in the thigh. The police are closing in on his hideout. “We are very close to him and we will get him very soon,” Ganjam district police chief Ashish Singh said. Panda is believed to have been injured in an encounter with the police on February 15. While he took one bullet in the thigh, another shattered his laptop. This has been revealed to the police by his bodyguard Nikita, who was arrested with two other women rebels on the night of February 28. One of Panda’s close associates told The Hindu that he was trapped with only three rebels, one a woman. Other twenty-four associates have either been killed in police action or arrested. The four, the associate believed, had no food left. “They are in possession of very few weapons and hardly any cash,” he said. There are indications that in the past two weeks, Panda has been desperate to secure an exit for himself. The Orissa police say he was in touch with the Aam Aadmi Party to save his life and secure his “political career.” However, one of the executive members of the AAP, who the police believe has been in touch with Panda, has denied it. “I have never met Sabyasachi Panda, and he has never contacted me about joining the AAP or anything else,” he said in an e-mail response. Panda, a Mathematics graduate, was the mastermind of the Nayagarh raid in February 2008, in which 14 policemen were killed and a huge cache of arms and ammunition was looted. He faces over 30 charges of murder, including that of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Laxmanand Saraswati. The killing triggered off the 2008 Kandhamal riots. In a 16-page letter addressed to the Maoist supreme commander, Ganapathi, in July 2012, Panda accused the party’s Telugu leadership of “superiority complex.” Two days later, the CPI (Maoist) expelled him. Panda then went on to create his own outfit. But in the absence of party support, he got isolated along with a handful of rebels. (The Hindu 8/3/14)

 

35. 16 killed as 200 Naxals draw CRPF into a trap (12)

Raipur: Less than a year after carrying out a ghastly massacre of 32 Congressmen at Jiram Ghati, in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, the Maoists on Tuesday chose the same valley to trap the security forces in an ambush, killing 15 jawans — 11 belonging to the CRPF and four local policemen — plus one civilian. The attack was carried out at Takawada in the Tongpal jungle in neighbouring Sukma district of Bastar. Three jawans, including two of the CRPF, were also grievously injured in the incident. It was also a gory reminder of the 2010 massacre in Dantewada in which 76 CRPF personnel were gunned down in almost the same area. A massive manhunt has been launched to apprehend the attackers, who escaped into the thick jungles. It was not immediately known if the Naxals had suffered any major casualties. The Maoists “led” a road-opening party of 30 jawans of the CRPF’s 80th Battalion and 14 district force personnel of the Chhattisgarh police to walk into their ambush at Takwada in the Tongpal jungle, around 5 km from Jiram Ghati, and opened indiscriminate fire on them from all sides, making the securitymen virtually sitting ducks. “The joint team of the CRPF and DF jawans left Tongpal for road-opening operations to pave the way for ongoing road construction in the stretch (in National Highway 30) in the morning. The team was ambushed by the Naxals between Tongpal and Jiram Ghati between 10-10.30 in the morning, leaving 15 jawans and one civilian dead”, said additional DGP (Naxal operations) R.K. Vij. The firing was followed by a landmine blast. “The ultras laid a 1.5-km-long ambush. The Naxals blocked the road after the security forces walked into the ambush zone, and then opened indiscriminate fire on them from all sides from their elevated positions”, State Intelligence Bureau DIG Dipansu Karba said. “The deaths were caused due to bullet injuries” he added. The dead and injured were pulled out of the attack site by reinforcements rushed to the spot after the attack. They were airlifted to Raipur by two helicopters. The state police is trying to secure the body of a CRPF jawan lying at the attack site reportedly booby-trapped with a pressure bomb by Naxals till reports last came in. Police sources said the Naxalites, who numbered around 200, had gutted three trucks to block the road to deny the troopers an escape route from the ambush. Sources said two IAF helicopters had been sent from Jagdalpur and Raipur to the ambush area with reinforcements drawn from the CoBRA battalion and the CRPF. The Naxals walked away with the arms and ammunition of the slain policemen after the encounter that lasted nearly three hours. The attack came exactly a month prior to the Lok Sabha elections in Chattisgarh. Mr Karba admitted that the Chhattisgarh police had got intelligence inputs about the presence of Naxals in the surrounding villages, but could not assess their strength. “Special Task Force personnel have been mobilised from Sukma and Jagdalpur to intercept the attackers who were trying to cross over to Maharashtra and Orissa,”, he added. (Asian Age 12/3/14)

 

36. Over 12,000 killed in Naxal violence in past 20 years (12)

New Delhi: Over 12,000 people, including security force personnel, have been killed by Naxals in nine Left Wing Extremism-hit states in the past 20 years. Of the total 12,183 people killed, 9,471 were civilians and 2,712 central and state security force personnel, the Home Ministry said in reply to an RTI query. The killings were reported in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. About 468 people were killed by Naxals in 1993, 376 in  1994, 396 in 1995, 541 in 1996, 583 in 1997, 489 in 1998, 595 in 1999, 548 in 2000, 564 in 2001, 481 in 2002 and 515 in 2003 in these nine states, it said. As many as 565 people lost their lives due to Naxal violence in 2004, 659 in 2005, 678 in 2006, 691 in 2007, 717 in 2008, 908 in 2009 and a huge 1,005 during 2010, the Home Ministry said. Besides, 608 people (466 civilians and 142 security force personnel), were killed in the nine states by Naxals in 2011, 415 (301 civilians and 114 security force personnel) in 2012 and 381 (267 civilians and 114 security force personnel) between January and December 15, last year, it said. Maoists had on Tuesday ambushed a security patrol killing 16 people, including 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, in Naxal-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The attack was carried out barely five km from the area where top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh were killed in a Maoist attack in May last year. Mahendra Karma, who started anti-Naxal movement Salwa Judum, Nand Kumar Patel, Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee chief and his son Dinesh were among 25 others who were killed in the attack carried out by Naxals on May 25, 2013 in Darbha Valley of the state. Veteran Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was also injured in the attack, later succumbed to his injuries in a Gurgaon hospital. As many as 75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh Police official were killed in a Naxal attack in Dantewada district on April 6, 2010. A total of 90 battalions (90,000 men) of central security force personnel and one Indian Reserve Naga Battalion (1,000 personnel) have been deployed for anti-Naxal operations in the nine Naxal-hit states, the reply said. States like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal have constituted a unified command to carry out anti-Naxal operations. (Indian Express 12/3/14)

 

37. Eleven Naxals held in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Eleven suspected Naxals, including six women, were apprehended by security forces from the jungles of Balrampur district in Chhattisgarh early today. Officials said that a joint squad of paramilitary CRPF and state police apprehended the Naxals during a combing operation in Lahsunpath forest of Kushmi area in Sarguja division of the state. “Eleven Naxals including six women have been handed over to the local police after they were held from the jungles,” they said. “One .315 bore gun, a pistol and two detonators along with some other explosive material have been seized from the squad,” they said. The suspected ultras are being interrogated, they said. The Sarjuga-Ambikapur belt in northern part of Chhattisgarh is not an active Naxal hotbed compared to the southern parts of Bastar and this is after a longtime that Maoists have been apprehended in these areas, they said. (Times of India 15/3/14)

 

38. Anti-naxal forces won’t be used for polls: Odisha DGP (12)

BHUBANESWAR: Ruling out diversion of the Central paramilitary forces from the ongoing anti-naxal operations in the State, the Odisha Police on Saturday said it required an additional 50 companies of Central forces for the elections in Odisha. “There is no question of diverting the jawans, both the Central paramilitary and the State’s Special Operation Group (SOG), deployed in the anti-naxal operation. They will be engaged in providing security in polling booths in their respective areas,” Director-General of Police (DGP) Prakash Mishra told reporters after reviewing situation in the southern range. Mr. Mishra said the State had asked the Centre to provide an additional 50 companies of the Central forces for the Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls. (The Hindu 16/3/14)

 

39. Chhattisgarh: Naxal camp busted, arms seized (12)

Bhubaneswar: Ahead of the first phase of election in 70 Assembly seats and 10 Lok Sabha seats in Naxal-dominated districts of Orissa, security forces achieved a major success when they busted a Maoist camp operating in the Chhattisgarh forests on the state border. The operation was initiated from Nawrangpur district side of Orissa two days ago. Senior police officials said around 50 Maoists of Mainpur division and Nuapada division were camping at the forests in Raigarh area of Chhattisgarh when the Border Security Force and District Voluntary Force and Special Operation Group of Nabarangpur district police attacked the camp. The joint team seized 8 landmines, three SBML guns, one 8mm pistol, 70 detonators, seven bundles of wire, a solar panel, five kilogrammes of gun-powder, Maoist uniforms and literature from the camp. Acting on a tip-off, the security personnel tracked the Maoist camp, but soon came under attack from the rebels. The security forces fired in retaliation, but the Naxals managed to escape. There was no report of any casualty from the Maoist side. Meanwhile, in Sorada area of Ganjam, police arrested 4 persons who were allegedly supplying provisions to the Maoists. In Koraput district’s Boipariguda block, the Maoists, in a message through posters, have asked locals to boycott polling on April 10 and accused all political parties of being anti-poor. The posters also asked the people not to let politicians enter villages for campaigning. According to the police, the Maoist central committee has asked its cadres of Jharkhand to plan a major attack on security personnel. Inspector General of Police(Anti-Naxal operations) Soumendra Priyadarshi said the encounters showed police was succeeding in engaging the Maoists. “The Maoists strategy is to avoid any encounter or exchange of fire with cops. They would rather want to surprise us. After their failure in 2013 Chhattisgarh Assembly polls, they have taken a conscious decision to thwart the election process.” To avoid any Darbha-type incident, police would now issue district-specific and area-specific guidelines for candidates during campaigning in Maoist-hit districts of Koraput, Malkangiri, Nuapada, Nawrangpur, Kandhamal, Ganjam and Gajapati. “If someone wants to go to a place like Narayanpatna with just a PSO, we would strongly advise against it,” said a senior police official of Koraput district. (Indian Express 17/3/14)

 

40. Anti-Naxal operations: CRPF to build first road in Maoist hotbed (12)

NEW DELHI: With civil contractors reluctant to take up road construction work in Naxal-hit areas, the CRPF has for the first time taken upon itself to build a 7 km stretch in the Maoist hotbed of Sukma in Chhattisgarh. The force, which is guarding a number of road projects in the state, one of which came under attack in Tongapal last week killing 15 security men, will soon bid for the tender and related procedures of gaining rights to construct the particular patch which is considered one of the important lifelines of the area. The paramilitary will deploy its civil engineer troopers and supervisors to see the completion of the project and it will be guarded by an armed squad. “This is a pioneer step we have taken to ensure that road projects in Naxal areas are taken up and completed. Our engineering wing will supervise this maiden project that been undertaken by the force,” CRPF chief Dilip Trivedi told PTI. He was speaking after reviewing the security in the state in the aftermath of last week’s Naxal attack on security personnel in Bastar area of the state. The CRPF Director General said it was essential for security forces to “dominate” the roads in these areas as they are harbingers of development in far-off areas and hence an eyesore for Naxals who do not want progress to usher in order to maintain their strongholds. “We are determined to keep doing the road construction and securing task. Such attacks (last week in Tongapal) will not deter us,” Trivedi said. The particular project route is being kept under wraps for security reasons and the stretch is also crucial for forces as it will enable them to carry men and material to their posts in remote jungle locations. The Union Home Ministry, two years back, had sanctioned a full-fledged civil engineering wing in the country’s largest paramilitary force, mainstay for anti-Naxal operations in the country as it was getting difficult to get roads constructed in Naxal areas as civil workers feared for their security. The wing was mandated to not only recruit engineering manpower from the public domain but also depute some of its existing expertise in these areas for the road buildings task. The unit will function under command of the Additional DG (Works) of the CRPF and will also have state police and civil construction officials in its decision-making board. According to sources, some more road projects are under the consideration of the CRPF and Union Home Ministry for independent construction by the force. (The Economic Times 18/3/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

41. CACL urges parties not to use children in poll campaign (14)

BERHAMPUR: The possibility of use of children during election campaign for the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls has started to worry child rights activists. By the time the election process starts, most school-going children would have completed their examinations. It is feared that a number of children may be used as cheap labour for pasting posters, hanging banners or even being part of election rallies and meetings. Apart from the school-going children, child labourers are also suspected to be used by political organisations for various works during the campaign. The child rights activists feel that children from economically backward sections, particularly from rural areas and slums of urban centres, would get lured into political activities for meagre amounts, said convenor of Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL),Sudhir Sabat. The CACL has decided to request all major political parties to see that they should not misuse children during their campaigns. According to Mr. Sabat, they would hold discussions with leaders of all major political parties regarding this on March 13. Apart from this, the CACL also wants all major political parties to give importance to child-related issues as well as measures for eradication of child labour in the State. “We would request all political parties and candidates to include issues related to child rights and child labour in their manifesto,” Mr. Sabat said. (The Hindu 10/3/14)

 

42. Mumbai: 125 Child Labourers Rescued, Police Arrest 32 (14)

Mumbai: About 125 child labourers were rescued and 32 owners of hotel and leather manufacturing units arrested for employing underage workers at Agripada area in South Mumbai, police said here today. Acting on a tip-off from NGO Pratham, which alerted the police about the presence of underage workers in hotels and leather manufacturing units in the Agripada area, the police said. “Accordingly, raids were conducted today, during which 125 child labourers, aged between 5 and 14 years, were rescued and 32 owners of these establishments were nabbed,” Deputy Police Commissioner (Enforcement) Mahesh Patil said, adding a case was registered under relevant sections of the Child Labour Act at Agripada police station. “Majority of the children hailed from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. They were getting anything between Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 a month,” he said. The rescued children would be taken to rehabilitation centres in the city and their parents would be notified, police said, adding that the accused would be produced before a local court tomorrow. (Outlook 11/3/14)

 

43. Uncertain Future for Rescued Child Labourers (14)

GULBARGA: Over 6,000 children in 131 rehabilitation schools for child labourers in 17 districts, funded by the Centre, face a bleak future again with the Centre proposing to close the schools from March 31. The schools are run by NGOs and the Union government provided financial assistance. Official sources told Express that the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has written to the state government recently stating that it has proposed to close these schools. Of the 131 schools, in which 6,168 child labourers are studying, 81 are residential and 50 are day centers.  Bangalore-Rural has 25 schools, including two residential, Bangalore-Urban 14 (three residential), Bellary eight residential, Bijapur 18 (four residential), Belgaum two (one residential), Chitradurga and Davangere three residential each, Dharwad four residential, Gulbarga 10 residential, Kolar seven residential, Koppal two residential, Mandya seven residential, Mysore three residential, Raichur 16 schools (15 residential,) and Haveri nine residential schools. Though child labour rehabilitation projects were sanctioned by the Union government for Bagalkot and Tumkur, no schools were running this year.  In the other 13 districts, the state government is running 33 residential schools with 951 students. Joint Labour Commissioner T Srinivas said he and the labour commissioner will meet the Secretary to the ministry in a couple of days to discuss the issue. (New Indian Express 12/3/14)

 

44. Patna: 2 kids tied to pole, thrashed for stealing (14)

Patna: In punishing two children for the crime of theft, a Patna shopkeeper went on to commit one himself – he tied the 10 and 13 year olds to a pole and thrashed them. Babban Kumar alias Bablu, who runs a store in Sri Krishna Puri locality of Patna, kept the children tied in front of his shop for more than two hours, before their parents finally pooled in the ‘stolen’ amount and gave it to him, on Friday. Later, Kumar even called up the HT reporter who witnessed the child abuse to inform him that he had released the children. The grocer alleged four children stole Rs. 3,000 from his shop when he stepped out for a while. Kumar caught two of them and tied them up to “persuade” the other two offenders to return his money. “Wads of Rs. 10 notes totalling Rs. 1,000 were recovered from the pocket of a child. The other two took Rs. 2,000,” he said. Kumar was unmoved even when the victims’ parents came and pleaded with him to release their children. When a third accused was brought to the shop by his mother, the shopkeeper detained him as well. It was only after the three families decided to pool the amount and “compensate” Kumar that the children were released. Locals claimed they had informed the police about the incident, but the station house officer of the Sri Krishna Puri police station, Vidyasagar, said: “We have not received any such complaint and have no knowledge about the incident.” Secretary of Bihar Child Rights Protection Commission, N Vijayalakshmi, told HT: “We will seek a report from the district administration and the police.” (Hindustan Times 15/3/14)

 

45. Over 40 p.c. children undernourished in State (14)

HYDERABAD: A study on the nutritional status of children (zero to six years) in 12 districts of the State by People’s Voice for Child Rights (PVCR), in collaboration with Child Rights and You (CRY), has thrown up rather disturbing trends. Of the 5,568 children covered, 40 per cent i.e., 2,250 children were undernourished. The study, which covered 240 Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) centres in 12 districts between December 2012 and January 2013 says that out of the 40 per cent undernourished children, 18 per cent are severely underweight while 23 per cent are moderately underweight. The PVCR and CRY officials maintained that the nutritional status report indicates “failure in providing strong measures to combat child malnutrition because it re-emphasises the same findings of NFHS 3 study of 2005, wherein 42.4 per cent of children were underweight. In NFHS study, the percentage of severely underweight children was 9.9 per cent, but now according to our study it is has doubled to 18 per cent”. “The report reiterates that there is a lot more work to be done to improve the nutritional status of our children. Radical changes and better regulation to improve ICDS is need of the hour,” said Advisor, Supreme Court appointed National Commission on Right to Food case, Dr. Rama S Melkote, who released the report. The PVCR and CRY conducted the study in 12 districts including Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Adilabad, Khammam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari. “We have also covered children from primitive tribes, nomadic tribes, coastal community, urban and rural poor,” said M. Madhu, the researcher. Apart from nutritional status, the study also concentrated on the present status of ICDS centres, whether they are own or rental ones, storage facilities, water for general use and drinking etc. “ Seventy per cent of ICDS centres are in rental buildings and there are no facilities for specially-abled children. Over 66 per cent of the centres do not have electricity and 74 per cent do not have toilets for children. Close to 70 per cent of the ICDS centres do not have drinking water facilities,” the study said. Among the many recommendations, PVCR and CRY officials have maintained that right to food and free from malnutrition should be given constitutional guarantee for children below six years. (The Hindu 17/3/14)

 

46. Experts Advise Early Intervention to Prevent Kids’ Suicides (14)

BANGALORE: In the wake of the suicides of two highschool girls in Bangalore on Tuesday, questions have arisen about whether parents and teachers are doing right for children. Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Kamal Pant says out of 2,033 who committed suicide in 2013, around 10 per cent (203) were children. Dr Chandrashekar, professor and head, Department of Psychiatry, Bangalore Medical College, says, “Exam pressure and depression are leading causes of suicide among students.” By his reckoning, around 30 per cent of suicides are caused by depression. Alarm bells should ring when children express a death wish, scribble in their books about death, and give up things they love. Among children below 15 years, depression manifests in bursts of anger or irritation.  “These are signs parents and teachers must look out for and address,” he says. A schoolboy attempted suicide recently after his friends teased him over a medical condition due to which he was losing hair. His parents took him for counseling, and discovered there that he had been suffering from depression for more than three months. Priya Jaiswal (name changed), who teaches at a Bangalore college, failed a student for listening to music on her iPod in class. The college management asked Priya for an explanation. The student’s mother called Priya and told her that her daughter had lost her father recently and was disturbed. Rajesh is a parent of two children, one 15 and the other 10. He is not sure how to deal with kid tantrums. “I don’t want to hurt my children but want them to learn discipline,” he says. Dr Dhanya Raveendranathan, assistant professor of psychiatry at Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College, says, “Children are exposed to the same degrees of stress as adults, but from different avenues.” For them stress at home comes from alcoholic parents or parents always being at loggerheads. Children also face neglect and physical and sexual abuse. In school, they are stressed by their inability to cope with their lessons. Learning difficulties go undetected, and they also face adjustment problems with peers, she explains. “Undiagnosed psychiatric problems like anxiety and mood disorders can lead to suicide,” she warns. Doctors say teachers and parents need to be sensitised to identify these problems early. Children getting unusually moody, or throwing tantrums and picking up quarrels must be attended to. “Training of teachers and regular counselling would help. A prompt referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist can result in quick recovery,” says Dr Dhanya Raveendranathan. Parents should be non-punitive, and openly communicate with their children, making it comfortable for them to discuss their problems at all times…  (New Indian Express 21/3/14)

 

47. Rehabilitate sicklecell patients: HC to K’mal admn (14)

PHULBANI: On a petition of sicklecell and thalasamia child victims from G Udayagiri area in Kandhamal district, the Chief Justice of Odisha High Court has issued a direction to the district Collector, Kandhamal and also Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Secretary, specifically to take up immediate appropriate action for rehabilitation, sustainable healthcare and education of the victims. Petitioners Jeeram Pradhan, Sujat Dalabehera, Atuli Nayak and Sunati Nayak expressed deep anguish regarding the expensive, delayed and complicated process of healthcare of their children. Besides, they alleged that they have to bear regular travel expenses from G Udayagiri area to Phulbani or Brahmapur for blood transfusion. “We are in dark about the use of RSVY as we are not told how much amount is deducted for what purpose”, alleged Jeeram Pradhan. The children affected by the genetic health disorders undergo a painful process of constant, physical, mental and emotional suffering even during their schooling as teachers are not aware of the seriousness of the disease and thus not sensitive to the problems of the affected children. There is no specific provision for special care of the victims in the teaching and learning process, the petitioners complained. Due to the need of residential facility near the schools, the children are forced to cover a long distance in hilly tracts of the scheduled district and even compelled to remain absent due to sickness. Even the child care institutions and residential schools lack the minimum sensitivity based arrangements for the inmates. Kandhamal is a scheduled district and mostly the affected belong to tribal, Dalit and other marginalised communities and BPL category. The issue was highlighted when the problem with ground reality was put forth before Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary Pradeepta Kumar Mahapatra, Women and Child Development Principal Secretary Arati Ahuja, School and Mass Education Principal Secretary Usha Padhee and State Protection of Child Rights Secretary in January by well known child rights defender Hemant Naik. The rate of infant and maternal mortality of Kandhamal is reported to be highest in India and more than 80 per cent of families of Kandhamal are said to be affected by different genetic health disorders. Surprisingly, the required appropriate health service mechanism is yet to be developed for the control of sicklecell and thalasamia though it is a major health issueof Kandhamal. (Pioneer 21/3/14)

 

Posted by admin at 10 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Rights Commission Demands Report (1)

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

 

2. Bodies renew AFSPA repeal demand (1)

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRAFFICKING

5. Concern over growing trafficking cases (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HIV/AIDS

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

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

 

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

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

 

10. HIV scenario alarming in Nagaland (3)

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

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

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

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

 

12. Vandalur Terminus Land Gets Pricey (4)

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

 

CORRUPTION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRIBALS

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

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

 

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

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

 

18. Tribals threaten poll boycott (6)

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

 

19. Tribal activist to join BSP (6)

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

 

WOMEN

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

RESERVATION (6)

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

 

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

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

 

37. PIL demands Lokayukta Bill implementation (19)

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

 

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

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

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Posted by admin at 7 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

4. NHRC Rapporteur visits Suktel area (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

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

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

 

18. Grave need haunts Christians, Muslims (7)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

WOMEN

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

25. Newborn thrown into river, survives (8)

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

 

TERRORISM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

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

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

 

31. Join mainstream, SP urges Maoists (12)

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

 

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

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

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

40. Farmers seek livelihood security (20)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HINDUTVA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Posted by admin at 5 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Campaign against AFSPA continues (1)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRAFFICKING

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

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

 

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

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

 

6. Minor girl missing, trafficking feared (7)

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

 

HIV/AIDS

7. CSOs urge for revised AIDS policy (3)

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

 

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

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

 

9. Court glare on HIV bias (3)

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

 

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

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

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

CORRUPTION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

TRIBALS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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

 

23. Oil Pollution Threat to Chilika Biodiversity (9)

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

 

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

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

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

25. CBSE schools say they want clarity (11)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

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

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

 

30. Cabinet nod to pensions, KVs (14)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

RESERVATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Posted by admin at 3 March 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

14. Dalit groom beaten for riding buggy (2)

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

17. Dalit Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (2)

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

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

25. 7 Worst Riots That Rocked India (7)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

30. Dalit Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (7)

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

 

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

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

 

WOMEN

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

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

 

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

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

 

34. The rights of a woman (8)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

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

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

 

39. Naxalites slay Balapam sarpanch near Hyderabad (12)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

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

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

 

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

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

 

44. Rohingya refugees living without hope (13)

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

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

HINDUTVA

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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