Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 13 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. IPS officers against vast powers for complaints body (1)

MUMBAI: High-ranking IPS officers led by director general Sanjeev Dayal on Thursday called on home minister R R Patil to protest against the grant of wide-ranging powers to the proposed state police complaints authority. They said such an authority would lead to a parallel power centre. Patil confirmed that a delegation comprising Dayal, acting police commissioner Hemant Nagrale, joint commissioners Vivek Phansalkar, Sadanand Date, Rashmi Shukla, Bhushankumar Upadhyaya and IPS-officer-in-waiting Atul Kulkarni called on him to express concern over the terms of reference of the authority. “They pointed out that in several cases there will be duplication of work, which will have an adverse impact on police administration,” Patil said. On February 1, the state government amended the Maharashtra Police Act to provide for the setting up of a state police complaints authority to be headed by a retired judge of the high court. The authority shall exercise its powers to inquire suo motu or on a complaint against police officers by a victim or any member of his family. It will look into complaints by the national or the state human rights commission or into complaints of corruption, extortion, land or house grabbing and any other matter involving serious violations of the law or abuse of lawful authority. The authority has been given the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure as well as the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. “It will be deemed to be a civil court and all the proceedings before it will be judicial in nature,” a senior bureaucrat said. A senior IPS officer said that since there already exist the national and state human rights commissions and a special bureau under the Prevention of Corruption Act, it was wrong to entrust all powers to the police complaints authority. “It will be another weapon to harass the police officer,” the officer said. “When we have the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the human rights commission, there will be large scale duplication of work, since the authority will investigate similar complaints.” (Times of India 8/2/14)

 

2. Custodial Deaths Across TN Shoot up to an Alarming High (1)

CHENNAI: The year 2013 has witnessed a surge in the number of police custodial deaths, as latest statistics released by the State police show that as many as 15 people died while in police custody in Tamil Nadu. This is the highest number of custodial deaths recorded in the last 11 years and equals the number reported in the three preceding years put together. The State police was widely criticised last year when a 14-year-old boy was shot in his throat at the Neelankarai police station here by an inspector who was questioning the juvenile at gunpoint over a temple hundial theft. While the boy survived the bullet wound, 15 other such people picked up by the police died under custody in police stations across the State. The increase in the custodial deaths is alarming as on an average only about five such incidents were being reported for last ten years. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, speaking at a conference of police officers last December, termed custodial deaths as a “travesty of justice.” “An odd death in custody here and there might appear to be statistically negligible. But a dead man is not a mere statistic for his loved ones,” she had said. Activists say the main reason for the increase is that police officers responsible hardly get punished. “In Tamil Nadu, the conviction rate of police officers for custodial deaths is nearly zero. In almost all the incidents, the police merely file a case of suspicious death, not even a culpable homicide case,” civil rights activist Kathir said. Another long standing demand of the activists to set up an independent commission to enquire allegations of torture is also yet to be materialise. (Indian Express 11/2/14)

 

3. AFSPA, International humanitarian laws studied (1)

Imphal, February 11 2014: A consultation programme on International Humanitarian Law and Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 was held today at Purum Tampak, Chandel district of Manipur. Santibala Elangbam, Secretary, Nupi Lup Yangdong; Hmangte Kumar, president Litan Village; PB Vincent, Assistant Head Master of Purum Tampak High School and Y.Romeo Chothe, Advisor North East Dialogue Forum attended the programme as presidium members. .WBasantakumar, Advoate and Adam Kharam of North East Dialogue Forum attended the event as resource persons. Speaking as a resource person, W.Basantakumar stated that common article 3 of Geneva Conventions, 1949 which prohibited violence to life and person, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; taking of hostages; outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment and the passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples shall become applicable in any situation of armed conflict. The various military operations carried out under certain code names in Manipur such as Operation Blue Bird (1987) Operation Sunny Vale (1993), Operation Loktak (1999), Operation Stinger (2005), Operation Tornado (2005), Operation Dragnet (2006), Operation Khengjoi or Somtal-I (2006), Operation Somtal-II (2007), and Operation Summer Storm (2009) are clear indication of existence of de facto armed conflict in Manipur which government of India so far denies, he said. Recalling the Heirangoithong Massacre (1984), Tera Bazar Massacre (1993), RMC Massacre (1995), Malom Massacre (2000), Oinam Massacre (1980), Ukhrul Massacres (1995), Bashikhong Massacre (1995), Churachandpur Massacres (1999), Nungleiban Massacre (1997), Tabokpikhong Massacre (1997), and the Tonsen Lamkhai Massacres (1999) etc, Basantakumar said that such genocidal acts are committed under the draconian AFSPA, 1958 in clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. He called upon the people to be united in the struggle to repeal AFSPA from the soil of India. Adam Kharam said that the people in the North Eastern states and Manipur in particular have been experiencing the violent armed conflict for the last more than 50 years. People experience the kind of human rights violations both from Indian Union and Manipur state security forces and armed non-state actors. Extrajudicial executions meaning killing of innocent civilians and armed cadres after apprehending them are serious human rights violations committed by the Indian State. Besides, many women were raped, raped and murdered, molested and killed by the Government’s security forces. He cited the bomb blast incidents at Lilong on 16th November, 2013 where 1 person was seriously injured, Pallel Lamkhai on 7th November, 2013 where 1 laborer was killed and 6 others were injured, Yaiskul on 30th October, 2013 where 2 persons were killed and 7 others were seriously injured and Nagamapal on 12th September, 2013 where 9 migrant laborers were killed and 11 others were injured. Police has claimed that these are all the handiworks of armed non-state actors said Mr.Adam. On the other hand, on March 24, 2008, three persons including a girl were killed and another girl left blind during indiscriminate firing by non-state armed cadres while a Thabal Chongba was in progress at Heirok Part I public ground. He appealed to the government of India to recognize the existence of armed conflict in Manipur and implement the International Humanitarian Law besides constituting the Special Investigation Team to investigate into the all cases of killing, torture, rape and other forms of human rights violations committed by Indian security forces. At the same time he also appealed to the armed opposition groups to respect and implement the International Humanitarian Law. At the end, he cautioned on the UN constituted Special International Tribunal if the situation worsens and International Humanitarian Law continues to be violated by the parties to the conflict in Manipur. The consultation programme recommended to urge both State and non-State actors to respect and implement the common article 3 of Geneva Conventions, 1949 and Additional Protocol-II of 1977 . Another recommendation was to urge the Government to establish Special Investigation Team to investigate into all cases of rape, torture and killing of innocent civilians, women and children and deliver justice to the victims and compensate them. (E-Pao 11/2/14)

 

4. Nido Taniam’s death: Home Minister orders CBI inquiry, four charged with murder  (1)

New Delhi: Home Minister SushilKumar Shinde on Tuesday ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the death of Arunachal teen Nido Taniam, who was allegedly mercilessly beaten by shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar area last month. The 19-year-old Arunachal Pradesh youth was beaten with iron rods and sticks in a South Delhi market. Yesterday, the post-mortem report of Nido Taniam had stated severe beating as the cause of death. The report further stated that the teen had nine injuries on his body which were caused by blunt trauma. Meanwhile, Delhi Police today told a court here that they have slapped the charge of murder against the four persons, one of whom was arrested today morning, a PTI report said. The police informed Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar that they booked accused Farman, Sunder, Pawan and Sunny Uppal under section 302 (murder) of IPC after the postmortem report revealed that Nido Tania died due to injuries to his head and face caused by a blunt object. Thereafter, the police moved an application for their fresh custody and quiz them for some time after the court’s permission. The accused were once again produced before the magistrate, who remanded the four to judicial custody till February 25, after the police did not seek their custodial interrogation. Sunny was arrested this morning while Farman, Sunder and Pawan were arrested on February 4 and produced before the court which had remanded them to judicial custody. The son of Congress MLA Nido Pavitra was declared dead in hospital a day after he was allegedly beaten by the shopkeepers. The incident took place when the teen had approached shopkeepers asking them for direction. However, they got into an altercation after the shopkeepers allegedly made fun of his hairstyle and passed racist comments. Furious students from Northeast had protested against the racial discrimination in the national capital. (Zee News 12/2/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

5. 78000 infants die of congenital heart disease in India every year, say doctors (3)

Agra: About 78,000 infants born with congenital heart disease in India die every year because of inadequate health care facilities in the country, experts said. “Every year 1.5 lakh infants are born in India with congenital heart disease,” Dr Murtaza Chisti, chief cardiac surgeon of the Mahatma Gandhi Cardiac and Critical Care Centre told reporters after conducting a medical camp here today. Due to lack of awareness, cases of congenital heart disease are on the rise in the country. “Work-related tension coupled with lifestyle changes of young people and people in age group of 30 to 40 years make them susceptible to heart attacks,” he said. “A controlled diet with minimal fatty and non-vegetarian food, non-consumption of sweets, coupled with adequate rest could reduce the incidence of heart problems, he said, adding that diabetes, high blood pressure, mental tension, increase in cholesterol were contributory causes for heart attacks. Dr ML Swarankar, chairman of the India Education Trust, said that India had the dubious distinction of having the largest number of deaths in Asia owing to heart attack. More and well-equipped cardiac centres were needed to bring down the number, he added. (Indian Express 9/2/14)

 

6. Disability bill divides rights groups (3)

New Delhi, Feb. 9: A disability rights bill the government tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Friday has not only angered activists by ignoring many of their recommendations but also split them. Javed Abidi is leading one side that is holding protests across Delhi demanding passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014, arguing that something is better than nothing. “If we oppose this bill, it will be delayed for two more years at least. It’s unfair to hold the entire sector to ransom over these differences,” said Abidi, convener of the Disability Rights Group. S.K. Rungta, general secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, differs. He “can’t understand the hurry for the bill’s introduction”. The activists had stood united two months ago when the cabinet cleared the draft bill that was to replace the existing 1995 law. Disappointed with the draft, the disability rights groups had together sent a list of 20 “non-negotiable” recommendations to the government. The government tabled the original draft in the House on Friday but clarified that night that the cabinet had approved half a dozen among the recommendations on Thursday and these would be tabled on Monday as a set of amendments. Some of the recommendations approved (going by the government clarification): Like government-run educational institutions, private ones too must have seat quotas for the differently abled. Disability certificates, issued by the states, must be valid across the country. Those denied clearance are the ones bothering activists like Rungta and Amba Salelkar of Inclusive Planet. Some of these are: The bill fails to define “low vision” so it can be distinguished from “blindness” and accorded a separate quota. Rungta narrated how all the 73 posts reserved for the blind during a recent railway recruitment drive for Group D staff went to those with low vision, with not a single blind candidate appointed. Activists also want distinctions made between deafness and hardness of hearing, and between serious locomotive disorders and marginal disabilities. The bill has increased the overall disability quota from 3 to 5 per cent but the rights groups wanted 6 per cent. The activists wanted abolition of the compulsory requirement of (court-approved) guardians for the mentally challenged, saying it should be a matter of choice. Instead, the bill has introduced “limited guardianship”, where the differently able person can contest the choice of guardian. The bill lacks a chapter on women. “The Supreme Court had ruled in 2009 that a mentally challenged woman can choose to have children but the bill says a severely disabled woman’s pregnancy can be terminated with her guardian’s consent,” Salelkar said. The bill has raised the number of disabilities from seven to 19 by including conditions such as haemophilia, thalassaemia, speech impairment and autism. It stipulates that the government research the causes of disabilities, promote methods of prevention, screen “at risk” children at least once a year, sponsor awareness campaigns, and ensure prenatal, peri-natal and post-natal care of mothers and babies. (The Telegraph 10/2/14)

 

7. Review verdict on medical negligence compensation, SC urged (3)

New Delhi: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to review its verdict on the disproportionate compensation imposed on doctors and hospitals for medical negligence. Citing the apex court’s 2013 verdict wherein a Kolkata-based hospital was ordered to pay a compensation of Rs.11.41 crore for medical negligence, the IMA argued that such rulings would deter doctors from taking bold decisions in their patients’ interests. The IMA is not against punishment to the guilty but is of the view that the quantum of punishment is such that it might become restraining for others to join this profession,” IMA national president Jitendra Bhai Patel told the media. “We will appreciate if the apex court accepts the review petition and reconsiders the decision”, he said. He said the Supreme Court should review the verdict as there was a thin line of demarcation between medical accident and negligence as medical treatment does not have any fixed procedure. “Treatment is entirely based on the patient’s condition, response to treatment which may vary from person to person besides knowledge and experience of the treating doctors,” he said. IMA secretary general Narendra Saini said the apex court judgment was a blow to the entire medical fraternity and has restrained young doctors from joining the profession in spite of completing their medical courses. “The judgment has come as a blow to medical professionals who are very new to the profession,” he said. “India currently needs more than six lakh doctors but such kind of decisions will frighten students from joining the profession. It is acting as an obstacle in the progress of health care in the country as already we are seeing a drop in the number of students joining medical courses,” Saini told IANS. According to the IMA, compensation should be based on parameters like earning of the hospital, earnings of doctors on whom the compensation is levied, severity of the patient’s disease and the chance of the patient’s survival without treatment. “There are also chances that if the apex court does not review the petition, there may be a lot of forged cases where patients claim compensation more than the expenses incurred,” Saini said. (Zee News 11/2/14)

 

8. 11% children malnourished in Maharashtra (3)

MUMBAI: Around 11% children in Maharashtra’s remote areas are still malnourished, revealed an Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) survey carried out across the state recently. Around 2% of them are severely malnourished, stated the survey that included over 52.53 lakh children from the state’s tribal belts. “Though the percentage of underweight kids had declined by around 8% in 2012 against 2005′s status, it is still a challenge to eradicate malnutrition completely,” said Vandana Krishna, director general of Rajmata Jijau Mission. “Our aim is to become first state in the country to eradicate malnutrition.” Women and child development minister Varsha Gaikwad on Tuesday announced a massive campaign against superstitious practices among people in tribal belts with the help of religious preachers (kirtankars). We are holding a workshop of over 600 preachers, saints and varkaris,” Gaikwad said. The day-long workshop will be held on February 13 at Devgad in Nevasa taluka in Ahmednagar. (Times of India 12/2/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

9. Tough time for patients as AIDS control staff strikes work (3)

LUCKNOW: The All India AIDS Control Employees Association’s indefinite strike since January 30 has affected services to patients. On Thursday, lab technicians, counselors and other staff from across the state, including, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Hardoi, Barabanki, Unnao, Sitapur, Banaras, Ghazipur and Baliya assembled in large numbers at KGMU demanding an immediate hike in their salary along with PF/DA/Maternity leave/medical benefits and risk allowance. While no medicines are being distributed to patients, new registrations are not being entertained either, making 10,000 HIV+ patients running from pillar to post to procure vital drugs. Speaking to TOI, Manish Pandey, a striking employee of National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) said though they were deeply concerned about the well-being of the patients, they will not join duty until their demands are met and all dues are paid to them. Not only in the ICTC (Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre ART) where the patients are tested and (Anti-retroviral Therapy), the base for treatment and management of HIV infection and AIDS, all STIC/PPTCT/DAPCU/SRL/SACS and blood bank services are not available either for more than a week. There are only two ART centre’s in the state capital, one at KGMU and the other at RML Hospital and both are currently closed for patients who have been recently diagnosed as HIV+. In view of the strike, patients are forced to move to private hospitals which are expensive and not equipped well enough. Pritam Kaur, president of Lucknow Positive (HIVAIDS) Women Welfare Society, said “the government officials dealing with the protesters must consider that lives of so many patients are at stake.” Dr D Himanshu, assistant professor at (KGMU), nodal centre, ART, said while the patients are being attended along with emergency cases, no new cases are being registered. This, he said, is a big problem. (Times of India 7/2/14)

 

10. HC comes to rescue of HIV-affected Bangladeshi (3)

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has come to the rescue of a HIV + Bangladeshi, who was granted bail in a case by a Tiruchi court, which imposed a condition that he produce two sureties from his country. Accepting the foreign national’s submission that he would furnish the sureties from Tiruchi, each for Rs.25,000, Justice S. Vaidyanathan has modified the lower court’s order. “When the court wants to grant a certain order, it should be in such a way that it is an executable one and not a mere order for the sake of order,” the judge observed. The Bangladeshi came to Tiruchi for the treatment of his son. On May 29 last year, he was charged with offences under the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act and criminal intimidation. He filed a bail application before the Judicial Magistrate No.III, Tiruchi. While granting the relief, the magistrate imposed a condition that the petitioner furnish two sureties from his native place, each for Rs. 50,000. The petitioner was also instructed to appear before the lower court daily for a month. Stating that the condition imposed on him was onerous, and that it would be difficult for him to arrange for sureties from his country, the petitioner approached the High Court. He cited Supreme Court decisions in his favour. Mr. Justice Vaidyanathan said the petitioner was willing to furnish two sureties from India, particularly from Tiruchi. Hence, he felt that the Judicial Magistrate’s order needed to be modified. The Bangladeshi national submitted that he was willing to appear before the lower court for 30 days after coming out on bail. He agreed to produce two sureties from Tiruchi, each for Rs.25,000. The judge accepted the submission and modified the bail order. (The Hindu 10/2/14)

 

11. HIV/Aids bill tabled in Rajya Sabha (3)

New Delhi: A long-awaited legislation that seeks to end stigma and discrimination against HIV positive persons in workplace, hospitals and society, while also ensuring their privacy was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The legislation encourages high-risk individuals like commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men and injectable drug users to come out in the open and seek medical care by exempting them from the purview of the bill. Health care workers, who counsel the high-risk individuals and provide them with condoms and clean syringe and needles, are exempted. “At present, India is estimated to have 2.39 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the third highest number after South Africa and Nigeria. Currently the epidemic is more prevalent in high risk groups. It is therefore important for these groups to access services such as treatment of sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing, condoms, clean needles and syringes to prevent transmission of HIV to the general population,” union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the statement of object and reasons of the bill. The bill prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on the HIV status and makes it clear a competent and positive person can be removed only if the individual possess “significant risk of transmission of HIV” to other persons in the workplace or if his identity is kept under wraps. As the route of transmission is primarily sexual, there is a stigma arising out of HIV infection and those affected by it, leading to discrimination. This includes denying access to health care, expulsion from jobs, refusing school admission for children and denying insurance and medical benefits both in public and private sector. The legislation prohibits “certain specific acts of HIV-related discrimination” and disclosure of HIV status to ensure confidentiality and privacy. The draft obligates establishments to provide safe working environment for HIV positive people, guard their rights, particularly that of women and children who are unfortunate victims of an infected male member of the family. Every state should appoint one or more Ombudsman on HIV/AIDS, who can probe violations of this act and give orders. There is also a special provision to ensure HIV positive women or children are not thrown out of the house by other members of the family. (Deccan Herald 11/2/14)

 

12. Regimen to prevent mother-to-child HIV spread (3)

New Delhi: Children of HIV positive mothers may have a lesser chance of contracting the deadly virus if the government’s plan to introduce a new multiple drug regimen for positive mothers takes off successfully. The regimen for curbing mother-to-child transmission of HIV was one of the components of the Rs 14,300-crore fourth phase of the national AIDS control programme that aims to halve the number of HIV-infected individuals from the 2007 level. “Normally, the rate of mother-to-child transmission of the virus varies between 15-40 per cent. With a single drug (Neviripine), the transmission rate is halved. But less than five per cent of the babies will carry the virus from the mother if the multi-drug regimen kicks in successfully,” said an official of the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco). Every year, there are 14,000 new HIV infections among Indian children, which exposes the limitation of the existing scheme under which a single drug is given to a HIV positive mother. By the end of 2014, Naco plans to detect and cover more than 80 per cent infected pregnant mothers in high prevalent states. This is likely to cover 30,000-40,000 positive mothers. “We will also introduce third line anti-retroviral therapy for those, who failed the second line. The move aims at increasing the life span of HIV positive patients. We will also scale up the second line of the ART,” Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here, while launching the programme. The first line of HIV drugs cost approximately Rs 5,500 per person every year, whereas the second line drugs for an infected individual costs Rs 15,000 per year. “The third line on the other hand would cost Rs 15,000-20,000 per person per month. We will need Rs 29 crore to roll out the programme in the first year,” Lov Verma, secretary in the Department of AIDS Control, told Deccan Herald. More HIV patients will receive free treatment as the government has expanded the eligibility parameter. According to the new criterion – recommended by the technical resource group of Naco – HIV positive persons with a CD4 count (a measure of viral load) of 500 would be eligible for free medicines. Several studies have indicated that HIV therapies are best started before the CD4 count falls below 350, which is the criterion Naco uses at present. The new criterion would bring in an additional 1-1.2 lakh HIV positive people under the ART net. (Deccan Herald 13/2/14)

 

CORRUPTION

13. After Delhi govt’s order, ACB files FIR in Rs 90-crore CWG street light scam (5)

New Delhi: The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) of Delhi on Thursday filed fresh FIR in the Rs 90-crore street-lightning project for the 2010 Commonwealth Games that were implemented during Sheila Dikshit’s reign. The move comes on a day when the AAP government, headed by Arvind Kejriwal, directed the anti-corruption branch to lodge an FIR in CWG related projects which a panel headed by a former CAG had indicted the then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The government had particularly asked ACB to probe the alleged irregularities in street light projects in which the Prime Minister-appointed Shunglu Committee had questioned certain decisions made by Dikshit. After a Cabinet meeting, senior Minister Manish Sisodia said the ACB has been told to conduct a thorough probe into the scam as there have been “strong findings” in it by CAG and Shunglu Committee. “The ACB has been directed to conduct an independent and thorough investigation and take action. ACB will file FIR in the case. Our motive is not to target a particular person,” Sisodia said. Registration of an FIR is the first step in the filing of formal charges. Thursday’s move was bound to needle its ally Congress. Law Minister Somnath Bharti said a number of Commonwealth Games related projects that were implemented during the reign of Dikshit will be probed by the ACB which functions under the Delhi Government. This is the second move against Dikshit by Kejriwal government this week. On Monday, it had recommended to President Pranab Mukherjee to issue an “advisory” to Dikshit based on a Lokayukta order for alleged wrongdoings in grant of provisional regularisation certificates to unauthorised colonies in 2008. The Lokayukta had recommended issuance of advisory to caution her against repeating such wrongdoings. Sisodia said investigation into the street lighting scam was closed at the level of preliminary inquiry though there were “strong findings” in the case by CAG and Shunglu Committee. The Shunglu Committee and CAG in their reports had mentioned about flouting of laid down rules at the instance of Dikshit in awarding of contract to certain firms for procurement of street lights. Dikshit had vehemently rejected findings of the reports. “It was strongly mentioned in the reports that many ineligible companies were made eligible through back doors and contracts were given to them. The then government had wasted Rs 31 crore,” alleged Sisodia. After taking over, Kejriwal had announced that his government will investigate all corruption cases, particularly the CWG scam. (Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

14. Corruption major stumbling block in progress, President says (5)

NEW DELHI: Terming corruption as a “major stumbling block” in the country’s progress, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday asked CVC to lead the way in cleansing the government. The President said while there has been no let up in the fight against corruption, it has to be acknowledged that only a limited success has been achieved in this regard. “Corruption remains a major stumbling block in the progress of our nation,” he said inaugurating a seminar organised on the occasion of golden jubilee celebrations of Central Vigilance Commission. Mukherjee said corruption has increased transaction costs, reduced efficiency of public services, distorted decision making processes and undermined the moral fibre of the society. “Corruption has reinforced inequities and limited access to public services by the common man, especially the poor,” he said. Asking the CVC to lead the way in cleansing the government and contribute to reversing the cynicism of public towards government functionaries, the President said he was confident the CVC will continue to function as a strong and an effective body, making useful contribution to enhancing probity in governance and checking corruption as well as mal-administration. Referring to the civil society’s “huge public outcry” over corruption in recent times, Mukherjee said, “The air is thick with despair and cynicism. There is an urgent need to restore the faith of our people in our governance system and the credibility of our institutions”. (Times of India 11/2/14)

 

15. Arvind Kejriwal’s Jan Lokpal Bill can be rejected by Lieutenant Governor.. (5)

New Delhi:  Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill confronts a new legal hurdle before it can be presented to the Delhi legislature for enactment. Sources have told NDTV that the Law Ministry believes the Lieutenant Governor is within his rights to reject or approve the bill as it has financial implications and will be partly funded by the Centre. Mr Kejriwal is adamant about presenting the bill on Sunday in a special open session at a city stadium, where he has invited the public. He has rejected the centre’s opinion that the bill must be vetted by the home ministry first as Parliament has already enacted a Lokpal law. Sources say the Law Ministry is of the opinion that Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung can withhold his assent, even if the bill is passed in the assembly, on grounds that it is “unconstitutional” and overlaps the central law. This legal opinion adds another layer to the political battle over the Jan Lokpal Bill, which was at the heart of Mr Kejriwal’s campaign for the Delhi election. The bill creates an ombudsman or “Lokpal” empowered to investigate allegations of corruption among government officers and prescribes a maximum punishment of life term. Ahead of the national election, due by May, no party wants to be seen as opposing an anti-corruption measure, even though the Jan Lokpal Bill has been described by its critics as an overreach.  Mr Kejriwal is believed to have conceded a major change to the bill to make it more acceptable to the BJP. (read) Sources say that the Chief Minister has amended the bill so that the ombudsman will not decide the punishment for a convicted office; a court will decide the penalty. The Congress, which provides external support to the Aam Aadmi Party government and does not want to be seen as the villain of the piece, may wait for the Lieutenant Governor to use his veto, say sources. (NDTV 12/2/14)

 

16. Railways lost Rs 4,300 crore in iron ore export scam (5)

NEW DELHI: Railways suffered revenue loss of around Rs 4,300 crore in 2008-2012 because of its failure to ensure proper documentation under the dual pricing system for transportation of iron ore, a CAG report tabled in Parliament said. The federal auditor reported revenue loss of Rs 2,487 crore in its 25th report (2013) while it had reported a revenue loss of Rs 1,796 crore for railways in its 2011-12 report. The auditor, which hinted at misuse of dual pricing system, contended that about Rs 15,540 crore was to be recovered as penalty and recovery from several iron export companies. Under the dual pricing introduced from May 2008, the cost of transportation of iron ore for export was on an average more than three times the cost of the transportation for domestic use. Railways had prescribed mandatory submission of certain documents to avail domestic rate. But CAG found that “the internal control system of the railways failed as it allowed the concerned parties to avail the domestic rate without submitting some the essential prescribed documents”.CAG said South Eastern Railways acknowledged a freight evasion of Rs 1,876 crore. The report suggests that railways allowed 358 parties to avail domestic rate for transportation of iron ore despite non-submission/partial submission of the prescribed documents which resulted in revenue loss to the cash-strapped transporter. CAG observed a number of deficiencies like booking of iron ore at domestic rate without obtaining any of the prescribed documents. While 153 parties did not submit any prescribed documents to avail domestic rate for carrying iron ore, 205 parties submitted some of the documents required for the concessional rate. Railways allowed 153 parties to avail the domestic rate without submitting any of the prescribed documents before booking and delivery of 699 rakes carrying iron ore during May 22, 2008 to March 31, 2012 which resulted in revenue loss of Rs 258.38 crore. The auditor has found that 205 parties availed the domestic rate without submitting some of the essential documents like the monthly excise returns, industrial entrepreneur certificate, affidavit, indemnity bonds. According to the report, 205 parties availed booking and delivery of 6,306 rakes carrying iron ore during May 2008 to March 2012. Railways permitted these parties to avail of the domestic rate despite non-submission of some of the essential prescribed documents resulting revenue loss of Rs 2,228.30 crore. CAG observed that the quantity of iron ore transported by rail for export declined by 44% during the period 2008-09 to 2011-12. Thus, prudency demanded that adequate safeguards in the form of procedures and checks be put in place against misuse of the dual pricing in iron ore traffic, it said. (Times of India 12/2/14)

 

TRIBALS

17. Will Fight Your Battles with You, Rahul Tells Tribals (6)

RANCHI: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Friday pledged support to the tribal people of Jharkhand, saying he would stand with them and fight their battles with them. Gandhi pledged his support to empowering the tribal people of Jharkhand, especially women. Holding an open discussion with tribal women who had come to the capital from all over the state, Gandhi patiently listened to their concerns and sought suggestions from them, said a party statement. “Adivasi (tribal) women must be empowered, I want to fight your fight with you and solve your problems” said Gandhi. He added that education, health and political empowerment were necessary to empower tribal women. He reiterated that panchayats need to be further strengthened and that he is committed towards increasing participation of women in politics. “I can see a number of women here who can be leaders, MLAs and MPs … the tribal people in India have evolved thinking,” he said. The Congress vice president has been engaging with various tribal groups from across the country. Recently, Gandhi had urged the union cabinet to accept the recommendations of the Balkrishna Renke Commission(2008) and the National Advisory Council (NAC) on empowering the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs) in the country, the statement said. (New Indian Express 8/2/14)

 

18. Adivasi Forum Appeals to President Against Polavaram (6)

HYDERABAD: The Adivasi Solidarity Forum has made an appeal to the President Pranab Mukherjee to take steps for withdrawal of the amendment sought to be made to the AP Reorganisation Bill to divide the tribal region by transferring scheduled villages from Khammam district to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. In a memorandum to the President, the forum said that the amendment seeks to to transfer all the villages of the mandals of Kukunoor, Velerpadu, Burgampadu, Chintoor, Kunavaram, and Vararamachandrapuram to the new state of Andhra Pradesh. All villages of Bhadrachalam mandal except revenue village of Bhadrachalam comprising Lord Rama temple also are proposed to be transferred to the state of AP. The transfer is being envisaged on the grounds that the villages would be submerged due to Polavaram project. The Forum wanted withdrawal of the hasty moves of according national status to the controversial Polavaram dam and transferring the villages from Scheduled area of Khammam to AP which is in gross violation of several laws of the land making adivasi people victims of cultural genocide. More than three lakh people belonging to Koya, Konda Reddy (ST), Scheduled Caste and other communities dependent on land and forest are going to be affected by the project. A great human tragedy and environmental disaster in the Eastern Ghats should be avoided. The cabinet decision on the AP Reorganisation Bill with regard to Polavaram project and the proposed amendments to it are arbitrary and in violation of Article 244 that provides mandatory process for administration and control of the Scheduled Areas in accordance with the Fifth Schedule which require consultation and approval of the Tribal Advisory Council in the state. The Forum argued that the Polavaram project is in violation of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which provides for ‘land for land’ in command area for the affected people under irrigation projects and protection to ensure that ‘’all benefits, including the reservation benefits available to the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes in the affected area shall continue in the resettlement area.” It is also mandatory for obtaining prior consent of Gram Sabhas or the Panchayats concerned in the Scheduled Area. The signatories to the memorandum were:  Adivasi Soliadrity Fourm convenor M Bharath Bhushan, co-convener P Trinadha Rao and Prof E Revathi of Centre for Economic and Social Studies. (Indian Express 11/2/14)

 

19. Inquiry on into alleged exploitation of Jarawa women (6)

Port Blair: Andaman and Nicobar administration has ordered an inquiry into reports, which alleged that the Jarawa tribe women were being sexually exploited by poachers for alcohol and marijuana. The Jarawas are one of the six endangered indigenous tribes of the Islands. “I have directed for a detailed inquiry into the incident after obtaining the recording, which a local media seems to be having. If anyone is found guilty, police has been directed to take action against them,” Lt Gen (retd) Ajay Kumar Singh, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands told a team of visiting journalists. He said the administration was conscious of the indigenous tribe present in the Islands and observed that the tribe which was around 230 to 250 before a decade has grown to around 400 now. Detailing on the strict vigil being observed by police, Singh said “Every convoy of vehicles (on Andaman Trunk Road) are being escorted by two police vehicles. Strict rules are put in place like even if the Jarawas come towards the moving vehicles, the drivers should not stop.” If they were any violations made by the vehicles, they stand to face imprisonment between three to seven years, he said. The Great Andaman Trunk Road, which connects Port Blair with the northern part of the Island passes through the dense forest that houses the Jarawas. The 400 plus Jarawas is estimated to have been living in an area spreading over 1,000 sq km. Offences by tourists are believed to be happening on this road. Though the Supreme Court had ordered the closure of the road, it revoked the order following the request of Andaman and Nicobar administration, which cited the thousands of mainstream population, which is living in the northern part of the Island and needed to travel to the Union territory capital of Port Blair often. Singh said the administration have been very strict on poachers into the area and recalled a recent incident in which a village Pradhan was also arrested. (Deccan Herald 12/2/14)

 

20. Governor to make presentation on tribal issues (6)

JAIPUR: Governor Margaret Alva will make a presentation before President Pranab Mukherjee on tribal related issues on February 13 where she will put forth recommendations of a group of governors constituted for the development of these areas. She along with all the governors from the states will participate in a two day conference convened by the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan on February 13 & 14. Alva will speak on behalf of the group constituted to look upon the fifth schedule of the Constitution. Governors of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, UP, Gujarat, Jharkhand, MP and Odisha are part of the group. “A meeting of the group took place sometime back at Raj Bhawan in Rajasthan. After discussions, a proposal will be handed over to President with several recommendations for ministries including tribal ministry and human resource and development ministry,” said Raman Nanda, media advisor to governor. Apart from it, governors will speak on other issues like security (internal and external), governors as bridge between Union and state, areas under fifth and sixth schedule, role of governor as a chancellor of educational institutions and disaster management. (Times of India 12/2/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

21. Activists launch hunger strike against Naxal violence (12)

NAGPUR: Three social activists from city on Saturday launched a three-day symbolic hunger strike to protest against Naxal violence in the heartland of rebel guerillas at Jimulgatta in Aheri tehsil. The activists had earlier participated in a ‘shodhyatra’ drive across the district in January to initiate dialogues with tribal population to generate feedback regarding the ground realities in remote places. The hunger strike, which would conclude on Monday, was initiated with an aim to launch a peaceful stir against the Naxals’ agenda of spreading terror in the tribal district which had witnessed a prolonged stretch of turbulence with rebels and security forces turning the scenic forested region into a battle zone. The hunger-strike is learnt to be an extended part of the ‘Shodhyatra’ drive which had been initiated to focus on developmental issues revolving around education, health, drinking water and other basic amenities. The latest efforts of Arvind Sovani and Rashmi Paraskar, both assistant professors of CP & Berar College, along with social worker Datta Shirke are being directed to send message across to the rebel camp, which had earlier opposed their ‘Shodhyatra’ to abjure violence. Following Shodhyatra, the group is now keen to take up primary education and push for construction of roads in the interiors as their future aims through filing PIL and other democratic measures. Sovani, who had been working in Gadchiroli on various issues for last few years, said that after Shodhyatra he was keen to start a symbolic protest against the Naxal violence in the strife-torn district. “In fact, we are keen to have a direct dialogue with the Naxals on violence to know their viewpoint on the issue and why they want to continue on the same path,” said Sovani. He stated that his choice of place for protest in the Naxal heartland was intended to arouse awareness regarding non-violence and highlight people’s need for development and infrastructure, apart from basic condition for sound living. Shirke said that their hunger strike garnered positive feedback so far with local residents visiting the venue. “Mangala Ajmer visited the venue and also spent some time with us protesting against the Naxal violence which claimed her husband Raju around a week ago. We were moved to see the widow joining us,” he said. The Shodhyatris have also expressed intention to take their protest to all such places where the rebels would eliminate local tribal or try to spread terror through subversive activities. (Times of India 9/2/14)

 

22. Two CRPF officials killed, 12 injured in Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Two CRPF officials, including a deputy commandant, were killed and 12 security personnel were injured in a landmine blast triggered by Naxals in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Sunday. The incident took place this morning in a forest near Bodhrajpadar village under Bhejji police station limits, Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar said. Constable Rajiv Rawat, belonging to the 219 Battalion of CRPF, and one of the two deputy commandants in the operational units have been killed. The identity of the deputy commandant is in the process of being established. “Two of our personnel including a deputy commandant-level officer have been killed. The entire operation was being led by senior officers,” CRPF Inspector General (Operations) HS Sidhu told PTI. Twelve security personnel, including a CRPF deputy commandant, seven other officials of the force and four state policemen, have been injured in the incident, he added. The evacuation process is on and two helicopters have been sent to retrieve the injured jawans, ASP Chandrakar said. A joint squad of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its specialised unit Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) and the district police personnel was engaged in an anti-Naxal operation in the region, which is around 500 km away from Raipur, for the past few days. Maoists triggered a landmine blast and opened fire on the security personnel, Chandrakar said. Maoists retreated as the security personnel retaliated and began to encircle them. (Zee News 9/2/14)

 

23. Five persons arrested for having Naxal ‘links’ (12)

Raipur: Five persons, including a hardcore Naxal who was part of the Jeeram Ghati masscare by Maoists last year in Bastar, have been arrested, informed Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta on Monday. A Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) is also among the persons arrested for providing medical aid to the insurgents, he said while addressing a news conference at Police Headquarters here .  The arrested Naxals have been identified as Santu Kunjam (30), Butturam Vatti (35) and Gopi Markam (19), who are residents of Bhanis and Dantewada, Jalandhar alias Jalen (33) and Malay Kumar (38) are residents of Bacheli Dantewada. Dr Malay Kumar Kanjilal is the RMP hailing from Malkangiri region of Odisha and had shifted to Bacheli in 2007, he said. Providing details on the involvement of the accused in Jheeram Ghati attack by Maoists in which several prominent state-level Congress leaders were killed, Gupta remarked: ‘On May 25, the Maoists had planned three ambushes- One in Jheeram Ghati, second in Bhuras Ghati and third in Satdhar Trisection where three roads meet from Sukma, Dantewada and Sathdhar meet. ‘The accused Santu Kunjam was in contact with Hunga over phone that night,’ the ADGP said.  Santu Kunjam is the henchman of a hardcore Naxal Hunga who is member of Maoist’s Special Zone Committee (SZC) and was also associated with another Naxal named Sanjay, he said. Three of them used to damage railway tracks in the region and had also triggered several blasts while being involved in killings of policemen. Kunjam was involved in attacking a CISF post in Dantewada besides looting weapons wherein 7 jawans were killed a few years back, the ADGP said. According to Gupta,  the arrest assumes significance as Santu used to control Naxal activities in a large area beginning from Kamalur, Kirandool, Akash Nagar till the Dantewada police line and Nakulnar. ‘Santu was involved in several murders, landmine blasts including killing of SHO Kirandool few years back through a bomb blast, ‘ the ADG maintained. “Kunjam had also triggered a blast while targetting a police vehicle during Congress party’s ‘Kalash Yatra’ in Bastar,” the ADGP claimed. He stated that under the influence of Hunga and Sanjay, the locals of the area where the accused lived had tried to stage a Chakka jam when police party reached the spot to arrest them. Jalen used to supply explosives to Naxals and operated illegal mines in the area. Gopi was a Naxal courier and planned blast near Jhirkha one day before polls in Chhattisgarh, the ADGP said. Gupta further said the the accused Dr Malay Kumar Kanjilal was in contact with Naxals through Jalen and used to supply medicines to insurgents. Malay used to prepare fake prescriptions so that medicines could be purchased for Naxals without any suspicion, the ADGP said. (Pioneer 11/2/14)

 

24. 43 from Naxal’s urban network held in Chhattisgarh in 5 years: Govt (12)

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday said that 43 people, who were part of the urban network of the Maoists, were arrested in the state during past five years. In a written reply to a question from senior Congress legislator Bhupesh Baghel in the state Assembly, Home Minister Ramsewak Paikra informed the House that as many as 43 people, including women, were arrested from 2009 till January 20 this year on charges of involvement in urban channel of Naxals. However, six of them were later exonerated while cases against 37 others were pending in the court of the law. As per the reply, seven alleged Naxal urban conduits were held in 2009 followed by two in 2010, eleven in 2011, six in 2012, eight in 2013 and nine in January this year. Essar company General Manager DBCS Verma, contractor B K Lala and school teacher Soni Sori were among those arrested in 2011. Last month, nine persons – Mohpal Dhruva, Baliram Usendi, Chaitram Darro, Sukhnath Nareti, Neeraj Chopra, Dharmendra Chopra, Ravi Kadiyam, Badri Gavde – all from Kanker district of north Bastar and Foolsingh Naag of Kondagaon were arrested in this connection, the reply said. In a written reply to another question by Leader of Opposition TS Singhdeo in connection with the arrests last month, Paikra informed the House that all the nine arrested were found involved in providing assistance to Naxal commander and divisional committee member Prabhakar. Cartridges, detonators, pistol, country made pistol, gelatin, fuse wire, Naxal literature, banner, posters, medicines, bills of commodities supplied to Naxals and cash were recovered from their possession, the reply mentioned. They were booked under provisions of Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, Explosives Substances Act and Arms Act, it added. (Zee News 13/2/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

25. How long will commuters pay levy for relief of Bangladesh refugees?… (13)

THANE: The Bombay High Court has asked the state government to explain for long will commuters using state-run public transport pay 15 paise surcharge for relief of refugees of the Bangladesh war. The surcharge, introduced by the state government in 1971, continues to be levied till date and some public transport agencies have even stopped depositing the collected levy in the state treasury. In their order, justice S J Vazifdar and B P Colabawalla directed the government to file an affidavit giving details to where it has utilised the Rs 442 crore it has collected through surcharge till date. The court observed that if the money collected from commuters is not deposited in the government then why has the government not taken action against the defaulting undertakings. “That means the government is not serious about this issue,” the court observed. The court passed this order while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by Vikrant Chandrahas Tawde, a Thane-based social activist after he got an RTI reply on the same. In his PIL, Tawde pointed out that though the levy was initially meant for Bangladesh refugees, some public transport agencies have not deposited the money collected with the state treasury. Instead, the money is used to pay the staff salaries, or has been diverted by the government to fund the populist food and nutrition scheme. TOI had highlighted this issue in its February 6 issue under title ‘Commuters still pay levy as relief for refugees of war that ended long ago’. The levy has been collected from passengers using public transport run by Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, Thane Municipal Transport, Pune Municipal Transport, Mira Bhayander Municipal Transport, Kolhapur Municipal Transport and Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Transport. The above collection data pertains to a period from 1974 to 2011.”Such diversion of money from one department to another requires a government resolution (GR). But, the finance department which sanctions the use and transfer of funds could not produce a GR to that effect when I asked for it through RTI,” said Tawde. “This means the money collected is still being used for Bangladesh refugees or if it is used for mid day meal programme, it is misappropriation of funds,” he added. Incidentally, Tawde has already sought legal intervention in the mid day meal scheme. (New Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

26. Election Commission starts drive to enrol Muzaffarnagar riot refugees in voter list (13)

MUZAFFARNAGAR: To facilitate the enrolment of people displaced during Muzaffarnagar riots in the electoral list, the Election Commission has launched a special drive in 22 villages where the riots’ victims have been rehabilitated. Nodal officers have been asked to carry out the task in the villages where the victims had been rehabilitated after riots in the district in September last year, acting district magistrate Ravinder Godbole said on Saturday. The villages where the drive is being carried out are Shahpur, Budhan, Jogiyakheri, Mandwara, Jolla, Vigyana, Habibpur, Sikri, Husainpur, Kala, Kalyanpur, Shikarpur, Harsoli, Baghra, Sanjak, Tawli, Riwavli, Nagla, Loee, Khampur, Basikala and Sarai. More than 60 people were killed and over 50,000 were displaced during the riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas. (Times of India 8/2/14)

 

27. Over 300,000 Iraqis displaced by violence: UN (13)

Baghdad: Up to 300,000 people fled their homes in two major cities in Iraq after six weeks of fighting between anti-government militants and security forces, the UN’s refugee agency said Wednesday. “Over the last six weeks up to 300,000 Iraqis, some 50,000 families, have been displaced due to insecurity around Fallujah and Ramadi,” Xinhua reported citing a UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) statement. Both the cities are in Iraq’s Anbar province. “Most of the displaced have fled to the outlying communities in Anbar to escape the fighting, while 60,000 persons have fled to more distant provinces,” the statement quoted UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming as saying at a press briefing in Geneva. The latest figures of displaced people in Iraq come at a time when the country still has 1.1 million people who were displaced from their homes by the violence and sectarian strife, the statement said. Anbar province has witnessed fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December last year. Sunnis in the region have been carrying out a year-long protest, accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalising them and its Shiite-dominated security forces of indiscriminately arresting, torturing and killing their relatives. (Zee News 12/2/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

28. Delhi Mazdoor Union protests outside Secretariat (14)

The Aam Aadmi Party’s election manifesto promising to do away with contractual jobs continues to be its biggest challenge ever since it formed the government in Delhi. Thursday saw several contract workers under the banner the Delhi Mazdoor Union, with representatives from the Delhi Metro and workers’ unions across the city, march towards the Secretariat demanding a meeting with Labour Minister Girish Soni.  Scores of demonstrations over the last few weeks forced the government to set up a high-level committee to recommend guidelines to regularise services of contractual employees. On Thursdays, the demonstrators asked the government to provide some relief to contract workers before the model code of conduct sets in for Lok Sabha polls. Mr. Soni said the government will act on the recommendations of the committee. “This is a policy matter. We will not be able to take action till the committee’s report is submitted,” Mr. Soni told the gathering. The confrontation between the two resulted in Mr. Soni walking off from the scene. “If you can bring in an anti-corruption law within a month-and-a-half after taking office, why can’t you fulfil one more promise you made in your manifesto?” said a worker. “The government should look into regularising contract workers, before the model code of conduct sets in for Lok Sabha polls,” he said. Moushumi Basu from the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, who was present at the demonstration, said the contract workers were demanding that the position be made permanent wherever work was perennial in nature. “The demand was simply to realise what the AAP had promised in its election manifesto,” Ms. Basu added. (The Hindu 7/2/14)

 

29. MGNREGS promotion scheme shows results (14)

New Delhi: Three months after the Union Ministry of Rural Development launched “Kaam Maango Abhiyan” aimed at capturing demand effectively for its flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the select districts where it is being implemented have started feeling the effect. The focus has been on six districts — Sitapur (Uttar Pradesh), Nashik (Maharashtra), Raichur (Karnataka), Katihar (Bihar), West Singhbum (Jharkhand) and Sundergarh (Odisha). The campaign covered nearly 2,700 panchayats in these districts, where 4,64,313 work applications and 71,189 job-card applications have been registered. A comparative analysis of demand for work there between November 2013 and January 2014 (the Abhiyan months) shows a 400 per cent increase from the previous corresponding period. Last week, Aruna Roy, eminent social activist and former National Advisory Council member, urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to intervene personally to give a “strong political push” to UPA’s flagship schemes. Her letter to Ms. Gandhi, who heads the council, refers to the MGNREGS, social security pensions, the Whistleblower Protection Bill and pre-legislative consultative process for all laws. With regard to the MGNREGS, Ms. Roy said that while crores of people had benefited from the scheme, “its implementation remains unfortunately suspect.” She said the “falling figures of employment” were “proof of the lack of administrative and political will” to run the scheme, and added that “disturbing reports are coming in from different States and districts facing a cash crunch and their consequent refusal to implement it as a true demand-based programme.” (The Hindu 7/2/14)

 

30. Labour Bureau to revise outdated wage, price indices (14)

NEW DELHI: The Labour Bureau has woken up to the need to revise wage and price indices, some of which have not been changed for half a century. These outdated indices are still being used to draw up policies and decide wages for workers, even though employment and consumption patterns have changed drastically since. The wage rate index, which is used for tracking wages in the manufacturing, plantation and mining industries, is based on the occupation pattern way back in 1963-65 while the consumer price indices for rural labour and agriculture labour have not been revised for a quarter century. The index for agriculture labour is the base for fixing wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The ministry of labour and employment has decided to revise the wage rate index with 2009-10 as the new base year following constant prodding by statistical bodies and a parliamentary panel. The ministry is also looking at updating the base year for the consumer price indices for both agriculture and rural labour to 2004-05, it said responding to a report prepared by the parliamentary standing committee on labour. “Occupation patterns have changed, the number of industries have gone up, existing sample units have lost their relevance,” the parliamentary committee said in its recent report. “It is necessary to revise and update the base of the wage rate index to truly represent the industrial structure of today.” The National Statistical Commission, which has also asked the Labour Bureau to update the indices, plans to urge the Reserve Bank of India to use the wage rate index to draw up its policies. “The wage price index is very important to draw up macroeconomic policies, to check whether the price inflation is spilling over to push up wages, called the wage price spiral,” said Pronab Sen, chairman of the commission. “We have met the Labour Bureau and asked them to revise it at the earliest. We have a meeting with the RBI in March where we would ask them to use it for policy decisions.” Sen said the government can easily do away with the consumer price indices for agriculture labour and rural labour and use the new CPI for the entire rural population, which has already been implemented by the Central Statistics Office, to revise wages under the rural employment programme. The weights assigned for both labour indices are based on the estimates of a survey conducted in 1986-87 on household consumption expenditure. “In nearly two decades that have passed, the consumption basket of rural workers has changed quite dramatically and so the most sensible way of using it would be to actually use the data we are collecting for CPI rural and re-weight it according to rural landless labour consumption pattern from the NSSO ( National Sample Survey Office) survey on household consumption expenditure,” Sen said. Food items account for as much as 69.15% weight in the CPI for agriculture labour. The new CPI rural has around 50% weight for food items based on a decline in household consumption spending on food from 64% in 1987 to 48.6% in 2011-12. (Economic Times 10/2/14)

 

31. 65k bonded labourers rescued from Karnataka (14)

BANGALORE: April 2013: Thirty-one children travelling in a KSRTC bus (KA-06 F 846) and Tata Sumo (TN-37 BU 6835) from Pavagada, Tumkur, to a textile mill in Tamil Nadu are rescued after an NGO intercepts them. Cut to February 6, 2014: Five children from a family of seven are rescued from alleged bonded labour at a brick kiln in Hoskote, about 28 km from Bangalore. Even in this day and age, the bane of bonded labour is a cruel reality, and statistics only confirm that. Data from the Union ministry of labour and employment shows that till 2013 March-end, close to 65,000 bonded labourers have been rescued in Karnataka. While many children remain out of school even after implementation of the Right to Education Act, the ignominy of bonded labour continues to be a blot on the state’s image. Most of the victims are not aware that they are being forced to work illegally. Officials cite a lack of awareness as the prime reason, given the practical difficulty in identifying such cases. “Those rescued in Karnataka are among the 2,97,372 people freed across the country,” said an official, adding that when such people are rescued, they are also identified for rehabilitation. But not all rescued are available for rehabilitation, as some of them run away fearing repercussions and often land in similar jobs in a different place. Rescue and rehabilitation of such people are done through a centrally sponsored scheme, in operation since 1978, under which every labourer is given Rs 20,000. Of the close to 3 lakh people rescued by the government, 2.77 lakh have been rehabilitated. The remaining have gone missing again. In Karnataka, 58,000 people have been rehabilitated. It’s shocking that in post-millenial times, bonded labour still lingers in some pockets of the country. It shows the pathetic failure of the state, and those who governed it for so long, as well as the attitude of present-day administrators who don’t make it their mission in work and life to eradicate this practice. It’s now up to NGOs and other well-meaning organisations to take up the cause of these victims and ensure their upliftment. End this blot on our image of a vibrant India.  (Times of India 11/2/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

32. Helpline data shows child abuse, exploitation on the rise in district (14)

NOIDA: Calls received on the official children’s helpline in the district – 1098 – have revealed that their abuse and exploitation is on rise. The data was released by FXB India Suraksha-Childline, an NGO working under the Union ministry of woman and child development, shows that the 24-hour emergency phone outreach service for children in need of care and protection received a total of 427 calls last year. Childline, in association with the local police and district labour department, not only rescued 101 child labourers but also restored 107 missing children to their parents. Seven children who were sexually and physically abused were also rescued. However, the telephone calls also included a number of parents who registered complaints of their missing children and others found begging on the roads. Senior programme officer of Childline, Satya Prakash , said that the NGO’s helpline got calls from people informing about children being sexually and physically abused at various places. “Last year, we conducted a few raids in association with the local police and district labour department and rescued seven children,” Prakash said. Prakash said that apart from distress calls some parents also asked for sponsorship of their children as it had become difficult for them to nurture them due to abject poverty. The NGO also received calls on behalf of children who needed medical help. Other calls included children caught in conflict with the law, like juvenile delinquents. NGO officials said they also received 29 calls from parents seeking emotional support for their children. The anti trafficking cell of district police said efforts are being made to curb the menace of human trafficking in the district. Anti human trafficking cell inspector, Karan Singh Chauhan, said that after getting information police have been conducting raids and arresting traffickers from time to time. “We are planning to conduct awareness campaigns at different places so that people take notice about the issue,” he said. (Times of India 8/2/14)

 

33. India Fares Poorly in Welfare of Children: Report (14)

BANGALORE: While India has a legal and policy framework to ensure welfare of children, it falls behind South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives when it comes to achieving results in education, health and protection, according to a report. ‘The South Asian Report on the Child-friendliness of Governments,’ which was published recently by child rights advocacy groups, evaluates the efforts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka towards fulfilling the obligations in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Of the eight nations, India is ranked on top for having done the most towards establishing and enabling legal and policy frameworks for children, closely followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, India is ranked 7th in child health outcomes and 4th in education outcomes and child protection outcomes–a result of, “ineffective implementation of an enabling structural framework.” India’s standing in the region has taken a hit in health, education and protection aspects. For example, India takes the last place when it comes to tackling malnutrition, behind Bangladesh (7), Afghanistan (6) and Pakistan (5). “In Bangladesh and India, the results remain of serious concern, although both countries have done rather well on reducing stunting,” the report states. “Almost eight million children in India have not yet been immunised against measles. Routine immunisation remains low in several areas due to lack of planning at the district level, there is a lack of funds to conduct outreach and poor supervision and monitoring systems to track progress,” the report observes.  On the education front, India is ranked 7th in the ‘quality of learning’ index. “The relatively poor quality of teaching in India is reflected in the performance of students: nearly half of the children in grade five are unable to read a second-grade text. Teachers’ absenteeism is another concern, as is the availability of trained teachers for pre-primary and primary education,” the report states. India’s failure to arrest instances of child marriage, which was banned way back in 1929, is evident in the report, which ranks the country 6th behind Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan. Between 2005-2010, 47 per cent girls were married by 18, and between 2000-2010, 18 per cent were married off by 15. “Most child marriages take place in rural areas and economic factors such as poverty and dowry, gender norms and expectations, concerns about girls’ safety and family honour, and the lack of educational opportunities for girls–are all factors contributing to the difficulty of ending the practice,” the report notes. These results are not in line with the expected outcomes given that India spends $16326.94 million per annum, highest in South Asia, on education, health, social security, housing and community affairs. Nagasimha G Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, says the biggest challenge children face is the attitude shown by leaders and parents. “India signed the UNCRC in 1992 and it was also ratified by way of making its articles a part of our laws. However, the problem is the attitude we show towards children who are always tomorrows citizens,” he said. The report suggests revisiting the legal framework and ensuring the full translation of the CRC and its optional protocols into legally enforceable rights under national laws. (New Indian Express 10/2/14)

 

34. Child rights commission member-less since 2011 (14)

The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), which was started in 2008, has been member-less since December 2011. After the first set of members completed their three-year term, no one new has been appointed. The commission, a quasi-judicial body, covers cases relating to the RTE Act 2009, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 and Juvenile Justice Act 2006. The commission’s former members feel lack of interest is the reason. “The government isn’t interested in taking care of children. Also, while it’s mandatory to have a commission, there’s no punishment for not appointing one. So, the government is being lax about it,” said Suryakant Kulkarni, a former member. However, commission secretary AN Tripathi argued that the absence (of members) has not affected the functioning. “Not a single case was disposed of in the three years when the entire commission was functional. As of January 31, all the complaints that came to the commission are under process,” he said. The commission disposed of 498 cases last year. State minister for women and child welfare Varsha Gaikwad said, “Work is on to appoint members and will be done at the earliest. (DNA10/2/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

35. 24000 Rape Cases pending HCs; 309 in apex court (19)

Nearly 24,000 rape cases are pending in various high courts of the country while more than 8000 of them have been disposed of in the last three years, government said on Friday. As on December 31, 2013, as many as 309 cases related to sexual harassment, kidnapping abduction were pending in the Supreme Court, while 687 similar cases were disposed of between 2011-13 by the apex court. Law minister Kapil Sibal informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that 23,792 cases related to rape were pending in 21 high courts as on September 30, 2012. He said, between October, 2009 and September, 2012, 8,772 cases were disposed of by the high courts. A maximum of 8,215 cases are pending in the Allahabad high court which disposed of 39 cases in three years between 2009 and 2012. In the Delhi high court, where 924 cases related to rape were pending till the end of September, 2012, disposed of 1135 cases. The Karnataka high court, where 243 cases are pending, disposed of 4,522 cases in three years. The Sikkim high court has no rape case pending as it disposed of two cases in three years. In the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape case, the Centre had requested the chief justices of the high courts and state chief ministers to set up fast track courts for speedy trial of pending rape cases in district or subordinate courts with high pendency and to monitor the progress of the cases to ensure their timely disposal. (Hindustan Times 7/2/14)

 

36. J&K cabinet approves extending provisions of the 73rd constitutional amendment (19)

JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir cabinet on Saturday approved extending provisions of the 73rd constitutional amendment to the state for empowering panchayati raj institutions, fulfilling a demand of Congress and opposition. Congress, which is part of the ruling alliance, was quick to claim victory after a cabinet meeting presided by chief minister Omar Abdullah took the decision with the party noting that its vice-president Rahul Gandhi had been vociferously raising the demand. “Provisions of the 73rd amendment (of the Constitution) have been approved in full spirits. All the provisions, which were demanded by Congress, have been implemented in letter and spirit. It is victory of Congress and AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi,” Tourism minister GA Mir said. Congress and the opposition BJP had been demanding inclusion of 73rd Amendment which would give decision making and financial powers to panchayats. It gives panchayats autonomy in planning and execution of development work and utilization of funds. The demand was fuelled after panchayat elections were successfully conducted in the state in 2011 after three decades. Responding to the demands, Omar had recently said that a “fully empowered panchayat system in the state is my goal”.Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress committee (JKPCC) chief spokesman Ravinder Sharma welcomed the decision. “Congress has finally won a long drawn battle over implementation of the 73rd amendment in J&K to empower panchayati raj institutions,” Sharma said. (Times of India 8/2/14)

 

37. Judicial Bill: Law ministry wants to drop clause that ‘gags’ Judges (19)

New Delhi: In a major concession to the judiciary, the law ministry has moved a cabinet note to drop the controversial clause debarring judges from making “unwarranted comments” during the hearing process against the conduct of any constitutional authority. The move is, however, likely to face resistance from other sections of the government as the cabinet had once earlier decided against dropping this clause despite strong protests from the higher judiciary. The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, it may be noted, has already cleared the Lok Sabha in March 2012 and is pending in the Rajya Sabha. This controversial clause, which is part of the section on values in judicial life, states that no judge shall “make unwarranted comments against conduct of any constitutional or statutory authority or statutory bodies or statutory institutions or any chairperson or member or officer thereof, or on matters which are pending or likely to arise for judicial determination”. Later, although the Lok Sabha had passed it, the government once again considered the issue after protests from the higher judiciary but decided to retain the clause with a minor change to ensure that it does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution, which deals with equality before law. This meant the clause would just refer to conduct of any “constitutional body and other persons”.  Much of the provocation in the government stemmed from continuous criticism and remarks against the Prime Minister and his cabinet during the hearings of alleged scam cases, which would eventually make their way into public discourse, building perceptions well before any order or ruling is out. This also found support among MPs as the standing committee suggested that this provision be explicitly stated. On the other hand, the higher judiciary argued that such a move effectively meant “gagging” the judiciary and ought to be removed. The law ministry has been in the centre of this heated exchange and has now decided to weigh in in favour of the higher judiciary. According to law ministry sources, issues relating to judges making unwarranted comments and their fallout must be addressed by building strong conventions through dialogue and not by making laws. The fresh view from the ministry is that the government should not appear to gag the judges. With the cabinet note now in circulation, the issue is all set to be on the frontburner again. (Indian Express 9/2/14)

 

38. Disability bill divides rights groups (19)

New Delhi, Feb. 9: A disability rights bill the government tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Friday has not only angered activists by ignoring many of their recommendations but also split them. Javed Abidi is leading one side that is holding protests across Delhi demanding passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014, arguing that something is better than nothing. “If we oppose this bill, it will be delayed for two more years at least. It’s unfair to hold the entire sector to ransom over these differences,” said Abidi, convener of the Disability Rights Group. S.K. Rungta, general secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, differs. He “can’t understand the hurry for the bill’s introduction”. The activists had stood united two months ago when the cabinet cleared the draft bill that was to replace the existing 1995 law. Disappointed with the draft, the disability rights groups had together sent a list of 20 “non-negotiable” recommendations to the government. The government tabled the original draft in the House on Friday but clarified that night that the cabinet had approved half a dozen among the recommendations on Thursday and these would be tabled on Monday as a set of amendments. Some of the recommendations approved (going by the government clarification): Like government-run educational institutions, private ones too must have seat quotas for the differently abled. Disability certificates, issued by the states, must be valid across the country. Those denied clearance are the ones bothering activists like Rungta and Amba Salelkar of Inclusive Planet. Some of these are: The bill fails to define “low vision” so it can be distinguished from “blindness” and accorded a separate quota. Rungta narrated how all the 73 posts reserved for the blind during a recent railway recruitment drive for Group D staff went to those with low vision, with not a single blind candidate appointed. Activists also want distinctions made between deafness and hardness of hearing, and between serious locomotive disorders and marginal disabilities. The bill has increased the overall disability quota from 3 to 5 per cent but the rights groups wanted 6 per cent. The activists wanted abolition of the compulsory requirement of (court-approved) guardians for the mentally challenged, saying it should be a matter of choice. Instead, the bill has introduced “limited guardianship”, where the differently able person can contest the choice of guardian. The bill lacks a chapter on women. “The Supreme Court had ruled in 2009 that a mentally challenged woman can choose to have children but the bill says a severely disabled woman’s pregnancy can be terminated with her guardian’s consent,” Salelkar said. The bill has raised the number of disabilities from seven to 19 by including conditions such as haemophilia, thalassaemia, speech impairment and autism. It stipulates that the government research the causes of disabilities, promote methods of prevention, screen “at risk” children at least once a year, sponsor awareness campaigns, and ensure prenatal, peri-natal and post-natal care of mothers and babies. (The Telegraph 10/2/14)

 

39. HC directs for criminal PIL to be listed as civil petition (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday directed that a criminal PIL seeking appointment of Mumbai Police Commissioner be listed as a civil petition before an appropriate bench. Stating that it was a civil matter and wrongly listed as criminal PIL, the High Court bench, headed by Justice P V Hardas, said that this argument should be heard on merit and ordered that the PIL be listed as a civil petition before an appropriate bench. The criminal PIL, filed by one Ketan Tirodkar, said that the police morale was down as the Police Commissioner’s post in Mumbai was lying vacant since February 1 after Satyapal Singh took voluntary retirement. It prayed for appointment of police chief immediately. The petitioner made a grievance before the High Court, alleging that the Maharashtra Government had not set up a Police Establishment Board to deal with postings and transfers of police officers in keeping with a 2006 Supreme Court directive. The petitioner cited the 2006 Supreme Court judgement in the case of Prakash Singh versus Union Government which ruled that every state should set up a Police Establishment Board to decide on transfers, postings and promotions of police officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Supreme Court judgement had also asked the state governments not to interfere with the decision of the Board unless in exceptional cases and that too after recording reasons for doing so, the petitioner pointed out. Satyapal Singh had resigned recently to join politics and his post has been lying vacant so far. The PIL referred to media reports that the new police commissioner has not been appointed yet because of differences between the ruling alliance partners Congress and NCP. The petitioner stated that both Congress and NCP were trying to push minority community candidates. If such appointments were made for political considerations, then the people will have to pay a heavy price. The PIL sought an affidavit from the state, stating reasons for dropping a post of Director General of Police in 2012-13 and allowing Satyapal Singh to continue as Mumbai Police Commissioner while denying him a promotion as a DGP. The PIL also sought a direction to the government to submit minutes of meetings held since January 31 to decide on the Commissioner and furnish list of eligible candidates to the Court. (Zee News 11/2/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

40. Low literacy, poverty still haunting tribal women: experts (21)

GUNTUR: Even as the government has introduced several welfare schemes, laws and acts for uplift of Scheduled Tribes (STs), the status of tribal women continues to remain pathetic in remote villages. Womenfolk and girls of primitive tribal groups are suffering with malnutrition, low literacy, poverty and lack of information on government activities and welfare schemes, said experts at the two-day seminar on ‘Status of Tribal Women in India – Issues, Challenges and Strategies for Empowerment’. Faculty and students of Department of Sociology and Social Work of Acharya Nagarjuna University (ANU) in association with UGC is organising the seminar on the university campus on February 7 and 8. Addressing the researchers, faculty and students after inaugurating the seminar on Friday, ANU Vice-Chancellor K. Viyyanna Rao said modern culture has driven tribes from their traditions and some dominated groups grabbed their lands violating laws. (The Hindu 8/2/14)

 

41. ‘We Talk About Removing Poverty, But They Remove Poor People’ (21)

Bardoli: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Saturday attacked Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate runs a pro-rich government in the state. “We (the Congress) want to give power to people. Here only one person has any power,” Rahul Gandhi said at a rally here. He said: “In Gujarat, the government is only for rich people. Only five to six people run the entire government.” Asserting that the state needs a government for the poor, the Congress leader said: “Many small enterprises have shut down. Here only one person is empowered and no one else, that is the difference between us (Congress) and them (BJP).” “They (BJP) take the entire credit for development of the state. This state needs a government for poor people. We talk about removing poverty, but they remove poor people,” Rahul Gandhi said. Taking a dig at Modi for his claim of making it big from being a tea vendor, Rahul Gandhi said: “Somebody makes tea, some drive taxi, some work in farms. We have to respect everybody. The tea vendor, the farmers and the labourer. But one who makes a fool of people, should not be respected.” (New Indian Express 8/2/14)

 

42. Education will help eradicate poverty, says Modi (21)

Chennai: Education is the route to eradicate poverty and every child in India must be educated, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Chennai on Sunday. Speaking at the 9th convocation of the SRM University near Chennai, Modi said: “This is an era of knowledge. This is the only potent route to fight poverty. We have to review our commitment to education.” He also said that the private sector should be given a free hand to promote education. However, the government should set up major institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in all states. Reminding the students that very few people were able to access good educational institutions in the country, Modi urged them help the underprivileged. Modi said 65% of India’s population was under 35 years, and youths needed to embrace skill and speed. Skill development, he said, was the need of the hour and should get priority. “Japan is a small country but is running bullet trains,” he said. He said India was a diverse country with diverse natural resources which have to be harnessed efficiently. Naural resources should be mined in a sustainable manner while the rivers must be linked. Stressing the importance of developing scientific temper, Modi said research and development as well as innovations have to be encouraged. Modi advised the students to create in India companies like Google and Microsoft. Avinash Chander, scientific advisor to the defence minister and director general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, called for setting up of more R and D institutions in India. He said sustained efforts were needed so that the armed forces have cutting edge technologies. Earlier, SRM University founder chancellor TR Pachamuthu said that 70% of its students hailed from outside Tamil Nadu. Its student population was drawn from 47 countries, he said. SRM University was also one of the few universities in the world to put a satellite in space, Pachamuthu said. (Hindustan Times 9/2/14)

 

43. Only education can rid Muslims of poverty, says Harsh Mander (21)

Hyderabad: The Muslim community faced problems of early dropouts, discrimination and the denial of participation in mixed schools, he said, while participating at a workshop on Muslim Children’s Issues and Right to Education here on Tuesday A concerted and conscious effort was required to wean Muslim children away from workplaces to the educational stream. For this, both the government and the community had to come forward, said Harsh Mander, director of the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi. “Unless the children are equipped to do better, they will never get out of the poverty trap,” he said, delivering the keynote address at a workshop on Muslim Children’s Issues and Right to Education here on Tuesday. The workshop was organised by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (Manuu) and child rights body ‘Save the Children’. The Muslim community was faced with early dropout of children, discrimination and the denial of participation in mixed schools. Muslims, who constituted highest self-employed community, saw no point in studying further with discrimination at every level, leading to the community being excluded from the growing economy. The community in Kashmir felt let down at the lack of uproar over the incidents of rape in the Valley vis-à-vis the outrage following the Delhi incident, Mr. Mander said. He called for opening a large number of residential schools for child labour and street children, strong enforcement of Child Labour Act and conscious promotion of mixed education. State Minorities Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan expressed concern over rising discrimination in matters connected with Muslims, pointing out how compounder posts remained unfilled in Unani medicine hospitals while those in Ayurvedic and Homeopathic ones were filled straightaway. CSSEIP Director Prof. Kancha Ilaiah said child labour among Muslims was the highest in the country with situation in Ahmedabad being the worst. He regretted the poor intake in the six residential schools set up for minorities in the State and said this made the situation vulnerable for child labour. Manuu pro-vice chancellor, Dr. Khwaja M. Shahid, also spoke. (The Hindu 12/2/14)

 

Posted by admin at 10 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. NHRC issues notice to Railway Ministry (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the railway ministry on the toilet system in trains that leads to open defecation, a petitioner said Monday. Acting on a complaint of Odisha-based activist Akhand, the commission has directed the railway board chairman to file a report within four weeks. “The toilets in trains contribute to a major chunk of open defecation which litters on railway tracks,” Akhand told a news agency. Indian Railways daily runs 8,700 trains, reaching 7,000 stations and handling 2.5 crore of passengers per day, thereby adding to the open defecation menace. “The existing toilet system in the coaches discharges excreta directly to the ground and the railway tracks. The consequences include unacceptable hygienic conditions, particularly at railway stations,” he said. “Due to open defecation there are high risks of water-borne or sanitation-related diseases,” alleged Akhand. The petitioner urged the rights panel to issue the order to the ministry to install bio-toilets or any other advanced systems in trains to avoid open defecation. (Zee News 4/2/14)

 

2. Jharkhand: More than 100 juveniles in jails (1)

Ranchi: More than 100 juvenile offenders have been languishing in three different jails of Jharkhand because there is either not enough proof of their ages or the police have not documented investigations properly, a survey has said. The survey carried out by Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) said the number of such minors could be more once they study other jails in the state.  During their visits to the three jails, the JSCPCR members found 57 juveniles in Dhanbad jail, 47 in Palamu and 16 in Lohardagga have been booked for petty criminal offences and have been serving rigorous imprisonment. The JSCPCR has been conducting the survey in central and district jails of the state to find out the number of minors behind bars. Once completed, the report would be sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). HT has access to the preliminary findings of the commission.  “The final figures that would emerge after completion of our survey would be startling,” said Sanjay Mishra, JSPCR member. He said the reason why so many minors are in jails is that junior ranking police officers had little knowledge of Juvenile Justice Act. The NHRC had recently directed its wings in all states to find out the status of execution of Juvenile Justice Act. It was brought to NHRC’s notice that Jharkhand police, in a hurry to dispose of cases, often sends minors to jails instead of remand homes. They do not take the pains to verify their ages. Mishra added that in several cases, minors have been passed off as 19-year-olds, and referred to courts. A case in point is a 14 year-old undertrial in Palamu Central Jail. The boy was picked up after a family feud turned violent. Though the boy looks every inch a minor, the police arrested him and mentioned his age to be 19.  Since the boy did not go to any school or possessed any government document certifying his age, there was no way the people could contest the police claim.“Most of these minors languishing in jail are accused in small criminal offences like coal thefts, pick pocketing and group clashes,” said Mishra. The JSCRPC chairperson Roop Laxmi Munda said they have sought explanations from district administrative and police officials concerned for the grave lapses. “We have asked them to form a review board comprising respective civil surgeons of the districts to verify the ages of the juvenile under trials,” he said. According to the guidelines of Juvenile Justice Act, a minor shall be produced before a JJ Board if he claims so and produces documentary evidences to prove his age. (Hindustan Times 6/2/14)

 

3. District judge, rights panel member visit Viyyur Jail (1)

Thrishur: The judge recorded statements of the convicts in the T.P. Chandrasekharan murder case following a complaint that they had been tortured by jail officials. The relatives of the convicts had filed a complaint at the district court alleging torture of the nine convicts in the jail. In the petition, the kin had sought the intervention of the judge. Accompanied by his gunman, the judge reached the jail around 8 a.m. even before the jail superintendent and other senior officials reached the jail. Instead of calling the inmates to the jail superintendent’s room, the judge himself visited the cells. He first visited the Nigerian inmates at the prison and later visited the convicts in the T.P. Chandrasekharan murder case. The judge left the jail by 9.30 a.m. State Human Rights Commission member R. Natarajan also visited the jail and recorded the complaints of the convicts in the Chandrasekharan murder case. After the visit of rights panel member, relatives of the convicts called off the three-day fast in front of the jail in protest against alleged torture of the convicts. Mr. Natarajan visited the jail by 12 noon. He also spoke to the convicts and took their statements. The jail superintendent was directed to be present at a sitting of the rights commission on February 17. He also called on the relatives of the convicts. (The Hindu 7/2/14)

 

4. Disabilities rights Bill retrograde: activists (1)

NEW DELHI: The Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, tabled in the Rajya Sabha, has evoked sharp reactions from disabilities rights activists across the country. The Hindu, in a report, “New Bill to strengthen definition of disabilities,” on February 9, has said that under pressure from disability rights activists, the government is likely to introduce 16 amendments in the Bill on Monday. The government had tabled, in a hurry, an older version of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha as the amendments approved by the Cabinet late on Thursday could not be incorporated in the draft. The Chennai-based Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), a conglomerate of disability rights activists, says the Bill is “regressive and retrograde,” and does not adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) in its true spirit. In a statement here on Sunday, the DRA and several other organisations said Section 110 of the Bill provided that its provisions shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law in force, which effectively meant that all laws which actively discriminated against persons with disabilities remained untouched. This violated the State’s obligation under the U.N. convention to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constituted such discrimination. “According to the UNCRPD, state parties are to grant an unconditional right to equality and non-discrimination to all persons with disabilities, on a par with others. In this Bill, the Right of Equality is curtailed under Section 3(3), which says the right against discrimination exists ‘unless it can be shown that the impugned act or omission is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.’” The terms “proportionate means” and “legitimate aim,” it said, are highly subjective and can perpetuate discrimination. Further, the statement said, the UNCRPD lays down specific obligations of the State while discussing multiple discrimination faced by women with disabilities. States are obliged to take measures to ensure that they enjoy fully and equally all human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, the Bill fails to acknowledge these beyond a cursory “hat tip” in Section 3(2), which says the appropriate government shall take special measures to protect the rights of women and children with disability and also take steps to utilise the capacity of persons with disabilities by providing an appropriate environment. This is limited to “protection” of rights and not empowerment. Importantly, the DRA sought political representation for differently-abled people to ensure that their voices were heard. “There are some local laws and executive orders that disallow persons with disabilities from contesting elections,” Rajiv, a legal expert with DRA said. (The Hindu 10/2/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

5. RTI Commissioner deplores lack of public awareness (1)

Chittor: The State Commissioner for the Right to Information Act, S. Intihaz Ahmed, on Wednesday deplored that though the RTI Act had come into existence eight years ago, public awareness on the Act was negligible. The Commissioner was in Chittoor on an official visit and addressed a press conference. He called on voluntary organisations to play a crucial role in educating people. He said steps would be mooted to hold district coordination meetings periodically with the district revenue officer as the nodal officer. He directed officials to form coordination panels with the participation of voluntary bodies and RTI activists. (The Hindu 6/2/14)

 

6. Protests for quick passage of Whistleblowers protection bill (1)

New Delhi: Scores of activists and kin of those who failed to receive protection after exposing corruption on Friday demanded early passage of the whistleblowers bill pending in Parliament. Families of several whistleblowers held a demonstration at India Gate here, displaying photographs of their slain relatives, including Bihar’s engineer Satyendra Dubey and demanded early passage of the legislation aimed at providing security to those who expose corruption. They also marched from India Gate to Jantar Mantar, where they held a candle light vigil in support of their demand. The Grievance Redress bill (The Right of Citizens to Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill) and the Whistleblowers Protection bill have been pending in Parliament for several years. Both the bills will lapse if they are not passed in the ongoing session of Parliament, Anjali Bhardwaj, associated with National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information, said. The protesters also met Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad among others, who assured them that the bills would be top priority for them and their parties will support their passage, Bhardwaj said. The protesters appealed to all MPs to allow Parliament to function and to debate these bills. (Zee News 8/2/14)

 

7. Info panel is soft on erring PIOs, say RTI activists (1)

CHENNAI: The Right to Information is losing its sheen in the state, thanks to the State Information Commission’s kid-glove approach towards public information officers (PIOs) in government establishments who deliberately deny information. RTI activists in the state say most PIOs and first appellate authorities deny information to people, thereby forcing them to knock on the doors of the information panel by filing second appeals. The information commission needs to take serious view of PIOs and first appellate authorities refusing to give information to applicants , despite records or documents being available with them. “Such acts are borne out of mala fide intentions. It is not sufficient if the information commission merely orders PIOs to furnish information to the applicant. Only if punishment is meted out will the PIOs dispose of as many applications as possible,” said a former information commissioner. If the information commission is tough with PIOs, very few second appeals would reach the commission and they would primarily relate to non-availability of documents and information and interpretation of exemption clauses, he said. On the contrary, when information commissioners are slack in punishing erring PIOs, the officials would pass the buck, forcing a large number of RTI applicants to file second appeals before the commission. If it is not checked, the commission would get drowned in such appeals, said RTI activist T Retnapandian of FACT India, an NGO. As the workload increases, the commission sits on applications for months together, citing lack of staff, he said. For instance, a senior IAS official said an application relating to his service was pending for more than 15 months. At times even the commission fails to render justice to RTI applicants. Recently, an applicant, K Senthil Kumar, who approached the commission on appeal seeking a certified copy of a lease agreement between himself and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department, was refused help. Chief information commissioner K S Sripathi refused to react to activists’ charge. “I do not want to react to such charges. Let the activists see the positive aspects and the number of case disposals the commission has done,” he said. (Times of India 9/2/14)

 

8. RTI Activists Hold Public Hearing to Discuss Issues Related to Act (1)

HYDERABAD: Some of the commissioners nominated to the State Information Commission have little administrative experience and, while dealing with technical issues, it would be better if the requests are assigned to people with administrative background, Right to Information activists have suggested. At a public hearing on RTI Act organised by the United Forum for RTI Campaign (UFRTI) and RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) as part of a nationwide survey here on Sunday, the activists from different parts of the state discussed whether people are able to easily access the information they seek under the RTI Act, performance of the Information Commission, issues they face. They also discussed if implementation of the RTI Act resulted in any systemic changes in the government. Narrating his experience how information through RTI has brought about changes in his village, Kutumba Reddy, an employee and  native of Mallecheruvu in Nalgonda district, said 11 cement industries, which surround his village, had promised to develop the village on various fronts but did not keep the promise. “We sought information about the funds the gram panchayat receives from the companies and the kind of initiatives the companies took up. Though the companies gave some money to the panchayat, it was not being utilised. We made all this information  public which prompted the factories to act upon their promises. Now a cement factory has come forward to erect safe drinking water plants in the village,” he said. Pointing out the problems that he faced when he sought information from a mandal parishad development officer (MPDO) about the funds that his gram panchayat receives and the way the money is spent, Sudhakar, a farmer from Karimnagar district, said that the MPDO did not respond to his RTI requests though the collector asked him to provide the required information. “Only after the State Commission had intervened did I get the required information. It used to take at least a year after filing an RTI request to get some information. Now with the intervention of media and the state commission the procedure is completed within the stipulated time,” he said. Speaking about the obstacles they face, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, co-convener, UFRTI- AP, said, “Some RTI requests are delayed to deter the applicants from seeking information and in some cases exorbitant fee is charged citing some reasons.” Not just the public, even officials needed to be made aware about RTI, he added. (New Indian Express 10/2/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

9. Eight Arrested for Human Trafficking (1)

PHULBANI: Town police on Saturday arrested eight persons including four women from Sagadia Sahi area under Town police limits for their alleged involvement in human trafficking in the locality. The arrest followed a complaint by a minor girl that some non-Odia persons of Sagadia Sahi including some women were trying to take her out of the State on the pretext of marrying her to a person of Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh. Police sources said four person from Madhya Pradesh have been frequently coming to the district to trap poor young girls with promises of gold ornaments, money and a married life. Once the girls agree to go with them, they are sold to customers in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattishgarh. The persons arrested have been identified as Dhirajsing Thakur, Pavan Singh, Badri Prasad Kushwah, Sambhu Ahirwal under Khurai police limits of Madhya Pradesh. The women arrested are Ranjita Naik, Tripura Naik, Mamata Naik and Rati Bai under Phulbani town police limits. Rati Bai wife of Sambhu Ahirwal who belongs to the Sagadia Sahi had allegedly assist the traffickers in getting young poor girls from the locality, police said. The racket has been active in the area for about one year, said the IIC of Town police station Umakanta Pradhan. The arrested persons were remanded to judicial custody after their bail applications were rejected by the SDJM Court, Phulbani. (New Indian Express 4/2/14)

 

10. Trafficked Ranchi girls rescued in Delhi, one held (1)

RANCHI: Two trafficked girls from Ranchi were rescued in Delhi-NCR on Thursday when police teams from Ranchi, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh conducted raids, jointly with an NGO, at two places. An 18-year-old girl was rescued from a house in Ghaziabad. Rishi Kant, member of Shakti Vahini, an NGO that was part of the rescue team, said, “The girl informed us that she was trafficked by one Ravinder Kumar Rathi alias Akash Rathi and his wife Fulkriya Rathi, four years ago. She was then made to work as domestic help at Sandeep Madaan’s house in Ghaziabad from where she was rescued.” Rishi said the girl also mentioned that her employer used to pay her salary of Rs 2,700 to Ravinder every month in cheque. But her parents did not receive any money so far. Another 19-year-old girl was rescued from West Enclave area in Delhi. The girl said she was trafficked by Ravinder, the same person who was involved in the earlier trafficking case, six years ago. She was kept in a placement agency – Goodwill Placement Agency – for a night and the next day she was sent to work at a house. During these six years, she was not paid for her work. “The girls were trafficked and then made to work in houses without any payment. Besides, they were confined to the house they worked in and not allowed to step out. This is not just an issue of trafficking but also bonded labour and action should be taken against the employers as well,” said Rishi. Accused of trafficking, Ravinder has been arrested by Delhi Police under different cases. Rishi said, “Police sources say that Ravinder has trafficked around 50 girls in the past four years and both the victims were trafficked along with a group of girls.” (Times of India 7/2/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

11. ‘Media plays divisive role in conflict areas’ (1)

New Delhi: In conflict areas such as Jammu and Kashmir, the media gets squeezed into a tight spot, is subjected to different pulls of political arm twisting and often offers a divisive discourse rather than playing the bridging role, said Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin on Thursday at a session on Women in Conflict Zones at the National Consultation on Women and Media organised by the government’s High Level Committee on the Status of Women. Ms. Bhasin felt it is important to locate how the media is positioned within the State. Between the three narratives of India’s nationalist interest, Pakistan’s nationalist interest and the Kashmiri nationalist interest the human element often gets diluted. This is further reinforced by inherent societal prejudices and the landlocked geography of the region, which results in a lack of gender sensitivity. The editor recalled the incidents of sexual violence in village Kunan Poshpura in 1991 and in Shopian in 2009 that are “etched deeply in the psyche of women in this militarised zone”. She said that apart from being symbols of vulnerability of women, the Press Council report on Shopian had not helped. Syeda Afshana, who has been teaching media students in Kashmir for a decade, said that though women are now more visible in the classroom and also as journalists, there is a serious lack of them in the peace process. In the same way there is less coverage of women within the social dynamics of change and conflict, whether it is about widows, rape survivors, husbands missing or orphaned girls. She recommended that conflict sensitive reporting should be such that it does not escalate the violence and instead tries to achieve conflict transformation. Adivasi journalist from Jharkhand, Dayamani Barla felt that for villagers fighting for their land, forest and water rights their region was the conflict zone. While the national media focuses on women when sexual violence takes place, it fails in covering the most important social issues such as majority of women being anaemic and children with malnutrition. She said that there was a need to understand that the rural population also wanted progress, but not at the cost of serious violations of community rights. Teresa Rehman, who runs online newsmagazine Thumbprint that focuses on the North East region, felt that those reporting from this conflict zone are mostly left to their own devices by media managements. She said the region was ghettoised as a monolith and out of the radar of the national media. Only myths and stereotypes appear on the region. She gave the example of the shooting incident against Arunachal Times Associate Editor Thongam Rina and the trauma she is still experiencing in the face of complete lack of a support system. “We don’t have a uniform media, but there is a uniform media curriculum for students,” she said recommending that media training must incorporate local issues so that future journalists know how to deal with what is going to happen in their area, especially if it is a conflict zone. The two-day National Consultation saw participation of women journalists from all over the country. The valedictory function was marked by the presence of senior and young journalists looking back and at the future. Among others, the most noted was veteran journalist Usha Rai who related her 50 years in the profession and how the scenario had changed for women. “There were two kinds of biases that the early woman journalists had to confront — that of their male colleagues who questioned their seriousness and ability to do a ‘man’s job’ and that of parents who insisted that even if they worked in a newspaper they must return home before sunset,” she said pointing out that though women in English journalism have gone far, their regional language counterparts are still struggling for rights and recognition. (The Hindu 6/2/14)

 

12. SC upholds recommendations of Majithia Wage Board (1)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today dismissed all writ petitions moved by  newspaper managements against the Majithia wage board for journalists and non-journalist employees of newspaper establishments. It ordered the owners to pay their employees the wages as revised/determined by the wage board payable from 11.11.2011 when the Government of India notified the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards.  All the arrears up to March, 2014 shall be paid to all eligible persons in four equal instalments within a period of one year. The revised wages will become payable from April, 2014. The judgment written by Chief Justice P Sathasivam on behalf of  a three-member bench said that the concept of ‘variable pay’ contained in the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission has been incorporated into the Wage Board recommendations to ensure that the wages of the newspaper employees are at par with those employees working in other Government sectors. Such incorporation was made by the Majithia Wage Board after careful consideration, in order to ensure equitable treatment to employees of newspaper establishments, and it was well within its rights to do so. The unanimous judgment further stated that the Wage Board has recommended grant of 100% neutralisation of dearness allowance. The Fifth Pay Commission granted the same in 1996. Since then, public sector undertakings, banks and even the private sector are all granting  100%  neutralisation  of  dearness  allowance. (Business Standard 7/2/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

13. Dalit Students Back Teacher, Stage Stir (2)

TIRUNELVELI: Tension prevailed at a government school in Ambasamudram here on Thursday, after 40 Dalit students boycotted classes to express solidarity with a teacher from their community, who was allegedly abused by the school authorities for questioning them for forcing Dalit children to clean toilets in the school. The students claimed that Vasanthi (name changed), a Dalit and a part-time teacher at the school, took up the issue with the school administration, and irked by this, the school headmistress and a few other teachers belonging to an intermediate caste, began insulting Vasanthi by calling her by caste. To express solidarity with the teacher who had taken up their cause, the students had informed their parents that they would boycott classes. They were joined by their parents, who picketed the institution demanding action against the staff. According to the father of a student, Schedule Caste (SC) children are often asked to do menial jobs at the school and are punished if they failed to do so. On information, Ambasamudram inspector Ponnuchamy and tahsildar Sethuramalingam reached the school and pacified the protestors. Mannarkoil panchayat president Shanmugavel, Ambasamudram Panchayat Union president Sivagurunathan, CPM member Sudalaimani and local leaders Balasubramanian and Ponnuchamy also participated in the talks.(New Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

14. 22 Dalits Arrested for Damaging Property (2)

VELLORE: Policemen from Cheyyar sub-division have arrested a total 22 Dalits on Saturday for damaging public property in and around Cheyyar during a protest condemning the desecration of Dr Ambedkar Statue recently. According to police, the arrested people had staged the protest in connection with the desecration of the statue on January 26 and also destroyed public properties and felled trees to block roads. They had also hurled stones at government buses and created a ruckus. “After registering a case, we arrested them,” said Additional Superintendent of Police of Tiruvannamalai D Mahendra Varman. (New Indian Express 4/2/14)

 

15. MPs, dalit bodies thank Sonia Gandhi for clearing air on quotas (2)

NEW DELHI: The rumblings over Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi’s “end caste reservation” call continued, with MPs and dalit organizations meeting Sonia Gandhi and thanking her for clearing the confusion over the party’s policy on caste quotas. In a surprise move, Sonia issued a detailed statement reiterating the importance of reservation for backward classes and said it was required to fight the oppression and prejudice of caste system. The statement came in the wake of Dwivedi’s statement that Congress should end caste-based reservations and replace it with quota for the poor across communities. Leaders within Congress and the opposition slammed Dwivedi’s demand, putting the ruling camp in the dock because the views of a senior leader like him were seen as indicative of a possible policy move to end the quota system. Sonia’s statement was aimed at quelling the day-long speculation. A group of dalit organizations met Sonia and thanked her for reiterating the party’s faith in reservations. That the issue had raised fears of political costs was evident from the way senior dalit MPs complimented the party chief. Eight MPs — Selja, P L Punia, B L Mungekar, Mohinder Singh Kaype, Union ministers Panabaka Lakshmi and J D Seelam, Ishwar Singh and Vijaylakshmi – visited her. K Raju, chairman of the Scheduled Castes department of Congress, said Sonia told the visiting leaders that the party was committed to passing a bunch of legislations for dalit welfare like the amendments to Prevention of Atrocities Act, reservation in promotions, law to provide statutory framework for reservations, and the proposed bill to ensure that central ministries earmark funds for dalit welfare in proportion to their population. Senior Congress leaders said Dwivedi’s statement, though a personal opinion, in its short life, resulted in misgivings among dalits and could be exploited by the opposition to campaign against the party among the marginalized classes. They said the party chief’s decision to intervene and put an end to the debate was an astute move. (Times of India 7/2/14)

 

16. Modi pitches BJP as ‘third alternative’ in Kerala (2)

Kochi: The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, on Sunday virtually launched his party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha election in Kerala, presenting his version of a third political alternative and economic model for the State. He also reached out to Dalits and backward classes by seeking to debunk the Ranganath Misra Commission’s report on reservation for minorities. Mr. Modi utilised two major functions, in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, to set the agenda for the BJP in the State. Addressing a mammoth rally on the Shanghumugham beach here, he refined the BJP’s traditional stand against the Left Democratic Front and the United Democratic Front, squarely blaming the formations for the State’s developmental lag. “It is in Kerala that a third alternative is required against the LDF and the UDF and not at the national level,” he said. He sought to draw a difference in governance in Gujarat in the last decade and that in Kerala, which had been ruled alternately by the LDF and the UDF. The Kochi function, organised by a faction of the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha, defined the platform the BJP would adopt in the State. He dwelled on the insecurities of the Dalit communities, which were facing an identity crisis because of the move to bestow the scheduled caste status on those belonging to other religions as per the Misra Commission’s report. Mr. Modi met Thomas Mar Athanasios, a Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Church. However, the Metropolitan said the meeting was an informal one. He also met the former Supreme Court judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer. (The Hindu 9/2/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

17.  ‘New Act ensures rehabilitation and resettlement of land-losers’ (4)

Gulbarga: Rashmy Nair, associate professor, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, and retired judge I.S. Antin of the Karnataka Judicial Academy have said that with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which replaced the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the rehabilitation and resettlement of land-losers has been made mandatory by the government and the agencies to whom the land is allotted. Speaking at a one-day workshop on the new Act, organised by the Administrative Training Institute here on Monday for Revenue officials and special land acquisition officers, Dr. Nair and Mr. Antin said that other countries such as China had included provision for rehabilitation and resettlement of land-losers long ago, but India had lagged behind in providing justice to land-losers. Mr. Antin said the old Act only had provision for fair compensation for land-losers, but the new Act assured rehabilitation and resettlement of land-losers. The Social Impact Assessment Committees, which have been made mandatory at the district-level, have been entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the provision in a transparent and effective manner. Dr. Nair, in her address, said that more than 6.6 crore people were displaced after 1974 due to acquisition of their lands for different projects by the government. One of the reasons for the delay in taking up these projects was the absence of the rehabilitation and resettlement component. Several provisions that were pro land-losers were included in the Act. There were also strict provisions in case the land was not utilised for the purpose for which it was acquired within five years after the allotment. The land-losers would also get a higher price for their land and assured rehabilitation and resettlement of their displaced families. The payment of compensation should be made within the time frame fixed by the government and a provision of charging penal interest for the non-payment of compensation has been included in the Act. Dr. Nair said that for agricultural land acquired, the government would have to pay Rs. 2,000 per month for 20 years as compensation apart from the usual compensation paid for the land acquired. For tribal people, monthly compensation has been fixed at Rs. 3,000. In urban areas, if the acquired land was used for urbanisation purposes, 20 per cent of the developed land should be allotted to the land-loser compulsorily as per the Act, Dr. Nair said. Deputy Commissioner N.V. Prasad inaugurated the workshop. (The Hindu 4/2/14)

 

18. Jokatte villagers fume over sulphur, coke units at MSEZ (4)

Mangalore: Demanding the scrapping of the “polluting” Sulphur and Coke units at the Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ), several villagers from Jokatte and surrounding areas staged a day-long block of the road leading to the industrial area here on Tuesday. A huge line of loading trucks lined the roads leading to the entrance of the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Limited (MRPL) Phase III plant, where the protestors – gathering under the banners of the Jokatte Citizens’ Committee and Popular Front of India – had camped themselves. Though the plants are nearing completion – in fact, the Sulphur plant is awaiting approval for commissioning – villagers said they were intensifying their protests now as they had “gotten to know the nature of the plants only now”. B.S. Sharief, former president of the Jokatte Gram Panchayat, estimated that around 2,000 households nearby were affected by the construction activities. The residents demanded that the construction stop before the district administration or MRPL authorities start negotiations for them. The protestors claimed that the plant had received not approval from either environmental agencies or from the Jokatte Gram Panchayat. The villagers said, “We have given a lot of our land to the companies coming up in MSEZ. The least they can do is ensure the villages next to theirs have basic amenities. Even under their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), MRPL has not done anything for Jokatte,” said Mr. Sharief. Senior officials of MRPL have said environmental laws “made it mandatory” to remove sulphur from diesel and other petroleum products. “There is nothing new in the sulphur plant at Phase III. We already have three such plants in Phase I and we have not received particular emission complaints about them…the sulphur is in solid form and can be handled with care,” he said. The coke plant produces lumped coal that can be transported in covered trucks, he said. The company claimed nearly Rs. 1.52 crore has been spent on asphalting roads, Rs. 5 lakh for an anganwadi, and Rs. 5.2 lakh for scholarships and environmental campaigns at government schools in the area. (The Hindu 5/2/14)

 

19. Land Acquisition Act triggers row in IDA, farmers demand more (4)

INDORE: The new Land Acquisition Act passed by Parliament in 2013 has opened a pandora’s box and cast its shadow on ongoing projects of Indore Development Authority (IDA) as farmers who had earlier entered into land acquisition agreement are demanding higher compensation or cancellation of the agreement. Several farmers had entered into agreement with IDA over parting their land on Super Corridor for upcoming projects. IDA is in a fix as state government has not spelt out rules under the Land Acquisition Act in the state. “The Act was passed by Parliament and now it is a law but rules are to be formulated by state government. Till now rules have not been formed and we have no clear guideline on how to deal with farmers,” said Lalwani. He admitted that new land acquisition act has affected IDA and it will take some time to asses the impact of new law. On Wednesday farmers of villages including Bangarda, Palakhedi, Limbodagiri, Bhawrasal and Tigria Badshah who had given their land for scheme No. 176 on Super Corridor reached IDA office and registered their objection. Most farmers came with their lawyers and insisted on getting compensation accordance with the new act.Depalpur MLA Manoj Patel, who had come along with farmers, said there are many issues related to farmers and they have come to discuss it with IDA board. He stressed that interest of the farmers will be safeguarded. Kamal Nandwani of Palakhedi whose land is coming under scheme No. 176 said, “I don’t want to give land for the project as it is my only source of income.” Nandwani, however said he has no problem in parting with land if he gets compensation as per the new law. Similarly Manoj Radhakrishna and Rekha Gopal said they are willing to give a portion of their land for construction of road but they are not willing to part with remaining agricultural land. (Times of India 6/2/14)

 

20. Land Losers Demand Hike in Compensation Package (4)

PARADIP: Hundreds of land losers for the proposed industries on the outskirts of the town under the banner of Ban Bihari Krushak Ekata Manch (BBKEM) have vowed to intensify the agitation if their demands including hike in the compensation for land are not fulfilled in 15 days. They demanded that compensation should be fixed at `50 lakh per acre. Harekrushna Pradhan and Balkrishna Jena, leaders of the Manch, alleged that Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) has acquired thousands of acres of land in Siju and Rangiagarh revenue villages for different industries. But villagers are ignorant about the industries. While IDCO acquired land at throwaway price, it sold those to the industries at higher price. IDCO has acquired nearly 300 acres of land in Siju village for oil refinery project while Deepak Fertilizers Limited has acquired nearly 10 acres in Bagdia for its project at Paradip. Land valuation in the two villages has not been revised for the last 83 years. IDCO acquired land at old rate for which the farmers sustained loss of lakhs of rupees, the leaders claimed. The Manch members had staged a demonstration in front of Kujang tehsil office in 2011 to press their 15-point charter of demands including hike in the rate of compensation, employment to locals in the projects, rehabilitation packages and other benefits. (New Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

21. Dalit Christians renew demand for scheduled caste status (7)

KOLKATA: Despite their decades-long demand, the central government is yet to decide on giving scheduled caste status to Dalit Christians. The National Council of Churches in India (An umbrella organization of 30 churches in the country – feels that it is time the government addressed the issue and provided justice to them. The community here considers the demand for SC status to Dalit Christians the “the longest struggle in independent India”. The call surfaced once again as National Council of Churches in India observed its centenary celebration. “Reservation should not be affected by religious status. Dalits who converted to Sikhism and Buddhism are given Scheduled Caste status. This is discrimination against Christians,” said Sunil Raj Philip, convenor of NCCI centenary celebration. Earlier last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Christian leaders and promised to resolve the issue, after Christians and Muslims protested in New Delhi demanding SC status to Dalit Christians and Muslims as recommended by Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission. “There has not been any progress after that and we are awaiting responses from the government,” Raj Philip said. The government referred the issue to the national Commission for religious and Linguistic Minorities or Ranganath Mishra Commission in 2004. The commission submitted its report in 2007 and the report was tabled in the parliament in 2009. According to Raj Philip,12 state governments and Union Territories have recommended the issue of granting SC status to Dalit Christians. Responding to a petition filed in 2004 Supreme Court had also asked the central government for its response. But it is yet to respond to that,” he said. Meanwhile, the national councils of churches in the neighbouring countries have decided to start dialogues with administrations in respective countries to address the issues affecting Christians. “We will campaign for protection of human rights in all of the neighbouring countries. We will also try to provide help wherever possible. We will initiate dialogues with the administrations to reach a solution,” said Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of NCCI. NCCI has denied reports that the NCCI president and member churches endorse the leadership and candidacy of Narendra Modi. “NCCI, being the ecumenical body of member churches from different traditions, does not endorse any political party or leader,” a statement said. (Times of India 4/2/14)

 

22. Christians must wait one year to file for divorce, Karnataka high court rules (7)

BANGALORE: The separation period required for a Christian couple to file a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent will be one year, the Karnataka high court ruled on Monday. The court disposed of public interest litigation relating to Section 10A (1) of the Divorce Act, 1869, (applicable to Christians) in the light of a 2010 verdict of a division bench of the Kerala high court. The Kerala court had read down the ‘two years’ separation period in Section 10 A to ‘one year’ so as to bring the same in conformity with Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, Section 32B of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and Section 28 of the Special Marriage Act. A division bench headed by Chief Justice DH Waghela noted that the Kerala court judgment has become the law of land in the light of an apex court judgment which says that any verdict of a high court holds good for the entire country unless the same is challenged in the apex court. The bench also noted that the Centre, which was a respondent before the Kerala court, did not challenge the said judgment. During the hearing, counsel for the Archdiocese of Bangalore said that the dissolution of a Christian marriage by divorce by mutual consent or by decree of court is not at all recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). “But realizing that a ‘marriage’ could be brought about with underlying defects or shortcomings or other disqualification, the RCC has procedure for annulment of marriage. Annulment by church is the only way of termination of marriage recognized by the RCC,” he said. The PIL was filed by Shivakumar, who challenged the norm under Section 10A of the Divorce act prescribing a two-year period prior to filling of petition for divorce by Christians. The petitioner contended that a two-year separation period is arbitrary as the Special Marriages Act, the Hindu Marriage Act and the Parsi Marriage Act have a one-year separation period clause. The Kerala high court had said: “Having considered all the relevant circumstances, we are of the opinion that the stipulation of a higher period of two years of mandatory minimum separate residence for those to whom the Divorce Act applies, in contra-distinction to those similarly placed to whom Sec 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, Sec 32B of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act and Sec 28 of the Special Marriage Act would apply, offends the mandate of equality and right to life under Arts14 and 21 of the Constitution.” (Times of India 4/2/14)

 

23. Communal incidents up by 30%, UP tops list (7)

New Delhi: As the government’s attempts to table the communal violence Bill were stalled by the opposition on Wednesday, fresh data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs shows a steep 30 per cent rise in the number of communal violence incidents in 2013 as compared to 2012, with the maximum number of cases being reported from Uttar Pradesh. In reply to a question in Parliament, the home ministry on Wednesday said the total number of cases reported in 2013 was 823, up from 668 incidents in 2012. According to the ministry, 133 people were killed and 2,269 injured in such violence in 2013 against 94 and 2,117 respectively in 2012. The worst-hit state was Uttar Pradesh, which recorded 247 incidents in 2013 as compared to 118 in 2012. Besides UP, Bihar saw an increase in the number of communal violence incidents — 63 cases in 2013 against 21 in 2012. Gujarat showed a marginal increase, from 57 incidents in 2012 to 68 in 2013. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also contributed to the rise in cases. Dhule in Maharashtra witnessed the worst riots while in Karnataka and MP, sporadic cases of violence were reported. Tamil Nadu also registered a rise in number of cases — 36 incidents in 2013 as compared to 14 in 2012. In Rajasthan, 52 incidents were reported in 2013 as compared to 37 in 2012. Soon after the last year’s Muzaffarnagar riots, the Centre had issued advisory to all states asking to take measures and strengthen ways to curb these incidents. According to the home ministry, the communal polarisation is being stroked to vitiate the atmosphere for political gains and needs to be checked immediately. (Indian Express 6/2/14)

 

24. State Minorities Commission Bill Passed (7)

Thiruvananthapuram: Aiming at the welfare of the  minority communities in the state, the Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed The Kerala State Commission for Minorities Bill on the lines of the National Minorities Commission Bill enacted by the Parliament in May, 1992.  Replying to the discussions on the Bill,  Minister for Minorities Welfare Manajalamkuzhi Ali said it was an irony that Kerala which had been boasting about the better living conditions of minority communities had delayed the enactment of   such a Bill while many of the states had already set up minority commissions. However, Opposition Deputy Leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Bill was lacking teeth and ineffectual in nature. He called for the government to join hands with the Opposition to provide reservation for minority communities in the aided schools. He pointed out that the government lacked the  will to do so as it was under pressure from caste and community, religious  forces. Kodiyeri said that his party’s view was that economically backward among the forward castes also should be given 10 per cent reservation in government jobs. If it was denied, the fundamentalist elements  would  position these communities  against minorities.  Referring to the comments by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi that Left parties were appeasing the minorities, Kodiyeri said Left parties always had a tradition of protecting minorities.  He claimed credit for the Left in providing reservation for Muslim community for the first time in the country. (New Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

25. BSP picks Muslims for top party posts in riot-hit dists (7)

Lucknow: A fortnight after BSP chief Mayawati gave a call for Dalit-Muslim unity to defeat the BJP, her party has appointed only Muslims as vice-presidents in most of the districts in the riot-hit region of western Uttar Pradesh. The party’s district unit has only one post of vice-president.  The post of the district president is held by a Scheduled Caste leader while most of the V-Ps in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat, Saharanpur, Sambhal, Amroha, Rampur, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Ghaziabad and Hapur are now Muslims.  Sources said the emergence of Muslims in the party organisation in so many districts simultaneously is unprecedented. as the BSP had always given token representation to other communities while keeping the SCs at the helm. The formula of Dalit president and Muslim vice-president has been implemented in the district units of Mathura, Kushinagar and Sitapur as well.  “Now, these V-Ps will be the faces of the BSP among Muslims and will definitely help the party in reaching out to their community,” said a party leader. “We already have leaders like Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Munquad Ali at senior posts. These Muslim faces at district level will send out the message that the party is giving importance to the community,” he said. Addressing BSP’s Savdhan Maharally in Lucknow on January 15, Mayawati had said there was a need for Dalit-Muslim bhaichara to keep the BJP away from power and urged the Muslims to vote for BSP. (Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

26. Law Minister Kapil Sibal defends Communal Violence Bill (7)

New Delhi: Under attack from Opposition over the Communal Violence Bill, Law Minister Kapil Sibal on Saturday defended it saying the proposed law was not violative of the country’s federal structure and was required as several state governments have been accused of shielding those guilty of targetted violence. He said the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014 does not either directly or indirectly seek to legislate on public order, police and public services of the state. Therefore, it is not in violation of the federal structure. He said the Bill, however, enables the National Human Rights Commission to investigate what are defined as ‘scheduled’ offences only and only if state governments give their concurrence. “In any event, the central government has no role to play in such investigations,” he wrote on his website. Sibal said India has witnessed the targeting of sections of society professing one religion or another. “The country has, he said, witnessed state governments unwilling to investigate offences committed during the course of such targeting. “In fact, many courts, including the Supreme Court, have been constrained to comment that state investigating agencies have not only been laggard but have willingly misdirected their investigations to benefit the real accused.  “In this state of affairs, in certain circumstances, with the concurrence of the state, an investigation may be handed over to National Human Rights Commission. How such a Bill transgresses the exclusive legislative competence of the state Legislature is beyond comprehension,” he said. Attacking Arun Jaitley, he said the objection of the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha that Parliament lacks legislative competence to introduce Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014 is without substance. “If the logic of the Leader of the Opposition were to be accepted, then the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 is also unconstitutional since it permits investigation of offences and classes of offences by the CBI with the consent of the state government,” he said. He said the bill also deals with compensation and rehabilitation of victims of ‘scheduled’ offences. “This in no way interferes with law and order or public order. It merely seeks to rebuild the lives of those destroyed by acts of wilful violence against them. Partisan politics should not stand in the way of such legislation,” Sibal wrote. His remarks on the bill came after Deputy Chairman P J Kurien had on Wednesday ruled that the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014 stands deferred in view of the “mood of the House” after its introduction was opposed by BJP, CPI-M, AIADMK, DMK and SP. (Indian Express 8/2/14)

 

27. BJP woos OBCs by attacking ‘Muslim Quota’ (7)

NEW DELHI: BJP has stepped up its efforts to woo “other backward castes” in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh with an aggressive campaign against its “secular” rivals on Muslim quota. Party general secretary and, more important, Narendra Modi’s trusted associate Amit Shah spelt out the party’s stand on the controversial issue by saying the support of SP, BSP and Congress for “Muslim quota” was unconstitutional. Talking to TOI, he said the proposed 18% quota for Muslims could be promulgated only at the cost of “backwards” because of the Supreme Court order capping the quantum of quotas in jobs and educational institutions at 50%.Shah’s statement comes amid reports from Uttar Pradesh about “apolitical” campaigns against Muslim quota, seeking to organize resistance to what they call a “serious threat to OBC quota”.OBCs make up about 35% of the population in UP which with 80 Lok Sabha seats is vital for BJP’s plan to retake the reins at the Centre. Of these, Yadavs, who account for 12% of the population, are staunchly aligned with Samajwadi Party. BJP hopes to corner the bulk of the rest of the bloc by upping the ante over Muslim quota. Though the plan did not work during the assembly polls, party strategists don’t seem to be fazed. They feel the plan failed last time because of the overwhelming resentment against the Mayawati government and the realization that Akhilesh Yadav-led SP was the most effective vehicle for achieving the objective. They are optimistic that the resentment against the advocacy for Muslim quota will result into votes for BJP because of the popular ire against UPA at the Centre and the preference for the Modi-led BJP as the alternative. Shah, however, denied that BJP was opposing minority quota because of its alleged hostility to Muslims. He said the Constitution did not recognize religion as a basis for reservations, and emphasized that BJP was not opposed to the quota that “backwards” among Muslims enjoy under the overall OBC quota. (Times of India 10/2/14)

 

WOMEN

28. NCW needs to be more ‘proactive’, not just ‘reactive’: Panel (8)

New Delhi: A high-level committee on status of women has said that the NCW should go beyond reactive interventions and be “proactive” in recommending and influencing policies to benefit the fairer sex. “The role of the National Commission for Women must go beyond reactive interventions to fulfil the proactive mandate of studying, recommending and influencing policies, laws, programmes and budgets to ensure full benefits to the stakeholders,” the committee said in its report to the Women and Child Development Ministry. It identified violence against women, declining sex ratio and economic disempowerment of women as the three key burning issues which require immediate attention and action by the government. The ‘High-Level Committee on Status of Women’ also asked for an institutionalised and transparent process to select members of the body. “The NCW, as an apex body, is responsible for and answerable to 50 per cent of the Indian population. In keeping with this, the selection and composition of the members must be made through an institutionalised and transparent process,” it said. The committee suggested that the constitutional promise of a right-based approach needs to be promoted for positive outcomes to enhance the status of women and that there is an urgent need to formulate national policy and action plan for ending violence against women impacting the life cycle of female population at every stage of her life. Institutional mechanisms should be strengthened and well resourced and the WCD Minister should be of Cabinet rank, it said. “The Parliamentary committee on empowerment of women must examine the gender implications of all proposed legislations and there is also a need for the Committee to meet more often, and its meetings should be open to civil society groups as observers,” the report states. It also emphasised that gender responsive budgeting coupled with gender audits should be taken more seriously to reflect purposive gender planning. The government had set up the high-level committee on the status of women to undertake comprehensive study to understand the status of women since 1989 as well as to evolve appropriate policy interventions based on a contemporary assessment of women’s needs. (Zee News 4/2/14)

 

29. Centre announces second project under Nirbhaya fund (8)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday cleared the second project under the Rs 1,000-crore Nirbhaya Fund for establishing an integrated computer platform to respond to calls from women in distress. Women can seek help of police using a “panic” button or an application on their mobile phones, following which Emergency Response (ER) units will be dispatched. The ambitious scheme will establish an Integrated Computer Aided Dispatch platform. It will be completed in the next nine months in 114 cities at a cost of Rs 321.69 crore. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of th]e Home Ministry, an official statement said. The first scheme to be cleared under the Nirbhaya Fund, which involved mapping routes of public vehicles, tracking vehicles on the road and highlighting violations through visual and text signals among others. Under the second scheme, a 24×7 Emergency Response unit will be able to track the people in distress using a Geographical Positioning System or Geographical Information System. “Distress or emergency alarms generated by panic buttons, landlines or mobiles through individual devices pioneered by the Department of Information Technology or mobile phone applications would be tracked and ER units will be dispatched to attend the call,” the statement said. The key objectives of the scheme include providing a 24X7 helpline service to women in distress and an efficient and effective response system to attend their calls, besides alarms for medical and disaster services by other responders in an integrated manner.  Handling of emergencies of children and other vulnerable sections of the society and speedy assistance to helpless women and children, who face violence like eve teasing, dowry demands, sexual assault, molestation or any other abuse either in public or at home also form a part of the scheme.  The project involves setting up of city-wise hi-tech control rooms to cover 114 cities and districts in different states and Union Territories, including 71 cities having a population of more than a million or which are headquarters of states as well as headquarters of 41 highly crime-prone districts. “The 71 cities would cover a population of over 231.23 million and the 43 districts would cover a population of 160.27 million, that is a total coverage of 32.6 percent of the country,” it said. (Deccan Herald 5/2/14)

 

30. Women groups demand passage of Women’s Reservation Bill  (8)

New Delhi, Feb 6: Reminding political parties of their responsibility to ensure that women’s rights as outlined in the Constitution are upheld, several women groups today gathered here demanding the passage of the pending Women’s Reservation Bill in the ongoing session of parliament. The bill seeks to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women at all levels of legislature to ensure that their right to participate in politics is upheld. The bill which was passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010, is still awaiting Lok Sabha’s approval. “Women comprise nearly 50 per cent of India’s population and yet continue to be under-represented in all aspects of politics, including as elected representatives in the Parliament and Legislative Councils. The marginalisation of women from politics is clear as today, only 10.9 per cent of the parliamentary seats are held by women and women make up less than 1 percent of ministers and 4 percent of the negotiators in major development processes,” said Shabnam Hashmi founder of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy). “All political parties need to come together and pass the bill and the members of the Lok Sabha to follow the lead of Rajya Sabha, where the bill was passed in 2010,” said Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women. The coalition of women groups will discuss with various political leaders in the next two weeks, involve youth through online campaign and stage a dharna on February 12 at Jantar Mantar regarding the passage of the bill. (One India 7/2/14)

 

31. Soon, Panel to Tackle Female Foeticide in TN (8)

CHENNAI: In a bid to bring to book clinics that reveal foetal gender, the State government will soon set up committees in all districts to monitor centres that conduct prenatal tests. The committees, which would function following a notification of the Central government, would randomly inspect clinics that conduct prenatal diagnostic tests to check illegal activities and find discrepancies in maintenance of records. There are over 4,000 such clinics with a minimum of 300 in each district, a health department official said. Apart from the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act – 1994, which requires an advisory committee to be set up for granting, suspension or cancellation of licence for these clinics, the government of India has instructed all State governments to  check female foeticide to increase the sex ratio. According to the census data, Tamil Nadu had a ratio of 987 females to 1,000 males in 2001 and had increased a little to 995:1,000 in 2011. “Though we fare better than some States in the North as far as sex ratio is concerned, female foeticide is rampant. The committees will be set up to make the law more stringent,” an official of the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services said. Officials said, with funding from the National Rural Health Mission, monitoring committees would be set up in all districts in a month. The teams would comprise a doctor, who would be a nodal officer, a legal expert and a person for clerical work. They would inspect  clinics, scrutinise documents and regularly submit reports to a State-level committee to be headed by a joint director. The committee too would go on inspections. “If a clinic is found to be revealing foetal gender, both the clinic and the patient’s husband can be punished. If the clinics have not maintained proper records or not renewed their licence, they can be either penalised or shut down,” the official added. Officials said some States in the North have set up such committees while a few other States have taken some other initiative to curb foeticide and raise the sex ratio. (New Indian Express 7/2/14)

 

32. Women from N-E bear the brunt of racial slur (8)

New Delhi: Various theories on gender and violence state that in any community that is discriminated against, it is the women who bear the maximum violence. This was proved yet again by the brutal rape of a 14-year old in the city on Friday night. Women from Northeastern states have highlighted time and again the sexual harassment they face from the people in the city with many recounting incidents where they were singled out for such harassment because of their appearance. “It is shocking and disgusting how men in the city think that women from the Northeast are fine with being sexually harassed and have no principles. There have been a number of times where men have propositioned me on the road and passed lewd comments because of the erroneous perception they have of us,” said Rose, a student at Delhi University, who goes by one name only. The need for gender sensitization, especially when it comes to women from the Northeast has been discussed on and off again and experts believe that institutions such as schools and colleges are places where this can be done best. Munirka, from where the incident was reported, has a sizeable population of people from the Northeast living on rent. In 2009, a 19 year old girl from Manipur was sexually assaulted and killed in her rented apartment in Munirka. In 2010, another Manipuri girl in her 20’s was molested and harassed in the area. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters, most of them from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, gathered outside the Vasant Vihar police station to protest against the rape and demanded speedy justice for the girl. The rape comes close on the heels of the death of Arunachal student, Nido Tanian, also spelt as Tania, who was attacked in Lajpat Nagar. The incident sparked off a series of protests in the city and statements of condemnation from all political parties. “The ruling parties refused to be accountable for the highly condemnable police inaction, ‘inefficiency’ and orchestrated ‘cover-up’ that local police routinely display in dealing with such cases of racist and sexual violence,” said Akbar Chawdhary, president, JNU students’ association, who was part of Saturday’s protest. (Hindutan Times 9/2/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

33. MP Govt devoted to maintain farmers’ self-respect: Shivraj (20)

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Government is the Government of farmers and is devoted to provide peaceful life and maintain self-respect of farmers, said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan while addressing the concluding session of the State working committee meeting of BJP Kisan Morcha here on Sunday.  Chouhan said it is not politics but it is a matter of sensitisation towards human. For increasing productivity change in the crop pattern would be incorporated Agriculture Study Analysis visits would be organised. BJP State president Narendra Singh Tomar said that through ‘Balram Yatra’ the pro-farmer policies were propagated across the villages in the State. A special bonus of Rs 150 per quintal by the State Government has compelled the Central Government to increase the minimum support price but until the Centre is not going to fix minimum support price by adding 50 per cent profit in the investment amount the Morcha will continue to protest. “Kisaan Melas (Farmer’s Fair) would be organised in each district of the State to bring a revolution in the agriculture,” said Minister of Farmers Welfare and Agriculture Development Gaurishankar Bisen. Bisen said that to make an exploitation-free atmosphere for the farmers of the State, every possible attempt would be made.He also said that the farmers fair would be organised in every district and each and every farmer can participate in the fair. He also said that to organise this fair the State Government would also provide an expenditure of Rs 10 lakh. He also said that under various endevours for the progress of the farmers, a Kisan Bhavan would also be established in every district and for this; an expenditure of Rs 25 lakh would be issued. The meeting was chaired by president of BJP’s Kisan Morcha Bansilal Gurjar, he said that in felicitation of framer sentinels in 38 districts have been organised. These sentinels have played a important role in the State Assembly elections which conduced the victory for the BJP. (Pioneer 4/2/14)

 

34. Consider setting up debt relief panel for farmers (20)

Madurai: The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday directed the State Government to consider constituting a Farmers Debt Relief Commission (FDRC) on the lines of a commission already established in the State of Kerala to provide assistance to drought affected farmers. A Division Bench comprising Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice R. Sudhakar passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed last year by State Agriculture and Horticulture Diploma Holders Association represented by its secretary V. Balakrishnan. “We hope and trust that the Government will consider the request positively as it is beneficial to farmers in the State of Tamil Nadu,” the Bench said after pointing out that the Virudhunagar Collector alone had filed a report in the case without spelling out the government’s stand on constituting the FDRC. The report, filed in March last year, merely stated that the Government was taking all possible efforts to implement two different crop insurance schemes — National Agricultural Insurance Scheme and Weather based Crop Insurance Scheme — for the benefit of agriculturalists in the State. Further a Government Order passed by the Revenue Department on February 2, 2013 and annexed to the Collector’s report, stated that the Government had sanctioned Rs. 3 lakh each to the families of nine farmers who committed suicide in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli districts. On the other hand, the petitioner association claimed that the agony undergone by farmers, who often land in trouble due to crop failure and inability to pay back debts, could be reduced to a great extent if an FDRC was constituted in the State to scrutinise plea for debt relief on a case by case basis. It claimed that the State Government had failed in effective implementation of insurance schemes in the State as the Agriculture Insurance Company of India data stated that crop insurance penetration in Tamil Nadu was just 3.12 per cent as against 25 to 40 per cent recorded in other States. Citing the instance of Kerala, the petitioner said that farmer suicide rate in the neighbouring State had come down considerably due to the State Government acting promptly on various recommendations of the FDRC including the declaration of entire Wayanad district as drought affected. (The Hindu 6/2/14)

 

35. Mulayam faces protest at farmers’ meet over cane dues (20)

Lucknow: In a major embarrassment for the Samajwadi Party, even as its national president Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying to woo farmers of UP for the parliamentary elections, the cane farmers agitated before him demanding payment of cane dues for the past and current cane crushing seasons. Yadav was addressing an Indian Farmer’s Representative Conference in Lucknow Saturday, claiming that his party alone works for the benefit of the farmers, when chairmen and farmers of various district cane committees approached him with grievances of non-payment of dues. However, aggrieved at not getting an opportunity to voice their demands before the former CM, the farmers shouted their demands even as Yadav left the venue. The demands of cane farmers include payment of dues for not only the previous year, but also the current crushing season; the non- payment of cane society commission, and the closure of sugar mills. “Around Rs 125 crore of the current season and Rs 59 crore from the last crushing season is not paid to the cane farmers,” said Rishipal Bhati, chairman of Khatauli Cane Development Committee, Muzaffarnagar. Earlier, the conference turned into a political event, with farmer representatives from various states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar using the dais to advocate for Yadav to be the next prime minister of the country. Targeting the BJP for communal politics and raising the Ram Temple issue, Yadav, in his address, said the BJP had accumulated a lot of donations and funds in the name of constructing the Ram Temple and the party should come forth and tell the public what happened to those funds. “If I would not have stood up before the (Babri) mosque (to protect it), the country would have faced a major problem and Muslims would have lost faith (in the system),” said Yadav, recounting his action against attempted Babri mosque demolition while he was the UP CM. “I had offered the VHP a land next to the disputed site to construct a temple there but they did not accept it,” said Yadav, adding it was never their intention to construct a temple. Targeting its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Yadav said Modi questioned the development in UP, but the kind of development UP has seen, no other state has witnessed in the country. The proposal by the farmers included the demand for payment of cane dues to the farmers of UP; running the closed sugar mills of the state; giving fifty per cent subsidy on farmer equipment and diesel in order to promote best farming technology amongst the farmers; and bringing down the agriculture loan’s interest from four per cent to three per cent, amongst others, said Dr Arvind Kumar Singh, General Secretary, Uttar Pradesh Cane Development Committee Chairman Association, which organised the conference. (Indian Express 9/2/14)

 

RESERVATION

36. Dwivedi’s pitch against quota stirs anger in Congress (25)

New Delhi: The Congress swung into damage control mode on Wednesday after general secretary Janardan Dwivedi’s call to end the caste-based reservation caused anger within the party and drew sharp criticism across the political spectrum. In a strongly worded statement, party president Sonia Gandhi did not just rule out such a possibility, she took full ownership of the caste-based reservation, stressing that “they were introduced by the Congress, they have been strengthened by the Congress and they will continue to be championed by the Congress.” Her intervention came, senior party sources told The Hindu, after several party leaders conveyed their unhappiness with Mr. Dwivedi’s statement. Indeed, her statement is being read in party circles as a snub to the senior general secretary who was, till recently, the party’s communication chief. If Ms. Gandhi’s statement came in the evening, both the Congress and the government distanced themselves earlier in the day from Mr. Dwivedi’s statement, saying it was his “personal” view. Mr. Dwivedi is a “seasoned and experienced” politician, party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, but “his statement is his personal opinion. The Congress continues to adhere to, subscribe to and support the existing reservation policy. There is no change in our stand.” And in the Rajya Sabha, after the Opposition raised the issue, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said: “The government is not considering any proposal to provide reservation based on economic criteria. The reservation as it stands today will continue as per constitutional provisions.” Mr. Dwivedi, a member of the Upper House, was present when Mr. Shukla gave the government’s clarification. “There should be no doubt on the stand of the Congress on the system of reservation for the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs,” Ms. Gandhi said, pointing out that the empowerment of these sections was “an article of faith” for the party. Ms. Gandhi underscored the fact that the Congress introduced reservation for the SCs/ STs in government jobs and educational institutions in the 1950s, and for the OBCs in the 1990s. The party was “of the firm opinion” that this must continue as it was “essential to deal with the discrimination imposed by centuries of subjugation and oppression.” The Congress, she said, had introduced two Bills to strengthen the framework for reservation — one to create a legal framework to ensure effective implementation, and the other to provide for reservation in promotions for the SCs/STs. She also listed the party’s other initiatives: scholarships for the SCs/STs and the OBCs; policies to encourage procurement of goods and services by government agencies from enterprises promoted by the SCs/STs; and a dialogue to ensure affirmative action for the SCs/STs in the private sector. (The Hindu 5/2/14)

 

37. NCP not in favour of change in caste-based reservation policy (25)

New Delhi: Senior NCP leader Praful Patel on Thursday said his party was not in favour of changing the caste-based reservation policy. “Our stand is clear. The current system of reservation is fine. There is no need to change it. SC/ST/OBCs etc have benefited due to reservation and we should continue it,” Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Praful Patel said at a CII-ACMA event here. The government and Congress President Sonia Gandhi yesterday clarified that there was no move to change the policy on reservation in government jobs. The clarifications came a day after senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi advocated a relook into caste-based reservations, leading to an outcry in the Rajya Sabha. Dwivedi had in an interview to PTI called an end to reservation on caste lines and asked party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to introduce quota for financially weaker sections, bringing all communities under its ambit. (Zee News 6/2/14)

 

38. MPs, dalit bodies thank Sonia Gandhi for clearing air on quotas (25)

NEW DELHI: The rumblings over Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi’s “end caste reservation” call continued, with MPs and dalit organizations meeting Sonia Gandhi and thanking her for clearing the confusion over the party’s policy on caste quotas. In a surprise move, Sonia issued a detailed statement reiterating the importance of reservation for backward classes and said it was required to fight the oppression and prejudice of caste system. The statement came in the wake of Dwivedi’s statement that Congress should end caste-based reservations and replace it with quota for the poor across communities. Leaders within Congress and the opposition slammed Dwivedi’s demand, putting the ruling camp in the dock because the views of a senior leader like him were seen as indicative of a possible policy move to end the quota system. Sonia’s statement was aimed at quelling the day-long speculation. A group of dalit organizations met Sonia and thanked her for reiterating the party’s faith in reservations. That the issue had raised fears of political costs was evident from the way senior dalit MPs complimented the party chief. Eight MPs — Selja, P L Punia, B L Mungekar, Mohinder Singh Kaype, Union ministers Panabaka Lakshmi and J D Seelam, Ishwar Singh and Vijaylakshmi – visited her. K Raju, chairman of the Scheduled Castes department of Congress, said Sonia told the visiting leaders that the party was committed to passing a bunch of legislations for dalit welfare like the amendments to Prevention of Atrocities Act, reservation in promotions, law to provide statutory framework for reservations, and the proposed bill to ensure that central ministries earmark funds for dalit welfare in proportion to their population. Senior Congress leaders said Dwivedi’s statement, though a personal opinion, in its short life, resulted in misgivings among dalits and could be exploited by the opposition to campaign against the party among the marginalized classes. They said the party chief’s decision to intervene and put an end to the debate was an astute move. (Times of India 7/2/14)

 

39. Govt moves bill on raising quota for disabled in jobs (25)

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday introduced the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in Rajya Sabha, seeking to increase reservation for disabled persons in public sector jobs from the existing 3% to 5% and reserve seats for them in higher education institutions. Persons with disabilities under the proposed legislation — which also seeks to broaden the ambit of disability from seven to 19 sub-categories — will, however, not get such relief soon as members in the Upper House insisted on sending it to a standing committee of Parliament for detailed examination before putting it up for discussion and passage. If Chairman Hamid Ansari agrees to send the bill to the parliamentary panel, it can’t be passed during the current session – the last one during the present government. At present, reservation for the disabled is 3% in the ratio of 1% each for physically, visually and hearing-impaired persons. The new bill, if passed, will extend the quota by 2%, covering two additional categories — mentally disabled and people with multiple disabilities. The proposed legislation divides the broad categories into various sub-categories, seeking to include as many types of disabilities as possible. It includes sickle cell disease, thalassemia and muscular dystrophy besides autism, spectrum disorder, blindness, cerebral palsy, chronic neurological conditions, mental illness and multiple disabilities. The bill, introduced by minister for social justice and empowerment Mallikarjun Kharge, also provides for setting up National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, which will have statutory powers besides establishing a dedicated National Fund for Persons with Disabilities. The proposed legislation is expected to bring more clarity in defining disability. Anyone suffering 40% disability or more will continue to be defined as a ‘person with disability’. Besides making provisions to prevent people with disabilities from harassment while getting disability certificates, the proposal legislation also provides for stringent punitive measures under which anyone violating the provisions could face from six months to five years of imprisonment and a fine from Rs 10,000 to five lakh. Demand to send the bill to standing committee came from CPM members in the House. As soon as Kharge introduced the bill, party member Sitaram Yechury rose to his feet demanding that the bill should be referred to a standing committee. Deputy chairman P J Kurien, however, said that Ansari would take a decision on this. The government had in December last year decided to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 with the new bill. It maintained that the proposed legislation was in consonance with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India had signed in 2007. Various disabled rights groups had, however, protested against the bill in its current form, saying the provisions were not in tune with norms of the UN convention. The groups had identified 20 shortcomings and suggested amendments in the bill. Besides introduction of this much awaited bill, the Upper House could not transact any other business for the third consecutive day on Friday. Member raised various issues including Telangana, corruption and plight of Tamil Nadu fishermen as soon as Rajya Sabha assembled. As the din continued, the House was adjourned for the day after two adjournments during the first half. (Times of India 8/2/14)

 

HINDUTVA

40. VHP aims to maintain harmony among sections (26)

ALLAHABAD: A meeting of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was organised at Magh Mela on Monday in which leaders and seers discussed ways to maintain harmony among various sections of the Hindu society. Addressing the gathering, Poonam Sant said the matter of Hindutva should always be supreme in VHP’s discourse and all followers should strictly adhere by it. Though there was a varna system in ancient India but its form disintegrated during the Mughal period and the coming of Europeans. Organizational secretary of VHP Jai Bahadur informed that there will be various ‘gotra sammelan’ from April to October commencing from Chaitra Navratra. Further, there will be ‘samrasta yagna’ and ‘samrasta seminar’ in which drive will be launched for adding members. (Times of India 4/2/14)

 

41. Saffron terror brigade had planned to kill RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, probe reveals (26)

NEW DELHI: While a news magazine has claimed to have taped interviews of Samjhauta blast accused Aseemanand revealing that the blasts had Mohan Bhagwat’s blessings, this is not the first time the RSS chief has found himself in saffron terror crosshairs. Investigations by Maharashtra ATS earlier revealed that Bhagwat was actually one of the targets of the saffron terror brigade led by slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi. Even Maharashtra home minister R R Patil has admitted as much in the state assembly. After the arrest of a host of saffron terror accused including Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Srikant Prasad Purohit and Dayanand Pandey (who were all associated with right-wing organization Abhinav Bharat), investigations revealed that some of the accused were not happy with Bhagwat leading the RSS and had planned to kill him and another RSS leader Indresh Kumar while on a visit to Pune. Kumar’s name too cropped up several times during investigations as a conspirator but he was never charged by any agency. The planned killings, a report prepared and submitted with the state home ministry then said, were masterminded by S Apte, a 70-year-old Pune-based RSS worker, along with Pandey, Major (retd) Ramesh Upadhyay and others. The ATS had found that Apte and Pandey had approached Purohit for help in executing the plan. Apte also paid him Rs 10 lakh following which a 9mm gun had been arranged. In April 2010, R R Patil had told the state assembly that though there was no direct information about a plot to murder Bhagwat, Maharashtra police had tapes of conversation among the accused, in which they made derogatory remarks about Bhagwat. “They said he was incapable of carrying the Hindutva agenda forward. He had risen in the ranks without any capabilities… There was bitterness about Bhagwat.” Patil added that the accused had discussed a chemical that if put in footwear would kill a man within three days. Months later, Malegaon blasts accused Samir Kulkarni had written to Bombay High Court citing statements of two witnesses attached in the charge-sheet filed by ATS in the case that the plot to kill Bhagwat must be investigated. He wrote that statements of witness number 55, Capt Nitin Joshi, and witness number 61, Shri Sham Apte, revealed a plot to assassinate Bhagwat and one Indresh Kumar. A news magazine has claimed that it met Aseemanand several times in jail and conducted his interview during which he said that Bhagwat had prior knowledge of all the saffron blasts and gave his blessings for it. Aseemanand’s lawyer J S Rana, however, categorically denied the allegations and called the interview concocted. … (Times of India 7/2/14)

 

42. ‘Objectionable’ content in police booklet draws Hindu group’s ire (26)

ALLAHABAD: Activists of Akhil Bharatiya Teerth Purohit Mahasangh on Thursday protested against the Mela Police on Thursday, alleging objectionable comments about the Hindu community in a booklet published by the department. The group, an offshoot of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, also handed a memorandum to Mela circle officer Nita Dwivedi. The memorandum was addressed to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The memorandum states that the police published a booklet titled ‘Magh Mela Police arrangements – 2014′ and distributed copies of it among police officers to let them know of arrangements for the mela. According to the police, it was guide book for the police machinery for maintaining law and order in the mela area. However, on page 52 of the booklet, the words ‘dharmik paakhand’ (religious hypocrisy) have been used for the ceremony of Gaudan being observed at Sangam. Objecting to these words and addressing protestors, VHP leader Pawan Srivastava said the police should perform their duty with responsibility to benefit society rather than comment on a religion. He also demanded strict action against the police personnel responsible for making such a comment. The police should not become rulers but perform their duty as public servants, he added. The protestors also demanded strict action against the police officers concerned. After talking to the delegation, Mela CO Nita Dwivedi assured them that the police had respect for all religions and in future no such comments would be published. (Times of India  7/2/14)

 

43. Parivar and the City (26)

Traditionally, in the Sangh Parivar, the decisionmaking process has been largely collegial. That was also true within the BJP, where the personalisation of power never went as far as it did with the Congress under Indira Gandhi. Even if L.K. Advani was in the limelight during the rath yatra, he continued to work in a team and it was not he, but A.B. Vajpayee, who became the first BJP prime minister six years later. The personalisation of the BJP’s election campaign today does not stem only from the presidentialisation of the Indian polity. Narendra Modi had already initiated this process in Gujarat — it was one of the reasons why senior BJP leaders seemed to feel alienated. Modi’s predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, allegedly left the BJP because of the chief minister’s style of functioning. Once reportedly, talking to VHP members, he said: “When he [Modi] took over the state BJP, I told him that this race is altogether different. It’s called a ‘relay race’, in which the baton is handed over from one participant to the other. Each one uses his strength and ultimately the team wins, not an individual. But since Modi took the baton in this relay race, he has never passed it on.” This modus operandi was also resented by some state RSS leaders, who declared that they may abstain from backing Modi in the 2007 state elections. Pravin Maniar, one of them, then explained in an interview to the press that the RSS would adopt a different attitude than in 2002: “This time around, we have not asked our workers to get involved in any poll-related work. We have always extended our support for the cause of Hindutva. But we are wedded to an ideology and not any individual.’’ State RSS leaders were disenchanted with the BJP leadership of Gujarat because it did not submit the list of candidates nominated by the party to the Sangh, as state party leaders routinely do. Modi also reduced coordination with the state prant pracharak to a minimum and was accused of not rewarding other components of the Sangh Parivar, the VHP and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, which had helped him in 2002. Over the last decade, Advani had tried to emancipate himself from the RSS leadership, arguing that the Nagpur-based organistation was not in a position to appreciate the strategies and tactics of a political party and should, therefore, grant the BJP more autonomy. He failed at the national level, whereas Modi succeeded, somewhat, at the state level. Modi’s biographer, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, points out that Manmohan Vaidya, once the Gujarat prant pracharak whom he tried to break free from, “was ultimately removed from Gujarat at Modi’s behest and was shifted to Chennai”…. (Indian Express 10/2/14)

Posted by admin at 7 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Protest to demand re-opening of Pathribal case, AFSPA (1)

Imphal, January 31 2014 : Joint protest to demand re-opening of Pathribal case and AFSPA will be jointly organised by Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, All India Students’ Association, Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union, Jamia Students’ Solidarity Forum, New Socialist Initiative and People’s Campaign against Politics of Terror at Jantar Mantar on Feb 1 . A statement said that as another shameful incident in the world’s largest democracy, the army has closed the court martial of its officers who were found guilty of fake encounter of Pathribal, J&K by CBI after which the Supreme Court of India had asked the Army to either provide sanction of prosecution against them or to do court martial for these officers. It was one of the few cases that had managed to go up till the Supreme Court and in which the Supreme Court accepting the CBI version had directed the army to take action in 2012.But dramatically, after two years, the army closed the court martial file on Jan 24 , 2014 and therefore to an extent has overruled the CBI and even Supreme Court. It is also to be noted that the army had also argued that no case can be registered against its officers under the veil of AFSPA as it provides impunity and that it requires prior sanction of central government to prosecute as per Section 7 of AFSPA. This action of the army is against the ideals of truth, equality, justice and democracy, the statement said. Many individuals and activists from various states supported the demand. (Manipur E-Pao 1/2/14)

 

2. Constable convicted of custodial rape of Dalit woman in M.P. (1)

BHOPAL: A special court in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district convicted suspended head constable Nand Kishor Mishra of raping a Dalit woman in custody in 2009. Special Judge for the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Prabhat Kumar Mishra, sentenced Mishra to ten years imprisonment for raping the 48-year-old at the Amla Police Station in Betul during the intervening night of June 2 and 3 in 2009. Five other policemen, including Station House Officer Anil Singh Thakur were acquitted for lack of evidence, a source in the court told The Hindu . One of the defendants expired during the trial. The victim was arrested in a dowry harassment case and sent to judicial remand by a court in Multai on June 2. As Multai Jail, 50 km from the district headquarters, did not have a women’s barrack, the lady was supposed to be lodged at the Betul District Jail. Claiming that it was late, she was taken to the Amla Police Station, where she was raped. The following day she reported the incident to authorities in Betul Jail. The police initially refused to charge Thakur with rape and did so after the High Court intervened on a petition of the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch. Forensic evidence was also lost due to the delays in investigation. The victim’s family told a fact finding team in 2009 found that the dowry harassment case was registered after they refused to bribe to Thakur. The victim reportedly said that N.K. Mishra told her while raping her that she was being punished for not paying up. Rinchin of the MPMM said they were waiting for a copy of the judgment before deciding on appealing for the prosecution of Thakur and others. “Besides the rape itself, there are huge discrepancies in the investigation process of which the court has knowledge of. The police officials who were responsible for lapses in investigation and negligence should also be punished.” The case was in the headlines in 2009 after women’s rights activists and the Shramik Adivasi Sanghatan launched an agitation and protested several times at the police headquarters in Bhopal. Betul, which borders Amravati in Maharashtra, is notorious for violence against marginalised communities. In 2007, Pardhi tribal women were gang-raped by a Kunbi caste mob in Multai for which senior politicians, including Toshan and Raja Pawar of the BJP, and Sukhdeo Panse of the Congress are being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The victims are still in camps for the internally displaced. (The Hindu 2/2/14)

 

3. Man arrested for molesting Manipuri woman sent to PC (1)

New Delhi: A man arrested for allegedly beating and molesting two Manipuri women while hurling racist abuses at them here was today sent to one-day police custody by a Delhi court. Accused Prem Chand    was arrested yesterday and was produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Dheeraj Mor who handed him over to Delhi police for custodial interrogation till tomorrow. The incident, which occurred in Kotla Mubarakpur area on January 25 evening, came to light following an uproar over the death of a student from Arunachal Pradesh Nido Tania who was assaulted by shopkeepers on January 29. While seeking three days remand of Chand, the police told the court that the womens in their complaint had informed them that the accused have snatched their mobile phone while assaulting them. The agency said Chand’s custody was necessary to recover the stolen property and they also need to arrest the other persons involved in the crime. Advocate Vinod Gupta, representing the accused, however, opposed the police’s plea saying the complainants have never spoken to the police about the stolen mobile. “It’s an after-thought story just to implicate Chand,” the counsel said, adding the alleged victims disclosed this fact later in another supplementary complaint. Facing criticism over “delay” in lodging an FIR and alleged inaction, police arrested 32-year-old Chand from Kotla Mubarakpur area here, seven days after the incident. Police have booked Chand under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dealing with section 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 352 (Punishment for assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation) and 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) read with 34 (common intention) and section 3 (11) of SC/ST Act. (Deccan Herald 3/2/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

4. 30 deaths per 1000 newborns in Mizoram: Mizo minister (3)

Aizawl, January 30 2014: At current rate, there are 30 deaths per 1000 newborns in Mizoram; and during 2012-13, as per record of the state Health department, there had been 600 deaths of newborns and 12 maternal deaths in Mizoram, according to state health minister Lal Thanzara. The minister was saying this during a Consultative Meeting on Reproductive Maternal Newborn and Child-health + Adolescent (RMNCH+A). The event was organised jointly by Mizoram Health & Family Welfare Department and UNICEF. Speaking on the occasion, the State Minister of Health stressed on the need to take vigorous steps to bring down the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of the State. During 12th Five Year Plan, it is targeted to decrease the IMR to 25 per 1000 by 2017 and also MMR to 100 per 1,00,00, he said. Meanwhile, steps are being taken in implementation of the National Rural Health Mission for the better health of the people, the State Health Minister said. It is necessary to take steps together with other departments in order to materialize RMNCH+A project, not leaving the task only to the doctors and staff under Health department, the Minister said. He expressed his wish that the Consultation meeting may come up with practicable ideas. In the Consultation meeting, comprehensive discussion was held concerning the health of newborn children and adolescents, besides discussion and orientation on how Health & Family welfare department may work together with Social Welfare, Public Health Engineering, Power & Electricity, Education and Rural Development. M.Sathiyavathy IAS, Chief Secretary, who was the guest of honour, oriented the gathering on the initiatives of various departments for decreasing IMR and MMR with the topic “inter-sectoral convergence” . On behalf of UNICEF, Dr.Suddha Balakhrishnan, health specialist spoke on the topic “Call to Action for Child Survival & Development” . From 4 districts-Lawngtlai, Lunglei, Mamit and Saiha, deputy commissioners and heads of Social Welfare, PHE, P&E, Education, Rural Development and Health departments attended the consultation meeting, which was also attended by representatives from UNICEF, Delhi and RRC-NE Guwahati. (Manipur E-Pao 1/2/14)

 

5. ’58% of All New Leprosy Cases Are From India’ (3)

HYDERABAD: To commemorate the anti-leprosy fortnight and to create awareness in the community, Lepra Society organised a walk for Leprosy from Sanjeeviah Park to Jal Vihar here on Sunday. The walk was flagged off by the British deputy high commissioner, Hyderabad, Andrew Mc Allister. Speaking on the occasion, he highlighted the common myths like leprosy is the result of past sins, immoral behaviour and affected persons should be isolated and urged people to dispel these. Former cricketer VVS Laxman urged people to get the disease detected early and undertake treatment through multi drug therapy. He appealed to all to work towards leprosy-free India and treat persons affected by leprosy with dignity and compassion. Chief executive in-charge LEPRA Society, J Subbanna said 58 percent of new leprosy cases globally are from lndia, which means one new case is detected every five minutes in the country. This including 10,000 children every year. People suffering from leprosy continue to face discrimination from the society. Hence, collective efforts to fight it is the need of the hour. He urged people to join hands for a leprosy-free society in India. State Leprosy Officer, T Tarachand Naidu, general manager HR NTPC, P Gopala Rao, Amith, Disha Charitable Trust extended their support by signing a campaign to end stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy. People suffering from leprosy, senior citizens, health officials, volunteers, Bharat Scouts and Guides, Andhra Mahila Sabha, Vignan College, Vadlamudi, Guntur, Yashoda School of Nursing, NSKK School, lndira Priyadarshi College, Koti Womens College, Corporates from lDBl, NTPC, Beam Fibers, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, JK Fenner, KPC Projects, Sree Krishna Enterprises and staff of LEPRA Society participated in the walk. (New Indian Express 3/2/14)

 

6. Government urged to introduce Disability Bill immediately (3)

Bangalore: Various organisations representing people with disabilities gathered at Town Hall here on Monday to demand immediate introduction of the ‘Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2013’ in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet in December, covers a range of issues including mental illness and multiple disabilities. The protesters urged the government to introduce the bill in the next session after incorporating their demands in the amendments. About 18 welfare organisations took part in the demonstration under the banner of Karnataka State Disabled and Caregivers Federation. Rashmi M.T., a member of the Association of People with Disabilities (APD), said the protesters had met with the Director of Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Jayavibhava Swamy and Commissioner for Disabilities K.S. Rajanna to discuss their demands. They also submitted a memorandum to Governor H. R. Bhardwaj, requesting him to communicate their demands to the Centre.  (The Hindu 4/2/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

7. British MPs suggest law to ban visas to those suffering from HIV (3)

LONDON: Britain is mulling a draconian law that would ban foreigners with HIV and Hepatitis B from living or visiting UK. A bunch of over 20 conservative MPs have tabled a new clause (NC21) to the Immigration Bill which says “the Secretary of State may by order provide that persons who apply for immigration permission must demonstrate that they are not carriers of any of the prescribed pathogens listed – Hepatitis B, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and such other pathogens as the secretary may prescribe by order”.The move has caused an uproar in UK with MPs being urged by civil society and activists. The NAT (National AIDS Trust) has called on MPs to reject the amendment which would stop people living with HIV being issued visas to come to the UK. Deborah Jack, chief executive said “This amendment shows that there remains a shameful lack of understanding about HIV among some of our elected representatives. UNAIDS has shown conclusively that entry restrictions on people living with HIV do not protect public health and are a wasteful diversion in the fight against HIV. And far from being ‘drains’ on the public purse – as this amendment seems to suggest – people living with HIV contribute hugely to the UK’s society and economy”.”The UK has for 30 years resisted entry restrictions and to introduce them at this stage would set us squarely against the international trend to overturn such rules. This is HIV prejudice in its purest form. If these MPs are really interested in protecting public health through immigration policy, they would oppose the current department of health plans to limit migrant access to primary care services, which are vital for disease prevention and early treatment. They would support efforts to reduce the unacceptable high rates of late and undiagnosed HIV in our community,” Deborah Jack added. NAT have issued a policy briefing for MPs on these issues and why this new clause is so unacceptable. They say there is no evidence to suggest that HIV-related travel restrictions would benefit public health or substantially decrease onward transmission of HIV in the UK. In its guidance supporting the reversal of such travel bans, UNAIDS clearly states that “HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence do not protect the public health” and that “HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence can impede effective responses to HIV”….. (Times of India 1/2/14)

 

8. Counsellors sorely missed as stir by AIDS workers continues (3)

BANGALORE: While HIV patients undergoing anti-retroviral therapy (ART) have medicines for a few days, it is the absence of counsellors that is worrying the people most affected by the strike by members of the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society Contractual Employees Association. Saturday was the third day of the strike. Lab technicians, doctors, nurses, supervisors, pharmacists and drivers working as contractual staff for the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) IV gathered at Freedom Park on Friday urging the government to look into their concerns. These primarily include higher salaries based on their qualification and experience as well as continuation of the services of contract employees. Earlier, Health Minister U.T. Khader had met the workers on Thursday and promised to look into their grievances. However, Lingesha M.Y., State secretary of the association, said the strike would not be called off until the government came forward with “specific assurances”. “The government has been inconsiderate to our demands for over a decade. Repeated memorandums and requests have gone in vain. Workers across the State will camp at night at the protest venue until our demands are met,” he said. Paramesh (name changed), who has been undergoing first line treatment for HIV at the ART centre in K.R. Hospital, Mysore, for the past five years, said, “Although hospital authorities are making arrangements to give tablets to patients, the absence of counsellors is a serious issue. The doctors not only treat us physiologically but also psychologically. The government needs to address this issue as early as possible as it is not possible to run the centre without them,” he said. Vimala R. Patil, medical superintendent of K.C. General Hospital, which has an ART centre, confirmed that authorities had made alternate arrangements to provide tablets to HIV patients. “However, we may find it difficult to counsel patients if the strike continues,” she added. Meanwhile, Health Minister U.T. Khader on Saturday appealed to contract workers to call off their strike in the interest of patients promising to approach the Central government to highlight their plight. (The Hindu 2/2/14)

 

9. Karnataka legislators’ forum on HIV/AIDS to be recast (3)

MANGALORE: The Karnataka Legislators’ Forum on HIV/AIDS modelled on lines of Forum of Parliamentarians on HIV/AIDS will be recast soon. With Kagodu Thimappa, the speaker giving his nod, the forum will have a quarter of members of the legislature on board the forum, objective of which is to implement welfare schemes for HIV/AIDS affected people in the state and create awareness among the public on preventive measures to be taken. The forum may be headed either by Yadgir MLA A B Malaka Reddy or Yalburga MLA Basavarj Rayareddy, said minister for health and family welfare U T Khader. In an informal chat with TOI after launching the Youth Health Counselling Cell of Besant Women’s College here on Monday, Khader said the Speaker has been empowered to take a call on this matter and the forum will have representation from all political parties in the legislature. The Forum will create awareness among the law makers on HIV/AIDS and ensure effective implementation of welfare schemes for those with HIV/AIDS. The session of the legislature held in Belgaum has cleared setting up of the Forum and a decision in this regard was taken at the two-day South India conference on HIV/AIDS held earlier, he said, adding that the Forum will play an active role in preventing the spread of the disease in Karnataka. Likewise, the department of health and family welfare has drawn up a plan of action to organise workshop on health, HIV/AIDS and other diseases for elected representatives in each of the revenue divisions in the state. A similar workshop has already been conducted for elected representatives in Belgaum, he said, adding that workshops will now be held in Mangalore, Mysore, Davangere and Gulbarga for the respective divisions. (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

CORRUPTION

10. India a religious country, but too much corruption: Dalai Lama (5)

SHILLONG: India is considered a religious country, but a lot of corruption is taking place in this country, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama rued on Monday. “This country (India) is considered a religious country, but a lot of corruption is taking place. There are many corrupt people, and I think, the corrupt people are also highly educated,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said while addressing the sixth convocation ceremony of the Martin Christian Luther University here. “They (some educated people) pray to God but the purpose of their prayer is to make their corrupt life more successful,” he added amidst thunderous applause from the audience at the Soso Tham auditorium. Meghalaya governor K K Paul, chief minister Mukul Sangma and a host of his cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats were also present. The Dalai Lama, on his maiden visit to this mountainous state capital of Meghalaya, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the private varsity. He said religious harmony and “ahimsa” are relevant in today’s world as religion has become an “instrument to cheat people”.”In western countries, secularism means being negative towards religion while in India it means respect of all religions, and India can promote religious harmony and ‘ahimsa’,” he said. Lamenting that modern education has contributed to the degradation of human values and given rise to corruption, the Nobel Peace laureate said ancient Indian knowledge must find place in the modern Indian education system. “Modern India is multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-racial. It is like the United Nations. I feel the greatness of India. Its people are harmless, and it is an example to the rest of the world as people are living together happily,” the Buddhist spiritual leader said. Asking China to learn from India on how to live together, the Dalai Lama said: “I use to tell my Chinese friends that they should learn from India. Some Chinese hardliners see Tibet as a source of danger. But we are not seeking separation from China.” “Tibet must remain with China for economic development but the Chinese government must respect Tibet’s unique language, script, culture, and ecology. These must be preserved,” he said. (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

11. CM Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet clears Jan Lokpal Bill (5)

New Delhi: After slashing power and water bills, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) inched closer to delivering on yet another election promise on Monday when the Delhi government cleared the draft of the much-talked-about Jan Lokpal Bill. The bill provides for covering all public servants — from the chief minister to Group D employees — and seeks life term as maximum punishment for those found guilty of corruption. It provides for a legal right of protection to “honest” officials, whistleblowers and witnesses besides having provisions for time-bound investigation and trial of corruption cases. Soon after assuming office in December last year, chief minister Kejriwal had said his government would pass the Jan Lokpal Bill by the first week of February. The draft bill was cleared at a cabinet meeting presided over by Kejriwal. Bringing the Jan Lokpal Bill to contain corruption was a key election promise made to voters by the AAP. PWD minister Manish Sisodia said no provision for any “special privileges” for even the chief minister and council of ministers had been proposed in the bill when it comes to cracking down on corruption. He said government would not send the bill to the home ministry for approval. Sources said the law department had mentioned in its noting that the Delhi government had to get clearance from the home ministry before tabling any bill. “This is one of the most widely debated bills in India’s parliamentary history over the last few decades and Delhi government is of the view that it has come up with an effective bill to restore the public confidence in its elected representatives and other public servants,” Sisodia told reporters after the cabinet meeting. He added the bill approved by the Delhi cabinet provided for “certainty and swiftness” of punishment to those found involved in graft. The minister also said selection panel for appointment of Lokpal chairperson and members would be “transparent” and free of political control. The seven-member panel will have the chief minister as the government nominee. “The only law which comes closest to this bill is the bill passed by the Uttarakhand assembly in 2011, but it too had some limitations in filing complaints against the CM and ministers. This bill for the first time provides a legal right of protection for the whistleblowers and witnesses in corruption cases,” Sisodia said (Hindustan Times 4/2/14)

 

12. CBI Files Chargesheet in 7 Cases of Lottery Scam in Kerala (5)

KOCHI: The CBI on Monday filed a chargesheet in seven cases of lottery scam involving Santiago Martin before the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate. In the chargesheet, the CBI stated that a dubious deal between officials of the Sikkim Lottery Department and the accused caused loss of over Rs4,500 crore to the Sikkim Government and there were no loss caused to the exchequer of Kerala Government. As per the chargesheet, the accused in the case are Santiago Martin, 51, managing director of Future Gaming Solutions, Chennai; John Britto, 49, director of Future Gaming Solutions, Coimbatore; Future Gaming Solutions, John Kennedy, proprietor, Megha Distributors, Palakkad; N Jayamurughan, 45, partner in M J Associates, Madurai; A Shakthivel, 47, partner in Mahalakshmi Offset Printers, Sivakasi; and V Selvaraj, 65, of Chennai. They were charged under 120B IPC, 420 IPC, Section 4(d) and 4(f) of the Lottery Regulation Act r/w Section 3(5) 3(6) of the Lottery Regulation Act. Of the seven cases, six were investigated by the CBI Kochi unit and one by the Thiruvananthapuram unit. Around 26 persons, who were lottery vendors, were given a clean chit. In all these cases, the CBI investigated illegal profits made through the sale of lotteries of the Sikkim Government in Kerala. The CBI is yet to file chargesheet in one case involving the of Bhutan lotteries. As per the charge sheet, the accused hatched a criminal conspiracy with officials of Sikkim Lottery.  Lottery tickets worth Rs4,752 crore were sold in Kerala during 2008-2010 period, only Rs142.93 crore was paid to the Sikkim Government. Thus, the Sikkim Government incurred a loss of over Rs 4,500 crore. (New Indian Express 4/2/14)

 

TRIBALS

13. Trinamool member convened ‘court’, claim tribals (6)

Kolkata: In a stunning revelation, leaders of some tribal organisations in and around Kolkata have claimed that a non-tribal Trinamool Congress panchayat member had convened the salishi sabha (kangaroo court) that allegedly ordered the gang rape of a girl on January 21. Leaders of Kolkata Adibasi Youth Association (KAYA) and Hooghly Majhi Marwa (HMM) said on Friday that Trinamool gram panchayat member Ajay Mondal convened the kangaroo court in the Subalpur village of Birbhum’s Labhpur, and the community chief Balai Mandi—the main accused in the rape — did not give his consent to the resolution adopted in the court. They pointed out that Mondal even signed the resolution (of which HT has a copy) and that Mandi’s name did not appear in the list of signatories. The second signatory is Sekhar Bairagya, another local Trinamool leader and the third signature is that of the victim’s boyfriend. Police have, however, arrested Mandi and 12 residents of the village — all tribals — while Mondal has remained untraceable. “In salishi sabhas convened by tribals, no non-tribals are allowed. How come people from other communities participated?” said Baidyanath Hansda, KAYA secretary. The kangaroo court in question was summoned on January 20 and the resolution was taken the next day. The girl filed a complaint on January 22, alleging she and her lover, a 24-year-old mason, had been tied to a tree for hours and slapped with fines of Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 50,000 by the court. After a nine-day stay, the victim was released from hospital on Friday morning. The mother-daughter duo have been kept at a welfare home in Suri with adequate security. (Hindustan Times 1/2/14)

 

14. Deprived of Tribal Status, Paharias to Boycott Polls (6)

NUAPADA: The Paharia community has decided to boycott general elections this year as it is yet to be accorded tribal status by the Central Government. Though Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) of Odisha under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister has recommended their inclusion in the tribal list to the Centre, there has been no response. There are around 2000 Paharia households in Nuapada, Kalahandi, Balangir, Bargarh and Nabarangpur districts. Majority of them are landless and do not have proper dwelling place with virtually zero literacy rate, said Indra Paharia of  Kamajari hamlet in Bargaon village of the district at the State level convention held recently. A memorandum was also sent to the Chief Minister urging him to request the MPs to raise the issue in Parliament and initiate a special project for development of Paharias. Besides, they raised demands related to housing, land allotment under Forest Rights Act (FRA) and land development under MGNREGS. The Paharias are primarily bamboo artisans and stay near forest where bamboo is available. They live in small clusters of houses and each cluster does not have more than 12 households. After the tribal status to Paharias was mentioned by Dr Fanindam Deo in his research work in 1983, the issue was raised in the State Assembly in 1985, but no action has been taken yet. Ironically, Paharias enjoy the privileges of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Although the TAC has been raising the issue repeatedly with the Centre, it has failed to evoke any response. Sukal Paharia, the only college pass-out of the Paharia community of Odisha recently filed a case with the National Human Rights Commission which has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary to furnish detailed information on the community. “We hope the NHRC will direct the Central Government to resolve the matter,” said Saubhagya Paharia, another educated Paharia. “Our livelihood revolves around preparing bamboo baskets, but non-availability of bamboo these days has seriously affected our livelihood. Most of our people are now migrating to different parts of the country and are exploited by the labour contractors and employers,” said Sukal. With Secretary to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs Hrusikesh Panda scheduled to visit the district on Monday, all eyes are set on him to expedite the matter. (New Indian Express 3/2/14)

 

15. ‘Tribals are the Original People of the Country’ (6)

BANGALORE: A Tribal Youth Exchange Programme organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra was inaugurated by Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy here on Saturday. Reddy said that while civilisation is improving tremendously, forest areas are shrinking and tribal people are losing their freedom. “Tribal people are the original inhabitants of this land,” he said. He said the aim of this programme is to bring tribal youths from the forests to the mainstream and involve them in development activities. This programme will give them an opportunity to know different cultures, and create unity in this country, he said. “We speak different languages, belong to different castes and sub-castes, but we are all living together. This is a wonder and we can’t see it in any part of the world.” Saleem Ahmed, Director General of Nehru Yuva Kendra, said the role of youths is very important for building a strong country. “The overall development of the country is in youths’ hand. Through this programme, every year, we send 2,500 tribal youths of five states to other states so that they understand the culture and tradition of those states,” he said. (New Indian Express 3/2/14)

 

16. NGOs to Take up Attappadi Issue with Govt again (6)

KOCHI: Even after over six months since the Prime Minister’s Office directed the state government to take urgent measures to put an end to Attappadi infant deaths, many issues remain unattended to. To speed up things, NGOs are getting ready to take up the issue with the government once again. Following a visit to Attappadi in July last year, Prime Minister’s Advisor T K A Nair wrote to state Chief Secretary E K Bharat Bhushan directing appropriate action with great urgency. Name-based tracking of already identified 900-odd tribal and non-tribal pregnant women in the three villages of Agali, Sholayur and Pudur and tracking of children below 12 months were the priority issues mentioned in the letter. “Provide crop insurance for tribal land and settle pending claims. The Collector and Sub-Collector may decide all pending cases relating to tribal land alienation within three to six months and speedy implementation of orders in land alienation already passed within the next three months,” T K A Nair had directed Bhushan. He said joint teams of medical professionals should visit each hamlet once a week. Hospitalisation of children and women suffering from severe malnutrition, earmarking facilities at Kotathara Tribal Hospital for treating severe malnutrition cases of pregnant women and children and setting up of community kitchens with full participation of Thaikulam Sanghams were some of the directions issued by the PM’s Office. Six months after the visit, a couple of crucial issues have not been resolved, NGOs alleged. “When the PM’s Office intervened, we felt there would be immediate solution to issues related to land alienation. On the one hand, land has not been allotted to many tribals even now. On the other, medical facilities at Kottathara hospital remain pathetic. “Even now, pregnant women are being sent to hospitals in other districts for treatment. Two days ago, four delivery cases were referred to Thrissur Medical College,” pointed out Rajendra Prasad of Thampu, an NGO active in the region. However, Palakkad District Collector K Ramachandran said proceedings for land allocation were on. “There are no major issues related to the hospital. Some medicos, who came as part of National Rural Health Mission, have returned after their tenure ended. There were some isolated issues related to their additional allowances. “About land allocation, when we tried to allot land under the Tribal Act, there were some agitations by Tamil minorities. We issued notices to 57 of them, and later it was found that only 19 of them actually belong to the Tamil minority category. There was some delay due to these agitations and now the proceedings are on,” he said. (New Indian Express 4/2/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

17. India faces challenge of environmental degradation’ (9)

AURANGABAD: A seminar on ‘Law and Environment – Concerns and Challenges’ was jointly organized by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) officers’ association, the Environmental Research Foundation Education Academy and V N Patil Law College on Saturday. The seminar was held at Einstein Hall in Jawaharlal Nehru Engineering College. Justice V R Kingaonkar gave the inaugural speech at the seminar emphasizing nature’s role in protecting people. Kingaonkar, who is also chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), had introduced certain provisions to the NGT Act, 2010. He said laws should be framed to achieve environmental protection. Sadhana Pandey, the head of the law department at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (BAMU), also addressed the audience saying that it is every citizen’s duty to protect the environment. Dhanaji Jadhav, principal of V N Patil Law College also spoke at the conference. He said, “People do not care about the environment as they consider that it is the responsibility of government and pollution control board. We need to create more awareness among all sections of society as laws are not the solution to all issues.” “As far as remedies available to the individual, organisations or public at large under various acts, they can file prosecution after giving 60 days’ notice but in practice, very few have resorted to this remedy taking into consideration very technical nature of offences, non-availability of technical reports and data as well as vexatious nature of the proceedings in the court of law,” he said. The MPCB Aurangabad regional officer, Pravin Joshi said, “Around 30 papers were presented, which were received from across the state such as Pune, Nanded, Nagpur, Dhulia and Aurangabad.” These papers will be published in a book having ISBN number.” (Times of India 2/2/14)

 

18. Why India must protect the Western Ghats from getting lost (9)

The Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats present a unique opportunity for the government to find and enforce an approach that strikes a balance between development and environment protection. Sadly, the union government has failed to act so far. Last month, union environment minister M Veerappa Moily put on hold all implementation of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan panel. This is worrying, because India is at the point where further stripping away of ecosystems and ecological balance — as is happening in the Western Ghats — pushes us closer to a tipping point. This will cause not just the loss of species and the degradation of unique biodiversity hotspots — the Ghats for, instance, have shrunk by 25% over the past decades — but will also affect rainfall patterns, river flow, water supply and climate across large swathes of the country. Already, in the devastation that Uttarakhand faced last June, we got a preview of the impact that reckless development can pose not just to the environment — which might seem like an abstract concern compared to profit margins and rising Sensex levels — but to human settlements, cities, residents and families. And yes, to local economies too. The Kasturirangan panel has sought to balance those two concerns, watering down the environmental regulation regime proposed by the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel’s Gadgil report in 2012, a year earlier. What the Kasturirangan report proposed is a more realistic model — one that would not, by any means, protect all of the Western Ghats, or even all that is left unspoilt there, but that could mitigate some of the damage that unchecked development stands to cause. It is a formula that could work, if the environment ministry stands firm behind it. The Kasturirangan report seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report. If enforced, this would protect thousands of endemic species. It seeks to protect water sources that currently feed all of peninsular India, and green swathes that help control temperature and climate across southern India. This area includes protected areas and UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, and excludes nearly all of the Ghats’ inhabited areas. Most of these areas are already protected by norms governing national parks and sanctuaries. “There needs to be a healthy coexistence,” says VS Vijayan, biodiversity expert and member of the Madhav Gadgil panel. “But this will only be possible when we can discuss the issue of environment protection in a dispassionate and scientific manner.” The report was met with howls of protest that began as misinformation campaigns started by local leaders and politicians with vested interests. Once the people had begun to panic, their leaders hid behind these protests. In a crucial election year, the Centre buckled. And now we are back to square one, and running out of time. (Hindustan Times 2/2/14)

 

19. Air Pollution Rising in Jharsuguda (9)

JHARSUGUDA: Increasing air pollution in the coal-rich district has led to increasing threat of accidents. The coal dust hinders the drivers’ vision leading to accidents. District police report stated that 249 accidents cases were reported in 2013. While 98 persons died, 133 were seriously injured. Jharsuguda has been placed at the eighth position among critically polluted districts of India. According to a survey, the district also tops in the State in spreading pollution. The measures taken by the district administration have failed to solve the problem. Brajrajnagar MLA Anup Sai along with his supporters staged a protest on NH-49 on Thursday, demanding measures to check pollution levels. The stir was called off after Sub-Collector assured of taking corrective measures. (New Indian Express 1/2/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

20. 37 lakh migrated for education within India in a decade (11)

MUMBAI: The flight to campus is not always beyond the seas. The comfort of being close to home is driving several young Indians to different Indian states to pursue an education. In the last 10 years, a total of 37 lakh moved to get a degree, showing that a discouraging academic landscape near home is no longer keeping its youth from travelling to the brighter lights elsewhere. Departure rate among young men wanting to pursue an education is higher, for 26 lakh shifted as compared to 11 lakh women. Of those, 6.2 lakh youths (or 17%) moved to a new state; 16.8 lakh shifted to another district within their home state in the last 10 years. Karnataka received the largest exodus — 1.8 lakh — from other states and Uttar Pradesh sent out most students — 1.1 lakh. A January 2014 research paper, Internal Migration for Education and Employment among Youth in India, commissioned by UN-HABITAT’s Global Urban Youth Research Network, begins a conversation on whether Indian states must worry about internal brain drain. “Migration is an old story. But the most important phenomenon we are seeing today is people moving for education,” said author S Chandrasekhar, professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. “With uneven distribution of educational facilities, there are clearly going to be winner states and loser states. My paper maps the trends of migration and also leaves you with a question: Should we worry of the brain drain at the sub-national level?” However, the survey charts merely those who migrated for the motive of education. “For example, if a family moved to Delhi because the bread-earner got a new job and the child joined a Delhi college, he or she is not included in this survey,” clarified Chandrasekhar. Historically, as is the story even now, of the 11 crore individuals aged 15-32 years, over 70% moved on account of matrimony. While nearly 10% shifted in search of employment, over 3.5% did so on account of education. “The share of educational migration has increased. As far as I can see, for education, more migration happens from AP to Karnataka, UP to Delhi and from UP to Maharashtra,” said Anil Kumar, professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Looking back, Chandrasekhar said, most people in the 80s moved not for education, but for jobs and career opportunities. “There wasn’t a Noida then, nor were the large private universities. The new IITs and IIMs were not yet up. Only recently did so many new AICTE-approved technical colleges come up,” he explained. So, expansion of higher education has only fuelled migration. “The most important states from the perspective of migration for education are Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal and Rajasthan. Of these states, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka are the main destinations (i.e. attracting migrants from other states), whereas Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Rajasthan are the main source states of migrants,” the paper noted. But the winds are changing. “In the next five years, we will see the Haryana effect where new universities are coming up; that will give migration a new meaning. Will states shall attract students also provide enough jobs?” asked Chandrasekhar. (Times of India 2/2/14)

 

21. Focus on teacher management, pupil-teacher ratio: official (11)

BANGALORE: Commissioner for Public Instruction Mohammad Mohsin on Monday said that there was a need to ensure that the focus of implementing the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 goes beyond the 25 per cent reservation quota in private schools. Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day State-level workshop on RTE Act organised by Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Centre for Child and Law at the National Law School of India University here, Mr. Mohsin said that there was a need for the Education Department officials at the block and district levels to ensure that they focus on various aspects of the Act, including teacher management, fulfilling basic infrastructure norms in classrooms and pupil-teacher ratio. “Merely focussing on the 25 per cent reservation clause in private schools is not enough. There is a need to look at all the aspects of the Act so that the Act is implemented in full spirit,” he said. He said that there was a need to ensure that the local authorities played a vital role in addressing grievances related to RTE Act. Earlier, during the inauguration, H.N. Nagmohan Das, judge of the High Court of Karnataka, said that private managements should co-operate in making the Act successful. “Private schools should not think the Act is against them. Schools enjoy concessions in land grant, land tax, building tax, motor vehicle tax, water and power. They cannot refuse taking the responsibility (under the Act). If they do not discharge their duties, then a need arises for the department to take action against them,” he said. Mr. Nagmohan Das said that the Constitution should be amended to incorporate more fundamental rights such as employment and health. He said that the inclusion of these rights were in the Directive Principles of the Constitution and not in the original list of fundamental rights as it had an economic burden on the government. (The Hindu 4/2/14)

 

22. 1.7L kids are out of school in Karnataka (11)

BANGALORE: The state government’s claim that there are only a little over 50,000 out of school children (OOSC) in Karnataka has been demolished, ironically, by its own recent survey. The new survey that was carried out following a high court order now puts the number of children not attending school at 1,70,525. That’s clearly over thrice the earlier figure computed last year. Worse, Bangalore South is home to the largest of them. As many as 18,393 children have been identified as OOSC here. The four northern states account for 33% of the total children not attending school. Gulbarga with 15,468 children figures second in the list. Raichur has 12,128, Yadgir 11,197 and Bellary 10,747 OOSC each. Explaining the reason for Bangalore South’s dismal figures, a senior education department official said, “The high numbers are mainly due to migration. Bangalore South has regions like Anekal, K R Puram, BTM Layout, Electronic City, Vijayanagar, Jayanagar, Basavanagudi and Magadi Road. There is a lot of construction work happening in these areas. This includes both apartment construction and Metro work.” In stark contrast, Bangalore North has 7,742 children not attending classes. The best performers are Uttara Kannada with 686 children, Udupi (1,008) and Dakshina Kannada (1,503). The Karnataka High Court had asked the state to conduct a comprehensive survey on the number of out of school children in a suo motu case. The case was initiated by the court following a newspaper report on OOSC despite the Right to Education law in place. Also, an NGO had claimed that the actual number of OOSC in Karnataka was six lakh. The education department went for a detailed household survey between November 13 and 17, covering 90 lakh households. Details were picked up from schools, public places were searched and a detailed scrutiny was conducted for children between 7 and 14 years of age. The criterion for naming a child out of school too changed. Earlier, a student had to be absent from class for 60 days to be considered OOSC. The period was shortened to seven days of absence without intimation. It opened a website where the public could report on OOSC. An inter-department high-powered coordination committee was constituted to work on the issue of retaining children in school. (Times of India 5/2/14)

 

TERRORISM

23. Growing Coordination Among Militant Groups Threat to India’ (12)

NEW DELHI: Increased use of the Internet, change of tactics like attacking crowded places, recruitment of educated youths, and coordinated activities by several terror groups in the Indian sub-continent pose serious challenge to the country’s security. A new book, which profiles in detail 39 such groups in the region — ranging from ISI-backed terror outfits to regional ones and Left-wing extremists, says many of them have started coordinating their activities, including sharing arms supplies and transferring funds. The pattern of terror strikes in India and elsewhere has also shifted from isolated attacks to bombings of crowded places or public transport systems to spread panic among the people, says the book ‘Militant Groups in South Asia’, brought out by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). It also points out that the decades-long international efforts in the region in the name of ‘war against terror’, have not only failed to contain the menace of terrorism but aggravated the regional security situation. Analysing the changing pattern of terror and militancy in the South Asian region, the authors — noted security expert Surinder K Sharma and researcher Anshuman Behera — say these groups “pose a critical challenge to the (Indian) state when they come together and coordinate their activities. These groups often come together to fight a common enemy”.The book not only profiles major militant groups operating in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries, but also provides information on their prevailing status, sources of finance and weapons and other capabilities. It also gives an assessment of what these groups could be capable of doing in the near future. The organisations include Indian Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahedeen, Al Ummah, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland in India to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundullah and the Haqqani network in Pakistan, besides Al Qaeda and the United Jihad Council. Last year’s killing of prominent TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and selection of commander Mullah Fazlullah as its chief may affect the future security scenario in Pakistan, as well as in India and Afghanistan, the authors, Sharma and Behera, said. Noting that a large number of Pakistani unemployed youth were joining TTP and were being ingrained with anti-India sentiments, they said that TTP would soon be dragged into action in Kashmir and other parts of India. It also expressed apprehension that TTP’s network among radical elements in Pakistani armed forces would make it easy for them to gain access to nuclear facilities in Pakistan or carry out “a commando type attack that might cause widespread dispersal of radioactivity”.With US-led forces set to move out of Afghanistan, the authors expressed apprehensions about a major upswing in terror activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Area in Pakistan in the coming days. Regarding JeM launched by Masood Azhar who was released from Indian prison during the 1999 Kandahar hijack, the book says such organisations have lately “resumed full-scale public activities” in Pakistan. “The ISI has been given the task to train the terrorist outfits like the JeM to use cyber and computer technology” to carry out their terror activities, Sharma and Behera said. On the ULFA, they said while peace talks were continuing with a major faction but being opposed by the one led by Paresh Barua, “any wrong move during the peace talks would attract a number of cadres from the pro-talk faction to join Barua faction”.Regarding Maoists, the authors say that overt and covert support of civil societies and frontal bodies has helped the extremists legitimise their ideology. (New Indian Express 2/2/14)

 

24. Terrorist freed after IA hijack back in action (12)

NEW DELHI: Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released by the Indian government 14 years ago in exchange of passengers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 that was hijacked by terrorists, seems to be back in action after several years. After the 2001 Parliament attack, not much was heard about Azhar but latest intelligence inputs have said he is reviving Jaish-e-Mohammad’s (JeM) activities against India. According to top sources, JeM organized a conference last week in Muzzafarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in memory of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged on February 9 last year. The conference was organized in the university ground in Muzzafarabad and a large number of members from terror outfits attended it, sources said. The input said strategy for action against India was discussed in this conference apart from highlighting the Kashmir issue internationally. Azhar had invited several ulemas from various places in Pakistan to the conference. According to reports, about 10,000 people attended the conference on January 26, when India was celebrating Republic Day. In the rally, Azhar reportedly asked Pakistan to “lift restrictions on jihad” and warned his group would take “revenge” for Guru’s execution. Azhar, sources said, observed January 26 as black day. JeM’s deadliest attack on India was the December 13, 2001 Parliament raid in which armed men tried to barge inside but were stopped by security forces. Security forces have taken note of Azhar’s resurfacing in the light of Guru’s approaching death anniversary. According to sources, Azhar also released a book titled ‘Aayana’, which was reportedly written by Guru while in jail. In the book, Guru reportedly mentioned several things including praising Mullah Omar of Taliban for taking upon US forces. Apart from Guru, the input said the Jaish also discussed killings/hangings of other militants by India. Anti-terror experts said JeM had lately been lying low but it may carry out strikes now as it is reviving its strategies. (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

25. MP: SIMI suspect arrested in Ujjain, claims ATS (12)

Ujjain: Madhya Pradesh anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has claimed it arrested a suspected operative of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and recovered explosives from his possession during a raid in Mahidpur area of Ujjain district. Ujjain superintendent of police Anurag said the suspect, Zuber Nagori, was arrested from his home on Monday evening. About 200 gelatin rods and 100 detonators hidden by the accused in the water tank of an air cooler were recovered by the ATS team, he said. It was learnt that Zuber, a motor mechanic, was arrested on the basis of information provided by one Sajid Hussain, who had surrendered before the ATS in Bhopal. The ATS has claimed that so far it has arrested eight SIMI operatives from Mahidpur. On December 31, four suspected SIMI operatives—Javed Nagori, Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Adil and Abdul Wahid—were arrested in Ujjain and 12 IEDs, 900 gelatin rods and 600 detonators were recovered from them. Another suspect, Mohammad Amaan was arrested from Najhiri in Ujjain on January 4. The SIMI, formed in 1977 in Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh), had a strong presence in Malwa region even before it was banned in 2001. The outfit is suspected to be involved in terrorist activities. Several leaders of the outfit, including its former chief Safdar Nagori, hail from Ujjain. Safdar is lodged in Ahmedabad jail. (Hindustan Times 4/2/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

26. Be sensitive to women during anti-Naxal ops: Jairam Ramesh to CRPF (12)

NEW DELHI: Union minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday asked CRPF personnel to be sensitive while dealing with women during anti-Naxal offensives and carry out their operations in a “people friendly manner”. Ramesh, who has extensively worked with the Central Reserve Police Force during development initiatives started by the government in Maoist violence-hit areas, also suggested a three-point strategy to be followed by the officials and personnel of the force in these areas. “You should have a sensitive approach with regard to human rights violations issues. We are instruments of a democratic state and we are wedded to constitutional and democratic processes. We must initiate the system of transparency and accountability and wherever there is a complaint the CRPF should not hide behind the cloak of secrecy,” the Union Rural Development Minister said. “The CRPF should carry out the operations in a sensitive and people friendly manner. In order to instill confidence in the locals of these areas we should be sensitive to gender dimensions and women. This will go a along way in assuaging the local sentiments,” he said while delivering a lecture during a run-up to the diamond jubilee celebrations of the force later this year. The country’s largest paramilitary force has deployed close to 90,000 personnel for these operations and Ramesh has travelled to many of the forces’ remote locations in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh as part of his ministerial duties. He also worked closely with the force in 2012 when CRPF cleared the Saranda forest area in Jharkhand from Naxal domination. Ramesh said most of the problems, in these areas where there are large tribal populations, occur when there are interactions with women. As a plan the force could even think of deploying some of their women personnel at some feasible locations and increase their participation in the duties they render, he suggested. (Times of India 4/2/14)

 

27. Naxals’ supply chain of weapons, aid blocked in Chhattisgarh: Police (12)

Raipur: With its recent crackdown on the urban support network and couriers of Maoists, Chhattisgarh Police has claimed to have choked the main supply chain of weapons, medicines and other kind of aid to Naxals operating from their stronghold in Bastar region of the state. Police recently arrested nine persons, all residents of Kanker region who they claimed were acting as conduits and were part of the channel providing logistic and financial support to the extremists linked to the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of the banned CPI (Maoist). These persons, two of them prominent businessmen from north Bastar, were working under the direction of Prabhakar, a divisional committee rank member, according to a highly-placed intelligence official. Prabhakar is a very important figure in the outlawed red organisation and was solely handling the entry of all Naxal-related materials through various regions surrounding Bastar and Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), he said. “The interrogation of Naxal conduits revealed that Prabhakar is the man who looks after the entry and exit of all kinds of material in DKSZC-controlled area which is spread over south Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli,” the official said. “Intelligence Bureau inputs suggest that Prabhakar had shifted to deep forests in Abhujmad area from Kanker after the arrest of couriers as most of them frequented his usual locations and he feared that their grilling may create trouble for him,” he added. During investigation, it also came to light that Prabhakar was a close relative of Ganpathi, “Supreme Commander” and General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Maoist). He hails from the native region of Ganpathi in Karimnangar district, Andhra Pradesh, the official said. “Due to his proximity to Ganpathi, Prabhakar was entrusted with such a big responsibility of handling the supply chain. “Prabhakar’s role is being considered equivalent to that of Gudsa Usendi (who surrendered recently) who was handling the media operations of DKSZC.” “Of the nine Naxal conduits, Neeraj Chopra, a business, and Sukhnath Nareti were said to be very close to Prabhakar and major links in this network operating from Kanker in North Bastar.” (Indian Express 1/2/14)

 

28. After 5 years in jail, Mumbaikar acquitted of naxal charges (12)

Mumbai: After spending five years in prison, Mumbai resident Arun Ferreira, who was slapped with 11 cases accusing him to be a Naxalite, is now a free man. He was acquitted from the last case pending against him last week. Being a ‘political prisoner’ for all these years, Mr. Ferreira who is currently pursuing his degree in law has decided to fight for ‘many such others’ who according to him are denied of their constitutional rights across the country. “Prison is certainly not the place where one wants to be. But my commitment towards bringing social change has rather increased after spending five years inside. That’s my gain,” he told The Hindu. Whether it was opposing the privatisation of college canteen or to form the staff union, an alma mater of St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai, Mr. Ferreira was an activist from a very young age. In 2007, he was arrested in Nagpur after the police alleged him of being a Naxalite and framing a criminal conspiracy. Ever since his arrest, he was slapped with seven more identical cases. Following his hunger strike in 2008, which lasted 27 days, one more case was added. Ironically, when he was acquitted of all nine cases in 2011 and walked out of the prison, he was immediately arrested by Gadchiroli police in yet another case about naxal activity. “They almost abducted me, in front of my family and lawyers,” he recalled. According to Mr. Ferreira, such practice of releasing and then re-arresting is very common in Naxal affected region. “They (the authorities) want to inflate the number of arrests in the region. If they don’t do it, the area might lose extra funding which comes from Central government aimed specially for naxal affected regions,” he said. He was released on bail in 2012 and was finally acquitted of the 11th case last week. Around 13 prisoners from Nagpur Central Prison who are arrested under MCOCA and UAPA are currently on hunger strike, according to him. “Persistent refusal of bail and non-production of an accused in courts are the two causes for which they are fighting,” he said. According to Mr. Ferreira, the authorities do not even bother to take an accused to court in areas like Gadchiroli and the entire trial is conducted via-video conferencing. “Even verdicts are given through such means,” he said. He completed Masters in Human Rights while in prison and now has decided to work for the political prisoners across the country. “All those who are campaigning for peoples’ rights and are affiliated to certain political ideology are one set of political prisoners,” he said, adding that members of Muslim community who are arrested because of state’s prejudice towards them form the second such set. It was his wife who financially supported the family and took care of their son all these years. His eight-year-old son was two and half years at the time of Mr. Ferreira’s arrest. “I wouldn’t mind if he too chooses activism at right time. I want him to do what his heart would want,” he said. Mr. Ferreira has not deterred from his activist mode. “I do not believe that only new legislations will bring change. We need peoples’ movements, protests on roads and sustained campaigns among masses to bring the change,” he said. But does he really support an armed revolution for a social change? “I have a belief that change will take place. Whether it will be with arms or without depends on the leaders. My preference is for non-violence,” he said. (The Hindu 4/2/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

29. Myanmarese refugees find no solace (13)

New Delhi: Several villages in west Delhi have emerged as the base of thousands of Myanmarese families, who have been forced to seek shelter due the conflict back home. One of them, Budhela, has emerged as the capital’s ‘Burma Town’. The military regime’s conflict with its political opponents and ethnic groups has displaced lakhs of people in Myanmar over the decades. Persecution due to ethnicity, religion and political opinion are cited as the main reasons for seeking asylum in neighbouring countries. Some one lakh people have taken shelter in India, and according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) there are 8,306 registered Burmese refugees, including 3,924 women, in Delhi. “We decided to come to India due to fear of getting killed in Burma. We first sneaked into Bangladesh, where we spent three-four months, after which we managed to sneak into India,” says Siupam, who came to India from Myanmar’s Chin state. They hope for a better life in Delhi but a visit to Budhela village reveals that most families struggle for basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. They live in cramped one-room tenements without kitchen facilities and running water, and the area seems to have been devoid of development in recent years. In addition, the inability of many refugees to communicate in English and Hindi also make them vulnerable to harassment.Often the only document they carry is a UNHCR card, so the jobs they get are in the informal sector – casual workers, waiters, beauticians and security guards. There is also a ‘Refugee Assistance Centre’ in the village where Burmese refugees learn skills that they hope will help in getting jobs in the informal sector. Kaingur, 43, was a farmer in Myanmar, who fled to Mizoram in August 2002 with his wife and three children. In Mizoram, he worked as a labourer with a road construction contractor and sold vegetables. But the earnings were barely enough to feed the family, so they came to Delhi in 2002. After a long phase of unemployment, Kaingur found work as security guard with a restaurant in west Delhi’s Rajouri Garden and currently earns Rs 5,000 per month. With a room rent of Rs 1,500 along with other expenses, his family still barely manages to scrape through the month. “Living conditions here are bad and we don’t get any assistance from the government. We are also forced to frequently shift houses as we are not able to afford them,” he says. A recent report from the Burma Centre in Delhi says fleeing to India and particularly the capital has provided little solace. It says life in Delhi has turned into another nightmare for the refugees. Several women told the Centre that they continue to live in the fear due to the treatment they received at the hands of locals. They allege physical abuse, molestation, sexual assault and rampant discrimination, be it at their rented houses, workplaces, public spaces or even on the streets.  “To add to their woes is the difficulty of finding work and complying with the demands of local employers. They don’t report sexual assaults for fear of social stigma and shame. Even those cases that are reported to police stations are either not registered or result in the victim being put under pressure to abandon prosecution in exchange for cash,” the report says. India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and does not have a refugee law, but the rights of refugees and asylum seekers are protected by the Constitution. They have access to health care and their children can go to school. (Deccan Herald 2/2/14)

 

30. Refugee concern for BJP (13)

The BJP is “serious” about the day-to-day troubles faced by erstwhile refugees in Bihar. “They do not get the basic facilities and normal living conditions,” former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi told reporters here on Monday. The party has demanded a separate welfare commission for the betterment of Bangladeshi refugees, who migrated here in 1947-48 but are deprived of basic facilities. “The party is serious about creation of a separate welfare commission for them in case the BJP comes to power,” Modi said. He also accused the Nitish Kumar government of “delaying the setting up of Central University in Motihari”. “The state government was still to make use of the initial fund of Rs 200 crore allotted by the Centre towards acquisition of land for the purpose,” the BJP leader said. Members of Parliament Radha Mohan Singh, Rama Devi and BJP state spokesperson Azfar Shamshi were also present at the meet. Calling Nitish a tyrant, Modi said: “Because of his dictatorial conduct, he has already lost a number of trusted lieutenants and party colleagues in the past, and, finally, it resulted in the NDA breaking up in June 2013. Nitish is solely responsible for the split,” he said. Instead of Nitish’s demand for special status to Bihar, the former deputy chief minister stressed on a special package of Rs 50,000 crore to the state because that would bring “overall development in Bihar”. He termed the chief minister’s demand for special status to Bihar as superfluous because “it was just an eyewash for the innocent people of the state”. “Except some tax relief to the newly set up industrial units, practically, it (the special status) would not do any good to the larger interest of people,” said Modi. He added that the all-round development of the state was possible only with the help of a special financial package. (The Telegraph 4/2/14)

 

31. Aadhaar can be used to identify illegal migrants: SC (13)

NEW DELHI: Months after ordering that Aadhaar cards based on unique identification number could not be linked to social welfare schemes to deprive its benefits to those without the cards, the Supreme Court on Tuesday looked at the flip-side and said it could be a useful tool to identify illegal migrants. Examining the benefits of Aadhaar cards from a national security aspect, a bench of Justices B S Chauhan, J Chelameswar and M Y Eqbal said, “As on date, illegal migration to India continues unabated. By collecting personal details for Aadhaar cards, at least there can be some basis to identify an illegal migrant.”Justice Chelameswar, who was the chief justice of Gauhati High Court from 2007 to 2010, spoke about the illegal migrant problem in north-eastern states. “Speaking from the records of the court, there are about 10 million illegal migrants in the country,” he said. In Sarbananda Sonowal case-I and II, the apex court had directed identification of illegal migrants by setting up tribunals under the Foreigners Act, acknowledging that the state of Assam and its culture was in the throes of getting swamped by rampant and unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh. Elaborating on the difficulties faced by the tribunals set up for identification of illegal tribunals, Justice Chelameswar said, “Whenever notice is issued (to suspected illegal migrants), they say our name is in the electoral list. Assuming each tribunal completes one case a day, it will take two centuries to identify them. Would it not be in the interest of society that this process continues.” Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the PIL petitioners, said, “It is our apprehension that Aadhaar cards and UID will be given to these 10 million migrants. It is not confined to citizens.” The bench was quick with a rejoinder, “Can apprehension of misuse be a ground for challenge? They can fine-tune this (UID) programme.” While reiterating its earlier interim order restraining the Centre from forcing people to get Aadhaar cards to avail of welfare scheme benefits, the bench asked whether it could restrain persons from voluntarily availing it. “What if somebody wants the benefits and is willing to give all the information asked for. How can we stop it,” it asked. It attempted to visualize the controversy from another angle. “If private malls search your pockets in the name of ensuring safety, people are fine with it. But for security of nation, we say this (collection of biometrics under Aadhaar) is unconstitutional. We fail to understand,” it said. (Times of India 5/2/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

32. Wages for Rural Job Scheme to Be Hiked: Jairam Ramesh (14)

New Delhi: Wages for people working under the national rural employment scheme will be hiked from April 1, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said Sunday. A notification in this regard will be placed before parliament in the coming session scheduled to begin Feb 5, Ramesh said at the Ninth Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) Divas here. The wage rate under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has already been linked to the Consumer Price Index and the yearly revision follows from it. Referring to various suggestions received from the states, Ramesh said there was a need for parity in the MGNREGS wage rate and the minimum wage, where the former was lower. The minister said there were 14 states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Rajasthan, where rural job wage was lower than the minimum. To implement this, the MGNREGA Act needs to be amended and an expert committee is looking into the matter, he said. Ramesh also asked officials to motivate and help small and marginal farmers to undertake land levelling and irrigation schemes on their land under MGNREGS. The minister gave away 47 awards on the occasion for best initiatives and innovations in the job scheme. (New Indian Express 2/2/14)

 

33. Rajasthan among top states with maximum self-employed (14)

JAIPUR: Lack of industrialization in the state is yet again reflected in the latest government report on ‘employment and unemployment situation in India.’ Rajasthan has the second highest number of households with major source of income from self-employment in rural areas. However, regular and salaried persons in the state are just 362 per 1,000 households and ranks fifth among major states in the country. The report released in January 2013 is based on the employment and unemployment survey conducted in the 68th round of National Sample Survey (NSS) during July 2011 to June 2012. The data indicated that 608 households per 1,000 are engaged in self-employment. Assam has the highest 681 households. Those self employed, 457 households are into agriculture, highest among all the major states while 151 are into non-agriculture sector. In terms of regular wage earning, Rajasthan stands along with less developed states like Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Only 86 households in rural area recorded having a regular source of income. Figures of households having salaried employees in urban areas are 362 per 1,000, slightly better than UP and Bihar but way below the national average of national 417 households. “Certainly the reason is that with less number of industries in the state people have opted other ways of earning. Also there is spirit of entrepreneurship among the people over here that draws them to more into business and leading to self employment,” said Anshul Gupta, financial consultant with the State Bank of India. One of the prime reasons for self employment in the state is ownership of land by most people. In terms of land holding, Rajasthan is the leading state with households owning land size exceeding 1 hectare. Interestingly during the survey it was noted that most of land was under cultivation suggesting engagement of large number of people in agri-activities. One of the major findings that emerged from the study was that out of 1,000 households, 674 had MNREGA job cards, highest in the country except North Eastern states. Out of these households, 96% have bank and post office accounts. However, merely 34% could actually find work under the NREGA, over 22% sought but did not get work and 43% did not even ask for work. Clearly indicating that labour force engaged in casual labour also remains low in the state. (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

34. Delhi awards for job scheme (14)

The state government on Sunday received two national awards for implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Bihar bagged awards for transparency and accountability and sustainable livelihoods through convergence. Principal secretary, urban development department, Amrit Lal Meena received the awards at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, from Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. The Centre came up with the idea of such awards during financial year 2012-13. This year awards were to be given under three categories — transparency and accountability; sustainable livelihoods through convergence; and social inclusion. “Several states sent nominations, of which 15 from Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Maharashtra and Bihar were selected. Finally, Bihar and Sikkim were selected for awards in all categories,” Amrit Lal Meena told The Telegraph. The Union rural development ministry had set up a seven-member committee led by central administrative tribunal (CAT) president B.K Sinha to study the proposals. Meena said: “On January 16, 2014, a detailed presentation was made by my team. After complete review, the committee selected Bihar for first prize under transparency and accountability and second prize under sustainable livelihoods through convergence. ” An elated state rural development minister Nitish Mishra congratulated MGNREGA staff and functionaries. “I still remember when Delhi-based NGO Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) had done the performance audit of MGNREGA in Bihar in 2006-2012. Their report said crores were siphoned off.” Over the past two-three years, state rural development department undertook several initiatives to improve quality, transparency and social co-operation. Mishra said: “The committee appreciated initiatives like MGNREGA Divas inspection, social audit, appointment of lokpals, distribution of statements of job, wall paintings, strengthening of gram sabhas, sanction of payments through panchayat executive committee and monthly review notes.”  (The Telegraph 4/2/14)

 

35. Now, DTH for wages, pension for poor (14)

New Delhi: Despite little success and an abrupt halt in the much-hyped Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG and other schemes, the government on Monday announced its intention to roll-out another vote catching scheme. Titled the Direct-to-Home (DTH) scheme, the government aims to handover pension, wages and other entitlements directly to the beneficiaries. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh also said that a proposal was underway to bring the wages under the rural job scheme at par with the Minimum Wage Act of 1948, implying an increase in wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Ramesh said: “Today in our delivery system, the leakage is more and the coverage is less. Whether it is food security, health, pensions or MGNREGA. “You take any programme. We have a lot of money but how much money actually reaches the beneficiary is a big question mark. It’s not a question of money. “It’s a question of changing the system of delivery and what we have started in the last one year is a fundamental reform of the welfare delivery system involving banks and post offices.” He said the DTH was already functional in Andhra Pradesh and would begin soon in Jharkhand and in other states. “There are examples galore where for getting a scholarship you have to pay ten or 15 per cent of your entitlement,” Ramesh said. He said the scheme is being developed keeping in mind areas where there are no banks.Ramesh said his ministry has also moved a note to the prime minister’s office and the finance ministry seeking to take steps to amend certain sections of MGNREGA which will bring parity between the minimum wages act and MGNREGA. (Deccan Herald 5/2/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

36. HC Asks Govt to Enact Child Protection Act (14)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) has directed the State government to implement the provisions of the Child Protection Act to prevent children from being engaged in beggary and file an action taken report. Justices R Sudhakar and V S Velumani issued the direction while passing orders on a suo motu case taken up by the court based on a media report on the prevalence of child beggary and child labour in Tirunelveli district. In August 2011, the court took note of a report published in a Tamil daily that highlighted the plight of children aged between two and 10 years, who were reportedly hired from impoverished families and forced into beggary in the southern district. In his affidavit, the Tirunelveli Collector claimed that no child was involved in beggary in the district. However, an advocate commissioner appointed by the court inspected the district and submitted a report stating that child beggary was widespread. The children either begged individually or were used by women. The report said that many children were employed in unorganised sectors and commercial establishments. During the subsequent hearings, it was brought to the court’s notice that no members, except the chairman, had been appointed to the Tamil Nadu Commission for Protection of Child Rights (TNCPCR). The Commission, which is in charge for checking abuse of children including those engaged in begging, was inactive due to non-availability of members. The court then directed the State to appoint the members to the TNCPCR and file a report. When the case came up for hearing on Monday, Additional Advocate General K Chellapandian submitted that several cases regarding the appointment of members to the TNCPCR were pending before the Madras High Court and Supreme Court. The State government had already issued advertisements and notification to fill up the posts. Hearing the submissions, the court directed the State to implement the provisions of the Child Protection Act and to file a report on February 24. (New Indian Express 4/2/14)

 

37. Chandigarh to set up Commission for Protection of Child Rights (14)

Chandigarh: The Union Territory of Chandigarh would soon have a Commission for Protection of Child Rights. “The Chandigarh Administration has decided to set up Commission for Protection of Child Rights very soon,” the UT Administrator’s adviser K K Sharma said at a workshop on “Media Reporting on Women and Children” here today. Experts from National Commission for Women, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and journalists attended the workshop, according to an official release. In the inaugural address, Sharma said recognising the need for protecting children’s rights, the administration had decided to set up the commission. He said the safety of these vulnerable sections of society needed to be ensured within the confine of homes and outside. “Since a child imbibes the value system around him or her, it is imperative that the environment is conducive for healthy growth of our children,” he said. Nirmala S Bhavalkar, a member of the National Commission for Women, said the media, being the fourth pillar of our democracy, needed to make a good use of legal provisions and case studies in their reportage about sensitive issues related to children and women. “In doing so, facts should not be missed, but must not be exaggerated. In reporting crimes against these vulnerable sections, heinousness of crime should be highlighted rather than the explicit details of the incident,” she said. She exhorted mediapersons to play a pro-active role in highlighting the cause of women and children, “more so when the recommendations of the Commission and other such bodies are ignored by the government”.Manoj Gupta of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, appealed to the media to be thoroughly aware of the children’s rights so that the pubic was appropriately informed, and their reporting remained sound from legal perspective related to child rights. (Business standard 4/2/14)

 

38. Capital Most Unsafe for Girl Children (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the data that the State Crime Records Bureau submitted to the State Human Rights Commission, Thiruvananthapuram tops the list in the crimes against female children staying in orphanages and other shelter homes. As many as 66 cases were registered in this regard in the state of which nine are from the capital. Malappuram holds the last position with only one such case registered. It was based on an investigation order issued by Commission Chairman Justice J B Koshi on the frauds in the functioning of orphanages that the police submitted the data. In majority of such cases that were registered, the police could neither nab the culprits nor find the children. It was also found that these orphanages and shelter homes didn’t  even the address of the children who went missing. There are 1,107 orphanages in the state of which the Orphanage Commission Board has identified 87 orphanages  that lack recognition from the government for their functioning. According to Justice Koshi, based on the rules of Kerala State (Orphanage and Charitable Homes) Board of Control an orphanage or a shelter home should keep an admission register and attendance register for future reference and other purposes. The Commission has also asked the Orphanage Control Board to submit all data regarding the orphanages in three months. DIG S Sreejith will investigate the cases. (New Indian Express 5/2/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

39. Trichy Corporation violating manual scavengers Act: PIL (19)

MADURAI: A public interest litigation that was filed before the Madurai bench of the Madras high court has charged the Trichy Corporation that it continues its practice of manual cleaning of human waste, sewage and septic tanks without any safety measures. The PIL was filed by one V Saravanan (42) of Srirangam in Trichy, who is also the district president of Thanthai Periyar Maanakaratchi Thuppuravu Thozhilalarkal Sangam. The PIL has sought direction to the state’s chief secretary, Trichy collector and its corporation commissioner to immediately provide safety equipment. The PIL has also demanded action against the erring officers for violation of human rights and failure to implement provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, under which safety equipment should be provided. The officials intentionally ignore the demand to provide equipment for the scavengers. The commissioner even went to the extent of saying that there was no alternative to clean the human waste, sewerage and septic tanks, the petitioner contended. “The officials had even threatened if the scavengers complained about non-availability of safety equipment. The scavengers had suffered heavily due to non-supply of safety equipment and in fact some workers had died. They were compelled to do manual scavenging for their livelihood,” the petitioner said. When the matter came up before the division bench of justices R Sudhakar and V M Velumani on Tuesday for admission, the bench ordered notice to the above said officials with a direction to reply on February 10. (Times of India 5/2/14)

 

40. Marines case: Clause that provides death penalty likely to be dropped (19)

New Delhi: A day after the Supreme Court gave the Centre one week to sort out the logjam between various ministries on the issue of the plea of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012 that they not be tried under the stringent anti-piracy laws which attract the death penalty, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati on Tuesday suggested a way out. At a high-level meeting in the evening, Vahanvati is learnt to have suggested that the way out of the logjam could be to remove the clause in the still-to-be-filed chargesheet that provides for death sentence. All the other sections, both under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 and the Indian Penal Code, he has recommended, could the retained in the chargesheet. Senior officials of the ministries of Law, Home and External Affairs were present in the meeting. The Italian government has objected to the Centre’s decision to invoke the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 against the two marines, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) adopting contrasting stands on the issue. While the MHA has already sanctioned the prosecution of the marines under the stringent law that prescribes death penalty, the MEA is in favour of a toning down of the charges on the plea that it could have serious effect on India’s relations with Italy and other European Union nations. Sources present in the meeting said the possibility of completely withdrawing all charges under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 found no support and the suggestion of the AG was found the most workable. On Tuesday, the apex court had given the Centre time till next Monday to resolve the contradictory stands of various ministries. The trial of the two marines has not begun due to the logjam. (Indian Express 5/2/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

41. Bihar first state to launch food security scheme (21)

Patna: The National Food Security Act (NFSA), which guarantees foodgrains at nominal prices to the poor, was on Saturday launched in some districts of Bihar, making it the first state to do so. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who addressed a function marking the symbolic launch of the scheme, said 84% (6.90 crore) of the rural below poverty line (BPL) people and 74% (70 lakh) urban BPL population would be the beneficiaries of the scheme. For now, it has been launched for Patna, Nalanda, Gopalganj and Purnia districts. The statewide launch would happen around February 20-21, when the Food Corporation of India would allocate the state foodgrains. In an important development, Nitish promised that 40 lakh BPL families, which were left out in a survey that determines eligibility for food security scheme, will be entitled to subsidised foodgrains. The beneficiaries would get 5 kg of foodgrains every month— wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and rice at Rs. 3 per kg. Under NFSA, each beneficiary is a unit, unlike in targeted PDS, where the family is treated as a unit. “Although 5 kg of foodgrains is not enough, it would spare some money for the poor to be spent on other nutrients,” Kumar said. A web portal of Bihar state food corporation was also launched to ensure transparency through GPS tracking and monitoring of vehicles carrying foodgrains from godowns to PDS dealers. It would also help update stock position and lifting, besides providing a variety of other related information. Nitish said the NFSA would put an additional annual burden of nearly Rs. 800 crore on the state government— Rs. 400 crore on commissions to PDS dealers and Rs. 388 crore on doorstep delivery to PDS dealers. “The Centre is just paying the cost of foodgrain meant for NFSA,” he added. Kumar hit out at the Centre for fixing the number of BPL families in Bihar at 65-70 lakh, while three surveys commissioned by the state government had put the number at 1.40 crore. (1/2/14)

 

42. Cong, BJP spar over Gujarat govt’s Rs 11 per day poverty line (21)

NEW DELHI: Congress and BJP on Monday squabbled over the criterion used by the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat to define poor. Latching on to a December 2013 circular on Gujarat government’s website which said only those with daily earning of less then Rs 10.80 would be eligible for a subsidized foodgrain scheme meant for the poor, Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken recalled that BJP’s PM candidate had made a huge hue and cry when Planning Commission pegged the poverty line at Rs 32 a day and had termed it a “joke”. “If Rs 32 was a joke, then what is Rs 10.80,” Maken asked, adding, “Modi should apologize to the poor for insulting them and making a mockery of poverty.” The retaliation from both BJP and Modi government was swift. They rejected Congress’s charge and said the state government’s circular was based on the “instructions” issued by Planning Commission in 2004 and which it refused to change despite pleas from the Modi government. “Planning Commission guidelines to states in 2004 say poverty criteria for Gujarat is Rs 324 per capita for rural areas and Rs 501 for urban areas. These instructions still hold good,” Gujarat finance minister Nitin Patel said. “Gujarat government neither has the authority to decide the limit for poverty line, nor has it done so,” he added. Patel stressed that since the Gujarat government found the “income limit” drawn by the panel “too little” which would have left out most poor families, it uses the list prepared by its own rural development department to identify beneficiaries of anti-poverty schemes. As a result, the number of beneficiaries stood at 32 lakh as against the 21 lakh which could have qualified if the Planning Commission’s line had been used as the sole benchmark, he said. While insisting that Gujarat government could not have done away with the Rs 10.80 a day drawn up by the plan panel, Patel emphasized that Gujarat had repeatedly asked the Centre to redraw the norms, with Modi himself raising the matter at the National Development Council meeting in December 2011. At the heart of the controversy is the non-revision of Planning Commission’s “poverty line” since it was drawn in 2004. The much-maligned Tendulkar panel was supposed to rework the criterion, but its recommendations — Rs 27.20 for rural areas and Rs 33.30 for urban ones — were junked following public outcry. A fresh panel under chairman of PM’s Economic Advisory Council C Rangarajan was set up to work out a new yardstick, but it is yet to submit its recommendations. However, Maken defended the Planning Commission, saying the panel had clarified in 2011 that its poverty line had nothing to do with eligibility of beneficiaries for welfare schemes which would be determined by socio-economic caste census based on deprivation parameters of households. However, Gujarat finance minister Patel said the state government had no option but to continue with the norms drawn by the plan panel. On the December circular, he said, “It neither fixes any new income limit nor decides any new policies. It is only a clarification issued to field officers that any family which comes in either of the criteria has to be given BPL card.” He further said the circular made it clear that no income criterion will be applied in the case of those figuring on the BPL list of rural development department. “An income criteria has to be applied only for families which are not figuring in the BPL list of the rural development department,” Patel said. “We are following Planning Commission criteria of January 2004. According to the same order, for Delhi where Congress ruled for last 15 years, criteria for identifying BPL families is Rs 369.69 (rural) and Rs 541.48 (urban). For Congress ruled Andhra Pradesh, it’s Rs 263.62 and Rs 484.98, respectively,” he said.  (Times of India 4/2/14)

Posted by admin at 3 February 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. Hand hacking case: Supreme Court notice to Andhra Pradesh, Odisha (1)

NEW DELHI: More than a month after media reports of contractors chopping off the hands of two migrant labourers in Odisha, the Supreme Court on Monday took suo motu cognizance of the incident and sought responses of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments to the incident and status of investigation. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the reports and issued notices to the chief secretaries of the two states asking them to file their responses within eight weeks. The December 15 incident involving labour contractors from Andhra Pradesh and workers from the impoverished Kalahandi district of Odisha had created ripples because of its sheer brutality. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken note of the incident on December 19. NHRC had said, “If this report is true, it appears that a most brutal and savage crime was committed. The victims are from among the most vulnerable strata… and will need immediate and continuing support from the Odisha government.” The apex human rights body had served notices on the state chief secretary and the police chief. The police had said the accused contractors had paid an advance of Rs 14,000 each to 12 labourers, including five women, from different villages in Kalahandi district to work in a brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh. The contractors later tried to forcibly take them to Raipur in Chhattisgarh to engage them in another brick kiln. The labourers resisted and all of them, except Jialu Nial (30) and Nilambar Dhangdamajhi (28), managed to escape when the group halted at Sinapali in neighbouring Nuapada district on December 9. Later, the contractors brought the two labourers held captive to Kalahandi to recover the money. On their way back, they stopped in Balangir district and consumed liquor. The accused then chopped off the right hands of the two labourers and dumped them on the road. Villagers helped the injured reach a government hospital at Bhawanipatana, the district headquarters of Kalahandi, about 500km from state capital Bhubaneswar. (Times of India 28/1/14)

 

2. Reconciliation Must for Peace in Sri Lanka (1)

The resolution passed by Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) asking for an international probe into the war crimes, allegedly committed by the security forces during the final weeks of the ethnic conflict, exposes the lack of reconciliation between the state and the Tamil minority. Nearly 40,000 Tamils were allegedly killed during the final phase of the conflict. There is photographic evidence of such crimes like the killing of slain LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s teenaged son. While claiming that no such genocide occurred, the Sri Lankan government has been oblivious to the need for a credible investigation, which alone will put a lid on the charges that it is not bothered about the gross human rights violations. Reconciliation is must to bring the Sinhalese and the Tamils back on a common platform. In South Africa, it was the Truth and Justice Commission, headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that brought about reconciliation between the black majority and the white minority. Alas, no such attempt has been made in Sri Lanka, perhaps, because a powerful section of the government believes that after the obliteration of the LTTE, there is no threat to national security and, therefore, there is no need to be polite to Tamils. Such an attitude will not work, as a community scorned is a community provoked. It is time India took a bolder stand on this issue. In March, the UN Human Rights Council is expected to pass a resolution on Sri Lanka. Two earlier resolutions, backed by India, had made it obligatory for the island nation to honour its commitments on reconciliation. The US and the UK want an international probe into the human rights violations before the ethnic crisis ended in 2009. New Delhi has so far been keeping quiet. It should tell Colombo that denials of war crimes alone will not do. It has to take tangible steps to hasten the process of reconciliation. Otherwise, Sri Lanka will have to face international opprobrium for what was allegedly done. (New Indian Express 29/1/14)

 

3. Bihar human rights commission seeks speedy trial in Mokama encounter case (1)

PATNA: Bihar human rights commission (BHRC) on Tuesday requested the Patna high court to suitably direct the authorities concerned to start speedy trial against the accused police officers in the Mokama police encounter case. Raju Singh and Amar Kumar Raja, both residents of Khagaria district, were killed in the police encounter on the night of May 31-June 1, 2013 near Mokama in Patna district. The commission ordered the state government to provide compensation of Rs2.50 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased within six weeks. “Commission is of the view that this is a fit case for speedy trial under Section 30 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Commission requests Hon’ble High Court, Patna, to issue suitable directions in this regard,” Commission’s acting chairperson Neelmani said while passing the order. A copy of its order would be sent to registrar general of Patna high court for necessary action. It is for the first time that the commission has made a request to the high court for issuing suitable direction to the authorities concerned for speedy trial, sources in the commission said. It has also asked the crime investigation department (CID) to conclude its supplementary/further investigation in the case preferably by February 28, 2014. “Needless to reiterate that police department must have taken/initiated administrative actions for the criminal conspiracy/omission/commission on the part of the police personnel concerned. DGP, Bihar is being directed to intimate action taken in the case by February 28, 2014,” the order said. The BHRC took suo Motu cognisance in the case on June 3, just two days after the alleged encounter. Following investigation done by CID, the then police inspector of Mokama police station, Ashok Kumar Singh, and ASI Rajkumar Chaudhary were arrested and sent to judicial custody on July 20, 2013. The case was held true against six non-FIR accused police personnel, namely the complainant police inspector Singh, ASI Chaudhary, Havaldar Maheshwari Prasad Singh, constables Abhishek Anand, Ravish Chandra and Bhushan Kumar under sections 302/201/120B/34 of IPC and 27 of the Arms Act and also against non-FIR accused Bumbum Mandal and Chandra Shekhar Yadav (co-travellers in the vehicle) under sections 25 (1-B) A and 35 of the Arms Act. Four police personnel – one havaldar and three constables – are still absconding in the case. (Times of India 29/1/14)

 

4.  Bihar Human Rights Commission orders probe into death of six kids in Jamui (1)

PATNA: Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC) on Friday took suo motu cognisance of reports of six children’s death in Jamui district due to electrocution. The commission directed Jamui DM and SP to hold a joint inquiry into the matter, especially “administrative and criminal negligence”, and submit a report by March 3. The children were electrocuted at village Chandra under Charkapatthar police station area at Sono block in Jamui district on Thursday. A copy of the order was sent to Jamui DM, SP, MDs of South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited (SBPDCL) and Bihar State Power Transmission Company Limited (BSPTCL) for necessary action and principal secretary of energy for information. The commission also directed the MDs of SBPDCL and BSPTCL to depute senior officers to assist in the inquiry. “The probe should include the extent of administrative and criminal negligence leading to the deaths, administrative and legal action taken in the matter, lapses like non-disconnection of supply in the broken high tension (HT) wires lying on the ground, high tension poles (carrying HT transmission wires) not built on adequate foundations of proper strength and compensation paid to the deceased’s family,” BHRC acting chairperson Neelmani said. (Times of India 1./2/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

5. Blind RTI activist makes mining mafia pay up (1)

RAJKOT: Taking on the state’s mining mafia head-on is not an easy task, especially when many of those involved enjoy the patronage of politicians. But this did not deter visually impaired Right To Information (RTI) crusader Ratna Ala to save the gauchar (pastoral) land in his village from illegal mining. Deputy sarpanch of Rangpar village in Morbi district Ala used RTI to compel government authorities to take action against illegal mining. Braving threats and withstanding money offers, Ala relentlessly pursued the menace and helped government earn Rs 12 lakh as fine for illegal mining. It may be recalled that RTI activist Amit Jethwa was gunned down after he took on Junagadh BJP MP Dinu Solanki for mining natural resources illegally. Though he is blind, Ala could see how the natural resources in his village were being mined illegally that too on gauchar land. The culprits were scooping out moram, a particular kind of soft gravel from the grazing land. “It was difficult task to fight against illegal mining as economic interests and corrupt practices are involved. But I decided to fight till the mining mafias are not fined. I was often threatened and pursued to stop,” Ala said. “My complaints were endorsed by the government and finally two units involved in the illegal mining and storage were fined,” said Ala, who was awarded Rahul Mangoakar award for RTI by The Times of India. Sources in the geology and mining department said they receive around 10-15 complaints of illegal mining daily through written communication and the helpline. Earlier, Ala had used RTI to get roads and drinking water to his village. He was elected as deputy sarpanch in 2012 after which he started the crusade against illegal mining. State’s geology and mining department carried out checking and later on fined Rs 12 lakh to two units under Gujarat Minerals (Prevention of illegal mining transportation and storage) Rules-2005. “Villagers have elected me as deputy sarpanch and it’s my responsibility to save its natural resources and the gauchar land,” Ala added. (Times of India 30/1/14)

 

6. RTI Act lies buried in several states (1)

MUMBAI: Eight years after the RTI Act was enacted, a reality check reveals that accessing information in most parts of the country is a long wait. While most states do not have enough commissioners and the pendency of appeals has only increased, in several other parts of India, the process of hearing appeals has become non-functional. RTI activist Sunil Ahya, who commissioned the survey by connecting with information commissions across the county and also the local activists, said that the Act allows maximum of 11 commissioners to be appointed and so if the pendency rates are so high then the state governments should appoint more commissioners. “In my experience at least 75% of the RTI applications that I have filed have needed to be heard by the commissioner. With the high percentage of cases needing a hearing, the government should take steps to expedite the process,” said Ahya. Within states too, there is a disparity. In Maharashtra, for instance, the second appeal is heard earliest in Mumbai where it takes close to a fortnight and the time lag is worse in places like Nagpur, Aurangabad and Pune where it may take up to two years to hear an appeal. In fact, the state’s chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad had requested the governor to order the state to fill the vacant posts of information commissioners. “For period ranging up to two to three years, four posts of information commissioners of Greater Mumbai, Konkan, Nagpur and Amravati are vacant with the result at present 29,052 appeals and 3,338 complaints are pending,” his letter stated. A peculiar problem has risen in Goa where most RTI activists do not attend the appeal hearing. Said activist Aires Rodrigues, “A chief information commissioner was appointed three months ago. But as per the rules, this must be a multi-member body and we don’t want to waste time attending the hearing as they are going to be overruled in court.” The state has put out an advertisement to hire commissioners but the last few appointments have run into trouble as activists have claimed that appointments have been politicized. Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have the maximum count of information commissioners—10, nine and eight respectively. Probably hence, it takes merely a month to 1.5 months to dispose an appeal.  (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

7. Consumer forums can hear plaints on deficiency of services under RTI Act (1)

Bangalore: Now, people can approach consumer forums against lapses on the part of the authorities while giving information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In a first-of-its-kind decision in the State, a consumer forum in Bangalore has ruled that the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act could be invoked whenever there was a “deficiency by the public authorities in providing services” under the RTI Act. Under the Act, a public authority is required to provide certain services, and when the authority fails to do so, it amounts to “deficiency of service” and for such lapses the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act are applicable, according to the Third Additional Urban Bangalore District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. A Bench comprising forum president T. Rajashekaraiah and member Subhashini passed an order on January 23 on a complaint by K. Dhananjay, an engineer working with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Koramangala, Bangalore, against the director of institute. The IIA had collected Rs. 286 and Rs. 314 on two occasions in 2010–11 for providing certain documents after the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed it to supply information to Mr. Dhananjay when he complained that the institute failed to provide certain documents under the RTI Act. The institute supplied the documents after the 30-day deadline lapsed. The forum found that under Section 7 of the RTI Act, public authorities would have to supply information/documents for free if the information sought was supplied after the 30-day deadline. Following this, the forum held that the action of the institute in collecting fees was “illegal” and hence amounted to “deficiency of service”, and directed the institute to refund Rs. 600 collected as fee to the complainant along with Rs. 900 as the cost of litigation. (The Hindu 2/2/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

8. 8 woman traffickers nabbed in Phulbani (1)

Bhubaneswar: The police on Friday arrested eight persons, including four women, from Sagadia Sahi here on the charge of running a human trafficking ring in the nearby areas. The police swung into action after a young girl’s father informed them that some people were planning to trap her daughter and send her to outside the State. According to the Town police, four middlemen from Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh were regularly visiting Phulbani in order to look for some young girls. They were promising them with gold ornaments, money and happy married life to take them to their fold. Once trapped, the racketeers were selling them to their ‘customers’ in Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Five of the arrested have been identified as Pravat Singh, Dhiman Singh, Badri Prasad, Sambhu Ahirwal and his Odia wife. The arrested women, including Ahirwal’s wife, belong to Sagadia Sahi and were assisting the traffickers in finding young girls for them, police said. “The racket seems to have been active here for about a year. Details of the case would be known after the accused are interrogated,” Town police station IIC Umakant Pradhan said. (Pioneer 1/2/14)

 

9. Human trafficking gang busted (1)

BHOPAL: Police busted a gang involved in human trafficking and rescued a 16-year-old girl, a resident of Bhopal, who was raped and sold to Bedni tribe in Guna, known for their alleged involvement in flesh trade. Three people have been booked on charges of human trafficking and rape. The gang operated from Bhopal, Vidisha, Guna and Shivpuri. A young probationary woman sub-inspector of Bhopal, Kanchan Singh Rajput busted the gang, after tracing the 16-year-old-girl, who was missing from Chhola Road area since November 2013. The teenager, who was sold for Rs 60,000, was recued from Shivpuri. Three people, including a woman and her son from the city and one from Vidisha have been arrested while four from Guna and Shivpuri are on the run. Police said mother of the teenager had lodged a missing persons report on January 22, almost two months after searching her daughter. The woman told police that a middle-aged woman Kamla Mausi, who resides in Aishbagh area, was aware of her daughter’s whereabouts. Kamla and the rape survivor knew each other from before as they did menial jobs at marriage ceremonies. She refused to reveal anything during interrogation but mentioned the name of Mohbat Singh, a peon at a school in Vidisha, saying he knew about the survivor’s whereabouts. However, the police could not trace him in Vidisha. Meanwhile, Kamla threatened the survivor’s mother not to make efforts in searching her daughter as she was happily married in Shivpuri. Acting on tip-off, the police rushed to Shivpuri and rescued the girl, who was in trauma but gradually narrated her plight. She informed that Kamla’s son Halke, 30, allegedly raped her in Aishbagh. Later, Kamla took her to Vidisha promising her job. From Vidisha she was taken to Shivpuri with the help of Mohbat Singh where she was sold. According to the police, the girl was taken to Shivpuri by two people via Guna and Vidisha, where she was sold to Rajkamal Bedia, who in turn got the girl married to Rishi Bedia. Kamla, Halke and Mohbbat Singh have been arrested while Rishi Bedia of Shivpuri, Mahesh, Lallu and Rajkamal, all of them from Guna, are yet to taken into custody. City superintendent of police Navratan Singh and station house officer, Hanumanganj police station AR Negi confirmed to TOI about a professional gang involved in human trafficking. The teen aged girl’s mother is a widow and has three daughters. (Times of India 2/1/14)

 

10. Human trafficking cases maximum in State: HC judge (1)

Ranchi: Jharkhand High Court judge Justice DN Patel on Saturday said that Jharkhand has the maximum number of human trafficking cases in India. Highlighting the matter, he informed that various steps have been taken to establish Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act) in the State. “Para Legal volunteers have been recruited in 47 police stations of the state to establish the Juvenile Justice Act effectively. For the similar reason, Child Welfare Committees have been set up,” he said in a seminar at Nyaya Sadan. Justice NN Tiwari felt the need of the society to help in  implementing this Act more effectively. He said, “As many as 2500 cases related to Juvenile category are pending in the state. Children between the age group of 16 to 18 years are mostly indulged in crime. In this scenario, it is a social responsibility to work towards proper implementation of Juvenile Justice Act.” Jharkhand High Court Chief Justice R Banumathi was also present on the occasion. (Pioneer 2/1/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

11. US protests China’s treatment of foreign journalists (1)

WASHINGTON: The White House on Thursday sharply criticized China’s treatment of foreign journalists and noted specifically the case of a New York Times reporter whose visa was not extended. In a statement, White House spokesman Jay Carney said foreign journalists faced impediments to their ability to do their jobs. Such conditions include extended delays in processing journalist visas, restrictions on travel to some locations deemed “sensitive” by Chinese authorities, and sometimes even violence from local officials. “These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press and stand in stark contrast with US treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists,” Carney said. The statement expressed disappointment that New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy was forced to leave China on Thursday because of processing delays for his press credentials. “We remain concerned that Ramzy and several other US journalists have waited months, and in some cases years, for a decision on their press credentials and visa applications,” Carney said. Treatment of American journalists is one of several issues that have strained US-Chinese relations recently, along with China’s declaration of an air defense zone to support its territorial claims on islands that Japan considers part of its territory in the East China Sea. Carney said the United States would continue to raise its concerns about the treatment of journalists and media organizations in China. He urged Beijing to commit to timely visa and credentialing decisions for foreign journalists as well as to unblock US media websites and eliminate other restrictions. “Our two countries should be expanding media exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and trust,” he said, “not restricting the ability of journalists to do their work.” (Times of India 30/1/14)

 

12. 18 top media houses rubbish readership survey findings (1)

NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented display of unanimity, 18 leading newspaper groups of the country have come together to strongly condemn the newly published Indian Readership Survey (IRS 2013) while calling it badly flawed. A statement jointly issued by the newspapers in public interest stated, “The survey is riddled with shocking anomalies, which defy logic and commonsense. They also grossly contradict audited circulation figures (ABC) of longstanding.” Highlighting some of the major anomalies in the report, the statement points out: * Hindu Business Line has thrice as many readers in Manipur as in Chennai. * Hitavada, the leading English newspaper of Nagpur with a certified circulation of over 60,000, doesn’t appear to have a single reader now. * There are wild swings in overall newspaper readership across states. While Punjab has lost a one-third of all its readers in just a year since the last IRS, neighboring Haryana has grown by 17%.* Every major newspaper in Andhra Pradesh, irrespective of language, has lost readers by 30 to 65%.There are similar wild swings at the city level. Mumbai shows a 20.3% growth in overall English readership, while Delhi – a faster-growing city overall on all macro indices – shows a drop of 19.5%.Saying that there are “hundreds of such anomalies in the report”, the statement “urges advertisers and media agencies not to rely upon or use the recently published IRS results in any way”. It also calls upon RSCI and MRUC, the conductors of the IRS, to “withdraw the results of IRS Q4 2013 immediately and put a stop to all future editions of this survey, as their continued publication will cause irreparable injury to the reputation of established publications.” The 18 publishers: Jagran, Bhaskar, India Today, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Lokmat, Outlook, Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Sakshi, The Hindu, The Times of India, Amar Ujala, The Tribune, Bartaman Patrika, Aaj Samaj, The Statesman, Mid Day, Nai Duniya and Dinakaran (Times of India 31/1/14)

 

13. Woman journalist murdered in Sri Lanka (1)

COLOMBO: A senior Sri Lankan woman journalist was stabbed to death on Sunday at her home here, prompting police to launch an investigation. Mel Gunasekera, 40, was found murdered at her Colombo suburb home, police spokesman Superintendent Ajith Rohana said. “Her parents and the brother found her murdered at around 8:15 this morning when they returned home after attending church service,” Rohana said. She had cut injuries on head and face, he said. Six teams have been formed to investigate her murder. Gunasekera, a well known business journalist, had served at Sunday Times, Lanka Business Online and also at the Colombo Bureau of the French news agency AFP.  (Times of India 2/2/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

14. Harassment drives Dalit family to seek final deliverance (2)

Kolar:  “Give us permission to die; we want nothing else,” this fervent appeal by a Dalit family at a grievance redress meeting here on Monday took officers, including Deputy Commissioner D.K. Ravi, and the participants by surprise. Shankarappa, a resident of Shyanubhoganahalli in Kolar taluk, explained the family’s plight due to the alleged harassment by upper caste people in the last two years. As the meeting was in progress, Shankarappa, his wife, Rathnamma, and other family members, including their children Akash, Anusri and Amalasri, entered the hall at B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan. They started complaining that they no longer are able to endure the harassment being meted out to them by caste Hindus and that death was the only solution to their problem as the officials concerned had failed to provide justice to them. Though cases have been registered and the matter has gone to court, the family came to the meeting with the hope of finding relief. Rathnamma vociferously appealed to the meeting with folded hands: “Give us permission to die. We cannot bear the harassment any longer,” even as several Dalit activists tried to console her. The investigation officer of the Civil Rights Enforcement Directorate has, in his report, concluded that Shankarappa’s family was under threat from caste Hindus. “However, our family is yet to get justice,” Shankarappa and Rathnamma told the meeting. The report of the directorate, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, has said that the local police has colluded with the perpetrators of crime. “My parents, Basappa and Lakshmamma, are living in an undisclosed location due to threats, and my children are unable to attend school,” Shankarappa said. The family members left the venue after Mr. Ravi assured them of redressing their grievance. Kolar Superintendent of Police Ram Nivas Sepat, Kolar Gold Fields Superintendent of Police Rohini Katoch, Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer R. Vinod Priya and Assistant Commissioner C.N. Manjunath were present.  (The Hindu 28/1/14)

 

15. Clashes kill 3 after bid to assault Dalit girl in UP (2)

Saida Faridpur (bulandshahr): JUST five months after the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, three persons have been killed in caste violence in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. According to reports, clashes broke out on Tuesday after a group of youths belonging to the Thakur community tried to rape a Jatav (Dalit) minor girl here. While the girl managed to escape and her relatives beat up the youths, rumours that she was raped spread in the village. The Jatavs assembled in large numbers and clashed with the Thakurs. Two Thakurs and one Jatav were killed while six were injured in the violence which lasted for over an hour. “We have arrested two members each from the two groups. Police and PAC personnel have been deployed in the village. A case under the SC/ ST Act and a case of eve-teasing have been registered,” said Lakshmi Singh, Bulandshahr SSP. “The in-charge of the police outpost, Devendra Singh Chauhan, has been suspended for not acting on the complaints of Jatavs,” she said. “We have lodged several complaints with the police about the Thakurs’ violent behaviour but no action has been taken,” said a Jatav. (Indian Express 30/1/14)

 

16. Dalits plan protest ahead of Modi’s Kochi visit (2)

KOCHI: While a section in Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha (KPMS) has rolled out a red carpet to Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a forum led by dalit organizations has started protesting against Modi’s visit. The forum led by Dalit Maha Sabha will organize ‘Janakeeya kayal sammelana smarana’ (people’s commemoration of backwater conference) in Kochi on February 4 against the Kayal sammelana smarana to be inaugurated by Modi on February 9. The faction of KPMS led by T V Babu is organizing a kayal sammelana smarana to commemorate a meeting in backwaters organized by Pulaya community leaders about a century ago. “Hundred years ago leaders like Pandit K P Karuppan had organized kayal sammelanam in country boats on Kochi backwaters as the authorities didn’t allow them a venue on land. Bringing Modi for the commemoration of such an event is deplorable. Modi represents the Hindu caste and feudal values which suppressed dalits,” said C S Murali, coordinator, organizing committee of Janakeeya kayal sammelana smarana. “In Modi’s Gujarat, dalits are still doing the job of scavengers,” he added. It was the factionalism encouraged by Babu and Punnala Sreekumar that led to bringing KPMS to BJP and Congress camps, he said. Various programmes like seminars , public meeting, etc, will be organized as part of the Janakeeya kayal sammelana smarana. Former naxalite leader GROW Vasu will inaugurate the public meeting on February 4. Bishop Geevarghese Mar Koorilose will inaugurate the seminar on ‘Community organizations and renaissance: A Social Audit’ . Cultural programmes like poets’ meet will also be held as part of the event.  (Times of India 1/2/14)

 

17. Palamu dalits not keen on utilizing MGNREGA schemes (2)

DALTONGANJ: The dalits of Haidernagar East panchayat in Palamu, around 76km from Daltonganj, are not keen to get wells in the area under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). They say they neither have enough land to spare for the construction nor enough fund. Dilip Kumar, mukhiya of the panchayat, said, “Neither do we have land nor funds. The 600-strong population of harijans in the panchayat only received Rs 3 lakh from MGNREGA and it was utilized.” Mary Dang, a tribal mukhiya, who represents Uldanda panchayat in Palamu said they have got two wells under the scheme. “One is complete and the other has developed cracks in the parapet plaster. But we’ll require more funds for repair work,” she said. Deputy commissioner, Palamu Manoj Kumar said there is no funds crunch at all under MGNREGA here and Rs 22 crore is yet to be spent. “Funds are sent to the block. It is then the duty of the block-level officials to send it to the respective panchayats. This is where delay happens,” he said. (Times of India 3/2/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

18. Rules set to be framed for new land acquisition act (4)

JAIPUR: The state government’s revenue department is gearing up for framing rules for the new Land Acquisition Act that has come into force from January 1 this year. The new Bill, which replaced the 119-year-old obsolete legislation, proposes a unified policy for acquisition of land and adequate rehabilitation mechanism for all affected persons. The implementation of the new Act is a cumbersome process as a number of rules will have to be drafted both by the Centre and the states and also invites comment from stakeholders including industries, NGOs and civil society. The ministry of rural development that introduced the Bill and got it approved in both the Houses of Parliament would set up a rules committee at the central level and after that the state governments will follow the guidelines in framing rules. The Act has come into force from January 1, but it would be notified in April only. “The state government will have to set up committees for framing the rules and this would involve several departments. Several bodies will have to be set up and the state government will have to set up a state level Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And resettlement Authority that would hear dispute arising out of acquisition,” said Tapesh Panwar, principal secretary, revenue. The state government will also have to establish social impact assessment unit, a full-fledged office for rehabilitation and resettlement and also a state-level monitoring body. The new Act has given freedom to the states to complement it with their own laws as long as the provision of the original law were not diluted. The new Act only set up the bottom line for fair compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement and the state would be free to improve it, said Panwar. Panwar said there is a clause under which while acquiring land for the private companies the consent of 80% of the land owners will be required. He admitted that the consent of the 80% of the land owners and 70% consent of the landowners for public-private projects are cumbersome processes. The new Act proposes that up to four times the market value should be paid to farmers and landowners for land acquired in rural areas and two times the market value in urban areas. “In all such cases where notices under Section 4 and 6 were issued, the settlement of the compensation will be done according to the old Act and in such cases where the notices were not served to the land owners the compensation would be made under the new Act. The issue related to the land acquisition of 1,400 acres for the Mumbai-Delhi Industrial Corridor(DMIC) in Alwar district and also for the ring road in Jaipur will be done under the new Act. But all this will be done only after the local rules are framed. (Times of India 29/1/14)

 

19. CBI chargesheets reopen debate on Nandigram, Left claims its stand vindicated (4)

Kolkata:  Two chargesheets filed by the CBI on the Nandigram police firings, which took place on March 14, 2007, have reopened the debate on an issue which was considered a turning point in West Bengal’s polity, handing the Trinamool Congress an opportunity to pillory the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, which was ruling the state then. The chargesheets, filed earlier this month at a Haldia court, have given the CPM ammunition to hit back at chief minister Mamta Banerjee. They, the CPM claims, nail Trinamool’s lie that the firings were ordered by the then chief minister, who was accused of masterminding a genocide. The contents of the chargesheet have been accessed by NDTV. The firings claimed the lives of 14 people. Eleven persons were killed at Bhangabera, and three at Malpara. The CBI chargesheets make it clear that police was forced to move into Nandigram to lift the over two month long blockade organized by the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, an organization floated to oppose the setting up of a SEZ in Nandigram. When the police reached Bhangabera and Malpara on March 14, they ran into thousands of villagers, many of whom were equipped with lathis, stones and even firearms. The police lobbed teargas shells, rubber bullets and blanks at them before taking recourse to firing. An executive magistrate was present when the police action started at Bhangabera. No such official was available at Malpara. The CPM has used the chargesheets to retaliate at the Trinamool Congress. “The allegation that the instruction was given by the chief minister to go for firing is baseless… that has been vindicated by the CBI chargesheet,” says CPM’s Surya Kanta Mishra. The Trinamool, however, remains unfazed. “I don’t know about the chargesheets. What I know was there was a genocide at Nandigram and the then chief minister had taken responsibility and also said they have been paid back in their own coin,” said Trinamool MP Mukul Roy.(NDTV 30/1/14)

 

20. WB to withdraw cases against Singur, Nandigram activists (4)

Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee government which catapulted to power because of the Singur and Nandigram agitations, on Friday decided to withdraw cases filed by the previous Left Front regime against activists there, including a present minister. “Of the cases filed by the previous Left Front government against activists in Singur and Nandigram, the state government has decided to withdraw cases against 302 in Nandigram and 122 in Singur,” Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee told reporters here. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It came a day after she hit out at the CBI for apparently giving a clean chit to the erstwhile Left Front government in the Nandigram police firing which had claimed 14 lives in 2007. Those against whom the government has decided to withdraw cases include Trinamool Congress MLA from Singur and Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation Rabindranath Bhattacherjee. The MLA, a retired headmaster, played a role in the anti-land acquisition movement spearheaded by Banerjee at Singur which saw the Tatas exit their Nano car project. Mukherjee said there were a number of applications by activists seeking withdrawal of cases against them which they said were filed vindictively. (Zee News 31/1/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

21. Azam Khan asks Muslims to unite to prevent Modi from becoming PM (7)

LUCKNOW: Asking the Muslim community to remain united to prevent Narendra Modi from becoming Prime Minister, Uttar Pradesh minister Mohd Azam Khan on Tuesday said a big conspiracy was going on to divide Muslims. “There is a big conspiracy going on to divide Muslims … If you are divided, Narendra Modi will form the next government (at the Centre). We all have to remain united,” Khan said while addressing a conference of madrassa managers and principals here. He alleged that whenever SP formed government in the state, some “strong forces” hatched conspiracy to create disturbance with an aim to defame Samajwadi Party. Attacking the media, Khan alleged that it always wants to keep the wounds of Muzaffarnagar riot fresh without allowing them to heal. Calling Modi a “murderer”, he said such a person could never become Prime Minister. Citing Rajinder Sachar Committee recommendations, Khan said it had advocated reservation for Muslims stating that they need it more than Dalits. “The Centre should bring a Bill in this regard (Muslim reservation) and intentions of everyone will be cleared … We will see who protests against it. There is still time left and Congress should bring the Bill,” he said. On the SP government’s attempt to withdraw terror cases against some Muslims, he said, “We wanted to withdraw cases against innocent Muslims lodged in jails … But media made such an atmosphere that government had to backtrack.”  (Times of India 28/1/14)

 

22. ‘Jains can now avail all minority scheme benefits’ (7)

MUMBAI: Jains, who were recently included in the list of minority communities, can open and operate schools or colleges and have full management and administrative rights. They are allowed to reserve 50% of the seats for students from their community, said Janet D’Souza vice-chairperson of Maharashtra State Minorities Commission. This was the first meeting being held at the Dadar Jain Mandir after the declaration of the Jain community as a minority community. The meeting was organized to inform the community members of the various government schemes and policies for minorities. D’Souza said women from the community can apply for government jobs under women’s empowerment programme while students can avail interest-free loans and scholarships for higher education.Paras Ranka, president, Dadar Jain Mandir also addressed the meeting. (Times of India 30/1/14)

 

23. 43 cases of anti-Christian violence in State: forum (7)

Bangalore: The State reportedly takes the foremost position in connection with cases of persecution of Christians, according to a report of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF). The former Judge of the Bombay and Karnataka High Courts Michael Saldanha told presspersons here on Wednesday that of the 200 most severe instances of anti-Christian violence in the country in 2013, the State accounted for 43, followed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where 25 incidents each were documented last year. Mr. Saldanha said that the incidents involved murder, assault, rape, church attacks and prosecution for “forced conversion”, according to the report. “Karnataka continues to suffer the legacy of saffronisation left behind by the earlier BJP government,” he alleged. He demanded that the cases filed against pastors for “forceful conversion” be revisited. CSF general secretary Joseph Dias said that several serious incidents of anti-Christian violence in the State are documented in the report. A CSF delegation, including Mr. Saldanha and Mr. Dias, met Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj and demanded action. (The Hindu 30/1/14)

 

24. Muzaffarnagar riots political, conspiracy by SP, BJP: Ajit Singh (7)

Agra: Alleging that the riots in Muzaffarnagar last year were a “conspiracy” by the BJP and the ruling Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief and union minister Ajit Singh on Thursday termed them as “political riots”. Addressing the ‘Sankalp rally’ in Agra, Singh said, “They weren’t communal riots, they were political riots. It was a conspiracy by the SP and the BJP to divide the people and reap political advantage.” Singh, who launched a scathing attack on SP, BJP and Mayawati’s BSP, said this country will not survive if riots continue to take place like this in every village. The Muzaffarnagar riots in September had shaken the Jat-Muslim social base of the party. While many RLD Jat supporters felt Ajit Singh did not back them enough in their conflict with Muslims, many Muslim supporters alleged RLD did not do enough to restrain Jat supporters from engineering violence. Interestingly, Singh chose the same venue where BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi had addressed a rally in November last year. The RLD chief, however, was quick to claim he had drawn such an impressive crowd at the same venue that BJP leaders would now “lose sleep”. “Tonight BJP leaders will not be able to sleep after seeing the crowds here. This proves people will not fall into Modi’s trap,” he said. Interestingly though, the crowd at Singh’s rally was overwhelmingly male-dominated. Singh’s son and Lok Sabha MP Jayant Chaudhary also addressed the rally. Lashing out at the Akhilesh Yadav government, Singh said there was no law and order or infrastructure development in the state. “UP has not one, but five CMs with all the different power centres. But the one who sits on the chair can be counted as just half a CM,” he said. The union minister, whose party has five seats in the current Lok Sabha, said the people of UP should not fall into the cycle of voting either for SP or BSP each time. He said while these were Lok Sabha and not assembly elections, a message should be sent out there is “no place for the BJP, BSP or SP”. He also reiterated his party’s commitment towards the creation of a separate ‘Harit Pradesh’. Meanwhile, his son Jayant Chaudhary also did not miss the opportunity to attack Modi, making fun of his statement that it would take a “56-inch chest” to turn UP into Gujarat. “On one side we have people who say you need a 56-inch chest to run UP…The country won’t progress by pumping air in the chest. One has to sweat it out to run this country,” Chaudhary said. Though he refrained from directly blaming the SP and BJP for the Muzaffarnagar riots, he said people know “which two parties would have gained from the riots”. Criticizing the SP government, which is already under attack for organising and spending on the Saifai Mahotsav even as Muzaffarnagar riot victims suffered, Chaudhary said they should have just bought movie tickets if they wanted to see film actors dance. “On one hand, people are suffering and on the other, this government organises a mahotsava,” he said. (Indian Express 31/1/14)

 

25. Muslim groups urge govt to pass bills related to minorities (7)

New Delhi: Muslim organisations have urged the Union government to pass the bill to check encroachment of Waqf properties and other bills related to minorities in the next Lok Sabha session. “It seems the government will pass the bill related to the Waqf properties in the coming session. But there are other important legislations related to minorities like the Communal Violence bill and Equal Opportunities Commission bill. We demand that the government pass all these bills in the last days of its tenure,” All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat’s President Zafarul Islam Khan said. On January 30, the Union Cabinet gave approval to the Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Bill. The government is expected to pass the bill in the coming session. “The Communal Violence Bill has been weakened and the same goes with the Equal Opportunities Commission Bill. But we still want the government to pass them,” Khan said. Member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board and Delhi Waqf Board Mufti Aizaz Arshad Kazmi said the government had promised to pass these bills before the Lok Sabha elections. “It is the last opportunity for the Central government to pass the bills in the coming session,” Kazmi said. “If the government fails to pass the bills in the next session, it may have to face a lot of problems in the coming Lok Sabha elections,” member of All India Organisation of Imams Maulana Umair Ahmed Ilyasi said. (Business Standard 2/2/14)

 

26. Pawar slams debate on ’02 riots (7)

With an aim to mount pressure on its ally Congress, NCP chief Sharad Pawar indirectly defended Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on 2002 communal riots by supporting the statement recently made by his party leader Praful Patel. Mr Pawar on Sunday reiterated that there is no need for debate once the court has ruled out role of the Gujarat chief minister in the communal riots. Replying to a question during a press conference in Kolhapur, Mr Pawar said, “If the court has given its verdict, then the question of holding a debate on it does not arise. We accept the court’s order and there won’t be any debate on it.”Both Mr Pawar and Mr Patel were referring to a court ruling that upheld a Supreme Court monitored SIT’s investigation clearing the Gujarat chief minister of his involvement in the Gujarat riots. Mr Patel last week stunned Congress by saying that since a judicial probe has given Mr Modi a clean chit, the matter should put to rest. He was reacting to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s interview to a TV channel in which the Congress leader sought to draw a distinction between the Congress and Modi government about handling the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Gujarat communal riots of 2002. Mr Pawar also clarified that Mr Patel has not given any ultimatum to the Congress over seat sharing talks. He said, “Praful Patel hasn’t given any ultimatum to the Congress. The seat-sharing issue with the Congress will be resolved in the next 10 days as our discussion are on in a friendly manner.” Commenting on the Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI-Swabhi-mani Shetkari Sangathana and Rashtriya Samaj Paksh mega-alliance, Mr Pawar said he has never seen such a politics of hatred till now in Maharashtra. (aSI9AN aGE 3/2/14)

 

27. Christians below political radar: Council (7)

Calcutta, Feb. 2: Christians in India have not been included in the mainstream political discourse despite substantial contributions to society and sustained efforts in nation-building, a national council of Protestant churches said today. “Some people still think we are not Indians…. Christians are not present in the political discourse of mainstream parties today. Despite helping give the country some of the finest schools, colleges and hospitals, our efforts in nation-building and contributions towards society have been overlooked,” said Bishop Taranath S. Sagar, president of the National Council of Churches in India. Kicking off its year-long centenary celebrations from Calcutta on Sunday, the council also referred to the Bengal government’s decision to provide doles to Muslim clerics. “If the government is handing honorariums to Muslim clerics, I would request the chief minister to also extend the honorariums to Christians as well. This act (giving doles to one particular community) is simply pleasing a section of society for votes,” Bishop Sagar said in response to a question after a news conference at Calcutta Boys’ School in the afternoon. The Mamata Banerjee government gives an honorarium of Rs 2,500 a month to imams and Rs 1,000 a month to muezzins in Bengal. The council is an ecumenical body of 30 Protestant and Orthodox churches across India and a slew of Christian councils and organisations. It is the second largest body of churches in the country and includes the Church of North India and Church of South India as member churches. Nearly 50 per cent, about 12 million of the total Christian population of 25 million in India, are Protestants. Calcutta was chosen as the first stop in a series of countrywide celebrations because on February 2, 1914, it was at the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) building on S.N. Banerjee Road that the body held its first meeting and formed a council. The celebrations will move to Aizawl, Hyderabad and Mumbai among other cities in the coming months and culminate at the headquarters in Nagpur in November. As the centenary year coincides with the Lok Sabha polls, the council articulated its concerns. The existing political establishment, it felt, had failed to acknowledge or address the needs and aspirations of the Christian community and largely overlooked its contributions to the nation. The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) building at Corporation Place (now SN Banerjee Road) in Calcutta played host to church leaders and missionaries from across the country on February 2, 1914, where they held their first meeting and formed a council. On Sunday, the National Council of Churches in India chose Calcutta as the first stop to kick off their countrywide centenary celebrations, which will culminate in November at their headquarters in Nagpur. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya Bishop Taranath S Sagar (third from left), the president of the National Council of Churches in India, at the media conference at Calcutta Boys’ School on Sunday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta The council lamented that the term “minority” had become synonymous with just one community, overshadowing the others. “If we look historically, Christians are the true minorities… but today (the word) ‘minority’ has become attached with just one community. There is no Protestant representation in Parliament from West Bengal,” said Suman J. Biswas, vice-president of the council. Accusing politicians of consistently using religion for political gains, the council rued how issues like poverty had remained sidelined and religious minorities had rarely been acknowledged as anything but a vote bank. Speaking on the community’s preferences for the upcoming elections, the Bishop said in response to a question that Christians were “highly divided” in their opinion on Narendra Modi. “Modi played the development card in Gujarat and is playing the same card nationally now. But even if he becomes the Prime Minister and acts secular, he might face pressure from the lower cadres of the party. We are highly divided in our opinion of Modi and I cannot make one general statement on behalf of the Christians. Christians have traditionally been followers of the Congress… but it might be time for some change,” Bishop Sagar said.He added that the council did not “endorse any particular party”. “We need a leader who is strong and understands the needs of the minorities and works for grass-roots development,” the Bishop said. The theme of the celebrations “towards integral mission and grassroots ecumenism” was explained as one that was aimed at motivating people to go back to the grassroots of the society and work towards its development.“In recent times, the development of the country has only been measured by political parties in terms of bridges, high-rises and metro rails. Grassroots development of the marginalised has remained neglected and that is why growth has not been uniform,” said Reverend Sunil Raj Philip, the executive secretary of the council. The news conference was followed by a worship service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the evening. (Telegraph 3/2/14)

 

WOMEN  

28. NCERT textbooks address gender stereotyping but more work remains (8)

NEW DELHI: Gender analysis of NCERT textbooks from Class I to V has shown that while most of them highlight gender concerns, there are elements of stereotypes in some textbooks. Gender review of English, Hindi, mathematics and environmental science textbooks was done by NCERT’s department of women’s studies. The analysis said environmental studies textbooks, authored by 36 female and two male teachers, addressed gender issues in a substantial manner. However, it said there were some stereotypes reflected in visuals. For instance, Class III textbook has a visual showing women in stereotypical role of fetching water. Also, power structures are not reflected properly. On the positive side, children’s imagination, creativity, dreams have been followed well. Environment studies textbooks also deal with diversity and marginalization and show both boys and girls in active roles. Mathematics textbooks, the analysis said, involved both parents and boys and girls equally. In some exercises, boys are shown making patterns out of bangles and girls fixing nails. The analysis also found some atypical features in the textbooks. For instance, women are shown as inheriting property and having equal rights to it. There are stories where division of wealth is settled by involving females. Girls have been shown as solving problems of their fathers. There is a mention of family having two daughters which conveys a subtle message of valuing the girl child. However, the analysis suggested that some terms could be changed to make it gender sensitive: policeman can become police person, milkman as milk person. Ownership of assets, the analysis said, could also be reflected jointly. In Hindi textbooks, though there was gender sensitivity overall, the analysis found that in a few places, there was subtle bias in treating animals and nature as feminine and masculine. Even adjectives used were stereotypical. For instance, a poem while making reference to women describes her as fat, strong and quarrelsome. In another poem, only boys are shown flying kites while girls are shown watching. In some places, women are shown cooking. In English textbooks, the analysis said, though there was thematic consistency, coherence and contextualization, at times more of an urban scenario was mentioned. Also, animals were gendered in themes and portrayed in stereotypical masculine and feminine roles. (Times of India 30/1/14)

 

29. Widow milk producers vow to end female feticide (8)

PALANPUR: Around 10,000 widows engaged in dairy farming in north Gujarat took a vow on Thursday to not allow female foeticide in their villages and ensure that both girls and boys are treated equally by their families. They had gathered for a congregation at the premises of Banas Dairy in Palanpur. “It was the first instance in my life that I came a cross such a great number of women who have shared their saga of struggle in their lives,” chairman of Banas Dairy Parthi Bhatol said. In his address he said, “We conducted a survey of our milk producers and came across about 10,000 widows who are engaged in animal husbandry and getting direct employment by supplying milk to the dairy. They are the back bone of our progress in making us Asia’s biggest dairy. Our procurement will soon reach 5 million litres per day.” He further said that the survey has also revealed the skewed sex ratio in the region. The number of girls in the families of milk producers affiliated to the dairy was just 15,741 as against 18,012. “How will you be able to get wives for these 3,000 boys? How will you cover this deficit?” asked revenue minister Anandiben Patel while administrating the oath. She announced a 50 per cent subsidy for 432 poor widows who want to purchase a buffalo or a cow. Thirteen widows supplying maximum milk to the dairy were honoured at the function. Despite their massive efforts in producing and supplying the milk, most of them have seen the diary for the first time,” managing director Sanjay Karamchandani said. (Times of India 31/1/14)

 

30. Woman Set Ablaze for Resisting Rape Attempt Dies (1)

HYDERABAD: A woman, who was set ablaze by four men after she resisted rape attempt here three days ago, died at a hospital, police said. The 25-year-old, who had suffered 90 percent burns, died early Saturday at the government-run Gandhi Hospital. The incident had taken place at railway quarters at Chilkalguda in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad. The woman, who was staying with her mother and grandmother in the house, was called out by four men known to her. She was later found engulfed in flames by the local residents, who doused the fire and shifted her to hospital. The victim told police in her statement the same day that four men tried to sexually assault her and when she resisted they doused her with kerosene and set ablaze. A police officer said the victim, in her statement, named the accused and the police were on the lookout for them. A case of murder and attempt to rape was registered. BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya visited the hospital and consoled the family members of the victim. He demanded stringent punishment for the guilty. (New Indian Express 1/2/14)

 

31. Jharsuguda Records Marginal Drop in Crime (8)

JHARSUGUDA: The district registered a marginal drop in overall crime rate in 2013 compared 2012 but crime against women continued to rise. According to data released by district headquarters police, criminal cases under IPC including murder, kidnap, robbery, burglary, extortion, riot, dowry deaths, atrocities against underprivileged classes came down from 1,389 in 2012 to 1,372 in 2013. However, the cases of crime against women including rape, molestation, sexual harassment and other atrocities recorded an increase in 2013. Compared to 62 cases registered in 2012, the district recorded 108 cases in 2013. The registered rape cases remained same at 21 both years. According to Jharsuguda RTO, the number of fatal accidents also remained unchanged. In both years, 98 people died in road mishaps. While the total vehicular accidents in 2013 was 249, the figure was 245 in 2012. DSP Anthony Tirkey said total 1,621 cases were reported in the district in 2013 while 1,634 in 2012. District police also released another set of data on criminal cases compiled till 2008 a few months back. It compared the number of cases against population and placed Jharsuguda as a crime-prone district in the State. (New Indian Express 2/2/14)

 

32. Stringent Laws in State Fail to Shield Women From Violence (8)

BANGALORE: An amendment to the Indian Penal Code, enforcing stringent penalties for crimes against women, seems to have done little to make women feel safe in the state. With crimes against women in the state on the rise, the long arm of the law is yet to catch up with perpetrators in the state. According to official sources, while the total number of rape cases registered in the state during 2012 stood at 393, the figure touched 498 at the end of December 2013. The same is the trend with atrocities against women: 3,547 cases were reported at the end of last year, an increase by 100 cases when compared to 2012’s figures. While 1,890 dowry harassment cases were registered in 2012, the number climbed to 2,110 the following year. Expressing concern over the increase in the numbers, senior Congress leader and MLC Motamma said “lack of knowledge about the legislation might be one of the several reasons for the alarming record of crimes against women”. Emphasising that there is a need to create awareness about the law in schools and colleges, she said organising seminars and workshops across the state and dissemination of information on the legislation may help bring down crime rates. Lalrukomo Pachau, Director General of Police, held “widening of the definitions of rape and assault” as one of the many reasons for the rise in atrocities against women. Maintaining that crimes against women are being treated seriously by the department, the chief of the state police said: “We are maintaining utmost transparency right from the level of registering the cases followed by investigation. Tackling the rape cases is complicated as it involves many dimensions,” he added. (New Indian Express 3/2/14)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

33. Cooperative Agri Movement, an Urgent Need: Ex-President (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Former president APJ Abdul Kalam on Saturday said that cooperative movement in agriculture is the need of the hour to increase productivity and meet the future food security standards. He was addressing the 33rd convocation ceremony of the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) here. Kalam said there was clear evidence to indicate that the use of GM crops has given benefits, but the controversy around it is yet to die.He exhorted OUAT to come up with a syllabus on cooperative farming and entrepreneurship. He said that graduate students will play an important role in introducing new farming advances and technology. Governor SC Jamir applauded the initiative of the State Government to open 10 agro-polytechnic centres under OAUT, which cover all agro-climatic zones. EA Siddiq, SC Mohapatra and A Narain were honoured with honorary doctorates for their services in the field of agricultural science and technology. As many as  4,459 graduate and 243 post-graduate students were awarded certificates during the 33rd convocation. Eighty-five students received gold medals and 11 received cash for excelling in academics. College of Agriculture, Chiplima student Pravamanjari Giri received the gold medal for the best graduate in Agriculture in 2012. Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Resource Development Debi Prasad Mishra and OUAT vice-chancellor Manoranjan Kar were also present at the event. (New Indian Express 26/3/14)

 

34. Agriculture-scientist rues country’s failure to produce food to its full capacity (20)

MYSORE: Former UAS VC and agricultural scientist M Mahadevappa on Monday said despite India having the best soil and agricultural conditions it has failed to produce food grains to its capacity and this is due to faulty package of practices adopted by farmers . Speaking at Jagadguru Shivarathreshwara jatra celebrations after inaugurating the rural folk arts and cultural competitions at Suttur village near here , he said India has the best agri-climatic conditions in the world. In the world only three countries Brazil, China and India have the best agri-cilamtic conditions, and compared to the other two India has the best situation, he pointed out ruing India’s failure to produce food grains to the full capacity . China which produced food grains less than India in the fifties is now producing 460 million tonnes of food grains compared to India’s 250 million tonnes. If India’s package of practices and scientific knowledge is implemented properly , India can produce double the present capacity of 250 million tonnes which is not only surplus it can be exported, he claimed , adding that government has failed use the knowledge in a right perspective . In addition to this red-tapism and corruption has also affected the farm sector , he said. Mahadevappa a recipient of Padma Vihusana award this year for his contribution to agriculture said country has the best agri-laboratories and scientists in the world. ” Which country can boast of having 60 agricultural universities and more than 600 agricultural research stations” he asked and said even US and China or any other country in the world has no such a scientific men power and expertise. Stressing the need for right implementation of package of practices and according importance to soil and seed protection measures will do wonders and change the country’s food production itself in a couple of years. “What we have not done in these last 65 years can be achieved in just 5-6 years if the government comes out with new agriculture policy and will to implement it honestly,” he felt and said farmers should come forward and have more interaction with the scientists. (Times of India 27/1/14)

 

35. 52 farmer suicides since May 2011: Minister (20)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Agriculture minister K P Mohanan said in the assembly that 52 farmer suicide cases have been reported in the state after the UDF government came to power. Of this 26 suicides were reported in Wayanad, nine in Palakkad, six in Kannur, three in Kasaragod, two each in Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Thrissur, and one each in Pathanamthitta and Kozhikode. The government has given a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of 29 farmers who committed suicide during this period. The minister said that 18 farmers’ families in Wayanad have received the compensation from the government. Mohanan said the government had come out with a scheme for providing interest-free loans to the crisis-ridden farmers in the state. So far Rs 1.96 crore has been disbursed through this scheme in the state. The minister added that the state has requested the Centre to extend the period of Idukki package for another two years. The chief minister has written a letter to the prime minister in this regard. So far the government has spent Rs 167.86 crore for executing different projects under the Idukki package. (Times of India 30/1/14)

 

36. Farmer suicide at Vidarbha village visited by Rahul in 2009 (20)

Yavatmal: A debt-ridden farmer at Jalka village in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra allegedly committed suicide by jumping into a lake. It is the same village where Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had called on Kalavati Bandurkar, whose farmer husband had committed suicide because of debt, in 2009.The visit had generated a lot of publicity. The present incident took place on January 28, and the man’s body was fished out yesterday, police said. The deceased farmer, Ashok Janrao Koychade (42), is survived by his parents, wife and four minor daughters. Locals said that Koychade had taken a loan of over Rs 50,000 from the Yavatmal District Central Co-Operative Bank, but was finding it difficult to make repayments because of the crop failure over the last four years. The bank had issued him notice in this regard. Bank Chairman Manish Patil confirmed that Koychade had been issued notice twice, and was deemed a defaulter. Though the administration had declared ‘wet drought’ in the district due to the excessive rains last monsoon, no instruction as to stoppage of loan recovery had been received, Patil claimed. District Collector Ashvin Mudgal said he had sought a report on the matter from the tehsildar. He said there was no instruction from the state authorities about stopping the farm loan recoveries. (Zee news 1/2/14)

 

37. Farmer commits suicide in Jalka village (20)

YAVATMAL: A debt-ridden 42-year-old adivasi farmer committed suicide by jumping into the water tank in Jalka village in Maregaon tehsil of Yavatmal district on January 28. His body was fished out on Friday afternoon after his family members made frantic efforts to trace him out. Ashok Koychade has left behind his old parents, wife and four minor daughters to mourn his death. The deceased owned 5 acres of barren land and a heavy burden of loan dues. It may be recalled that the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had toured Jalka in 2009 and visited the house of Kalavati Bandurkar whose young husband Parasram (42) committed suicide due to debt burden. His wife Nirmalabai is a household help and is now pushed to the verge of heavy debt besides the responsibility of her minor daughters – Vaishnavi (12), Pallavi (10), Ashvini (8) and Shivani (5) and the old parents. The main cause of Ashok’s suicide is a loan of over due for last four years due to the failure of crops. The bank had served him two recovery notices and cautioned him of dire consequences including the publication of his name in the newspapers followed by the seizure Rs over 50,000 which he had taken from the Yavatmal District Central Co-Operative Bank and it was of his property. It is claimed that Ashok is the first victim of the forcible recovery procedures of the bank after the district administration declared the district as ‘wet drought’ affected having its annewari pegs at 46%.Chairman of YDCCB Manish Patil said, “It is a continuous process and we have served the notices on him. Though the government has declared the district as wet drought hit, but so far no instruction has been received from the administration to stop the recovery of defaulted loan.” President of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti Kishor Tiwari has condemned the deliberate apathy of the district administration for not issuing necessary instructions to the banking institutions to stop the forcible recovery which they kicked off recently. He demanded restoration of credit facility to the farmers and immediate initiative to stop the ongoing power cut to the irrigation pumps in the district. Asked if has received any order from the state government to stop the recovery proceedings for the defaulted loan, collector Ashvin Mudgal said that he has not received any instruction or order from the government after it declared the district as wet drought hit on January 15. He has however disclosed that the bank is yet to get Rs. 36 crore from the Govt against the re-scheduling of the loan declared by the Govt for the fiscal 2009-10. has confirmed the suicide of Ashok and said that he has deputed his tehsildar to the bereaved family and the tehsildar would report back to him today by evening. “The Govt would issue specific order in this regard which would specify the nature of concessions and financial assistance to be granted to the affected farmers in the district,” he said adding that he has not received any such order so far. Young Rahul has then made an emotional speech on the floor of the Parliament highlighting the tragic and pathetic condition of the cotton farmers in the region followed by the global media attraction on the village and the finacial assistance that flowed to Kalavati thereafter. Now the billion dollar question is: “If the visit of Rahul Gandhi and the financial assistance given to the family could stop the ever growing farmers’ suicide in the cotton heartland any way?” (Times of India 2/2/14)

 

RESERVATION

38. OBC creamy layer cut-off raised to Rs 8LPA (25)

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh cabinet on Tuesday cleared proposal to increase maximum income ceiling for the creamy layer seeking reservation under Other Backward Castes (OBCs) from Rs 5 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh per annum. The cabinet also passed the proposal for demolishing unoccupied bungalows near the Allahabad High Court to make room for 30 additional new courtrooms and 20 chambers, said chief secretary Jawed Usmani. As per existing provisions, the state government is authorised to raise the ceiling for maximum income under creamy layer once every three years. The income ceiling in 1995 was fixed as Rs 1 lakh. In 2002, it was increased to Rs 3 lakh per annum which was further increased to Rs 5 lakh in 2008. After the maximum income limit increased to Rs 8 lakh per annum on Tuesday, the chairman of the State Backward Castes Commission Ram Asrey Vishwakarma welcomed the move claiming that it will help cover more families which will now be entitled to reservation and education opportunities. Briefing the media about the agenda of the cabinet meeting held on Tuesday morning, Usmani said the unoccupied bungalows will be demolished according to recommendations of a committee constituted by the high court. “In all, there are nine old bungalows which will be razed to the ground. The area occupied by six of these bungalows will be utilised to bring up 30 new courtrooms and 20 chambers. The rest of the space will be utilised as per the recommendations of the HC committee which is looking into the entire process,” Usmani said. About details like the construction work of the new courtroom Usmani said: “Today, the cabinet has cleared the proposal for demolition of the bungalows which will be done by the Public Works Department (PWD).” Usmani said the next step will be initiated as per the directions and recommendations of the High Court.” The cabinet also cleared Jhansi as a B-2 City from its existing status of C class city. As many as 15 other districts that have been carved out in the last few years will be sanctioned a level C city status. This will entitle the service class in Jhansi to draw additional allowance under the house rent allowance (HRA) head which is fixed as per the status of the city of posting. The cabinet also cleared part amendment of UP Higher Judiciary Service Rules 1975. This was the ninth amendment. The Amendment has increased the quota of promoted officers of UP Judicial Services from 50 to 65%. But the quota for civil judge (senior division) after 5 years of service has been reduced to 10 per cent instead of the existing 25 per cent. The 25 per cent reservation for direct appointment has been left unaltered. The proposal for beautification of the banks of river Gomti was also cleared by the cabinet. In the first phase, the 1.7 kilometer long stretch of Gomti banks starting from Hanuman Setu and ending at Daliganj bridge will be attended by the Lucknow Development Authority while the sanitation facilities of this stretch will be attended by District Urban Development Authority (Duda). (Times of India 29/1/14)

 

39. 115 amendments to OBC list approved (25)

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved amendments to the Central List of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to include or delete 115 castes in the List from 13 States and three Union Territories. Amendments have been approved from proposals received by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and three Union Territories — Chandigarh, Delhi and Puducherry. The changes in the List by way of inclusion / correction / deletion of castes/communities have been approved as per the advices received from the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). The amendments will notify 115 changes recommended by the NCBC. The proposed changes will enable persons belonging to these castes/communities to avail benefits of reservation in government services and posts as well as in central educational institutions according to existing policy. They will also become eligible for benefit under various welfare schemes, and scholarships, being administered by the Central Government, which are at present available to persons belonging to the OBCs. The NCBC was set up in pursuance to the Supreme Court judgement in the Indira Sawhney case. As per the NCBC Act 1993, Section 9, the Commission is mandated to examine requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists and tender such advice to the Central Government as it deems appropriate and the advice of the Commission is ordinarily be binding upon the Central Government. The NCBC has been tendering advice to the Central government from time to time. A total of 30 Notifications have been issued so far and a total of 2343 “entries” (an “entry” means a caste, including its synonyms, sub-castes) have been notified in the Central list of OBCs for 24 States and six Union Territories. The last such notification was issued on 08.12.2011. Since then, many more advices for inclusion/ deletion of castes/ communities and correction in the existing list of OBCs, have been received from the NCBC. (The Hindu 30/1/14)

 

40. Balkrishna Renke welcomes Rahul’s suggestion on nomadic tribes (25)

NAGPUR: Balkrishna Renke, who headed the three-member national commission for identifying nomadic and denotified tribes in the country, has welcomed the move to set up a permanent commission for welfare of these communities. The Renke Commission had submitted its report to the Union government six years ago recommending a slew of measures needed to assimilate these communities living on the fringes for ages. “Setting up the permanent commission on the lines of that for the scheduled castes and OBC was one of our demands. We are now happy that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has taken a favourable view and referred the matter to the UPA government,” Renke told TOI on Saturday. “Though late, it’s a step in the right direction. But now much depends on the terms of reference and mandate given to the new commission,” he said. Gandhi had given the assurance earlier this week when a delegation of nomadic tribes from across the country met him. Nomadic tribes have been demanding job reservation and other facilities so to get socially on par. Because of the poverty, lack of opportunities and discrimination, the nomads have suffered a lot since the British era when they were branded as criminals and habitual offenders. Only last month during his visit here, Renke had expressed anguish over the Union government’s failure to take action on the report he submitted in July 2008. He had also warned of public agitations and hinted of election boycott. “The report is in a limbo. The government has neither rejected nor accepted it. It has, however, only indicated that some of the recommendations are implementable. But the affected tribes are losing patience,” said Renke. The permanent commission that could take a call on finalizing the list committees entitled to benefits under government schemes. “We did not get adequate time and our hurried report could suggest 800 tribes as nomadic and denotified,” said Renke adding that the new commission can now take a final call. The Commission was first set up in November 2003 but reconstituted in March 2005 as the earlier commission could not make much headway. Its report made several recommendations, which include that same reservations as available to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be extended to around 11 crore people of denotified and nomadic or seminomadic tribes in India. It also recommended that the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be applicable to these tribes as well. (Times of India 2/2/14)

 

HINDUTVA

41. BJP experimenting with new form of Hindutva (26)

LUCKNOW: The Bharatiya Janata Party, it seems, is redoing Hindutva. Sangh parivar’s realization that BJP can not encash the same ‘cheque’ (read hardcore Hindutva) twice, probably, has made it redo Hindutva to make it more ‘accommodating’. Over and above, when ‘Mission BJP’ is to win more than 272 seats, redoing the old poll plank becomes necessary. Active participation of Muslims in Modi’s latest rally at Gorakhpur, on Thursday, does not make the task of redoing Hindutva look daunting for BJP. At Gorakhpur, Muslims not only came to listen to Modi but also helped organize the rally. Gorakhpur, which, so far, has been the hotbed of party’s Hindutva politics, could also serve the laboratory for BJP as far as experimenting with the renewed Hindutva ideology is concerned. Muslims, too, did not sound averse to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, anymore at Gorakhpur. As 21-year old Kalam, one of the participants at rally, said, “Irrespective of what Modi has or has not done in the past, we have to welcome him for the fact that he came at Yogi’s land for the first time.” Modi, who has been seen as the main polarising figure ever since Godhra happened, is also treading cautiously and abstaining from raising any contentious issues in his rallies, without, of course, antagonizing hardcore Hindutva followers for whom he is visiting temples be it , Lord Vishwanath, Sankat Mochan or Gorakhnath temples. Interestingly, political observers attribute it to ‘new, all-encompassing’ Hindutva that has made Modi not only raise issues of ‘Muslim’ weavers in Varanasi, but also hit out at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for tagging Muslims at Muzaffaranagar riot relief camps with ISI. Reflecting a further change in the party’s stance, BJP president Rajnath Singh had recently said that the party has no objection to Article 370 which grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir if it helps in the development of the state. “J&K is a very serious, very sensitive region for us … If J&K develops because of Article 370, then we have no objection in keeping it,” Singh said in his inaugural addresses at the two-day National Executive meet of the party. BJP has been consistently demanding repeal of Article 370 and has aggressively campaigned for it. But, Singh’s statement marks a change. At Gorakhpur, BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, known to be the torch-bearer of hardcore Hindutva, was the reason why Muslims came to the rally ground. “Yogi Adityanath stood by us in our fight against Gorakhpur Development Authority’s acquisition bid at Maanbela,” said Kalam, a graduation second year student at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya University. “Gujarat has seen development under Modi’s able leadership. His words can not be mere false promises”, said Jaffruddin, a resident of one of the surrounding villages of Maanbela. If Modi can replicate Gujarat model nationally, Muslims do not see harm in supporting him. (Times of India 25/1/14)

 

42. VHP demands probe into impure gold offerings at Vaishnodevi (26)

Jammu: VHP today demanded a judicial probe into reported huge offerings of impure gold and silver at Vaishnodevi temple and asked the Shrine Board to ensure that the offerings are cleaned as soon as they are received. “A detailed inquiry should be conducted by a sitting Judge of High Court. Cleansing of offered gold and silver should take place immediately after the offerings are presented at the cave shrine to ensure transparency,” Prant Sanrakshak, VHP, Ramakant Dubey told reporters here today. Vishwa Hindu Parishad has taken a strong note of news reports that out of 193.5 kg of gold, 43 kg of gold, besides 5,781 kg of silver offered at the Mata Vaishnodevi cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district were found impure during cleansing process, he said. “It is very shocking that the Shrine Board remained silent for five years and it is only after the information through media that the picture of impure and duplicate gold and silver has come before the public,” Dubey said. He asked the Shrine Board to make it clear why they did not cleanse it through transparent process immediately after the offerings are made. The Shrine Board should also make it clear why there is no provision to clean gold and silver at the shrine premises, he said, adding that the offerings are sent outside the state for cleansing, which raises apprehensions that they may be inter-changed with fakes. Nearly 22% of 193 kgs of gold offerings and 70% of 8,163 kgs of silver offerings by devotees at Vaishnodevi shrine during last five years have been found to be “impure”, according to the shrine board. “78 per cent of 193.5 kg of yellow metal and 30 per cent of 8,163 kgs of white metal offered by devotees at cave shrine of Mata Vaishnodevi during last five years is pure gold and silver respectively,” Chief Executive officer (CEO), Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), Mandeep Bhandari had said yesterday. The official had said the offerings are divided into yellow and white metal categories as their purity is unknown. While the yellow metal is sent to Indian Government Mint, Mumbai, the white metal is sent to Minerals Trading Corporation of India Ltd, Delhi for refining, assaying and fabrication, he had said. The Vaishno Devi shrine is visited by over one crore devotees every year. Business Standard 31/1/14)

 

43. Nagpur bandh’ called after Shivaji statue desecrated (26)

NAGPUR: The central parts of the city remained tense on Thursday following unrest over desecration of a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at Gandhi Gate. Several buses, including four state transport buses, were damaged during the protests. The protesters have also called for a 24-hour strike across the city. Tension erupted shortly after local resident Rajesh Burade noticed the bent sword on the Shivaji statue at 7.30am while taking his daughter to school. Sources claimed the miscreants had also wrapped a BJP headband around the statue’s head. A saffron flag, often used by Shiv Sainiks, was wrapped around the right arm of the statue while the sword had been damaged. As soon as the news spread, local organizations like Shivrajyabhishek Sewa Samiti and Yuva Chetna Manch hit the streets. Stone pelting on buses was reported from localities like Badkas Chowk, Lakdipul, Narsingh Talkies Chowk, Sham Talkies Chowk, Gandhi Gate, Ashok Chowk, Ganeshpeth Bus Stand Chowk, Chitnis Park and a couple of other places. The traffic on the road remained disrupted till noon and shops remained closed for the rest of the day as the chowk near Gandhi Gate was flooded with protesters, police and media persons, apart from local residents. The angry citizens also set some tyres afire as police failed to react promptly. Some protesters, including Bhosale scion Raje Mudhoji Bhosale, expressed surprise over the unexplained, lackadaisical attitude of the city police, which had recently withdrawn a makeshift police chowky from near the statue. The camp chowky had been set up there around four years ago after a similar controversy surrounding the statue. Despite repeated incidents of desecration, people are wondering why the police withdrew the chowky. An offence was registered later in the day at Kotwali police station, but the protesters also expressed anger at the police wasting time on settling their jurisdictional issues. Senior leaders like BJP MLA Vikas Kumbhare, former deputy mayor and Sena corporator Kishore Kumeria, ruling party leader in NMC and BJP corporator Pravin Datke, BJP corporator Narendra (Balya) Borkar, Datta Shirke of Shivrajyabhishek Sewa Samiti, Bajrang Dal’s Subhodh Acharya and others visited the spot with their supporters. Most of the leaders demanded suspension of police officers at Kotwali and Ganeshpeth police stations for disregarding the gravity of the situation and raking up jurisdictional wrangles. The situation remained tense until city police chief KK Pathak reached the spot. Pathak requested the protesters to maintain peace and also assured prompt action. He promised to nab the culprits within 24 hours. Local residents also demanded installation of CCTVs at the junction to protect the statue. Sources said that Sena corporator Kumeria ensured that two CCTV cameras were installed immediately. Pathak also assured that a camp chowky would be set up immediately at the site. Deputy commissioner of police, Zone-III, Sanjay Darade said that bandobast has been put in place across the city. “A final report has been compiled on the incident, which is now being sent to the CP. Citizens should refrain from rumour-mongering,” said the DCP. The agitation was led by Mudhoji Bhosale and Shirke. Following a late evening ‘protest meeting’, Shirke said that a bandh would be observed from 8am on Friday, which is the deadline for the cops to nab the culprits. “We are getting support from Pune and rest of the state,” said Shirke. He also said that all political parties are supporting their agitation. Several senior leaders of BJP and Shiv Sena, however, remained aloof from the bandh call. BJP MLA Kumbhare said that the agitators should have allowed police adequate time before starting the protest.  (Times of India 31/1/14)

 

44. SC’s seven-judge bench to revisit Hindutva judgement (26)

New Delhi: Virtually reopening its Hindutva judgement, the Supreme Court has decided to expedite hearing by a seven judge-bench for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practices”. The issue assumes importance as questions were raised on its 1995 verdict which held that vote in name of “Hindutva/ Hinduism” did not prejudicially affect any candidate and since then three election petitions are pending on the subject before the apex court. The apex court’s three-judge bench in 1995 had held that “Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind.” The judgement was delivered in the case of Manohar Joshi versus N B Patil which was authored by Justice J S Verma who found that statement by Joshi that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra did not amount to appeal on ground of religion.” The observation was made while dealing with the question regarding the scope of corrupt practices mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of People Act. The issue for interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act once again had come on January 30 (Friday) before a five-judge headed by Justice R M Lodha which referred it for examination before a larger bench of seven judge which will be constituted by chief justice P Sathasivam. The bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F I M Kalifulla was dealing with the appeal filed in 1992 by BJP leader Abhiram Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay High Court. A three-judge bench on April 16, 1992 had referred Singh’s appeal in which the same question and interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act was raised to a five-judge Constitution Bench. While the five-judge bench was hearing this matter on January 30, it was informed that the identical issue was raised in the election petition filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa and the apex court’s another Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred a larger Bench of seven Judges. Thereafter, the bench headed by Justice Lodha referred Singh’s matter to the Chief Justice for placing it before a seven-judge bench. “Be that as it may, since one of the questions involved in the present appeal is already referred to a larger Bench Of seven Judges, we think it appropriate to refer this appeal to a limited extent regarding interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger Bench of seven Judges. “The Registry will place the matter before the Chief Justice for constitution of a Bench of seven Judges. The matter may be listed subject to the order of the Chief Justice,” the January 30 order said. It said,”In the course of arguments, our attention has been invited to the order of this Court dated August 20, 2002 in Narayan Singh vs. Sunderlal Patwa 1. By this order, a Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred the question regarding the scope of corrupt practice mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger Bench of seven Judges.

“This became necessary in view of the earlier decision of a Constitution Bench of this Court in Kultar Singh vs. Mukhtiar Singh,” the bench said. (DNA 1/2/14)

 

45. SC’s seven-judge bench to revisit Hindutva judgement (26)

New Delhi: Virtually reopening its Hindutva judgement, the Supreme Court has decided to expedite hearing by a seven judge-bench for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practices”. The issue assumes importance as questions were raised on its 1995 verdict which held that vote in name of “Hindutva/ Hinduism” did not prejudicially affect any candidate and since then three election petitions are pending on the subject before the apex court. The apex court’s three-judge bench in 1995 had held that “Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind.” The judgement was delivered in the case of Manohar Joshi versus N B Patil which was authored by Justice J S Verma who found that statement by Joshi that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra did not amount to appeal on ground of religion.” The observation was made while dealing with the question regarding the scope of corrupt practices mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of People Act. The issue for interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act once again had come on January 30 (Friday) before a five-judge headed by Justice R M Lodha which referred it for examination before a larger bench of seven judge which will be constituted by chief justice P Sathasivam. The bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F I M Kalifulla was dealing with the appeal filed in 1992 by BJP leader Abhiram Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay High Court. A three-judge bench on April 16, 1992 had referred Singh’s appeal in which the same question and interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act was raised to a five-judge Constitution Bench. While the five-judge bench was hearing this matter on January 30, it was informed that the identical issue was raised in the election petition filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa and the apex court’s another Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred a larger Bench of seven Judges. Thereafter, the bench headed by Justice Lodha referred Singh’s matter to the Chief Justice for placing it before a seven-judge bench. “Be that as it may, since one of the questions involved in the present appeal is already referred to a larger Bench Of seven Judges, we think it appropriate to refer this appeal to a limited extent regarding interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger Bench of seven Judges. “The Registry will place the matter before the Chief Justice for constitution of a Bench of seven Judges. The matter may be listed subject to the order of the Chief Justice,” the January 30 order said. It said,”In the course of arguments, our attention has been invited to the order of this Court dated August 20, 2002 in Narayan Singh vs. Sunderlal Patwa 1. By this order, a Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred the question regarding the scope of corrupt practice mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger Bench of seven Judges. “This became necessary in view of the earlier decision of a Constitution Bench of this Court in Kultar Singh vs. Mukhtiar Singh,” the bench said. (Zee News 2/2/14)

 

 

Posted by admin at 30 January 2014

Category: Uncategorized

POLICE/ TORTURE/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

1. Kashmir staged shooting case closed as evidence inconclusive: Army (1)

Jammu: The Indian Army said Thursday it has closed the 2000 alleged Pathribal staged shooting case against its personnel as evidence collected by it did not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused. “Consequent to CBI investigation and order of the Supreme Court in March 2012, the army had taken over the alleged Pathribal case from the court of chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar in June 2012,” said a defence statement issued here. “A comprehensive and exhaustive effort was undertaken to record evidence against all the accused persons. Over 50 witnesses have been examined including a large number of civilian witnesses, state government and police officials. “Forensic, documentary and other relevant evidence has also been taken on record. For the convenience of the next of kin of the deceased persons and other civilian witnesses, the team recording the evidence moved to the Valley to record their statements,” it said. “The evidence recorded could not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused persons, but clearly established that it was a joint operation by the police and the army based on specific intelligence,” it said, adding: “The case has since been closed by the army authorities and intimation given to the court of judicial magistrate, Srinagar. The case related to killing of five people in Pathribal forest area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on March 25, 2000 by security forces, who claimed all the slain were foreign militants killed in a gunfight and from whose possession weapons had been recovered. Following a public outcry that all the slain had been local civilians framed as foreign militants, the authorities had ordered exhumation of their bodies and subsequently ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the incident. The CBI indicted five personnel of 7 Rajputana Rifles including Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt. Col. Brijinder Pratap Singh, Major Saurabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan in the killings and described it as “cold blooded murder”.In 2007, the CBI presented a charge sheet against the accused in the court of chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar. The army however moved the state high court on behalf of the five accused soldiers challenging the CBI’s move, but the court dismissed the appeal. The army then filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the CBI to file a charge sheet against army personnel without sanction from the central government, contending they were protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). (Zee News 24/1/14)

 

2. Elected govt should not stage street protests: Aruna Roy (1)

NEW DELHI: The AAP government’s 33-hour dharna came in for fresh criticism from social activist Aruna Roy who said an elected government should not resort to street protests. While recognizing that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s demand for control over Delhi Police was genuine, Roy disagreed with the means. “When you are elected into a system, you cease to be a movement. If you are unhappy with some issues, there are official channels that should be explored. There are plural means that could have been used,” she said. Roy added that the AAP government in Delhi needed to understand the “power of the chair”. “The CM has power, for instance, that I have no access to. Power lies in structures and they should learn to use this power,” she said, However, Roy acknowledged that AAP has set some new standards in the country’s political arena by showing that elections could be won without corruption. She however said it needed more time to prove itself. “It’s too early to assess its performance. We’ll have to wait and see what it does on issues like housing for slum-dwellers, water connections for poor etc.” Speaking after a lecture on ‘Idea of India and Citizenship’ in the Capital, Roy said if law minister Somnath Bharti had made racist comments, it was “unacceptable”.”There is a black vs brown issue in Delhi. If you are black, everything is wrong with you… he should acknowledge that he was in the wrong. One can’t be in public office and make such comments. It is unacceptable,” Roy said. She also took on AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, saying she was “surprised by his audacious poems” mocking nurses from Kerala as well as Muharram procession. “One person (Vishwas) who does poetry makes fun of nurses from south India and laughs at Muharram. How can they do this? We need accountability from these people,” Roy said. In her lecture, Roy stressed on the importance of the movement in aspects of political life. “We have created policy, influenced policy and this is by no means a mean achievement,” she said. (Times of India 25/1/14)

 

3. Youth dies in police custody in Vadodara (1)

Vadodara: A youth, who had been picked up by city police for questioning in a betting case, allegedly died during custody, police said on Saturday. The youth identified as Sajid Sheikh died while he was in the lockup of Pani Gate police station here yesterday. “Post-mortem was conducted on the body and we are now waiting for the report. Only then we will come to know the reason behind his death,” Deputy Police Commissioner Dipankar Trivedi said. Sheikh’s family members have alleged that he died as he was beaten up by police during the custody. The police, however, have denied the allegation. The brother of the deceased, Munavar Sheikh, said, “My brother was wrongly detained. He was into the business of painting and was not into betting. His death is unnatural and he was healthy and fine.” (Zee News 26/1/14)

 

4. Indians jailed in Pakistan becoming mentally ill: RTI (1)

BAREILLY: Indian prisoners who have already served their terms in Pakistani jails are living a life of torture and brutality leading to mental illness. This is because the Indian government has failed to confirm their nationality in time, according to an RTI query. At present, 224 prisoners, believed to be Indian, are lodged in Pakistani jails. They are believed to be involved primarily in civil cases. However, authorities there have acknowledged only 55 prisoners as on December 31 last year. Out of these 55, six prisoners have already completed their prison term but are compelled to stay in jails because they are awaiting a confirmation of their nationality. The RTI response also reveals that 212 Indian prisoners, essentially fishermen, are languishing in Pakistan’s jails. “As the government has no data of ‘completion of sentence’ and ‘national status’ for majority of the prisoners, it implies that numerous prisoners would have completed their sentence long back,” says activist Pradeep Kumar who filed the RTI query. Moreover, the RTI also reveals that the Indian government does not provide any legal aid to the prisoners. “Legal assistance is the right of the prisoners which they should not be deprived of,” says Kumar. He also adds that most of the prisoners are poor and their families back home in India do not know how to take up the issue with the government. Even the government does not periodically review the records to know the status of these prisoners. For instance, Yashpal, a Bareilly resident, had trespassed into Pakistan and was lodged in the central jail of Sahiwal in Pakistan. Now he is in a state of mental imbalance. “After we took the case of Yashpal in the first week of May this year, the files moved forward,” says Kumar. Yashpal was released in July this year but he had lost his sanity by that time. “Unable to bear torture at the Pakistan jail, Yashpal became mentally unstable. Doctors have asked me to take him to a city hospital for treatment which I cannot afford,” says his father Babu Ram, an agricultural labourer. Besides Yashpal, six other prisoners were released on the same day, out of which four were suffering from mental illness. Even in August last year, 11 Indian prisoners in Pakistan jails wrote to the Indian and Pakistan governments requesting for death sentence saying “it will end our pain and a life of hell.” They had also mentioned that nearly 21 other Indian prisoners, including four women, have become mentally unstable due to “excessive torture” and now, they are not even in a condition to say their names. (Times of India 27/1/14)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

5. Endosulfan victims potest outside Ommen Chandy’s residence (3)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Endosulfan victims and their mothers on Sunday started an indefinite strike in front of Cliff House – official residence of Chief Minister Ommen Chandy. They are demanding that the government should keep their promise of financial assistance and medical aid to them. The victims who are on strike under the aegis of the ‘Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani’ includes blind, completely bedridden, mentally challenged people and also those with Physical deformities. Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan visited the victims who are on strike. An adjournment motion too was moved in the legislative assembly to which Chief Minister replied that the second installment of financial aid will be provided to victims soon. The victims are from Kasargode district who are suffering due to the earlier areal spray of chemical pesticide Endosulfan in cashew plantations. The victims who are on strike under the aegis of the ‘Endosulfan Peeditha Janakeeya Munnani’ includes blind, completely bedridden people among others. About 5,500 victims were listed as Endosulfan victims in the state. The National Human Rights commission had asked the government to provide Rs 5 lakh to the families of the dead, those bedridden and cannot move without another persons support and Rs three lakhs to others. Though the state government has only provided the first installment of about Rs 1.5 lakh to one lakh to about 2,295 victims. Though earlier assistance was given to victims in 27 Panchayats and three municipalities but it has been reduced to 11 Panchayats. Their demand is that financial and medical assistance should be provided to all victims and not on Panchayat basis. They also demanded that the Justice Ramachandran Committee report should not be implemented. (CNN IBN 27/1/14)

 

6. Centre Gives Rs 72 crore to Reduce Maternal, Infant Deaths (3)

BANGALORE: The Union government has released Rs 72 crore in appreciation of the measures initiated to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in the state, Health Minister U T Khader said. To a question by the Congress member Allamaprabhu Patil in the Council, the minister said because of the pro-active measures of the government, maternal and infant mortality rates have gone down to 144 against the national average of 178 per lakh during 2010-2012. The minister said several initiatives, including Janani Suraksha Yojane, played a vital role in this. The Arogya Kavacha, Madilu, Suvarna Arogya Chaitanya and the recently launched Nagu Magu programmes also helped, Khader said. The Union government’s grant will be utilised to strengthen the schemes further, he said. (New Indian Express 28/1/14)

 

HIV/AIDS

7. 2 held for abusing couple with HIV in Chennai (3)

CHENNAI: The Pallikaranai police on Thursday arrested two men who allegedly harassed a couple living with HIV and burnt their house. The arrest followed media reports on the pitiable condition of the couple. The police said Thangam (34) and his brother Ashok (32), residents of Kamatchi Amman Nagar in Pallikaranai, threatened the couple to vacate their house and leave the locality. They also assaulted the couple and harassed their teenaged daughter on a number of occasions. On Thursday, the two were arrested and sent to jail. (The Hindu 24/1/14)

 

8. Tripura works to end HIV stigma (3)

AGARTALA: State health minister Tapan Chakraborty on Tuesday said Tripura would adopt the social support model implemented in Rajasthan and Delhi to help HIV positive patients fight stigma. Referring to the recent death of an AIDS-infected couple at Dharmanagar in north Tripura, he said isolation of AIDS patients reflected erosion of family values. “We are examining the model of Rajasthan and Delhi to deal with HIV/AIDS infected people, as social security and financial support will provide them with dignity,” he said, confirming that Tripura had 11,055 HIV positive individuals, of whom 438 were AIDS patients. He also said 127 AIDS-related deaths have been recorded in the last 14 years. Chakraborty added that the risk of transmission had increased due to greater interstate worker movement. He urged all stakeholders to counter social stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS infected people. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

9. Do More to Remove HIV/AIDS Stigma (3)

It is like returning to the primitive days. When nothing much about AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) was known, people feared the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) spreads like other contagious diseases. So when the late Princess Diana shook hands with a HIV-positive person after removing her gloves, back in 1987, the vignette shook the world and also changed people’s perspective about AIDS itself. That was the time when repeated assurances started emanating from the medical fraternity that one need not fear getting infected with HIV by just touching and letting an affected person share your room. Billions of dollars were spent worldwide to create awareness about HIV and also dispel the myths about its spread. India, too, saw several campaigns that reached all corners. So when a HIV-positive couple face discrimination that goes to the extent of their house being burnt down by neighbours in Chennai, the place where the war against HIV/AIDS was launched in India after the first cases of HIV were detected in the metropolis, we wonder if all those dollars spend on campaigns were a waste. It is a different matter that the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society immediately rehabilitated the couple, who were literally on the streets after the hate attack. But how is it that the message that HIV is neither air-borne nor contagious through normal physical contact has not reached many people? If they know about HIV/AIDS, shouldn’t they be knowing how one can catch the virus, too? So, even as there is a downturn in the flow of funds for work on HIV/AIDS prevention as infection rates have reportedly fallen, touching a low close to zero, should there be a rethink on keeping the campaigns alive? Have we really created proper awareness on the scourge, which once threatened to wipe out mankind but was brought under control through sustained campaigns? Going by the Chennai incident, perhaps, we need to tell the people more and dispel the misconceptions. (New Indian Express 25/1/14)

 

CORRUPTION

10. Top Dudhsagar Dairy officials in Rs 22cr scam (5)

Palanpur: Mehsana police have booked the chairman and directors of Dudhsagar Dairy in Mehsana in a case of alleged financial irregularities worth Rs 22.5 crore. The case was registered at ‘B’ Division police station in Mehsana on a complaint of registrar of co-operative societies in Patan D C Joshi, who is also in charge of Mehsana. The dairy is chaired by Vipul Chaudhary, who recently ceased to be chairman of Gujarat Cooperative Milk and Marketing Federation (GCMMF). The case has ruffled the feathers of many in the dairy societies of north Gujarat that account for 70 per cent of such co-operatives in the state. The police complaint states that the accused allegedly misused their position and supplied cattle feed valued at Rs 22.50 crore to Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Dudh Mahasangh Maryadit without the consent of GCMMF and also the state government. “The audit of the dairy is underway and misappropriation of funds is likely to be in crores. We filed a complaint as the dairy administration had failed to give a convincing reply to the questions raised,” Joshi said. Defending their position, Dudhsagar Dairy authorities clarified that the cattle feed was supplied on an appeal of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and Mahanada Dairy (Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Dudh Mahasangh Maryadit). (Times of India 26/1/14)

 

11. Delhi Cabinet likely to clear Jan Lokpal Bill today (5)

New Delhi: The Jan Lokpal Bill is likely to be approved by the Delhi Cabinet on Tuesday as its draft has almost been finalised by a panel headed by Chief Secretary. According to an official, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today held a long discussion on the Bill in a meeting attended by lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, advocate Rahul Mehra, Cabinet ministers and senior government officials. “The Cabinet meeting is likely to be held tomorrow (Tuesday) and the agenda is Jan Lokpal Bill,” said the official. A source said the government is taking all steps to meet its February first week’s deadline to pass the anti-corruption Bill in a special session of Delhi Assembly from Ramlila ground. On a query about Delhi Police’s reported objections on holding Assembly session in Ramlila ground citing law and order issue, he said the government was taking one step at a time and would address the matter once it is ready with the draft and approval from the Cabinet. The anti-corruption Bill is largely based on Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill. However, it differs on some points, including the inclusion of chief minister in its ambit, the official said. The meeting, which was chaired by Kejriwal to discuss the fine prints of the bill, went on for around two hours. Soon after assuming the office on December 28, Kejriwal had said his government would pass the promised Jan Lokpal Bill from Ramlila ground by the first week of February. A committee headed by the Chief Secretary and secretaries of Urban Development, Law and Finance departments, besides eminent advocate Rahul Mehra has been given the responsibility of drafting the Jan Lokpal Bill. In its election manifesto for Delhi Assembly election, AAP had promised to cover all the officials and employees of Delhi Government, from the Chief Minister to MLAs. Meanwhile, as the AAP government completed its one month, Kejriwal held a review meeting of the ministers and sought reports on the work carried out by them in the intervening period. (Zee News 28/1/14)

 

12. ACB probes extortion complaint against cop (5)

New Delhi: The Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi Government is investigating a case where a sub-inspector from Malviya Nagar police station allegedly tried to extort money from a businessman who had lodged a complaint of cheating against his wife. When the complainant approached the SI, instead of investigating the matter, he asked the complainant for Rs 4,000 to carry out an investigation. The officer also asked the complainant to repair his hard disc, which would cost Rs 28,000, ACB officials said. Further, the SI told the complainant that he would implicate him in a false case if the complainant refused to repair the hard disc, officials said. The complainant, Jaspal Singh is a businessman who is also a share consultant. He approached the ACB through the anti-corruption hotline last week. The complainant also alleged that he had approached the ACB after the local police refused to take action. In his complaint, Singh claimed that he married in February last year, but within a couple of months, his wife left him, taking money and jewellery with her. Singh claimed that his wife, who he had met on a matrimonial website, had married him only to cheat him later. Initially, Singh had gone to a local court which had directed Malviya Nagar police station to conduct an enquiry. Subsequently, the sub-inspector was assigned to investigate the case. “When I approached him, he asked me for Rs 4,000. Later, he took me to the police station, where he asked me to get his hard disc repaired. He told me that it would cost Rs 28,000 and that if I didn’t get it repaired, he would falsely implicate me” Singh told Newsline. “I approached an officer. He called the investigating officer to his room and asked him what he had done. The IO kept quiet. I managed to record 10 minutes of their conversation on my mobile phone,” Singh said. However, Singh said no action was taken even then. Singh then called the anti-corruption hotline and was directed to the ACB, where he lodged an FIR. The hard disc has been seized by the unit and sent to the FSL for examination. A case under Sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the sub-inspector. Investigation is underway, officials said. (Indian Express 29/1/14)

 

TRIBALS

13. Birbhum gang-rape case: Additional district judge visits crime spot (6)

Suri/Kolkata: Acting on the directions of the Supreme Court, the additional district judge of Suri on Monday visited the Birbhum gang-rape victim in hospital and also the crime spot in Subolpur village. The Supreme Court, which had taken suo motu cognisance of the shocking gang-rape of the 20-year-old tribal girl on January 21, had directed the district judge, Suri to visit the spot and place a report with it within a week. Since district judge Subhra Ghosh was on leave, the additional judge Subhrodip Mitra visited the victim. The girl was gang-raped on the orders of a kangaroo court after she expressed her inability to pay a fine for being in love with a man from a different community. The additional district judge along with Chief Judicial Magistrate Rajesh Chakraborty met the victim at the hospital for 45 to 50 minutes. A five-member Special Investigative Team (SIT) set up to investigate the gang-rape also visited the place where the crime took place. The SIT, which included the Investigating Officer in the case would report to the Superintendent of the Police in the district, IG (Western Range) Siddhinath Gupta said. Gupta told PTI that the police recorded the eye-witness accounts of the victim’s paramour Sheikh Khalek and his elder brother, Dipu Seth who had paid the fine for Khalek before freeing him from the clutches of the kangaroo court. Gupta along with DIG (Burdwan Range) LN Meena and District Magistrate Jagdish Prasad Meena also visited the hospital where the girl was admitted. The 13 people accused of the gang-rape have been remanded to police custody for 13 days since January 24. (Zee News 27/1/14)

 

14. Salwa Judum re-run: Chhattisgarh’s tribals take up arms against Maoists (6)

RAIPUR: Driven to desperation by Maoists excesses and police inaction, tribals of Jashpur district bordering Jharkhand, have taken up arms to drive out guerrillas from the forests in a re-run of the Salwa Judum movement witnessed in tribal Bastar between 2005 and 2008. More than 1,500 tribals from Thutiamba, Aurapani and 25 other villages have declared war on Maoists of People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI). Armed with axes, hammers, knives, bows and arrows, armed villagers can be seen heading towards dense forests on the Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border to fight the rebels. Talking to TOI, Rampal Kurre, said, “Villagers are fed up with atrocities committed by Maoists and police apathy. Maoists on the Jharkhand border often barge into our houses anytime during the day and demand food and extort money. If there’s no money at home, they beat us and threaten to kill. We have taken a collective decision to take up arms.” Maoists come in groups and force their teenaged kids to join Naxalite camps and follow their ideology. “They have abducted many village girls and boys. This is why our kids get scared and flee from home,” he said. Kurre said, “while police expect us to act as informers, Maoists treat us with suspicion. If we don’t provide inputs to police, we are assaulted.” Angry villagers said the huge crowd comprising villagers from north Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, including women and children, are part of this movement. Ten days ago, rebels had assaulted a villager and also molested women. “Maoists of PLFI are active in Gumla district of Jharkhand and are led by a commander, Budhram, in the Aara region of north Chhattisgarh. Angry with Budhram’s raid on the village on January 24, villagers gathered and decided to boycott Maoists. Now, they are boldly reporting Maoist movements to cops,” Jitendra Mina, Jashpur superintendent of police told TOI. Additional director general of police (Naxal operations) R K Vij said, “the situation is under control and CRPF jawans deployed in Jashpur are fighting the rebels. Villagers need not take up arms. Rather, they have decided not to support the rebels anymore,” he said. (Times of India 28/1/14)

 

15. ‘Rights on Minerals Should be Vested in Tribals’ (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Member of the CPI (M) politburo Brinda Karat on Tuesday reiterated the demand for nationalisation of natural resources and said the rights on the mineral resources in the State should be vested in tribals for their development. Though tribals and indigenous communities have been demanding their rights to the mineral wealth often found under the land they own or  have traditional rights to, they have been historically denied even a share of that huge wealth, Karat said while addressing a rally of Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch at PMG square here. “We demand that rights on mineral resources, forests, land and water should be vested in tribals,” said the CPM leader. Referring to the Justice Shah Commission’s report which has severely indicted the State and Central Governments for their patronage to the miners to loot the minerals, Opposing the Posco project, she said it is against the interest of State. Justifying the agitation by the local people against the project, the CPM leader made a scathing attack on the Centre for granting clearance to the project in a phased manner. She termed the Supreme Court’s rejection of Vedanta’s proposal to mine the Niyamigiri hills as a victory of the tribals. Stating that Congress and BJP are engaged in a slanging match ahead of the general elections, Karat said none of the two parties will have majority to form Government at Centre. State CPM Secretary Janardan Pati said that handing over mines to private corporate houses for industrialisation has severely impacted  the livelihoods of the tribals. (New Indian Express 29/1/14)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

16. Responsibility of protecting nature rests on all: AU V-C (9)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The ecosystem has gone for a toss with the rise in carbon emissions and industrial waste. This apart, toxic chemicals are present in almost every product. These factors are affecting the quality of life at large. To address the concern and find out ways to protect environment, Andhra University UGC-Academic Staff College has designed a 21-day multidisciplinary refresher course on Environmental Sciences. With the support of the local coordinators — G.V.R. Srinivasa Rao from the Department of Civil Engineering, AUCE, and P.V.V. Prasada Rao from Environmental Sciences — the intense advocacy workshop aims at giving practical exposure to academicians from varied colleges and universities on topics such as climatic change, biodiversity, remote sensing, and subjects covering different segments of environmental sciences. Inaugurating the programme here on Sunday, AU Vice-Chancellor G.S.N. Raju threw light on the perils of non-biodegradable e-waste. “In the fast changing world where technology rules the roost, responsibility rests on each one of us to protect nature from the harmful effects of pollution. Putting a stop to the use of plastics and improved electronic waste management play a significant role in keeping the environment green. Education should reach beyond mandatory syllabus to help students understand the repercussions of toxic waste,” he suggested. Addressing 25 participants, who have come from different parts of the State, Director of Academic Staff College U. Shameem said: “On completion of the programme, participants will be equipped with better solutions to save environment. The session includes seminars with presentations covering various means and measures to conserve nature. The idea is to encourage participants to become green ambassadors and draw out plans for a better world.” (The Hindu 27/1/14)

 

17. Environmentalists prepare list of endangered species (9)

MUMBAI: Even as conservation efforts at various levels continue to show hope for the future, the latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Birds (2013) shows that fifteen bird species in India continue to be Critically Endangered (CR). Moreover, three other bird species now face greater danger than before. These species have been uplisted to Near Threatened (NT) and Vulnerable (VU) categories. Earlier they were better off and classified under Least Concern (LC) category. In India, organizations such as BNHS-India play a crucial role in researching and collating such information, as the BirdLife International ( UK) country partner. The species falling under the critically endangered category in India include migratory wetland species: Baer’s Pochard, Siberian Crane and Spoon-billed Sandpiper; non-migratory wetland species: White-bellied Heron; grassland species: Bengal Florican, Great Indian Bustard, Jerdon’s Courser and Sociable Lapwing; forest species: Forest Owlet and scavengers: Indian Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, White-backed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture. Himalayan Quail and Pink-headed Duck are now considered Extinct for all practical purposes. (Times of India 28/1/14)

 

18. India slips in green index, Delhi world’s most polluted city (9)

New Delhi: It’s no surprise that pollution is a perpetual problem in India. But it’s definitely disheartening to hear that India has slipped 32 ranks in the global Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2014 to rank a lowly 155 and its capital Delhi has earned the dubious tag of being the world’s most polluted city. A comparative study of 178 countries on nine environmental parameters released earlier this month by the US-based Yale University shows that one of the world’s fastest growing economies is a disaster on the environmental front. What’s worse, India’s pollution levels could be playing havoc with the health of its citizens. “A bottom performer on nearly every policy issue included in the 2014 EPI, with the exception of forests, fisheries and water resources, India’s performance lags most notably in the protection of human health from environmental harm,” said a statement issued by Yale. The study described India’s air pollution as the worst in the world, tying with China in terms of the proportion of population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) thresholds. A deeper look at the data gathered by a Nasa satellite showed that Delhi had the highest particulate matter 2.5 pollution levels followed by Beijing. Delhi, with 8.1 million registered vehicles, has repeatedly beaten the Chinese capital on particulate matter pollution. The high PM2.5 pollution caused by high vehicle density and industrial emissions is the reason for the dense smog that has been engulfing Delhi during the winter months in the last few years, with adverse health implications. And while Beijing’s infamous smog has hogged headlines and prompted government action, even led to the announcement of rewards for cutting back on pollution, the dangers in Delhi have been largely ignored. According to a study by the Harvard International Review, every two in five persons in Delhi suffer from respiratory ailments. The Lancet’s Global Health Burden 2013 report termed air pollution the sixth biggest human killer in India. The WHO last year termed air pollution carcinogenic. Particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5 in shorthand) are fine enough to lodge deep in human lung and blood tissue and cause diseases ranging from stroke to lung cancer, the Yale study said. Anumita Roy Chaudhary, executive director of Delhi-based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment, said policy-makers have failed to take the kind of action needed to check phenomenal growth in air pollution in India. “The gains of the introduction of CNG in 2000 have been lost. We are heading for dark days if policy-makers fail to wake up to the growing environmental health hazard,” she said. The Central Pollution Control Board’s report of 2011 said only two cities, Kochi and Coimbatore, met the national ambient air quality standards, which are six times higher than WHO standards. Air pollution in half of the 280 Indian cities monitored has been termed critical or hazardous for human health. “Air pollution levels in almost all cities are on the upward trend,” said a CPCB scientist. (Hindustan Times 29/1/14)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

19. Rural govt schools in State score good marks in RTE survey (11)

Bangalore: Government schools across rural Karnataka have seen a steady improvement in a number of basic infrastructural parameters prescribed under the Right to Education Act, according to the Annual Survey on Education Report (ASER). Under the RTE Act, which the State has implemented in 2010, schools have to fulfil five minimum infrastructural requirements – drinking water, toilets, playgrounds, boundary wall and school building. While the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has prescribed eight such requirements, the State has identified these five indicators. According to the survey, the percentage of schools with drinking water facilities increased from 76 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2013. The percentage of schools with drinking water facilities but no drinking water decreased from 7 percent in 2010 to 4 percent in 2013. The percentage of those that did not have any such facilities was 17 percent in 2010 and it came down to 15 percent in 2013. The percentage of schools with usable toilets increased from 38 percent in 2010 to 66 percent in 2013. The percentage of schools that had unusable toilets decreased from 56 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent in 2013. Provisions for separate usable toilets for girls increased from 31 per cent in 2010 to 59 per cent in 2013. In 2010, the percentage of schools with playgrounds and boundary wall was 66 percent and 59 percent respectively. By 2013, this arose to 73 percent in case of both the parameters. The survey also found that the State had a high percentage of schools that served mid day meals and which had kitchen sheds. This was always around 90 percent throughout the three years of the implementation of the RTE Act. The percentage of schools that served meals was 98 percent in 2013, according to the survey. The implementation of the continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) in schools is also one of the requirements of the RTE Act and almost 91 percent of the government schools said that they had received manuals and formats for its implementation, last year. The survey was conducted among households in 26 districts of the State as part of a national survey by Pratham, an not-for-profit organisation working in the area of education. Speaking to Deccan Herlad, Niranjan Aradhaya, fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, opined that merely figures are not important. What mattered was quality and functionality. “A number of schools may have facilities for drinking water, but how many have filters and other facilities for safe drinking water? In many government schools that I work with, many children suffer form cough fever because of unsafe water. This in turn hinders learning. Similarly, toilet facilities without water or even sanitary napkins for girls is of no use,” said Aradhaya. (Deccan Herald 21/1/14)

 

20. Girl students’ dropout rising in Rajasthan: Report (11)

JAIPUR: The Annual Status Education Report (ASER) pointed out the decline in the enrollment of girl students in government schools. The proportion of school girls in the 11-14 age groups jumped from 11.2% in 2012 to 12.1% in 2013 but the figures were almost half compared to all the India figure of 6% dropout in 2012 and 5.5% in 2013. The grim picture raised questions despite the government special schemes and polices to ensure rise in enrollment of girl students. Even the progress in Right to Education parameters which includes infrastructure development has failed to improve the situation of girl students. The case studies carried out by NGO Prathan which felicitated the survey said the ideal model of girl education are Kasturba Gandhi girls schools which has almost negligible from dropouts. “Similar mechanism has to be developed for increasing the number of girls’ enrollments and to curb the dropouts,” said K B Kothari, managing trustee of Pratham. Damodar Prasad, senior educationist and commentator on school education, said, “The main reason behind the rise in dropouts is the drop in sex ratio. The mass prevalence of sex determination until recently has made this imbalance in gender ratio. Secondly, the lack of infrastructure facilities for girls like absence of proper toilets deters the girl child to continue education.” Meanwhile, the report also highlighted the increasing role of private schools in terms of enrolments. The report says that out of every 10 children in rural Rajasthan, four are enrolled in private schools. In the age group of 6-14, the private school enrolment has increased from 25.2% in 2006 to 39.5% in 2013. The share of private schools is expanding gradually with 37,000 sudents against the number of one lakh government schools. The figure means that 25% of private schools are catering to 40% of the total students whereas 75% government schools are catering to 60% of the total students. “The alarming situation is that the number of private schools continue to swell with each passing year. Our case studies say that the reputation of government schools have earned a bad name in last few years which has forced the families residing even in the remotest areas had to admit their wards in private schools,” Kothari added. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

21. RTE non-compliance might cost 8 schools recognition (11)

Mysore:  With eight schools yet to comply with Right to Education(RTE) norms, the district administration has threatened to cancel the recognition of the schools, if they continue to do so. Speaking at an interaction programme on RTE, held here on Friday, Zilla Panchayat CEO, P A Gopal said that while 13 schools had not complied with RTE norms, five schools had agreed to comply with the norms from the next academic year. In case, the recognition of the schools are cancelled and they continue to be open, an initial penalty of Rs one lakh will be levied on the schools, with a fine of Rs 10,000 per day. Deputy Director of Public Instruction, H R Basappa said that a show-cause notice for the eight schools have already been sent. “A meeting will be chaired by the Deputy Commissioner during the next two to three days, where the school authorities will attend and decide on how they would go ahead with the issue,” he said. The schools which are yet to comply with RTE norms are Manasasarovar Pushkarini, Vijayanagar, Mysore Public School, Rayanakere, Delhi Public School, Bannur road, The Orchid School, R K Nagar, National Public School, Yelwal, Flos Carmeli Convent, Hale Kesare, Orchid School, Kumarabeedu and Shanti Public School, Udayagiri. Basappa said that February 8 was the last date to apply for RTE seats. The applications can be received from Block Education Officers office or nearby schools where RTE is applicable. The total number of RTE seats for the academic year 2013-14, is 4,486, of which 2,246 seats are for admission to LKG, while 2,240 seats are for admission to first standard. A total of 456 schools in the district come under the ambit of RTE, he said. The taluk level break up of RTE seats are, 465 in H D Kote, 337 in Hunsur, 237 in K R Nagar, 355 in Nanjangud, 189 in Periyapatna, 342 in T Narsipur and 2,561 seats in Mysore taluk. Of the 2,561 seats in Mysore taluk, 867 are in Mysore North block, 814 in Mysore South and 880 in Mysore Rural. Several questions were raised by parents and teachers during the interaction meeting. Issues such as age limits for students to join under RTE, reservation under RTE and others were discussed. (Deccan Herald 25/1/14)

 

22. Children, Parents Reluctant to Complain Against Corporal Punishment (11)

VISAKHAPATNAM: On Friday, five Intermediate students from Payakaraopeta in the district were admonished by their college principal and were made to stand in the sun for being late to the class. Hours later, the students ended up at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam. However, both the students and their parents were reluctant to register a complaint against the college principal when the police approached them as they preferred not to make the issue public for fear of strained relations with the principal and the college management. This incident reflects the mindset of students and parents who are reluctant to make the corporal punishment an issue in the public fearing that it would affect the future of the child. Many such incidents keep occurring in Vizag and its surrounding areas particularly in schools, despite the ban on corporal punishment in the State. However, not many are reported to either the police or the education department officials. “Recently, my daughter was hospitalised after being beaten up by her teacher for not completing her homework. We wanted to take up the issue with the officials but decided not to lodge a complaint after holding discussions with the school management and sorting out the issue amicably,” said Arvind Sarma, a textile merchant. He said that though parents want to protect their children from punishment, they cannot risk the careers of their children. According to a survey conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) across seven States including Andhra Pradesh last year, about 99 per cent children had experienced some kind of stern punishment in school. While caning topped the punishments, slapping got the second place followed by abusing. Other types of common punishments given to children include: Making to stand in the sun and kneel down, sit ups, making to stand on the bench in the classroom, and pinching apart from emotional punishments. Sections 16 and 17 of the Right to Education Act (RTE) ban corporal punishment, both mental and physical, or expulsion from school. Despite lack of official statistics as many cases go unreported, psychiatrists and children counsellors in the city say that they receive at least two cases of corporal punishment every day. “Several parents complain about physical torture and harassment faced by their children in various private schools in the city, indicating a rise in corporal punishment cases. But many do not reach the authorities concerned to enable them initiate stringent action and thus, ensure punishment-free studies for children,” said Dr Radhakrishna, a psychiatrist. Radhakrishna said that most of the victims of corporal punishment do not even know that it is a crime and has been banned. Surprisingly, even teachers themselves do not understand the difference between child abuse and discipline, and thus, go to extreme lengths sometimes in an attempt to discipline their students. “Every teacher must undergo training on how to tackle children, however problematic they may be,” he said, adding that most teachers  are not taught how to deal with small children, who are the main victims of corporal punishment. Agreeing with him, Visakhapatnam District Education Officer B Lingeswara Reddy said that unlike cities like Chennai and Hyderabad, the awareness of corporal punishment as an offence is lacking among students, parents and teachers in Visakhapatnam. He emphasised the need for awareness programmes to educate students, parents and teachers about corporal punishment. “We tried to conduct awareness programmes in the schools but due to cyclones and agitations, it could not be implemented. But we intend to conduct the awareness programmes in the initial months of the next academic year,” he added. Interestingly, both officials and child counsellors point out that the corporal punishment cases are reported more in private schools than in government schools, indicating the need for creating awareness against corporal punishment immediately. (New Indian Express 27/1/14)

 

TERRORISM

23. Afzal Guru would have lived, had SC ruled a year earlier (12)

NEW DELHI: Mohammad Afzal Guru, hanged for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, could well have had his death sentence commuted if Monday’s Supreme Court judgment on mercy pleas had been delivered a year ago. Guru’s execution last February, carried out secretly, violates almost every guideline of the apex court. The ruling by a bench headed by chief justice P Sathasivam commuted the death sentences of 13 prisoners on grounds of “unreasonable, unexplained and exorbitant delay” in deciding their mercy petitions. At least five of them had their mercy petitions pending for slightly less than that of Guru, who was hanged on February 9 last year after a delay of nearly six-and-a-half-years in deciding his plea. “There is no doubt that if this judgment had come a year earlier, then the late Afzal Guru could have been saved from the gallows,” Congress leader and Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Saifuddin Soz told ET. Soz had complained to home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde last year about the way in which the execution was carried out. The apex court judgment makes clear that terror offences won’t come in the way of commuting a death sentence if the delay is unreasonable. The new guidelines say the prisoner whose mercy petition has been rejected should be informed in writing along with his family. The person should be given 14 days to prepare for execution, prepare a will and meet family members and friends, among other things. Guru was not told of the February 3 rejection of his mercy plea by the president until the night before his execution. There was no last meeting with the family either. The home ministry’s intimation to his family in Kashmir was sent by speed post on February 8 and reached the family on February 10, a day after the execution. “I strongly feel that Afzal’s family should have been informed of the impending execution well in advance and the family should have been called to Delhi so that they could have met him one last time,” Soz said. (Economic Times 24/1/14)

 

24. Samjhauta blast: Aseemanand faces murder, sedition charge (12)

PANCHKULA: Seven years after Samjhauta Express blasts, a special NIA court on Friday framed murder, sedition and other charges against radical Hindu activist Swami Aseemanand and three others. The chargesheet in the case was filed in 2011, four years after the blasts took place. Sections 120 (criminal conspiracy) read with 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means), 327 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort property) and 124 A (sedition) of the IPC are among 18 offences the four accused have been charged with. They will also be tried under various sections of Railways Act, Explosives Substances Act, Prevention Damage of Public Property Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, CBI counsel RK Handa said. Besides Aseemanand, the special NIA judge Gurbinder Kaur also framed charges against Lokesh Sharma, Rajinder Chaudhary and Kamal Chauhan. Assemanand and other accused were booked by the NIA in the Samjhauta Express blast case in which 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed near Panipat in February 2007. Handa said that the trial would start on February 24. He added that the prosecution had also submitted a list of four witnesses, including the driver and guard of the train, who might be asked to depose before the court. On June 20, 2011, NIA had filed the chargesheet against Aseemanand and others. In its chargesheet, NIA had submitted that Aseemanand was the mastermind of the blasts and instigated others to carry out the attack. A functionary of the right wing Hindu outfit Abhinav Bharat, Aseemanand is named as the main accused by the NIA after the death of Sunil Joshi, the chief conspirator and executor of the blasts. Joshi was shot dead in Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007. According to NIA, Aseemanand’s telephone number was found in the diary of Joshi under the ‘emergency numbers’ list, indicating their closeness. (Times of India 25/1/14)

 

25. UN Security Council says no to ransom to terrorists (12)

New York: The UN Security Council Monday adopted a resolution calling on all countries not to pay ransom to terrorists in incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking, Xinhua reported. In the unanimously approved resolution, the Security Council expressed its determination to prevent kidnappings and hostage-takings committed by terrorist groups and to secure the safe release of hostages “without ransom payments or political concessions.” The 15-nation body strongly condemned such incidents committed by terrorist groups “for any purpose, including raising funds or gaining political concessions”.The council also expressed concerns at the increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom by terrorists, “in particular the increase in kidnappings by Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups,” said the resolution. It underscored that the payment of ransoms to terrorists funds future kidnappings and hostage-takings. “Ransom payments to terrorist groups are one of the sources of income which supports their recruitment efforts, strengthens their operational capability to organise and carry out terrorist attacks, and incentivises future incidents of kidnapping for ransom,” the resolution noted. Therefore, the Security Council “calls upon all member states to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or from political concessions and to secure the safe release of hostages.” The most powerful UN body also urged countries to co-operate closely during incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups and called upon all member states to “encourage private sector partners to adopt or to follow relevant guidelines and good practices for preventing and responding to terrorist kidnappings without paying ransom”.”Action today by the Security Council illustrates the international community’s commitment to tackling kidnap-for-ransom, which has become the most significant terrorist financing challenge and remains a terrible threat to nationals of all countries,” British Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after adoption of the resolution. Britain proposed and circulated the draft resolution in early December. According to him, it is estimated that Al Qaeda affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups have collected at least $105 million by way of committing incidents of kidnapping and hostage-taking in the last three and a half years. (Zee News 28/1/14)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

26. Naxalite violence down in 2013; Jharkhand saw most incidents (12)

NEW DELHI: While Jharkhand maintained its position as the state with the highest incidence of Naxalite violence in 2013, Bihar has bucked the nationwide trend of falling violence by recording a rise both in terms of incidents and killings as compared to 2012. Overall Naxalite-related incidents fell from 1,415 in 2012 to 1,129 last year, while killings were down from 415 to 394 in the same period. Of the 394 deaths recorded across the country, 115 belonged to the security forces and 279 were civilians. Among the affected states, Jharkhand emerged as the worst-hit in 2013 with 383 incidents and 150 deaths, though these statistics are lower compared to 2012. Chhattisgarh was a close second, recording 353 incidents and 110 killings in 2013, as against 370 incidents and 109 killings in 2012. Bihar, which of late has been causing concern to the Centre as regards its counter-Naxalite approach, was the only state with higher extremism levels and resultant killings. Incidents in the state were up in 2013 at 176, reversing the year-on-year downward trend seen in 2011 (316 incidents) and 2012 (166). Killings were higher at 69 last year, compared to 44 in 2012, which translates into a 57% rise. Though civilian deaths were up to 42 in 2013 from 34 in 2012, security personnel killed witnessed an increase from 10 to 27 in the corresponding period. Incidentally, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde had written to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in December last year, expressing concern at the unprecedented rise in deaths among security personnel deployed for counter-Naxalite duties in the state. The letter had irked the state government, with Janata Dal (United) MPs dubbing it as an “insult” and protesting in Parliament over the issue. As for the other states hit by left-wing extremism, Odisha accounted for 101 incidents and 35 deaths in 2013, as against 171 incidents and 45 deaths the preceding year. Maharashtra too recorded a fall in incidents and deaths, which stood at 71 and 19 respectively. Andhra Pradesh maintained its declining levels of Naxalite violence, with 36 incidents and 11 deaths. (Times of India 27/1/14)

 

27. Maoists release 4 hostages, CRPF man dies in blast (12)

Ranchi: The  Maoists on Monday released the four persons abducted in Giridih district on Saturday evening, even as they set off 22 landmine blasts in the area, killing one CRPF man and injuring 11 other security personnel who were part of the rescue team. The incident took place near Dolkatha village, on the Topchanchi-Pirtand road connecting Dhanbad and Giridih districts, at around 12 in the afternoon. The victim has been identified as Badal Mandal of the CRPF’s 22nd Battalion. The injured, seven CRPF and four Jharkhand Jaguar — the state police’s anti-LWE force — personnel were airlifted to the Apollo Hospital, on the outskirts of Ranchi, for treatment. Three are reported to be critical. Police claimed the Maoists released the four persons after pressure was mounted on them. “They were being held six-seven kilometres away from where they were kidnapped. It was near the spot near where the landmines went off. There was firing after the blasts. All this created pressure on them, and they were forced to release the four,” said DGP Rajeev Kumar. (Indian Express 28/1/14)

 

28. Gadchiroli: Naxals gun down 2 villagers (12)

Nagpur: Raju Ajmera, a kirana shopkeeper, and Laxman Sidam, a farm labourer, both around 35 years of age, were called out by Naxals and questioned over their alleged role as police informers. They refuted the charge, but the Naxals repeated the allegations and also beat them up. Some villagers opposed the Naxal action, but they were also beaten up. Thereafter, the Naxals took the two away from the village asked them to run and shot them from behind,” Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Suvez Haq told The Indian Express. Haq denied that Ajmera and Sidam were police informers. “Only Sidam occasionally performed skits at our Jan Jagran Melawas (public awareness rallies),” he added. Incidentally, there was a police-Naxal encounter near the village a few months ago and the Naxals suspected that the two could have tipped off the police then. They had reportedly assaulted Sidam earlier too. Naxal violence against civilians tagged as police informers had drastically come down last year when only nine such murders took place, as against 24 in 2012, 40 in 2011, 32 in 2010 and 37 in 2009. The year 2013 also witnessed one of the highest number of Naxal casualties, 26, in police encounters. (Indian Express 29/1/14)

 

29. Villagers to assist police in anti-Naxal operations (12)

Raipur: Residents of around 500 villages in the Maoist-hit Jashpur district of north Chhattisgarh have taken a collective decision to help the police in anti-naxal operations. “The natives of various villages, including Thuthi Amba, Tepar Toli, Awrapali and Kathal Dand under Aara police station area on the Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border, recently held a meeting in which they decided to assist the security personnel to curb Maoist activities,” Jashpur Superintendent of Police J.S. Meena told PTI here on Tuesday. The villagers said they decided to help the security agencies as they were fed up with being thrashed, assaulted and exhorted by the cadres of the Peoples’ Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a banned outfit active in the region. Ten days ago, rebels brutally assaulted a villager without any reason and also molested a few women, the villagers said. According to Mr. Meena, the ultras also thwarted several government projects in the area, following which an enraged villagers refused to help rebels under any circumstances. A Naxal conduit, who was allegedly involved in mobilising villagers against the Rowghat rail line project in Kanker district ,was arrested on Tuesday, police said. Badri Gavde, said to be a Congress worker and staying and operating from Antagarh block of Kanker, was apprehended on Monday, Superintendent of Police (Intelligence) Rajnesh Singh told PTI. “Gavde confessed that he had been doing liaisons with some leaders of the Congress for getting the party ticket to contest the Vidhan Sabha election,” he said. On the direction of his senior cadres, Gavde, a self- styled social worker, had founded an organisation ‘Rowghat Bachao Jila Sangharsh Samiti’ to mobilise villagers against the proposed Dalli-Rajhara-Rowghat Rail Line meant to haul iron ore from the proposed Rowghat mines, the SP said. He had also arranged secret meetings of NGO workers with top Maoists, during which they chalked out strategies to oppose the project. Gavde also admitted to playing a key role in fixing Maoists’ meetings with prominent people from Delhi in the forests of Abhjmad.So far nine naxal conduits, all residents of Kanker region, who were allegedly part of the channel providing logistic and financial support to Maoists, have been held, he said. Meanwhile, in Narayanpur district, six Naxalites involved in several crimes, including attempt to murder, arson and obstructing the Assembly election process, were arrested during a joint search operation, police said. Live cartridges of Insas rifle, Naxal banners and other related items were recovered from their possession. — PTI (The Hindu 30/1/14)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

30. Saudi Arabia deports quarter million migrants in 3 months (13)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia says it has deported “more than a quarter million” foreign migrant workers from the kingdom over the past three months. The interior ministry said late Tuesday the foreigners had been residing in the country illegally and were in violation of labor laws. It didn’t elaborate. The deportations began after November 4 with a nationwide campaign targeting many of the kingdom’s 9 million migrant laborers after years of lax law enforcement. Many of those deported were Ethiopians accused of crossing into Saudi Arabia illegally through its southern border with Yemen. Most foreign workers in the kingdom are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Egypt and Yemen. Saudi authorities say booting out illegal foreign migrants will open more jobs for its own citizens. (Times of India 22/1/14)

 

31. Militants free captives, tension eases in Mizoram (13)

AIZWAL/AGARTALA: Two Mizo drivers, who were kidnapped by militants on Nov 23 last year, have been released easing ethnic tension in western Mizoram, officials said on Wednesday. At least 500 people including women and children belonging to the Reang tribe of Mizoram have taken shelter in Tripura in view of the ethnic troubles. “Two private vehicle drivers – Sanglianthanga and Lalzamliana – were released (and) handed over to the Mizoram Police’s CID (Special Branch) in Mamit district late Tuesday evening,” a Mizoram police official told reporters. Mizo groups called off their voluntary search operation after their release. The search operation made the tribals leave their villages in western Mizoram Jan 15-16 and Jan 18-19 out of fear and take shelter in northern Tripura. A third hostage, Deep Mandal, a Kolkata-based telecommunications professional and an employee of Noida-based Telecom Network Solutions, who was also abducted by the militants along with the Mizo drivers, remains in the militants’ captivity. Police suspect that the National Liberation Front of Tripura aided by suspected Reang militants abducted the three people from an area along the Tripura-Mizoram-Bangladesh border. “Most of the panic stricken tribal refugees have returned to their villages and the remaining people would go back to their homes in the next couple of days,” north Tripura district magistrate Prashant Kumar Goel had earlier told IANS on phone. Over 36,000 tribal refugees, also called Bru, have been living in seven makeshift camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after fleeing their villages in Mizoram following ethnic trouble with the majority Mizos. The trouble began after a Mizo forest official was killed. Around 5,000 refugees returned to their homes and villages in the past three years following continued persuasion by Mizoram, Tripura and union home ministry officials. Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and his predecessor P Chidambaram in New Delhi on a number of occasions and requested their intervention to ensure the safe return of the refugees. Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio in Tripura, told both the Prime Minister and the Union home minister that “continuous presence for over 17 years of refugees from Mizoram has been a matter of concern for Tripura”.The refugees have been insisting that without a formal agreement between the central government, the state governments of Mizoram and Tripura and the tribal leaders, their return to homes and subsequent rehabilitation will remain uncertain. (Times of India 22/1/14)

 

32. 60 percent women from North East harassed in 4 metros, maximum in Delhi: Survey (13)

New Delhi: The national capital has earned the dubious distinction of meting out maximum discrimination and harassment to women from northeast, a survey has said. Around 60 percent women from northeast have faced harassment and discrimination in the four metros — New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore. While 23 percent of the respondents admitted to having been harassed by landlords, an alarming 42 percent said they were often subjected to verbal abuse. A total of 29 per cent reported harassment and molestation. Two-thirds of the women were studying, the rest worked as teachers, doctors, engineers, government employees, call centre workers and beauticians. The survey was conducted by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research and sponsored by National Commission for Women. It covered over 300 respondents including landlords, teachers, lawyers, police and social activists. The study found that migrant women are especially vulnerable to deprivation, hardships, discrimination and abuse, and this is 30 percent more pronounced in case of women from the northeastern region. Despite being a preferred destination for women migrants, Delhi has the worst record of meting out discrimination with 81 percent respondents in the city reporting it, followed by Bangalore at 60 percent. Mumbai emerged as the safest city although there were reports of extortive behaviour by auto and taxi drivers. Finding rented accommodation emerged as another problem in Bangalore with 38 percent of the women facing difficulties, though in Delhi only 19 percent had this problem. Overcharging of rent by landlords emerged as a common problem in Kolkata. However, some landlords did view the north easterners in a favourable light as they take care of house, rooms and corridors as their own, unlike others, and they are clean, pleasant and honest. In contrast to poverty-driven migration from other parts of the country, over 33 percent respondents belonged to families falling in the middle income groups and 60 percent had travelled in order to find better job opportunities. The study said the respondents appeared unaware and unsure of the legal system with little or no knowledge of laws like Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, and held a mistrust for the police. Eighty percent of the victims chose not to report incidents of harassment to the police, and the small number that did approach the police said that they were not satisfied. Yet significantly, although a majority reported different levels of discrimination, they said they preferred to stay on and 44 percent said that they would in fact encourage their relatives and friends to migrate to the city, the survey noted. Director of the NE Centre at Jamia Millia Islamia University Sanjoy Hazarika said this was a reflection of “people voting with their feet” and underlined the difficult challenges of deprivation and insecurity in different parts of the northeastern region. He said the study should be expanded to more cities across the country to “get a clearer picture of conditions on a wider scale”.The result of the survey was presented in a workshop at the Centre yesterday and was attended by over 40 young scholars and teachers from Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia, NCW representatives and social activists. (Zee News 24/1/14)

 

33. BJP to Generate Holistic Debate on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (13)

JAMMU: Slamming the ruling elite for misusing Article 370 to the hilt, BJP in Jammu and Kashmir today resolved to conduct a holistic debate on Article 370 so that it is abrogated. In a political resolution adopted at a meeting of the party’s state unit, the BJP decided on a number of proposals, including the generating a debate on the Article and providing rights to minorities like Kashmiri Hindus, Pakistani refugees and women married to non-state subjects. “BJP resolves to generate holistic debate on Article 370 so that it is abrogated,” the resolution said. “The common refrain of all these neglected communities is that the ruling elite has been misusing Article 370 to the hilt to harm their legitimate rights and interests,” Prof Hari Om, political advisor to state BJP president Jugal Kishore Sharma, told reporters here. Besides this, the BJP would work towards forcing the state to grant rights to minorities like SCs, STs, OBCs, and others, available to their counterparts in the rest of country, he said. Reservation of at least 3 seats out of the 46 Assembly seats in the state assembly for Kashmir Hindus & Sikhs, granting of full citizenship rights for women of the state married to non-state subjects, and their children, also for refugees from West Pakistan, granting of UT status for Ladakh were among some of the proposals adopted at the meeting. Om said the BJP would work “overtime” to ensure maximum number of seats for the party in the Lok Sabha elections from the state. (New Indian Express 25/1/14)

 

34. Seven years and a court battle later, refugee families still to get homes (13)

New Delhi: More than 500 families are hoping against hope that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) will comply with a November 2009 Delhi High Court order to allot them land in lieu of the Authority’s demolition of their homes without notice in December 2006. The court ordered DDA to allot alternate land to evicted families within six months i.e. by May 2010. But four years and two contempt notices later, the DDA has failed to act. The worst part is that while the slums were demolished, the cleared land lies vacant and has not been used for any new facility or infrastructure. Local real estate agents concede that property rates in and around Bharat Nagar Colony increased after the slums were demolished. Real estate price for a 100 sqm flat has increased from Rs 30 lakh-35 lakh in 2006 to Rs 85 lakh-95 lakh now. Despite repeated requests for comment, DDA did not respond. It also failed to respond to a detailed questionnaire for this story. The residents of Bharat Nagar settlers colony, also called refugee colony, woke up on the morning of 8 December 2006 to the sound of bulldozers. Residents say there was no notice or intimation from DDA or the former unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) warning them of any demolition drive. More than 500 families lost their homes by the end of that day. “Pehle Pakistan se bhagaya aur phir Hindustan se ( First we were thrown out from Pakistan and then from India),” said 90-year-old Chetan Das, who had been staying at the colony after moving from Multan, Pakistan during the 1947 partition. “Please tell me where do I belong,” he asked in a broken voice. Das says he and many other refugees started living in makeshift houses in Bharat Nagar after former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru authorised refugees to stay on the unoccupied land. The residents used the vacant land to grow fruits and vegetables to sustain themselves. The farm land was turned into the Ashoka Garden ahead of the 1982 Asian Games and a boundary wall was built, without any objection from the residents, to prevent encroachment into the garden.  In the period between 1947 till 1982, Bharat Nagar’s makeshift houses gradually turned into semi-pucca structures with water and electricity supply. The Centre even built toilets for every household before 1980. The residents had even received their ration and voter ID cards. Life in Bharat Nagar settlers colony was business as usual until 8 December 2006. “My mother couldn’t take the sudden shock of eviction. She had cardiac trouble and died,” said Suninder Singh, a 40-year-old autodriver. “The sudden demolition devastated us,” said graphic designer Ramesh Kumar, who too lost his home. “Till date, we are clueless about why our homes were demolished.” When locals asked the then Lieutenant-Governor Tejinder Khanna why their homes were demolished, he said that he did not have any information. Residents then approached the Delhi High Court in 2007. Documents show that DDA held MCD responsible for the demolition and the MCD said DDA removed the slums from the land and that MCD only assisted the Authority. In 2009, the court asked DDA to provide 18 sqm plots to families who had been living in Bharat Nagar settlers colony soon after 1947, and 12.5 sqm plots to families who settled there between 1990-1998. Over the years, DDA set up several committees to identify families eligible to receive plots only to discard their reports; DDA’s fourth committee has proposed allotting plots to just 43 families (down from 330 families identified by the first committee led by DDA director of land management SN Gupta). However, not a single family has so far received a plot. Even as DDA continues to drag its feet in the case and the land on which the residents’ homes stood still lies vacant, eight years after being cleared, the residents are paying a price. Most families now live as tenants in the nearby Bharat Nagar colony, and pay thousands in monthyl rent. Most don’t have ration cards and are forced to pay more for their rations in the open market. Shanti Devi, now 48, was 15 when she got married and came to Bharat Nagar settlers colony in 1981. After her husband became paralysed in an accident in 1990, she was forced to work to support her family. Her sons have since grown up and live elsewhere while she and her husband live under a temporary shelter outside a temple in Bharat Nagar. “We don’t know why we lost our home, but I hope we get it back someday,” said Shanti. “Hope is all I have.” (DNA 28/1/14)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

35. India’s unemployment rate may rise to 3.8% this year: ILO (14)

New Delhi: The count of people being without a job is on the rise in India as economic slowdown and slower business expansion activities cast a shadow on employment generation, according to experts. Indicating sluggishness in the country’s job market, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said in its recent report that the unemployment scenario in India over the last two years has been showing a rising trend. Going by ILO’s latest estimates, India’s jobless rate could be 3.8 per cent this year. Ritu Mehrotra, VP Global HR and Talent Management of Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company, said that due to migration to urban areas there is a sharp rise in the unemployment rate in rural areas as well. “Government should step up their efforts to support skill and retraining activities to address the gaps between demand and supply of work skills and qualifications and to address long-term unemployment,” she told PTI. In South Asia, labour markets continued to suffer from high rates of informal/agricultural employment where jobs are poorly paid and unprotected, ILO said in the report. Unemployment rate in India is showing an increasing trend since 2011 when it was 3.5 per cent. The same rose to 3.6 per cent in 2012 and climbed to 3.7 per cent last year. This year, jobless rate is expected to rise to 3.8 per cent, according to the report ‘Global Employment Trends 2014’. According to the ILO report, it has been argued that India was experiencing ‘jobless growth’ due to the fact that total employment grew by only 1.1 million from 2004/05 to 2009/10 (based on the National Sample Survey), representing an employment elasticity of almost zero. However, total employment in India expanded from 2009/10 to 2011/12 by a much healthier 13.9 million, “though many of these jobs are in the informal economy’’, it added. Executive search firm GlobalHunt’s MD Sunil Goel said in the last couple of years Indian and global economies have been facing slowdown. New business expansions are also not happening at all or has gone down, he added. A large pool of youth in the age group of 18-25 years despite being skilled are facing unemployment issues since there are not enough opportunities for them, Goel said. In India, the ILO report showed that 21.2 per cent of working men (aged 15-59) had a regular salaried job (in 2011/12 period). “India’s biggest worry and centre of all debates essentially needs to be the growing informal employment, which counts for 94 per cent of the workforce and is growing faster than formal employment,” Indian Staffing Federation Vice-President Rituparna Chakraborty said. Chakraborty further said that there is a need to seriously invest and build skills among the youth. It means “a complete overhaul of our education system closely integrating it with an effective apprenticeship regime,” he noted. (Business Line 26/1/14)

 

36. SC notice on hands-chop (14)

New Delhi, Jan. 27: The Supreme Court today moved on its own to take up the case of two labourers whose right hands were chopped off for refusing to work at a brick kiln after being hired for harvesting crop. Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who took suo motu cognisance of a newspaper report on the brutal assault last month, issued notices to the chief secretaries of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh and asked them to respond within four weeks. The migrant labourers — part of a group of 14 being taken to Raipur, Chhattisgarh — were from Odisha. The contractor who hired them was from Andhra Pradesh. “Considering the report published in the news item of The Hindu dated 3rd January, 2014, we are inclined to examine the same. Issue notice to the chief secretary, state of Odisha, as well as to the chief secretary, state of Andhra Pradesh, returnable in four weeks,” the bench said. The contractor is alleged to have hired the labourers from Kalahandi, Odisha, by paying them Rs 14,000 each. The labourers were told they were being hired for working in paddy fields in Chhattisgarh but the real motive was to engage them in brick kilns in Raipur. When the labourers, who were in a vehicle, realised the contractor’s plan, most of them escaped as the vehicle neared the Borda outpost in Kalahandi. But Nilambar Dhangada Majhi, 23, and Pialu Dhangada Majhi, 25, from Nuaguda village under Jaipatna police station in Kalahandi district, could not. The victims said the contractor detained them and threatened the two with dire consequences if the others did not return. Later, the contractor and his associates who, one of the victims said, were drunk, chopped off the right palms of the two labourers and fled. Nilambar Majhi, who lost his right palm, told reporters the contractor and his henchmen chopped off their hands with an axe. “He said we were paying the price for our group defying his orders and that he would not leave us physically fit to work again,” Nilambar said. (Telegraph 28/1/14)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

37. Keep child rights in poll manifesto’ (14)

BHUBANESWAR: In view of upcoming general and assembly elections, CRY, a child rights organization, on Thursday released a manifesto for political parties, demanding adequate budgetary allocation for issues related to children. It also includes measures for protecting their rights. According to a status report on child rights, investment and attention to ensure education to all children is extremely low, infant mortality rate remains a concern and India’s performance in crime against children, child marriage, child labour, child trafficking and child sex ratio is dismal. “Though children find a place in party manifestoes, their share is confined to only 5 to 13%,” said the report. The organization will launch a campaign in the state during which volunteers will approach political parties and request them to include children-related issues in their manifestoes. “This is an attempt to remind politicians and the powers that be of their obligation towards protection and promotion of child rights,” said Mohua Chatterjee, general manager, development support, CRY (East). The manifesto includes fixing the age definition for all child-related legislations, implementing and expanding the scope of right to education, strengthening integrated child development services and reducing infant mortality rate. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

38. Capital Leads in Corporal Punishment of Students (14)

HYDERABAD: Actions, traditionally considered part of bringing up a child or inculcating discipline in them, often fall in the category of corporal punishment. Despite the state government’s ban on corporal punishment in all schools and making it mandatory for them to follow the guidelines set under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, several incidents of child rights’ abuse, many of them severely, have come to light in the last few months. Most surprisingly, the first month of the year has witnessed a whopping number of 583 cases of corporal punishment in Greater Hyderabad limits alone. A child rights NGO in the city, AP Balala Hakkula Sangham, which keeps track of incidents of violation of child rights, says that all these cases of corporal punishment had been brought to the notice of the city police and cases were registered. According to them, over 1,500 cases were registered in Greater Hyderabad limits in 2013. While a major portion of these complaints of physical harassment and mental torture include roles played by tuition centres and physical education trainers, activists cry foul against the injustice meted out to children. While corporal punishment at schools pose a major threat, according to them, other forms of violence against children too are most prevalant. “Child Rights Commission in the State is long due. At an event of violation of child rights, we have to run to either Police, Child labour department, Juvenile Justice Board, Education Department, Women and Child Welfare, etc. CRC would be the one platform to address all issues,” says Achyuta Rao, the Sangham president. Chiranjeevi Chaudary, commissioner, Women and Child Welfare, called for increased level of awareness. “Mindset of people have to change. A teacher has to preach and demonstrate to students first, instead of taking harsh actions for their mistakes,” he says. In a bizarre incident, at St Peters School of Secunderabad, students were subjected to child labour and were asked to clean up the ground and school premises ahead of Sankranthi festival. A case was registered and the matter is before the Child Welfare Committee. In another incident, three children – Om Yadav (class 3), Vainayai Yadav (class 6) and Gowri Yadav (class 7) of Gowtham Model School, Himayat Nagar, were locked in a dark room in the school from 1 pm to 4 pm for not paying their fees. Upon inspection, the DEO issued a notice to the school and a police case was also registered. However, Rao says, most brutal harassment takes place at tuition centres. “There are more than 25,000 tuition centres in Greater Hyderabad which have no legality according to law. Even after the High Court judgment ordering against running schools after 4.30 pm, these continue to force children to study after stipulated school hours. In one of the incidents in Ramanthapur a couple of weeks ago, a tuition teacher was booked for beating a student black and blue,” he said. (New Indian Express 27/1/14)

 

39. Gurjars in Ajmer threaten to strip Dalit girl (14)

Ajmer: A few members of the Gurjar community have threatened to strip a 13-year-old Dalit girl living in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan, if she does not withdraw a molestation case. The Dalit girl’s family, who live in Dumada village, 20 km from Ajmer, are living in constant fear after threats from the Gurjar community members. The village is dominated by Gurjars with only two Dalit families. The Gurjars have threatened to kill the family and strip their daughter in public if they don’t withdraw a case of molestation registered against Raghunath Gurjar, 55, who allegedly molested the girl, said Ramesh Chand Bansal, coordinator of Center for Dalit Rights. According to Bansal, on January 21 Raghunath Gurjjar allegedly molested the teenager after forcibly dragging her into a room on his farm. The girl had taken her cattle for grazing and a few of them had entered into the fields of the accused. The father of the victim who works as a labourer was in Ajmer city while her mother was away to work on a NERGA site. The victim narrated the incident after her parents returned and reported the matter to police. The victim has alleged that the upper caste members are threatening them and asking them to withdraw the case, alleged the victim’s father.   Bansal alleged that police tried to weaken the case and has not added the relevant POSCO and SC/ST sections. The police have registered the case under section 354 and 341 sections of the IPC, said Bansal. “We are investigating the matter,” Preeti Chaudhary, CO, rural Ajmer, said. (Hindustan Times 29/1/14)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

40. Police told to raise awareness against kangaroo courts (19)

KOLKATA: State home secretary Basudeb Banerjee on Friday held a video conference with all the SPs and urged them to raise awareness among rural people against kangaroo courts. The SPs, in their turn, will hold video conference with the OCs, particularly those posted in the rural belt. State officials are seeing the Birbhum gang rape as a failure on the part of district intelligence branch (DIB) officials as the tribal heads had decided to hold the kangaroo court well in advance and the police had no knowledge of it. Moreover, the panchayat members who were present in the kangaroo court or were aware about it did not inform the police. Police officers said that though kangaroo courts are banned in Bengal, but it is an ongoing custom to hold such courts in rural Bengal to settle issues. Thus often the policemen keep their eyes shut to such mutual settlement of cases, even if cases are lodged with the police, a senior police officer said, as then the cases are subsequently withdrawn or the aggrieved party do not press for the case. The police officer said that often in the kangaroo courts where cases of rape and molestation are mutually settled, the villagers elders either impose a fine on the accused or ask him to marry the victim. The home secretary is also aggrieved with similar cases of kangaroo courts operating in Burdwan and South 24-Parganas, even after the incident of rape due to the dictate of the kangaroo court of Labhpur. In Burdwan too the village men had tried to settle out a complaint of rape lodge by a married women this week. Moreover, the state government is a bit worried with the directive given by the Supreme Court’s chief justice P Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice MY Eqbal as it asked the district judge of Birbhum to inspect the concerned place and submit a report to the SC within a week. (Times of India 25/1/14)

 

41. PIL on selection of judges to be dropped (19)

CHENNAI: A public interest petition that hit the national headlines and kicked up prolonged campus unrest at the Madras high court last week is all set to be withdrawn. Senior advocate R Gandhi had filed the PIL, questioning the selection process adopted for the appointment of 12 new judges for the high court and seeking recall of the entire list. On January 8, a division bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice K K Sasidharan, in an interim order, restrained the Union law ministry from processing the list. On Friday, Gandhi filed a memo in the high court stating that he be permitted to withdraw the petition “in view of the assurances given by the Chief Justice of India.” The PIL, however, became more famous for sitting judge C S Karnan’s dramatic entry before the division bench hearing it, than its controversial contents. While the judges were hearing advocate S Prabakaran’s arguments on January 8, Justice Karnan stormed into the court hall and said the selection was not fair. After that he filed at least three sets of “suggestions” to be treated as part and parcel of the PIL. The primary objection of the advocates was the so-called over-representation given to two communities from which three candidates each had been included in the list. (Times of India 27/1/14)

 

42. Bombay HC slams govt for failure to appoint govt pleader (19)

NAGPUR: Failure to appoint new government pleader (GP) at Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court after Nitin Sambre’s elevation as the judge invited judiciary’s wrath towards Maharashtra government. Justices Bhushan Gavai and Atul Chandurkar directed the government to fill the post on at least temporary basis before Friday until a regular incumbent was appointed. “GP is an important link between the court and the state. On account of there being no regular incumbent or at least an in-charge, the entire functioning of GP’s office would come to a standstill. Unless there is a notification authorizing someone to act as GP, his duties and the functions could not be discharged,” the judges observed. The judges said they failed to understand why it should take so long to even authorize someone to act as in-charge. “The government was well aware, at least from December 20, 2013, when news regarding the President of India clearing the names of five lawyers to be appointed as judges of this court was widely published. It was also known that the then incumbent (Sambre) was likely to take over as additional judge of this court in a short period,” they stated. Pointing out that the post was lying vacant since January 6, Justices Gavai and Chandurkar said they had asked additional government pleader Bharti Dangre a number of times whether the government had appointed someone to officiate as GP until a regular incumbent was appointed. “Time and again, we have been informed by her that the matter is pending consideration before the government,” they said expressing their deep anguish. “We direct the government to authorize a person of their choice to act as at least in-charge till the GP’s post is filled in by regular process before January 31, the next date of hearing,” they said while asking Dangre to convey the court’s order to advocate General Darius Khambata. The court’s censuring of the government came while hearing a petition filed by Sarjerao Chauhan and others, working as drivers in various government departments, praying for a hike in their salaries which had not been revised since 1999. State chief secretary was a respondent in the case. (Times of India 29/1/14)

 

43. Gay sex ban stays, SC rejects plea to review (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to reconsider its verdict that affirmed the legality of Section 377 and criminalised gay sex, dealing a severe blow to the government’s attempt to get the law changed through a legal — rather than parliamentary — process. Gay rights activists described the Supreme Court’s decision as disappointing. “We have gone through the review petitions and the connected papers. We see no reason to interfere with the order impugned. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed,” a bench of Justices H L Dattu and S J Mukhopadhaya said, dismissing a bunch of eight petitions in chamber proceedings. Two options are now available before the government and the LGBT community to have the law overturned: the legal remedy of filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court, arguing the question of the constitutionality of IPC Section 377; and seeking the parliamentary route to amend the law. Under Section 377, voluntary “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” is punishable with imprisonment from 10 years to life. On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that gay sex was an offence “irrespective of age and consent”, overturning the July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict that found Section 377 to be violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the constitution. Gay rights groups described Tuesday’s decision as a setback to the rights of the LGBT community and, indeed, to the fundamental rights of all Indians. They said: “We will continue to wage the legal battle against Section 377 as there is an urgent and compelling case for the law to go. We will pursue all legal options, including curative petitions, to again assert that the court has made an egregious error in this case by denying the right to equality and dignity to a section of the population.” Organisations such as Naz Foundation and Voices Against 377, and individuals such as film director Shyam Benegal and parents of LGBT persons had, along with the government, filed review petitions in the court, seeking a rethink of the December verdict. In a curious submission, the Centre had described its own law as “unlawful” and “unconstitutional”, and sought a review in order “to avoid grave miscarriage of justice to thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), who have been put at the risk of prosecution and harassment following the re-criminalisation” of their sexual identities. Pleading for a stay on the verdict, the government had said criminalising sexual expressions “strikes at the root of the dignity and self-worth” of the LGBT community, thousands of whose members had come out following the 2009 judgment, but who had suddenly become “vulnerable to abuse and discrimination and require(d) immediate relief”.   Gay rights organisations argued that the verdict was contrary to well-settled legal principles of the constitution, and that proscribing certain sexual acts between consenting adults in private demeaned and impaired the dignity of all individuals under Article 21, irrespective of sexual orientation. (Indian Express 29/1/14)

 

Posted by admin at 27 January 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. KSHRC: Dakshina Kannada high on human rights complaints list (1)

Mangalore: Since 2007 – when the commission was formed – a total of 1,947 complaints have been received from the district, of which 1,196 complaints have been disposed off. With 751 complaints of human rights violations pending in the district, Dakshina Kannada is in the higher end of the spectrum in the violations received by the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC), said commission member Meena Saxena during a review meet held here on Saturday. Since 2007 – when the commission was formed – a total of 1,947 complaints have been received from the district, of which 1,196 complaints have been disposed off. However, in the department-wise list, the numbers presented fell far short. For example, the Deputy Commissioner’s office (that is, revenue-related complaints) said just 11 were pending; office of the Superintendent of Police claimed all five pending will be disposed off within a week; DK Zilla Panchayat office has two pending complaints, while Mangalore City Corporation has just three complaints left — the rest of the departments claimed to have zero pendency, leaving Ms. Saxena utterly confused. She directed the officials presented to trace out complaints received, while advising the Deputy Commissioner to keep a “master list” of complaints. (The Hindu 20/1/14)

 

2. ‘Unaccountability fosters violations’ (1)

New York: India has strong legislation to protect human rights but entrenched corruption and lack of accountability foster violations, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday. In its World Report 2014, the rights watchdog said the Indian government’s inability to protect women and children from rape and sexual violence undermines its commitment to uphold the rights of all Indians. During 2013, authorities also failed to enforce laws that protect vulnerable communities including dalits, religious minorities and tribal groups, the report said. “International attention to sexual attacks in India led to a new law, but should have spurred the government towards systemic changes to make real progress on this issue,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director. “The government has also failed to keep its promises of reforms to create a responsive police force, and to repeal laws that protect the armed forces from prosecution,” Ms Ganguly said. In the 667-page world report, HRW reviewed rights practices in over 90 countries. In India, numerous civil society groups — which play a crucial advocacy role in addressing these problems through protests and free expression — are increasingly at risk due to misused sedition laws and financial regulations, the report said. In April, India rolled out a central monitoring system for all phone and Internet communications, which rights groups fear could lead to abuse in the absence of adequate oversight or safeguards for the right to privacy, it said. India took positive steps in 2013 by strengthening laws protecting women and children, and, in several important cases, prosecuting state security force personnel for extra-judicial killings. (Asian Age 22/1/14)

 

3. Women’s rights groups write to CM (1)

NEW DELHI: Women’s groups are not impressed with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s claim that the two-day dharna in front of Rail Bhavan was to demand accountability in cases related to violence against women. Furthermore, they are shocked at Kejriwal’s bid to ‘protect’ law minister Somnath Bharti and party leader Kumar Vishwas, whom they accuse of “stereotyping” women in different ways. Kumar Vishwas’ “kaali peeli” gags about Kerala nurses and Bharti’s night raid in Khirki Extension-where Ugandan women were allegedly ill-treated-have touched a raw nerve, more so because AAP has been taking the high moral ground on most issues; such controversies can alienate women. Nine women’s organizations raised these concerns in a strongly-worded open letter to Kejriwal on Tuesday. “Such targeting goes against the sense of security and human rights of all women, in general, and of single and working women, in particular. Bharti endangered the women and instigated the crowd to violate their human rights, by branding them as prostitutes and asking the crowd to catch them,” it read. Annie Raja of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) found it ironic that on the one hand, Kejriwal is associating his dharna with women’s rights, and on the other, has been shielding a minister who has “racially profiled” African women. “I think the AAP government had an opportunity to show they cared for women’s issues by acting against Bharti but now they have lost that chance.” Women’s groups felt these actions reflected a “narrow” and “misogynistic” perception of women and communities. “I am terrified of a situation where women will be stigmatized for wearing a certain kind of clothes, going out at certain hours or belonging to certain communities. There should be no political backing for patriarchal sentiments. It’s the ‘ma, behen, beti’ stereotyping that’s happening again,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). Indu Agnihotri, director of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, however, is willing to cut AAP some slack for being a newcomer. “They are a new government and will need some more time. But their ministers and candidates should immediately stop insinuating and making such derogatory statements because their perception of women will reflect in their policies.” Another long letter to the CM signed by not just women’s groups but also economists, lecturers and many other professionals, raises concerns about AAP members’ ‘racial profiling’ of other communities. “Delhi, for centuries, has had an enviable history of inclusive, cosmopolitan culture. At the same time, it is also known for an ugly underbelly of racist and regionalist prejudice against those from the northeast, migrants from Bihar, black people, and of course, sexism. We expect your party and your government to ensure that your actions are informed by the highest standards of inclusivity… “The letter adds, “People are particularly disgruntled with the fact that Bharti had allegedly said: “black people, who are not like you and me, break laws.” The letter terms such behaviour a “classic racist witch-hunt.” Many residents of Khirki Extension are disturbed by Bharti’s racist comments. An artist who lives in the area had planned to organize an international Khirki festival and met Bharti a few days before the raid. Her artists’ group was keen on the festival because of the cosmopolitan nature of Khirki and coexistence of different communities. “Bharti seemed very optimistic about it then,” she said on condition of anonymity. “But after such behaviour, African women are ruffled and are waiting for the heat to die down. While some in Khirki are open to the idea of coexisting with communities, many are just intolerant,” she said. (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

4. Political activists learn how to defend human rights (1)

MADURAI: A human rights seminar for political parties and outfits commenced here on Saturday. The two-day training is exclusively held for members of political parties and movements in the state. The participants were explained about the rights of human rights defenders. At a panel discussion, the participants were encouraged to speak about issues they face while taking up human rights issues. They were told about legal remedies to address such issues. “The objective of the training is to sensitise the human rights activists on their rights and empower them as defenders of human rights,” said Henri Tiphagne, honorary national working secretary of the Human Rights Defenders Alert which is organising the event. The workshop was held for political parties for the first time though similar workshops were held for human rights activists earlier. Tiphagne said they invited all political parties in the state by sending a six-page document explaining the rights of human rights defenders. “Wet want to spread awareness among political parties in the first place rather than expecting their presence for the training programme,” he said. Representatives from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam and outfits like Tamilar Desiya Peravai, Citizens for Human Rights Movement participated in the first day’s proceedings. There were no representatives from major Dravidian parties. Around 60 representatives from political parties and outfits attended the training which is being held at Pillar Training Centre. The second day’s training will focus on the topics like national and international protection of human rights defenders, drafting human rights complaints and digital security. K Ponnuthayi of All-India Democratic Women’s Association ( AIDWA) said the training will be useful to learn about the rights of human rights activists and how to tackle issues when they tackle human rights violations in the society. (Times of India 26/1/14)

 

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

5. 600 DTC drivers colour blind, Kejriwal informed (1)

New Delhi: Travelling by DTC bus? Think twice as about 600 drivers are alleged to be colour blind but still driving on the basis of fake medical fitness certificates. This serious issue concerning safety of passengers has been brought to the notice of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal by information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu. In an open letter to the chief minister, Acharyulu said he came across the information that hundreds of drivers have produced fake medical fitness certificates and continue to work on the basis of it. “It is alleged that at least 600 have colour blindness and many others suffer from other problems. I apprehend (and every one will agree) that if this is even partly true, the right to life of commuters in Delhi city will be under serious and constant threat until it is ensured that every driver is fit enough to drive the buses,” Acharyulu wrote in his letter to Kejriwal. Expressing his helplessness in taking any action but to order disclosure of information, the Information Commissioner said the RTI application was about a single driver, which led to investigation leading to revelation that hundreds of such drivers were allegedly appointed without “fitness”.”The matter of concern is that the RTI application dates back to June 18, 2012, which is passing through different layers of bureaucracy and yet to reach finality. During submissions vigilance officer and appellant said that several hundred cases of such appointment of drivers without fitness are suspected and need to be enquired into,” he wrote. Underlining that he was writing this letter in the capacity of a citizen, Acharyulu said there was a serious urgency to look into the issue. The alleged fraud came to light while Acharyulu was hearing a plea by one Dhan Singh, who sought information from DTC on nine-points regarding the procedure for recruitment of drivers including action taken on those drivers who were appointed on the basis of fake medical certificates. During the hearing, Singh alleged that thousands of drivers in the DTC are working on the basis of fake medical certificates and as per Rule 9 of DTC Rules and Regulations, the medical board of DTC cannot send such applicants for selection for the post of driver. The vigilance officer also submitted that there were some complaints which need enquiry involving around 300-400 drivers who had allegedly produced fake certificates and the enquiry about the genuineness of certificates produced by these drivers was going on. An independent medical board is examining the persons against whom the complaints were made at different hospitals, the officer said while pleading to withhold information as inquiry in hundreds of such cases was already going on. “The vigilance officer says that as and when they receive complaints they are sending concerned candidates for examination by independent medical board and initiating enquiries into complaints,” Acharyulu noted in order but rejected the contention that records should not be disclosed pending inquiry. “The commission directs the respondents to furnish information about cases in which the investigation is completed without waiting for conclusion of inquiry or for final action taken report, as the information would not impede investigation, which is already concluded,” he said. (Hindustan Times 22/1/14)

 

6. Activists: RBI move to curb black money (1)

Mumbai: Even as activists are claiming that the Reserve Bank of India’s decision to withdraw all currency notes issued prior to 2005 — including `500 and `1,000 denominations — after March 31 is to purge the country of black money, the RBI says that it is merely about a change in design. Noted activist Kiran Bedi said, “This is definitely a move to root out black money from the country, as has been demanded by Baba Ramdev since 2010. It will bring unaccounted money to the surface.” RTI activist Manoranjan Roy, who has been following up on the black money issue with the RBI for the last two years, said, “This is the first step to curb black money, irrespective of what and how the RBI clarifies it. I am pleased that the RBI, under Mr Rajan’s leadership, has finally started the clean up operation.” Mayank Gandhi, AAP leader in state, welcomed the move and said that the decision was in sync with its agenda of curbing corruption. “This is certainly due to the AAP effect. This RBI decision is apparently a clean up operation to curb black money. May more decisions be taken up in this direction,” said Mr Gandhi. However, Alpana Killawala, RBI spokesperson said, “This is not a move to curb black money, but to bring in new notes with lesser designs. Since our country is vast in diversity, the earlier notes need to go to accommodate new multiple features.” (Asian Age 23/1/14)

 

7. Few takers for the RTI Act (1)

The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 is a blessing in disguise. While the procedure may seem tedious to some, the fundamental right that it stands for puts power into the hands of the common man. This Republic Day, Metrolife speaks to RTI activists in the City to understand how the act is being used by the people in the City. According to RTI activist Umapathi S, only a limited percentage of people are using the act. “The current approach is to file applications only when services aren’t being met as a means of addressing public grievance. But the purpose of RTI is to ensure accountability and transparency. The problem is that people don’t know that it has a wider scope. The awareness isn’t up to the expected level and the responsibility of doing that should be placed on the state government. Another issue isthat people are scared of exposing officials as they feel they’ll be threatened even though this rarely happens,” he says. N Vikramsinha of Mahithi Hakku Adhyayana Kendra has been an RTI activist since 2000. While he acknowledges that Bangalore has an active RTI community, he finds that ‘the current trends are nullifying the effect at every  stage’. “The activism is higher than other cities but people are only making applications about the BBMP, BDA and BSNL. The biggest problem is that we cannot get any authentic statistics or information in Karnataka. Unlike the Central information website where all the information is available with one search, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) website requires the applicant to know the name of the petitioner, responder or case number. We keep reminding them to re-design it but they’re not inclined to for obvious reasons. The information we get is mostly from our own sources,” he informs. In 2011, a forum was created to facilitate dialogue between the KIC, active citizens and the department of personnel and administrative reforms. “We met quarterly but that system has been discontinued since the appointment of the new chief information commissioner AKM Nayak. The problem most applicants face is delay in the process and eventually, no information being procured. Rectifying this will require continuous vigilance and persuasion on the part of citizens,” adds Vikramsinha. R Manohar, an independent RTI activist for the last 20 years, notes, “It’s a fundamental right that needs to be enforced. Some activists and NGOs are using the act. But it’s essentially been ineffective in the recent past because officers know how to manipulate the situation. They frequently reject the application and render the file ‘untraceable’, which leaves the petitioner with nobody to blame.” However, Ravindra Nath Guru, who runs an NGO called Coalition against Corruption, is optimistic about the RTI community and says that not only activists but common people are also using it. “There’s no point in playing the blame game till people start asking questions about why concerned authorities aren’t doing their job. For example, if garbage isn’t being collected, citizens can apply for the work order and make sure that it’s followed. There needs to be an increasing awareness about the RTI Act with the increasing number of information seekers,” he says. (Deccan Herald 27/1/14)

 

TRAFFICKING

8. Women in Chhattisgarh district falling prey to immoral trafficking (1)

RAIPUR: Large number of women sucked into flesh trade in Raigarh is leading to greater number of girls going missing. Taking an initiative, police now plan to introduce special police officers (SPOs) to bust prostitution under Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA). Raigarh being an industrial hub with floating population invites many women falling prey to prostitution and also leads to girls going missing at a faster pace. Talking to TOI, superintendent of police, Raigarh, Rahul Bhagat said, “The district is prone to prostitution and trafficking as it is on the state border. Besides, industrialization attracts all genres of people here. This has led to an increase in cases of prostitution wherein local females indulge in the trade in large numbers. Many girls, who went missing, were trafficked to different places for purpose of prostitution.” Hence, he said that he will send a proposal to police headquarters in the capital for introducing SPOs under ITPA. As of now, no proper action can be taken in cases of prostitution and the accused are released with light punishment. “Therefore, to curb the issue, it has become necessary to apply ITPA here,” the SP added. It leads to an awkward situation when the offenders in serious cases can’t be registered under relevant Acts. Chhattisgarh has over 20,000 identified female sex workers while many others are yet to be classified. “While many come forward for rehabilitation, there are other large groups earning their bread and butter through sex work. Raigarh alone has around 780 identified sex workers,” Sarvat Naqvi, project officer, state Aids control society told TOI. According to sources in the police headquarters, ITPA is currently functioning in six districts including Raipur, Rajnandgaon, Korba, Bhilai, Durg and Bilaspur while a proposal for introducing it in 11 other districts is pending since years with the state government. “Proposal for 11 such districts which are affected by prostitution in large number and call for proper law and order in their regions, is pending since long. Police in these districts including Jagdalpur, Ambikapur, Dhamtari and others can’t register cases under ITPA unless state government approves SPOs,” an official source said. He added that in unavoidable circumstances, police have all right to take special permission from senior district magistrate, judicial magistrate first class or additional district magistrate as per the directives of Section 13 of ITPA, 1956. Raigarh police has registered 313 cases of missing girls and women in 2013 but cases against prostitution could not be registered. (Times of India 17/1/14)

 

9. Once victims, they now fight human trafficking (1)

VADODARA: Like thousands of Gujaratis, he migrated to the USA with dreams of a better life and good education for his kids. Little did he know that he would be trapped in a country that is hailed as a land of opportunities. Harold D’Souza, a resident of Vadodara, and his wife Dancy went through the toughest phase of their lives after they became victims of human trafficking. The couple was harassed and victimized by their employers for several years. The couple fought back and went on to become a champion for the cause of anti-human trafficking in the USA. Harold was recently invited to Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) Human Trafficking Survivor Forum and Listening Session at the White House Conference Centre. During the session, Harold and 19 other survivors of labour and sex trafficking engaged with the US federal representatives to explore how the federal agencies can engage survivors in the anti-trafficking efforts. Harold was also honoured along with other survivors for their efforts in the anti-trafficking movement. Harold and his family shifted to the USA in 2003 after a family friend, who owned a restaurant there, made a lucrative offer of helping them start their own restaurant in Cincinnati. “We took the offer and arrived in the USA to live the American dream. But this opportunity changed our lives forever,” Harold said. From day one, Harold and Dancy began working at his family friend’s restaurant in Cincinnati. “We used to work for 14 to 16 hours a day. The owner soon started dismissing other staff and put additional work pressure on us. We later learnt that though we both entered the US permanently, only I was permitted to work. The owner and his attorney used it against us and threatened to deport Dancy,” Harold added. “The apartment we stayed in had no furniture and we usually had little food to eat. It was tough for us as we had two kids aged four and seven years. Our requests for payments were met with several excuses,” Harold said. The couple finally managed to come out of the ordeal after a few years with the help of local federal agencies. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) investigated their case and confirmed that complaint lodged by Harold was genuine. Harold and Dancy are now settled in Cincinnati with their children and work for a local institution. “The journey of the past 131 months was worth walking, waiting and sharing. During my horrific rough and tough times, my two sons Rohan, Bradly and wife Dancy stood by me,” Harold said. (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

10. Centre to check social media misuse: Shinde (1)

PATNA: Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said here on Saturday that the Centre was contemplating measures to check misuse of social media for creating civic unrest especially communal violence. “Seeing the evil impact of social media which is taking the society in a wrong direction, we are thinking of imposing checks on them,” Shinde said and also expressed unhappiness with the journalists putting facts in wrong perspective. He also said that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal met him with complaints against the police. “The Lt Governor has already announced a probe. I will also look into the matter,” he said. Shinde refused to comment on charges levelled against him by former Union home secretary R K Singh. “Singh is now a BJP leader and I do not want to make a political statement,” he said. Asked about Adarsh Housing Society scam, Shinde said, “What Adarsh? There had never been reservation for Kargil war heroes in the society.” (Times of India 19/1/14)

 

11. MP: Shankaracharya Swaroopanand slaps journalist for question on Modi (1)

Bhopal: A Hindu seer slapped a journalist in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur when the latter asked a question about the prospects of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister of the country. Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, who is considered to be close to the Congress party, was approached by the journalist associated with a regional TV news channel for an interview on Tuesday night at a Jabalpur temple, about 375 km east of state capital Bhopal. The seer had warned Abhishek Sharma and had told him not to ask any political question. However, when Sharma sought his opinion about Modi, the seer lost his temper and slapped him. Sharma, however, is not willing to lodge a formal complaint with the police. “He is a revered saint. Unfortunately, he lost his temper. The incident was nothing but a professional hazard,” Sharma told HT. However, in a press conference, the very next day the Shankaracharya mostly talked about politics. In the press conference, he said that Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are not suitable for the post of the country’s top job because they lack clarity in their speeches on progress of the country and about uprooting the menace of corruption. The state BJP unit did not speak about the issue. Its spokesperson, Vijendra Sisodia, said he would be able to comment only after gathering information about the incident. However, senior BJP leader Prahlad Patel – who has been vocal against the Shankaracharya – said that media never believes his words against the seer but the fact remained that such people do immense damage to ‘sanatan dharma’. Patel said there was a major difference in being a ‘sanyasi’ and ‘undergoing a ritual of sanyas.’ (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

12. Vishwas ‘sorry’ for nurse remark (1)

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas on Wednesday apologised for his racist and sexist remark on Kerala nurses. The apology came after various groups, including the National Commission for Women, criticised the journalist-turned-politician for his remark and demanded his resignation. AAP Kerala convenor Manoj Padmanabhan said Mr Vishwas has sent an email apologising for his jibe. In his email, Mr Vishwas apologised for hurting the sentiments of the people and added that the jokes delivered at the “sammelan” were in a light-hearted manner and without any intention to harm anyone’s feelings. In his email, Mr Vishwas said, “It has come to my knowledge that an old video-clip of one of my Kavi Sammelans has hurt the feelings of many of my friends residing in Kerala. I must say that I don’t appreciate any discrimination based on religion, region, gender, caste or creed.” Mr Vishwas said he had never tried to intentionally hurt anyone’s sentiments. He said that jokes delivered in a Kavi Sammelan are scripted and presented in a jocular and light-hearted manner. “But if some words of mine have hurt the sentiments of my friends, I apologise to them from the depth of my heart.” Mr Vishwas had earlier refused to apologise and had asked: “Will Raj Babbar apologise for raping women in Bollywood movies? I will apologise but let them first find a line from my poem that is racist.” Poems are situational, they have no political relevance.” The 2008 video of Mr Vishwas calling Kerala nurses dark-skinned had gone viral on social media. Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy had also demanded an apology from Mr Vishwas. NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma, too, had slammed Mr Vishwas for his tasteless comments and demanded an apology. “Even if it is a conference, does it give Mr Kumar Vishwas any right to make such racist comments? He should apologise and resign. And Mr Arvind Kejriwal should remove such a leader from his party.” All-India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan said this was a very degrading statement. “Kumar Vishwas made degrading statements and he’s not alone in these. But AAP says it’s a different type of party. so when someone raises an issue why don’t they take it seriously? I would expect them to chastise him and prevent future events from happening,” she said. Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi said, “Mr Vishwas has insulted women. He is not a cultured person. He can’t say he said this two years back and has now changed.” Earlier, the AAP office in Kochi was vandalised by Youth Congress workers who barged in and threw rotten eggs, damaged phones and chairs. The Mahila Congress workers also held a protest march in Kochi. (Asian Age 24/1/14)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

13. Dalits to approach SC/ST panel (2)

TIRUNELVELI: A group of Dalits, who had lost their homes in an encroachment eviction drive conducted along the Tamirabharani watercourse here, has decided to approach the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. The group, all scavengers and coolies, who submitted a petition to Collector M. Karunakaran on Monday, said they were living at Bharathi Colony near Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli Junction for the past 45 years. Their dwellings made on watercourse poramboke, termed as encroachments by the Public Works Department, were demolished on July 9, 2012. Though the residents of these houses had been given drinking water connections, power supply, ration card, Electors’ Photo Identity Cards, the houses were razed down. “However, the Corporation surveyor’s reply given for a query raised under the Right to Information Act shows that the land on which the houses had been constructed was classified as an unused graveyard poramboke, which can be given to the public, as per the Government Order 75 of February 5, 2000 (issued by Revenue Department),” said S. Murugan, one of the petitioners. As per this Government Order, people who have constructed their houses on unused grazing poramboke, graveyard poramboke or ‘paattai’ poramboke lands and have been living there for more than 10 years, can be given patta. “Since we have been living on the unused graveyard poramboke land for more than 45 years, the officials should have given us patta as per the Government Order and our houses should have been exempted from the eviction drive. But the officials have wrongly treated our land as watercourse poramboke and demolished our houses,” said A. Madasamy, another petitioner. Since the government officials have demolished the houses without following the Government Order, the affected have decided to approach the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes besides exploring legal options, said the affected persons, who staged a dharna on the Collectorate premises before submitting a petition to the Collector. (The Hindu 21/1/14)

 

14. Acid attack on Dalit in Bihar (2)

PATNA: A group of people poured acid in the eyes of a Dalit youth in Supaul district of Bihar on Wednesday, according to a police complaint. Ranjit Sada, 22, said that as he was walking along a road, talking on his mobile phone, a few people suddenly shouted at him, accusing him of theft. They pinned him down and poured acid in the eyes, Manish Kumar, Station House Officer of the Kishanpur station, told The Hindu, quoting the youth . The police have arrested Ramanand Yadav and Bikas Yadav on the charge of attempt to murder and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They are looking for another person. (The Hindu 23/1/114)

 

15. Caste Hindu Wife Abducted by Parents: Dalit PhD Scholar (2)

MADURAI: A Dalit PhD scholar from Thoothukudi has sought the help of an NGO here to rescue his Caste Hindu wife, who he claimed, was abducted by her parents and detained in their house in Silambinathanpetti of Cuddalore district. R Solaischamy (29), who sought the help of Evidence, a Madurai based NGO on Wednesday, said that he fell in love with Sandhya (name changed) while he was doing post-graduation in Physics at the Tranquebar Bishop Manickam Lutheran College in Porayar in 2009, where the girl too was pursuing her post graduation in Zoology. When her parents came to know about their relationship, they started making arrangements to get her married to a person from their community. However, the couple tied the knot on January 4, 2014 in the presence of their friends at the Register Office in Vanur. Solaichamy said: “On January 19, after we returned to my house, my wife’s family members came and forcibly took her away.” Alleging that Sandhya’s life was in danger, Solaichamy said that his wife called him on the phone and told him that she had been locked up in the house.  “She also told me that her parents had lodged a false complaint in the All Women Police Station that I had abducted her and married. Hence, I have decided to file a habeas corpus petition in the Madurai Bench of the HC,” he said. A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, said that the police should  take appropriate action to rescue Solaichamy’s wife and ensure the security of the couple. “Besides, action must be initiated against the parents of the girl under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Act, 1989,” he said. When Express contacted Inspector Revathi of the All Women Police Station in Panruti, she claimed that the girl came along with her parents and lodged a complaint claiming that Solaichamy had married her without her consent. (New Indian Express 23/1/14)

 

16. Dalits stage protest on Republic Day (2)

MYSORE: While the district administration celebrated the republic day in a grand manner, dalits and litterateurs and politicians from this community staged a night long dharna infront of the deputy commissioner’s office demanding reservation for them in co-operative and private sectors. Main grouse of the protestors is despite the constitution written by Dr B R Ambedker coming into existence on this day in 1950, dalits are suffering on various fronts and failed to get their rights on various counts. “Still people practice untouchability and are the victims of various social evils” they said raising slogans against the government. Speaking on the occasion former mayor Purshottam said successive governments have taken the support of the dalits for granted and even dalits have also failed to realize the importance of their vote. ” This is the time f or us to assert ourselves as no government whether it belongs to A party of B party had failed miserably to protect the interests of dalits” he said. Litterateur Aravind Malagatii said government should not be under the impression that it will achieve development by keeping dalits away from co-operative and private sectors as they also form a big productive group. ” When governments chant the mantra of inclusive growth how they can keep major section of the people away from development”? he asked. UOM professor K C Basavaraj said now governments are pumping in lot of money into rural sector , but it will not yield results without the participation of dalits in it . DSS leader Devagalli Somashekar said dalits should take this issue as a big challenge if they are serious on seeking reservations in private and co-operative sector . ” Today’s dharna may be symbolic , but in the coming days intellectuals and litterateurs from the community should take up the cause” he said regretting the educated dalits remaining away from protests and agitations though they have benefitted from the struggle . Protesting dalits leaders will spend the whole night at the tent erected infront of DC office and disperse from the spot after submitting a memorandum to DC on Monday morning . (Times of India 26/1/14)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

17. Cabinet to take decision on FDI in farm land (4)

NEW DELHI: The Urban Development Ministry’s argument is that as farm land is already being acquired for township development, permitting FDI will only help raise more funds for the purpose. The UPA Government has formed a three-member Cabinet committee to examine the possibility of opening up agricultural land to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), following a Union Urban Development (UD) Ministry proposal on letting foreign realtors buy agricultural land. The Cabinet committee includes UD Minister Kamal Nath, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma. At present, FDI is banned in farm land. Further, Indian banking rules disallow loans for the purchase of farm land even for domestic investors – except in the case of large-sized projects –to safeguard against speculative land acquisition and hoarding. The UD Ministry’s argument is that as farm land is already being acquired for township development, permitting FDI will only help raise more funds for the purpose. Real estate developers will, in any case, be applying for land use change after acquiring farm land, the Ministry has said. “When the proposal was put forth by the UD Ministry, the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) declined to comment and said the decision rests with the Reserve Bank of India. Thereafter, there were concerns from other Ministries over relaxation of norms, so the Cabinet has decided that a three-member sub-committee will take a call on the issue,” said an official. Another proposal, on relaxing the FDI regulations for the construction sector has been hanging fire due to lack of consensus on a host of issues, including the policy on purchases of agricultural land. “As of now banks do not give loans for purchase of land unless it is part of a large development project, which will generate revenue. A common complaint against builders is that they collect money from prospective home buyers and then make them wait, because they then scout for land and apply for change of land use policy, all of which eventually delays projects,” said the official. (The Hindu 22/1/14)

 

18. SC seeks Hooda govt report on 44 SEZs over land ‘scam’ (4)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Haryana government to furnish status of agricultural land acquired for setting up of 44 special economic zones (SEZ), of which 30-odd had been notified. Kuldeep Bishnoi, petitioner and the lone MP of Haryana Janhit Congress, through senior advocate Nidesh Gupta questioned the acquisition of huge tracts of agricultural land for setting up of SEZs and alleged that the state government used the ruse of SEZ to acquire land and then de-notified them to allot the land to industries or create residential sectors. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and S K Singh, hearing a bunch of public interest litigations questioning similar agricultural land acquisition in other states, said the petitions could be appreciated better by the high courts of the states concerned. However, Gupta convinced the court that the SEZ policy is of national importance and an authoritative ruling from the apex court would prevent confusion, which could arise in case of conflicting opinion from the high courts. The bench accepted the argument and took up Bishnoi’s case to ask the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government to provide details of the SEZs by the next date of hearing. Seven years ago, the court had issued notices to the Centre, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP governments on the PIL alleging that the proposals to set up 60-odd SEZs in the National Capital Region were in breach of law. Neither the Central SEZ Act nor the state legislations on special economic zones have taken into account the NCR Act, thus, rendering all of them violative of the constitutional mandate, the petition filed through Gupta stated while demanding that the land acquisitions be struck down and land be returned to farmers. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

19. Farmers losing fertile land for Modi’s flagship manufacturing hub (4)

DHOLERA (GUJARAT): The Gujarat government is acquiring 920 square km of land, most of it agricultural, of 15,000 farmer families spread across 22 villages for Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) project. Farmers have been served notice under the SIR Act, 2009, depriving them of 50 per cent of their land and allotting many of them saline plots where they say nothing can be grown. “The story is not about taking away half of our land. This is only half-truth. They are taking away the whole lot and then allotting 50 per cent of it in the coastal region,” Pradyumansinh Chudasma, a farmer in the region, told The Hindu. Chudasma owns 19 acres of fertile land at Bavaliyari but the entire holding is proposed to be taken over, and he has been allotted half of this in two separate plots, located in the coastal region. Farmers showed documents and maps to substantiate their claims. They also point out that the Bhal region, where Dholera falls, is known for its exportable wheat, which grows with just one watering session as against three in the rest of the State. The area also grows cumin. The Chief Executive Officer of Dholera SIR Development Authority, K.D. Chandnani, however, denied the farmers’ claims. “We are not acquiring a single inch of land of farmers,” he told this newspaper. The government’s action complied with the Gujarat SIR Act, 2009, which puts the entire SIR area under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, for developing infrastructure for the SIR, he said. “And the land allotment to them is based on town planning rules.” He said compensation could be given as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, which mandates the government to pay four times the market rate and insists on assent from the village panchayat. “We do agree with the merits of the latest land acquisition law, but land pooling and land readjustment according to town planning schemes have been successful in Gujarat, and the local communities have already expressed their acceptability at various consultations in the past two years,” Mr. Chandnani said. However, farmers argued that their fertile land would be surrendered to industrialists and real estate developers. The notice, issued under Section 17(2) of the SIR Act, 2009, copies of which are with The Hindu, says they must report to the authorities on a given date and hand over possession of their land, and take the titles for the new land. If they fail to do so, the SIR authorities will have the right to evict them from their land. “What we get in the name of compensation would be the government rates as of 2011 and they are far below the market value today,” says Ramdevsinh Chudasma, who is losing half of his 80 acres. The Chief Minister’s plan is to develop the Dholera SIR as a global manufacturing and trading hub, an “engine for economic resurgence of the country,” backed by world-class infrastructure, according to the SIR website. Dholera, close to Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra and 100 km from Ahmedabad, was a flourishing port in the 18th century. The SIR project goals are to double employment potential, triple industrial output and quadruple exports from the region. (The Hindu 25/1/14)

 

MINORITIES, MUSLIMS, CHRSITIANS, COMMUNAL RIOTS

20. Govt grants minority status to Jain community (7)

NEW DELHI: The Jain community was on Monday granted minority status by the central government which will enable them to avail benefits in government schemes and programmes. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting here, an official release here said. The decision comes a day after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi took up this issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. A group of Jains had met Rahul Gandhi on Sunday to press for their long-standing demand for minority status and he then spoke to the prime minister. Once recognized as a minority, the around 50 lakh strong community would get a share in central funds earmarked for welfare programmes and scholarships for minorities. They can also manage and administer their own educational institutions. The community already has minority status in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan but the new decision extends this across the country. (Times of India 20/1/14)

 

21. Will write to CMs again on cases against minority youths, Shinde says (7)

BHUBANESWAR: After his recent advisory to state governments on release of minority youths allegedly wrongfully booked, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Sunday said he would soon write a second letter asking state chief ministers to set up committees to scrutinize such cases. “I will write a second letter to the states which will be sent in two to three days. Chief ministers will be asked to form committees to scrutinise cases of detention of accused belonging to minority communities and take expeditious decisions,” Shinde told reporters on the sideline of the 9th Raising Day function of NDRF at Mundali near Cuttack. The committees should be different from the ones that come under the provision of Pota (Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002), the home minister said, pointing out that minority does not mean only Muslims and that there are other communities which come under the definition of minority. The chief ministers would be advised to scrutinize expeditiously the cases pending against youths of various minority communities who were languishing in jails for about 5-10 years, he said. He said the ministry of home affairs received a number of representations from different people which claimed that their kin were in jails for years without facing trial in the court. “That is why I had written to chief ministers to get matters inquired and those who would be found not guilty should be released from jails immediately,” he said. Asked if the BJP would not take political benefit out of it, Shinde said, “If Bharatiya Janata Party wants to fight elections in the name of religion and caste, let it do so. We are not interested in it. We are concerned about all communities and our intention is very clear and sacred.” In response to a query on Maoist violence, Shinde said the concerted, coordinated and integrated efforts by both the Centre and the states had started showing results. “As a matter of fact, the number of violent acts by left-wing extremists is steadily decreasing. Their top leaders are being trapped one by one,” the home minister said. (Times of India 21/1/14)

 

22. Dalit Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (7)

TIRUNELVELI: Demanding Scheduled Caste status, the Dalit Christians took out a rally and organised a meeting at Palayamkottai on Sunday. After taking out a procession from Lourdunathan Statue at South Bazaar, the rallyists organised a meeting at Jawahar Ground, Palayamkottai. Addressing among the rallyists, Union Minister of State for Revenue Jesudasu Seelam said the Dalit Christians, despite repeated appeals for the past several decades, were not given any welfare measures meant for the Scheduled Castes even as the “oppressed community” members, who embraced Sikhism and Buddhism, were enjoying all the privileges of the Central and the State Governments. Though a Bill on including Dalit Christians in the SC category was tabled in the Parliament twice, it could not be passed owing to lack of consensus. “Hence, all political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, should support this Bill so that the Dalit Christians also can get the benefits of the Central and the State Governments,” Mr. Seelam said. The meeting held at Jawahar Grounds passed a resolution appealing to the Central Government to take all efforts to accord Scheduled Caste status to the Dalit Christians. National president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India – SC / ST Affairs, Most Rev. Anthonisamy Neethinathan, secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India – SC / ST Affairs, Rev. Fr. Albert Nelson, president of Indian Dalit Christians’ Welfare Movement R. Ramnath and others spoke. (The Hindu 21/1/14)

 

23. Safeguards for Muslims must in new States: MIM (7)

HYDERABAD: The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has demanded that the Central Government incorporate necessary safeguards for minorities, Muslims in particular, in the two States after bifurcation. MIM floor leader Akbaruddin Owaisi who continued the debate on the reorganisation Bill on Tuesday lamented that no political party was speaking about the concerns of the minority communities in the bifurcation process. The views of Muslims were not ascertained during the merger of Hyderabad State with Andhra resulting in severe hardships to the community in the form of loss in education, employment and other sections. Mr. Owaisi expressed apprehensions on the scope for growth of Sangh Parivar post bifurcation and said this was evident from the active role played by the Sangh organisations including the BJP. “The MIM has opposed bifurcation. Since a consensus remained elusive, the party accepted the decision imposed on the people as a fait accompli,” he said. He dismissed the claims that AP was the first linguistic State claiming several factors other than the linguistic basis influenced the formation of the State. He expressed his strong opposition to the common capital and powers proposed to be vested in the institution of Governor. Given the proposals in the draft Bill, there was every scope for the Governor becoming a super power in the two States. “Imagine the plight of the Muslims if communal parties come to power at the Centre and depute a person with same ideology as Governor,” he said. Similar was the case with the police officials who could turn “super CMs” as they would act at the behest of the Governor. “When the Centre had decided to bifurcate the State, let it give Telangana the same status as the remaining States,” he said opposing the proposal for a common high court as well. The MIM would oppose any move to give Hyderabad the status of a union territory or that of centrally administered area. (The Hindu 22/1/14)

 

24. Karnataka, Maharashtra top attacks on Christians (7)

MUMBAI: Maharashtra has witnessed among the largest number of communal attacks on Christians in 2013, second only to Karnataka, says a recently-released report by the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), an organization chaired by Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge at the Bombay and Karnataka high courts. Across the country, the report points at 4,000-odd offenses aimed at Christians, with 400 clergy and 100 churches attacked in a year. While Karnataka may have had a higher number of attacks on Christians over the last year, the report suggests that Maharashtra is the next Hindutva laboratory. “The new government in Karnataka is sensitive to the attacks on Christians. However, in Maharashtra, the police and the lower levels of state administration are highly saffronized,” said Joseph Dias, author of the report and general secretary of CSF. From the desecration of a heritage cross in Mumbai and a statue of Jesus at Mangaon to violent attacks on priests and nuns across the state, Dias says few other minorities would have been as tolerant to such attacks as Christians have been. “We’re looked at as easy targets as we do not fight back. We are compelled to turn the other cheek because our religion teaches us not to resort to violence.” Growing attacks on India’s Christian minority form the unreported story of communalism in India, says Harsh Mander, social activist and former member of India’s National Advisory Council, who has worked extensively with victims of communal violence. “Unlike pogroms targeted at the Muslim community, attacks on Christians are of a low intensity, though very widespread. You don’t have the sort of large outbreaks that you see in case of Hindu-Muslim clashes, and hence attacks on Christians often do not attract the same attention. However, there is a pattern emerging when it comes to attacks on Christians. Much of it is a result of Hindutva propaganda over what is perceived to be mass conversions. Like much hate propaganda, however, it is not backed by evidence to show any large increase in India’s Christian population,” said Mander. Saldanha feels the onslaught against Christians is a cause for deep concern, especially in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. “No party says they stand for communal violence, and yet such attacks continue unchecked,” says Saldanha. In addition to violent attacks, Dias points to discrimination against the church in cities like Mumbai where the civic administration is ruled by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine. “There have been instances where Christian burial grounds were destroyed to widen nullahs on one side of the road, leaving the other side of the road untouched,” says Dias. Persecution of Christians in 2013: (Report by Catholic Secular Forum) *Instances of persecution against Christians were highest in Karnataka, followed by both Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh at no. 2. *Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan and Delhi were among the top ten states where persecution occurred. *Around 4,000 Christians were targeted in anti-Christian violence across India. *Over 1,000 women and 500 children were victims of violence. *Over 400 clergy and community leaders were attacked. *About 100 churches and places of worship were attacked. *7 were killed for their faith, including a 7-year-old child in Rajasthan. (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

25. Myanmar mobs killed at least 40 Muslims: Rights group (7)

YANGON: Buddhist mobs killed at least 40 Muslims when they stormed a village in western Myanmar last week, hunting down residents with knives, a human rights group said, citing witness testimony and a wide network of local sources. The government has vehemently denied any deaths, except that of a police sergeant attacked by Rohingya Muslim villagers, but evidence of a massacre is mounting. Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, called on the government today to give humanitarian aid workers, independent observers and journalists unfettered access to Du Char Yar Tan village in Northern Rakhine state, which has been emptied and sealed off since the January 14 incident. He said as of yesterday, there were still some bodies in abandoned homes. He also called for an end to mass arrests of Rohingya men and boys, some as young as 10. “These arbitrary detentions broaden the scope of the human rights violations in the area and should be immediately brought to an end,” Smith said. “There needs to be accountability for this wave of horrific violence … but mass arrests of Muslim men and boys are not the way.” Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been grappling with sectarian violence for nearly two years. The reported deaths in Du Char Yar Tan would bring to more than 280 the number of people killed, most of them members of the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslim community. Another 250,000 people have fled their homes. The state home to 80 per cent of the country’s 1 million Rohingya runs along the Bay of Bengal and is cut off from the rest of the country by a mountain range. It is off-limits to foreign journalists and access for humanitarian aid workers is severely restricted, adding to the difficulties of confirming details about the violence. The numbers reported by Fortify Rights, however, appear to be gaining support. Estimates by the United Nations, which sent investigators to the region last week, also reach in the dozens, according to embassy officials and aid workers, following briefings on the violence. They asked that they not be named, saying the UN was expected to issue its own statement on the incident. Security forces surrounded Du Char Yar Tan on January 14 after Rohingya Muslim residents allegedly abducted and killed a police sergeant. Fearing reprisals, most of the men fled, but rights groups and residents of neighbouring villages said revenge-seeking Buddhist mobs entered with knives and guns and started attacking women and children. In the hours that followed, riot police started arresting all male Rohingya, including children over the age of 10, in surrounding areas, sending hundreds into hiding, Smith said. (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

26. Owaisi to hold rally in UP, will target SP leadership for riots (7)

Lucknow: Spelling a fresh bout of trouble for the Akhilesh Yadav government in UP, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi is set to hold a rally at Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh district on February 1. A bitter critic of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Hyderabad MP will woo the Muslims — the core votebank of the ruling SP in UP — at the rally. “Obviously, I am focussing on Muslims. Fingers will be raised on the state government and its Muslim leaders over Muzaffarnagar riots as they are in power with a massive mandate,” Asaduddin Owaisi, told The Indian Express over phone. He asked Azam Khan, the in-charge minister of Muzaffarnagar, to introspect. “Several riots, including that in Muzaffarnagar, have occurred in UP during SP regime. The barbarism that Muslims faced cannot be described and only few people have been arrested so far. The Muslim leaders of SP should answer it,” he said. Though local police are yet to give permission for holding the rally, Kaleem Jamai, the organiser, claimed that Muslims from across the state are supporting the event and will be participating in it. The location — Sanjarpur village — has been strategically chosen. It had hit the headlines in September, 2008, after two youths, said to be Indian Mujahideen operatives and belonging to this village, were killed in a police encounter at Delhi’s Batla House. Owaisi, however, said his meeting has nothing to do with the Lok Sabha elections. He also ruled out expanding his outfit in UP. “It is too early to say. I am not going (to Sanjarpur) for Lok Sabha elections. My effort will be to develop local leadership. When AAP can emerge in Delhi, Dalits and Yadavs can have their own party, then Muslims too should think in this regard,” said Owaisi. A video clip of Owaisi’s speech targeting Mulayam, Akhilesh and Azam Khan over Muzaffarnagar communal riots is being circulated widely. In the video clip he has held the trio responsible for the riots. “It is an era of technology now. Nothing can be hidden. Anyone can record the speech and it can be circulated,” Owaisi said. (Indian Express 24/1/14)

 

WOMEN

27. Fall in Crimes Against Women in the State (8)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala has shown a decrease in crimes against women in 2013 compared to 2012.  Statistics released by the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) reveal that a total of 12,689 cases were registered in the state till November last year for crimes against women.  During the same period in 2012, 13,002 cases were registered and in 2011, 13,279 cases.  There is a decrease in cases related to kidnapping, molestation, eve teasing, sexual harassment and atrocities for dowry in the state during 2013 compared to 2012. Meanwhile, there has been a sharp increase in the number of rape cases registered throughout in the state. A total of 1095 cases of rapes were recorded in Kerala till November 2013 against 1019 the previous year. According to the SCRB data, cases related to kidnapping have also come down to 162 from  214 in 2012. Similarly, there was a decline in  number of cases pertaining to cruelty by husbands and relatives. As per the data, 4392 such cases were registered in 2013, as compared to 5216 in 2012.  The SCRB data pertains to the period between December 1 of one year to November 30 of the next.  Thiruvananthapuram tops the chart in the district-wise figures. It has a total of 1688 cases registered in which the City area recorded 538 cases and rural,1150.  Thrissur with 1294 cases stood second and Kozhikode with 1275 came third in crime rate.   This time Idukki with 422 cases recorded the lowest number of crimes against women. T’Puram: ‘’This is certainly a positive sign. We are trying to help the women through various schemes such as ‘Nirbhaya Keralam Surakshita Keralam’. Through these schemes we are aiming to reduce crimes against women. Priority will be given to the safety of women,’’ Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told ‘Express’ (New Indian Express 21/1/14)

 

28. 58% abortions done by quacks (8)

RAIPUR: In what may ring alarm bells for the Chhattisgarh Health department, nearly 58% of the abortions taking place in the state are being carried out by quacks and unskilled personnel every year. The Annual Health Survey (2011-12) reveals that only 41.8% abortions in the state are done by skilled health professionals, leaving the majority at the hands of quacks and other untrained midwives. Moreover, only 32% of the total abortions in the state are being done in health institutions. The data reveals that almost 2.1% of pregnant women, in the age group of 15-49, ended up getting abortions done, due to various reasons, 2011-12. According to the report, the number of abortions in urban areas was higher with 3.4% of pregnancies resulting in termination. This figure for the rural areas was merely 1.8%.The report suggests that as instances of abortions had decreased marginally in 2011-12 , the figure stood at 2.5% in the preceding fiscal. According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, a pregnant woman can go for abortion- for pregnancy due to contraceptive failure, pregnancy due to rape, risk of child were born suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Also abortion is permitted if the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or cause grave injury to physical or mental health. According to experts, urban areas account for higher number of abortions as women there are more aware about their reproductive rights. Experts say that the average months of pregnancy at the time of abortion is lesser in urban areas, as compared to rural areas, indicating higher levels of awareness. The AHS report indicates that while the average months of pregnancy at the time of abortion is 3.3 in the state, in rural areas it is 3.5, as compared to 2.9 months in urban areas. Interestingly, this average hasn’t changed much from the preceding year. Urban areas account for higher number of abortions as women there are more aware about their reproductive rights. The average months of pregnancy at the time of abortion is lesser in urban areas, as compared to rural areas. (Times of India 22/1/14)

 

29. Bengal women’s panel orders probe into tribal’s gang rape (8)

KOLKATA: The West Bengal Commission for Women on Thursday ordered a probe into the gang rape of a tribal woman allegedly at the behest of a kangaroo court. Taking suo motu cognizance of the horrific incident that has raised the heckles across the state, it demanded harshest punishment for the perpetrators. The 20-year-old woman was allegedly raped by more than a dozen men on Monday night in Subalpur village in Birbhum district, some 180km from Kolkata. Thirteen people have been arrested so far. “We have taken a suo motu cognizance of the case and are probing the matter. We will ensure that the perpetrators of the crime, including the tribal headman who ordered the barbarism, is meted out harshest punishment,” commission chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee said. Mukherjee also laid emphasis on the need for sensitizing the tribal communities in the state to prevent such incidents. The woman, who was subjected to the brutality for having an affair with a man outside her community, has been admitted to hospital in a critical condition. Meanwhile, the 13 accused, including the headman who ordered the barbarism, arrested after a complaint was filed by the victim’s family Wednesday night, will be presented before a court. “The woman was allegedly gang-raped on the orders of a shalishi sabha (kangaroo court) after it found she had an affair with a man outside her community. We have arrested 13 people and they are being presented before a court where we will seek their custody,” Superintendent of Police C. Sudhakar said. Sudhakar said raids are being conducted in and around the village to find if more people were involved. The woman, who is undergoing treatment at the Suri Sadar Hopsital, said she was left at the mercy of the men of her village after she was unable to pay Rs.50,000 as a fine demanded by the morol (headman) for having an affair with a man outside her community. “The morol ordered that I be enjoyed by the men of the village. Following his orders, at least 10-12 people, including (some) members of a single family, continuously raped me. I lost count of how many times I was raped,” said the woman. Meanwhile, a medical board has been constituted for her treatment. “Though her condition continues to be critical, she is stable now. She has lost a lot of blood and only because she is physically and mentally very strong, she could survive the ordeal,” Suri Sadar Hospital superintendent Asit Biswas said. The incident has evoked strong response from several quarters who have demanded stringent and exemplary punishment for the culprits. “I wonder what kind of times we are living in. How can a few people act as law unto themselves and order such barbarism? What was the administration doing? There is a need to set an example by meting out stringent punishment,” famed painter Samir Aich said. The incident is not the first of its kind in the district. In 2010, a 15-year-old tribal girl was forced to parade naked through villages in the same district for daring to fall in love with a boy from another community. (Times of India 23/1/14)

 

30. Domestic workers in state exploited, short-changed (8)

HYDERABAD: The recent case of alleged exploitation of diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s maid has brought to the fore the abysmal working conditions of an estimated three million domestic workers in the state. Domestic workers in the state, majority of whom are women, face both sexual and financial exploitation by their employers. Even though Andhra Pradesh was one of the first states to include domestic workers as scheduled employers, as per the minimum wages act, 1948, majority of domestic workers continue to be grossly underpaid. As per the latest revised wages, a domestic worker in the state should be paid a minimum of Rs 4,771 per month for working eight hours daily. However, many workers get paid only Rs 500-600 per month, often unaware of the wages they are entitled to. “Neither the employers nor the employees are aware of the minimum wages. There is no functioning regulating body to ensure that domestic helpers are paid their wages according to what is prescribed in the law,” said Varghese Theckanath of the Domestic Workers Forum. As per the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, the state should constitute a social security board chaired by the minister of labour with representatives of workers, employers, etc as members. However, two years since the formal constitution of the board, not a single meeting has been held by the members. “The state labour department has the power of initiating a meeting of the members, which has not been done in the past two years. As a result, workers don’t have a proper platform to redress their grievances, which defeats the very purpose of having a law in place,” said A Vijaylaksmi, a domestic worker and a member of the board. In the absence of a functional board, complaints of workers (90% women) go unaddressed. Cases of sexual harassment by employers are common, but go unreported as women do not have an authorized functioning board which can address the issue. “A female domestic worker will not go to the police to file a complaint for fear of being harassed and ridiculed. Since the social security board, which is supposed to take up these issues, has not been functioning, women either don’t report the case or they approach workers’ unions,” Vijaylakshmi said. Meanwhile, despite the National Sample Survey estimating that there are 90 million domestic workers in the country, India is yet to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011, adopted by the International Labour Organisation and already implemented by countries like Uruguay and Philippines. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

31. Harassment of NE Women Common in Metros: Survey (8)

New Delhi : Eve-teasing, molestation and harassment by young men and over-charging by autorickshaw and taxi drivers are some of the most common problems faced by women from the northeastern states in the four cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, a survey has found. According to the survey conducted by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, 27 per cent women complained about over-charging by taxi and autorickshaw drivers while 26 per cent complained about molestation or eve teasing. The survey, which was sponsored by the National Commission for Women, found that 27 per cent of the respondents had faced verbal abuse for being mistakenly identified as foreigners. Besides, while 14 per cent said that shopkeepers often overcharged them, 16 per cent complained that landlords asked them “uncomfortable” questions about their lifestyles, work, food and native place. Four per cent of the women said they were declined tenancy as they belonged to the Northeast and 3 per cent stated that they had faced harassment on the streets by young men. The survey covered over 300 respondents, including landlords, teachers, lawyers, police and social activists. It found that migrant women were especially vulnerable to deprivation, hardships, discrimination and abuse, and that such cases were 30 per cent more pronounced vis-a-vis women from the Northeast. However, the survey found that despite the discrimination, 44 per cent of the respondents would still encourage their friends and relatives to migrate to the metro cities as these held better opportunities for both education and work. Also, 41 per cent of the respondents were not thinking of returning to their states although 33 per cent said that they would do so if they got good job opportunities back home. Only 17 per cent averred that they would caution their relatives and friends against migrating to the metros. Finding rented accommodation emerged as another problem in Bangalore with 38 per cent of the women facing difficulties, although in Delhi only 19 per cent had this problem. Overcharging of rent by landlords is a common problem faced by women from the Northeast in Kolkata, the survey found. However, some landlords did view the northeasterners in a favourable light, saying that they took care of the lodgings and were clean, pleasant and honest. The study said the respondents appeared unaware and unsure of the legal system with little or no knowledge of laws like Prevention of Atrocities Against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, and held a mistrust for the police. A big majority of 80 per cent of the victims chose not to report incidents of harassment to police while the small number that did approach them said they were not satisfied with the response. The findings of the survey were presented at a workshop at the Centre last week and was attended by over 40 young scholars and teachers from Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia along with NCW representatives and social activists. (Outlook 26/1/14)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

32.  ‘Change in crop pattern pushed tribals to poverty’ (21)

KANNAMPADI (IDUKKI DISTRICT): A change in crop pattern — from food crop to cash crop — is one of the main reasons for poverty and backwardness in Memarikudy, the remotest tribal settlement in Idukki wildlife sanctuary. Lack of work in forests, improper management of forest wealth and a shift in the sources of income have also adversely affected the livelihood of tribal communities in Kollathikavu and Mulla settlements. This was revealed by a first-of-its-kind social and economic survey of the tribal people, organised by a team of students of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, led by anthropologist K. Priya. Of the 12 main settlements in the forest, three were taken as models for the study. Though there existed cultural and social ties between different tribal communities, each one was unique and a separate approach was needed while adopting welfare measures, Ms. Priya told The Hindu . She said the survey used the method of Participatory Rural Appraisal (RPA). Lack of medical facilities, poor marketing of the forest produce and ineffective welfare measures have pushed the tribal communities to poverty even as they possess large areas of fertile land. For most members of 15-member team, open interaction with the tribals helped them form a clear picture of life at the grassroots and the changes that have taken place over the years. “Though we have conducted similar surveys in the interior areas of Tamil Nadu and other States, it is for the first time that a survey was conducted in a remote tribal settlement,” said Kumari Kanika from Bihar. “It is not just a social and economic survey, but also sheds light on cultural and traditional factors that brought changes in the settlements over the years,” said Abiram, another member of the team. (The Hindu 21/1/14)

 

33. Pranab for holisitic approach to combat poverty (21)

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday called for a “holistic vulnerability-based approach” to address poverty and address the challenges posed by the staggering number of homeless and slum dwellers in the country. Pointing out that there were an estimated 93 million slum dwellers in our country, with an urban housing shortage of nearly 18 million, Mr. Mukherjee said a holistic approach spanning three key areas — residential, occupational and social — is required to effectively combat poverty. “As visible signs of systemic inadequacies, slums and homelessness pose considerable challenges for policymakers,” he said while presenting the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) incentive awards to State, Union Territories and Cities at a function here. The President called for increasing the accessibility of the urban poor to formal housing and underlined the need to address their affordability concerns as well. “Pro-poor reform measures by governments around the world have resulted in halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2005. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 200 million people have been lifted out of slums, out of which, India accounts accounted for 30 per cent. I hope the proactive measures being taken will mitigate this further and enable us to move towards a Slum Free India,” the President said. Vishakhapatnam, Ahmedabad and Durg received the awards for best cities under Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) and Interest Subsidy Scheme for Housing the Urban Poor (IHSDP) amongst Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Large States and Union Territories, Sonamura in Tripura and Jiribam in Manipur received awards for being the Best Cities in implementation of IHSDP for ULBs in Small & Special Category States and Union Territories. Thiruvananthapuram and Thane jointly shared awards for Best Community Mobilisation efforts under the BSUP and the IHSDP. Thiruvananthapuram City was also adjudged the Best City for use of Cost Effective Building Technology in construction of houses under the JNNURM. (The Hindu 22/1/14)

 

34. Poverty Drives Man to Kill 3-year-old Son (21)

HYDERABAD: A three-year-old boy, who was suffering from kidney-related ailments, was killed by his father who threw the boy into a water tank. The incident took place at Thattiananaram locality in Hayatnagar police limits on Wednesday. According to police, the father resorted to such an extreme step as he could not provide for the expensive medical treatment of his son. The deceased was identified as A Mallesh. His parents Srisailam and Swapna are daily wage labourer of Hayatnagar. Police said Srisailam took his son to a nearby hospital for treatment where he was informed that Mallesh was suffering from kidney-related ailments and required immediate treatment. “Unable to pay for the treatment, Srisailam has decided to kill his son and accordingly drowned Mallesh into a water tank located on their house premises. The neighbours who noticed that the child was missing, suspected foul play and conducted searches in and around the house. They found the boy’s body floating in the water tank,” police added. Later they alerted the police who recovered the body and shifted it to mortuary for post-mortem. During interrogation, Srisailam confessed to killing his son. Police registered a murder case and arrested him. A DCM van carrying cigarette bundles caught fire and damaged `58 lakh- worth products. (New Indian Express 23/1/14)

 

35. AMC’s poverty list has bogus members: PIL (21)

AHMEDABAD: A PIL was filed in the Gujarat high court on Friday pointing at anomalies in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s list of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Through the litigation, petitioner NGO Ambedkar Karvan has demanded cancellation of the present BPL list, which was prepared by the civic body in 2008. It has also urged the court to direct the authorities to prepare a fresh list by taking into consideration various socio-economic aspects. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation ( AMC) got ready 2,43,038 white BPL cards, but 78,039 of these have remained undelivered till date. This showed that the data gathered for making the list was not authentic, and there were various bogus cards in existence, the petitioner said. Citing information obtained under RTI laws, the PIL contended that many well-to-do families found place in the BPL list, while many poor families were excluded. While widows with non-male earning member families do not figure in the list, there was a place for families that own four wheelers. “The list prepared six years ago is faulty, incomplete and unrealistic. Proper identification of urban poor is necessary to target real beneficiary for the purpose of alleviation through different development and employment programmes,” the petitioner said. The PIL questioned the criteria of monthly income of Rs 501.14 per person for inclusion in list and termed it absurd. It said AMC’s list was not dynamic in nature, and it required regular exclusion and inclusion. It demands formation of an expert panel to supervise preparation of the draft BPL list. The HC sought to know from petitioner about laws and rules under which list was prepared. Further hearing is next week. (Times of India 25/1/14)

 

RESERVATION

36. SC declines to review reservation policy (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday left it to the Union government to decide if there should be reservations for lower caste candidates to faculty positions in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and other institutes, which offer speciality and super-speciality courses. However, the court said its door will be open to examine the matter, if and when the government takes a decision on it. A five-judge bench presided over by Justice H L Dattu disposed of a review petition filed by the Centre challenging a July 18 decision of the court. A five-judge constitutional bench led by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir had endorsed the views expressed in 1992 by a nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney versus Union of India case, popularly known as the Mandal case, and said there had to be certain scenarios where merit alone would count for selecting candidates. The verdict emphasised that “the very concept of reservation implies mediocrity”. The Centre questioned the recent decision by arguing that it went against the Mandal judgment, which did not prohibit reservation to posts in any particular service. Additional Solicitor General L N Rao tried to convince the bench of the Centre’s stand. The court, however, said the judgment made clear that the government had to follow the ruling in the Indra Sawhney case. “That’s all and nothing more than that,” said the court, further explaining that “we have not added a word other than what has been said in the Indra Sawhney judgment.” “It is open for the Central government to take a decision whether there can be a reservation in speciality and super speciality posts,” said the bench, which also comprised justices S S Nijjar, Ranjan Gogoi, M Y Eqbal and Vikramajit Sen. The Centre wanted a review of the verdict and cited the ruling of the nine-judge bench, which had held that reservation in promotions was not permissible, but reservation in direct recruitment was permissible at every level. (Deccan Herald 16/1/14)

 

37. Rahul bats for Women’s Reservation Bill (25)

BHOPAL: Batting for early passage of Women’s Reservation Bill, Rahul Gandhi on Monday vowed to work for larger representation to them in Parliament, government and Congress and noted that the party and the country cannot ignore the views of half of the population. Interacting with women from across the country as part of Congress’ exercise of seeking direct inputs from stakeholders for its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto, Gandhi said he wanted “maximum possible” women in leadership positions and on a personal note added that even in Gandhi household, “Grandmother ( Indira Gandhi) was the boss … “”Empowering women is a big battle that we have to fight and win,” he said and expressed confidence that not only the Women Reservation Bill that seeks to provide 33 per cent quota to them in legislatures will be passed but in next five to ten years, nearly half of Congress ministers will be women. “Every woman is an asset for the country … India can not become a superpower without the empowerment of 50 per cent population of women … We have to bring your views in our manifesto,” Gandhi said during the interaction as the women put forth their views frankly to the Congress Vice President, at times critical and demanding specific solutions. Among the women present were sex workers, Anganwadi workers, besides members of Gulabi Gang, a group of women vigilantes and activists originally from Bundelkhand. “Women Reservation Bill is in Parliament. I assure that we will not let it go … We have to do this 33 percent reservation women in Parliament and Assemblies. Political parties also have a responsibility. “My thinking is that there should maximum possible number of women in leadership positions. I want that among the ministers of Congress that you see now, there should be 50 percent women in next five to ten years,” Gandhi said. He said that there is a need to be aggressive and get going to ensure that women are empowered. In his interaction laced with anecdotes, Gandhi also said, “I want to tell you my perspective … In my house, there was papa (Rajiv Gandhi), there was uncle (Sanjay Gandhi) but the boss of the house was my grandmother. There was no doubt about that that. Grandma was the boss,” he said with a chuckle. Noting that there is no difference betwen the capacity of a man and a woman, he sad, “Women do not need any protection. If you give them their rights, they can protect themselves.” “Unless the bill was passed it will not be possible to empower women in all spheres,” Gandhi, who is leading the Lok Sabha polls campaign for Congress, said. The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha but not in the Lok Sabha and ensuring its passage before the elections is said to be on the priority list of Sonia Gandhi. The bill is facing opposition from Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and from some section of the Congress. Rahul said it was sad that even today women were subjected to all kinds of violence in the country. Narrating an incident during a visit to his parliamentary seat Amethi, he said that he saw a man was dragging a woman by her hair because she had not cooked food. (Times of India 20/1/14)

 

38. Jat reservation: NCBC to conduct public hearing in nine states (25)

Reservation for Jats in Central Government jobs has moved a step forward with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) deciding to conduct public hearing in nine States before arriving at a conclusion. This move by the commission comes a month after the government asked it to take an early decision on providing reservation for the community in central government jobs. It is widely believed that inclusion of Jat community members in the central list of OBCs would benefit the Congress electorally, at a time when general elections are round the corner. “We have written to the Governments in nine States on public hearing. The Chairman and other members of the Commission would be present in the hearing, which is meant to elicit the views of the general public,” said NCBC sources. An approximate number of nine crore Jats are living in nine States such as Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar. Besides, the Commission has also asked the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to conduct a study on the status of Jats, for which, it has provided the required materials. ICSSR is expected to return to the backward classes commission with its report in the next two weeks, sources said. “Meanwhile, the commission would also prepare the report based on the public hearing. Both the reports would be collaborated and sent to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment before February end,” the sources added. Thereafter, the ministry would in turn place the report in the Union Cabinet, an official said. (CNN IBN 21/1/14)

 

39. Notification enhancing OBC quota issued (25)

PANAJI: Goa government on Thursday issued a notification enhancing reservation for other backward classes (OBC) from 19.5% to 27%.The reservation will be applicable for direct recruitment to services under state government and state undertakings and for admission in the government/government-aided educational institutions. The reservation will not be applicable to the persons falling within “creamy layer” limit notified by the government from time to time, the notification said. The notification will come into force with immediate effect from the date of publication in the official gazette, director of social welfare Meena Naik Goltekar said. (Times of India 24/1/14)

 

40. Nitish on overdrive in Bihar to counter Modi appeal (25)

Patna: As the latest mood of the nation surveys paint a grim picture of his party, the JD(U)’s electoral prospects in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar has rushed to cover his flanks. He has gone on an overdrive to consolidate his hold on the extremely backward classes (EBCs), a grouping of about 100 castes that constitute over 27% of Bihar’s population. Addressing a function held here on Friday to mark the birth anniversary of former Bihar chief minister and EBC icon Karpoori Thakur, Kumar demanded the implementation at the national level of the ‘Bihar formula’ of reservation. He also told his audience that two of the three Rajya Sabha poll nominees selected by the JD(U) — subsequently identified as Karpoori’s son Ramnath Thakur and Shagufta Parveen, were from the EBC category. The announcements and Kumar’s renewed thrust to woo the EBCs, acquired its immediate significance from BJP’s bid to project its prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi as an EBC leader, who once served as a tea vendor. The ‘Bihar reservation formula’, which has its genesis in one put in place by Karpoori, as chief minister, 1978, is significant in that it provides for separate categories of reservation for OBCs and EBCs, giving the latter a distinct identity of their own. In the original scheme, the EBC quota was fixed as 12% to 8% of OBCs (other backward classes). After Jharkhand separated from Bihar in November 2000, the EBC quota in Bihar was raised to 18% and OBCs’ to 13%.Nitish has argued to give EBCs a separate identity in job reservation at the national level, be it within the OBC pie or without it. This makes for power pitch with potential to pay dividends in states other than Bihar, as well.As the latest mood of the nation surveys paint a grim picture of his party, the JD(U)’s electoral prospects in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar has rushed to cover his flanks. He also told his audience that two of the three Rajya Sabha poll nominees selected by the JD(U) — subsequently identified as Karpoori’s son Ramnath Thakur and Shagufta Parveen, were from the EBC category. The announcements and Kumar’s renewed thrust to woo the EBCs, acquired its immediate significance from BJP’s bid to project its prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi as an EBC leader, who once served as a tea vendor. The ‘Bihar reservation formula’, which has its genesis in one put in place by Karpoori, as chief minister, 1978, is significant in that it provides for separate categories of reservation for OBCs and EBCs, giving the latter a distinct identity of their own. In the original scheme, the EBC quota was fixed as 12% to 8% of OBCs (other backward classes). After Jharkhand separated from Bihar in November 2000, the EBC quota in Bihar was raised to 18% and OBCs’ to 13%.Nitish has argued to give EBCs a separate identity in job reservation at the national level, be it within the OBC pie or without it. This makes for power pitch with potential to pay dividends in states other than Bihar, as well. (Hindustan Times 27/1/14)