Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Posted by admin at 24 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. Kochi: RTI activists sore over court verdict (1)

The recent Supreme Court ruling that cooperative societies need not provide information under the Right to Information Act is a real setback to the right to information movement and the government should soon file a review petition, RTI activists have said. According to them, the Right to Information Act ensured transparency in the functioning of public bodies such as cooperative societies and their accountability. The Supreme Court judgment went against these principles, they alleged. In fact, the apex court verdict came on appeals filed by various cooperative societies against a Kerala High Court full court judgment. The High Court, while upholding a directive by the Cooperative Society Registrar to appoint information officers in all the cooperative societies, had held that co-operative societies registered under the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act are “public authorities” within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. However, the Supreme Court found that cooperatives societies which had not been substantially financed by the government could not be termed as a public authority, and therefore, the societies are not liable to provide information under the RTI Act. The Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan held that schemes of the State government provided generally for the betterment and welfare of the cooperative sector, and assistance from NABARD could not be termed as substantial finance by the State government to bring the societies within the fold of “public authority. The bench also pointed out that the government did not also have a substantial control over the societies. The control by the government was merely supervisory or regulatory. Powers exercised by the Registrar, cooperative societies and others under the Act “are only regulatory or supervisory in nature”. D.B.Binu, an RTI activist said that the Act which enabled the citizen to secure access to information under the control of public authorities would promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. Mr. Binu said that as rightly pointed out by the High Court, applicability of the Act to societies would achieve complete transparency in the affairs of the societies and prevent mismanagement of public funds. Aby George, another RTI activist, said that the Supreme Court verdict was against the sprit of the RTI Act. The government should soon file a review petition in the Supreme Court. According to RTI activists, a cooperative society is constituted with members’ funds, mainly as subscription towards share capital and even deposits from the public are accepted by the societies engaged in banking business. Absolute transparency about the affairs of the societies was the fundamental requirement for societies to run in compliance with the statutory provisions, they said. (The Hindu 18/10/13)

 

2. ‘With RTI, government employees are now public servants’ (1)

If you want to test the effectiveness of a transparency law on good governance, Sweden might be the best place to look. The country was the first to enact a freedom of information law, and now has one of the most transparent administrations in the world, said activist Bhaskar Prabhu, who conducted a series of workshops on India’s landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act, organized by the Times of India on Friday. The origins of the RTI Act in India do not lie in the country’s bureaucracy or political classes, but in a people’s movement in Rajasthan, where a daily wage labourer asked for records of his salary, said Prabhu, who took his audience through the slideshow on the importance of RTI, as well as the nitty-gritty of using the transparency legislation. Can all information on governments be accessed through the RTI Act? Are there exceptions to the rule? What sort of information does RTI provide access to? And how can the information be accessed? These are some of the questions that Prabhu tackled in his workshop, which aimed at fostering participatory democracy. “For those who are below the poverty line, no fee is charged for the information,” said Prabhu, who spoke of how people who could not read or write could access information on the basis of oral requests, too. He also pointed to a clause in the law that makes it mandatory for public bodies to disclose information about themselves on the internet, including their budgets and the facilities they provide to citizens. The workshop aimed at helping citizens understand the manner in which information could be sought, and the most effective way of making use of the Act. In addition to recent information, RTI can also be used to access 20-year-old government files, said Prabhu. “Thanks to the Right to Information Act, government employees are no longer government servants but public servants,” said Prabhu. “The workshop has given us a basic knowledge of the Right to Information Act. I now know how to go about understanding the Act. I did not attend the workshop because I have a personal problem but because I had heard a lot about the RTI Act and wanted to learn more about the law,” said Vivek Saraf, one of the participants at the workshop. Many of the participants expected to solve their personal problems through the RTI Act, in the hope that access to information would help them fight the battles in their backyard. Some spoke of neighbours stealing their water pipes while others wanted to know how they could hold their housing societies accountable for not conducting annual general meetings for decades. Among the participants was a retired public sector official, who had earlier been involved in replying to RTI queries. He is now inspired to file some of his own.  (Times of India 19/10/13

 

3. No information on online RTI application: Army (1)

New Delhi: Army has refused to provide responses on RTI applications received through recently introduced government website that enables citizens to file them online, saying it is a security threat. “We will provide information on RTI application only after receiving signed copy of the application…We have taken up issue with the DoPT,” Army Central Public Information Officer Col Prashant Saxena said. Saxena was replying to a query on an RTI application seeking details on controversial Technical Services Division through the recently introduced government portal — rtionline.gov.in. The RTI applicant had sought details from the Defence Ministry, which had transferred the application to the Army. Saxena refused to supply information till a signed copy is received along with personal ID of the applicant which negates the website’s purpose of a hassle free processing of application, reducing paper work and increasing efficiency. The government website rtionline.Gov.In allows citizens to file their RTI applications online. Since the payments are made by the applicant through Internet banking, credit card and debit card, it has a database of the person making a request. This also helps in checking the genuineness of the applicant and avoid impersonation. The web site also allows RTI applicant to have password secured account where they can see replies and also get them on their email accounts so that no third person receives the information. The Army, however, does not agree with this system saying it is a security issue as any one can make an email-id and seek information. It wants applicant to attach a personal ID card as well as signed copy of the application. Anyone can make an email id and seek information. We need a signed copy of the RTI application so that persons identity can be established. It is a requirement under law, Saxena said when asked why Army needs a signed copy through postal mail when government in a considered decision has allowed citizens to file RTI applications through website. When asked how would Army confirm the genuineness of a person who signs an RTI application as anybody can purchase a postal order and send it, Saxena had no answers. The Army had recently denied information on killing of soldiers on LoC, a record which is already in public domain through statements made by Defence Ministry in Parliament. (Zee News 22/10/13)

 

4. RTI activist had to pay with his life for unearthing racket (1)

JAIPUR: It’s a typical tale of the dishonest and criminal sarpanch murdering an honest, hardworking and poor villager for standing up against his corrupt ways. At least, that is what has been the findings of a team from the Suchna Ka Adhikar Manch that went to the Jaisla village in Phalodi to investigating the murder of RTI activists Sambhu Ram Bishnoi. Thirty two year old Sambhu Singh Bishnoi was murdered on October 7 by the sarpanch of Jaisla Soda Ram Bishnoi and his men. Sambhu Ram’s death is the first death of a RTI activists in the state. According to the report of the fact finding team, Sambhu Ram was from a BPL family and used to eek out a living by working in the fields during the rains and as a labourers at other times. He is survived by four minor children and a wife. His seven sisters and four brothers live in two other houses in the village. Over the past three years Sambhu Ram along with his friends Budharam, Parsaram and Punaram had exposed the corrupt practices of the sarpanch in the village with documents got under the RTI Act. These included work done in the village under MGNREGA and Swajal Dhara Yojna. He had dug out corruption worth lakhs and informed the anti-corruption bureau, cases for which are currently pending. Sambhu had also found out that Sodaram had filed a false affidavit during the sarpanch elections and the case is currently at the high court,” the report says. Angered at this, Sodaram, who has 13 cases included those under Sections 302 and 307 of the IPC pending against him, used to threaten him on and off but in vain. On that fateful evening Sambhuram was on his way home after having got his Aadhar card made when he was kidnapped and taken to a deserted house about 200 yards from the panchayat bhavan. There he was beaten with sticks and rods till he was dead,” the report adds. On hearing Sambhuram’s screams when Punaram and Jagdish rushed towards the house from the panchayat bhavan and witnessed Sodaram and his family members beating him and then fleeing. The Manch has demanded a compensation for Sambhuram’s family and free education for his children. They have also asked for a job for his widow and the immediate arrest of the culprits. Other demands include the arrest of the culprits of two other RTI activists Manglaram and Ghuraram who were too attacked, special protection for RTI activists and the disposal of cases filed in such attacks in three months time. (Times of India 23/10/13)

 

POLICE/CUSTODIAL DEATH/ ARMY/AFSPA

5. Violation of human rights by police alleged (1)

IZIANAGARAM: Ms. Malleswari told correspondents on Wednesday that the police arrested her son Anudeep along with four others when he was carrying “ghatam” (holy water in an earthen pot) at Kanyakaparameswari temple to Sri Pydithalli Ammavaru temple here on Tuesday night. She found him locked-up at I-Town police station on Wednesday morning. “My son’s marriage is due on November 9.Who will marry him now.” Police reportedly told Ms. Malleswari that they registered a case, based on video footage of electronic media, against Anudeep for indulging in arson and attack on Minister Botcha Satyanarayana’s properties. “It was a mob fury. But police singled out my son because I am a supporter of Telugu Desam Party.” She also blamed the media for providing clues to the police and arrests of innocent. Her statement substantiated the argument of P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, MLA, who had recently visited I and II Town police stations and heard woes of the arrested. More than 15 youths were huddled in small prison cells. He described the police excesses as a violation of human rights. He pointed out the incident at Jonnagudi, a slum, where some people came out of their huts during curfew period for fresh air. The police fired teargas shells to disperse them. The shell fell in front of a hut. The smoke that engulfed the slum affected a six-month-old baby. The baby was admitted to the government hospital for treatment. Curfew is unheard of by people in this town. Hence, people have no knowledge about it. Further, over 60 per cent of people are daily wage earners. They eke out living by doing odd jobs and live in single room dingy huts or tiled houses in narrow lanes. They are forced to come out for potable water or to call on nature or for fresh air. The unexpected curfew without any letup for four days had turned their lives miserable. Now, with the night curfew in force from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and Section 144 CrPC in the mornings, people are unable to come out with families to offer vows (mrokkulu) prior to the famous annual Sirimanotsavam of the village goddess, Sri Pydithalli Ammavaru, scheduled on October 22. Tholellu is on October 21. A week before the utsav, Puliveshalu, karra saamu, koya dance, among other folk art forms that are a common sight are missing. (The Hindu 17/10/13)

 

6. Abetment to suicide case: 3 cops get 5-year jail (1)

AMBALA: The district court on Saturday sentenced four persons, including three policemen, among them two ASIs of Haryana police, to five-year imprisonment in an abetment to suicide case. The court of additional sessions judge Amarjit Singh pronounced the judgment. Hailing from Bihar, Rajesh Pandey had committed suicide by consuming some poisonous substance in August 2007, leaving behind a suicide note wherein he alleged that policemen registered a false case against him. His body was found in bushes near the civil hospital and a suicide note was recovered from the spot. ASIs Om Pal, Ganga Bishan, and head constable Jitender Rana was held guilty by the court in the matter who court sentenced imprisonment today. Apart from the policemen, a Dinesh, resident of Boh(Ambala) has also been sentenced the 5-year imprisonment by the court. According to the case history, Dinesh had a quarrel with Rajesh Pandey after which he threatened the latter to implicate him in a false case, claiming that head constable Jitender Rana was his relative. As per the FIR, Dinesh provoked Jitender to book Rajesh in a false case. Unable to bear the torture, Rajesh committed suicide and named Jitneder Rana and Dinesh in the suicide note. During investigation it was found that the inquiry in the false case was completed by the two ASIs, who were also included as accused in the case. (Times of India 20/10/13)

 

7. Human rights activists seek review of Ordinance on police reforms (1)

CHENNAI: Launching a campaign against the Ordinance on police reforms, human rights activists representing various organisations, advocates and members of civil society on Sunday called for a public debate on the issue and urged Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to refer the Ordinance to a select committee. At a round table discussion here on Tamil Nadu Police Ordinance, 2013, speakers representing the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Human Rights Foundation, People’s Watch and Campaign for Custodial Justice, Abolition of Torture and others said the Ordinance dated September 11, 2013 would in no way further the cause of reform as it was introduced only to fulfil the State’s obligations to comply with the Supreme Court order. They said a new police law to govern future policing was significant. But, considering the fact that the functioning of police had a direct impact on the protection of fundamental rights and freedom of people, it was imperative that such a law be passed after wide public consultation. When the Ordinance is introduced in the Assembly as a Bill, it should be referred for review. Pointing out that the State government showed no hurry to introduce the much needed police reform in the last seven years (since the Apex Court’s directives), the forum sought to know the urgency or special circumstances which merited the passing of the reforms in the form of an Ordinance. The power to make an Ordinance was a rare and unique authority under Constitution essentially to meet urgent situations. Henri Tiphagne of People’s Watch said the composition of the State Security Commission should be suitably amended to meet all the requirements of the court’s directive. The present composition of the Commission comprised the Minister in-charge of the Home Department (the Chief Minister), Leader of the Opposition, Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Director-General of Police and the Chairpersons of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commissione, Tamil Nadu Women’s Commission, Tamil Nadu Minorities’ Commission and State Human Rights Commission. This model of composition was not in accordance with any of the three models of composition suggested by the court. Laying emphasis on in-depth changes in the Ordinance, Mr. Henri urged the Chief Minister to refer the mater to a committee of experts for revamp through wider consultations and public debate. “We have decided to send a representation to Ms. Jayalalithaa in this regard. An all-party demonstration in all district headquarters has been planned to demand the review of Police Ordinance, 2013. A campaign in the social media is also being launched,” he said. Ossie Fernandes, Director of Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation, said the Ordinance lacked vision and needed to be redrafted keeping in mind the spirit and objectivity of the court’s directives. Former Chennai Police Commissioner G. Nanchil Kumaran also spoke.  (The Hindu 21/10/13)

 

8. Now file complaints against police (1)

BANGALORE: If you were cribbing that there is no one to bell the police cat, there is hope finally. Victims of police brutality can now lodge a complaint for any grievances like misconduct, arrest or detention without due process of law, custodial death and abuse of power to the newly formed Karnataka Police Complaints Authority (KPCA). “We have received 13 complaints from victims of police brutality. We have started verifying the authenticity of such complaints before proceeding,” said Justice MP Chinnappa, former judge of the high court, who is chairperson of KPCA. The other members are IGP (grievances and human rights) Alok Kumar, retired IAS officer Abhay Prakash and IPS officer Malini Krishnamurthy. “We are in the process of identifying a member from the civil society,” Justice Chinappa said. Any citizen can file a complaint with KPCA by post or at its office (room No 36/37) in Vikasa Soudha. KPCA will come out with its email ID. The Supreme Court in 2006 had directed all states to establish KPCA in all states. But the Karnataka government acted on it three years later by appointing RJ Babu, retired judge of the high court, as its chairperson on September 7, 2009. But the KPCA did not become functional because of legal and technical reasons. To remove such hurdles, the government in June 2012 issued an ordinance amending the Karnataka Police Act, thus incorporating the provision for constitution of the KPCA, and in August 2012, the ordinance was replaced with an act, Section 20 (C) of which deals with detailed provision for setting up of PCA and DPCAs. “Our job is not only to inquire into complaints of serious misconduct against police personnel received from a victim but also those by the state and national human rights commission. If the officers are found to be guilty we will communicate the findings to the police commissioner or the district superintendent of police with a recommendation to register an FIR and initiate departmental action,” Justice Chinnappa said. No cops here please: I hope the new authority will be result-oriented to gain the confidence of common man. But I don’t understand why two police officers are part of the committee. It should be free of officers in khakhi if it is to provide justice to common man., said Maj-Gen (Retd) K R Prasad, Janagraha. (Times of India 22/10/13)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

9. MP scribe dies after consuming poison, Cong seeks CBI probe (1)

Bhopal: Opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh today demanded a CBI probe into the death of a local journalist who committed suicide after allegedly being threatened by certain officials against whom he had filed a PIL in the High Court for forging caste certificates. “The Congress demands CBI probe into the suicide of Rajendra Kumar as he had taken the extreme step before the room of the State Chief Secretary yesterday,” the state unit Congress vice president Rameshwar Neekhra told reporters. 39-year-old Kumar, who used to run a weekly newspaper, had consumed poison yesterday while demanding action against alleged corruption in the state government. Kumar was admitted to Hamidia hospital where he died late night, police said. Neekhra said that Kumar came to know through RTI that nearly 300 officials who did not belong to the SC category had used fake certificates to get jobs, and was receiving death threats from them. Kumar who had filed a PIL in the high court on the issue was being pressurised to withdraw it, he said. “Since the entire state is being run from Mantralaya and Kumar taking the extreme step in front of the CS’ office, it’s a matter of concern as it is associated with the security of the Secretariat and reflects poorly on government’s sensitivity,” Neekhra added. He demanded that the Election Commission should also take cognisance of the matter since state is bound by Model Code of Conduct and also initiate steps to terminate services of the employees Kumar mentioned in his plea. The Leader of Opposition in MP Assembly, Ajay Singh has charged the state government of being insensitive towards such issues. In a statement, Ajay said the manner in which Kumar died exposed the BJP government in the state and demanded action against those found guilty. He also demanded that one member of Kumar’s family be given a government job. (Zee News 16/10/13)

 

10. Asaram Bapu wants media to be restrained, SC says no (1)

NEW DELHI: Arrested spiritual leader Asaram Bapu on Monday requested the Supreme Court to order the electronic media to tone down their coverage of alleged sexual assault cases against him, saying the TV channels’ “media trial” had already convicted him even as the police is yet to file a charge-sheet. Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Asaram Bapu, referred to the apex court’s judgment cautioning the media against holding trial through irresponsible reporting and requested a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi to protect his client’s right to be presumed innocent till a court scrutinized the charges and came to a conclusion after holding trial. Singh said Asaram had 400 ‘ashrams’ all over the country with more than 7 crore followers and the TV channels were blatantly breaching the ‘laxman rekha’ laid down by the apex court to project him as guilty of the alleged offences even when the police had not come across enough evidence to file a charge-sheet. The bench said, “For the present, we are not inclined to restrain the media. We will observe it for some more time and we will give you permission to approach the court again if the situation persists. We hope and trust media will follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines.” On September 12 last year, the apex court had abstained from laying down guidelines on coverage of criminal trials but had evolved a new constitutional doctrine empowering the higher judiciary to direct print and electronic media to defer reporting of trial court hearings for a short period if an accused proved that earlier news reports had harmed his right to fair trial or interfered with administration of justice. Though a five-judge constitution bench said it evolved the Doctrine of Postponement to balance the right of an accused to be presumed innocent till completion of trial with the media’s right to freedom of expression, it linked the doctrine to many complex caveats, making it very difficult for an aggrieved accused to convince a high court or the Supreme Court to order postponement of reporting of trial proceedings. The five-judge bench had said constitutional courts, high courts and the Supreme Court, should not direct postponement of reporting without first exploring alternative measures like change of venue of trial or postponement of trial proceedings to secure fair trial. The apex court had said constitutional courts could temporarily prohibit statements in the media if they had the potential to prejudice or obstruct or interfere with the administration of justice in a given case pending in the Supreme Court or a high court or even in the lower courts. (Times of India 22/10/13)

 

11. Journalist group condemns press freedom violations (1)

Denver: A group representing journalists from across the Americas is condemning violations of press freedoms in both Latin America and the United States. The Inter American Press Association on Tuesday cited the killings of 14 journalists as well as government acquisition of media outlets in Latin America, the secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, a new censorship law in Ecuador and advertising restrictions in Argentina as among the worst of the offenses. Members passed resolutions against them on the final day of their annual meeting in Denver. The group urged the US Congress to pass to legislation establishing a “robust” shield law that protects journalists from being forced to divulge their sources, a law that would prevent journalists from being jailed for refusing to do so. (Zee News 23/10/13)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

12. It’s a sin to be dalit in Haryana: Union minister Kumari Selja (2)

AMBALA: Dissidence in Haryana Congress came to the fore again on Thursday after Union minister Kumari Selja slammed the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government over the death of a dalit youth in police custody. “Is it a sin to be a dalit in Haryana? If dalits are not safe and the government does nothing to protect them, it is clear that it’s a sin to be a dalit in the state,” Selja said after visiting the family members of a youth who was mysteriously run over by a train while in police custody. “In recent years several incidents of atrocities on dalits were reported in Haryana. But the Hooda government made no serious efforts to protect them,” said the four-time MP and seniormost leader from the state in the Central government. The minister visited the house of a dalit youth – Ram Kumar – in Majri in Ambala city. The youth was found dead on the railway tracks on October 15, a day after he was picked up by police along with another youth. Ram Kumar’s friend, Vikram, was also allegedly tortured by police but managed to escape from custody. The handcuffed youth hid in the fields and later claimed he saw cops pushing his friend in front of a train. He is yet to record his statement before a magistrate. Selja said police included provisions under the SC/ST Act in the FIR on the youth’s death only after her intervention. Two assistant sub-inspectors and a head constable were arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the custodial death of the youth. Only a few days ago, Selja had accused a section of the state party leadership of trying to intimidate her. Her comments came after an unidentified youth flung a rock through the window of a train she had flagged off from her constituency, Ambala. Ambala City MLA, Vinod Sharma, attended the youth’s funeral on Thursday and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the victim’s family. (Times of India 18/10/13)

 

13. Dalits suffer social boycott in Maharashtra village (2)

Buldhana (Maharashtra): Suman Tayde, a resident of Yerkad village in Buldhana district of Maharashtra, is growing anxious as her 14-month-old granddaughter Dipti has not had any milk since October 12. It is not that the village has run out of supplies. Dalits of the village have been facing a social boycott and have not been allowed to buy anything from shops. They have even been denied access to the flour mill. On Monday last, Suman went to Balaji Kunte, a caste Hindu, and requested him to spare some milk for Dipti. Balaji Kunte’s wife told her, “If we give you milk, our caste people would punish us with social boycott.” “We are living on rice. Now they [caste Hindus] are threatening us that the road leading to our locality would be blocked,” says Tulsabai Telgote, Suman’s neighbour. “Afraid, our girls have not stepped out of the house since October 12.” The recent tensions in Yerkad can be traced to the January 26 incident when some caste Hindus did not allow B.R. Ambedkar’s photo to be put up alongside photos of other leaders during the Republic Day ceremony. “We were silent then but on the day of Maha Shivratri in May this year, they [caste Hindus] uprooted a Panchashil [the Buddhist flag] and replaced it with a saffron flag,” claims Jagdish Bhandare. Since the Maha Shivratri incident, no Dalit labourer has been allowed to work in caste Hindus’ farms, claim members of the community. On October 12, tensions escalated after a dispute led to caste Hindus allegedly attacking Dalits. The Dalits claim the caste Hindus resorted to verbal abuse of Dalit women, stoned the Ambedkar statue and filed “false complaints of theft” leading to the arrest of 15 Dalits. Uttam Wankhede said that on October 12 when Dalit women were offering prayers near the Ambedkar statue to the Bodhivruksha tree before leaving for Nagpur to attend the Dhammachakra Pravartan Din ceremony at Deeksha Bhoomi [celebrations of Dalits converting to Buddhism on October 14, 1956, under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar]. Some caste Hindus came and passed on vulgar remarks relating to their worship of Dr. Ambedkar, she alleged. “Suddenly, they attacked us. Within five minutes, the village sarpanch, Amol Sathe, came with other caste Hindus and started beating us,” claimed Meera Wankhede, who received severe injuries on her hand. Police reached the spot within 10 minutes but according to the Dalits of Yerkad, they lathicharged Dalits instead of trying to stop the caste Hindus. “Police even arrested 15 Dalit men on false charges of stealing a goddess’ ornaments from a temple near the Ambedkar statue. They did not register our complaints,” alleged Jagdish Bhandare. “After the Maha Shivratri incident, no autorickshaw would agree to take us to our school. We had to walk for more than three km to our school in Undri village,” said Shivani, a standard eight student. “Some of them [caste Hindus] wrote abusive words about us and Baba Saheb on the road leading to our school.” However, caste Hindus and the police denied all these allegations. Inspector Santosh Tale said there was no “boycott” of Dalits . “There was a small incident and some political elements are trying to take advantage of the situation. We have arrested 15 people from the Dalit locality and 10 people from the caste Hindu locality for rioting over the October 12 incident,” Mr. Tale told The Hindu . Buldhana district’s Superintendent of Police Shamrao Dihgavkar said the situation in the village was peaceful after a “small incident”. “Ours is a peaceful village. It was a small incident but some political elements are trying to disrupt the peace here,” said Mangesh Sathe, brother of sarpanch Amol Sathe, a caste Hindu. Mr. Amol Sathe, who represents the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was on Monday arrested under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. He has since been released but prohibited from entering the village, said the SP. Some Dalits have voiced their anxiety in continuing to stay in the village. “Give us an alternative piece of land and we will shift out of this place. Otherwise, someday, they [caste Hindus] will kill some of us,” Sindhu Tayade, a Dalit woman who was injured during the October 12 attack, told the deputy collector who came to take stock of the situation. (The Hindu 20/10/13)

 

14. ‘Nothing wrong in dalits conversion’ (2)

GANDHINAGAR: Nothing objectionable has been found till now by administration in the probe into the incident pertaining to a large number of people, mainly dalits, embracing Buddhism on October 13 in Dungarpur village on the outskirts of Junagadh city. Sources said the local administration that had initiated a probe into the event has complete videography of the event. “It has come to light that the people had gathered at the spot to listen to the preaching of Buddhism. It is their democratic right to do so. The local administration is probing the matter but nothing wrong has emerged till now,” an official in the state secretariat said. Officials said a dalit embracing Buddhism continues to get the social benefits that are meant for Scheduled Castes. A considerably large number of people had embraced Buddhism in the presence of monks at the event called ‘Chalo Buddh Ki Ore’, that was reportedly organized by Buddha Diksha Mahotsav Samiti. Officials maintained that the state government is doing its best to tackle caste-based discrimination. “We have a record of charge sheeting in 98 per cent of cases of atrocities that are investigated. We have vigilance committees at taluka and district levels that keep an eye on instances of caste based discrimination. In addition to social welfare officers, we have also appointed vigilance officers to tackle the practice of caste-based discrimination,” an official said. He further said the state government pays Rs 100 per day apart from transportation cost of victims and witnesses who come for hearings in cases of atrocity. “A victim can also hire a private lawyer to fight his case with a fee up to Rs 50,000, which is paid by the government,” the official added. (Times of India 22/10/13)

 

15. Caste Hindu abuses Dalit women, held (2)

THOOTHUKUDI: A caste Hindu man was arrested for allegedly abusing two dalit women and calling them by their caste name in a derogatory manner, at Vallanadu near here on Monday. Police said that Mariselvam, a dalit resident of Seidhunganallur, was running a hotel on highway at Vallanadu with the help of his wife Rajeshwari (36). On Monday, Rajeshwari and Lakshmi, a worker at the hotel, went out to attend to the call of nature when Mari, Murugan and Esakki, all caste Hindus, allegedly tried to molest them. When the women retaliated, the trio verbally abused them by calling their caste name. Soon a heated argument ensued, in the course of which Mari allegedly slapped Rajeshwari injuring her. Later, Rajeshwari lodged a complaint with Murappanadu Police station. Thoothukudi Rural DSP, Narayanan filed a case under section 294(b), 323, 506 (ii) of the IPC and section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Harassment of Women Act and arrested Mari. (new Indian Express 23/10/13)

 

16.  ‘H.P. temples still bar Dalits’ (2)

SHIMLA: Noted Himachal writer S.R. Harnot has sought an FIR to be registered against the managing committee of famous Markendeya Temple in Bilaspur for practising discrimination against the Scheduled Castes and Dalits. He said in a statement that the temple management displayed boards, banning the entry of Dalits into the temple. Markandeya is also a small village, about 20 km from Bilaspur town and has an auspicious spring of water attracting pilgrims of Char Dham. A festival is celebrated here annually on Baisakhi with a great pomp and splendour. The Markandeya temple is dedicated to Sage Markandeya who had lived and worshipped here. Mr. Harnot who has authored many books and articles against the prevalence of caste practices in the backward hill State, regretted the temple management was openly restricting the entry of lower castes in any religious shrine of the State. Calling it an offence against the downtrodden, he said the objectionable sign boards were earlier removed by the management on his intervention about two years ago. But the similar boards were under display again and the district administration was keeping quiet and maintaining a silence. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes recently received complaints of “no entry” in about 35 temples and religious shrines in Himachal Pradesh. (The Hindu 24/10/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

17. Bill to give fair treatment to HIV-affected hits roadblock (3)

New Delhi: Almost 12 years after the government first announced its plan to bring in a law to check discrimination against people suffering from HIV/AIDS, the proposed law, which is still in the works, has hit yet another roadblock. For a law that seeks to establish a humane, legal regime to support prevention, treatment and care to HIV/AIDS patients as well as preventing discrimination against anyone suffering from the same, the Union Health Ministry is opposed to any punishment clause in the proposed HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2013 to punish any employer or individual who discriminates against anybody suffering from the disease. However, the Union Law Ministry is refusing to buy the Health Ministry’s logic that any punishment clause for offences under Section 3 in Chapter II, which deals with prohibition of certain act (against those infected with HIV/AIDS), would turn the proposed law “draconian”.Sources told The Indian Express that during discussions on the subject, senior officials of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice made it clear to functionaries of the Union Health Ministry that without any penal clause that prescribes punishment for offences under the law, the purpose of enacting the law would be “completely defeated”.However, the Health Ministry officials have, so far, refused to budge, insisting that a punishment clause is not acceptable. Having failed to convince the Health Ministry, the Law Ministry has now put its objections on paper and asked the Health Ministry to let the Cabinet take a decision on the matter when it takes up the Bill for clearance. “We have held many meetings with the Health Ministry officials. But they are adamant. Our viewpoint is that unless punishment is prescribed for an offence under the proposed law, the entire purpose of the law would be defeated. (Indian Express 17/10/13)

 

18. Cycle rally to spread awareness on HIV (3)

Bokaro: The rapid increase in the number HIV positive pregnant women Jharkhand has become a matter of concern for the Governemnt. This deadly disease (AIDS) is also spreading its wings in the tribal villages of the State now, reveals a recent survey. In a bid to spread awareness about this deadly disease, a cycle rally would be organised on December 20 in Dhanbad and Bokaro districts, said SN Prasad president of an NGO namely Orange. There has been unprecedented growth in AIDS cases in Bokaro district including its outskirts since after the formation of Jharkhand. In the last few months, 22 new HIV positive patients were identified in the district including at Chas block Intergraded Council Testing Centre (ICTC), Bokaro Genaral Hospital, BTPS, CTPS and IEL hospitals, who were reffered to RIMS (Rajendra Institute of Medical Science) Ranchi, informed the hospital sources. These new HIV positive cases came into the limelight after the random blood samples were collected from more than 1,000 patients visiting at the centre, hospital sources said adding AIDS has already claimed seven lives till date.  Prasad said the maximum cases those who tested positive are of floating population of truck drivers, para-military troops, taxi drivers who occasionally visit their homes and practice unsafe sex despite being aware of the consequences. “Among these, 90 percent of HIV positive cases are due to only and only unsafe sex practice. He added that among those tested HIV positive hardly 30-35 percent are women as mostly men transmit the disease to their wives”, he added.  (Pioneer 18/10/13)

19. 25 villages bracketed as ‘most sensitive’ for HIV by NACO (3)

ALLAHABAD: A cluster of 25 villages spread across Meja, Soraon, Karchana, Handia and Phulpur blocks of the district have been identified and bracketed as ‘most sensitive’ for HIV transmission by the National Aids Control Programme (NACO). District health officials have been asked to check the status of migrants living in these villages as they are among the prime carriers of HIV in the district and organize composite health camps. District Aids Prevention and Control Unit (DAPCU) officials claim that Allahabad is among 28 districts in the state identified for composite health camps by the NACO and has the largest number of migrant labourers. The composite health check up camps would be held in these villages between Tuesday and November 14. The composite health check up would have five specific components, including normal check up and medication; HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted diseases consultation and related counseling/testing and treatment; anti-natal check up of all pregnant women; promotion of condoms-cum-exhibition; and, folk group programmes for awareness. Terming migrants as the most susceptible to and responsible for the spread of the fatal disease, nodal officer of DAPCU Dr OP Shahi said “under the directives of NACO and UPACS, efforts are afoot to identify such patients for medication and counselling.” He further said that villages prone to high risk have been placed under the scanner and a series of awareness and educational camps were being undertaken to check the menace. DAPCU has already prepared a list of migrants in these villages and ASHA workers and ANMs have been asked to encourage such migrants to attend the camp,” he added. The first composite health camp would be held at Meja on Tuesday. It would be followed by camps in Phulpur, Soraon, Karchana and Handia on October 23, November 12, November 13 and November 14 respectively. Dr Shahi said “the department will undertake an intensive drive to apprise migrant labourers of the health camp where they would be offered counselling, testing and treatment facilities.” He further said that a study on migration pattern and prevalence of HIV was already underway and added “officials are also mapping high-risk groups like female sex workers, intravenous drug users and men having sex with men (MSM) so that concrete measures could be initiated to restrict the spread of the virus.” The three categories of migrants responsible for the spread of disease are workers at brick kilns, stone cutting, mining, silica mining centres and service clusters (who migrate from one state to another for livelihood). (Times of India 22/10/13)

 

20. Breastmilk protein that may protect babies from HIV identified (3)

A new research has identified a substance present in breast milk that neutralizes HIV and may protect babies from acquiring HIV from their infected mothers. Researchers at Duke Medicine have for the first time identified the protein, called Tenascin-C or TNC, which had previously been recognized as playing a role in wound healing, but had not been known to have antimicrobial properties. The researchers describe how the TNC protein in breast milk binds to and neutralizes the HIV virus, potentially protecting exposed infants who might otherwise become infected from repeated exposures to the virus. “Even though we have antiretroviral drugs that can work to prevent mother-to-child transmission, not every pregnant woman is being tested for HIV, and less than 60 percent are receiving the prevention drugs, particularly in countries with few resources. So there is still a need for alternative strategies to prevent mother-to-child transmission, which is why this work is important,” senior author Sallie Permar, assistant professor of pediatrics, immunology and molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke said. Permar and colleagues focused on breast milk, which has long been recognized as having some protective quality that inhibits mother-to-child transmission despite multiple daily exposures over months and even years of nursing. The Duke team screened mature milk samples from uninfected women for neutralizing activity against a panel of HIV strains, confirming that all of the detectable HIV-neutralization activity was contained in the high molecular weight portion. Using a multi-step protein separation process, the researchers narrowed the detectable HIV-neutralization activity to a single protein, and identified it as TNC. Permar said that TNC is a component of the extracellular matrix that is integral to how tissues hold themselves together. This is a protein involved during wound healing, playing a role in tissue repair. It is also known to be important in fetal development, but its reason for being a component of breast milk or its antiviral properties had never been described. Permar said TNC would also appear to be inherently safe, since it is a naturally occurring component of breast milk, and it may avoid the problem of HIV resistance to antiretroviral regimens that complicate maternal/infant applications. The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Deccan Chronicle 23/10/13)

 

CORRUPTION

21. Take cognisance of verifiable corruption allegation: Government (5)

New Delhi: The Centre directed all central government departments to take cognisance of corruption complaints containing verifiable allegation on Friday. “If a complaint contains verifiable allegations, the administrative ministry or department may take cognisance of such complaint with the approval of the competent authority to be designated by the ministry or department as per their distribution of work,” the Ministry of Personnel said in a missive. In such cases, the complaint will be first sent to the complainant for owning or disowning, as the case may be. If no response is received from the complainant within 15 days of sending the complaint, a reminder will be sent. “After waiting for 15 days after sending the reminder, if still nothing is heard, the said complaint may be filed as pseudonymous by the ministry or department,” it said. The Ministry, which acts as nodal department to ensure transparency measures, also issued guidelines on handling of anonymous complaints of corruption by central government departments. No action is required to be taken on anonymous complaints, irrespective of the nature of allegations and such complaints need to be simply filed, the official order said. “Complaints containing vague allegations could also be filed without verification of identity of the complainant,” it added. The move is part of putting in place a mechanism for handling of corruption complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure Protection of Informers’ Resolution (PIDPI)- 2004 , a mechanism for handling complaints where identity of the complainant is kept secret and the complainant is provided protection. Both the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and central government departments get a huge number of anonymous and pseudonyms corruption complaints, which at most of the times contain vague contents. The PIDPI resolution encourages a whistleblower to expose act of corruption while ensuring his security. All central government ministries have already been directed to designate a nodal officer to look into complaints of corruption received from whistleblowers under PIDPI resolution. (Indian Express 18/10/13)

 

22. Water, not corruption, top poll issue in Delhi: Kejriwal’s party survey (5)

New Delhi: Corruption and women’s safety — two topics that have always topped the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) agenda — do not figure among the main five issues for voters of the national capital, the party has found in a latest survey. All along, even before it came into existence, corruption and women’s safety have been priority issues for AAP. Delhiites came out in large numbers during the nationwide campaign of India Against Corruption — out of which AAP was born — through 2011 and most of 2012. In December 2012 and January 2013, even more people hit the streets to protest the December 16 gang rape incident. AAP was key part of the protests. The AAP survey, made public on Friday, found that drinking water emerged as the top issue with 28% respondents voting for it. Cleanliness at 18% came second while bad roads scored the third place with 11%, it said. Safety of women figured at the sixth position with just 4% Delhiites worrying about it while a mere 3% people said corruption was an issue. Yogendra Yadav, AAP leader and known psephologist, along with Cicero Associates, a Delhi-based consultancy firm, carried out the survey between September 5 and October 5. The survey had 34,425 respondents from across 70 assembly constituencies. The AAP has been banking heavily on its anti-corruption agitation, calling this election as a fight between honest and corrupt people. It promised a strong Janlokpal within 15 days if voted to power. “These issues have emerged in response to our question ‘what are the local issues?’ … We had not given them any options to rate,” Yadav said. The AAP chief said: “If the people feel roads are bad, it is a major issue for them. The very fact that our vote share is increasing indicates people are looking at us with hope that we will get rid of their problems.”    The survey claimed that AAP had cut into Congress strongholds of Muslim and Dalit votes. As many as 32% Dalits are supporting AAP, more than any other party while the Muslim vote share for AAP is 26%.For a party that recently formed a Sikh cell, this community’s support stood at 27%, less than Congress’ 28% and BJP’s 36%.The party claimed that it had received 33% support from upper caste and OBC voters each. The upper castes, including baniyas (traders), are traditionally considered BJP supporters. Experts, however, downplayed both the BJP and AAP surveys. Biswajeet Das, sociologist, Jamia Millia Islamia said: “These opinion polls and surveys have no credibility. The parties want to show whatever suits them. This is only opinion build-up exercise.” Ravi Ranjan, fellow, Developing Countries Research Centre, Delhi University, agreed: “These surveys don’t address the crisis of representation. The parties that release such data are not able to understand the essence of democracy.” (Hindutan Times 19/10/13)

 

23. Saradha scam worth Rs 2,460cr; owner in control of deposits:Report (5)

New  Delhi: The alleged chit fund scam in West Bengal involving the Saradha Group revolves around a total sum of Rs 2,460 crore with 80 per cent of the depositors’ monies still remaining unpaid, a latest investigation report has revealed. The report also states that the arrested Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen was in “total control” of all deposits made by his group companies, which are under the scanner for having perpetrated the alleged fraud. Four companies of the Saradha Group, the report said, used to mobilise money through three schemes — ‘fixed  deposit’, ‘recurring deposit’ and ‘monthly income deposit’ — which lured innocent depositors with promises of either “landed property or a foreign tour” as incentive returns. A joint investigation report of West Bengal police and Enforcement Directorate (ED), in possession of PTI, stated that, “the summary report (of the group) for the years 2008-12 revealed that the four companies of Saradha Group had mobilised an amount of Rs 2,459.59 crore through issuance of their policies. “The investors were paid an amount of Rs 476.57 crore. “As of April 16, 2013, the principal amount to be paid to the investors stood at Rs 1,983.02 crore,” the report added. The statistics, prepared by the probe agencies after analysing the companies’ business sheets and recording the statements of investors, show that 80 per cent of the depositors’ money was still held up. Sleuths found that the four Saradha Group companies, namely, Saradha Realty India Ltd, Saradha Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd, Saradha Housing Pvt Ltd and Saradha Garden Resort and Hotels Pvt Ltd were in the business of mobilising money from gullible investors. “Investors were also given the option of encashing their investment after the specified period along with very high returns,” the report said. A total of 560 complaints have so far been filed with West Bengal police by duped investors, the report stated. Describing the working of the scam, which broke early this year, the classified report stated that the “investigation so far carried out revealed that Sen had floated various companies, through numerous branch offices in West Bengal as also in Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and other states to mobilise deposits from the public”. (Pioneer 20/10/13)

 

24. Irrigation scam: BJP leaders make submissions before panel (5)

Mumbai: Maharashtra BJP leaders, including state unit president Devendra Fadnavis, presented a cartload of proof while making a presentation before the Madhav Chitale panel on Monday, about alleged financial irregularities in multi-crore irrigation projects. Mr. Fadnavis and Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde met Madhav Chitale at his office in Aurangabad and handed over 14,000 pages of “evidence” brought to the venue in four bags on a bullock cart. “We demand that the Madhav Chitale committee should examine the evidence and let the truth come out. The proof submitted by us is enough. We have also sought 15 days’ time to submit more proof. The scam runs into thousands of crores. Not only officials, but ministers are also responsible,” Mr. Fadnavis said. Incidentally, the BJP had accused Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of being linked to the alleged multi-crore irrigation scam. The BJP leaders had written to Mr. Chitale asking for a date to allow the opposition to depose before it, with documents related to alleged irrigation scam. Mr. Fadnavis said he pointed out critical issues related to cost escalation and alleged ad hoc decisions to clear irrigation projects guided by political compulsions rather than ground realities. “Our chief concern is to seek action against those responsible for wrongdoing in the irrigation sector. It is a battle we have been fighting for the last few years,” he said. Following advice from Advocate General Darius Khambata and pressure from the opposition, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan recently gave directions to the Chitale panel to allow opposition leaders and individuals to make submissions on irrigation projects. However, Mr. Chavan refused to make any constitutional amendments in the structure of the four-member panel, which is expected to give its report in December. Earlier, the advocate general had promised the Bombay High Court to allow the Chitale panel to allow submissions on irrigation documents. Mr. Fadnavis had written to Mr. Chitale and Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, asking them to allow deposition by opposition leaders and individuals. (The Hindu 22/10/13)

 

25. Fourth arrest in Cricket Club of India membership scam (5)

MUMBAI: The EOW on Tuesday arrested Sandeep Jain, a member of the Cricket Club of India (CCI), in an alleged fake membership scam. Jain, who has been accused of forgery, breach of trust and cheating, is the fourth accused arrested in the case. He will be produced in court on Wednesday. Earlier, the police had arrested businessmen Ketan Thacker and Nimai Agrawal, and CCI’s IT officer Khalid Kazi. “Jain took Rs 4 lakh from 11 businessmen under the pretext of providing them membership,” said Rajwardhan Sinha, additional commissioner of police (EOW). According to the FIR, an internal inquiry by the club found that 11 people had allegedly colluded with the staff and acquired memberships by pasting their personal details on the documents of deceased members.  (Times of India 23/10/13)

 

TERRORISM

26. Three convicted for association with terror outfit KCP (12)

New Delhi: Three members of a Manipur-based banned terror outfit have been held guilty by a Delhi court for their association with the terrorist organisation and raising funds for its activities. Additional Sessions Judge Daya Prakash convicted the three terrorists of Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and sentenced them to nearly four years and nine months in jail, the period already undergone by them behind bars. The court convicted Manipur residents Chongtham Manglemajao Singh, Nagriyambam Ratan Singh and Naorem Amumacha Singh under the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act (UAPA) for the offences of raising funds for terrorist act, conspiracy, harbouring and being members of terrorist gang or organisation after they pleaded guilty in the case. The fourth accused Chongtham Ibomacha Singh was earlier discharged by the court in 2011. The offences for which the three accused were convicted entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. “I have considered the prayer of all the convicts as well as submissions made by the prosecutor. Keeping in view the economic status of all the three convicts, pleading of guilt by convicts and they are in judicial custody since January 17, 2009, my inference is that convicts deserves leniency. “Therefore, let convicts Chongtham Manglemajao Singh, Nagriyambam Ratan Singh and Naorem Amumacha Singh be sentenced for the period already undergone by them in the present case for the offences under Sections 17/18/19/20 of UAPA and set at liberty, if not required in any case,” the judge said. The four accused, including the one who was discharged earlier, were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on January 17, 2009 on an information that terrorists of KCP will assemble at a house in Govind Puri here. According to the prosecution, the raiding team of the police had reached the spot in the morning and the door was opened by accused Chongtham. (Zee News 17/10/13)

 

27. 722 suspects rejoined terror groups after acquittal in Pak (12)

Islamabad: A majority of the nearly 2,000 suspected terrorists freed by Pakistani courts since 2007 have either joined terror groups or are involved in anti-state activities, a media report said today. Of the 1,964 suspected terrorists released by the courts, 722 have rejoined terrorist groups while 1,197 are actively involved in anti-state activities, the Dawn reported. At least 12 of such acquitted terrorists have been killed – four of them in US drone attacks in the restive tribal areas and eight during the operations conducted by security forces, the paper reported quoting an official document. Though the wording of the document is vague, it appears to suggest that those being monitored are still involved in militant activities, the report said. Thirty-three of those acquitted have been re-apprehended and are currently confined to jails and internment centres under the ‘Action in Aid in Civil Power Regulations 2011′, it said. Defence analyst Air-Vice Marshall (retired) Shahzad Chaudhry said intelligence agencies do keep a check on the suspects who were release in some high-profile cases. They are monitored to make sure that after acquittal the suspects would not be involved in terrorist activities again. Sometimes when the released suspect gets involved in an anti-state activity the agencies try to apprehend and detain him in an internment centre, he said. Since there is no legal cover for the detention after acquittal, sometimes the suspect is classified as a missing person, the report said. This is not the first document that has highlighted the trend showing those acquitted returning to the activities they were suspected of at the first place. According to a security agency report submitted to the Federal Review Board (a judicial body formed by the Supreme Court to examine the detention cases of suspects), the men accused of plotting attacks on former president Pervez Musharraf, the Danish Embassy, Surgeon-General Mushtaq Baig and a military bus in Rawalpindi had re-joined the terrorist outfits after their acquittal. It has repeatedly been reported that the weak prosecution and half-baked evidence led to the acquittal of hundreds of suspects, allegedly involved in terrorist activities. If the suspects are detained over some suspicions, they are set free at the High Court level as most of the time intelligence agencies and police fail to produce credible evidence, the report said. (Deccan Herald 19/10/13)

 

28. Indian Mujahideen aiming to grow like al Qaeda: Yasin Bhatkal (12)

New Delhi: Indian Mujahideen is on an expansion spree! That is what captured IM terrorist Yasin Bhatkal – one of India’s most wanted men – has revealed to security agencies, reported a daily on Monday. Bhatkal has reportedly disclosed that the IM is aiming to expand like the al Qaeda, the world’s dreaded terror group, and maintains close contact with Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban. The IM’s main aim, as per Bhatkal, is to usher in Sharia in India. The terrorist also revealed the IM maintains contacts with Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, but has refrained from becoming its puppet unlike the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He also claimed that several IM recruits fought NATO forces in Afghanistan and were killed there.  (Zee News 21/10/13)

 

29. Five militants surrender in Manipur (12)

Imphal: Five militants of banned People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak-Progressive (PREPAK-P) have surrendered before police in Manipur. The militants identified as Santosh Bahadur (27), Sorokhaibam Ibomcha (38), Khundrakpam Ajay (24), Takhelambam Umajit (21) and Athoi Maring (24) crossed the international border on Saturday and laid down arms comprising five AK 47 rifles, 15 magazines and 375 rounds of ammunition before police commandos at the border town of Moreh, about 125 km from Imphal, the police said. The militants came to the border town from their camp at Nunglet in Upper Myanmar after developing contact with an ’intermediary’, the police said. They would be rehabilitated, the police said. Over 300 insurgents of different outfits have surrendered to law-enforcing agencies in Manipur this year. The militants have been handed over to Imphal West district police station for necessary action, the police said. (The Hindu 22/10/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

30. Three police jawans killed in Gadchiroli naxal attack (12)

GADCHIROLI: Three police commandos were killed in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists in a forest area on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border in the wee hours today. Acting on a tip-off, the anti-Naxal commando force jawans were conducting a combing operation in the Bada Zariya forest area in Dhanora taluka when the Naxals triggered a landmine blast. Three jawans of C-60 Commando Force were killed in the blast, police said, adding further details were awaited. There was also an exchange of fire after the blast, locals said. Senior police officials have rushed to the spot and the bodies are being brought to Gadchiroli, police said. This is a major attack by Maoists in the last few months after police eliminated more than 23 ultras in different operations this year.  (Times of India 18/10/13)

 

31. Naxals kill villager in AP (12)

HYDERABAD: A group of suspected Maoists allegedly shot dead a 25-year-old villager, branding him as a police informer in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh in the wee hours, police said. Madakam Kosalu was dragged out of his house in Gollaguupa village of Bhadrachalam rural mandal between 1am and 2am by around seven ultras. They pumped three bullets into Kosalu’s chest before fleeing from the spot, a police officer told PTI, adding, that the villager died on the spot. A hunt has been launched to nab the culprits and Chintoor police are carrying out further investigations. (New Indian Ezxpress 21/10/13)

 

32. Gadchiroli villagers suffer after Naxal attack on primary school (12)

Bada Jhaliya (Gadchiroli): Until Wednesday, six-year-old Rashmi Gota, a student of Standard one of the Zila Parishad school here, would go to school regularly. But now, she is worried for her school that was damaged in a blast that killed three policemen late on Wednesday night. The school provided primary education to 16 kids here. All of them are now worried because they will have to walk three km every day to a school in Gyarapatti village. Also, it is still unclear whether the school there will admit them in the middle of the year. The blast not only stopped the education of the children, but also made them victims of police atrocities. Angered over the death of their colleagues, policemen thrashed almost every one of them, claimed villager Sherkebai Dhurve. “They did not even spare women and kids,” said Jankai Achala, a young girl of the village. Now, the threat of criminal cases being lodged against the villagers for “helping” Naxals looms large. Almost every one from the village is called to the Gyarapatti police station for interrogation every day, a villager said. The Gadchiroli police have arrested five villagers for the attack and interrogation of many is on. “The school is situated right in the middle of the village. Naxals could not have planted explosives without taking villagers into confidence,” said a policeman. According to Police Sub Inspector Harshraj Adaspure of the Gyarapatti police station, someone first opened fire from a house before the blast. “The firing was a signal to trigger the blast. It was triggered by someone who was standing behind the school,” Mr. Adaspure told The Hindu. Naxals had planted “Ammonium Nitrate four months ago” beneath the school building, according to some police sources. This was triggered with the help of a remote control from the distance of “at least 100 meters” when 41 police jawans of a Special Action Group of Maharashtra police were staying in the school building on Wednesday. According to villagers, the police team came in the afternoon on Wednesday and stayed in the school building until late night. Police teams often stayed in the school building whenever they visited the village, claimed villagers. However, Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police (SP) Mohmmad Suvez Haque refused to accept or deny that there was a procedural lapse on the part of the police team. “School building was the only government building in that village. So the jawans decided to stay there. About lapses, only a detailed investigation of the incident will make things clear,” he told The Hindu. The SP also denied that there were any atrocities on the villagers. “The DIG and I spoke to the villagers on Thursday but they did not complain about police atrocities. But I have asked the Sub Divisional Police Officer to inquire into it. Our policy is clear. Atrocities against tribal people, even by our men, will not be tolerated and strict action will be taken against anyone found guilty,” he said. But District Collector of Gadchiroli Ranjeet Kumar expressed his displeasure over the police teams staying in the school building. “I will raise this issue with the police and we will try our best to reopen that school as soon as possible.” According to the police sources, a relative of Tipagarh Naxal Dalam Commander Dinakar Gota is a resident of the village and thus it is frequented by Naxals. Even the SP said that there were strong inputs regularly about Naxal presence in the Bada Jhaliya area. Naxal supporters or not, people of Bada Jhaliya appear to be at the receiving end. “We have death on either side,” rues Gelet Gota of who could evade police interrogation as he was away from the village when the blast took place.  (The Hindu 22/10/13)

 

33. 12,000 civilians, 3000 policemen killed by Naxals in three decades (12)

New Delhi: Nearly 12,000 civilians and 3,000 security personnel were killed by Naxals in the last three decades, according to the Home Ministry. The Ministry statistics said 4,638 Naxals were killed by security forces during the period. Altogether 11,742 civilians and 2,947 security personnel were killed by the Naxals in different parts of the country since 1980. The highest number of civilian casualty was reported in 2010 when the Naxals killed 720 people — mostly in nine Naxal-affected states–Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The highest number of casualty among security forces was reported in 2009 when the Maoists killed 317 policemen. The highest — 296 — Naxals were eliminated in 1998. In 1980, Naxals killed 84 civilians while 17 of the rebels were also killed that year. There was no loss of life among security personnel in 1980. In 2012, Naxals killed 300 civilians and 114 security personnel. A total of 52 Naxals were killed in encounters with security forces. In 2013, till September 30, a total of 198 civilians and 88 security personnel were killed by Naxals while 52 members of the ultra Left group were eliminated by security forces. (Zee New 23/10/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

34. Cheap migrant labour contributes to GDP: Report (14)

The Unesco report ‘Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India’, released by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday estimated that about 30% of migrants are youth aged 15-29 years and another 15 million are children. The intensity of migration is likely to increase in future in response to economic crises, political instability and global environment change, it warned. Internal migrants, especially short-term seasonal/circular migrants who move back and forth between source and destination locations, constitute a floating population, which is put at anywhere between 15 million and 100 million by different estimates. These migrants often lose social protection benefits as most benefits are linked to the place of residence, pointed out the report. According to the report, internal migrants faced discrimination as ‘outsiders’, which excluded them from access to legal rights, public services and social protection programmes accorded to residents. This is despite the migrants providing cheap labour and typically doing the most dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs that locals do not want to do. Far from being a burden on society, migrants’ cheap labour provides a subsidy and contributes to the national GDP, stated the report. Moreover, remittances from migrants lead to increased expenditure on health and education helping human capital formation. According to NSSO 2007-08, women constitute 80% of total internal migrants. “There isn’t enough data on women migrant labour because of the assumption that most women migrate because of marriage. This assumption blocks further analysis of the women migrants engaged in paid labour and an understanding of how their vulnerabilities are being compounded by contemporary economic practices and not just because of historical or cultural baggage. This leads to the “invisibilization” and undermining of women in policies too,” said Indu Agnihotri of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies. Jairam Ramesh, who provided the estimates of remittances, pointed out that migrants constitute a significant share of a state’s gross domestic product, about 10% in the case of Bihar and 3-4% in the case of Uttar Pradesh. “Portability of legal entitlements could make a huge difference to the lives of internal migrants. The UID number could be the single most important intervention which could ensure portability of legal entitlements as well as financial inclusion. Legal entitlements should not be location specific, only individual or household specific and UID number could make this possible,” said Ramesh. Financial inclusion, he said, was important also because barely 30% of the remittances currently flow through formal channels, the remaining 70% being dependent on informal channels. Rakesh Ranjan, advisor, Housing and Urban Affairs in the Planning Commission identified housing or shelter as the most urgent problem faced by migrants and added that cities needed to be prepared to ensure that there were no hurdles to the movement of labour. (Times of India 18/10/13)

 

35. Govt to rehabilitate bonded labourers: Jairam Ramesh (14)

New Delhi: Concerned over the prevalence of bonded labour in the country, the government on Friday decided to initiate massive programmes to rehabilitate and provide alternative livelihood for people living in conditions of modern-day slavery. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that initially 10 critically vulnerable districts have been taken up to rehabilitate bonded labourers through the Centre’s ambitious National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). The ten districts are Gaya in Bihar, Bastar and Kondagaon in Chattisgarh, Prakasam and Chittur in Andhra Pradesh, Kanchipuram and Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Bolangir and Bargarh in Odisha and Gumla in Jharkhand. “We are going to take up these ten districts. We will locate the bonded labourers there, get surveys done, rehabilitate them and create conditions for alternative livelihood,” Ramesh said. The main instruments on the ground to locate and rehabilitate the bonded labourers will be womens self-help groups operating under NRLM, he said. “Under NRLM umbrella through women self-help groups, we will initiate this projects in 10 districts which are considered to have a substantial population of bonded labourers,” he said. According to plan, the Minister said these groups will join hands with several NGOs on the ground and NRLM will become an institutional partner of the “Bandhua 1947 campaign” to combat bonded labour. Bandhua 1947 is a national-level campaign in India aimed at mobilising people to advocate with their governments to protect millions currently vulnerable to bonded labour and fight for their rights. Shantanu Dutta, convenor, Bandhua 1947, termed as “a game changer” the Ministry’s decision. “With partnerships and movements initiated by the government such as this one, solutions to fully eradicate bonded labour are no longer an impossibility,” Dutta said. According to the first Global Slavery Index published by an Australia-based group yesterday, about 14 million Indians are living in conditions of modern-day slavery. (Zee News 19/10/13)

 

36. 30 lakh women work as domestic help in urban India (14)

CHENNAI: The domestic workers sector is said to have grown by 222 per cent since 1999-2000 and is the largest sector of female employment in urban India, involving around 3 million women, according to a UNESCO report titled ‘Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India’. Stressing on the need to promote safe migration for women migrant workers who constitute a vulnerable group, the report said lack of education, experience and skills leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The report stated that The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector has estimated that out of four million domestic workers, 92 per cent were women, girls and children, and 20 per cent were under 14 years. The report said these figures were an  underestimation and that the number of domestic workers in the country could be much higher. The report also hit out at the Union government for the delay in clearing the draft bill ‘Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Act 2010’. “The National Commission for Women (NCW) has drafted the bill to address issues pertaining to registration of domestic workers, provision of legal protection and minimum wages and other forms of exploitation of women and children, and regulation of placement agencies. However, this proposed legislation is yet to be passed. The UNESCO report also stated that female migrants are less represented in regular jobs and more likely to be self-employed. Quoting government reports, it said, nearly 60 per cent of female migrants in rural areas were self-employed and 37 per cent were casual workers, whereas in urban areas, 43.7 per cent of women migrants were self-employed and 37 per cent were engaged in regular jobs. (New Indian Express 21/10/13)

 

37. Centre to extend flexibility under MGNREGA to Odisha (14)

BHUBANESWAR: Accepting most of the demands made by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for cyclone victims, the Centre today said it would extend similar flexibility under MGNREGA as given to calamity-ravaged Uttarakhand in July this year. “I am more than pleased to extend the same flexibility that we have given to Uttarakhand in July 2013 to Odisha which has gone through a severe calamity in the past few weeks,” Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said in a written reply to Patnaik. Ramesh’s assurance was given in a reply a few hours after the Chief Minister sent two letters to the Union Minister seeking several assistances including additional three lakh houses under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and an additional Rs 500 crore as labour budget under MGNREGA for 2013-14, official sources said. The Minister said that two specific requests made by Patnaik for use of machinery under MGNREGA and a special grant of Rs 35 crore for repair of IT infrastructure are being considered. “I will revert to you shortly,” Ramesh said. On the demand for raising the labour budget over and above Rs 1515.7 crore for 2013-14, the Union Minister said that he had been personally requesting the state government officials to come for a review of the labour budget. Stating that barring Jharkhand, no other state including Odisha has come forward for a review of the labour budget in spite of his open offer, Ramesh said “I wish to state once again that the state government can come any time for a review of the labour budget and what is considered reasonable will be agreed to. “We can consider flexibility in pre-conditions for fund release but the important thing is for the state to come for a review of the labour budget,” he said. Earlier on the day, Patnaik in two separate letters had demanded among other things allotment of at least three lakh additional houses under IAY and a package of Rs 500 crore labour budget under MGNREGA, the sources said.  (The Economic Times 24/10/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

38. Child labour: UP tops the list of states (14)

VARANASI: The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is observed on October 17 every year since 1993 after the United Nations General Assembly chose this day to promote awareness about the need to eradicate poverty in all countries. Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is also one of the development goals of the UN. Though reduction in the number of people living below poverty line has been witnessed in last couple of years, poverty still exists one of the worst forms of it can be seen as child labour, bonded labour and people living in urban slums. “Uttar Pradesh, which tops the list of child labour, has the highest number, 20% of India’s child labourers,” said Rajni Kant, the state convener of Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) and president of Human Welfare Association (HWA). According to CACL report, out of 1,26,66,377 child labourers in the country, UP alone has 19,27,997 child labourers. As per the records of assistant labour commissioner office over 1,750 child labourers had been identified by the department since December 1996. Slums and the condition of people living there is also one of the indicators of poverty. According to records, Varanasi has 227 slums, including 210 in the municipal limit of Varanasi Municipal Corporation and total population of these slums is about 4,53,222, which constitutes about 37.69% of the total population of the city. The report prepared under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) suggests that the average income of a slum household is Rs 100-150 per day with average household size of eight members. A report of the working group (of Planning Commission) on urban poverty and slums suggests that urban poverty in India was large and widespread. In 2004-05, 80.8 million people, out of an estimated urban population of 309.5 million persons, were below the poverty line as their consumption per month was found to be less than Rs 538.60. These numbers constitute a significant proportion of the world’s total urban poor estimated at 291.4 million. Over the past three decades (1973-2004), the number of the urban poor has raised by 34.4% and the share of the urban poor in the total from 18.7% in 1973 to 26.8% in 2004-05. In comparison the numbers of the rural poor have registered a 15.5% decline over this period. Moreover, about 40-45 million people are on the verge of poverty which indicates an increase in number of urban poor. At national level, according to Planning Commission’s report, ‘Poverty Estimates for 2011-12′, the percentage of persons below the poverty line in 2011-12 was found to be 25.7% in rural areas, 13.7% in urban areas and 21.9% for the country. The respective ratios for the rural and urban areas were 41.8% and 25.7% and 37.2% for the country as a whole in 2004-05. It was 50.1% in rural areas, 31.8% in urban areas and 45.3% for the country as a whole in 1993-94. In 2011-12, India had 270 million persons below the Tendulkar Poverty Line as compared to 407 million in 2004-05, that is a reduction of 137 million persons over a period of 7 years. The Planning Commission has periodically estimated poverty lines and poverty ratios for which large sample surveys on household consumer expenditure have been conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. These surveys are normally conducted on quinquennial basis. The last quinquennial survey in this series was conducted in 2009-10 (NSS 66th round). However, since 2009-10 was not a normal year because of a severe drought, the NSSO repeated the large scale survey in 2011-12 (NSS 68th round). (Times of India 18/10./13)

 

39. It’s time to end human bondage in the country (14)

India seems to have acquired the dubious distinction of being the leader of many demeaning trends, be it child labour, underage marriages and now we learn slavery. Although the practice had been abolished long ago, a new study shows that an estimated 29.8 million people live in slavery around the world. And nearly half this number is in India. Fourteen million Indians, the highest number in the world, live in conditions of slavery. This includes those trapped in debt, in forced marriages and those who have been trafficked,  according to the Global Slavery Index 2013 compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, a human rights organisation based in Australia. However, India can take cold comfort in the fact that it ranks fourth in terms of the prevalence of slavery as a proportion of the population. Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan are ranked above India in the 162-nation survey. From inter-generational bonded labour to the worst forms of child labour, from commercial sexual exploitation to forced marriage, almost all forms of slavery are prevalent in India. While many remain trapped in debt bondage in their own villages, others are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, begging and domestic servitude. The recent assault of a 15-year-old maid in the upscale Vasant Kunj area in Delhi was just the tip of the modern-day domestic slavery iceberg. Every year, thousands of women and children are trafficked from states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal primarily for sexual exploitation and also for domestic work. Despite a 2006 ban on child labour, children can still be found working in brick kilns, cracker factories and coal mines which are among the many hazardous industries with appalling working conditions.  Bride-buying, though a non-labour form of slavery, is practised in Haryana and Punjab where the sex ratio is highly skewed. There should be strict implementation of existing laws that will ensure that people who perpetuate modern-day slavery are severely punished. If India aspires to be a global power, its claims to such a status cannot be taken seriously if many of its own people continue to live in conditions of medieval drudgery. (Hindustan Times 22/10/13)

 

40. More children go missing in Darjeeling every year: Report (14)

Kolkata: A State Crime Records Bureau-backed report has termed West Bengal the source point for child trafficking within the country, with Darjeeling topping the list of eight districts in state with most number of missing children. The report for the last three years, published by Child In Need Institute, says Darjeeling has shown the steepest rise in number of children missing in the state, with 924 cases recorded in 2012, a staggering jump from 430 reported in 2010. Even the National Crime Records Bureau has revealed that more than 19,000 children were missing in West Bengal during 2012. More than half of the missing children were girls, says the CINI report which sourced its data from the District Crime Records Bureau. “These figures are just tip of the iceberg as countless number of cases go unreported,” the CINI report read. Rajib K Haldar, additional director of CINI, said due to the geographical location of Darjeeling, children are more vulnerable to cross-border trafficking via Nepal. “Cross-border districts are used as transit points by the traffickers with children, mostly from remote villages, becoming the target,” he said. With majority coming from poor background, the missing children were trafficked for various reasons – to work as labourers in factories, farms or homes; for commercial sexual exploitation; or for marriage or forced beggary. As West Bengal shares porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh, it serves as a transit point for maximum cross-border trafficking. The study finds poverty and lack of education as among the key factors. Early marriage is another reason. “Marriage is used as a significant ploy in trafficking children. Often, young girls are duped into romantic associations,” it said. Shockingly, FIRs were lodged only in 4 per cent of such cases in Darjeeling, the report says, even though the Supreme Court, earlier this year, has made it mandatory for police stations across the country to compulsorily register missing complaints of any minor and appoint a special police officer to handle complaints of juveniles.  (Indian Express 23/10/13)

 

41. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights bats for safe playgrounds for kids (14)

NEW DELHI: Child rights commission has gone to an unusual extent to fulfill its mandate in protecting child rights. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked states to ensure that future housing projects are planned keeping in mind the need for safe playing spaces for children. At a time when most urban growth is unplanned and cheek-by-jowl, the NCPCR has made a set of 10-point guidelines for playgrounds including the presence of pediatrician and first-aid facilities, boundary walls and security guards besides being at a location that is unlikely to disturb other residents. The Commission has also suggested that if the housing colony does not have a playground, a neighbouring park or green space should be designated for children. There should be free ingress and egress of children without any discrimination and the play ground should be open on all reasonable times, the guidelines say while adding that play areas should accommodate different types of play including gross motor through physical activities such as sliding, climbing, reaching, and crossing and quiet play. States have also been asked to ensure that there is provision for barrier free playing for children with special needs.  (Times of India 24/10/13)

 

HINDUTVA

42. Ahead of VHP’s ‘Sankalp Diwas’ rally, 350 activists arrested (26)

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh police on Thursday arrested around 340 people, including former BJP MLA Lalu Singh, and put 42 others under house arrest on the eve of the VHP’s ‘Sankalp Diwas’ rally in Ayodhya, which has been banned by the state government. Talking to reporters here, IG (law and order) R K Vishwakarma said 340 people have been arrested, 42 have been placed under house arrest and 39 people have been charged with CrPC Section 107/16. Those arrested included VHP spokesman and former BJP MLA Lalu Singh, he said, adding there was no information regarding the arrest or house arrest of senior VHP leader Ashok Singhal. To prevent VHP activists from attending the rally, three-tier barriers have been put up on Saryu bridge, Faizabad district and Ayodhya, he said, adding as many as 2,000 jawans of RAF, police and PAC have been deployed in the area. As a precautionary measure, the local administration has set up a temporary jail at the Police Line, the IG added. VHP has given a call to observe ‘Sankalp Diwas’ in Ram Sewak Puram in Ayodhya to take a resolve for launching an agitation for rebuilding the Ram temple in Ayodhya. In Allahabad, more than 50 VHP supporters were arrested while they were leaving for Ayodhya to take part in the “Sankalp Diwas” rally. “A total of 52 people have been arrested from near the Allahabad railway station where they had assembled to board an Ayodhya-bound train,” a police spokesman said. Meanwhile, in a statement issued from New Delhi, VHP international patron Ashok Singhal denounced the state’s decision to ban the rally and accused the Samajwadi Party government of “victimizing devotees of Lord Ram under pressure from a UP cabinet minister”. (Indian Express 18/10/13)

 

43. Pro-Hindutva outfits to hold convention in Hubli (26)

HUBLI: The city will play host to a State-level convention of pro-Hindutva organisations. The event aims to bring together various outfits on a single platform. National president of the Sri Ram Sene Pramod Muthalik told presspersons here on Saturday that the State-level convention would be held here from November 8 to 10. The convention will deliberate on various pro-Hindutva issues and also chalk out plans for taking the ideology further. It would be based on similar conventions held in the last two years at Goa by organisations like Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Sri Ram Sene, Sanathan Samsthe and others. The convention will be held at Vasavi Mahal behind the new KSRTC Bus Station here and inaugurated by Banjara seer Sevalal Swami. With the 2014 polls just around the corner, the appeasement of Muslim voters has intensified, Mr. Muthalik alleged. The State launched the ‘Shadi Bhagya’ scheme to release Rs. 50,000 each for the marriages of young Muslim women. “It has also launched another scheme to give Rs. 2 lakh for Muslim youths to purchase vehicles and take up self-employment in the tourism sector,” he charged. A rehabilitation camp for the youth would be held by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Bagalkot, from November 12 to 18, according to Mr. Muthalik. (The Hindu 21/10/13)

 

44. Evangelist’s event kicks off as HC rejects VHP ban plea (26)

Allahabad: The Allahabad Court Wednesday rejected the petition seeking ban on the five-day programme of evangelist Peter Youngren, which began amid protests by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the local BJP leaders here Wednesday evening. Around 50 VHP and BJP leaders and activists were detained from near the venue — K P College Ground — a little before the programme began at 5.30 pm. The right-wing groups are up in arms against Youngren’s programme alleging it will be used for mass conversions. A Division Bench of acting Chief Justice Sheo Kumar Singh and Justice B K Srivastava rejected the PIL, filed by Akhil Bharatiya Samajik Samarasta Abhiyaan, an outfit headed by VHP’s district general secretary Pawan Srivastava. “The court rejected the petition on the ground that the VHP had approached the court too late, after all the arrangements for the programme had already been made. Also, it took into account that the district administration granted permission for the programme with certain terms and conditions,” said Girijesh Kumar Tripathi, counsel for the petitioner. Apart from alleging that the meetings will be used for mass religious conversions, which is illegal, another contention of the petitioner was that Youngren, being a foreigner, was not authorised to hold a mass meeting in the country. “Youngren is here on a conference visa. We submitted before the court that what was being held was not a conference but a massive rally,” said Tripathi. The petitioner also submitted that Youngren was claiming to have magical powers for curing maladies. “Under the Indian norms, nobody is allowed to claim magical powers for curing illnesses. But our submission was that after the Nagpur meeting, held in April, he claimed to have cured many physically challenged,” said Tripathi. The other side was represented by a battery of lawyers and the main argument was led by senior advocate Ravi Kant. He could not be reached for his version. (Indian Express 23/10/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 21 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. R’kela dam: SHRC flays Govt for flouting order (1)

Rourkala: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has condemned the inaction of the State Government on the Mandira Dam case and asked it to follow its order forthwith. The Commission in its verdict on May 2, 2012 had instructed the State Government to return 306 acres of land to its original owners as they could not be used for the dam and disburse proper compensation to the affected persons by August 31, 2012. State Govt has been sitting over the Commission’s order. An association of the displaced persons, who had knocked the door of the SHRC, had filed two writ petitions in the Odisha High Court alleging that the State Government was not adhering to the SHRC orders. Hearing the appeal of the petitioners again on September 19, the SHRC took umbrage at the State Government’s inaction. (Pioneer 2/10/13)

 

2. Human rights body notice to BMC, TMC over collapses (1)

Taking note of rising incidents of building collapse this year, the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the BMC and its neighbouring TMC, asking both civic bodies to present a detailed report on building collapse mishaps within two months. Based on newspaper reports, the SHRC decided to register a suo moto complaint against the BMC and the TMC and asked them what action had been taken to rehabilitate the homeless people, as well as against the guilty officials. This year, as many as 165 people have lost their lives, while hundreds have been injured in building collapse incidents in Mumbai and Thane cities. In Mumbai, a civic building collapsed on September 27 at Dockyard Road killing 61 people, while on June 10, a part of Altaf Mansion building at Mahim collapsed, taking 10 lives. In Thane too, the building collapse incidents have been frequent this year. On April 4, a seven-storey illegal building collapsed at Shil Phata, leaving 74 people dead and over 60 injured. It was followed by another building collapse on June 21 at Mumbra killing 10 people. SHRC president S.R. Banurmath has cited grave negligence on part of the civic authorities, which led to building collapses, thus leading to violation of the residents’ human rights. In its notice, the SHRC has asked the BMC and TMC to explain whether their officials were following proper procedure in connection with the dilapidated buildings in their cities.(Asian Age 5/10/13)

 

3. Kids on receiving end of Naxal fight (1)

New Delhi: Thousands of Indian children are facing occupation of their schools across Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by security forces and non-state actors. Many other children are facing sexual abuse in violation to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) headed by South Asia director Meenaskhsi Ganguly has documented schools that have been bombed by Maoists and are presently being protected by the local police. Photographs document a series of schools that have been bombed by Maoists and are being guarded by the paramilitary police. A child from Jharkhand has been quoted as saying: “There is no education happening here. There are no teachers, no instructors, no benches, no fans, nothing. The whole building has been ruined.” HRW is equally critical of schools being used by the police to carry combing operations against the Maoists. The report quotes a statement by the local police which states: “You cannot show a single instance where we had destroyed a school that was really meant for education purposes.” Ms Ganguly warns that education provides a life line in creating a sense of normalcy for the children which is put at risk when these are destroyed or are occupied by the security forces. Another matter of concern is child sexual abuse which is also on the rise. The Indian Parliament enacted the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to address sexual abuse of children disturbingly common in homes, schools, and residential care facilities. Ms Ganguly admits: “The new law to protect children from sexual abuse is a great first step, but much remains to be done to make sure it’s properly implemented and the children get the kind of support they need.” “Most cases of child sexual abuse still go unreported because of social stigma and lack of faith in the justice system,” she said insisting the criminal justice system needs urgent reform. India became a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and this is its third appearance before the committee. Its last appearance was in 2004. The UN meeting is placing the spotlight in the areas of both child sexual abuse and police occupation of schools. (Asian Age 9/10/13)

 

4. Suktel: NHRC urged to probe attack on tribals, scribes (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been requested to investigate a case of attack on scribes and violation of basic human rights of the locals who are on the verge of displacement in the Lower Suktel Project. The apex rights body was also requested to constitute a peace committee to maintain law and order in the area; assess the current situation and study the post-project impact to avoid further unrest in Balangir. The request has been made in a rejoinder filed in the NHRC by activist-lawyer Radhakanta Tripathy of Bhadrak. The apex human rights watch dog has been informed by the State police that the action of the police is excess as alleged by the petitioners in the case. There are cases pending against scribe Lenin Ray in some earlier cases. Earlier, the NHRC had asked the Director General of Police (DGP), Odisha, to submit an Action Taken Report (ATR) over the brutal attack on journalists and tribals by police that had injured many at Magurbeda in Balangir. Since April 8 last, the scene at Magurbeda, where Lower Suktel Project is being executed, has become a devil’s fighting field. The situation has become so worse that the protesting people have been lathi charged and tribal women pulled away by force from the site by the police. When the local journalists tried to capture the brutality of the police, they were also either threatened or attacked, Radhakanta alleged. Amitabh Patra, a TV journalist was assaulted by the police. Later, he was taken into custody when he was bleeding. His camera was damaged. Similarly, another journalist Lenin Ray, Editor of “Nisan” was arrested illegally. Radhakanta pointed out that the attack on tribals who are on the verge of displacement is a heinous crime and the brutal attack on the journalists shakes the very foundation of democracy. It violates fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He requested the NHRC to depute its Special Rapporteur to visit the spot, investigate the case, prepare a detailed report with recommendations and to direct the police to release the protestors who have been victimized. He also sought a direction to conduct a proper socio-economic survey of the project to rehabilitate and resettle all the displaced villagers. In addition to this, he sought payment of adequate compensation to the victims who are suffering or shall suffer due to the execution of the project. (Pioneer 10/10/13)

 

5. HC issues notice to human rights panel (1)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad HC had issued notice to Human Rights Commission, Uttar Pradesh, on a public interest litigation (PIL), alleging that Uttar Pradesh tops in the violation of human rights but the State Human Rights Commission UP does not have its own probe agency. The Commission does not have its own website. The order was passed by a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra and Justice Pradeep Kumar Singh Baghel on a PIL filed by People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Right, Varanasi, after hearing its counsel KK Roy, Namrata Tiwary and Shams Vikas. The petitioner has alleged that despite maximum violation of human rights in the state, the Human Rights Commission, UP, never issues its annual report. The proceedings of Commission are never placed on the floor of the assembly. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

6. ‘States need to do more on human rights’ (1)

NEW DELHI: A lot needs to be done by the central and state actors for realising the dream of independent and impartial human rights panels across the country, National Human Rights Commission member Cyriac Joseph said Saturday. Addressing a function here to mark the 21st foundation day of the NHRC, he said there was no doubt that the institution had played an immense role in recommending punitive action against the guilty, but a lot more was still to be done towards the impartial and independent role it has been playing. “Despite the NHRC’s establishment in the year 1993, till now only 23 states have set up the state human rights commission,” added Joseph. It is a matter of great concern that some of the states even in this era don’t realise the necessity to set up the institution. (New Indian Express 13/10/13)

 

7. Madhya Pradesh human rights’ panel takes cognizance in temple stampede (1)

INDORE: Taking cognizance of media report of police personnel allegedly throwing children and survivors off the bridge during rescue operation in the stampede in Ratangarh, Datia, Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) acting chairperson Justice A K Saxena said he has ordered officials to visit the site and the team will visit Datia on Friday. In 2013, the only case where the commission has filed a petition in Madhya Pradesh high court, Saxena said the commission recommended to the government to remove illegal liquor shops in residential areas near schools, hospitals, which had recently witnessed protest in cities like Indore and Bhopal by local residents. He said maximum numbers of complaints are received against the police department for not registering FIR and or not taking any action in case. “In this connection, the commission has written to the government to make procedural changes in the system to take down report, instead of registering FIR. What happens now, people in general relate to high number of FIR to rising number of crime. However, FIR is just an information. It does not mean that crime has taken place. We have recommended to police simply register complaint. Many FIRs are not registered because police or the authorities think it lead to rise in crime graph,” Saxena elaborated. To widen the area of working and get information of human rights violation from interior and rural places, the commission has appointed ‘Ayog Mitra’ across the state. He said, currently there are 500 ayog mitra in MP and five in Indore, who can be contacted for registering complaint. Saxena also said there is a staff crunch in the commission. (Times of India 17/10/13)

 

8. Boycott CHOGM, minority rights group urges countries (1)

COLOMBO: The London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) has called upon Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) to boycott the summit due to be held in Lanka in November. Releasing a report entitled Living with Insecurity: Marginalization and Sexual Violence Against Women in North and East Sri Lanka on Thursday, Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention, said: “It is clear that Sri Lanka has failed and, as this report shows, continues to fail, in its duty to protect the human rights of its Tamil and Muslim minorities. At the very least, Heads of State should show their commitment to the basic values of the Commonwealth by not attending the meeting.” “Given the severity of its rights record, Sri Lanka’s hosting of CHOGM and  forthcoming appointment to the Chairmanship of the Commonwealth, present a serious challenge to the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting human rights and democratic values,” the report’s introductory note said. “The government is actively contributing to the insecurity of minority women through the militarization of the North and East, and by maintaining a climate of impunity where human rights violations continue,” charged Farah Mihlar, MRG’s South Asia expert.  “Activists said they were aware of cases of rape, sexual abuse and harassment of Tamil women by members of the armed forces; however, in almost all cases, the women were too scared to report this to the police. They also reported a marked increase in sexual activity between soldiers and women   in the community.” “Even when such relationships were voluntary, the long-term cost to the women could be considerable: some women, for example, having become pregnant, found themselves rejected by the men involved and ostracized by their own community,” the report pointed out. The military visited civilian homes to obtain information on the whereabouts of male family members and to monitor the movement of villagers, activists said. Women who headed households were often financially desperate due to the lack of income and some might, as a result, have engaged in sex work or had sexual relationships for favours, the report said. “A large number of women lost their loved ones in the weeks preceding the end of the conflict, yet the military refuses to permit them to mourn their anniversaries,” the report pointed out. (New Indian Express 18/10/13)

 

TRAFFICKING

9. Rehabilitation package for woman victims of trafficking in offing (1)

Bhubaneswar: For proper rehabilitation of women victims of immoral trafficking who have been circumscribed for sexual abuse, the State Government will formulate a rehabilitation package for them. A decision to this effect was taken at a State-level coordination committee meeting on combating trafficking of women and children chaired by Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra here. Mohapatra directed the concerned authorities to develop a centralised call centre facility for them, besides directing integration of this system with that of police networking with definite time period for response. The W&CD and Home Departments were advised to make point-to-point arrangement like that of 108 ambulance service systems so that the call of a woman in need is catered to within specific time and were directed to develop the system within three months. The meeting decided that a ground level database of women and children trafficking would be developed with real data from village and panchayat levels. Specialised agencies would be engaged for the purpose. Presently, a centralised web portal (Integrated Anti Human Trafficking units) IATHU was launched from January 31, 2013 wherein the photographs of missing children is being uploaded for facilitating their tracking. The Home Department was asked to devise a different pattern of staffing for the units as the sensitivities involved in these types of cases are different from that of the traditional crime tracking. The meeting too decided that kiosks would be set up in the Bhubaneswar and Puri railway stations to help the women in need. These kiosks would receive the reports and help the process of detection. Available data show that till now, 11,350 female sex workers have been covered in the TI (Targeted Intervention) project through 38 NGOs in urban areas of 25 districts. Besides, 1,609 female sex workers have been covered through the Link Workers Scheme (LWS) in rural areas of six districts. Secretaries of Home, School and Mass Education, W&CD Departments along with Odisha Livelihood Mission Director DV Swami and many others participated in the meeting. (Pioneer 2/10/13)

 

10. Jharkhand yet to crack down on trafficking (1)

NEW DELHI: Recurring cases of tribal girls being tortured by their employers in the city have failed to get the state and central governments to crackdown on the malaise. While most of these underage domestic helps come from Jharkhand, the state government has not filed an action-taken report more than one-and-a-half years after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights directed it to do so. After the inhuman treatment of a help came to light in Dwarka early last year, the NCPCR visited Gumla in Jharkhand which is believed to be the source point for trafficking to Delhi. At a children’s home run by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh in Ranchi district, it met eight girls and a boy rescued from Delhi, and learned from them that most of the girls who ended up as domestic helps in cities were lured to leave their villages by a neighbour or relative who had already worked outside. “The children accompanied these known persons to their destinations, mostly Delhi,” the report states. Most of them took the step without parental consent. The girls were mainly motivated by the desire for a better lifestyle and more money. That they were handed over to unknown persons and passed on three or four times before reaching Delhi points to the existence of a trafficking racket. “In Delhi they were made to stay at ‘office’, where there were other children (probably a placement agency). The children were placed after varying intervals of one day to one month as domestic helps. They were neither informed about their emoluments, the nature of duties, or even the hours of work,” the report states, adding the children generally reported being ill-treated at work. “Insufficient food, long working hours and abuse in varying forms and degrees were reported by all.”  (Times of India 3/10/13)

 

11. Most trafficked teens are abused: NGOs (1)

Ranchi: Trafficking cases in Jharkhand, most of them involving teenagers, has doubled over the past five years, data compiled by NGOs show. Teenagers from the state are lured to Delhi and other metros by agents on the promise of jobs and money. But their sexual exploitation begins as soon as they leave their homes. “They are sexually abused and tortured right from the beginning of their journey to the big cities,” said Baijnath Kumar of Diya Seva Sansthan, an NGO working with the criminal investigation department (CID) in Jharkhand. The Jharkhand branch of Action Against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children India claims that over 20% of the girls rescued in Delhi lose their ability to conceive because of their injuries. On an average, 175 Jharkhand girls are rescued from Delhi every year. Of the 48 girls from Jharkhand rescued by the CID and local NGOs from Delhi on December 25 last year, 23 were minors. It was found that all the 23 girls had been raped by placement agency employees on their first days in the city, the NGO claims. In 2010, a 17-year-old girl from Latehar was found paralysed. She had been raped by her employer and pushed off a five-storey building. Anurag Gupta, Inspector General, CID, said: “Most of the girls trafficked to Delhi are sexually exploited.” He mentioned recent reports of a young domestic help tortured with a hot iron by her employers after she dropped their child on the floor. Human traffickers in Jharkhand seem to be enjoying a free run. This is despite the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, and amendments made in Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code. (Hindustan Times 3/10/13)

 

12. Delhi maid’s employer faces trafficking charge (1)

New Delhi: The 50-year-old woman arrested for allegedly torturing her domestic help at her Vasant Kunj home is unlikely to get away easily. The police have pressed charges against Vandana Dhir, an executive of a French multinational corporation, under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They also plan to book her for trafficking under the amended Section 70 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which may lead to imprisonment for 10 years. After the December 16 gang rape incident, the IPC was amended to charge those recruiting victims of trafficking under the section. The police also charged her under sections of the Juvenile Justice Act dealing with cruelty and employing a child. HT had reported on Thursday that using the Act against Dhir could reduce her chances of getting bail. Brinda Karat, former member of the Rajya Sabha, and a few others met the commissioner of the police on Thursday and asked him to charge Dhir with attempt to murder. “The commissioner assured us of strict action. The police joint commissioner visited the girl on Thursday, sending out the signal that the force was taking trafficking of children seriously,” Rishikant, of the NGO Shakti Vahini, said. In court on Wednesday, the counsel for Dhir, who is in judicial custody till October 15, had claimed that the teenaged girl was mentally unstable. Her counsel had pleaded that the girl already had the injury marks on her body since she started working as a domestic help at Dhir’s house here and her client was continuously providing the girl with medical treatment for it. The police have also arrested a woman, said to be an aunt of the girl. They are trying to find out if she had sold the girl to Dhir. “Dorothy, 45, has been arrested and we are questioning her. She is the one who placed the girl at Dhir’s house. She has not yet revealed the name of the placement agency,” said a senior police officer who did not want to be named. Personnel of Jharkhand’s anti-trafficking unit who are in the capital have met the girl, and asked her if she had been trafficked to Delhi. “If it is established that girl was trafficked from Jharkhand, another first information report under IPC’s Section 370 will be registered in the eastern state,” the officer said. (Hindustan Times 4/10/13)

 

13. 11 children rescued from traffickers (1)

GORAKHPUR: With proximity to Nepal and Bihar, Gorakhpur has become a hot spot for child traffickers recently. On Sunday evening, Gorakhpur Cant police and team of crime branch arrested three people for child trafficking from a bus near Mohaddipur with 11 children. The bus was coming to Gorakhpur from Gopalganj. A passenger travelling in the bus informed the police . On getting the information, police nabbed the men near Mohaddipur. According to police, “The traffickers were carrying 11 children from Gopalganj, Bihar to Gujarat for labor work. The traffickers include Santosh, Musafir, and Chandan. All the traffickers are from Balua village under Vishambharpur police station, Gopalganj, Bihar.” During the interrogation police found that all the accused work in a sari factory in Jeetpur, Rajkot district, Gujarat and they had taken the children from families under intense financial problem. (Times of India 8/10/13)

 

14. West Bengal lags in curbing child-trafficking (1)

Kolkata: Reconstituting its task force for repatriation of victims of cross-border child-trafficking, West Bengal has approved a new standard operating procedure, said Secretary of the State’s Department of Woman and Child Development and Social Welfare Roshni Sen here on Monday. Linking child-trafficking with child-marriage, Ms. Sen pointed out that the State’s performance in curbing the latter was “pathetic”. “Child-marriage and child-trafficking are interrelated since in the name of child-marriage children are getting trafficked,” she said. West Bengal has done well in terms of “social parameters” such as prevention of female foeticide and maintaining child sex ratio, according to Ms. Sen. She was speaking at a State-level advocacy event for the Missing Child Alert (MCA) project — an initiative of NGO Plan International, headquartered in the United Kingdom. The event was organised by Child In Need Institute (CINI), a city-based NGO. Child-traffickers lure poor parents to hand their daughters over to them on the promise that they will be married off to well-off spouses. They then sell these children across the border into the flesh trade, said Rajiv Haldar, additional director, CINI. Ms. Sen also pointed out the absence of a “unanimous data gathering system” related to child-trafficking. “What we need is disaggregated data which will help policymakers and law-enforcers to approach the problem of child-trafficking in a directed and planned manner.” It is in the absence of a comprehensive database dedicated to collecting information about child-trafficking that the MCA project becomes so crucial, she added. (The Hindu 9/10/13)

 

15. Human trafficking: Six minors, youth sold off to contractors in Tamil Nadu (1)

JASHPUR: An incident of human trafficking involving six minors and a 24-year-old-youth has come to light in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh. All seven victims belong to primitive Pahadi Korwa tribe and were sold off to contractors in Tamil Nadu by four locals on pretext of providing employment. The incident was revealed after one of the seven victims, 24-year-old Nandkishore Nageshiya escaped from the clutches of the contractor and ran back home. The matter was reported to the police on Friday. Talking to TOI, Jashpur superintendent of police Jitendra Singh Mina said that an FIR against all four was registered on Saturday and a police team has been formed to visit Tamil Nadu to rescue the minors. The incident took place on September 20, when four accused of Duldula block of Jashpur district identified as Krishna Ram Basod, his wife Jatri Bai, Jaimangal Ram and Ajay Ram zeroed in on these seven victims belonging to poor families and convinced them to work as laboureres in road construction work at Kunkuri block. Duldula police station inspector in charge, B L Kurre said, “The four accused took the youths to Jharsuguda in Odisha for some petty works. Before travelling to Tamil Nadu, they promised their families that they would be paid Rs 7000 per month with food. But, as per the information, the youths were sold off to a contractor who forced them to work at bore-well sites at different places in Tamil Nadu”.In his statement, Nandkishore told the police that the other six minors Surlan Ram Korwa, 15, Bhintu Ram Korwa, 13, Rammurat Korwa, 14, Chandar Ram Korwa, 16, Ravindra Korwa, 14, Baleshwar Korwa, 13 and Mahavir Korwa, 17 were promised good salary and were taken to Tamil Nadu. A few days after their arrival, the locals sold them off to a contractor who forced them to work at a bore-well construction site. They were also denied proper food and had to work for long, without being paid. “They had promised Nand kishore, a driver’s job but were later asked to load heavy pipes on the back. Also, the four brokers left the place soon,” police said. Nandkishore said that he had to sell off his belongings get a ticket back home, as he had no money. Police said that the main accused Krishnaram and his wife have previous criminal record of being indulged in similar incidents. They target poor and illiterate families who easily get convinced. Jashpur is infamous for reporting trafficking incidents. Several incidents of youths being trafficked to states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been reported in the past. Had Nand kishore not returned and had he not narrated the story to the police, all the six minors would be getting exploited with no one to rescue them. Jashpur has many such stories and cases where children, minors and youths are taken to different parts of country for several kinds of illegal work or to work as labourers in conditions akin to bonded labour system. (Times of India 14/10/13)

 

16. Modern slavery widespread in India (1)

A new study has put the number of people in modern slavery worldwide at an estimated 29.8 million. India tops the list for nation-wise figures, with almost 14 million people trapped in different forms of slavery. These shocking figures, released in a new Global Slavery Index report, measure debt bondage, forced marriage, sale or exploitation of children, human trafficking and forced labour across the world.

The index, released by the Walk Free foundation, an NGO, ranks India fourth in terms of prevelance of slavery (as a proportion of population). Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan are ranked above India, in that order. The largest proportion of the problem is the exploitation of people within India itself — from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labour to the worst forms of child labour to commercial sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. “We now know that just ten countries are home to over three quarters of those trapped in modern slavery. These nations must be the focus of global efforts,”  Nick Grono, CEO of the Walk Free Foundation, said in a statement. Many of India’s enslaved have not been moved from one place to another – they are enslaved in their own villages. Earlier this year, the Trafficking in Persons(TIP) report released by the US State department had put the number of people in some sort of forced labour at an estimated 20 to 65 million : men, women, and children mainly in debt bondage to a local landowner, forced to work in industries such as brick kilns, rice mills, agriculture, and embroidery factories.The TIP report cites instances where women and girls from the northeastern states and Odisha have been sold or coerced into forced marriages in states with low female-to-male gender ratios, including Haryana and Punjab and forced into prostitution. The National Human Rights Commission, in a report last year, highlighted other cases. For Example, in Meghalaya, extraction of coal in private coal mines in the Jaintia Hills region is exclusively undertaken by bonded manual labourers who have come to work in the mines from neighbouring states to beat acute poverty. Some of the reasons for high numbers caught in slavery in India are the difficulty in accessing protections and government entitlements, such as the food rations card, corruption or non-performance of safety nets (such as the National Employment Guarantee, primary health care and pensions) and practices of land grabbing and asset domination by high caste groups. Some of those affected by slavery in India do not officially exist – they have no birth registration or ID so it can be hard for them to access protective entitlements. (Hindustan Times 17/10/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

17. ‘Diabetes screening does not reduce mortality rate’ (3)

Even as a lot of stress is given on regular screening for diabetes, a first-ever study has revealed that screening for type 2 diabetes does not appear to affect overall population mortality rates. Published in the Lancet, the randomised trial, evaluated the effect of type 2 diabetes screening programmes on overall mortality rate in a population. Experts assessed the number of deaths over 10 years in a group of more than 20,000 patients across 32 general practices in Eastern England. The patients, all aged between 40 and 69 years, were assessed as being at high risk of diabetes. Researchers allocated the practices participating in the trial to one of three groups: a group where one round of screening was followed up by routine care for patients diagnosed with diabetes; a group where one round of screening was followed up by intensive management of patients diagnosed with diabetes; and a control group where no screening took place. They then tracked the mortality rates in the patients studied over a period of 9.6 years on average. The authors of the study found that overall mortality was not reduced in the groups where screening took place. They also found no significant difference between the screened and non-screened groups in the number of deaths specifically attributable to diabetes, cardiovascular illness, cancer, or other causes. According to Dr Simon Griffin of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK, “The high proportion of undiagnosed cases of diabetes, the substantial number of patients with complications at clinical diagnosis, and the long latent phase of the disease are strong arguments for screening. However, in the large UK sample that we studied, screening for type 2 diabetes in patients at increased risk of the disease was not associated with any reduction in mortality within ten years.” (Asian Age 5/10/13)

 

18. Child malnutrition still a cause of concern in Vellore district: UNICEF (3)

Vellore: The Centre has identified Vellore as one of the high priority districts for taking action to achieve the millennium development goals (MDG) by 2015, according to Satheesh Kumar, Chief Officer, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Tamil Nadu and Kerala. He was speaking at a district-level seminar on ‘Improvement of Child Survival and Development’ organised by the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board (TNSWB) and UNICEF at the Collectorate here on Saturday. Mr. Kumar said that the progress of South Indian States, especially Tamil Nadu in the achievement of MDG, was appreciated at an international meeting convened by the Central government, Tamil Nadu government, UNICEF and other international organisations at Mamallapuram in February. While overall reduction in child mortality and maternal mortality was good in Tamil Nadu, it was realised that several districts had to contribute more towards achievement of the goals. While immunisation coverage in Tamil Nadu was 85 %, it was 75 % in Vellore district. Child malnutrition in Vellore district was also a cause of concern. It was found that a lot had to be done in the area of eliminating the practice of open defecation in the district. Another finding was that while more than 90% of deliveries were taking place in hospitals, the percentage of newborns exclusively breastfed up to six months was only 56. If there had been proper follow-up of newborns, the percentage of exclusively breastfed children should also have been 90. Besides, only 50% of the children born to HIV positive mothers were tested for HIV. Testing had to be done to all children born to HIV mothers to save the children and protect their health lifelong. Mr. Kumar said that the Health Department alone cannot be held responsible for improvement and maintenance of the health of children. The Departments of Water Supply and the Integrated Child Development Services have to ensure supply of safe drinking water and proper nutrition to the children as these factors were vital for maintaining the health of children. It has therefore been decided to bring about the inter-sectoral collaboration among governmental organisations, academic institutions, medical colleges and non-governmental organisations to achieve the MDG, he said. C.R. Saraswathi, Chairperson of TNSWB, requested UNICEF to join hands with the Board in conducting cancer awareness camps and to facilitate early detection and treatment of the disease. She urged women to take proper care of their health to ensure the health and well-being of the family. Men should help their spouses in ensuring the well-being of the family. Referring to the emergence of child marriages in society, she appealed to parents to avoid child marriages in their families and bring to the notice of the government proposed child marriages in their neighbourhood so that the government could prevent them. P. Sankar, Collector of Vellore, presided. P. Elango, Joint Secretary, TNSWB; P. Gomathi, District Social Welfare; Vandhana Bhatia of UNICEF; and Poongodi, deputy director, Health Services, Vellore, spoke. (The Hindu 6/10/13)

 

19. Health survey to reduce Infant Mortality Rate begins in district (3)

NASHIK: The district health department on Wednesday started a week-long survey in ten talukas which have reported high Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in a bid to find out ways and means of intervention to reduce such deaths. In 2012, as many as 22.16 deaths of children under the age of one year per 1,000 live births were recorded in the district. At the same time, the ten talukas identified for the survey reported IMR of 26-27. The survey by a team of five health officials from every taluka is expected to be completed by October 17. Additional district health officer Yogesh Sale said that 19 districts in the state, including Nashik, were identified for the ‘Call for action for child survival and development’ survey. “The criterion for selection of the areas was the higher IMR recorded in these parts last year. Though all the measures recommended so far have been carried out, the IMR figure still hovers on the higher side and hence the special survey has been launched to identify the problems,” Sale said. Officials said that they are looking at providing skilled healthcare to women during pregnancy, special care of pre-term and sick neonates, emphasis on breastfeeding, management of pneumonia and diarrhea and universal coverage of routine immunization. The officials are also planning to scale up water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions. “The survey of the talukas will evaluate the status of primary health centres (PHCs) and sub-centres to get the better picture of the health services available in the areas. Besides, 10 expecting mothers and 10 mothers with children under two years of age will be interviewed with respect to their needs, expectations, their and child’s health status, the facilities they would like to see at the centres and the things needed in their areas,” Sale said. The Block Development Officers (BDOs) will also be interviewed on issues such as manpower availability at the PHCs and sub-centres and the facilities required for strengthening health measures and interventions,” he said. (Times of India 10/10/13)

 

20. 20% above 60 have mental health problems: Experts (3)

PUDUCHERRY: Epidemiological studies carried out in urban and rural Lucknow in north India with the support of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed that 17.3% urban and 23.6% rural people aged 60 years and above suffer from mental health problems. The average prevalence of mental health problems, both in rural and urban communities, indicates that 20.5% of the older adults suffer from one or another problem. Translating the prevalence data over the current population, it is estimated that 1.71 crore people above 60 years suffer from psychiatric disorders. The studies were conducted by S C Tiwari and Nisha M Pandey of department of geriatric mental health, Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, said assistant professor (psychiatry) of Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer) Vikas Menon while giving a presentation on ‘mental health in elderly, Indian scenario’ during the World Mental Health Day observation by the college of nursing Jipmer on October 10. Epidemiological studies in Uttar Pradesh by Tiwari and Pandey reported that 43.3% of the elderly suffer from one or other mental health problems as against 4.7% adults while a study by K C Premarajan and three others found 17.4% of older adults suffer from psychiatric disorders. These studies were published in Indian Journal of Psychiatry. Menon said the most frequently encountered disorders were dementia and mood disorders, particularly depression. Other disorders include anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, delirium and psychosis. The country has a very few hospitals with geriatric units and geriatric outpatient department services available only at tertiary care centres in cities. Moreover, the country does not cover mental illness under health insurance sector. Tiwari and Pandey said the country needs 7.2 lakh geriatric mental health beds as per the norms laid down by the Mental Health Act, 1987. In addition to that, the country requires 7,200 qualified psychiatrists and equal number of mental health professional assistants (clinical) psychologists or psychiatric social worker, 14,400 qualified medical officer, 72,000 staff nurses and 1.44 lakh attendants. According to Menon, the country is in the process of demographic transition. He pointed out that elderly population that accounted for 7.1% of the total population in 2001 would touch 10% in 2021. Life expectancy rose from 32 years in 1947 to 63.4 years in 2011. The overall population in India is projected to grow by 55% between 2000 and 2050 whereas the aged population of 60 years and above is projected to increase by 326% and those in the age group of 80 and above by 700%.He said the government should evolve policies and pass legislations targeting geriatric mental health. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

21. 75% fear public spaces are disease hubs: Survey (3)

BANGALORE: In India the top three illness concerns are seasonal cold (47.3%), skin infections (37.1%) and seasonal flu (31.9%), reveals a Global Hygiene Council 2013 study. The survey was carried out on over 18,000 adults across 18 countries, including India. When it comes to contracting an infectious disease, Indians are most cautious. About 95% are concerned about themselves or their family contracting one. As many as 77% Indians ensure they and their families wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating. On the risky places for contracting disease, 75% of the respondents in India perceive public places as the riskiest, while 49% adults around the world (including India) picked mass gatherings. Also, 20% said they avoided attending mass gatherings to pre-empt infections. About 68% of adults from across the globe believe public transport is one of the riskiest places for picking up infectious diseases while 11% view the home as potential disease carriers. The biggest (30%) infectious disease concern across the world is seasonal flu, but it varies widely across the world. (Times of India 13/10/13)

 

22. 755 Cases of Dengue Reported From Haryana (3)

Chandigarh: In the view of rise in cases of dengue in Haryana, especially in Gurgaon and Faridabad districts, the state health department has further advised district hospitals to help prevent the spread of the disease. A total of 755 dengue cases have been reported from Haryana, out of which Gurgaon district is the worst affected with a total 250 cases and 212 cases in Faridabad Haryana’s Director Health Services (Malaria), Dr Kamla Singh said, districts like Karnal and Yamunanagar are also among the worst affected. So far two deaths have been reported due to the vector-borne disease–one each in Sonepat and Kaithal, she said. “We have sent an advisory to all district hospitals on the line of treatment to the patients. The health department had got into action since June, spreading awareness about the disease and urging people to avoid improper water storage,” Singh said. Unlike last year, when dengue cases were registered only at the beginning of October, this year the outbreak was reported earlier with monsoon arriving in mid-June in Haryana, three weeks earlier than its normal schedule, she noted. Fogging is being carried out in the areas where dengue cases have been reported, she said, adding, their efforts must be supplemented by the civic authorities to maintain cleanliness and drain out stagnant water. “We have sent out a communication to Deputy Commissioners and the civic bodies to put in more efforts to keep the localities clean,” she added. In 2010, 866 dengue cases were reported in the state with 21 deaths, out of which Gurgaon alone accounted for 631 cases and 13 deaths. In 2011, only 267 cases with three deaths were reported in the state, they said. (Outlook 15/10/13)

 

23. Guidelines bring PPH deaths under control in Kerala (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) or excessive bleeding of mothers after delivery is one of the nightmarish scenarios that gynaecologists have to deal with every other day in the labour room. If the bleeding is not detected at the proper time and immediate medical management initiated, a mother could bleed to death within five to 10 minutes. In many cases, the mother is rushed in a very critical condition to a tertiary care centre, where gynaecologists have to resort to very risky surgical procedures and extreme management measures, often lasting hours, to revive a woman who has gone into shock or organ failure. Till April this year, this used to be the story at SAT Hospital here, where all referred cases of PPH in the district used to accumulate. This story has been totally rewritten now, thanks to some simple interventions that are part of a quality standards manual developed by the Health Department to reduce maternal mortality. The manual ‘Quality standards on PPH and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy’ currently being piloted in select hospitals in the district has made such a difference that SAT Hospital, which used to report at least one PPH death a month, has not reported a single death from PPH since April. “All of us, gynaecology unit chiefs, are able to sleep peacefully at night these days. PPH referral emergencies have come down drastically in the past five months. Even when such referrals come, our job is easier because all required first-aid measures would have been initiated before the mothers were sent here. An excellent initiative, these standards need to be adopted in all maternal care hospitals,” C. Nirmala, Professor and head of Ob-Gyn Department at SAT Hospital, said. Similar sentiments are expressed by a senior gynaecologist at the Women and Children Hospital, Thycaud, a secondary care centre which handles approximately 500 to 600 deliveries a month. “The implementation of the quality standards has totally changed the way we used to handle obstetric emergencies, and we hardly need refer any PPH case now. We closely monitor our mothers up till the fourth stage of labour (labour recovery stage, up to two hours post-delivery). More importantly, all doctors and our labour room staff are alert to recognising and diagnosing PPH, and initiating appropriate measures to manage it,” she said. The 10-point quality standard manual, the first ever to be developed in the State, is derived from evidence-based internationally accepted clinical guidelines, and is a result of a multi-stakeholder partnership between the State Health Department, the National Rural Health Mission, the Kerala Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (KFOG), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) International, U.K. The quality standards cover the management of PPH and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, two of the documented major causes of maternal mortality in the State. They clearly chart out clinical measures that need to be adopted in labour rooms, starting with active management of the third stage of labour, to reduce PPH deaths. “These interventions are taught to us as medical students, but somehow were ignored in practice either because of physical circumstances or that these were not clearly written, and we were all scared of taking responsibility for any risks involved. The support from the Health Department has clearly made us all more aware and confident,” the doctor said. The outcome of the implementation of the quality standards, wherever it has been piloted, has been dramatic and palpable, obstetricians said at a review meeting last week. The Chirayinkeezhu taluk hospital, which handles about 250 deliveries a month, said the number of referrals to SAT Hospital between April to September last year was 40, and this was brought down to 10 in the same period this year. “Since the pilot was launched, the KFOG has trained over 400 doctors, nurses and nursing attendants in the quality standards and emergency obstetric care and life support training. The private sector, where almost 70 per cent of the deliveries take place, must also be made part of this initiative to reduce maternal mortality,” V.P. Paily, a former professor of Obstetrics and a key resource person of the KFOG, said. “Kerala has broken new ground in taking maternal care improvement to another level, and the State of Odisha has expressed its eagerness to learn from you. Drawing on our experience from Kerala, we have now initiated the development of a quality standards manual for stroke management with the Ministry of Health in Vietnam,” Francoise Cluzeau, Associate Director, NICE International, who has been interacting with the State health administration since last year to help Kerala draw up the quality standards, told The Hindu. “We have not been able to measure the outcome of this initiative in clear terms as no baseline data was collected from hospitals prior to the initiation of the pilot. We have now decided to rope in two hospitals – Victoria hospital, Palakkad, and Kottaparambu hospital, Kozhikode – in the project. An external agency has been engaged to do the baseline assessment of these hospitals before and after the pilot,” M. Beena, Mission Director, NRHM, said. (The Hindu 16/10/13)

 

24. Infant deaths at new high (3)

Kokrajhar, Oct. 17: Kokrajhar is considered to be the most developed district in the BTAD but when it comes to health, it has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state. The six districts under Unicef’s “Call to action for child survival and development” are Kokrajhar, Hailakandi, Golaghat, Karimganj, Dhubri and Nagaon. The national infant mortality rate is 46. While Assam’s is 55, Kokrajhar district stands at 76 per 1,000 live births. The death of six babies, in the age group of three-11 months, in a village in Kokrajhar since September 26, has highlighted the seriousness of the issue. “This is a conservative estimate and if a proper survey is conducted by including infant deaths in the interiors, it will not be less than 100 per 1,000 live births in Kokrajhar district,” said Raju Narzary of North East Research and Social Work Networking, a Kokrajhar-based NGO working on health issues in the area. The ordeal of infant deaths at Surjakhata started on September 26 when a four-month-old baby died, following the death of a five-month-old infant two months back. Another infant, an 11-month-old, died on October 7, a nine-month-old the following day and a two-month-old on October 12. Sources said another two babies had died within this period but could not give details. The Telegraph was the first to highlight the issue, following which the health department was forced to rush to the area to ascertain the cause of death. A senior health official in Kokrajhar said blood samples would be collected from the children in the area, aged 10 and below, to study the cause of any endemic or diseases. While villagers alleged that the babies had died in reaction to polio vaccine, local health workers denied this. Affected families this correspondent spoke to said the babies were vomiting, unable to raise their heads and had a still look in the eyes. The health department tried to blame it on the lack of doctors and awareness among the rural people. “There is scarcity of doctors in the district. Many of the health centres, more so in remote areas, have no doctors. We have already informed and written to the higher authorities but till now many of the rural health centres are running without doctors or adequate staff,” said a senior NRHM official in Kokrajhar. (The Telegraph 18/10/13)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

25. SC notice to Centre on Myanmar refugees (13)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking direction to ensure proper health facilities for women and children of Rohingya tribes of Myanmar, residing in refugee camps in Delhi and Haryana. A bench of Justices H L Dattu and Gyan Sudha Misra also sought response from Delhi and Haryana governments on the petition filed by Jaffar Ullah. According to the petitioner, almost 150 Rohingya refugee families, staying in the camps at Delhi and Haryana’s Mewat district did not have access to basic medical care, clean water, nutritious food or secure shelters. The petitioner sought humanitarian assistance to ensure the survival and wellbeing of the refugees as guaranteed under the Constitution. The Rohingyas, numbering about eight lakh, constituted a sizeable minority of Myanmar’s population of 60 million. They suffered due to the ethnic riots that broke out in June 2012, forcing many of them to come to India. (Deccan Herald 5/10/13)

 

26. Italy migrant death toll reaches at least 185 (13)

Lampedusa: An Italian government minister born in Africa watched wordlessly on Sunday as soldiers carried bags containing the bodies of would-be asylum seekers from her native continent who perished when their packed fishing boat sank within sight of the tiny island of Lampedusa. Divers recovered 74 more bodies after seas calmed enough to resume search operations following a two-day suspension, increasing the death toll to at least 185, 55 of those women and five children. More than 150 other people are believed to be missing, many likely trapped in the wreckage about 50 meters (165 feet) below the surface. Search operations will continue “as long as the sea is calm and there is light,” police Maj. Leonardo Ricci said. Congolese-born integration minister Cecile Kyenge watched with the island’s mayor as the bodies were lifted from boats on to trucks to be brought to a makeshift morgue at the airport. “There are no words in front of the dead,” Kyenge told reporters later. “They are difficult moments that make us face our responsibilities.” She said it was time for reflection “to prevent new tragedies.” “We cannot deal with this tragedy alone, but together with Europe. We must give answers to those who flee, need protection, and come here for help,” Kyenge said. Italy’s European partners have signalled their solidarity. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso plans to visit the island Wednesday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Europe must act to stem the migrant tragedy, adding that both France and Italy have asked that the subject be placed on the agenda of Tuesday’s EU interior ministers’ meeting. “The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge cemetery under the open skies,” Fabius said on French TV station iTele. The migrants, mostly from Eritrea, were aboard the 20-meter (65-foot) fishing boat that sank early Thursday after passengers panicked by flames set to draw attention of any potential rescuer bolted to one side of the boat, capsising it. Hundreds were flung into the sea, many of whom could not swim, while others were trapped in the hull. Survivors told rescuers they were in the water for three hours; many clung to empty water bottles to stay afloat and some were too weak to grab lifesavers thrown to them. Earlier, Kyenge visited the survivors at a refugee centre in Lampedusa, where she called conditions “shameful.” Most of the 155 survivors remain at the island’s overcrowded centre, many sleeping in the open. Two have been transferred to hospitals in Sicily. (Zee News 6/10/13)

 

27. PIL demamding Indian citizenship for Sri Lankan refugees (13)

CHENNAI: It is legally untenable to brand all Sri Lankan refugees staying in Tamil Nadu for nearly three decades as ‘illegal migrants’ and deny them Indian citizenship, a PIL has said. The first bench comprising acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan before whom the PIL filed by advocate B Arulmozhimaran came up for admission on Wednesday, has ordered notices to the central and state governments. When the matter was taken up, advocate S Tamilarasan submitted that the Supreme Court had directed the government of India to grant citizenship to nearly 65,000 Chakma refugees after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) filed a petition on their behalf. The NHRC had stated that after residing in Arunachal Pradesh for more than three decades, the refugees had developed close social, religious and economic ties in India and that to uproot them at this stage would be inhuman. The PIL said that about 1 lakh Tamil Sri Lankan refugees were living in Tamil Nadu and added that about 70,000 of them lived in 113 refugee camps, two special camps. They had all been living in Tamil Nadu for the past three decades, it said, and added that they had raised their families in the state and their children too were born in Tamil Nadu. While so, denying them citizenship, despite them having spent their entire lifespan in India, is violative of fundamental right to life, which is applicable to foreigners as well, the PIL said. Citing an apex court ruling in July 2005 striking down certain provisions of the Illegal Migrant (determination by tribunal) Act, it said Article 11 of the Constitution does not prohibit any person applying for citizenship in the country. (Times of India 9/10/13)

 

28. 792,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon: UN (13)

Beirut: The UN refugee agency said Saturday that more than 13,800 Syrian refugees registered at its offices in Lebanon this week, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees in the country to 792,900. In its weekly report, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees said that the number of registered Syrian refugees has exceeded 691,900 while those who are waiting for registration process to complete are over 101,000, Xinhua reported. As a neighbour of Syria, Lebanon has repeatedly called on the international community to help cope with the large influx of Syrian refugees. (Zee News 14/10/13)

 

29. Lanka refugees repay debt of gratitude by donations to Tamil Nadu children (13)

CHENNAI: Night has come to mean haunting dreams of a war for one and the rumble of an empty stomach for the other. A pair of black shoes has now crossed the distance between the two. A group of Sri Lankan refugees, no strangers to displacement and deprivation themselves, has donated one lakh shoes to underprivileged children to show their gratitude to the state that has given them a home. For some students at Children’s Garden Higher Secondary School in Mylapore who received the footwear, it was the first time they slipped their feet into a pair of shoes. “They look nice. My feet won’t get dirty anymore,” said K Anitha, a class III student, before shuffling off to join her friends in her new black canvas shoes. While Anitha and her schoolmates examined their new shoes, Mayuran Jeevarathinam stood in a corner of the class, helping students find the right size. For the 27-year-old, who with his family landed on Indian shores at the age of four in 1990, being with the children was deja vu. “Till class VIII I didn’t have a pair of slippers. I used to walk barefoot from the refugee camp till my school nearly 2km away. Bruises and ruptures on the feet were part of our everyday reality,” said Jeevarathinam, who fled with his family during the civil war in the island nation. Jeevarathinam is among the many Sri Lankan refugees who, under the aegis of non-governmental organisations OfERR and Asthva Foundation, packed and planned the distribution of shoes in 300 locations in the state. “We started the project two years ago,” said Poongkothai Chandrahasan, head of Asthva Foundation. Volunteers approached a US-based shoe company that supplies footwear to the underprivileged in developing nations as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative. “It took more than a year to convince them. Once we got the green signal, volunteers visited schools and orphanages and took the shoe sizes.” For many of the refugee volunteers, who still live in 10×10 thatched huts in camps, the gesture was a way to thank a state that sheltered them when their nation was torn by ethnic strife. “When my family landed in Rameswaram with nothing but a bundle of clothes, people here gave us hope,” said Padmanadhan Rasaiah, 37, who fled his village in Mullaitivu when he was 15. School principals say the initiative will help prevent infections and injuries. “Many children get infections after walking in puddles or in the dust. They are quite excited about wearing the shoes,” said R M Karpagam, principal of Children’s Garden Higher Secondary school. (Times of India 16/10/13)

 

30. HC notice to Centre on Tarapur N-project rehabilitation issue (13)

Mumbai: Hearing a bunch of petitions seeking rehabilitation of those displaced by Tarapur Atomic Power Project, the Bombay High Court on Saturday directed that the Relief and Rehabilitation department of the Union government be made a respondent. BJP leader and former MP Ram Naik, who has intervened in the matter, argued before the bench headed by Justice V M Kanade that the department was concerned with the rehabilitation of those who lost their lands for the project. As the R & R Department wasn’t a party to the petitions, the court said that it should be impleaded, and issued a notice to the department. The hearing was adjourned beyond Diwali vacation. The petitions have been filed by local villagers. Earlier the High Court had asked Maharashtra government to pay Rs 20.37 lakh towards ‘rent’ to 163 families. The petitions allege that the Government and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India did not keep the promise of paying rent — until alternative houses were provided to displaced people — for the period between June 2006 to March 2007. In 2004, the High Court had said the affected families should be provided some money towards the rent by NPCIL, until they got possession of houses. Naik, who has intervened on behalf of the villagers, said the rent was to be paid to 163 families at the rate of Rs 2,500 per month, and it was not being paid. NPCIL being a Union Government-owned company, the responsibility lay with the Centre, he said. However, the HC asked Maharashtra government to pay the rent for the time being, and said it would decide later who was liable to pay the amount.  (Zee News 19/10/13)

 

31. Villages contradict govt claim of Muslims’ return (13)

Muzaffarnagar: Muzaffarnagar district administration records claim incentives such as additional ration and counselling by lekhpals have prompted more than 15,000 of the 27,000-odd Muslim families displaced by the riots over a month ago to return home. This, however, may be a half-truth. Several refugee camps may have been declared dismantled and their occupants returned home, but hundreds of people have moved out only to seek shelter in nearby areas, many trying to find new means of livelihood. The Indian Express found no Muslim family has returned to Kutba, Kutbi, Lakh and Lisar, some of the worst-affected villages. In some villages, jats claimed they were trying to bring back the Muslims. “We met the camp organisers and asked them to help us bring them (Muslims) back. We do not want to continue the animosity,” Devender Pradhan, head of Kutba village, said. Government records suggest 470 of the over 2,800 families that sought refuge in the Joula camp between September 7 and 10 have returned. The state has stopped ration supply and the tent that made the camp on a hospital ground has been abandoned. But barely 100 metres away, 150-odd families have taken shelter in the village bijli ghar. Samaidduin, who moved to the bjili ghar last week, visited his village home once with police escort and returned with five buffaloes. “I never said I was returning permanently, its impossible to go back to where we witnessed so much horror. But now that the state ration has stopped, the (camp) organisers are asking us to move out,” the Lakh resident who used to till jat fields said. In other areas, families have started renting homes around relief camps. Government records say all 1,013 families that sought shelter in the Chand Masjid camp in Budhana have returned. But Kharad resident Munna (48), who lost his father Shahid in the riots, and his family of 12 are back in Budhana after collecting compensation. They are staying at the house of a relative and looking to buy their own. (Indian Express 21/10/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

32. Cabinet withdraws Ordinance, bill protecting convicted law makers (19)

New Delhi: In a coincidence of sorts, the Union Cabinet on Gandhi Jayanthi decided to withdraw the controversial Ordinance that was aimed to shield convicted lawmakers. The Bill that is before the Standing Committee in the Rajya Sabha will also be withdrawn after legal formalities. The motion to withdraw the bill will be moved durng the Winter Session, sources said. Though the Cabinet approved the Ordinance twice (once as a bill), it was Rahul Gandhi’s viewpoint that ultimately won. In a way, the Cabinet ‘tore and threw away’ the Ordinance and the Bill – metaphorically speaking and in the words of Rahul Gandhi. Inching towards withdrawal of the Ordinance, Congress top brass including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi had earlier grappled to work out a face saver in the wake of a huge political storm over Rahul Gandhi’s public outburst against the measure. All pros and cons were discussed and a decision was left to the Union Cabinet which is meeting in the evening, highly placed party sources said after the hour-long Congress Core Group meeting headed by Sonia Gandhi. Soon after the Core Group meeting, which was also attended by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Gandhi’s political aide Ahmed Patel, the Prime Minister met President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The meeting was unusually long. Mukherjee is said to have reservations over the Ordinance to provide immunity to MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification overriding a Supreme Court judgement on the issue. The day of hectic activities in the Congress beganwith Rahul Gandhi calling on the Prime Minister in the morning and holding one to one interaction during which the Congress Vice President explained to Singh the context in which he denounced the Ordinance. Though Singh said he does not get “upset easily”, he had indicated his unease yesterday when he told reporters that he would try to find out the reason why Rahul made a public statement and “why it had to be done that way”. (Asian Age 2/10/13)

 

33. SC clears air on pardon for accused (19)

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Courts have a duty to issue notice to the complainant if the accused are to be pardoned, the Supreme Court has held, asserting that charges in criminal cases can be altered at any stage up to the conviction. The apex court disapproved of the conduct of a trial court and Rajasthan High Court in granting pardon to some people who had allegedly kidnapped a schoolteacher, Giriraj Prasad Meena, and kept him in illegal custody for about five days. A bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde found fault with the trial court for framing charges under Sections 323 (causing hurt) and 343 (wrongfully confining for three or more days) instead of Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting). The kidnapping charge carries a maximum punishment of seven years in jail. Section 323 carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail or a fine or both, and Section 343 is punishable with two years’ imprisonment. Under the Probation of Offenders Act, pardon can only be granted to anyone found guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment up to two years. A convict granted pardon can lead a normal life but under the watchful eyes of a probation officer, who has to see that the convict does not do anything illegal and carries out social work as directed by the judge. In this case, the teacher was allegedly kidnapped and illegally detained from June 29, 2009, to July 4, 2009, following a civil dispute and was threatened his limbs would be chopped off. He was rescued by police who, however, booked cases only under Sections 323 and 343 instead of Section 365. On July 15, 2011, the judicial magistrate of Sawai Madhopur district pardoned the accused after they pleaded guilty. The magistrate concluded the trial the same day without issuing a notice to the appellant, convicting the accused and granting their plea for pardon. The accused were fined Rs 500 each under the Probation of Offenders Act and it was ruled that the order passed in the criminal case shall not have any adverse affect on the government service of the accused. The teacher appealed against the pardon in the high court, which on April 23, 2012, dismissed his appeal. The high court said he could not now raise the issue of non-framing of kidnapping charges against the accused and that there was no merit in his plea that the accused cannot be pardoned. Aggrieved, he appealed in the apex court. Upholding his appeal, the court said: “Filing of chargesheet and taking cognisance has nothing to do with the finality of charges, as charges framed after the cognisance is taken by the court can be altered/amended/changed and any charge can be added at any stage up to the stage of conviction in view of the provisions of Section 216 CrPC.” Although the victim had named seven persons and made serious allegations, the police preferred to register only cases under Sections 323 and 343 IPC. “Had the trial court applied its mind to the material collected during investigation and particularly the statement recorded under Section 164 CrPC (victim), the charges could have been framed also under Section 365 IPC (kidnapping),” it said. “We are of the considered opinion that the learned trial court proceeded not only in great haste, but adopted a procedure not known in law,” Justice Chauhan, writing the judgment, said. The bench said the high court failed to appreciate that before the statement of the appellant or any other witness could be recorded, the trial court disposed of the matter. “Even otherwise if the trial court wanted to entertain any issue of plea bargaining (pardon), then too the court was obliged thereunder to put the victim to notice before extending any such benefits,” the apex court said, sending the matter back to the trial court. (The Telegraph 3/10/13)

 

34. Judiciary has interfered to save democracy: Advocate-General (19)

Tumkur: As the legislature has forgotten to discharge its real duty, the judiciary has interfered to save democracy by giving the right to voters to reject all candidates in elections, according to Advocate-General Ravivarma Kumar. After inaugurating a seminar on “The role of people in strengthening democracy” here on Sunday, Mr. Ravivarma Kumar said that the legislature has forgotten to frame laws for the benefit of the people and to fulfil the expectations of the people. He said as the legislature has limited itself to just carrying out administrative action, a situation has come where the judiciary is framing laws. He said that the active participation of the people is important for a successful democracy. Awareness among the people must be created everyday instead of once in five years, he said. He said that voters must use the right to reject in a proper way. Similarly, he said, it will be dangerous to democracy if the voters develop a mentality of rejecting all candidates. The legislature must think about this matter, he added. He said that the economic crisis in the U.S. is due to its aggressive nature which it has followed all these years. He expressed concern over the working style of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who, according to him, has the same aggressive nature. Media advisor to Chief Minister Dinesh Ameenmattu launched a verbal attack on Mr. Modi saying that his development model was nothing but globalisation, communalism and being dictatorial. It is dangerous for a country if it starts achieving progress in these three areas, he said. He said that industrialists have become strong and they have gained power to control governments. They speak only for their benefit, he added. Legislator Rafeeq Ahmed and president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberty K. Dorairaju were present. (The Hindu 7/10/13)

 

35. Khap has no legal sanctity, says Hooda (19)

Chandigarh: Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Thursday said that Khaps have no legal sanctity and it was like any other social organisation. He was speaking at a function in New Delhi. Asked about intolerance in the community on the girls marrying the boys of their choice, Hooda said that every society has its own customs and rules, like not marrying in the same Gotra and in the same village. As far as Government is concerned, it gives incentives on inter-caste marriages. (Pioneer 11/10/13)

 

36. Class I officers not prosecuted: PIL (19)

Several class one officers of the state government have not been prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act because of the lack of government sanctions to prosecute them. An activist from Mulund, Ankur Patil has obtained this information from the government under the Right to Information Act. On the basis of this information, Mr Patil has filed a pubic interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court seeking the court’s directive to the state to enforce a rule of law. Mr Patil has annexed the RTI reply to his PIL, which shows that in 56 cases the officers had not been prosecuted because the government had not accorded sanction. Besides, permission had not been given in 19 other cases to conduct an open inquiry.

The petitioner prayed for a direction to the state to enforce a rule of law set by the Supreme Court in the two famous cases. The PIL said in the SC judgments cited by the petitioner, the time limit of three months have been prescribed for granting sanction to prosecute officers. However, an additional month has also been given to cases where consultation of the attorney general is required. Once the time limit was over, it was deemed that the sanction had been given and the agency could go ahead with the prosecution, it contended. A bench of Justices P.V. Hardas and P.N. Deshmukh has posted the PIL for hearing after Diwali vacations. The bench has also asked the petitioner to answer a law point on the issue stating whether a writ of mandamus can be issued by the court in such cases. A mandamus is generally issued when the government does not take any action on an issue. (Asian Age 17/10/13)

 

37. SC to hear plea for court-monitored treasure excavation in Unnao (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to hear a PIL seeking court- monitored excavation of gold treasure believed to be buried beneath the ruins of a 180-year-old temple adjoining a fort belonging to erstwhile Bais Rajput rulers in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.  As the petitioner, advocate ML Sharma mentioned his plea for an early hearing by the court, a bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked him to cure the defects in his petition before it could be taken up for hearing. The PIL has also sought direction to the central government to depute a military officer, who would – along with the court-appointed monitoring team – supervise the excavation. As Sharma expressed apprehension that in the absence of a monitoring mechanism there was a likelihood of gold vanishing, the court observed that the state government was there to take care of things. The details about the 1,000-tonne gold treasure believed buried under the temple were revealed by a priest Swami Shobhan Sarkar who had a dream about it. Following the dream, he wrote to the president, prime minister, Archaeological Survey of India and other authorities. The ASI which drilled two bore-holes said that at the depth of 20 metres, their drilling was obstructed by something which was not earth. The ASI is going to start excavation from Friday, the PIL said. The PIL said that Rao Ram Bux Singh, an erstwhile ruler of the area, was hanged by the British during the revolt of 1857. His palace was destroyed but the gold buried in his fort in Daundiya Kheda village of Unnao still remains untraced. Tracing the history of Daundia Khera, the PIL said that it was an ancient place and the founder of Archaeological Survey of India, Sir Alexander Cunningham, had identified the ancient place Hayamukha with Daundia Khera. Hayamukha was visited by the famous Chinese traveler Hsiuen-Tsang in the seventh century, who described this place as having five Buddhist monasteries with over a thousand brethren of the Sammatiya School – one of the four main Buddhist sects of that time. Cunningham asserts that Daundia Khera became the capital of the Bais Rajputs which gave their name to Baiswara in Rae Bareli, UP. (Hindustan Times 18/10/13)

 

38. Maintenance relief for ‘illegal’ wife (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today ruled that an “illegally wedded” wife and children born of such relationship were entitled to maintenance allowance from the estranged husband, in an order that could bring relief to deserted women. In other words, according to the court, if a man deceitfully marries a second woman despite the subsistence of his earlier marriage, he is obliged to pay her monthly maintenance under CrPC Section 125. A bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and A.K. Sikri rejected Badshah’s argument — he illegally married Urmila despite the subsistence of his marriage with Sobha — that he was not bound to pay maintenance to his second wife. “We are dealing with a situation where the marriage between the parties has been proved. However, the petitioner was already married. But he duped the respondent by suppressing the factum of alleged first marriage. “On these facts, in our opinion, he cannot be permitted to deny the benefit of maintenance to the respondent, taking advantage of his own wrong,” the court said. It passed the judgment while dismissing an appeal by Badshah challenging the directions of the matrimonial court and Bombay High Court that he was obliged to pay every month Rs 1,000 to Urmila and Rs 500 to the daughter born of their cohabitation. Badshah’s counsel argued that since he was already married to Sobha, the second marriage with Urmila in 2005 was void under the Hindu Marriages Act. So, he was not entitled to pay her maintenance. But the apex court said: “If a man and woman have been living together for a long time even without a valid marriage, as in that case, term of valid marriage entitling such a woman to maintenance should be drawn and a woman in such a case should be entitled to maintain application under Section 125 CrPC. “Secondly… when the marriage between respondent No.1 (Urmila) and petitioner was solemnised, the petitioner had kept respondent No.1 in dark about his first marriage. “A false representation was given to respondent No.1 that he was single and was competent to enter into marital tie with respondent No.1. In such circumstances, can the petitioner be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong and turn around to say that respondents are not entitled to maintenance by filing the petition under Section 125 CrPC that respondent No.1 is not ‘legally wedded wife’ of the petitioner? Our answer is in the negative. “We are of the view that at least for the purpose of Section 125 CrPC, respondent No.1 would be treated as the wife of the petitioner…. While dealing with the application of a destitute wife or hapless children… under this provision, the court is dealing with marginalised sections of society,” Justice Ranjana said. The court said it could not give an interpretation to the law that was contrary to the intent of the legislation relating to Section 125 CrPC. “We should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should accept the bolder construction based on the view that Parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result. “If this interpretation is not accepted, it would amount to giving a premium to the husband for defrauding the wife. Therefore, at least for the purpose of claiming maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, such a woman is to be treated as the legally wedded wife,” the bench said. It said the principles of Hindu personal law had evolved out of concern for all those subject to it. “The manifest purpose is to achieve the social objectives for making bare minimum provision to sustain the members of relatively smaller social groups. Its foundation spring is humanistic,” the bench said. (The Telegraph 20/10/13)

 

39. Lawyers against circuit benches of district, session courts (19)

Dharamsala: The Kangra District Bar Association (DBA) has submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and the union law minister in protest against the decision of the state high court, wherein it ordered district and sessions court and additional district and sessions court judges to hold circuit courts at various subdivisions of the district for faster disposal of the cases. The bar association members have submitted that the decision would affect the lawyers practicing at the district headquarters of Kangra, besides putting extra financial burden on litigants. “The decision has compelled us to go on the strike and boycott the entire judicial work which is resulting only in an incalculable harm to poor litigants,” said Bar association vice-president Vikramjeet Sharma. He said the newly constituted circuit courts also lack basic infrastructure and could not practically function as sessions court. “In the memorandum, we have also demanded to set up a bench of the Himachal Pradesh high court at Dharamsala,” said Sharma, adding that the principal quantum of work in the high court, both appellate and otherwise, is from Kangra and adjoining districts of Hamirpur, Una and Chamba. (Hindustan Times 21/10/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

40. Maharashtra expects farmer suicide cases to drop by 70 percent in FY14 (20)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday said it is taking steps to insulate farmers from adverse market and weather conditions by helping them to have a regular income, and expects suicide cases in Vidarbha region to come down by 70 per cent this financial year from 2007-08, when this tragic phenomenon peaked. “The major problem in the affected districts (of Vidarbha) are that farmers mainly were into monocropping in khariff season. They had to sustain themselves during the entire year from the income of only one season. We are now encouraging them to grow pulses, horticultural crops, floriculture, soyabean after harvesting khariff crop,” Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said. In Vidarbha, the main suicide prone districts are Akola, Amrawati, Buldhana, Washim, Yeotmal and Wardha. Farmer suicides were at its peak in 2007-08 with 2,395 cases, according government figures. Patil said that under the Prime Minister package Rs 3,750 crore and Rs 1,075 crore in the state package has been set aside for various subsidies and training programmes for farmers in this region. The state government is providing quality seeds of these crops at 50 per cent subsidy, he added. The minister further said that the government is also encouraging diary and fodder, which will help providing regular income to farmers throughout the year, he added. Besides, an assistance of Rs 25,000 per family is given towards purchase of farm equipment, seeds and building storage among others, he said. Drip irrigation sets are given at 50 per cent subsidy to farmers with more than five acres farm holding and 60 per cent to those with less than five acres. “We are also encouraging group farming and green houses to cultivate horticulture produce and floriculture in these six affected districts,” he said. At present, there are more than 50 green houses in the suicide prone districts of Vidarbha. “We are undertaking many more initiatives to improve the farmers conditions in the Vidarbha region, which we expect will bring down the suicide case by 70 per cent this financial year from the peak of 2007-08,” the minister added. (Zee News 2/10/13)

 

41. Punjab to hold second round of farmers’ suicide survey (20)

PATIALA: To ascertain the exact count of farmer suicides in the state, the government has finally decided to conduct the second round of survey, which would reveal the number of farm suicides from 2010 up to March 2013. However, giving a cold shoulder to the demand for a fresh survey from various farmers’ organizations, who said that scores of cases were not recorded in the first survey conducted for 2000-2010 period, the state has decided that surveyors would record only those suicides which took place after 2010-11. “There would be no relook on cases left out in the first round,” said an expert, who would be associated with the second round of survey. Sources said the government had decided to conduct the second round of survey at a meeting with economists of Punjabi University, Patiala, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana on August 24. However, the decision was conveyed to the universities just a day back, they said. The PAU would co-ordinate the entire survey and submit a report within one year, they added. While Punjabi University will conduct survey in Hoshiarpur, Faridkot, Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Muktsar, Mohali and Patiala districts, PAU would survey the worst affected Moga, Mansa, Barnala, Bathinda, Ludhiana and Sangrur districts. The remaining districts will be covered by GNDU. Reacting to the government decision not to count the cases left out in the first round, Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “Not only recounting of leftover cases, we demand that the survey should be conducted afresh by taking 1991 as base year, when economic reforms were introduced in the agri sector. Since the government did not accept our demand, we will continue our agitation demanding inclusion of the cases excluded from the survey. There are scores of such cases in villages across Punjab.” (Times of India 4/10/13)

 

42. Rahul bats for farmers, sees Amethi as future farm hub (20)

Amethi: Noting that farmers are suffering due to problems in the food supply chain, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Monday said there is need for ensuring better compensation for the farmers against their produce. Rahul, who laid foundation stone of a mega food park in Jagdishpur here, said that right from production of crops to their landing on the dinner table, the farmers, despite putting their maximum effort, get minimum benefit. “While a farmer sells potato between Rs 6 to Rs 10 per kilogram, those who make potato chips sell it at Rs 400 per kg,” Rahul said. He further said that while Uttar Pradesh produces some famous varieties of mango, which are even exported to countries like US and Britain, the farmers who grow it get paltry returns. The local MP saw immense possibility in development of Amethi as an agricultural hub. “The thought is that whether its mango, mentha or aonla, whatever is produced in UP, maximum processing is done in Amethi. It should become an agricultural hub,” he said. The food park is developed by the Aditya Birla Group and Rahul said the group will be investing Rs 200 crore in it. He said that 50 units will be set up at the park, that will provide direct jobs to some 2,500 people, besides giving indirect opportunities to 25,000 others and benefiting as many as 40,000 farmers. Rahul said a cargo terminal can be set up at Fursatganj air strip in Rae Bareli, from where the processed food items can be send to other parts of the country. The Congress MP said he fought for re-operating the Hindustan Paper Mill at Amethi and once inaugurated soon, it will provide employment to some 10,000 people. Citing Bengalore’s example, Rahul said the way it became a hub of science-based industry after setting up of HAL unit (Indian Express 7/10/13)

 

 

43. Telangana could mean dry days for Andhra farmers  (20)

Hyderabad: Chirala Bheema Rao, a farmer from Guntur district of coastal Andhra, fears the worst post-statehood for Telangana. Rao, 60, cultivates paddy and chillies on a nine-acre plot. Kandrika, his village in a semi-arid zone, is dependent on water brought by the Nagarjuna Sagar canal from the river Krishna. “What if the Telangana government raises the height of the Jurala Project or checks the flow of water when we need it the most?” he asks. The Indira Priyadarshini Jurala Project is a barrage on river Krishna in Mahbubnagar district of the Telangana region. The river is dammed again at Srisailam in Rayalseema before it reaches the Nagarjuna Sagar. Rao has a point. Andhra Pradesh farmers suffered after Karnataka raised the height of the Almatty dam, leading to a water war between the two states 10 years ago. Farmers in Guntur worry all the more because the district records low rainfall, though the Rayalseema areas are more parched. Guntur’s average annual rainfall of 853mm is much less than most Telangana districts such as Adilabad (1,157mm) and Khammam (1,124mm). “Without assured supply of water, we will be forced to cultivate millet and other less remunerative crops,” Rao says. Lower annual rainfall (603mm) in Mahbubnagar district — where Jurala is —adds to Guntur’s woes. Jurala’s priority is servicing the fields in Mahbubnagar, which translates into scanty water for Guntur farmers if monsoon fails. Farmers across coastal Andhra up to West and East Godavari districts face a similar situation. They are agitated over the Godavari waters that flow through Telangana onto their lands. Canals of the rivers Godavari and Krishna irrigate more than 900,000 hectares in Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari districts. Now considered India’s rice bowl, these four districts were barren before the rivers Godavari and Krishna were dammed. Farmers thus dread a return to the bad old days. Adding to their anxiety is chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who is convinced that creating Telangana would lead to water wars. At a media conference a few days ago, Reddy took a sip while explaining the water issues: “Let me have some water now. Don’t know what the situation would be tomorrow.” Reddy also said the Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar projects were possible because of the united status of Andhra Pradesh. The  projects on the river Krishna straddle Telangana and coastal Andhra. (Hindustan Times 15/10/13)

 

44. BJP: Marginal hike in MSP for wheat an anti-farmer move (20)

New Delhi: The BJP today expressed disappointment over the “marginal” increase in the minimum support price for wheat by the Government and said the Farmers’ Commission recommendation that it should be 50 per cent of the cost of crop production be adopted. “BJP is disappointed with the Government decision to increase MSP for wheat only marginally. This is an anti-farmer move of the Government as it has increased the MSP by only Rs 50 when the cost of production has gone up by Rs 200 per year,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said. In its meeting yesterday, the Cabinet had increased the MSP for wheat from Rs 1,350 to Rs 1,400. BJP said the cost of production was above Rs 1,400 in the last season. “BJP demands that MSP should be calculated in line with the Farmers’ Commission recommendations. The Commission has set the formula that MSP should be 50 per cent above the cost of production. “Such MSP would be the real remunerative price for farmers. The Congress-led Government is continuously denying justice to farmers,” Javadekar said. The party demanded that MSP be hiked to 50 per cent of the cost of production immediately. “If the farming community gets justice, the agriculture labour also gets justice and the whole rural economy looks up. But with such a demotivating MSP, food security will be in doldrums,” Javadekar said. (Business Line 18/10/13)

 

45. Two farmers commit suicide (20)

BALASORE: Two farmers of Balasore district allegedly committed suicide after the flood washed away their houses, crop and cattle. While Nityananda Gochhayat (28) of Kathapal village under Gopinathpur panchayat ended his life by hanging himself from a banyan tree on Friday, Balaram Jena (35) of Jamsuli village consumed poison on Thursday. Gochhayat’s family members said while their paddy crop was damaged, goats, a bullock and valuables were swept away in the flood water of Budhabalanga. Jena had cultivated paddy in around five acres of land which was his only source of income. As the crop was completely damaged in the deluge, he lost his mental balance and consumed poison, said his family members.  He was rushed to Baliapal community health centre where he succumbed. (New Indian Express 19/10/13)

 

46. Farmers in Punjab at receiving end: Partap Singh Bajwa (20)

Amritsar: Punjab unit of Congress on Sunday lashed out at the SAD-BJP government for slow procurement of paddy and the delay in payment of Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers for their crops. Farmers in the state were at the receiving end due to the callous attitude of the coalition government, state Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa told reporters at Chamiari village near here. Farmers were forced by commission agents sell paddy to private companies in connivance with government officials, he said, adding private players were buying the paddy at Rs 1,085 to Rs 1,100 per quintal against the MSP of Rs 1,345 per quintal. Punjab government was expected to procure about 130 lakh tonnes of paddy but during the first 20 days only 20 per cent stocks have been procured, he said. Bajwa rejected the criticism by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who blamed UPA government for meagre hike in MSP of paddy. He said this year UPA government enhanced MSP by Rs 50 per quintal and reminded Badal that the MSP of paddy has been increased by Rs 800 per quintal over the last 8 years. The main responsibility of procurement of grains was with the state government as the Food Corporation India buys only 10 per cent of total paddy, the Congress leader said. It was a matter of shame for SAD-BJP government that Punjab which led the nation in green revolution was ranked at 18th place among 20 states in the agriculture growth, he said. The peasantry of Punjab was most heavily burdened in the country next to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Bajwa said, adding the rural debt in Punjab is estimated to be more then Rs 35,000 crore which has resulted in farm suicides. As per the latest survey conducted by Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, about 5,000 farmers and farm labourers have committed suicides during the last 10 years, Bajwa added. (Zee News 20/10/13)

 

47. No compensation for farmers of Jharsuguda yet (20)

JHARSUGUDA: In the impact of Phailin that battered some parts of Jharsuguda district, paddy, banana and vegetable crops in five blocks have been damaged. Lakhanpur and Kolabira blocks were affected the most. According to agriculture office sources, paddy crop in total 1713 hectares was damaged including 500 hectares in Kolabira , 412 hectares in Jharsuguda, 301 hectares in Lakhanpur, 190 hectares in Kirimira and 300 hectares in Laikera block. Similarly, the farmers, who cultivated vegetable in 60 hectares in Lakhanpur block, have sustained heavy loss. Though officials from Agriculture, Horticulture and Revenue department have already visited the affected areas to survey the extent of damage, no compensation has been paid to the farmers so far. Deputy Director of District Agriculture department Benudhar Panda said preliminary survey on the quantum of loss has been completed and Rs4,000 per hectare will be paid for complete loss of the crop. Basudeo Bhoe, a farmers’ leader of Lakhanpur block, said this amount is very negligible as a farmer usually spends Rs  30,000 to 40,000 per hectare for cultivation of any crop.  (New Indian Express 21/10/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

48. World hungry drop to one in eight people: UN (21)

The number of world hungry has dropped to one in eight people, making the goal of halving hunger by 2015 possible despite continued problems in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, the UN food agency said on Tuesday. At the global level, 842 million people — 12 per cent of the world’s population — did not have enough food for an active and healthy life, down from 868 million for the period 2010 to 2012. The Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said it now appeared possible to attain the United Nations Millenium Development Goal of halving world hunger from its 1990 level by 2015. A FAO report said the main reasons were higher economic growth in developing countries, an increase in farm productivity rates and more private and public investments in agriculture. It also said that remittances from emigrants, which have risen to three times higher than development aid globally, were helping improve diets in countries like Bangladesh and Tajikistan. “With a final push in the next couple of years, we can still reach the MDG target,” FAO director Jose Graziano da Silva said, along with the heads of the UN rural poverty and UN food aid agencies. “Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread,” they said in the report. The report said 62 countries have already reached the target of halving the proportion of hunger. Despite overall progress, marked differences across regions persist, the report said. “Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with more than one in five people estimated to be undernourished,” it found. Sub-Saharan Africa is currently performing the worst on the hunger scale, though there has been some improvement over the last two decades, with hunger declining from 32.7 per cent to 24.8 per cent. In terms of numbers rather than percentages, Southern Asia had the highest number of undernourished people — 295 million — followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 223 million and Eastern Asia with 167 million, the report said. Progress in Northern Africa, which has been impacted by the economic fall-out from the Arab Spring revolutions, has been slow. Western Asia meanwhile showed no progress in tackling undernourishment: while there are fewer people going hungry here than in other parts of the region, the level of undernourishment has risen steadily since the 1990 to 1992 period. The FAO said there had, however, been significant reductions in the estimated number of people going hungry in Latin America and Eastern Asia. The most rapid progress was recorded in fast-growing economies of South-Eastern Asia, where since 1990 the proportion of hungry people has dropped from 31.1 per cent to 10.7 per cent. (Business Standard 2/10/13)

 

49. Number of hungry people in India drops by 6.5 per cent: UN body (21)

New Delhi: India, the world’s second biggest wheat and rice grower, saw the number of people who suffered from chronic hunger drop by 6.5 per cent to 21.38 crore during 2011-13, according to a joint report by UN food agencies. During 2008-10, as many as 22.86 crore people were undernourished in the country, it said. “Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist… The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions.” said the report by Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. At the global level, some 84.2 crore people in 2011-13 suffered from chronic hunger, not having enough food for an active and healthy life. Their number has fallen by 4 per cent from the 2008-10 level, it said. Most of the world’s undernourished people are still to be found in Southern Asia, closely followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia, the report said. It underlined that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. “But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared.” The report also stressed that the developing regions as a whole have made significant progress towards reaching the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. The report has urged countries in these regions “to make considerable and immediate additional efforts” to meet the millennium development goals. Rice and wheat production in India stood at 104.40 million tonne and 92.46 million tonne in 2012-13 crop year (July-June). (NDTV 6/10/13)

 

50. Number of malnourished drops by 6.5%: Report (21)

NEW DELHI: India, the world’s second biggest wheat and rice grower, saw the number of people who suffered from chronic hunger drop by 6.5% to 21.38 crore during 2011-13, according to a joint report by UN food agencies. During 2008-10, as many as 22.86 crore people were undernourished in the country, it said. “Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist … The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions,” said the report by Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. At the global level, some 84.2 crore people in 2011-13 suffered from chronic hunger, not having enough food for an active and healthy life. Their number has fallen by 4% from the 2008-10 level, it said. Most of the world’s undernourished people are still to be found in Southern Asia, closely followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia, the report said. It underlined that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. “But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared.” The report also stressed that the developing regions as a whole have made significant progress towards reaching the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. The report has urged countries in these regions ‘to make considerable and immediate additional efforts’ to meet the millennium development goals. Rice and wheat production in India stood at 104.40 million tonne and 92.46 million tonne in 2012-13 crop year (July-June). (Times of India 7/10/13)

 

51. Living in poverty, and without government help (21)

Ludhiana: Poverty continues to afflict many in the industrial city of Ludhiana. While the world would observe International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17, 30-year-old Kashi Ram, a rag-picker who lives in a slum near Sherpur Chowk, would be scavenging through the many garbage dumpsters of the city to feed his family of a wife and two children. With a mere earning of Rs. 2000 a month, Ram says lack of money has been such that he and his family cannot even afford three square meals a day. Originally hailing from Bihar, Kashi and his wife Sunita have been living in the Sherpur Chowk slum for four years now. “We have lost four children to poor health,” says Ram. “We could not afford their treatment.” Ram’s wife Sunita is suffering from anaemia, a condition caused by iron deficiency in the body. Though the Centre-sponsored Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana – National Health Insurance Programme – provides for health insurance for people living below the poverty line (BPL), not many who are eligible for the benefit are aware of it. Even a state government-sponsored scheme for providing wheat flour and rice at subsidised rates to BPL families has not helped Ram. “We aren’t aware of any such scheme,” he says. Kashi Bai, an 80-year-old woman living in the same slum for 20 years now, too has not benefitted from any scheme for the poor. “We don’t have any card to get wheat and pulses at low rates, so sometimes we eat food with pickle or salt,” says Bai. Bai is blind and suffering from multiple health problems. “But medical teams only visit us during polio drives. Otherwise, no health official visits our area to educate us or conduct medical check-ups,” she says. Bai’s son Mohan Lal is 52, but looks like a 70-year-old because of malnutrition and ill-health. Lal works at a cremation ground, but earns only that when a body comes there. Asked if he has benefitted from any government-sponsored scheme, he answers with a no: “I am unaware of any scheme for the poor. It is not rare for our children to sleep on an empty stomach.” Deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal was not available for comment. However, contacted, district family welfare officer Dr Maninder Singh said they were providing folic acid tablets to anaemic women from the economically weaker section. “We do visit slums to create awareness. Anyone living there and requiring medical aid can visit nearby dispensaries,” he said. (Hindustan Times 16/10/13)

 

52. Finance Ministry to decide on additional grant for food security by year-end (21)

New Delhi: Additional allocation for the Centre’s ambitious Food Security Act will be decided during pre-budget meetings to be held before this year-end, Finance Ministry has said. The Ministry has already made allocation of Rs 10,000 crore as additional provision for national food security in its budget for 2013-14. This grant is in addition to Rs 80,000 crore for food subsidy for the current fiscal. “Additional allocation for National Food Security Act during the current as well as next financial year will be decided during the pre-budget meetings to be held between October to December, 2013,” the Finance Ministry said in reply to an RTI query dated October 9. The Ministry was asked about its proposal or decision to provide additional allocation to meet the expenses under the National Food Security Act. The Finance Ministry said it has not received any demand for additional allocation from any central government ministry so far. “Information on demands for extra budgetary allocation has not been received so far from any of the central ministries or departments,” it said in the reply. Parliament had on September 2 given its nod to Food Security Bill, considered biggest programme in the world to fight hunger, which seeks to provide highly subsidised foodgrains to the country’s two-third population. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 7. It was passed by the lower house on August 26. After getting assent from President Pranab Mukherjee, the National Food Security Act was notified on September 12. The food security law, which has been described by the ruling Congress as a “game changer” and slammed by the Opposition as a “gimmick” before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, guarantees 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 respectively. “Food security is as much a basic human right as the right to education or the right to health care. The National Food Security Bill is a promise of the UPA Government. “I sincerely hope that Parliament will pass the Bill as early as possible. Hon’ble Members will be happy to know that I have set apart Rs 10,000 crore, over and above the normal provision for food subsidy, towards the incremental cost that is likely under the Act,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said while presenting budget for 2013-14. (Business Line 17/10/13)

Posted by admin at 18 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

LAND ACQUISITION/ SEZ

1. UN urges Posco to halt Odisha steel plant,… (4)

NEW DELHI: A UN panel of experts urged South Korean steel giant Posco on Tuesday to suspend plans for a $12 billion steel plant over concerns the project threatened the rights and livelihoods of tens of thousands in eastern India. The call by the UN experts follows a June report by rights groups saying that illegal land seizures threatened to displace 22,000 people and deprive thousands more of their means of existence in the state of Odisha. “People should not be impoverished in the name of development; their rights must take precedence over potential profits,” Magdalena Sepulveda, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in the statement. Mineral-rich Odisha has been trying to woo investors, both foreign and Indian, by giving them mining rights, electricity and water at low prices. But the move to acquire farm and forest lands has run into violent protests, with many farmers and forest-dwellers saying the project would leave them without homes, livelihoods and possible access to clean water. The protests have helped to keep the proposed plant, India’s largest-ever foreign investment project, mired in legal hurdles for eight years. However, as India’s economy has slowed over the past year, the government has reduced some barriers to allowing the company to obtain a license to explore for iron ore. The Odisha project requires about 4,000 acres of land for the plant – expected to produce 13.2 million tons (12 million metric tons) of steel per year – as well as an affiliated power plant, railway line, road, water supply infrastructure and port. Posco was given a five-year environmental clearance in 2007, and agreed to conditions issued by the environment ministry’s in 2011 that the company restrict air emissions, spend 2 per cent of its net profits on social welfare, maintain a quarter of the land as green space and reduce its water intake. The ministry’s approval lapsed, however, after the National Green Tribunal – courts devoted to environmental cases – asked the ministry to review the project again. That process is pending. Posco said in August that the report by the rights groups had used “fallacious criticism, distorted facts and erroneous interpretation.” The report, based on a yearlong investigation, was published by the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University’s School of Law and the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In a lengthy reply, Posco said no one had been displaced from private land, and that the government was clearing only “encroached land and giving due compensation” for removing crops and aquaculture ponds. It said 90 percent of the project area was government owned. “There is no question of any forced eviction.” In July, Posco pulled out of a proposed $5.3 billion steel plant in the southern state of Karnataka, dealing a blow to government efforts to attract foreign investment. The company said it scrapped the project because of inordinate delays stemming from local opposition to land acquisition for the project. (Times of India 2/10/13)

 

2. Projects worth Rs 15 lakh crore stalled for want of clearances (4)

New Delhi: Industrial projects worth over Rs 15 lakh crore are stalled for want of various clearances and other issues, according to data compiled by the Prime Minister’s Project Monitoring Group (PMG). Of this, power is the most troubled sector where 136 projects worth over Rs 7.14 lakh crore are stalled. This is followed by steel, where 25 projects entailing investments of over Rs 3.36 lakh crore are stuck. The other leading sectors where investments are stuck are oil and gas sector (32 projects entailing Rs 2.08 lakh crore investments), special economic zone (Rs 52,271 crore), Roads (Rs 40,155 crore) and Mines (Rs 37,399 crore). In total, 319 projects worth over Rs 15.19 lakh crore stalled investments, have been identified so far by the Prime Minister’s Project Monitoring Group (PMG). The list, however, has been increasing almost on a daily basis. The PMG, since its Constitution in June, has so far cleared 78 projects entailing investments of over Rs 2.93 lakh crore, data available on its website showed. The PMG was set up as a facilitating body for resolving specific issues of the projects and fast tracking them. The issues and clearances of the stalled projects depend on their current stage and include environment and forest clearances, land acquisition, lack of co-ordination between various government departments and clearances stuck at the state government level. Indian industry has been raising its concern against on the slow pace of project clearances, saying that this led to a severe decline in country’s manufacturing activity, thereby lowering exports and affecting current account deficit (CAD). According to the official figures, India’s manufacturing sector had grown by only 1 percent in 2012-13. During the first quarter of the current fiscal, it had reported a growth of 2 percent. The list of stalled projects includes 4000 MW Tilaiya and 3,960 MW Sasan ultra mega power projects (Rs 65,000 crore investments together), Cairn India’s Rs 28,000 crore Barmer oil block and Indian Oil’s Rs 29,777 crore upcoming refinery in Paradip, Odisha. Five crucial railway lines (worth over Rs 14,705 crore), which were proposed to link North-Eastern states with rest of the country, also feature in the list. Of this, four lines have the status of “National Project” and are supposed to link Imphal, Shillong, Agartala and Sikkim with rest of India. Extension of Kolkata metro (two new lines entailing investment of Rs 5,013 crore), six laning of NH-8 between Gurgaon and Jaipur and three new LNG Terminals, proposed to be set up at Kakinada, Mundra and Gangavaram, for about Rs 15,200 crore are also part of the 319-stalled project list. Two mega steel projects, entailing investments of over Rs 1 lakh crore together, of ArcelorMittal and Posco do not feature in the list. The two projects, announced way back in 2005-06, are still at land acquisition stage. (Zee News 6/10/13)

 

3. Posco project work may kick off in early 2014 (4)

Bhubaneswar: After waiting for more than eight years since the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government in June 2005, the $12 billion Posco steel project, billed as the country’s single largest FDI, is poised to take off from the ground. “The state government has already acquired land needed for the Posco project. I hope work on the project to start early next year. We would like the Posco project to be inaugurated before our President’s visit to India,” said South Korean ambassador to India Joon-gyu Lee after his meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here today. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is slated to be the chief guest of the Republic Day celebration in New Delhi on January 26, 2014. Asked if there was any deadline to inaugurate the Posco project, Lee said, “There is no deadline. Posco has been waiting for more than eight years. We should do our best to let the project start.” “The Posco project will spell welfare and development for the state. Once the project starts, you will be able to see the big difference that it makes,” he added. On signing of a fresh MoU, he said, “I hope the new MoU will be signed soon since Posco has already agreed on all the points (stipulated by the state government).” The original MoU signed with Posco India lapsed in June 21, 2010. It has been decided to sign a tripartite agreement involving the Odisha government, Posco India and its parent firm- South Korean steel behemoth Posco. The envoy also sounded optimistic on Posco’s mining plan after the Supreme Court verdict in May this year. “The mining project is almost clear. The Supreme Court has held that there is no problem. I don’t see any problem in the mining plan,” Lee told media persons. Though the state government had recommended the Khnadadhar iron ore mines in favour of Posco India in 2006, the matter was locked up in litigations for many years till the apex court gave its ruling. The Supreme Court had set aside the July, 2010, order of the Odisha High Court that had quashed the state government’s recommendation for PL (prospecting licence) in favour of the steel maker. Commenting on the report of UN human rights experts suggesting scrapping of the Posco project, Lee said, “That is not a report. It is only a preliminary press release. I am very disappointed with the release. Their accusations are not correct. They did not visit Bhubaneswar or talk to the state government officials. They only visited Delhi and came in contact with the people who are opposed to the project.” A group of eight human rights experts under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on October 1 alleged that the Posco project threatens to displace over 22,000 people in the Jagatsinghpur district and disrupt the livelihoods of thousand others in the surrounding area. (Business Standard 7/10/13)

 

4. More land to be acquired for raising Almatti dam’s height

BANGALORE: The height of Almatti Dam built across River Krishna would be raised from 519 to 524 metres under the Upper Krishna Project (UKP). The government would acquire about 1.20 lakh acres of land for the project worth Rs 17,000 crore, Karnataka Water Resources Minister M B Patil told reporters here on Wednesday. The government also has to undertake the huge task of rehabilitating people in over 23 villages, which would be submerged if the height of the dam is increased, he added. More than 70,000 acres of fertile land in Bagalkot and Bijapur districts would also be submerged in the Krishna due to the project. Patil said according to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013, the government would provide compensation to the land, house and property losers. Patil said the land would be acquired from farmers only after securing their consent. “The cost of land acquisition will be around Rs 3,000 crore,” he said. The state-owned Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited, which is the nodal agency for implementing the UKP’s third phase, would have to acquire another 10,000 acres of land for rehabilitation. He said this process would commence from January. “It was also decided to recruit as many as 500 assistant and junior engineers directly. A proposal to this effect would be send to the Finance Department,” he added. Patil said there was also a proposal to recruit another 1,000 engineers on contract basis in the state-owned Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Limited and Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited. According to him, technical advisory committee of the Central Water Commission has sanctioned works worth over Rs 5,000 crore in the basin. (New Indian Express 10/10/13)

 

5. Gujarat government initiates talks with tribal representatives (4)

Vadodara: The Gujarat government has initiated talks with tribal representatives of 70 villages in Narmada district after they opposed land acquisition for a tourism project near the Sardar Sarovar dam at Kevadiya. “It is a good move by the Gujarat government to negotiate with them after realising the gravity of the issue,” Lakhanbhai Musafir of 70 Gam Adivasi Sangthan, an organisation of 70 tribal villages said here today. This move comes in the wake of the Gujarat government deciding to go ahead with the foundation stone laying ceremony of the 182-metre long statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on October 31 by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. About 145 tribal representatives held talks with three senior ministers, including Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel, Finance Minister Nitin Patel, as well as Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd’s (SSNL) managing director, Musafir said. They demanded removal of 70 villages from the list of the Kevadiya Area Development Authority (KADA) and extension of rehabilitation benefits given to project affected people and irrigation benefits of Sardar Sarovar dam as well as Karjan river dam to the 70 villages. Tribals from 70 villages had organised a huge rally on October 2 where they resolved not to part with their land to the KADA tourist project. Musafir said that 68 village headmen refused to give their consent for acquisition of land saying that the did not want any development at the cost of their livelihood. Tribals told the ministers that people of six villages evicted from the site of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on April 5, 1961, continue to be deprived of rehabilitation benefits. “If the Gujarat government has not resolved problems of people of these six affected villages, how can we trust the government,” one of the tribals asked the ministers. (Business Standard 16/10/13)

 

6. 13 Acts now out of new Land Acquisition Act will be amended (4)

CHENNAI: Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said 13 Acts, which were presently not under the purview of the yet to be notified new Land Acquisition Act, would be amended to the effect that the compensation and resettlement and rehabilitation would be at par with the new Act within one year. “… However, what the Act states is that within one year of the new Act coming into place, i.e. by January 1, 2015, those acts, which are kept out of the new act, their compensation and RR (resettlement and rehabilitation) must be brought on par with the new act provision,” Jairam Ramesh told reporters here. The new Land Acquisition Act, which he hoped to notify by January 1, 2014, does not have under its purview 13 different acts, which dealt with land acquisition for various government projects including the national highways, power transmission and railways. Replying to a query on whether the new Act would have an effect on the GAIL project, over which the Centre and Tamil Nadu governments are at loggerheads, after farmers opposed land acquisition for it, he said, “Government of India makes Act not for one scheme but for all schemes across the country.” Observing that he was aware that there should be one Act ideally for land acquisition, which governed all departments, he said “But, it is not possible. There are multiple ministries, multiple ministers. One ministry cannot have overriding powers on all ministries, then it will become dangerous.” (New Indian Express 17/10/13)

 

7. Ex-MLA warns against giving agri land to MNCs (4)

Bangalore: India will become another Somalia, if the government keeps allowing multi-national companies (MNCs) to acquire agricultural lands, former MLA G V Srirama Reddy has warned. He was speaking at the inauguration of a seminar on ‘Land policy – whether for farmers or MNCs,’ organised by the Karnataka Pranta Raita Sangha (KPRS) here on Thursday. “Prices of grains have gone sky high. If agricultural lands are taken over by MNCs, they will operate keeping the international market in mind. This will kill indigenous varieties of crops and farmers will be forced to produce what matches these standards. According to statistics, agriculture is plummeting. The government is thinking of leasing lands to MNCs as a solution for this problem, but this is not farmer friendly,” Reddy said. KPRS president Maruti Manpade said the State’s decision to bring about agriculture marketing reforms was nothing but a plot to support MNCs. (Deccan Herald 18/10/13)

 

TRIBALS

8. Lack of facilities drives documents away from Attappadi (6)

ATTAPPADI: Attappadi, which had been caught in the grip of absymally high mortality trates, is now seeing a ray of hope. But infrastructure in hospitals is below expectations. The doctors at the Kottathara hospital point out that lack of proper accommodation was an impediment in taking up assignments in Attappadi. The work at the doctors’ quarters is yet to be completed. At a time when malnutrition and pre-term deaths among infants hit the headlines, the whole of Attappadi did not even have one gynaecologist. Now there are two gynaecs at the Kottathara tribal hospital but no surgeon, psychiatrist or anaesthesist. Moreover, the doctors are yet to receive the `20,000 monthly incentive announced as part of the Attappadi package. Therefore, junior doctors are reluctant to take up assignments here, sources said. The Agali Community Health Centre has eight doctors and the primary health centres of Sholayur and Pudur have three doctors each. The doctors appointed on ad hoc basis and through NRHM on contract basis will go on leave to appear for the entrance examinations for their PG courses. Therefore, to better the condition of the patients it is essential that these posts be filled through PSC at the earliest, said Dr Rajesh of the Kottathara hospital. (New Indian Express 3/10/13)

 

9. NHRC team visits tribal colonies in Kalpetta (6)

KALPETTA: A three-member fact-finding team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which reached the district on Tuesday to collect evidence on the alleged exploitation of the migrant tribal workers in Karnataka, visited Pilakoora Tribal Colony at Kakkavayal in the district on Thursday. The team, led by P.S. Rao, inspector, NHRC, collected evidence from Janu, widow of Narayanan of the colony who died at a worksite in Karnataka a few months ago. The team also visited the Beerankolly Paniya colony – a tribal youth of the colony had gone missing and another burned to death in Karnataka. According to data available with the district administration, 14 suspicious deaths of migrant tribesmen had been reported from various worksites in Karnataka since 2008. Earlier, the team collected evidence from senior officials of various government departments. “Our visit to the district will conclude on Friday. We will be visiting various worksites at Koorg district in Karnataka till Tuesday,” Mr. Rao said. A comprehensive report on the atrocities against migrant tribal workers would be submitted to the NHRC after the visit, he added. (The Hindu 4/10/13)

 

10. Sundargarh tribals demand abolition of four ULBs (6)

ROURKELA: After a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed its writ petition with critical remarks in May, Sundargarh Zilla Adivasi Advocates’ Association (SZAAA) has filed a curative petition challenging the apex court’s ruling. The latest development assumes significance in the wake of tribal groups in the district becoming increasingly confrontational. The SZAAA is seeking abolition of four Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in the tribal-dominated Sundargarh which is a Scheduled Area as per Clause 6(1) of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. SZAAA general secretary Budhua Jojo termed the SC judgment as ‘unfortunate’ and hoped that the curative petition would be heard by a seven-member bench. Jojo claimed that after the 74th Constitutional amendment, Section 243ZC of Part IX-A overrides the Odisha Municipal (OM) Act, 1950 in Scheduled Area and till date, the Parliament has not enacted any law to this effect. Moreover, Section 6 of the OM Act states that provisions of the Act would not be applicable to Scheduled Area. However, delivering the final judgment in the case between the OZAAA and others versus State of Odisha and others, the Supreme Court bench had ruled that the petitioners proceeded on misunderstanding of facts and relevant provisions of Constitution. Referring to provisions of Constitution and affidavits filed by the Union Government, the bench dismissed the case pronouncing “the entire basis on which the petitioners have built up the case is factually lacking”. Meanwhile, tribal groups in rural pockets of the district have started to mobilise tribals to ensure strict implementation of the provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996. The all India chief of Raji Parha, the highest body of Oram tribe, Bagi Lakra has written to State Government for strict implementation of PESA Act in the district. Former MLA of JMM Mansid Ekka said his party is also vigorously pursuing the issue.  Under PESA Act, Gram Sabhas are supreme decision making bodies and tribals have ‘total control’ over their affairs, he added. Sundargarh Collector Bhupinder Singh Punia said misinformed elements are fanning trouble and the administration is keeping a watch on the situation. (New Indian Express 7/10/13)

 

11. Odisha sends Niyamgiri palli sabhas’ verdict to MoEF (6)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha forest department has sent the resolutions of 12 palli sabhas conducted to decide the fate of mining bauxite atop the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills, to the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF). The palli sabhas held in the hill slope villages in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, stretched for over a month, between July 18 and August 19. The Dongaria Kondhs unanimously nixed the bauxite mining plan, dealing a body blow to Vedanta Aluminium’s plans to source bauxite from Niyamgiri to feed its refinery installed at Lanjigarh on the foothills. “The state SC & ST department had forwarded the record of the gram sabha proceedings and we have sent the same to the MoEF. There are no comments from the government.  The gram sabha proceedings includes video recordings and comments by the presiding district judge that the meetings were held in a free and fair manner”, said a senior forest department official. The gram sabhas were conducted as per the direction of the Supreme Court in its order dated April 18 this year. The gram sabhas were to take a decision within three months as per the apex court order and the same was to be communicated to the MoEF through the state government. Thereafter, the MoEF was to take a final decision on grant of Stage-II forest clearance for the bauxite mining project (BMP), in the light of the decisions of the gram sabhas in two months. In its order, the Supreme Court held that if the BMP, in any way, affects the religious rights of Dongaria Kondh, Kutia Kondh and others, especially their right to worship their deity, known as Niyam Raja, on the hill top of the Niyamgiri hill range, that right has to be preserved and protected. The state government, through its reading of the apex court order, selected 12 hill slope villages for the council meetings- seven in Rayagada district – Serkapadi, Kesarpadi, Khambesi, Jarapa, Batudi, Lamba and Lakhpadar and five in Kalahandi – Tadijhola, Palberi, Phuldumer, Ijurupa and Kunakuda. In all, 900-odd tribals were destined to decide the fate of Vedanta’s alumina refinery. The outcome at all these palli sabhas was alike- a resounding no to the mining plan by the tribals who claimed community and worship rights over the entire hill range, though the apex court had wanted to know if mining at Niyamgiri would anyway affect the worship of Niyam Raja at Hundaljali, the abode of the tribals’ deity about 10 Km away from the mining site. (Business Standard 9/10/13)

 

12. Tribal girl stripped in Thane district; tonsured for marrying out of caste (6)

Thane: In a shocking incident, a 19-year-old tribal girl was allegedly stripped and her head tonsured by her in-laws at a village here for marrying outside her caste, police said. Mom, brother strangle woman who wanted to marry out of caste The girl, in her complaint lodged with Padgha police station in Shahapur taluka of Thane district on Saturday, stated that on August 30, her in-laws stripped her, tonsured her head and also severely beat her up as they were against her marriage with their son Yogesh Patil. The victim mentioned in her complaint that she had got acquainted with Yogesh while working as a packer at a godown in Bhiwandi town of Thane district. Despite opposition from his family, the victim and the boy got married in May this year and were living at her parent’s house in Pali village of Dabhade in Bhiwandi taluka. On August 30, when the couple were on way back to the girl’s house, Yogesh’s family members forcibly took both of them to their home at Maide in Bhiwandi. They tied the couple at the entrance of their home and then allegedly stripped the girl and tonsured her head, according to the police complaint. The complaint also mentioned that one of Yogesh’s brother took their pictures on his mobile phone after they were “punished” and threatened them. Later, Maide village sarpanch Santosh Patil rescued the girl and the couple was taken to Padgha police station where it was decided that they will live separately. However, last night the girl filed a complaint against Yogesh’s family members. Padgha police said offences under sections 498(a) (cruelty), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 353, 504, 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of Prevention of Atrocities on SC and ST Act, 1989, have been registered against Yogesh, his parents Madhukar Patil and Malti Patil and his elder brother.  (Indian Express 13/10/13)

 

13. Tribals allege ‘manhandling’ by cops in Gadchiroli (6)

Gadchiroli: Over two dozen tribals in Etapalli taluka have alleged that they were roughed up by police and kept captive in a cattle shed for a night here. The incident took place on October 8 when the tribals, working in the fields, heard firing in the vicinity and began rushing back home following which policemen allegedly beat them and dumped them into a cattle shed, they said in a memorandum sent to Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil. The police did not spare even women and children, they said. Also, the cops let out cattle from the sheds, which has resulted in huge destruction of crops, the tribals said. It was only the next morning that the tribals were set free with a warning to not disclose anything or else they will be thrashed again, the memorandum further said. Some of the tribals were treated for injuries at the Jarawandi hospital. They have demanded stern action against erring policemen, it added. Policemen on the other hand denied having beaten the tribals. Sub Divisional Police Officer of Aheri, Suhas Bawche, who is presently in charge of Etapalli sub division said that after an encounter with naxals some people were found escaping. So our men enquired them on grounds of suspicion and searched some houses he, said. (Indian Express 14/10/13)

 

14. Land acquisition: Tribal villagers meet Cabinet committee ‘in vain’ (6)

Gandhinagar:  Representatives of 70 tribal villages, who were opposing land acquisition by Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) for building tourism infrastructure at the proposed Statue of Unity site, met a Cabinet committee on Tuesday to discus about their demands. But they had to went back without any assurance from the government. “For the first time, the government gave us a patient hearing. But we did not get any assurance that our demands will be considered,” said representatives of Seter Gaam Aadivashi Sangathan (70 Villages Tribal Association) after the meeting with a group of ministers including state Finance Minister Nitin Patel, Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel and Forest and Environment Minister Ganpat Vasava. In all, 145 villagers met the ministers. “We just hope that our demands are considered within 15 days,” the representatives said. The protesting villagers set a 15-day deadline which would finish on October 31, the date when Chief Minister Narendra Modi is supposed to lay foundation stone of the 182-foot tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (also know as Statue of Unity). On the same day, the state government will also start a nationwide campaign to collect iron pieces from farmers of each 7 lakh villages in the states. The collected iron will be used in the memorial premises. However, the villagers said that they don’t have any protest plan for October 31. “Though, we will chalk out our future plan soon, there will be no protest on that day,” said the members of the association. The statue will come up on Sadhu Island, which is 3.5 km from Sardar Sarovar Dam in Kevadia colony. These 70 villages are located in vicinity of the dam. The villagers had also demonstrated on October 3 after KADA, formed to develop the area primarily for tourism purposes, sought the consent of the village panchayats for land acquisition. (Indian Express 16/10/13)

 

15. Bill on statutory status for SC, ST sub-plan in winter session (6)

Bangalore: The State government will table a Bill to accord statutory status to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes sub-plan on the lines of a law passed in Andhra Pradesh recently, in the winter session to be held in Belgaum next month. Disclosing this to media persons here on Wednesday, Minister for Social Welfare H. Anjaneya said that the proposed Bill will ensure allocation of funds to both the section in proportion to their population. On becoming law, it will ensure total utilisation of funds allocated to these sections in the pla-nned budget. “The Bill is being tabled, as the funds are not being utilised or are being diverted. The Law Department is providing the final touches to the Bill,” he said. On the inordinate delay in according community rights to tribal people in the State, the Minister said that a Cabinet sub-committee comprising high-level officials of forest, revenue and social welfare departments has been set up. The government is awaiting a report from sub-committee to take action to accord community rights to tribal people in accordance with the Forest Rights Act 2005, he added. Mr. Anjaneya said that the government was keen on opening social welfare offices in all taluk headquarters and filling vacant posts in the department. “The government has earmarked Rs. 2,480 crore in the budget for the uplift of tribal people under the Tribal Special Component Plan,” he said. The government has earmarked Rs. 125 crore to provide basic amenities in tribal settlements and Rs. 25 crore for the construction of Valmiki Bhavans. Regretting that money earmarked for the uplift of Scheduled Tribes had not been utilised by the BJP government, he said that the Congress government will take steps to spend the money allocated by both the Union government and the State. He said that the Maharshi Valmiki Jayanti will be celebrated on a grand scale at the Banquet Hall of Vidhana Soudha with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah inaugurating the event. “A selection committee will finalise the Valmiki award by Thursday,” he said. (The Hindu 17/10/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

16. Advisory council for minorities in Jharkhand soon (7)

RANCHI: The state will have its advisory council soon for all belonging to minority sections. It was decided at a meeting called by the Jharkhand State Minority Commission (JSMC) at its office in Dhurwa on Thursday. In this meeting, the commission gave the information about its helpline number and website (http://www.jsmc.in/) which was released this January. “Through this website or helpline number, anyone can register their complaints or write to us their suggestion. Advisory committees have been formed for different minority sections like advisory committee for Muslims and so on, which will look after them and solve their problems,” said Shahid Akhtar, president of JSMC. “All together seven sections are registered as minor and based upon the number, advisory committees are to be made on district level,” added Akhtar. At this meet, the commission requested the people to celebrate December 18 as ‘minority rights day’. Several other issues were discussed which includes widespread promotion of schemes run by minorities, recognition of educational institutions managed by them, inclusion of Urdu in TET exam plus recruitment of teachers in the concerned language, provide relief to the people of Islamnagar etc. “At this type of meeting we get encouragement as our issues are dealt with in a serious manner. For the first time the commission has called for a meeting to deal with the issues of Muslims. We welcome the initiative by the commission and are eagerly waiting for its implementation,” said Rashid, a local resident. Ex members of the commission like Gulpham Mozibi, Manjoor Ahmed Ansari and Md Kayamuddin Khan were honored during the meet. (Times of India 4/10/13)

 

17. Church leaders oppose voting, counting dates for state polls (7)

Aizawl: Church leaders here have objected tothe dates fixed for polling and counting of votes for the Mizoram Assembly elections, saying it will cause inconvenience to community members and hurt their sentiments. A four-member team of the church leaders led by Rev Lalzuithanga, Executive Secretary of the Mizoram Synod of the Presbyterian Church of India, met state Chief Electoral Officer Ashwini Kumar and told him that on December 4, the voting day, a council meeting of the highest authority of the church is to be held. Rev Lalthangmawia, statistician of the Mizoram Synod, said, “We informed the CEO that if the polling is held on December 4 as announced by the Election Commission, not less than 3,000 people, including priests, church leaders and delegates from all over the state, would not be able to cast their votes.” The church leaders further said that December 8, the day of counting of votes, is Sunday, which is a holy day for Christians. If the counting is held on the day, it will be inconvenient for the community and will also hurt the sentiments of the people in the Christian-dominated state. State election department officials reportedly told the church leaders that the matter is in the hands of the Election Commission and the only thing they can do is convey their sentiments. The church leaders said that they would send a representation to the Election Commission on the issue by next week and would also meet the Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath and other Election Commissioners when they visited the state to oversee poll preparedness. (Hindustan Times 5/10/13)

 

18. Minority panel report puts Akhilesh govt in the dock (7)

Lucknow: A report of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) that visited Muzaffarnagar on September 19 after the riots has put the UP government in the dock. The commission concluded that transfer of DM Surendra Singh and SSP Manzil Saini within hours of the incidents at Kawaal village, where three persons were killed, seemed hasty and detrimental to law and order. Muzaffarnagar’s Muslim women seek safety through marriage At Kawaal, two men, Gaurav and Sachin, killed one Shah Nawaz after a quarrel and both were lynched by villagers on August 27. The government transferred Singh and Saini. BJP MLA arrested for making hate speech In the report, NCM Chairman Wajahat Habibullah stated the new incumbents were said to be new to the districts. The commission stated that fortunately, that now stands remedied and NCM would commend the present incumbents for grip and understanding of the current challenges faced by the public and the administration. “But the initial spark was lit in the villages and so, because of an apparent lack of preparedness at that level, it became a rural riot,” the report, posted on the commission’s website on Sunday, said. The commission concluded that the Mahapanchayat at Nangla Mandaur on September 17 should not have been allowed. During its visit, the administration explained its inability to prevent it, despite engaging with the Jat leadership but the explanation was unacceptable. “Having said that, it needs to be added that Jats were agitated and a confrontation between them and the police could have seen considerable blood spillage. It is regrettable that MLAs addressed the gathering and did little to calm passions,” the commission stated. The commission said, “Although there appears to have been effective administrative intervention at Jan Sabha in Muzaffarnagar on August 30 by then newly appointed DM Kaushal Raj Sharma, the mahapanchayat appears to have seen a supine police response.”  (Indian Express 7/10/13)

 

19. Uttarakhand police to prosecute BJP MLA for 2011 communal riot (7)

DEHRADUN: Police in Uttarakhand have been allowed to prosecute BJP legislator from Udham Singh Nagar Rajkumar Thukral for inciting communal frenzy and spreading hatred during communal riots in Udham Singh Nagar in 2011. Four people were killed and 60 others injured in the riots which broke out on October 12, 2011. Violence erupted hours after torn pages of a holy book of a minority community were found lying outside a place of worship. A curfew was imposed on the town for five days. DGP B S Sidhu said that principal secretary (home) Omprakash gave go-ahead to police on Monday on an application seeking permission to proceed cases against Thukral and 53 others based on the findings of a Crime Branch of Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) probe about their involvement in the communal riots. “Sole objective of CB-CID probe into the case was to investigate it dispassionately to corroborate extent of those involved in the communal violence in public interest and not against certain individuals so the question of implicating any one in the case does not arise,” Sidhu said. A senior CB-CID officer said findings of probe have revealed that communal riots were not only incited but engineered clearly at the behest of Thukral and others involved in the case. “We had put up a proposal before home department a couple of days ago, seeking to grant us permission to prosecute those involved in riots, on the basis of these findings, that has been granted to us,” Sidhu said. A senior IPS officer who monitored the probe told TOI that over 100 eye-witnesses were cross-examined by CB-CID sleuths. “The extent of Thukral and others’ involvement in the communal violence was corroborated on the basis of conclusive evidence,” a senior CB-CID officer said in Dehradun. He said the CB-CID is yet to file a chargesheet against those involved in the riots in court. “As soon as charge-sheet is filed, we will also put an application before the court to prosecute them for their involvement in the riots,” Sidhu said. A senior IPS officer said Thukral will be the first BJP MLA in Uttarkhand to face a trial for his involvement in communal violence. Thukral dismissed charges against him saying he was framed in the case. “As CB-CID is a part of police department, I was falsely implicated in the case to tarnish my image at the behest of Congress-led government,” Thukral said. “As CB-CID probe’s findings are based on its detailed investigation against all those who were found involved in the riots and not against particular individuals since 2011, the question of blaming Congress-led government which came to power in 2012 doesn’t arise,” chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

20. ‘Xtians denied their due in posting of minority promoters’ (7)

KOCHI: The Department for Minority Welfare is denying justice to the Christian community by deviating from the natural proportion in the appointment of minority promoters, alleged the  Laity commission of Syro-Malabar Church. Results of an RTI petition reveal that  the state government has appointed 903 minority promoters in the 14 districts. Among them, 760 are from Muslim community and the rest, 143, from the Christian community. This is against the spirit of the Government Order, Public administration (minority welfare) department 5001/2012, which states that the promoters have to be appointed on the basis of the ratio of population, alleges the  Laity commission. “The government is insulting the community by denying it the deserving quota. It has an eligibility for 440 promoters. All the minority communities have a right for the  minority welfare schemes according to the ratio of their population. However, it is a clear case of discrimination and injustice in which all the benefits of the welfare schemes are rested upon one section,” VC Sebastian, secretary of the Laity commission, told Express. Five communities- Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsis- are considered minorities. According to the base data, the census  of 2001, 19.02 percent of the state’s population are Christians while Muslims form 24.32 percent. Those who passed tenth class can be a promoter and  are entitled to get `4,000 as monthly honorarium. The Government Order says that it intents to appoint 1000 promoters. V V Joshi, member of the recently formed State Minority Commission, said that the commission would intimate the government on the situation. “ The District Minority Cell is appointing the promoters. We are getting complaints regarding this issue,” he said. However,  Manjalamkuzhi Ali, Minister for Minority welfare, did not respond to the allegations. “Now, it is not the time to respond to the issue on Minority promoters, I will explain the government’s stand in a couple of days,” he  told ‘Express’. (New Indian Express 9/10/13)

 

21. Rs 190 crore fund for minority development project in Maharshtra (7)

MUMBAI: As an initiative to implement the Prime Minister’s 15 point plan for development, the sate and central government have collectively allotted Rs 190 crore for the development of minorities in Maharshtra. While the Centre has approved Rs 140 crore, state sanctioned 50 crore for housing, ladies hostel, ITI colleges, polytechnics for minorities in the state. “These schemes are being implemented in nine districts’ six towns and eight blocks (rural areas) under the Minorities Development Project. They are Latur, Beed, Jalna, Parbhani, Jalgaon, Washim, Buldana, Hingoli and Yevatmal. The rural areas’ poor girl students will be provided free cycle for travelling. For this, girls’ separate hostels are being constructed. Computers will be given to such educational institutes under this scheme,” said Naseem Khan, state Minorities Affairs minister. As per the scheme, in the next one year, more than 800 people will be provided free home. State’s nine districts are among 100 others chosen for minorities’ development. Khan said that they were using the existing 44 polytechnic in the evening shift only for minorities though these are regular morning institutions. “Without using any extra fund, we are utilizing the same places to provide skilled courses education to students from minorities,” said Khan. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

22. Muslims should overcome dependence on state: Experts (7)

AURANGABAD: Experts on Friday stressed on the need for Muslims to overcome their dependence on the state and to initiate steps in the direction of obtaining modern education and technical knowledge. They were speaking at the inauguration of a two-day seminar on ‘What ails Indian Muslims’, organized by the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University’s political science department and the Centre for Promotion of Democracy and Secularism (CPDS) on the university campus. Delivering his key note address, former vice-chancellor Jamia Millia Islamia Mushirul Hasan said, “Muslims for long have been dependent on the state but now they need to initiate self-actions and by the collective actions they should move in the direction of modern education and technical knowledge which would benefit the society.” Hasan appealed to the ‘ulemas’ (religious leaders) to come forward and interpret Islam in a dynamic way, saying that Islam has successfully spread across the world because of its quality of adaptability. He also asked the Muslims to participate in various ongoing struggles like environment, dalits and women. “Nothing is fundamentally wrong with the community, though it has some resistance towards education.This is can be sorted out simply. But contrary to the perception, Muslims have always been in the national mainstream and they have successfully identified themselves with the regional cultures,” he said. Speaking about the demand for reservation to Muslims, Hasan said that Muslims need some kind of reservation, not necessarily on the lines or principles of religion but on the basis of backwardness. He lambasted various political parties for doing nothing but lip service to the Muslims and using Muslims as vote banks. Regardless of the political parties in power, the Government of India lacks the affirmative actions for Muslims, fearing the allegations of appeasement of the minorities, he added. CPDS director Syed Zaheer Ali said, “The problems the Muslim community faces are internal as well as external. They are looked upon as a monolithic community, mainly by two groups – the Pan-Islamists and the Hindu rightists. But, when observed closely, it is found that they are also divided on the lines of race, sects and region.” Former justice of the Bombay high court Babu Malaparley said, “The 86th amendment has made free education a fundamental right for the age group of 6-14 years and the Muslims should make it a point that they do not lag behind in education. He appealed to the Muslims to relieve themselves from the self-imposed isolation and abstain from further becoming victims of political retrofit and appeasement. Speaking about the reservation to Muslims, he said that reservation in India by our founding fathers was a short-term action aimed to bridge the gap and there should be affirmative action by the society and institutions. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

23. UP asks doctors to identify ‘genuine’ riot victims (7)

LUCKNOW: In the third week of September, a committee of three doctors was set up by then Muzaffarnagar chief medical officer to ascertain how many deaths actually occurred in the communal violence. The question which should have ideally been the prerogative of cops was passed on to doctors in UP at the behest of the government. When the doctors expressed reservations to bail out government in this regard, the state turned to the forensic science laboratory. Following compensation of Rs 10 lakh and job to kin of deceased announced by the government, there has been a slew of claimants, putting officials in west UP in a fix over who is a genuine beneficiary and who is not. When the Prime Minister’s office pitched in too an announced additional compensation of Rs 2 lakh to those killed in communal violence, there was a fresh riot of claimants. As many as 35 days have passed from the time riots erupted in Muzaffarnagar, the administration has yet to know for sure how many deaths actually occurred due to communal violence in Muzaffarnagar. The mayhem at district magistrate’s office suddenly increased September 16 onwards. A day before chief minister had announced jobs to kin of deceased. The riots broke out from September 7 and during the initial few days police could not verify claims by the deceased’s kin due to high tension in the entire region, said senior superintendent of police Muzaffarnagar, Hari Narain Singh, who was posted in the district on September 30. Meanwhile, the problem only worsened instead of getting better. Recently, two cases were detected by cops in which the deceased persons were projected as riot victims though actually they had been killed by relatives over feud. The accused were later booked by police and benefits extended by government rolled back in the two cases. Singh added that claims of two more families have yet to be corroborated. Similarly, Shamli superintendent A K Rai, said two corpses of middle-age men recovered from fields under Jhinjhana and Babri police stations, remain suspicious. “We have been trying to find out if the two got killed in isolated cases of crime or in communal violence,” said Rai. But in a bizarre move, instead of asking cops to investigate, the district administration turned to doctors to identify ‘genuine’ riot victims on the basis of cause of death and injuries mentioned in the postmortem reports. Day after Prime Minister and UP health minister Ahmed Hasan visited Muzaffarnagar, the then chief medical officer V K Johari was instructed to do so. “A committee of three doctors under medical superintendent of Muzaffarnagar district hospital was constituted on September 17 as per the instructions of the local administration,” said Johari. The committee as expected refrained from commenting on a question that would have shaped or ruined a family’s fate. “It is the role of police to visit scene of crime, arrive at sequence of events leading to death of a person and gather evidence and information related to the incident. Our purview is just to make note of what we observe while carrying out autopsy,” said a doctor from the panel. Explaining a tricky situation, the doctor added, “Several bodies had been fished out of canals. In some cases contusion on the head was noted but drowning was stated to be cause of death. How can anybody say for sure that the person was first hit on the head and thrown into the canal or had accidentally fallen into it and hit his head against hard the surface while diving in.” With no help forthcoming from the committee such cases were sent to forensic science laboratory in Lucknow in last week of September. Seven autopsy reports have been sent for examination. “I have been given verbal instructions by higher ups but will not proceed unless I receive written orders,” said a medico-legal expert from the laboratory. (Times of India 13/10/13)

 

24. Malaysia Catholic newspaper loses fight to use ‘Allah’ (7)

Malaysia: An appeals panel ruled Monday that a Malaysian Catholic newspaper could not use “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in a case that sparked attacks on places of worship three years ago. The publishers of the Herald, who had argued that a 2009 government ban on the use of Allah in its Malay-language edition was unconstitutional, said after the ruling they planned to appeal higher to the Federal Court. “It is our judgment that there is no infringement of any of the constitutional rights,” said Apandi Ali, head of the 3-judge panel. “It is our common finding that the usage of the name ‘Allah’ is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity.” The dispute erupted in early 2009 when the home ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s publishing permit for using the word. The Catholic Church sued, claiming violation of its constitutional rights. A court upheld the church’s argument later that year and lifted the ban pending judicial review. The ban’s removal triggered a series of attacks in early 2010 on places of worship, mostly churches, using Molotov cocktails, rocks and paint, and sparking fears of wider religious conflict in the multi-faith country. Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew said Monday’s ruling was flawed, noting that “Allah” has been used extensively in Malay-language versions of the Bible for decades without trouble. “It is also a retrograde step in the development of the law relating to the fundamental liberties of religious minorities in this country,” he told reporters. Andrew insisted the Church remained unbowed and would appeal. Some observers have expressed fear that a ruling in the Malay-dominated government’s favour could potentially be used as precedent to have “Allah” also stricken from Bibles. Muslims make up 60 per cent of the country’s 28 million people, while Christians account for about nine per cent. Following the initial government ban, Muslim groups seized on the issue, claiming that the Arabic word “Allah” is exclusive to Islam. Malaysia has largely avoided overt religious conflict in recent decades, but tensions have slowly risen along with what many perceive as an increasing Islamisation of the Southeast Asian country. (Asian Age 14/10/13)

 

25. ‘NSS will fight policy of minority appeasement’ (7)

KOTTAYAM: Nair Service Society general secretary G Sukumaran Nair, on Monday, asserted that the organisation would stand firm in its resolve against the policy of minority appeasement followed by governments. He was speaking after inaugurating the Nair centenary conference organised by the Changanassery taluk union of the NSS at Perunna on Vijayadasami day. “The NSS adopted a tough stance when the wrong policies of governments led to the denial of due rights to the majority community and minority communities were seen to be usurping undue benefits. It was on the basis this stance that the NSS and the SNDP decided to stand together. The NSS will definitely stick to its decisions which were taken to protect the rights of the majority community, no matter, whoever is with us,” Sukumaran Nair said. He added that NSS would never run counter to the award of benefits to minority communities that are legal and abides by the constitution. “It is the proclaimed policy of the NSS to raise voice against social injustices and the wrong policies of the governments. The NSS doesn’t have any vested interest or political motives. Our stance is clear and genuine. It is unfortunate that there was an attempt to weaken our claims by depicting it as communal,” Sukumaran Nair said. He said that when NSS raised the issue of the shortcomings in the appointment of the teachers in aided schools, the government did care to look into the issue. Sukumaran Nair also demanded the implementation of the recommendations in the S R Sinhu commission, which was constituted to look in to the issues being faced by the majority communities. NSS president P N Narendranathan Nair presided over the function. Vice President Prof V P Haridas, treasurer Dr M Sasikumar and Karayogam registrar K N Viswanatha Pillai also spoke. NSS Changanasseri union president Harikumar Koyikkal welcomed the gathering and vice president V G Bhaskaran Nair delivered vote of thanks. (New Indian Express 15/10/13)

 

26. Communal clash: Security stepped up in Andhra town (7)

NALGONDA: A day after four persons were injured when members of two communities clashed in district’s Devarkonda town, police on Wednesday intensified efforts to nab those responsible for the rioting while security was beefed up in the troubled areas. Prohibitory orders were enforced in the town and efforts were on to nab those responsible (from both groups) for fomenting the trouble, a senior police officer said. “The situation is now under control. Bakrid prayers passed off peacefully. Additional forces were patrolling in the lanes and bylanes of different areas and pickets were set in sensitive areas of Devarkonda town,” Nalgonda district superintendent of police T Prabhakar Rao said. “We have taken some persons into custody and verifying their role in the incident. Based on their questioning we will soon nab all the trouble-makers,” the SP said. Trouble broke out late last night after members of two communities argued over hoisting of religious flags and threw stones and attacked each other with sticks, resulting in injuries to four persons, including a local BJP leader, police had earlier said. DIG (Hyderabad Range) Naveen Chand and senior police officers were closely monitoring the situation in Devarkonda. (Times of India 16/10/13)

 

27. Christians seek arrest of vandals (7)

MANGALORE: Close on the heels of miscreants damaging the grotto of Mother Mary at Loretto Church in Bantwal, Christians staged a protest on Sunday. The miscreants had damaged the grotto with soft drink bottles in the wee hours of Sunday. As news spread, hundreds of people assembled in front of the church and urged the police to arrest the miscreants. SP Shantanu Sinha visited the spot. District Minister B Ramanatha Rai came to the spot and directed the police to arrest the culprit as early as possible. (New Indian Express 15/10/13)

 

28. Madani gives Muslims good advice, don’t vote for fear but for vision of better future (7)

Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind is one of India’s biggest Muslim organizations. While this does lend ballast to its chief Syed Mehmood Madani’s political statements, it would be foolhardy to read these in terms of their influence on a monolithic Muslim vote bank. This monolith is a myth. Muslims are no more homogenised across divisions of class, caste, gender and geography than Hindus. An argument that has hitherto held strong however is that even if Muslims don’t vote as a bloc, they’re generally united over who won’t get their vote. Narendra Modi was long held out as one such pariah, because he’s indelibly associated with the anti-Muslim riots that engulfed Gujarat in 2002. This is why Madani set the cat among the pigeons by saying Congress shouldn’t try to get Muslim votes by creating fear about somebody. Both Congress and BJP swiftly filled in the blanks left for ‘somebody’. None of the interpretations do justice to the complex argument laid out by Madani. He didn’t really endorse Modi while noting that so-called secular governments didn’t prevent communal riots in UP or Rajasthan. Basically Madani said, don’t succumb to the bogey of fear. Vote for the future. That’s not propaganda for any party, just good advice for all Indians. When some communities feel fear, all citizens’ quality of life suffers. When peace is disrupted, nobody’s business prospers. Everyone’s aspirations are held back. Schooling of both Muslim and Jat citizens was disrupted during the Muzaffarnagar riots. The lesson is, ditch the politics of negativity to push growth and good governance – the perfect formula for communal harmony.  (Times of India 17/10/13)

 

WOMEN

29. Delhi maid rescued but slave treatment is common (8)

New Delhi: A senior executive with a French engineering firm was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly torturing her 15-year-old domestic help who was rescued a day earlier with severe head wounds, bite marks all over the body and a badly swollen face. The assault in the upscale Vasant Kunj area has put the spotlight back on trafficking of minors and the lack of a legal framework governing domestic work. The Delhi government’s draft bill — Delhi Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2012, is yet to become a law.  The bill, however, is limited only to placement agencies. Following the latest incident, the Delhi government has said the case would be heard by a fast-track court to ensure that the girl gets justice. Even though India banned children under 14 from working as domestic servants in 2006, scores of children, both boys and girls, are trafficked from various states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. (Hindustan Times 2/10/13)

 

30. Abolish minimum age for marriage, demand khaps (8)

Chandigarh: Khap panchayats, which have for long been seeking a legal ban on “same gotra marriages,” have also been urging the Haryana government to abolish the legal minimum age for marriage. The dominant opinion at a recent meeting of Khap representatives in Rewari was that if a boy is married at 16 and the girl as soon as she attains puberty, it would contribute to preventing crimes such as honour killings and female foeticide. In 2011, a division bench of the Supreme Court had declared Khap panchayats illegal and had directed State governments to take harsh measures in preventing the illegal and barbaric orders by these councils. The apex court had also sought steps to prevent the “honour killings.” Apart from opposing “same gotra marriages,” Khap panchayats have also passed diktats against girls wearing jeans and other western wear, using mobile phones, eating chowmein and many other things. Earlier this year, a Khap in Rohtak district had forced a couple to dissolve their marriage and start behaving as siblings because they belonged to the same gotra. By then, the couple already had a 10-month-old child. In the infamous honour killing of Manoj and Babli, Khap panchayats had opposed any action against the killers, five of whom were awarded the death sentence in 2010 by the trial court in Karnal. A ‘maha Khap panchayat’ organised subsequently planned to not only support those convicted in the case, but also raise money to hire competent lawyers to file an appeal. (The Hindu 6/10/13)

 

31. Feticide and dowry real killers of women in western Uttar Pradesh (8)

LUCKNOW: The threat to bahu-betis (women) in west UP is actually from their families, not from ‘Love Jihad’, a term coined by right wing groups to describe a holy war waged by Muslim boys to trap and convert Hindu women. Love Jihad is said to be one of the factors that has provoked communal passions in the area for the past one year, eventually triggering the blood bath, killing 62 innocents and turning over 50,000 refugees in their homeland. The starting point was the killing of three youth at Kawal village in Muzaffarnagar over harassment of girls. Even after riots, every incident of harassment of a Hindu girl involving Muslims, even with a remote link, is hyped up as Love Jihad. But, there is no evidence to support the Love Jihad theory but female foeticide, poor maternal care and dowry, together kill one bahu/beti every four minutes in these areas. In the past 10 years, almost all major political parties have ruled UP but, no movement or campaign, as the one which stoked communal flare-up, has been witnessed to address the real threat, which has now acquired monstrous proportions. Sample this: Every day, foeticide kills 330 unborn girls in UP, poor maternal health 46 women and dowry six women-total 382 per day. This amounts to one killing per four minutes. The same applies to west UP. Several government and non-government studies, including one by United Nation Population Fund, have revealed that the female foeticide is rampant in UP and the situation is worse in the western parts. The studies gain credence from the rising number of ultrasound and in-vitro fertilisation centres and decline in child sex ratio (number of girls against 1000 boys in 0-6 age group). While the centres where sex determination can be done have increased in UP from 400 in 2001 to over 5,000 in 2013, the CSR has declined from 916 in 2001 Census to 902 in 2011, a 14-point drop. This means, in UP, only 902 girls take birth and survive till six years against 1,000 boys. The national CSR is 919 and natural 945. This means in the past six years 7.2 lakh female foetuses were killed, which comes to 1.20 lakh every year, 10,000 every month and 330 daily. The west UP, particularly the riot-hit area, has lowest CSRs in the state and have earned the dubious distinction of being called as ‘killing fields for unborn girl child’. The CSR of Muzaffarnagar, for instance, is 863, which means 82 girls less than normal ratio. Similarly, the number of ‘missing’ girls in Meerut is 91, Baghpat 104, Bijnor 62 and Saharanpur 58. “The betis are losing right to take birth and life because of highly patriarchal mindset which prefers boys over girls,” said gynecologist-turned-activist Dr Neelam Singh, also member of several national bodies formed under the PCPNDT Act to check female foeticide. “The skewed sex ratio also reflects in the child population in Census 2011. The number of boys in 0-6 age group is 1.56 crore, whereas girls 1.40 crore (total 2.96 crore),” she added. Dr Singh warned “The imbalance may lead to dangerous social and economic repercussions. Studies have revealed that it is a major factor for the rise in sex crime against women. Already, bride-buying has started as girls are not available for marriage in some west UP districts.” The warning does not seem misplaced. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, rape cases doubled in UP from 911 in 2003 to 1963 in 2012. Of 1963, in one third (679) offenders were close family members, relatives or neighbours. Similarly, molestation increased by three times from 1098 in 2003 to 7661 in 2012. (Times of India 10/10/13)

 

32. Andhra tops in girl school dropouts: Activists (8)

HYDERABAD: They may have scaled up the ladder in myriad professions, but in terms of education, a significant number of girls, especially from the marginalized sections of the society, continue to be denied their basic rights. As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, the fact remains that though there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education in the last two decades, seven out of 10 girls drop out of school before they reach class 10. In fact, activists say that Andhra Pradesh reports one of the highest numbers of school dropouts among girls. If the net enrolment rate of girls in primary education is 96%, it gradually dips to 60% in secondary education. A primary reason, according to activists, is that AP has the least number of usable toilets in the country. Activists say that around 47,000 of the 76,000 government schools do not have usable toilets. A Unicef-backed survey in 2010-11 had revealed that around 42.6 per cent of government schools have toilets but they are not usable. When contacted, Usha Rani, project director, Rajiv Vidya Mission, said that except teachers, there are no staff in the schools. “Toilets are there but maintenance is a huge issue and it is very difficult to get sanitation staff,” she said. With this year’s theme for ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ being “Learning for Life”, Anita Kumar, senior programme manager (south) of Plan India, says it is important to sensitize people about the importance of investing in the education of a girl child. “We need to address the gender bias in the curriculum and the way teaching is done in schools. Girls should be made aware of their rights,” said Anita. She added that considering the level of violence to which girls are exposed, India is being rated as the most unsafe place for women in the world. Consider this: Every third girl born in India dies in the first year of life. One in four does not live to celebrate their 15th birthday. Two out of five girls are malnourished. Every second adolescent girl is anaemic. Seven out of 10 girls drop out of school before they reach 10th standard. Six out of 10 girls become child brides. Four out of 10 have their first child before they turn 18. “In trafficking, AP is ranked among the top and the state happens to be the source and transit point. We have highest number of child labourers in the country,” says Mamatha Raghuveer, who runs Tharuni, a Warangal-based NGO which will launch an SMS-helpline called “Tharumopayam” on Friday. According to writer and activist Vimala Morthala, the state also reports one of the highest numbers of child marriages, with the average age of marriage being 16 years. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. (Times of India 11/10/13)

 

33. NC, Congress defeat motion to empower women (8)

SRINAGAR: The National Conference and the Congress — both purported proponents of women’s empowerment — on Friday joined hands to defeat a resolution that NC legislator Shehnaz Ganai moved in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council seeking reservation for women in all professional courses and public services. Ms. Ganai’s own party colleague and Minister for Planning Ajay Sadhotra opposed the resolution and asked her to withdraw it after an assurance was given to her by the government. She, however, pressed for the resolution, which was put to vote. Deputy Chairman Javed Rana declared the resolution as failed, though many of the members said ‘yes’ in the voice vote. “Government’s intentions were exposed today in the Legislative Council,” said Ms. Ganai, the NC’s only MLC in the 34-member Upper House. She claimed that a majority of the members favoured her resolution. Ms. Ganai had sought 50 per cent reservation for women in all professional and technical courses, and subsequently in government services, on the pattern of reservation adopted for MBBS and BDS courses during Farooq Abdullah’s government in 1996-2002. She gave the credit for the historic initiative to Dr. Abdullah and pointed out that that the women’s ratio in the Health Department now stood at 69 per cent. Ms. Ganai claimed there were only 12 per cent women in senior scale in the Kashmir Administrative Service and a paltry 3 per cent in the Kashmir Police Service. “Reservation is a must in all professional and technical courses as well as jobs if the women are to be empowered,” she said. Ms. Ganai asserted that women were “equally unrepresented” in the legislature, the judiciary and the executive. “Among 800 MLAs since 1947, only 12 have been women. Only six have been Ministers compared to 300 men in the last 63 years,” she pointed out. (The Hindu 12/10/13)

 

34. Haryana’s sex ratio: .. (8)

CHANDIGARH: Tall claims made by the health authorities in tackling issues related to skewed sex ratio in Haryana have fallen flat as its own employees are found to be involved in the illegal abortions. This has also put the question mark over the role of supervising authorities like medical superintendents of the government hospitals and civil surgeons of the districts in checking such employees working in the health centres and hospitals falling under their jurisdiction. All this became more evident on Friday, when commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Haryana, Dr Rakesh Gupta shot off semi-official letters to civil surgeons across the state apprising them about the startling revelation which came to fore during investigations after it teams unearthed three such rackets allegedly being run by auxiliary midwifery nurses (ANMs) in Hansi (Hisar) Panipat and Fatehabad districts last month. Last month, acting on secret tip offs, the teams of FDA Haryana had conducted the raids in the three districts. On September 19, Meena, an ANM posted in Samalkha’s health centre was found conducting MTPs in a rented accomodation in Wadhava Ram Colony of Panipat. On September 18, Munni, another ANM was found conducting MTP in the Hansi town of Hisar district. She had be doing this under the garb of BAMS doctor. While, Radha an ANM posted in Fatehabad district was the last to be nabbed by FDA team in last week of September. All the three ANMs had been booked and arrested in the case registered against them under various sections of IPC and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. During investigations it was found that the ANMs were posted in the rural health centres but had been running the rackets from urban areas, that too from the few distances from government hospitals.FDA officials informed that the three ANMs were not only found to be carrying out illegal medical termination of pregnancies (MTPs) but were also found to be using medicines and instruments meant for government supply. “In Hansi, the class IV employees as well as drivers of government ambulances too alleged to have connived with the ANM to ferry the patients to her place,” the official informed. There were other certain serious shortcomings which will be part of prosecution petitions and charge-sheets of the case prepared by investigating officers of the case, the official added. When contacted, FDA commissioner Dr Rakesh Gupta confirmed the communication to civil surgeons. “We have informed them to be cautious against such errant health employees. They have been told that they should have taken proactive approach to prevent such practices. The September raids have proved to be deterrent to a large extent and such raids may continue,” Gupta said. (Times of India 13/10/13)

 

35. India backs out of UN resolution on child marriage (8)

New Delhi: Concerned that it might end up making unintended commitments prompted India to decide against co-sponsoring a United Nations human rights council resolution on eliminating child, early and forced marriages. India had supported the resolution at the council meeting in New York last week. But it stopped short of co-sponsoring the resolution that, human rights activists say, would have brought New Delhi’s poor implementation of the relevant laws under international glare. India’s prohibition of child marriage act prescribes jail for anyone – including parents – for allowing child marriage. In a country where every second bride is a child, just about 400 people were arrested under this law in 2012. The UNHRC resolution while recognising child, early and forced marriage as a human rights violation calls for its elimination and the need to include it in the post-2015 development agenda. Government officials attributed New Delhi’s reluctance to the resolution’s reference to “early marriage”.“We have laws against child marriage and forced marriage. But since early marriage has not been defined anywhere, there was no clarity on the legal implication of co-sponsoring the resolution against early marriage,” an official said. “India’s domestic law clearly defines a child as someone below 18 years. How does it matter if early marriage hasn’t been defined,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch, arguing that it could have been legislated in any case. At 47%, while India has the 14th highest rate of child marriage in the world  behind countries like Bangladesh (66%), Niger (75%), Chad (72%) and  Mali (71%), it has the largest number of child brides – an estimated one-third of the global total. (Hindustan Times 16/10/13)

 

36. UPA Govt lacks sincerity in women’s protection: NFIW (8)

New Delhi: The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) has expressed serious concern about the Indian Government’s refusal to sign the first-ever United Nations global resolution on early and forced marriage of children. The women’s group is of the opinion that child marriage is a very serious issue in India and is one of the major reasons for the high maternal and infant mortality rates. “Child marriage denies children all the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. This leads to greater marginalisation of women in India. The distancing from signing the UN resolution by the UPA-2 Government shows that the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the safety and protection of women after the December 16 incident lack sincerity,” said NFIW general secretary Annie Raja. She said it seemed that for the government violence against women means only sexual violence. “UPA-2 does not have the political will and social commitment to see that women enjoy their constitutional rights equally,” added Ms. Raja. The federation urged the government to not play vote bank politics with the lives of women and children. It has asked the Central Government to explain to the people, especially the women and children of this country, why it did not sign the UN resolution. (The Hindu 17/10/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

37. Monsoon to get longer in India: IPCC (9)

NEW DELHI: North India is likely to heat up more than the southern parts of the country while the entire Indian subcontinent may see longer rainy seasons in second half of the century, the UN’s climate body has predicted in its latest comprehensive document on climate change. The conclusion, showing variation in temperature and rainfall in South Asia, is part of the lengthy technical details of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which made its comprehensive report — Climate Change 2013, The Physical Science Basis — public in Stockholm on Monday. The findings of the report show that the northern part of the continent is likely to witness winter temperatures rise of up to 0.4 to 0.8 degree Celsius during 2016-35 as compared to the 1986-2005 average, 2 to 3 degree Celsius during 2046-65 and up to 3 to 5 degree Celsius by the end of the century (2081-2100), under different scenarios of action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Though the UN body’s report on region-wise “impact, adaptation and vulnerability” will come out in March next year, the technical details comprising 14 chapters and Atlas of Global and Regional Climate Projections in its annexure carry indications of these changes in South Asia. Krishna Kumar Kanikicharla, climate scientist at Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and one of the drafting authors of the IPCC report, told TOI there was “growing evidence” of the impact of the climate change on monsoons in South Asia and the tropical cyclone system in the Bay of Bengal. Kanikicharla, responsible for drafting the chapter comprising details of monsoon systems, said: “There is strong hint that the duration of the rainy season would increase due to early onset of monsoon. The quantum of rainfall will also increase during the later part of this century.” He said though the Indian summer monsoon circulation will weaken, rainfall will increase due to higher atmospheric moisture resulting from a rise in temperatures. In its projection for South Asia, the technical summary of the report clearly points at “enhanced summer monsoon precipitation and increased rainfall extremes of landfall cyclones on the coasts of the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea”. What is the confidence level of these predictions? Prashant Goswami, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report, admitted that these conclusions were based on climatic projections that were not as firm as those made at a global level. “These uncertainties increase as you go to smaller scale (from global to regional or from regional to sub-regional levels). But one has to have an element of faith in these conclusions which are based on well defined scientific methodology,” Goswami, chief scientist at Bangalore’s CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation, told TOI. The impact of temperature rise and rainfall variations on the region’s agriculture that’s highly dependent on monsoon, will be considered in the report on impact, adaptation and vulnerability, to be released next year as part of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5). As far as global temperature is concerned, the summary report said it was likely to rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Sea levels, it said, could rise by 26-82 centimetres by the end of the century. A S Unnikrishnan, chief scientist of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, said policymakers would have to rely on the global sea level rise projections to draw up their strategies to deal with the emerging scenarios. (Times of India 2/10/13)

 

38. India’s grasslands at huge risk due to increasing water scarcity (9)

Washington: Increasing water scarcity caused by unabated global warming will have a drastic impact on grasslands in Eastern India, a study has claimed. According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) study, mean global warming of two degrees, the target set by the international community, will expose an additional eight percent of humankind to new or increased water scarcity. Authors of the study, Dieter Gerten, Lila Warszawski, Sebastian Ostberg and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said that apart from the grasslands of eastern India, the other regions at risk include the shrublands of the Tibetan Plateau, the forests of Northern Canada, the savannas of Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Amazonian rainforest. Many of these are regions of rich and unique biodiversity and the authors have warned that over 500 million people might not have water or just very little of it if steps are not taken to arrest the process of global warming. Gerten pointed out that already over a billion people are already living in water-scarce regions today, and added that parts of Asia and North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable. The authors warned that global warming of five degrees, likely to happen in the next century if climate change goes on unabated, would put nearly all terrestrial natural ecosystems at risk of severe change. They said that their findings support the assertion that humankind is fundamentally destabilizing natural systems. (Zee News 9/10/13)

 

39. UN to study ramifications of sand mining (9)

Mumbai: Sand mining, a major environmental concern, will soon get international attention after it was included in the list of the new and emerging issues by the United Nations, an activist said here Wednesday. “Following a joint representation by Mumbai’s Awaaz Foundation and Bombay Natural History Society, sand mining has been listed by the Secretariat of the Convention of Biodiversity for appraisal by their technical committee, SBSTTA, to identify new and emerging issues pertaining to its conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, for inclusion in the Convention on Biological Diversity,” Awaaz Foundation chief Sumaira Abdulali told IANS. Based in Montreal, Canada, the CBD and its technical committee, Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) function under the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP), she added. Awaaz Foundation has been working on raising awareness about illegal sand mining in Maharashtra for over a decade. “Sand mining has huge adverse effects on natural and human welfare. It affects water security, causes land erosion and affects every form of biodiversity, which includes sand, including mangroves, turtles and other marine and terrestrial life, besides destroying fishing grounds,” Sumaira said. Sand has often been considered as an inexhaustible, grossly undervalued and a cheap material essential for construction so it has very little regulation in India. Though huge quantities of sand are used globally, awareness at the public, state, national and international levels remains low. In India, where it is termed as a ‘minor’ mineral, its extraction and lucrative trade is governed at the state level. With politicians involvement in the sand mining businesses, mafias are formed which threaten, attack and even kill activists and government officials trying to regulate them. Sumaira herself was at end of two serious attacks by the sand mafia during site visits. She then followed it up with public interest litigations, challenging sand mining and the might of the sand mafias. Sand mining entered an international forum for first time last year when it was taken up as a side event at the CBD Conference, organised jointly by Awaaz Foundation and BNHS. (Zee News 10/10/13)

 

40. Punjab withdraws notifications on mining sans environment clearance (9)

CHANDIGARH: In a significant development, the Punjab government withdrew the notifications on mining auction on Thursday without clearance from the state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA), in operational quarries of up to five hectares. With this, the state’s recent notification for auction of 115 quarries in 19 districts will also stand withdrawn. The information was provided to the Punjab and Haryana high court by the state government counsel in pursuance to an ongoing petition on the issue. Hearing the submissions of Punjab, the court disposed of the petition. However, the contempt petition against the previous and present principal secretary (commerce and industry) would continue for defying the HC directives. On October 3, Punjab advocate general (AG) had informed the court that the state government had decided to withdraw the notifications and had sought some time to file a formal reply in this regard. In August 2012, the high court had ordered a complete ban on mining without environmental clearance in operational quarries of up to five hectares in Punjab. With those orders, the state can permit mining in the said areas, after obtaining the nod of SEIAA. HC had also directed SEIAA to take a decision within a period of 10 days on the request for clearance, if any received, for carrying out mining in any area less than five hectares. However, Punjab had failed to comply the orders, resulting of which the court had recently issued notices to state’s two senior IAS officers, Karan Avtar Singh, principal secretary (commerce and industry); and his predecessor A R Talwar, for contempt of court. (Times of India 11/10/13)

 

41. Deforestation results in landslips (9)

ADILABAD: In what should be a wake-up call for authorities, large scale destruction of forests in Adilabad has finally begun to show its wrathful impact on environment and people here. An unheard of phenomenon in these parts, landslips have taken place at least at five places in the district threatening life and standing crops. The heavy rainfall this season has, among other things, caused mass wasting and slope movement at Koratikal (B) in Neredigonda, Gattepally in Indervelli, Garkaguda in Bela, Gondipathar in Jainoor and Khairdatwa in Narnoor mandal. (The Hindu 13/10/13)

 

42. Rights body seeks report on industrial waste polluting rivers (9)

Chandigarh: Taking note of industrial waste polluting river waters in Jalandhar and Kapurthala, Punjab State Human Rights Commission on Monday sought reports from the secretaries of Local Government Department, Public Health Department, and the Punjab Pollution Control Board by December 27 — the next date of hearing of the matter. Besides, report has also been called from the Deputy Commissioners of Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts. Taking note of media reports, the commission noted that contrary to the claims of the  Punjab Government and the PPCB that emphasis is being laid on ensuring clean and green environment in the State, the practice of discharging domestic waste and untreated industrial effluents into drains, rivulets and water channels continues in Jalandhar and Kapurthala. The Commission’s Full Bench, headed by PSHRC chairperson Justice (retired) Jagdish Bhalla, pointed that work affected is Kala Sanghian drain, which originates from Bullandpur village in Jalandhar and goes to Chiti Bein which finally connects with the Sutlej. “In Kapurthala, untreated sewage waste is polluting Kali Bein. Same is the fate of Wadala Drain. It emerges with Kali Bein, which finally falls into the Beas. The pollution of drains and rivulets has also started affecting groundwater.  Thus has started affecting the people’s health in many parts of Jalandhar and Kapurthala,” it added.  “The Commission calls for report from the State Government through Secretary, Local Government Department, Secretary, Public Health Department, Secretary PPCB, DC, Jalandhar and Kapurthala,” stated the order. (The Pioneer 14/10/13)

 

43. Trees in Himalayas losing foliage cover, say experts (9)

New Delhi: Trees and plants in the Himalayas are losing their foliage cover due to global warming, which has aggravated since mid-1990s, conservationists have warned. The effect of “browning” — loss of canopy cover (opposite to greening) – is visible up to 4000 mt elevation in the Himalayas where the tree line ends. The browning would impact on lower level trees like oak, coniferous trees, Alpine scrubs such as juniper and rhododendron and even flowering plants at upper reaches. However, the higher one goes up, browning or loss of foliage becomes less evident. This was observed when researchers studied tropical mountains including the Himalayas using satellite images between 1982 and 2006. The satellite data gathered over a quarter of a century suggests greening was on the rise till 1995, when it nosedived sharply and showed no sign of return. The temperature was on the rise all along. “Signatures of severe warming leading to moisture stress is visible in the Himalayas. It has a negative impact on vegetation,” Jagdish Krishnaswamy, senior fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bangalore and one of the coauthors of the study, told Deccan Herald. Krishnaswamy along with colleagues from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohanpur in West Bengal and Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia looked at the vegetation cover of 47 higher elevation national parks all over the world to determine the health of tropical mountains that function as bell-weather of global warming. The mountains provide an opportunity to the scientists to pick up climate change signals more neatly. “Temperature in the Himalayas has increased by 1.5 degrees between 1982 and 2006, which translates into 0.06 degree Celsius rise every year. Because of the temperature rise, flowering and bird migration pattern in the Himalayas too are changing,” said Robert John, an assistant professor at IISER. Large scale ecological changes could have adverse effects for people living in the downstream, he said. Further ground based investigations are required to better understand the consequences. The Himalayas may experience more rainfall in the future, but it would be seasonal. So even if total rainfall increases, there would be prolonged dry seasons leading to moisture stress and drought. Also winters in the Himalayas would be warmer. The findings will appear in the journal Global Change Biology in November. (Deccan Herald 18/10/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

44. Manual scavengers’ children listed under disadvantaged group (11)

BHUBANESWAR: The government has decided to include children of manual scavenger under the disadvantage group for facilitating their education in private unaided schools. “The management of private unaided schools will admit such children within 15 per cent of seats earmarked for children belonging to the disadvantaged group. They will also prepare plan for such children with regard to their coverage in special training,” said School and Mass Education Department in a notification. According to interim status report on survey of manual scavengers, so far, 1,243 have reported as manual scavenger engaged in cleaning of sanitary latrines in 79 urban local bodies of the State. About 24 ULBs out of total 103 ULBs are yet to report on presence of manual scavengers in their jurisdiction. The persons engaged in cleaning operation at railway tracks, septic tanks, and open drains will be treated as manual scavengers. The procedure of admission of children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups to the extent of 25 per cent of strength of Class I of private unaided schools in accordance with the provisions under Section 12 (1) (C ) of Right To Education Act has been communicated to management of private schools. (The Hindu 3/10/13)

 

45. Opinions sought over medium of instruction (11)

Panaji: A recently set up consultative committee on the contentious issue of medium of instruction (MoI) for primary schools, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar met on Thursday and decided to invite views from stakeholders on the issue of medium of instruction at the primary level. Considering the public sentiments on the issues, the committee has decided to sit on a day-to-day basis from October 21 onwards to deliberate on the contents of the various views to arrive at a decision on MoI at the earliest. The present government has already developed a policy that gives grants for primary education in regional languages and continues grants for around 130 primary schools of the Diocesan Board of Education, which were given by the previous government after a change in its policy. The protagonists of Konkani-Marathi have been putting pressure on the government to stop this “anomaly”. On the other hand protagonists of English as MoI at primary level have been demanding that the government under the Right to Education Act was duty bound to give a choice of MoI to parents while funding education at primary level. (The Hindu 4/10/13)

 

46. All boards except state’s bend over backwards in students’ interests (11)

MUMBAI: The announcement by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) to accommodate their Indian students’ admission schedules by including an extra exam session in March is the latest on a long list of changes made by international and national boards in their students’ interest. But the state board continues to remain oblivious of the problems of its own students. As an example of the state board’s apathy towards its students, educationists point at the series of grammatical and factual errors in textbooks printed after its syllabi upgrade. “When the matter went to the board, it simply asked us to make the corrections ourselves,” said the history teacher of a school in Navi Mumbai. The board gets negative marks on other key aspects like admission policy and implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Educationists are all praise for other boards. About the CIE’s decision, Kavita Aggarwal, principal of D G Khetan International High School in Malad, said, “It shows their understanding towards our students.” On the CBSE, Avnita Bir, principal of R N Podar High School in Santacruz, said the board always makes efforts to make students the ultimate beneficiaries (see graphic). Same with the CISCE. “There is a lot of competition between national and international board schools, which is a good trend. It helps boards to stay ahead in terms of quality of education,” Bir said. The state has been losing out on students to central and international boards because of their apathy towards students, said Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum. “The quality of education has gone down because of a dilution of textbook contents. Regular policy changes are making parents as well as students frustrated. Parents are losing confidence in the board. To stop this, the board needs to pay importance to many aspects, including the quality of teaching” CBSE | The Central Board of Secondary Education, in an attempt to cut down competition among students, decided to reveal only grades instead of marks for Class X and XII students. But since the Maharashtra board makes it compulsory for students to reveal their marks to apply for junior college or degree college courses, the CBSE made an exception for its Maharashtra students and started releasing their marks to individual schoolsCISCE | The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations dropped the environmental studies subject from their syllabus in 2012. But for its students in Maharashtra, this created problems, especially for those applying for the best-five admission policy. Such students fell short of one subject to be eligible for the policy. So, the board gave its schools in Maharashtra permission to adopt a foreign language in their group II subjects. Thus, students could have the option of choosing five subjects from Group I and II, as per the rule CIE | Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) recently announced a new exam session in March only for students in India to accommodate the admission timetable followed by schools and colleges/universities in the country (Times of India 7/10/13)

 

47. Andhra tops in girl school dropouts: Activists (11)

HYDERABAD: They may have scaled up the ladder in myriad professions, but in terms of education, a significant number of girls, especially from the marginalized sections of the society, continue to be denied their basic rights. As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, the fact remains that though there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education in the last two decades, seven out of 10 girls drop out of school before they reach class 10. In fact, activists say that Andhra Pradesh reports one of the highest numbers of school dropouts among girls. If the net enrolment rate of girls in primary education is 96%, it gradually dips to 60% in secondary education. A primary reason, according to activists, is that AP has the least number of usable toilets in the country. Activists say that around 47,000 of the 76,000 government schools do not have usable toilets. A Unicef-backed survey in 2010-11 had revealed that around 42.6 per cent of government schools have toilets but they are not usable. When contacted, Usha Rani, project director, Rajiv Vidya Mission, said that except teachers, there are no staff in the schools. “Toilets are there but maintenance is a huge issue and it is very difficult to get sanitation staff,” she said. With this year’s theme for ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ being “Learning for Life”, Anita Kumar, senior programme manager (south) of Plan India, says it is important to sensitize people about the importance of investing in the education of a girl child. “We need to address the gender bias in the curriculum and the way teaching is done in schools. Girls should be made aware of their rights,” said Anita. She added that considering the level of violence to which girls are exposed, India is being rated as the most unsafe place for women in the world. Consider this: Every third girl born in India dies in the first year of life. One in four does not live to celebrate their 15th birthday. Two out of five girls are malnourished. Every second adolescent girl is anaemic. Seven out of 10 girls drop out of school before they reach 10th standard. Six out of 10 girls become child brides. Four out of 10 have their first child before they turn 18. “In trafficking, AP is ranked among the top and the state happens to be the source and transit point. We have highest number of child labourers in the country,” says Mamatha Raghuveer, who runs Tharuni, a Warangal-based NGO which will launch an SMS-helpline called “Tharumopayam” on Friday. According to writer and activist Vimala Morthala, the state also reports one of the highest numbers of child marriages, with the average age of marriage being 16 years. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their 20s. (Times of India 11/10/13)

 

48. ‘5,538 out-of-school children enrolled in govt schools’ (11)

In a survey conducted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) last year has found that 5,538 children in the 6-14 age group have been enrolled in government schools for academic session 2013-14. SSA conducts this survey every year in the periphery areas including Manimajra, Khuda Lahora and Behlana, aiming to enroll out-of-school students and the children who never went to schools. Dilbag Singh, SSA mission co-ordinator said, “There are around 52 voluntary teachers who conduct the door-to-door survey monthly. Otherwise, SSA conducts this survey every year in December. The survey reports are sent to Management Information System (MIS) which compiles the data of drop outs students or who went to school.” Although the survey was completed in December last, the department managed to compile the data around 10 days ago. As per the context of RTE Act, the out-of-school children are first enrolled in the formal school and they are provided with Special Training. At present, there are 191 Special Training Centres (STC) in the city that are functioning in the school campus itself. The special training for drop out/ never enrolled is conducted till the students are eligible to be adjusted in the main stream class. The special teachers appointed conduct four hour classes on a daily basis. According to the reports collected by the education department, SSA enrolled around 6,000 students last year and mainstreamed around 3,000 students to regular schools. Most of the students who are enrolled are recorded to be the drop outs. SSA has also mainstreamed 89 students to regular school last month. SSA special training centres are working to enroll children of labourers, street children, the urban deprived and also the migrant ones. To spread awareness, SSA has also made a page on facebook by the name of STCSSA, through which any one who knows a child between 6 and 14 years and who needs to be sent to school can drop a message. The voluntary teacher will help them enroll the child. (Indian Express 13/10/13)

 

49. Centre yet to foot Karnataka’s Rs 22cr RTE bill (11)

BANGALORE: When the Right to Education Act was to be implemented in the country, the biggest concern for the states was getting funds from the Centre. Over a year on, that worry remains. For the Centre owes Karnataka Rs 22 crore for the first year alone. Last year, the state government footed the bill from of its own pocket; this year, if the Centre doesn’t loosen its purse strings, chances are it may not be able to reimburse schools. This, in turn, may compel schools to shut their doors to underprivileged children, defeating the purpose of the Act. Under RTE, private schools have to set aside 25% seats for the underprivileged. The law says the government will reimburse the expenses. The amount was fixed at a maximum of Rs 11,800 per child depending on the expenditure incurred by the school. Some 44,375 children were admitted under the RTE quota in 10,910 schools across the state last year. (Times of India 16/10/13)

 

Posted by admin at 17 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1.  ‘A conspiracy of silence against Dalit victims’ (2)

New Delhi: In Gujarat’s Mehsana district, Dalits cannot sell milk to cooperatives as it comes from ‘Dalit’ cows; in Rajasthan’s Ajmer, a Dalit woman is branded a witch, beaten and ostracised from the village; in Orissa’s Kandhamal, a Dalit girl was trafficked for sex and in Haryana, minor Dalit girls are gang raped every other day by dominant or upper caste men. Each time these victims of caste atrocities tried to register a complaint, they were threatened, coerced and counter cases were slapped against not only them but also civil society organisations and lawyers working with them. Medical reports of rape survivors were routinely fudged and the police refused to register appropriate FIRs. The violence committed on Dalit women’s bodies was gruesome, to say the least. These facts came to light when victims of 45 such cases, mostly Dalit women from nine States across the country, deposed before an eight-member jury of a National tribunal over two days in the Capital. After listening to the cases, jury member Farah Naqvi, National Advisory Council said these stories were a wake up call. “I would be terrified to fight the battles these women have taken up. Let’s not tiptoe around this or try to be polite; we are a casteist society, deeply embedded in caste, class and community structures. We have to say loudly and without shame that our police, institutions and administration are casteist. If you are casteist, keep your poison to yourself. Do not poison your profession with it. The bottom line has to be accountability and we need to first fix it. Then begins the longer battle of ridding our society of casteism,” she said. Lawyer Henri Tiphagne of the People’s Watch, another jury member, spoke about the conspiracy of silence that officials, medical personnel, public prosecutors practiced. He said their combined callousness and nexusmarginalised and pushed all these victims to the periphery. In the context of the discourse around rape in the country, he said it was important to take cognisance of the fact that violence against Dalit women was of a ‘special’ kind. There is wanton negligence of officials at all levels– right from constabulary to superintendent– and there has been a failure of proper implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, said Asha Kowtal of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch. “The SC/ST Act should undergo a change to take into account new forms of discrimination that are coming up: in NREGA, health facilities, contracts, tenders and land distribution. Dalit Christians in Kandhamal are unable to take recourse to the Act and they must be brought within its ambit. National and State human rights institutions are either insensitive or don’t have resources to take up these cases,” said Henri, adding that the law proceeds as if the victim does not exist. “There needs to be proper rehabilitation and relocation of victims in halfway homes.” P. Sivakami, writer and activist from Tamil Nadu, pointed out that most victims were vulnerable in deep-rooted poverty and landlessness and said they should be socially and economically empowered to be able to fight against these atrocities. “The landless are meek victims and the landed also suffer from psychological barriers which make them feel superior to the landless. How are we going to reform them?” she asked. The tribunal was organised by AIDMAM. Other jury members were advocate Vrinda Grover, co-founder of Human Rights Law Network Gayatri Singh, Prof Vimal Thorat, general secretary NCDHR Srivella Prasad and Vidyanand Vakil, chairperson Bihar State Commission for SCs. (The Hindu 2/10/13)

 

2. Fearing violent attacks, Dalits desert Tamil Nadu village (2)

Madurai: The Dalits of Kariyampatti village near Dindigul, about 60 km from here, deserted their houses on Saturday and took shelter at a hillock near Chengalapatti, fearing violent attacks from caste Hindus allegedly over a temple festival row.  Perumal (38), a Dalit resident of Nadupatti Colony, claimed that a caste Hindus barged in to his house late on Friday night and threatened to murder his wife for not disclosing the whereabouts of his son, who was involved in a brawl with Vanniyars a few months ago. “The men abused my wife and left. They came later and hurled a petrol bomb on my house,” he alleged. “Caste Hindus have been intimidating all Dalit families to leave the village. They have damaged several houses in the past few days. The police and revenue officials haven’t taken action against them.” According to police sources, trouble began on July 16, during a temple festival celebrated by the Dalits. A group of Dalit youth wore T-shirts bearing the image of Dalit icon Ondi Veeran. Objecting to this, Vanniyar youth picked up a quarrel with them and coerced them to remove the T-shirts. A few days later, four Dalit youths were assaulted by a group of Vanniyars, for wearing the T-shirts. The same day, a case was registered and arrests were made on both sides.  The district administration should declare Kariyampatti village as ‘atrocity prone zone’ and arrest the accused under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, said Rajini, the advocate representing the Dalits. Even as the Dalits in the village alleged that they were being targeted by caste Hindus on caste lines, the police and members of Vanniyar community claimed that the dispute arose over a financial transaction. “We are trying to solve the issue amicably, but a few people with vested interests are trying to politicise it,” asserted Sivakumar, the advocate representing the Vanniyars. “Dalits and Vanniyars have been living in harmony for several years now. We have never discriminated against them.” (The Hindu 7/10/13)

 

3. Madurai tops list of dalit women facing atrocities (2)

MADURAI: Chinnayi Ayyappan (55) was among the group of dalits who stridently fought non-dalits of her Koolayanur village near Bodi in Theni district after the latter refused the former to be buried in the village graveyard. But barely 20 days after the dalits demanded burial rights in January 2011, a group of non-dalits hurled petrol bombs on her house. Four days later, she succumbed to injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Not all dalit women are as unfortunate as Chinnayi to die, but they endure equally harrowing experiences if one goes by a study on crimes perpetrated against dalit women conducted by an NGO. Incidentally, more number of atrocities against dalits, are reported from southern districts, particularly Madurai. The study conducted by Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation found that 124 cases of atrocities against dalit women in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu from January 2009 to September 2013. Madurai tops the list of districts with 23 cases, followed by Tirunelveli with 13, Sivaganga 12, Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each and Dindigul 10. “These numbers pertain only to those atrocities that were registered in police stations and pursued legally and not all incidents of atrocities,” said A Kathir, executive director, Evidence. “Thirty-six of the women were raped, eight survived attempts to rape and 18 suffered sexual harassment,” the report said. A case in point was the plight of Thulasiammal (35), a widow who was raped by a gang of non-dalits at her house in Veerapagoundanur near Pollachi in 2010. In the same year, at Jittandahalli in Dharmapuri, a 16-year-old girl was molested by the school headmaster. Shockingly, seven of the 124 women have committed suicide while 16 of them have been murdered. The study also said that the perpetrators have not targeted the victims just once, but several times in some cases. After the Dharmapuri violence in 2012, there was marked increase in atrocities perpetrated against dalit women, says the study listing out 27 such incidents that occurred across Tamil Nadu. A senior police official said that it was wrong to paint a picture portraying that dalit women are targeted in large numbers. “If you look at the number of atrocities against women in general, dalit women would only be a small part of it,” he said. “We don’t discriminate atrocities based on the caste of victims. We approach the cases depending on the magnitude of the offence and not based on the victim or perpetrator,” said the officer. Kathir, however, said that seldom do the police register cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. “Committees comprising human rights activities, feminists, advocates and journalists should be formed in each district to monitor atrocities against dalits,” he urged. (Times of India 9/10/13)

 

4. Thousands of dalits to embrace Buddhism in Junagadh (2)

The event ‘Chalo Buddh Ki Aur’ is being organized by Buddha Diksha Mahotsav Samiti, which claims it to be the biggest ever in the state wherein people will take Diksha to embrace the path of Buddha. “This would be first single event where around 1 lakh people would embrace Buddhism,” convener of the event Deven Vanvi said. He said people from 19 districts and 51 talukas of the state will come to Junagadh on the occasion. “Over 30,000 families have completed the process of conversion by filling out forms and submitting them to respective local district administrations,” Vanvi said. “The reason behind conversion of dalits to Buddhism is the caste hierarchy that has existed for centuries. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar showed us a different path, where there is no discrimination between human beings,” one of the organizers Parikshit Rathod said. Organizers claim that preacher Jaydev Bapa, a revered religious head among dalits in Gujarat, will also embrace Buddhism along with his followers at the venue. “We have selected Junagadh for the event as it is an important city from historical perspective. There are several historical monuments of Emperor Ashoka here who had also adopted Buddhism,” an organizer said. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

5. Dalit families threaten self-immolation (2)

BHIWANI: Fifty-eight dalit families from Ladawas village have threatened self-immolation if the government failed to provide them plots which were promised to them under the Mahatma Gandhi Basti Yojna. A 10-member committee of the families also met Bhiwani deputy commissioner and sub-divisional magistrate and handed over a memorandum. Ladawas village sarpanch Munni Devi said the panchayat officer selected 58 dalit families to give plots under Mahatma Gandhi Basti Yojna. But they are yet to get the plots. If the government failed to give plots, the dalit families will immolate themselves in front of the district headquarters, the sarpanch said. (Times of India 14/10/13)

 

6. In 18 months, Patna HC frees almost all in 4 dalit killings (2)

NEW DELHI:In the last one and a half years, all the major mass crimes against dalits adjudicated by the Patna high court have resulted in the acquittal of almost all the accused persons belonging to the outlawed Ranbir Sena. Significantly, the acquittals made by the HC involved the reversal of convictions awarded by trial courts in all the four cases booked under the prevention of atrocities Act. Thus, the reversal of the conviction last week of all the 26 accused for the Lakshmanpur Bathe massacre fitted the pattern set by the HC in its three earlier verdicts. For the killing of 58 dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe in 1997, the HC on October 9 gave the benefit of doubt to the outlawed Ranbir Sena cadres, although the trial court had sentenced16 of them to death and 10 to life. This came on the heels of the July 3 HC verdict in another massacre allegedly carried out by Ranbir Sena in 2000 in Miyapur.In this case related to the murder of 32 dalits,the HC acquitted nine of the 10 people convicted by the trial court. It was satisfied with the prosecution’s evidence only against one person, Avinash Chandra Sharma. The trial court had awarded life sentence to all the 10 accused in 2007. The HC’s Miyapur verdict was preceded by its acquittal on March1 of all the 11 accused for the 1998 Nagri Bazaar massacre.For the gunning down of 10dalitsin a Ranbir Sena operation, the trial court had imposed death penalty on three and life term on eight. The HC judgment that set this trend in Bihar was the one concerning the 1996 Bathani Tola massacre of 21 dalits. On April17,2012,the HC acquitted 23 members of the Ranbir Sena on the ground of “defective evidence”. This despite the fact that the trial court had found the evidence against three of them to warrant death sentence while the remaining 20 were awarded life terms. Social justice activists cite these four HC verdicts to buttress their long-standing demand to strengthen the special law that had been enacted in 1989 to combat caste atrocities. They find it disturbing that in each of the instances, the HC had overruled the justice rendered by the trial courts. But the impunity surrounding the attacks on dalits was not limited to Bihar. (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

7. Dalit doctor bashed by UP CM’s kin in Etawah (2)

LUCKNOW: A government doctor has accused a close relative of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav of beating him up severely for parking his car outside his house in Etawah on Monday night. Although Dr Pawan Pratap Singh filed a complaint with the civil lines police station, no FIR has been registered even 24 hours after the vicious attack. On the contrary, a complaint was lodged at another police outpost against the doctor, accusing him of trying to run Mulayam’s brother-in-law Ajant Singh Yadav over by his car. The Etawah police initially said Dr Singh, who is a dalit, had not filed any complaint about getting beaten up. By late Tuesday evening, Etawah SP Nilabhja Chaudhary said he had been informed by the civil lines police that the two parties had compromised, and that the doctor was no longer interested in pursuing the case. But the family members of the 50-year-old doctor, who suffered at least eight visible injuries, rejected the SP’s claim. The person accused of attacking him, Ajant Singh Yadav, is brother-in-law of the SP chief. Sources said the police were trying to pressure him into not pursuing the complaint, which can land the accused in trouble as he is a dalit. The police complaint would have to be lodged under the stringent Prevention of Atrocities against Schedule Castes & Schedule Tribe (SC/ST) Act, which make it a non-bailable offence. Dr Singh, who is posted at Udi Community Health Centre (CHC), lives as tenant in the house of former BSP MP from Etawah, Ram Singh Shakya. This house was allegedly attacked by SP activists in March 2012, soon after the SP had swept the polls. According to Dr Singh, when he reached home on Monday evening, he found a car blocking the gate of his house. He parked his car on the road. As he entered his house, he heard someone yelling for him. “I’d just walked in when Ajant Singh abused me for parking my car outside his house. Then his cronies attacked me. I was punched, slapped and kicked. I pleaded I won’t park my car outside their house again, but no one listened. They smashed the car windscreen,” he said. Dr Pawan suffered bruises and cuts all over his body. “I submitted a written complaint with the civil lines police station but am not sure if any action has been taken,” Dr Singh said on Tuesday evening. (Times of India 16/10/13)

 

8.  ‘Restore rights of Dalits to worship at temples’ (2)

Madurai: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should take steps to restore the rights of Dalits to offer worship in temples in the western parts of the State, said S. Karuppiah, State joint-general secretary, Dalit Liberation Movement. He said here on Wednesday that a memorandum was presented to the Commission chairman in New Delhi recently in this regard. The memorandum said the Dalits had the right to offer worship at temples in the Kangeyam taluk of Tirupur district from time immemorial. The Vellakoil Veerakumar Temple, Uthama Mariamman Temple, Mangalapatti Umaya Kaliamman Temple and Pudupai Muthusamy Temple were frequently visited by Dalits. Of late, they were being prevented from offering worship in these temples. The National Commission should make a visit to the temples to ascertain the facts. It further stated that though the State government had issued an order that Dalit students studying in self-finance institutions should get their fees reimbursed, it was not implemented. The National Commission should take steps for the release special funds due to the State government from the Centre. The funds had not been released for more than a decade, thus affecting disbursal to beneficiaries, Mr. Karuppiah said. The Corporation and Municipalities in the State had been engaging private parties to remove garbage. This move had affected employment opportunities for the conservancy workers who worked on a daily wage basis. Further, the move had deprived them of the chance of getting their jobs regularised. Privatisation of garbage disposal would not only lead to job loss for the conservancy workers, but affect their livelihood, and the studies of their children, he said. Non-registration of cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against offenders had been encouraging them. Such official apathy should not be permitted by the National Commission, Mr. Karuppiah added. (The Hindu 17/10/13)

 

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

9. HC refuses bail to accused in naxal activities case (12)

Mumbai: Observing that unlawful activities of naxalites need to be exposed, sternly dealt with and prevented, the Bombay high court refused to grant anticipatory bail to a former zilla parishad president and NCP leader from Gadchiroli accused of providing explosives to naxal groups. Bandopant Mallelwar, former ZP president and local NCP leader from Gadchiroli, and his brother Narendra were accused of supplying arms to naxalites with five others, including a government doctor of Maharashtra’s Maoist-hit Gadchiroli district. While 4 persons were arrested in the case, Bandopant, Narendra and the doctor, Ravindra Karpe, are still absconding. Bandopant approached the Nagpur bench of the high court seeking anticipatory bail on the ground that he was innocent and never indulged in criminal conspiracy to provide explosives and ammunition to naxalites. Bandopant and others were booked under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosives Act and IPC. “In the present case considering that prima facie there is ground to believe involvement of the applicant (Bandopant) and the fact that the investigation is at preliminary stage, I am not prepared to take a different view from that of the sessions court rejecting his anticipatory bail,” justice AP Bhangale observed on July 31. “Custodial interrogation may yield more valuable and material information in respect of the unlawful activities of naxalites which are required to be exposed, sternly dealt with and all their unlawful activities need to be prevented in future in the interest of maintaining law and order in the society and for the welfare and safety of people in the naxal infested areas of the state,” Justice Bhangale said. In June, the Gadchiroli police had stopped an ambulance of a government hospital near Bhamragarh and seized arms and ammunition allegedly meant for naxals. Four persons in the vehicle were arrested. According to police, Bandopant and his brother had influenced Karpe to allow them to use the ambulance. Police also conducted searches at the Nagpur house of the Mallelwars and seized two letters by an alleged naxal leader thanking Bandopant for giving Rs. 35,000 as development fund. (Hindustan Times 4/10/13)

 

10. State Police to pay tribute to martyrs of anti-Naxal ops (12)

Ranchi: In order to pay tribute to those policemen died during encounters with the Maoists, Jharkhand Police in association with ‘Innovations India’ is to organize a musical night ‘Shaheed Samman Sandhya-2013’ on October 21 in Ranchi. As many as 350 families of martyr’s will be invited to the programme where they will be felicitated by Jharkhand Police. “During the musical night, families of the martyrs will be felicitated by us where Chief Minister Hemant Soren will be present as chief guest,” said DGP Rajiv Kumar. Captain of Indian Cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni has also been invited to be present with his team during the programme, he added. Bollywood singer Shaan, State artist Raju Srivastava, Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari and anchor Meiyang Chang are expected to perform during the show.   (Pioneer 5/10/13)

 

11. Four Naxals arrested in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Four Naxalites were arrested on Monday during a search operation in Maoist-hit Kanker district of Chhattisgarh, police said. The cadres were nabbed during a combing operation by personnel of the BSF (Border Security Force) and district force in the forests near Vala village under Koyalibeda police station limits, Kanker Additional Superintendent of Police C.D. Tandon said. Based on specific information regarding presence of Naxals, an operation was launched on Monday morning in the restive Koyalibeda forests, located about 200 km away from the State capital Raipur, he said. On reaching near Vala village, security forces spotted some people fleeing into the jungles following which they rounded up them, he added. Those arrested were identified as — Prem Singh Kudo (35), Siyaram Gawde (28), Jaising Nareti (26) and Anesh Usendi (21) who were allegedly active as sangham members of Maoist in north Bastar. They were wanted in cases of loot, arson, attacks on police party, arms act and others, Mr. Tandon said. The arrested are being interrogated, he added. (The Hindu 7/10/13)

 

12. NRLM to be implemented in Odisha’s Maoist-hit areas (12)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government will implement the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) in 40 blocks of ten left-wing-extremist-affected districts of the state during this fiscal. The decision was taken at the first general body meeting of the Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM), presided over by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneshwar on Monday. Mr. Patnaik said above 50 lakh poor households had already been organised into women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) through the ‘Mission Shakti’ movement. The government would implement NRLM in a phased manner based on the success of ‘Mission Shakti’, he said. All the 30 districts of the state would be covered under the scheme in the next five years. In order to make poor people credit-worthy and valued customers of banks, SHGs would be given priority bank-linkages under OLM. The OLM has targeted providing credit linkage to one lakh women SHGs with a credit requirement of Rs. 1,000 crore, he said. The Chief Minister said institution building was a priority area, where all poor and vulnerable households would be organised into SHGs, SHG Federations and Producers’ Collectives. Capacity-building initiatives would be taken to make these institutions economically viable and self-reliant, he said, adding that focus will be on marginalised communities like scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, persons with disabilities and other such groups. Mr. Patnaik said that community-based institutions would be provided with financial assistance of upto Rs. 15,000 as revolving funds. Loans of larger size would be made available to them through their gram panchayat level federations, he said. Panchayat federations would be provided with community investment funds — a grant ranging from Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 25 lakh based on their population. (The Hindu 8/10/13)

 

13. Naxals ‘press units’ in forests to spread propaganda (12)

NAGPUR: The banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has cells dedicated to reaching out to the masses through media. The media cells, which Naxals call press units, visit the local organisational squads (LOS) and dalams in forested regions to gather information. They are usually led by a regional level spokesperson. These details were revealed during the interrogation of an arrested cadre in Vidarbha. Naxalites, like any other socio-political outfit, ensure that the masses remain updated about their movements, agenda, military exploits, heroism and sacrifices through press releases meant for popular media and also their own publications. Naxals also regularly issue press releases with their own version of events after encounters or civilian or police killings. Apart from projecting their point of view, the Naxals press releases frequently counter the version given by the police. A senior officer in the anti-Naxal operations said, on condition of anonymity, that even police often wait for the press releases and publications from the rebels to find out their side of the story. “We often depend on Naxal literature to find out the names of cadres killed in encounters, as the rebels do not leave the bodies or injured behind, but drag them away. They hail these cadres as martyrs and highlight their work in the party literature after their death,” said the officer. “We compare our intelligence reports with Naxal literature and fill in the information gaps,” he said. It is also learnt that Milind Teltumbde, secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee, operating in North Gadchiroli-Gondia Balaghat division, pens the outfit’s press release in Marathi under the pseudonym ‘Sahyadri’. Senior cadre Gopi too releases press notes for the outfit. Sriniwas, whose actual name is Aitu, releases press notes for Western regional committee of South Gadchiroli division, which is part of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC). Gudsa Usendi acts as spokesperson for DKSZC. Azad was the spokesperson for entire party in India until his death in an encounter, along with a freelance journalist, with the Andhra Pradesh police a couple of years ago. After the death of the media-savvy Azad and Kishanji, Naxals have started avoiding the media, presuming that police would reach them using the mobile phone signals of scribes. The rebels also suspect that a section of the ‘capitalist’ media is actually working for the government and could be police informers. Intelligence agencies claim the Naxals nurture their own trusted media men, like Prashant Rahi, to spread their ideologies. Only people like Rahi are allowed access to top cadres. An official of Rajnandgaon police in Chhattisgarh said that their raid on a Naxal camp suggested how the rebels have been printing literature, including press releases, in the jungles. “We had nearly got Teltumbde at a Naxal camp site on Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, where they were preparing some press releases. We recovered portable printers, scanners, laptops, batteries, pen drives and a lot of printed material. It was almost a small printing press,” said a senior official. * People’s March: This magazine, in English, is regarding party’s stand on various issues, central committee’s decisions, views, agenda and several other issues. According to interrogation report of an arrested Naxal, Delhi professor GN Saibaba was behind this magazine. (Times of India 9/10/13)

 

14. Naxals rebuild bases in Gadchiroli (12)

Nagpur: Naxals reclaim baseThe Naxals of Gadchiroli have taken advantage of the Monsoons, rebuilding their bases in the absence of police movement in the area. (Reuters) Taking advantage of curtailed police movement during rainy season, Naxals in Gadchiroli have been quietly rebuilding their bases shaken by intensive combat and peace operations by the police. Sources said that the Naxals have been holding big meetings in villages in areas where they had faced severe setback due to aggressive combat, patrol and outreach activities by the Gadchiroli police. The villages include Lenguda, Halewara, Kotmi, Ankepalli, Vedampalli, Nelgonda, Repanpalli, Bhatpaar, Jounde, Middapalli, Kothi, Aldandi, Punnur, Gadder and Chokenada, among others. Normally, the rainy season is when the Naxals strengthen their organisation. While this time they were up against a determined police force, rains were so heavy that the police had to curtail their operations. “The Naxals apparently decided to brave the rain and scale up their village visits. They managed to visit a lot of villages, even staying for two days at a stretch at some without encountering any problem,” sources said. At Lenguda in Kasansur area, Naxals reportedly stayed for two days. However the police couldn’t go deep enough to check the Naxals. The aim of Naxals was on visiting the villages that police had covered under Operation Nav Jeevan – where they met villagers, heard their problems and helped them with their needs. SP Suvez Haq, said: “Their movements are restricted too.” (Indian Express 11/10/13)

 

15. Chhattisgarh: Naxals hack police constable to death (12)

Raipur: Suspected naxals axed to death a 45-year-old police constable and injured another police official in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh today, police said. “Naxals attacked police constable Gautam Pande with an axe and also injured police sub-inspector Satyawadi Sahu (35). They took away Pande’s SLR (rifle),” Dantewada SP Narendra Khare told Bhasha/PTI over the phone. Naxals, dressed as villagers, attacked the policemen who were on bandobast duty for the Kuakonda weekly market. “Sahu though overpowered one of the attackers, the latter’s aides attacked him with a knife and fled. While Pande died of wounds at Dantewada hospital, Sahu is recovering and out of danger,” the SP said. In a seperate incident, ultras also set on fire some equipment, including a machine used in laying of roads, under Kuakonda police station limit. The ultras, carrying bows and arrows, set ablaze the machine and warned labourers and contractor not to carry out any work there, Khare said. A hunt has been launched to trace the naxalites, the SP added. (New Indian Express 12/10/13)

 

16. Maoists hint at violence during Chhattisgarh polls, say counter offensive inevitable (12)

RAIPUR: The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Tuesday indicated the possibility of violence during the upcoming assembly polls in Chhattisgarh saying that a ‘counter offensive’ has become inevitable because of repressive measures being adopted by the security forces in the region. In a ‘custom-made’ exhaustive interview of Dandakaranya special zonal committee secretary comrade Ramanna, which was sent to newspapers by email, the rebels declared, “Like in all the previous polls, government has deployed large number of forces that are resorting to repressive measures during its so-called search operations. In such a situation, people will counter it for their self-defence.” Elaborating on why the Maoists have called for a poll boycott, Ramanna argued that elections were just a farce and the process was not going to establish an exploitation-free society. Referring to the rumors that Maoists had decided to chop off the fingers of those who ignored their poll boycott call, the Dandanaranya special zonal committee secretary said, “It’s a ridiculous propaganda by vested interests. In the past 33 years of Dandakaranya’s struggle, neither such a threat was issued nor did any such incident take place. Ours is a political movement and the goal will be achieved only by creating awareness.” “On the other hand, it’s the government which has been resorting to such tactics. Its leaders normally try to force voters to exercise their franchise and threaten them that they would be booked on the charges of Naxalite violence or their ration cards would be forfeited if they don’t cast their vote,” he claimed. Defending the May 25 Maoist attack on a Congress party convoy in Bastar, the Maoist leader described it as a “well planned operation in self-defence” to counter the Salwa Judum and the ongoing operation Greenhunt, which the rebels term as an anti-Naxalite campaign by the security forces in the tribal Bastar region. “Hundreds of tribals were killed during Salwa Judum vigilante movement and many houses were set ablaze. In fact the May 25 attack should be seen as a counter offensive. It is not the first operation of its kind in the history of the Maoist movement. Certainly, it was a major operation as well as historic. The elimination of prominent Salwa Judum leader Mahendra Karma was the major achievement of this attack,” he claimed. Ramanna said he did not agree with the perception that the May 25 Bastar attack was an assault on democracy saying that all those who are talking about it were silent when the controversial Salwa Judum vigilantes targeted innocent locals. “In fact, Salwa Judum was an attack on the people,” he alleged. (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

17.  ‘NREGS curbed labour migration’ (14)

HYDERABAD: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which completed seven years succeeded in bringing about social revolution by arresting migration of labour and transforming agricultural labour into farmers in the State, said Rural Development Minister D. Manikya Varaprasad. Addressing media persons on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary here on Wednesday, he said that whether it was NREGS or Right to Food Security, which was coming into force from Wednesday, were introduced by UPA government drawing inspiration from Mahatma’s ideals. By making NREGS transparent in the last three years and effective social auditing, Mr. Varaprasad said that so far diversion of Rs.75.06 crore was detected and Rs.23.9 crore was recovered, 4,578 functionaries were removed and 76 cases filed in mobile courts. By uploading details of works taken up under NREGS, payments through biometric system, corruption in implementation of the scheme had been controlled, he added. The State emerged as a role model in the country by spending Rs.27,800 crore on the scheme so far and providing work to 1.9 crore people and generating 209 crore mandays with average wage rate of Rs.95 per day in seven years. Barren banjara lands were brought under cultivation under Indira Jala Prabha scheme by sinking borewells. Of the target of 10 lakh acres, irrigation potential was created in 3.03 lakh acres and one lakh acres were under cultivation, he said. (The Hindu 3/10/13)

 

18. Steep drop in demand for job scheme in six districts (14)

BANGALORE: The demand for work under the United Progressive Alliance’s flagship programme — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) — in the first six months of this financial year is negligible in at least six districts of the State. Less than 10 families/households completed 100 days of work under the job scheme in six districts — Chikmagalur (8), Udupi (0) Gadag (8), Kodagu (7), Uttara Kannada (1) and Yadgir (9). The MNREGA mandates 100 days of employment per household for unskilled work on demand in a year. In 2012-13, 1,05,926 families completed 100 days work and the wages were fixed at Rs. 174 per day. That year 3,822 families completed 100 days work in Yadgir, 365 in Uttara Kannada, 96 in Udupi, 187 in Chikmagalur, 1,596 in Gadag and 426 in Kodagu. However, if you look at the first six months of 2013-14, 4,905 families completed 100 days of work against 52,59,922 families that registered for work, according to officials of the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department (RDPR). Raichur district topped the list with 581 families completing 10 days work, followed by Bagalkot (559), Tumkur (558), Davangere (545) and Dharwad (428). Minister for RDPR H.K. Patil, who reviewed the performance of the job scheme last week, decided to send official teams from Bangalore to districts that have been lagging in the execution of the MNREGA. “Successful implementation of the scheme depends on the leadership at the zilla panchayat level,” an official told The Hindu . The number of families that completed 100 days of work in other districts: Bangalore Rural: 241, Belgaum: 188, Bellary: 258, Bidar: 30, Bijapur: 148, Chickballapur: 63, Chitradurga: 213, Dakshina Kannada: 26, Davangere: 545, Gadag: 62, Gulbarga: 206, Hassan: 60, Haveri: 45, Kolar: 29, Koppal: 378, Mandya: 22, Mysore: 36, Ramanagaram: 169 and Shimoga: 19. A huge of amount of money (Rs 3,500 crore) sanctioned to the State under the scheme has lapsed in the last five-year period. Now, ZP CEOs have been instructed to take steps to ensure full utilisation of the amount this fiscal. The State had been allocated Rs. 1,490 crore in 2013-14. Only Rs. 710 crore has been spent. A decision has been taken to submit a proposal to the Centre seeking release of the second instalment, Mr. Patil told The Hindu . Focusing on creating durable assets under the scheme, the Minister said the ratio of wage costs to material costs should not be less than the minimum norm of 60:40 set out in the Act. The 60:40 ratio for wage and material costs should be maintained at the gram panchayat level for all works. He said NGOs have been roped in for social audit to unsure transparency and efficiency in the execution of works. (The Hindu 7/10/13)

 

19. Pension Fund authority wants to extend scheme for unorganised sector, (14)

New Delhi: Armed with statutory powers after the passage of the pension Bill in Parliament, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority now wants to aggressively expand pension coverage for the unorganised sector workers through the Swavalamban scheme and has sought the government’s help to extend the Rs 1,000 per annum subsidy to subscribers under the scheme by another 25 years. While the extension of Swavalamban scheme could be another poll plank for the UPA ahead of Lok Sabha elections in 2014 along with the food security law, the finance ministry is weighing the fiscal implications of the move considering that growth in the enrolment of unorganised sector workers could rise exponentially. Only 12% of the workforce is now covered by one or the other social security scheme. “We have sought extension of the subsidy scheme by 25 years. The finance minister has agreed to consider a proposal to this effect after a consideration of the financial involved,” PFRDA chairman Yogesh Agarwal told FE. The government announced the Swavalamban scheme in the Budget for 2010-11 for all citizens in the unorganized sector. Under the scheme, the government contributes Rs 1,000 to each NPS account where the annual contribution is Rs 1,000-12,000. The scheme is offered to subscriber who are not covered under any other social security schemes like provident fund or pension. Although the government extended the subsidy for Swavalamban until 2016-17, the scheme has so far covered only about 2 million of the total 400 million plus workers in the unorganised sector. “The potential for the growth in pension is very vast. The NPS corpus is doubling every year but we still have 88% of the population which is uncovered,” Agarwal said, referring to the National Pension System (NPS) whose corpus has grown exponentially from just Rs 2,277 crore in 2008-09 to over Rs 33,000 crore at the end of May 2013. The government has budgeted subsidy payment of Rs 150 crore on account of Swavalamban for 2013-14. It has so far spent Rs 168 crore for subsidy and promotional activities since 2011-12. While confirming the proposal from PFRDA, sources in the finance ministry (Financial Express 9/10/13)

 

20. Employment laws are virtually laws of karma (14)

Employment laws play the most important role in governing the economy of a country. It is these laws that provide employment, define duties, provide benefits in the form of salary, statutory, non-statutory dues, perks, promotions, increments and impose penalties as well. They are virtually the laws of karma. There is no dearth of laws in our  country. Let us look at some of them, which, if implemented completely, can change the colour of the economy, especially for those who are destitute of resources. Law governing the salary of workers is the Minimum Wages Act. Minimum wages are the bare minimum wages fixed by the appropriate government which are to be paid to workers in any kind of establishment across the country irrespective of whether the workers are permanent, casual, daily wagers, contractual or through contractors. If knowledge of this law is imparted and its implementation ensured, extreme pathetic situations of many can be curtailed to a large extent. For managerial, non-workman-level employees in private sector, contract of employment policies govern their service conditions. For government employees, there are pay scales and pay commissions. The law that looks after post-termination, retirement period of employees is the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. Under this law, 12 per cent of the employee’s salary and an equivalent amount is contributed by the employer, which in simple words is like a saving for the employee for his post-termination period. Further, we have the Payment of Gratuity Act, under which a consolidated payment is made to the employee who has worked for a minimum of five years in an organisation at the time of termination. Pension, GPF and superannuation provisions are also there to provide benefits post-retirement.Then there is the Employees State Insurance Act, which takes care of the medical benefits of certain employees. The Payment of Bonus Act provides bonus to employees. Our laws provide the minutest details such as specific authorities for their implementation, penalties of fine, imprisonment for non-implementation, ultimate  responsibility of principal employers in cases of third party contractors, etc. In the organised sector, employers, senior management and directors are generally extremely cautious when it comes to labour laws and insist on complete compliance. The problem areas are the unorganised sector, small employers, remote areas and where exist various middlemen such as small contractors, sub-contractors et al. If the following two steps are followed, a lot can be achieved. First is the awareness of laws. Correct knowledge of these laws must be spread like wildfire across the country. People must at least be aware of the laws existing for their benefit and the right forums to approach for them. Second, we need to make people at various positions act. Apart from having good political leaders, what we require are genuine people at various posts and levels for implementation of these laws, both in private and public sectors. From finance departments, HR departments, labour inspectors ensuring implementation and not merely exercising ‘inspector raj’, to babus processing files, and clerks, all need to sincerely perform. Having bonafide leaders at top levels is important, but equally important is that each one of them should perform. The whole system, from the highest level to the lowest, needs to perform, and do “karma” as emphasised by our holy books. Till the will to work comes from within among all of us, the solution is to implement corrective measures and disciplinary actions against those who make the system slow or corrupt. (New Indian Express 12/10/13)

 

21. Migrant workers make CITU ranks swell (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a bid to achieve its target of beefing up the organisational strength of the CITU by 20 per cent, the trade union wing of the CPM is eyeing membership from migrant labourers. CITU general secretary Elamaram Kareem claimed that the initiative was primarily aimed at improving the lives of the labourers. “Though these labourers have become inevitable to our state, they live in inhuman conditions. They are brought and exchanged like slaves by contractors and are forced to live in shabby and unhygienic rooms. Except for the construction sector, wages are low elsewhere. We came across several cases of exploitation and have taken a firm stand to end their misery,” he said. Kareem admitted that it was not easy to convince migrant labourers to be part of the trade union. “Except for those from West Bengal, all others are clueless about trade unions. Besides our men, we have created squads of migrant labourers to act as volunteers,” he said. The CITU, which has 132 affiliated unions, is the fourth largest trade union in the country. The 68-lakh strong organisation expects that the migrant labourers would considerably swell its total strength in two to three years. The CITU enlists migrant labourers in existing unions like the construction workers union, skilled workers union, among others. Though the organisation aims to register around 40,000 persons this year, the task would not be easy. “It is difficult to educate them as most of them are illiterates. We convene gatherings at work sites and explain them the benefits of being part of trade unions,” said Mannaram Ramachandran, general secretary, the construction workers union, who works as a volunteer. INTUC working president P K Gopalan said that the CITU’s aggressive move was not a threat to other trade unions. “Competition among trade unions has taken a backseat. Across the country, unions are looking for avenues of cooperation for the betterment of labourers,” he said. A state committee meeting of the INTUC recently took a decision to work among the migrant labourer community. “We have decided to give membership to them, which will help us in our interventions,” he said. (New Indian Express 13/10/13)

 

22. ‘Death of MGNREGA cardholder will not render card invalid’ (14)

DALTONGANJ: The death of a labourer registered under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will not render the card invalid, said Palamu DC Manoj Kumar. As many as 15 such Mgnrega job-cardholders were either dead or had left Bhargawan village/panchayat to join private or semi-government services elsewhere. A rozgar sewak (a government functionary under Mngnrega) Pradip Kumar of Bhargawan panchayat in Chainpur block said 15 such cards in his panchayat belong to those who are either dead or have left the village . Kumar said, “If the labourer is dead, in that case the job card registration will continue to be valid since it is issued to the household, not to the person concerned.” The kin of the deceased can use the same job card for demanding employment without any hassle. Asked if the labourer before being paid his wages for work done on a Mgnrega scheme, will the wages unpaid The DC added, “In case of payment of unpaid wages, the receiver will have to prove his relation to the person who is dead or has left the village.” Sources said there are scores of cases of unpaid wages following deaths of Mgnrega labourers in Palamu district. The functionary of a postal department said succession certificate is needed for payment of unpaid wages and conceded that for a labourer obtaining such a certificate, the task is an uphill one. When the matter of smooth pyament of unpaid wages in the event of a labourer’s death was taken up with the DC, he said, “I will ask the mukhiya and rozgar sewak to issue this kind of certificate without much of problem.” The rozgar sewak Pradip Kumar and mukhiya of the Bhargawan panchayat Sheo Prasad Chowdhury both said in unison that MGNREG schemes no longer a big draw on labourers for the simple reason of its wages which is 138 rupees a day while the same labourer is earning nearly 180 to 190 a day if he works at construction site or does public work like white washing of the house or window painting etc. (Times of India 13/10/13)

 

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

23. 63% rescued kids aged less than 14: Govt (14)

NEW DELHI: Of the 3,734 children rescued from different districts of Delhi between July 2009 and June 2013, a total of 2,357 (63%) were less than 14 years old, the state government’s records show, pointing to the severe exploitation of younger children as cheap labour. Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights shared the data at a meeting called to discuss the experience of implementing Delhi Plan of Action for Abolition of Child Labour with other state commissions last month. The city’s district task forces have carried out 1,450 rescues since the judgment of the Delhi High Court in 2009. Rajendra Dhar from the Labour Department said that Rs 1.18 crore has been recovered from employers for rehabilitation of the rescued children and more than Rs 35 lakh has been recovered as arrears of minimum wages. The state also recovered Rs 20,000 per child as rehabilitation amount in keeping with Supreme Court orders. A sum of Rs 1.9 crore has been released to other states. In all these cases, premises of 232 employers were sealed to facilitate recovery and 1,450 FIRs were filed. SBK Singh, joint commissioner of police, reported that prosecution has been initiated in 1,450 cases. (Times of India 2/10/13)

 

24. Child labour project: focus on domestic and brick kiln sectors (14)

COIMBATORE: The National Child Labour Project (NCLP) is focusing on brick kilns and domestic sectors here for abolition of child labour in the district. An official of the project said that meetings of the State monitoring committee and the district-level enforcement committee were held recently. It is expected that employment of child labour is high in these two sectors. The NCLP is organising raids regularly against child labour, rescuing the children employed in industries, commercial establishments and houses and taking action against the employers. However, it needs to focus more on the domestic sector, the official said. A survey conducted by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has estimated that the district has over 3,000 school dropouts. The NCLP will start a survey this week to verify this. After identifying the dropouts it will start enrolling them in the special centres established in the district under the project for rehabilitation of child workers. Earlier this year, the NCLP came out with plans to make five blocks – Sulur, Karamadai, Sultanpet, Anamalai and Annur – in the district as child labour-free by the end of March next year through a series of programmes to create awareness, apart from enforcement. The NCLP officials joined hands with other departments of the Government and conducted 53 raids in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts in 2012-2013 and rescued 92 children. (The Hindu 3/10/13)

 

25. Dharwad girl to speak on child rights at UN meet (14)

Bangalore: A pre-university student in Ramapur, a village near Dharwad, has been selected to represent India at a United Nations child rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Manjula Munavalli, who speaks only Kannada, will be accompanied by Afsana, a Gujarat representative, and a translator. At a press conference in Bangalore Thursday, the student of RLS PU College said she was delighted to be invited to speak at the 66th conference of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be held on October 10. Her speech will focus on the state of orphans in the country and the increase in sexual assaults on children. Munavalli was honoured by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Thursday. She will be the first from her village to travel to foreign shores. “The villagers are excited, they felicitated me,” Munavalli said. The daughter of farmers Mahantesh and Mahadevi started to participate in child rights activities through KIDS, an NGO that establishes children associations at the village level. She is now vice-president of Gubbachchi Makkala Maha Sangha, a union of more than 100 such associations. (Indian Express 4/10/13)

 

26. Educating girls could prevent two-thirds of child marriages: Unesco (14)

NEW DELHI: On the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday 11, Unesco’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report releases figures showing that if all girls went to primary school, one-sixth of child marriages could be prevented among girls aged under 15 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. If all girls got the chance to go to secondary school, child marriages could be reduced by two-thirds in these regions, saving almost two million girls from becoming child brides. Mariam Khalique, Malala’s teacher from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, and spokesperson for the EFA Global Monitoring Report said: “Every hour counts- we must educate girls to help bring about changes quickly in our society. Education gives girls dignity. How can you change your life if you don’t know how? If girls and women are empowered they can take control of their own lives and their bodies. That is why education is priceless and important for girls and women not only in Pakistan but all around the world.” The new EFA GMR analysis, ‘Education Transforms’, shows that one in eight girls is married by the age of 15 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. It shows how education can empower girls to find greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their own lives. In Ethiopia, for example, 32% of girls with less than primary education were married before the age of 15 years, compared with less than 9% of those with a secondary education. “Educating girls is one of the best investments we can make,” said Pauline Rose, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, “and yet 31 million girls of primary school age out of school, and 17 million are expected never to enter school at all. This situation desperately needs addressing.” In addition to preventing child marriages, the EFA GMR’s new analysis shows that educating girls can also prevent them from becoming mothers themselves when just children, risking their own, and their babies’ health in early childbirth. ‘Education transforms’ shows that one in seven girls has given birth by the age of 17 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. Yet 10% fewer girls would become pregnant at an age when they should be in school if they had a primary education. There would be 59% fewer pregnancies among girls under 17 years if all girls had a secondary education. (Times of India 10/10/13)

 

27. Seven children rescued from cotton fields in Thalavasal (14)

SALEM: Officials raided cotton fields engaging child workers on Thursday, and rescued seven children, including four girls, who were less than 14 years of age, in Thalavasal block of Salem district. A team comprising P.V. Viswanathan, Project Officer, Integrated Child Protection Programme, P. Balamurugan, Child Protection Consultant, UNICEF and officials from Department of Labour, Education, Revenue, Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the rural police and representatives from child protection organisations inspected cotton fields in Navakurichi, Navalur, Vengalur, Varagur and Siruvachur in Thalavasal block. Four girls and three boys, all hailing from Karumandurai in Salem district and from Vellimalai in Villupuram district respectively were found engaged in cross-pollination works for the past 10 days. Enquiries revealed that most of them were Class V dropouts and a few had completed only Class II. They were engaged in some work or the other for the past two to four years in various districts across the State. The children also said their parents were paid an advance amount from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 3,000 and they were employed for a daily wage between Rs. 160 and Rs. 200. A doctor from the Primary Health Centre in Siruvachur conducted age tests on the seven and confirmed that they were less than 14-years of age. They were lodged at Government and NGO run homes and their parents were informed. Meanwhile, N. Karunanidhi, Revenue Inspector lodged a complaint with Thalavasal police that farmers A. Rajendran, M. Sakthivel and P. Manickam were involved in child trafficking for the purpose of child labour for farm works. Police registered a case under Section 365 (abduction for wrongful confinement) and 367 (slavery) of the Indian Penal Code. This is possibly the first time in the country that a case was registered against farmers for employing child labourers. Police arrested the three farmers and produced them before the magistrate. On remand in judicial custody, later in the evening they were lodged at the Aatur sub-jail in Attur. ICPP officials said the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 had amended the Indian Penal Code on the specific offence of trafficking. Section 370 which defined trafficking in detail says that the consent of victim is immaterial in determination of the offence of trafficking. Also, as per the Standard Operating Procedure to handle trafficking of Children for Child Labour, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 12, 2013, trafficking of children for economic exploitation and bonded labour is a heinous crime. (The Hindu 11/10/13)

 

28. Improve education of girl child, abolish child labour (14)

COIMBATORE: Unlettered Mala is tortured by her in-laws for dowry. The birth of a girl child only adds to her misery as her husband and mother-in-law blame her for that. She is harassed and sent home because she refuses to kill her girl baby. This play was staged here on Friday by a few girls from 26 slums across Coimbatore, beneficiaries of the Coimbatore Urban Development Programme (CUDP) of World Vision India. It was to stress the need for girls to be educated to lead a dignified life and also ensure the safety of one’s children. The organisation had organised a programme to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, which was being observed with the theme ‘Innovating for Girls’ Education’. It was also a day to celebrate the 10{+t}{+h}anniversary of the CUDP. According to K. Vetriselvan John, Programme Manager of World Vision India, the CUDP had covered 12,000 families in 26 slums in Coimbatore. “Those pursuing college education are provided with monetary assistance, while some select children are fully sponsored from the age of three to 12 years.” Daughter of a construction worker from Haripuram slum, B. Gayathri, third year engineering student, did not have the means to study engineering. In spite of availing herself of a bank loan and first generation graduate concession, she could not make ends meet. The additional assistance of Rs. 12,000 provided by World Vision “spared my father the difficulty of paying that amount”. Presiding over the event, D.V. Vijayakumar, Project Director of National Child Labour Project (NCLP), said that education had to be extended to all girls in all strata to ensure that they were saved from domestic / child labour. “There are many Government schemes and NGOs are doing a lot of work in promoting girl education. But the awareness is not good. The schemes are not reaching the target group in some urban and most of the rural areas. Even economically weaker girls who take up education do not go beyond standard VIII or X,” he said. He called for creating awareness among people of rural areas and urban slums to motivate them to send their girl children to school and ensure they completed it. (The Hindu 12/10/13)

 

29. Complaint filed against farmer for employing child workers (14)

SALEM: The Village Administrative Officer of Veppampoondi, K. Kaliyamoorthi, has lodged a complaint against a farmer in Thalaivasal block here for employing six child workers in his field for agricultural work. In his complaint to the Veeraganur police, Kaliyamoorthi said that Subramaniam had owned a piece of land in Veppampoondi and he had given it on lease to P. Thangaraj (50). Thangaraj had employed six girls, who were less than 14 years of age, from Javadu Hills in Tiruvannamalai district by paying advance to the girls’ families. Last week, they were found waiting for bus and rescued. Inquiry revealed that they were engaged in removing weeds from fields and since they disliked the work, they planned to return home. They were rescued and produced before the Child Welfare Committee and are currently in the Reception Home for Girls in Salem. The police are yet to register a case. (The Hindu 13/10/13)

 

30. On world stage, India lets down its child brides (14)

LONDON: India, the world’s child marriage capital, has once again failed its under-age brides. The country has refused to sign the first-ever global resolution on early and forced marriage of children led by the UN. The resolution was supported by a cross-regional group of over 107 countries, including almost all countries with high rates of child marriage—Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guatemala, Honduras and Yemen. The resolution floated by the UN Human Rights Council stressed the need to include child, early and forced marriage in post-2015 international development agenda and acknowledged the multi-faceted impact of early marriage on the “economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls” as well as “the development of the community as a whole”.India has the record of having the highest absolute number of child brides: about 24 million. This represents 40% of the 60 million world’s child marriages. The percentage of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before 18 years of age has decreased from 54% in 1992-93 to 43% in 2007-08, thus showing a reduction of 11% in 15 years. This improvement however is far too little, experts say. Lakshmi Sundaram, the global coordinator of Girls Not Brides who was at the UN general assembly last week told TOI: “India refusing to sign the resolution is highly disappointing. Though India is putting in place a national plan to combat child marriages, it was strange why it did not stand up against the social ill in the international stage. India would have given out a positive signal that it is willing to find a solution by signing the resolution”.Sundaram added: “Child marriage is a social ill across south Asian countries. However, Nepal probably is the only country that signed the resolution. Both India and Bangladesh which have high rates of child marriages didn’t sign in. It a setback globally to the cause that India didn’t speak out”.The Centre for Reproductive Rights says governments in the South Asia region have failed to enact and enforce adequate laws that prohibit child marriage. “The practice persists with impunity. In South Asia, 46% of women between ages 20-24 report having been married before age 18 in 2010. This translated to 24.4 million women in the region. Estimates project that from 2010 to 2030, 130 million more girls in the region will be married.” “Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation – rather, every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life. Child marriage endangers the survival and well-being of women and girls by exposing them to forced initiation into sex and sexual violence as well as to early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies. Further, women and girls married as children are often denied educational opportunities, are isolated from society and face a lifetime of economic dependence,” the Centre said. India introduced laws against child marriage in 1929, and set 12 years as the legal age for marriage. Later, it was increased to 18 years in 1978. (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

RESERVATION

31. Delhi government seeks to reserve 12,000 Delhi University seats for locals (25)

NEW DELHI: Days before the code of conduct for Delhi assembly elections was to come into effect, the Sheila Dikshit government on Tuesday sought to give Delhiites a major gift by reserving for them approximately 68% of undergraduate seats across 28 Delhi University colleges which receive city government grants. The move, however, is unlikely to be cleared by the Centre. Union human resource development ministry reacted with surprise at the decision and ministry sources said the fact that this order has come at a time when college admissions are over shows it has been done with the elections in mind. The decision was announced by Delhi higher education minister AK Walia, who said reservations for students from Delhi will be 90% in 12 DU colleges which are 100% funded by the city. In 16 other colleges which receive 50% capital grants and 5% recurring grants from Delhi government, the local quota would be 50%.Based on 2012-13 enrolments across these 28 colleges, the move will translate into 12,000 first-year seats being reserved for city students. Walia said the decision was in response to a court order. “The high court had, in its recent order, directed the state and the university to resolve the issue. Based on that, we have come up with this formula for reservation in colleges that are fully or partially funded by us,” he said. (Times of India 2/10/13)

 

32. Allahabad high court restrains govt from giving quota (25)

ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday restrained the state government from continuing with reservation, under article 16(4) of the Constitution of India, to such classes which are adequately represented in service for the purpose of recruitment of 35,500 constables in police department. The advertisement in this connection was issued on June 20 by the UP Police Recruitment and Promotion Board. Passing this order, Justice Sudhir Agarwal observed, “The Apex Court has also repeated and reiterated that reservation under Article 16 (4) of the Constitution of India can continue only if particular class is not ‘adequately represented’ in service. In these facts and circumstances, prima facie, in my view, the state government deserves to be restrained from continuing with reservation in respect of such classes, which are not adequately represented in service in the recruitment in question.” Elaborating the dividing line of adequate representation, the court said that those whose proportionate representation in service (individual or collective) is 50 percent and above, can safely be taken as adequately represented. Elaborating its stand, the court observed, “Exclusion of classes which are now well represented in service would also help the other groups in reserved category, who are not able to compete intra class with those groups which are much advanced, well represented and excel over the other groups, which are much advanced, well represented and excel over the other groups, so as not to allow them to compete them at par. The exclusion of well represented groups will increase available vacancies to left over groups and will give them a boost in getting more seats in reserved quota, which will be conducive to the objective of providing speedier and better representation to them.” While directing the state government to file reply (counter-affidavit) within a month, the court said that the respondents will be also have liberty to seek any modification/clarification or vacation of this order after filing counter affidavit. The court directed to list this case after six weeks for next hearing. The court passed the above directives on a writ petition filed by Sumit Kumar Shukla and three others. To recall, earlier on September 9, the court had said that the average percentage of all the three categories of Scheduled Caste (SC) list — Chamar, Dhuria and Jatav — the representation in government services have come to 59.67 percent. Similarly, in Other Backward Class (OBC) category such as Ahir, Yadav, Yaduvanshi and Gwala, it has come to the same level. (Times of India 4/10/13)

 

33. SC orders 3 pc job quota for disabled (25)

New Delhi: directed the Centre and state governments to provide them 3 per cent reservation in all categories of posts and in all government departments. The apex court also relaxed the upper limit of 50 per cent while implementing reservation for the disabled. The Supreme Court directed the “appropriate government” to compute the number of vacancies available in all “establishments” and further identify posts for disabled people within a period of three months. It also directed the governments to issue instructions that non-compliance on the part of those responsible would lead to departmental proceedings. The 3 per cent reservation will be provided in such a manner that 1 per cent each will go to the blind, hearing and speech impaired and persons suffering from locomotor disability or cerebral palsy. The court also clarified why the verdict—which says that reservation should not exceed the limit of 50 per cent—will not be applicable in this case. It has said that the nature of this reservation is horizontal against that for backward classes, which is vertical. The disabled may be placed in the respective categories of SC, ST and Backward Castes or open; thereby it will not affect vertical reservations. “Employment is a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities. It is an alarming reality that the disabled are out of job not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning, rather it is the social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining the workforce,” the bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said. “As a result, many disabled people live in poverty and deplorable conditions. They are denied the right to make a useful contribution to their own lives and to the lives of their families and community,” the bench observed. NGO National Federation of the Blind had sought implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, on the grounds that the Centre and states failed to provide reservation to the blind and people with low vision and they were virtually excluded from the process of recruitment to government posts as stipulated under the Act. The Centre had moved the apex court against the Delhi High Court decision which had entertained the NGO’s plea and issued various directions to it. The bench said computation of reservation for disabled persons has to be done in case of posts falling under all the Groups from A, B, C and D in an identical manner. It directed for “computing 3 per cent reservation on total number of vacancies in the cadre strength”. It struck down several clauses of the December 29, 2005, official memorandum (OM) of Department of Personnel and Training, which were not in consonance with the apex court’s reasoning related to computation, and directed the governments to issue a new OM in consonance with its judgment. “Accordingly, certain clauses in the OM dated 29.12.2005, which are contrary to the above reasoning are struck down and we direct the appropriate government to issue new office memorandum(s) consistent with the decision rendered by this court,” the bench said. (Deccan Herald 8/10/13)

 

34. Karuna welcomes SC verdict on differently-abled reservation (25)

Chennai: DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court’s direction to the Centre and state governments to provide three per cent job reservation to differently-abled persons in all their departments, companies and institutions. “I welcome this judgement. It is the responsibility of the Centre and state governments to implement the judgement immediately,” the former Tamil Nadu chief minister said. Observing that the differently-abled were facing trouble without employment due to many social factors, the 90-year old DMK patriarch said that everyone should unanimously welcome the verdict. The Supreme Court had on Tuesday directed the Centre and all state governments to provide 3 per cent job reservation to disabled persons in all their departments, companies and institutions. A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam also clarified that the principle of not exceeding more than 50 per cent reservation would not be applicable while granting quota for the differently-abled. To another query, Karunanidhi cited media reports, which said that Periamet inspector Veerakumar, who caught ‘Police’ Fakruddin in Chennai on October 4 was left out in the list of police personnel, who were selected for the cash award of Rs five lakh each for nabbing terror suspects. “When the government is giving away prizes like this, those not involved in the operation should not be included in the selected list as well as those involved in the operation should not be left out,” Karunanidhi said. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had announced the cash rewards to all the personnel SID who were involved in the operation to arrest the three suspects in the 2011 Advani bomb and other important cases and named them. (Zee News 10/10/13)

 

35. Why there is no ‘Jupiter’ among dalits in Karnataka? (25)

BANGALORE: AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi described the dalits as reed ki haddi” (spine of the Congress) and said they required the escape velocity of Jupiter” (the speed that an object needs to be travelling to break free of a planet or moon’s gravity)to achieve success. But the Jupiter among the dalits in Karnataka has never been allowed to rise as the community’s leadership here suffers from the united identity crisis.”The scheduled castes (SC) and tribes (ST) in Karnataka together constitute 23.5% and account for 18% reservation in government and educational sectors (15% for SCs and 3% for STs). But the SCs divide in Karnataka is broad-based into Right Hand (Holayas) and Left Hand(Madigas). There is no deficit of dalit leaders across political party lines in Karnataka with the Congress having a surfeit who are heavyweights. In the vertical divide among the dalits though the Left SCs population is more in Karnataka, they feel the Rights have cornered most benefits in jobs and education. Hence, even if a leader were to emerge the sub-identity of the Dalit comes to the forefront to suppress the individual. According to GK Karanth, professor at the Centre for Study of Social and Economic Change, the emergence of a widely acceptable Dalit leader is a challenge encountered throughout India, be it Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra or Karnataka. The ‘Jupiter’ of dalits is, therefore, confronted by several asteroids splintering from within, resulting in its meteors. Leadership needs to be a unified entity. There has to be a sustained collation of interests and strategies. But this has not been possible with dalits,” he maintained. In contrast, major communities in Karnataka have been able to create a long sustaining leadership. Notwithstanding, setbacks in his party, for the Vokkaligas, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is still looked upon as their leader with former CM B S Yeddyurappa sharing the same status among the Lingayat community. This has happened only because there is a kind of coalition of interests – even among a group of competing and bitterly stratified leadership. This is seen among the Vokkaligas or the Lingayats in Karnataka, Reddys and Kammas in Andhra Pradesh. But, the vulnerability of dalits is such that when divisions occur they tend to become serious obstacles to the cause of the community at large,” Karanth said. While the united identity” factor is seen as the obstacle for dalit leadership, Harish Ramaswamy, professor of Political Science, Karnatak university, said apart from the intellectual outpour of giving them an opportunity: Are the people other than dalits ready to give them the space? According to him there e are multiple layers of suppression both from within the community and outside for the dalits. Hitherto, political mobilization of dalits has always been by holding a carrot. This was because dalit votes were seen as a means rather than as an end. In the fields of literature or other forms of art, there have been dalit leaders who have showcased this strategy by the dominant sections of society. It is in this respect that political leadership of dalits have faulted. The resulting syndrome of ‘Deep Dependency’ also comes as a road hump to the Jupiter dalit,” Karanth summed up. (Times of India 14/10/13)

 

36. National panel suggests quota for dalits in govt purchases (25)

NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has made radical suggestions for welfare and uplift of dalits which includes preferential treatment for the community in purchases for government stores. The commission, headed by Congress MP PL Punia, has sought reservation for dalits in all government contracts up to Rs 1 crore with the rider that the upper limit should be revised with time. Some states have extended the provision of reservation in government contracts for SCs and STs in all boards, corporations and local bodies. The panel demanded extension of loans waiver given to farmers to landless dalits. It argued that the Centre showed compassion towards farmers by waiving off loans and this should be extended to landless dalits which would help the poor community get rid of debt and find an access to credit for setting up small units. The radical suggestions coincided with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi saying dalits and “underdogs” needed escape velocity of Jupiter to succeed, underlining that dalits were forced to struggle much harder than others to progress. The panel argued that special entrepreneurial courses for the community would help them run their own units, and asked Dalit Chamber of Commerce and Industry to help SC youth who are interested in setting up their own businesses. The commission demanded that the Centre come out with a clear cut policy to provide highly subsidized loans with long gestation period without seeking collateral security. While the panel also demanded that funds under SC plan and SC sub-plan should not be utilized for general purpose schemes such as roads, bridges, irrigation and power sector, it was argued that money under the plan must be spent exclusively on schemes meant for the community. “The fund under the plan could be used to buy land and distribute it among SCs,” an official said, adding that it could be used exclusively for housing, education, scholarships, sanitation, drinking water and health facilities targeted at dalits. It also sought provision of punishment and fine if the fund meant for the community was diverted for general purpose, along with setting up of National Scheduled Caste Development Authority for effective utilization of funds meant for the weaker section.  (Times of India 16/10/13)

 

HINDUTVA

37. VHP leader Praveen Togadia slams Narendra Modi for ‘toilets first, temples later’ comment (26)

Allahabad: Build toilets first and temples later, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said during a function in the national capital on Wednesday. VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Thursday slammed BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for his reported statement that constructing toilets should take precedence over building temples. “We are stunned and shocked to hear about the unnecessary mention of temples by Narendra Modi in a statement wherein he was talking about the need for better sanitation facilities in the country,” the VHP international working president said in a statement. “We too believe in the need for better hygiene. But the way temples were dragged in the matter was uncalled for. “It is nothing short of an insult to the Hindu society,” Togadia said. “A similar statement was made by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh which had drawn strong condemnation from the BJP. “We expect the BJP to once again rise to the occasion and condemn the statement made by its own Prime Ministerial candidate,” Togadia added. Build toilets first and temples later, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said during a function in the national capital on Wednesday. Modi said he dared to say so even though his image as a Hindutva leader did not allow him. “I am known to be a Hindutva leader. My image does not permit to say so, but I dare to say. My real thought is– Pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya’ (temple first, toilet later),” he had said. (DNA 3/10/13)

 

38. Hindutva: BJP’s existential dilemma (26)

Come elections and BJP’s existential dilemma gets more pronounced. The party, founded on the Hindutva ideology, has failed to come to terms with the changing political narrative in recent years. Even veteran leaders like L K Advani and Jaswant Singh were not spared when they tried to do what was seen as course correction.  Advani was stripped off the party’s presidency, courtesy pressures from the RSS, after his ‘secular Jinnah’ remark . Jaswant was similarly derided after his book, interestingly also on Jinnah. The run-up to 2014 elections looks no different. Since his ascendency after an intense succession battle, led by none other than Advani,  Narendra Modi seems to be finding it difficult to choose between the Mandir and the Market, despite all talk about his Gujarat ‘development model’. His key aide  Amit Shah, seen as his master’s voice, couldn’t resist the ‘Ram Mandir’ temptation during a visit to Ayodhya soon after taking charge of the party’s campaign in UP, sending signals that may not augur well for the BJP- electorally speaking. Then came Modi’s puppy analogy and Burqa remark. Deliberate or not, it was perceived as giving a definite colour (read \saffron) to his campaign. It was a communication disaster for a leader who is being projected as the prime ministerial candidate in a country where any brand of exclusivist politics is bound to fail in garnering a pan-India appeal. India’s political space and culture is inherently centrist in nature and it can brook only a marginal deviation on either side of the spectrum. Appealing to any exclusivist or identity-based agenda limits the political space. Perhaps that’s the reason  why even at the height of the Ram Temple movement with Hindus comprising 80 per cent of the population, the BJP’s tally fell far short of 200, something the Congress achieved without any perceived wave in the 2009 elections. Likewise, Mayawati’s BSP has so far failed to get any toehold outside UP though the Dalit constituency is spread across  the country. In India, multiple identities are entwined in a manner that excludes most parties pandering to religious, linguistic, caste or other such identities from the national political space while they might have strong following at the regional level. It’s the mushrooming of such parties that has led to the coalition era which has seen a fractured mandate in successive parliamentary polls. The ‘Congress system’ – seen in the decades post Independence – may have collapsed, but the GOP still has a presence across the length and breadth of the country that few parties can singularly match.  All this explains why the Congress, though having lost influence in many states to identity politics, still maintains a pan-India presence which the other parties, including the BJP, have failed to achieve so far. Keeping this in mind, I had done my own table-top projections for the Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and 2009,  much before the first vote was cast and it was not a surprise to see the final outcome on those lines. In 2004, the Congress won the battle of alliances, especially after a tie-up with the then formidable DMK after 20 years while the Left expectedly supported the UPA from outside to keep the NDA out of power. I have always believed that Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to occupy the PM’s chair led to the Congress win in 2009. A large section of people, who perhaps  didn’t vote for the party in 2004 being averse to the possibility a person of foreign origin moving into 7, Race Course Road, sided with the party in 2009, sure that Manmohan Singh will be in charge. It seemed like a mandate for Manmohan. In fact, the Indian economy is also centrist in nature despite the heavy dose of liberalisation that has unfolded since 1991. From a ‘command and control’ (Licence Raj) economy, we have moved to a ‘regulated economy’ rather than going to the extreme of embracing free-for-all ‘free market’ like the US. This, perhaps, helped India remain substantially insulated from the fallout of collapsing financial institutions and absorb the global meltdown better in 2008. Thus, what applies to the BJP also applies to the Left. The sooner the comrades realise and move towards a ‘New Left’ philosophy, the better it would be for their political future. Blind opposition to all reforms will only fail the Left. It’s not surprising that despite a majority of the population still steeped in poverty, the Left’s support base has only been dwindling in recent years. Like the BJP, the Left parties also seem to be in a denial mode. Both have failed to analyse the mindset of the rising middle class. This aspirational class is neither bothered anymore about the Ram Temple or aggressive trade unionism.  They want the focus to be on wealth creation through growth-oriented policies.  They need answers to the larger ‘political economy’ questions. Modi might have been anointed to spearhead the BJP’s campaign, but 2014 elections may not redefine the ground reality- India’s centrist political culture. Modi and his battery of strategists need no expert advice. They just need to get their basics right for political success. The battle of 2014 looks different only in the sense that this time the Manmohan Singh government suffers from a big ‘credibility gap’ after a string of scams. The Congress tally may be down considerably, but the party still may not be out of the reckoning and could well prop up a non-BJP, non-Cong  PM to enjoy power without responsibility. Modi and his men need to think differently. (Times of India 5/10/13)

 

39. Hindutva vigilantes target Hindu-Muslim couples (26)

Dhule: When 26-year-old Roshni (name changed) wanted to marry her Muslim boyfriend last year, the opposition came not from their families but from a Hindu vigilante group, the Hindu Rakshak Samiti (HRS), active in this region close to Nasik. “They harassed my parents and relatives, saying we would be ostracised. They even threatened my husband’s family,” said Roshni , who went ahead with the marriage. But the days leading up to the ceremony were fraught with tension. The Hindu met with members of the HRS, who spoke openly about their campaign on the condition that they would not be named. Formed in 2005, the all-male squad has a clear agenda: “saving” Hindu women from Muslim men. They see themselves as warriors against what they call “Love Jihad,” a conspiracy theory floated by Hindutva groups like the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti which claims that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage with the aim of increasing their own population. The vigilantist propaganda campaign, which initially took root in Karnataka and Kerala, has now spread to this region in Maharashtra. In Dhule, the HRS has an extensive network with a well laid out modus operandi. It has recruited young men who are stationed across the city, especially in colleges. If they see Hindu girls befriending Muslim boys, they warn them. Then they inform their parents about the friendship and ask them to keep their daughters “in check.” Most of its members belong to the BJP, the Shiv Sena or the RSS. The vigilantes include 24-year-old Rohan Kulkarni, among the few who agreed to be named. While speaking to this reporter, he received a phone call. “A Hindu girl was seen entering with a Muslim boy,” said the voice on the phone. A few calls later, the Muslim boy was confronted by seven Hindu activists. “We told him that if he’s seen with any other Hindu girl again there will be consequences,” Mr. Kulkarni told The Hindu, proudly. “My advice to Hindu girls is — start saying Jai Shri Ram and Muslim boys won’t trouble them,” said the part-time newsreader. “Girls are fooled easily by boys who give them gifts. We are here to protect our sisters,” Mr. Kulkarni argued. “They are boys I have grown up with. But once they make friends with Hindu girls, they don’t introduce us to them,” he said, not without a hint of jealousy. The HRS claims to have “solved” 15 relationships by parting Hindu-Muslim couples. It even maintains it has the support of the local traffic authorities who help them identify Muslim boys. “We have two RTO agents as volunteers. They can easily detect if a bike belongs to a Hindu or a Muslim and then we can act,” said a lawyer who is part of the HRS. The group claims it is often contacted by the parents of the young women. “They call us to solve the matter,” said an oil trader who is part of the HRS. Earlier this year, he said they handled one such case where a daughter had eloped with a Muslim man. “We tried to convince her. When she didn’t listen, we slapped her,” he said candidly. But they admit that sometimes their efforts are thwarted. “We are ready to face abuse from the girls and their parents. This is our duty,” said an HRS member who is a BJP corporator. Last year, their attempt to convince a Maratha family failed. “We couldn’t do anything as her parents didn’t entertain us. They will realise their mistake soon,” he said, justifying their actions. He said his organisation would continue to get involved even though there was no coercive element in these relationships. “All the girls are above 18 years, and they marry with consent. But the girls cannot see the sinister plot behind this fake love,” he claimed. Surprisingly, the police have taken no notice of this vigilante squad despite its strong-arm tactics. “We have not received any complaints. Inter-religious marriages are common these days,” said Dhule additional police superintendent Akhilesh Kumar. “If there is any group that is spreading rumours of a conspiracy, they might be doing so for political benefit,” he added. (The Hindu 13/10/13)

 

40. Modi dons new attire but BJP doesn’t change its colour (26)

New Delhi: Even as reports that Narendra Modi is changing his sartorial style to embrace clothes preferred by Muslims suggest the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate is looking to soften his hardliner image, the party website continues to contain anti-Muslim literature. In fact, the presence of literature targeting minorities on the BJP website was flagged to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate personally in June this year during a Muslim outreach programme. But three-and-a-half months later, these articles remain on the website amid reports of Mr. Modi adding Pathani kurtas, and other styles preferred by Muslims, to his wardrobe in an attempt to distance himself from the 2002 riots in his State. The anti-Islamic literature on the BJP’s website was brought to Mr. Modi’s attention at the June conclave by Syed Zafar Mahmood, former Officer on Special Duty to the Sachar Committee. On Tuesday, he told  The three articles flagged by Mr. Mahmood form part of BJP’s explanation of its Hindutva philosophy of “cultural nationalism.” While one article ‘Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology’ does not bear the name of the author, the other two — ‘Give us this day our sense of Mission’ and ‘Semetic Monotheism — The Root of Intolerance in India’ — are authored by M.V. Kamath and S.Gurumurthy respectively. ‘Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology’ states that “the vibrancy of Hindu society was noticeable at all times in that despite such barbarism from the Islamic hordes of central Asia and Turkey, Hindus never played with the same rules that Muslims did…” Lauding the Ramjanmabhoomi Movement as a Hindu reawakening, this article concludes with, “The future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay. It is up to the Muslims whether they will be included in the new nationalistic spirit of Bharat. Hindutva will not mean any Hindu theocracy or theology. However, it will mean that the guiding principles of Bharat will come from the great teachings of the Vedas, the ancient Hindu and Indian scriptures….’’ In his article, M.V. Kamath cites K.M. Munshi to assert that the will to national unity is hard to develop but easy to dissipate. “Generally it is dissipated under certain conditions: First, if the dominant minority [Muslims] has no sense of mission as regards the future of the nation; Secondly, if its will to unity is fragmented by contradictory loyalties; Thirdly, if it becomes psychologically alien to the masses.” Maintaining that “Hindutva has a cultural — not religious — connotation”, Mr. Kamath says “the cry of Hindutva is intended to give the dominant minority a sense of mission, a feeling that this country with its hoary past is theirs, if only they will accept it.” Mr. Gurumurthy, in his essay on ‘Semetism’, states that the story of “Islam is one of 1,500 years of unmitigated stagnation.” It is the changelessness of Islam — “its equal revulsion towards dissent within and towards non-Islamic thoughts without — that has made it a problem for the whole world.” (The Hindu 16/10/13)

 

41. VHP to go ahead with sankalp sabhas in UP (26)

Lucknow: A day before BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi arrives in Kanpur to launch the UP leg of his ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ campaign on October 19, various Sangh parivar constituents, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, are leaving no stone unturned to keep the Hindutva issue alive. The VHP has announced plans to defy the UP government ban on sankalp sabhas (pledge meets) it plans to hold across the state on October 18, in which the saffron cadres would be required to take a pledge for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “Come what may, our cadres would take the temple pledge on the day. Let this government showcase its anti-Hindu face all over again,” said Surendra Mishra, convener of Bajrang Dal’s UP and Uttarakhand chapters. “We are committed to holding pledge meets at 500 places across UP, including Ayodhya. Saints had taken the decision in June 2013 during the meeting of Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal in Haridwar,” he said. Significantly, Modi’s rally in Kanpur was initially planned on October 15 and later shifted to October 19, ostensibly to avoid holding the rally in the middle of two festivals – Dussehra (October 13) and Bakrid (October 16). Modi’s rallies in UP would be centre around the theme ‘nationalism and development’ (rashtrawad aur vikas). BJP sources say this could be part of the plan to let Modi concentrate on development while the rest of the saffron brigade hypes up the Hindutva factor. Meanwhile, the UP government has banned the entry of VHP leaders in Ayodhya. Minister of state Pawan Pandey, who is also the Samajwadi Party MLA from Ayodhya, said the government would ensure that ‘communal forces’ weren’t allowed to vitiate the atmosphere. VHP’s Ayodhya-based spokesman Sharad Sharma said the pledge programme would be undertaken in Ayodhya from 11 am to 2 pm on October 18. “We merely want to build pressure on the policy makers to get a law enacted for the temple cause during the winter session of Parliament. Till this happens, we would continue to mobilize public opinion on the issue,” Sharma said and wanted to know why the UP government was wasting so much money on security and other paraphernalia. “October 18 happens to be Valimiki Jayanti too. Now, would the Hindus require permission from this government to offer prayers to Gods? Sharad Purnima, another auspicious day, also falls on October 18. On the day lakhs of devotees annually take bath and offer prayers. How can this government prevent devotees from doing so? How can it prevent anyone from taking the temple pledge,” Mishra asked. (Hindustan Times 16/10/13)

 

42. Bhagat Singh’s book may leave BJP red-faced (26)

JALANDHAR: The BJP may have leapt at the idea of claiming martyr Bhagat Singh’s legacy – with its PM candidate Narendra Modi agreeing to release a book on his prison diary – but its content may not exactly be music to the saffron brigade’s ears. The book reproduces extensively the martyr’s diary jottings, essentially quotes from Marx, Trotsky and philosophers like Bertrand Russell, laying bare his love for the Leftist ideology and his strong views on religion. The coffee table book, published by the All-India Shaheed Bhagat Singh Memorial Trust, has raised a storm with some members of Bhagat Singh’s family objecting to Modi invitation. On Tuesday, TOI had reported that the grand nephew, Yadwinder Singh Sandhu, met Modi in Gandhinagar in September with the invitation. Sandhu told TOI that Modi had agreed to release the book. Those familiar with Bhagat Singh’s thought say the contents of the book, with its strong views on religion and capitalism, may not be to the liking of the Hindutva mascot. On page 40 of his jail notes, Bhagat Singh had reproduced Marx’s quote on religion: “Man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion, indeed, is the self consciousness and the self feeling of man who either has not yet found himself or else has lost himself once more… “Religion is the sigh of oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions,” the note continues on the next page, where he underlines the famous quote: “It’s the opium of the people…. People cannot be really happy … until it has been deprived of illusory happiness by the abolition of religion…” His study about the Left worldview is further reflected from a quote from Trotsky’s work ‘The Lessons of October 1917′ from which he quoted preface by A Susan Lawrence: “…And it is … rather curious to note that even Trotsky is not revolutionary enough to say that Marx had made mistake; but feels obliged to devote a page or so to the task of exegesis — that is, proving that the sacred books meant something quite different from what they said.” Another quote from the same work referred to Lenin, written in 1917: “It so often happens, that when events take a sudden turn, even an advanced party cannot adapt itself for some time to the new conditions. It goes on repeating yesterday’s watch words which under the new circumstances have become empty of meaning and which have lost meaning ‘unexpectedly’, just in proportion as the change of events has been unexpected.” Bhagat Singh quoted Bertrand Russel’s views on religion in the beginning of his Notes on Page 12: “I regard it a disease born of fear, and as source of untold nuisance to the human race. I cannot however deny that it has made some contribution to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar and it caused the Egyptian priest to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they become able to predict them…” (Times of India 17/10/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 15 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

1. RTI forum to debate amendment to Act (1)

PANAJI: The Goa RTI Forum has on Wednesday organised an interactive session with environmental scientist Madhav Gadgil on Gandhi Jayanti day at 4 p.m. at Gazali near Church Square in the city. RTI Forum Secretary Srikant Barve said on Monday that before Padmabhushan Gadgil talks about ‘Environment and Right to Information Act’, the members would discuss a Memorandum on RTI Bill, 2013 and an advertisement by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances Law and Justice inviting suggestions on the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013. Member of Rajya Sabha Shantaram Naik who heads the Committee has called for suggestions from citizens and organisations. The suggestions could be sent by post by October 6, or in person. The Committee will also give opportunity to citizens and organisations to express their opinion verbally before them. Mr. Barve said any RTI Forum members interested in submitting a memoranda to the Committee may send two copies in English or Hindi to Ashok Kumar, Joint Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 222, Second Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi – 110001 (Tel. 011-23035365, Fax 011-23016784, email: rs-pers@sansad.nic.in). Those willing to appear before the Committee for oral evidence may indicate the same in their memorandum. Mr. Barve said the Goa RTI Forum had earlier demanded that political parties declare their Public Information Officer but failed to get any response. (The Hindu 1/10/13)

 

2. CIC slams UT for ‘not applying mind’ while deciding RTI pleas (1)

Chandigarh: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has come down heavily on the Chandigarh Electricity Department for sheer ‘lack of application of mind’ in disposing of applications demanding information under Right to Information (RTI) Act. Sample this: Four separate RTI applications were decided by Superintendent Engineer of Electricity Department by one common order. This is ‘not the correct method of disposal. This is reflective of complete lack of application of mind or sense of responsibility’, reads the order passed by Deepak Sandhu, Chief Information Commissioner. The Commission has also pulled up the first appellate authority (FAA) of the Electricity Department, the Superintendent Engineer in the present case. The Commission has ‘warned’ the engineer to ‘discharge the responsibilities ascribed to him under the RTI Act henceforth’. The Commission has also recommended the Supervisory Chief Engineering to provide adequate training to MM Singh. The CIC has directed the Department to issue separate orders in future for each RTI application. “The Commission is constrained to pass stricture on FAA for having denied disclosure of the requested information under the provisions of Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act,” reads the order. The strictures have been passed on a petition filed by Rakesh Sood, resident of Panchkula. The petitioner had sought information with regard to correspondence that took place between SDO, Xean and superintending engineer regarding laying of high tension wires and low tension wires in Industrial Area, Chandigarh. Sood had demanded information regarding laying of underground cables of HT (high tension) and LT (low tension) cables in the Industrial Area. He had demanded the entire correspondence which took place from 2008 to 2012. “The information sought by you is non-specific and extra ordinary voluminous in nature. If public authority department starts preparing/collecting such information, the same will disproportionate divert the resources of the department which is already facing acute shortage of staff. Therefore, custodian of record is unable to supply information”, dated CPIO, Xean. (Indian Express 6/10/13)

 

3. Protect RTI activists, Chief information commissioner tells state (1)

MUMBAI: Chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad on Saturday asked chief secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia to provide adequate protection to RTI activists and whistleblowers. “Of late, there has been a sharp increase in the number of assaults on RTI activists. The recent assault on RTI activist Deepti Ghosal is a cause of serious concern. As you are aware, the effective implementation of the RTI Act depends-among other things-on giving adequate protection to whistleblowers and RTI activists who expose the vested interests and corruption in public authorities,” Gaikwad said in a letter to Banthia. Gaikwad said so far, the state government has not take effective steps for providing protection to RTI activists and whistleblowers. Gaikwad, himself a former chief secretary, brought to Banthia’s notice a resolution passed by the Central Information Commission on September 13, 2011. The CIC had expressed shock over the reported killings and assault on RTI activists across the country and underlined the need to take urgent steps for their safety and protection. the commission strongly believes that it was the duty and responsibility of the state governments to safeguard the life and liberty of the RTI activists, for which purpose, they should invoke the relevant penal provisions for the prevention and detection of such heinous crimes. Gaikwad asked Banthia to issue necessary directives to the director general of police, commissioners and district superintendents of police to take proactive and effective steps to provide protection to RTI activists across the state. According to an RTI activist, it was high time Gaikwad reviews the status of safety of whistleblowers. “After a month, Gaikwad should ask the state government about the measures taken by it for the safety of whistleblowers,” said an RTI activist. He said the issue of protection of whistleblowers had been raised on several occasions before CM Prithviraj Chavan, home minister R R Patil. Even the Bombay HC had asked the state government what steps it was taking for the purpose. “We have security personnel for politicians, but there is lack of seriousness when it comes to the security of whistleblowers. We feel the government itself should obtain information on the threat to the lives of RTI activists and then provide security,” he said. The activist said maximum security has been provided to those politicians who have joined either the Congress or the NCP from the Shiv Sena. “Defectors have been given round-the-clock protection. But the security and safety of RTI activists has been neglected even after submitting specific complaints,” he said. (Times of India 6/10/13)

 

4. RTI activists facing wrath in Rajasthan on the rise (1)

JAIPUR: RTI activists seeking information and facing ire of people against whom they actually collect information of discrepancies is also happening here in Rajasthan beaten up, harassed, ostracized and even murdered is also happening in Rajasthan. Though such cases are lesser as compared to other states, many RTI activists were either attacked or allegedly implicated in false cases by police officers and government officials. Late on Monday night accomplices of a village sarpanch at Bhojasar in Jodhpur district had allegedly kidnapped and thrashed an RTI activist. Activist Shambhu Ram succumbed to his injuries. The activist had reportedly sought information against the sapanch under RTI about the number of his children and also some anomalies in MNREGA job cards. It was not the first time when an activist was brutally attacked as earlier too on March 3, 2011 a Dalit activist Mangalaram – a resident of Bamanor in Barmer district was brutally attacked with axes allegedly by the village sarpanch Ghulam Shah and his goons. “He had to go through all this as he had dared to file an RTI application demanding information on all the public workers undertaken by Shah’s panchayat since 2011,” said an activist on Tuesday. Likewise, the story of Govardhan Singh, an RTI activist of Bikaner is no different. The 34-year-old activist had paid a heavy price for running a campaign against corruption in his native district of Bikaner. A 100 Right to Information (RTI) applications were filed by him in 2010 in which he attempted to expose corruption in banks and government departments. But things got uncomfortable for Goverdhan when he asked questions about the properties and assets of police personnel. Overnight there were nine FIRs lodged against him. The police also raided his house, seized his car and locked his office. Goverdhan’s family members say they are being constantly harassed. Even in 2012, 65-year-old Dudhram, a former sarpanch of Somalsar village near Nokha in Bikaner district was allegedly attacked by the miscreants while he was working to expose irregularities in the rural jobs scheme.  (Times of India 9/10/13)

 

5. Eight years on, RTI Act remains a story of attempts to bury it (1)

MUMBAI: The recent move on the part of political parties to exempt themselves from the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act resulted in much public uproar and citizen activism. Though far less obvious, there were equally damaging attempts by Maharashtra’s state machinery to bury the 2005 law in the past eight years. Take for instance the manner in which public authorities, on being ordered by central and state information commissions to declare information by a particular date, first flouted the order and then rushed to courts to obtain a stay on the order. RTI activist and former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi wrote in a TOI editorial last year: “Long after the deadline for complying with our order has passed, should a person or organization that has flouted our order get a stay from any court? Shouldn’t there be some penalty for violating orders we pass? If not, what value are our orders?” Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, says: “With the greatest respect for the wisdom of the courts it must be said that several judgments are made without taking into consideration the entire gamut of the law on what should or should not be disclosed.” Public-private partnerships (PPPs), which have taken over an increasing number of government functions like running schools and mid-day meal schemes, have proven to be as wily as political parties at evading disclosure of information. A draft PPP policy remains in limbo. While many information chiefs have treated PPPs as public bodies, PPPs routinely offer the excuse that there is no specific mention of them in the RTI Act. Two years ago, attempts by the Central Information Commission to clear the ambiguity were met with a non-committal reply by the deputy chairman of the planning commission. Vacancies in state information commissions have resulted in thousands of pending appeals. Over a year ago, the state had no chief information commissioner, besides otehr vacancies, resulting in 22,000 pending cases, leading Gandhi to comment on how RTI in Maharashtra was being pushed into a coma. Other proposed legislation, such as the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, has sought to dilute RTI on grounds of national security. The bill sought to amend the RTI Act so as to exempt sensitive information on nuclear radiation safety issues and commercially sensitive information on technology holders from the RTI Act. RTI activists believe that the act already provides adequate protections to prevent disclosure of information which should not be publicly known. Nayak believes the biggest impediment in implementing RTI is the mindset of secrecy which begins at the very top among ministers and percolates down to the bureaucracy. “Public information officers are known to send files to ministers asking if these can be disclosed and then follow the instructions of the minister and not the clauses of the RTI Act on whether or not to disclose a file,” says Nayak. (Times of India 11/10/13)

 

6. 40 lakh used their right to information in 2011-12 (1)

MUMBAI: On the eighth anniversary of India’s landmark transparency legislation today, data mined on the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows it is, indeed, India’s sunshine law, with an estimated 40 lakh people using the Act during 2011-12, the latest year for which all-India data is available. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an independent organisation closely associated with the RTI legislation, data-mined annual reports filed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) and 10 State Information Commissions that had released their annual reports on their website — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Rajasthan, as well as Jammu and Kashmir, which is governed by its own RTI Act. While 20.39 lakh applications were submitted to public authorities under the Central government and the 10 states studied, CHRI used this data to calculate the presumed number of applicants in the remaining 18 states, arriving at a conservative estimate of 40 lakh. While there has been much cynicism over information denied by public authorities under RTI, the data tells a different story. Less than 10% of all RTI queries recorded have faced rejection. The highest number of rejections was by public bodies under the Central government and those in Maharashtra, both of which received around 6.5 lakh queries each. States with less population, such as Meghalaya and Mizoram, had a rejection rate of less than 1%. Other large states like Karnataka, with 2.93 lakh RTI requests, rejected only 0.3% of these. Despite a phenomenal increase in RTI applications in J&K, the rejection rate declined from 9% in 2009-10 to 4% in 2010-11. It now stands at 1.37% in 2011-12. The University of Kashmir received the highest number of RTI applications compared to any other public body in the state in the period 2009-12. The dampener, though, is that high-profile authorities such as the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Directorate General of Safeguards rejected virtually all applications they received. And while the absolute number of RTI applicants may seem very high, they form a mere 0.3% of the population and 0.5% of the electorate. But Venkatesh Nayak, programmes officer at CHRI and author of the report on RTI, feels 40 lakh applications in a country with limited internet penetration is an achievement. “No country besides the US would have such a large number of people using one transparency law. While research shows the US Freedom of Information Act is used largely by individuals to procure information that personally benefits them, in India, many people file RTIs that are in the public interest,” adds Nayak. He feels the high number of applications despite the murder of nearly 25 RTI activists over eight years is a promising trend. For CHRI director Maja Daruwala, RTI has helped bring about a shift in the mindset of public officials. “While officials earlier believed they could get away withholding information, there is now a fear of the risks involved in denying information under the RTI Act,” says Daruwala, pointing to the increasing, though partial compliance among public authorities with the Act. (Times of India 12/10/13)

 

7. In a first, RTI activist to get police security (1)

Kochi: Chief Information Commissioner, Kerala, Siby Mathews had written to the Chief Secretary and the Home Department in April that Mr. Kaitharam should be provided security. The letter said the activist had been facing a threat to his life and liberty since taking up cases such as the alleged high-level corruption in Malabar Cements and the death of its former Company Secretary V. Saseendran and his two children in mysterious circumstances. On Friday, in the solar scam case, which is unrelated to Mr. Mathews’s recommendation, Mr. Kaitharam’s petition to seize CCTV footage from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s office was rejected by the Kerala High Court. Many RTI activists across the nation have received police security following threats. “Under the RTI Act rules, police protection must be provided to RTI activists and whistle-bowlers on demand and that too within 30 days since they approach the police. Though it was delayed a little [in the case of Mr. Kaitharam], steps are now on to provide him adequate security,” said an officer of the State Information Commission. “The police are now on a statutory verification of the issue, and the escort would be provided to Kaitharam very soon.” The activist said he had approached Mr. Mathews on getting many threat mails and phone calls after taking up cases such as the Malabar Cements scandal and the alleged irregularities in the land transactions of the Kerala Cricket Association for setting up a cricket stadium. A copy of Mr. Mathews’ letter, accessed by The Hindu , says Mr. Kaitharam has been facing a threat for exposing alleged corruption in the formation of the Kerala University of Health Sciences. “He was fighting several instances of corruption and maladministration. Joy is target of some powerful and highly influential persons and groups in the state. His RTI requests and public interest litigation petitions have exposed many dubious deals,” it said. “I have approached the Information Commission seeking police protection in the face of many threats to my life. However, I am a bit concerned of the effects of police escort. It may help the police and the government track my activities and pass advance information to those who are against my deeds,” Mr. Kaitharam said. He said many RTI activists across the State face a threat and it was necessary to give them protection. (The Hindu 13/10/13)

 

8. RTI is double edged, needs amendment: Chief information commissioner (1)

MUMBAI: Chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad on Monday said the eight-year-old Right To Information Act is a double-edged weapon as it can be misused to secure crucial information or to harass information officers in certain cases. “Our responsibility is to create political will for implementation of the Act in letter and spirit and at the same time, we must ensure that the land mark legislation is not misused for harassment of the public information officers,” he said on the occasion of completion of eight years since the law was enacted. Gaikwad, a former chief secretary, said the law needed amendment, particularly on the number of applications a person can file. “The law is indeed dynamic, it concerns government employees and below poverty line applicants, under such circumstances, it was essential to examine as to the number of applications an individual is entitled to file,” he said. Gaikwad, who has been credited with disposing of the largest number of appeals, said the Act is a tool to undertake social audit of government-sponsored schemes. “We have several schemes for the public’s welfare, but rarely are they reviewed. If we invoke RTI Act provisions, one can at least verify if funds provided for a scheme were utilized or the project’s outcome,” he said. “The law’s biggest achievement is that it changed the mindset of bureaucracy. Since the law’s enactment, sharing information is faster, in fact, even bureaucrats are providing information in a routine course.” Gaikwad said Maharashtra has pioneered effective implementation of the Act. In the last eight years, an estimated 32 lakh applications were filed, while information was provided in 30 lakh cases. Nearly 1.2 lakh appeals were filed and one lakh disposed of, no other state has such achievements,” he said. He said if the state government provides adequate infrastructure to information officers, fills up vacant posts of commissioners as well as subordinate staff, it will enhance the information commission’s performance. (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

POLICE/CUSTODIAL DEATH/ ARMY/AFSPA

9. PDP reiterates demand for AFSPA revocation(1)

SRINAGAR: Jammu & Kashmir’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti on Monday reiterated her demand for the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), citing the “freehand” it gives to the security forces. “Whenever killings take place at the hands of the Army, they are protected and shielded under the AFSPA,” she said in the state assembly. “The state government has not even able to prosecute police or CRPF personnel involved in human rights violations.” Her comments provoked angry reactions from Jammu-based parties, which support the continuation of the draconian law that gives sweeping powers to security forces to shoot to kill on mere suspicion. “Soldiers take bullets in their chests… so lifting the AFSPA is irresponsible. The Army needs to be empowered to face these situations,” said Panthers Party legislator Harshdev Singh while referring to the recent terrorist attacks in Samba and Kathua near Jammu. “Some people want to revoke the AFSPA that too from Samba and Kathua areas because they think these areas are peaceful. But the latest attacks are not new; these area have been more vulnerable,” he said. “The situation is not conducive for the revocation of the AFSPA.”CPM legislator Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami took exception to Singh’s stand, saying the AFSPA could not prevent the attacks. “It is not the question of AFSPA or no AFSPA. The fact is such attacks are taking place,” Tarigami said. Separately, Legislative Council chairman Amrit Malhotra refused to allow an adjournment motion over ex-Army chief V K Singh comments on alleged payoffs the state’s ministers received from intelligence agencies. (Times of India 2/10/13)

 

10. Judge investigates custodial death of ex-serviceman (1)

VELLORE: Judge of the Judicial Magistrate Court- II of the Vellore District Combined Court on Wednesday launched an enquiry into the custodial death of ex-serviceman Gopal (45), who died in police custody on Tuesday. The police department, in the meantime, suspended the investigation officer (IO) of the case and two other police personnel in connection with the case. Judge of Judicial Magistrate Court- II, Vellore Revathy held inquiries with Gopal’s wife Latha, a school teacher in a private school and a resident of Teacher’s Colony in Gudiyattam, and their family members, on the premises of the Government Vellore Medical College Hospital (GVMCH) on Wednesday. The judge also inspected Gopal’s body at the mortuary before the autopsy. Inspector of police Muralidharan, who was the IO of the case, special sub-inspector of police Inbarasan and head constable Uma Sankar were suspended in connection with the custodial death of the ex-serviceman. Gudiyattam taluk police had picked up Gopal along with two others for enquiry regarding the murder of Sugumar, a government school teacher and resident of Kamatchiammapettai in the town, on Sunday. Police alleged that Gopal had attempted suicide inside the Melpatti police station on Tuesday afternoon. He was rushed to the GH in Gudiyattam on Tuesday but doctors in the hospital had declared him brought dead. The SP  of Vellore  P Vijaykumar said the three police men were suspended due to the pending enquiry of the custodial death of the ex-serviceman. “We have also submitted the first information report (FIR) of the case to the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Vellore district Guruvaiah for the judicial enquiry,” said the SP.  “Gopal had a role in the murder of Sugumar,” added the SP. (New Indian Express 3/10/13)

 

11. Haryana police complaint authority lacks teeth (1)

CHANDIGARH: While constituting Haryana Police Complaints Authority (HPCA), the state government has failed to follow guidelines set by the Supreme Court for setting up such bodies as the authority in Haryana doesn’t have powers to take action on complaints related to misuse of power by cops and illegal detention. HPCA, which became functional in April 2011, doesn’t have powers to take action on complaints against policemen abusing their authority. This demand for expanding the jurisdiction of the authority is hanging fire for the past two years. Police complaints authorities in other states like Tripura, Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand have been given all powers to act on plaints on police excesses and harassment. According to Haryana government’s notification, the authority’s mandate is limited to probing serious allegations against policemen like custodial death, rape, rape attempt or grievous hurt of person while in custody. But it doesn’t have powers to probe complaints against cops harassing complainants or demanding bribe from people for filing FIRs. Despite repeated representations and official communications over the past two years, the Haryana government is yet to act on HPCA’s plea. Compared to other PCAs framed on the basis of a Supreme Court order in other states, Section 65 of Haryana Police Act lacks teeth. Illegal arrest without due procedures is a serious misconduct and almost all the states and UTs have included it in their notifications but not in Haryana, said a communication by HPCA to the state government last month. HPCA chairman H S Rana admitted that in absence of clarity in the notification, cases have been delayed and the authority was not in a position to clear them. Of the 376 complaints lodged with HPCA till now, 341 were related to misuse of power. Several of them are related to harassment of complainants during the registration of FIRs. “We have been pursuing Haryana government to expand the jurisdiction of HPCA to include complaints related to misuse of authority and illegal detention or procedural lapse in carrying out an arrest,” Rana said. “We don’t turn down such complaints but we can’t seek explanation from the supervisory officers concerned as HPCA has not added these cases in its notification,” he added. (Times of India 7/10/13)

 

12. Three policemen held for death in custody (1)

MUMBAI: Three cops from Shanti Nagar police station in Bhiwandi were booked on Wednesday for the custodial death of a powerloom worker. Two others were detained by the CID. The deceased, Sagir Qureshi (20), was a resident of Iranipada. On Tuesday night, he had gone to a toddy shop near the Shanti Nagar police chowky. Sources said Qureshi had a fight with Gopal Reddy, the toddy shop owner, and was beaten up by Reddy and a worker, Jagir Tamatarwala. They handed over Qureshi to the cops. Qureshi’s family alleged that the cops beat up Qureshi, causing his death. The family learnt of the incident on Wednesday and staged a protest outside the hospital. The police resorted to a lathicharge to disperse the crowd. Following the family’s demand, Qureshi’s body was sent to JJ hospital where an autopsy confirmed that death was caused by the beating he suffered. The police registered a murder case against five people, including three cops, said senior inspector Shivajirao Deshmukh. Reddy and Tamatarwala were detained. (Times of India 10/10/13)

 

13. HC raps Punjab police for reducing ‘murder’ case to ‘cheating’ (1)

Chandigarh: In an exemplary case of human rights violations by the Punjab police, wherein the Patiala police had registered an FIR in a complaint of “kidnapping and murder” as for “cheating and criminal breach of trust” to illegally help the accused, the Punjab and Haryana high court has handed over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “The complete violations of ‘human rights’ and ‘rule of law’ are the main concerns in the instant case,” said justice Mehinder Singh Sullar in his strongly-worded judgment. “As strange as it may seem, but strictly speaking, the tendency and frequency of some of the police officers not to register the cases under the appropriate provision (offences), despite specific repeated directions issued by the courts, in order to illegally help the accused, have been tremendously increasing day by day, adversely affecting the administration of justice in general and the complainants (victims) in particular,” justice Sullar observed. Justice Sullar stated that not only a fair trial but also a fair investigation was part of the constitutional right of a citizen. “The investigation, thus, has to be fair and judicious, which is the minimum requirement of the rule of law,” he added. The court said that otherwise, the person accused of a serious offence would be let off not because of lack of any evidence or material, but because of unfair and injudicious investigation. The complainant in the case, Daljit Kaur of Kotli village in Patiala, had submitted during the registration of the FIR that the accused, Balvir Singh, had hatched a criminal conspiracy and got 2-acre land of her brother Kuldeep Singh (deceased) at Hariau village in Patran transferred by virtue of sham transaction in favour of Prabhjot Kaur and Parnit Kaur for Rs. 26 lakh. The accused got deposited the amount in his own account, administered drugs, illegally detained Kuldeep for a month in Patiala and killed him with the connivance of other co-accused, projecting it to be a case of accident in Kaithal (Haryana). It was complained that the accused had also threatened to eliminate her entire family. However, the court observed that the police officials at Patran police station had only registered the case for minor offences punishable under sections 420 (cheating) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code on November 20, 2012. After going through the facts of the case, the court said the police did not register and properly investigate the case under the relevant provisions (offences) “inculcating and perpetuating injustice to the complainant, who is a poor and unfortunate rustic, deserted lady.” The court further said that even after various high court directions, the Patiala SSP took a somersault, adopted delaying tactics on one pretext or the other by submitting different status reports containing different stands and did not register an FIR under relevant sections. Mincing no words, the court said the local police appeared to have acted under some “undisclosed political/bureaucratic influence” or otherwise not taking appropriate action against the influenced guilty persons for “extraneous consideration for the reasons best known to it.” The court also directed the CBI director to depute a team of some senior officers to independently conduct an investigation, take appropriate legal action against the guilty and submit a status report within four months. (Hindustan Times 11/10/13)

 

14. DSP suspended pending inquiry into custodial death (1)

VELLORE: The State government has placed Sundaram, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Gudiyatham, under suspension pending inquiry into the custodial death of D. Gopal alias Gopi, a murder case accused at the Melpatti police station on October 1. Gopal (55), an ex-Serviceman of Teachers’ Colony, Gudiyatham, who was suspected in a murder case in the Gudiyatham taluk police limits and being interrogated in this connection at the Melpatti police station was declared dead on arrival at the Government Hospital, Gudiyatham, after he became unconscious during the inquiry on October 1. Gopal was taken to the Melpatti police station on September 29 in connection with the murder of Sukumar (41), a teacher from Kamakshiammanpettai near Gudiyatham, who was missing from September 27, and whose body was later found in the Thattankuttai lake near Gudiyatham. Muralidharan, Inspector, Inbarasan, Special Sub-Inspector, and Umachandran, head constable of the Gudiyatham Taluk Police Station, were placed under suspension on October 2 in connection with the custodial death. P. Vijayakumar, Superintendent of Police, Vellore district, told The Hindu that Mr. Sundaram was served the suspension orders on Friday, pending inquiry into possible lapses on part of the police leading to the death of the accused in custody. (THe Hindu 13/10/13)

 

15. Amit Shah is questioned by CBI for 4 hours in Ishrat case (1)

New Delhi: BJP leader and former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah was questioned on Saturday by the CBI in connection with the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Questioned for four hours in the presence of senior CBI officers, Shah denied any wrongdoing. The agency said it may call him again for questioning. Jailed IPS officer D G Vanzara, who is an accused in the case, had written a resignation letter recently in which he claimed that the Gujarat government had been “inspiring, guiding and monitoring” every police action from “very close quarters”.CBI officers asked Shah about the phones calls exchanged between Vanzara and other senior officers of the Gujarat police before and after the Ishrat Jahan encounter. Shah was quoted as having said that he had “no prior knowledge of the encounter” and was informed about the intelligence alert since it related to the Gujarat chief minister and he was the home minister. He claimed that Vanzara was trying to mislead investigators. The CBI said it would examine Shah’s statement before filing a supplementary chargesheet. (Indian Express 14/10/13)

 

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF PRESS

16. Urdu daily scribe assaulted by policeman in Kurla (1)

Mumbai: A journalist of a city-based Urdu newspaper was allegedly assaulted by a police personnel in Kurla Tuesday night. Javed Sheikh said in his complaint that he was at the Kurla bus terminal when police sub inspector Manojkumar Londhe allegedly assaulted him. “Two years ago, Londhe was arrested on charges of rape, which I had reported. When Londhe saw me waiting for a bus, he came up to me and referred to my article. Then he and a woman assaulted me,” Sheikh said. Deputy Commissioner of Police (zone 5) Dhananjay Kulkarni said, “Londhe is currently posted with the Gadchiroli police. He and his accomplice are absconding. Efforts are on to trace nab the duo.” (Indian Express 3/10/13)

 

17. Need to harness social media constructively: Shinde (1)

“We must ensure that social media is basically meant for interaction among people to share information on different fronts and should not be used to create bad blood and communal disharmony,” Shinde said. Addressing gatherings at Sitarganj and Doiwala towns in Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun districts respectively Shinde said as law and order and communal harmony is the first and foremost task of every state government, social media should not be allowed to come in its way. Referring to speedy rehabilitation and restoration work done by Congress-led Vijay Bahuguna government to relocate those rendered homeless and restore road, drinking water and electricity within a stipulated time after catastrophe struck Rudrapryag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, the home minister appreciated the state government for successfully rescuing lives of about 1.40 lakh pilgrims and locals. “The way the state government succeeded in saving the lives of about 1.40 lakh people stuck at different calamity-hit places in these districts, rehabilitated all those rendered homeless and restored all connectivity within a short span of time, was commendable,” Shinde said. He said that the resumption of puja at Kedarnath on September 11 followed by restarting of the yatra to Kedarnath and Badrinath are two instances of adequate efforts made by the Bahuguna government to bring back normalcy in the deluge struck districts. (Times of India 8/10/13)

 

18. Internet is about free speech (1)

There is no Left-wing or Right-wing agenda when it comes to freedom of speech, whether it is in a newspaper or on the Internet. But the unfortunate fact is that there are increasingly different rules guiding the twoA democracy that is ruled by a woman leader, the widow of a popular and charismatic leader, who has, according to some economists, adopted ruinous economic policies which have among other things capped the inflows of foreign investors. A country with a global sporting icon but one where irate youth and workers are rioting against Government policies. Sounds familiar? It is not India — this is Argentina. Yet, despite the similarities and the fact that Cristina Kirchner actually holds a constitutional office, there is one very important difference. According to a recent report by an NGO, Freedom House, despite some minor issues, the Internet is classified as ‘free’ in Argentina. This means both access to as well as content on the internet. India, on the other hand, has seen a drop in its ranking on the issue among 60 nations — to 35 from 27 the year earlier. While India has a better ranking than any of its neighbours —after all, in Pakistan access to YouTube remains blocked and in Bangladesh Razakar goons have murdered bloggers — the fact is that laws promulgated by India’s policymakers have chipped away at public freedom. The ironic fact is that, had it been a BJP-led Government making these laws, most in the media would be crying ‘murder’. Yet the laws and its makers have been allowed to get away. When two teenage girls in Mumbai were arrested for posting a question, all hell broke loose in the media. But the law did not change. Recently, there was a case where a car rally navigator, a video of whose made it on the Internet, also filed a case against the person who uploaded the video, because he had been ‘hurt’. The fact is that most judges throw out these cases when they come up in court, but for someone to be taken into police custody even for a few hours on the basis of a complaint using the Information Technology Act can, and often does, impact their personal and professional life. But why are politicians so afraid of the Internet? This is not an Indian problem alone; leaders in neighbourhood China have been so paranoid of the internet that they have built the so-called ‘Great Firewall of China’, lest citizens find out about the atrocities committed at Tiananmen Square. The main freedom the Internet affords is that it allows people to make up their minds and not just get the Government narrative, or in the case of India, a biased narrative that several media houses put out. It is no surprise then that some prominent media personalities have tacitly supported the Government’s laws. Harassment is one thing, but several media persons have not taken kindly to being questioned on their political biases and complain about ‘trolling’ on the Internet when questioned. Ironically, if they actually read the definition of ‘trolling’ on the Internet, they would realise that they themselves are the trolls. Yes, there should be laws against paedophiles and those who harass people on social media. Unfortunately, online blackmail is all too common in India where usually men threaten to put up ‘compromising’ pictures of women, and there should be laws against that as well. But the anger the Government has against social media is because it allows the public to raise its frustration against those in power. Yes, the public on social media in India is but a small percentage of India’s population, and some politicians often take heart from that. But they should not, because that itself is a damning indictment of the Government and highlights their failure to enhance Internet connectivity in India. There is no Left-wing or Right-wing agenda when it comes to freedom of speech, whether it is in a newspaper or on the Internet. But the fact is that there are increasingly different rules guiding both. There are newspapers, particularly in upcountry areas, that publish inflammatory pictures and articles, often with express intent. This is how the protests against the atrocities committed on Rohingya Muslims in Burma caused riots in Mumbai. In an effort to contain the riots, the Government of India banned respectable news sites that explained what was going on. What is more worrying is that certain people use these laws to try and ensure that unflattering articles about themselves and their companies are kept out. These are little more than attempts to airbrush the truth. Instead of filing cases against media companies for defamation or in Press Council of India where such cases can be decided quickly, certain people have taken recourse to filing cases under the IT Act to get such articles removed. Fortunately, in most cases, they have come up against lawyers from media houses who can give as good as they get. It is sad that we live in a world where everybody gets easily offended. The ability to offend should be protected rather than those who are easily offended. Hate speech is one thing, but one man’s offensive speech could well be another man’s comedy. Yes, there are times when the difference between offensive speech and hate speech is blurry, but these lines should be defined by the courts. The Internet holds immense promise for a country like India where millions of people have grown up without regular access to reliable information. The Internet, coupled with the advent of low-cost smartphones, can bring about a revolution in India. Politicians are scared of this revolution because many of them have made careers and money out of ‘information arbitrage’, for lack of another term. In an attempt to prevent change, politicians are desperate to leash the tool which will enable this change. If they love India, as they profess to do, they should unleash the Internet and not tie it down because of the problems it might bring about. Indians and India will benefit from a free and fair Internet, if we are proud of our democracy we should also be proud of our internet and the fact that we have such a forum. (Pioneer 8/10/13)

 

19. Directive to printing presses (1)

New Delhi: Ahead of the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections, the Delhi police on Tuesday came out with an order asking operators of all printing presses not to print any unlawful documents or anything which is not in line with the guidelines of the Election Commission. “All the owner/managers/operators of printing press must not print any material in violation of the provisions of press and book registration act 1867 and other related laws and rules in force presently, within 60 days from the promulgation of this order without violating the right of freedom of expression of the general public,” a statement released by police said. This order shall come into force with effect from October 10 and shall remain in force for a period of 60 days upto December 5 unless withdrawn earlier, the statement said. The order was issued after the Delhi police received several complaints that many printing presses, both licensed and unlicensed, are engaged in printing work. These printing presses are are allegedly printing all sorts of material under direct contractor agreement. “As a result, all sort of harmful material, inconsistent with law of the land or otherwise, is being printed, advertently /inadvertently, in gross violation of the prevailing law of the land and other instructions issued by government offices time to time,” the statement said. “Any person who contravenes this order shall be liable to be punished,” said a police official.(Asian Age 9/10/13)

 

20. Politicians’ use of social media on Election Commission’s scanner (1)

LUCKNOW: Rampant use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media has set the tone for election campaigns for most of the political bigwigs. But their use of social media has been caught by the hawk-eye of the Election Commission of India. The ECI has thus decided to pitch in information technology experts, who would keep an eye on use of social media by political parties. The idea is to ensure that political parties and candidates do not flout the model code of conduct by any means, chief election officer Umesh Sinha said, added that social media had posed new challenge for the Election Commission. Though social media was used in the UP assembly election 2012, its use has grown manifold since, so much so that political parties have come up with separate IT cells to propagate their ideologies. Huge money was being spent on using social media as the medium of campaign. Its widespread use, however, has resulted in a plethora of proxy profiles, which the Election Commission said will also be monitored for the content. Sinha added that it will be up to the EC to decide if the content is violating model code of conduct. In case it does, it will be investigated and action will be taken accordingly, he added. The EC will also keep watch on fake posts and profiles and would act after investigation, Sinha said. So far, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have taken the lead in use of social media as their campaign tool. Realising the importance of the same, Congress is also moving in that direction. With Lok Sabha election approximately six months away, the Election Commission of India has started doing its homework to keep things under control once the model code of conduct comes into force. Interestingly, the ECI has already decided to form media certification and monitoring committee up to district level. The order to form such committees was issued by Election of Commission of India through an order dated August 27, 2012. The task assigned to the monitoring committee includes checking paid news during elections that is advertisement in garb of news and other related matters. Each district level committee would consist of district election officer/returning officer, ARO (not below sub divisional magistrate), Central government Information and Broadcasting Ministry official (if any in the district), independent citizen/journalist as recommended by Press Council of India, DPRO/district information officer/equivalent member secretary. Similarly, expenditure incurred on advertisements through social media will also be in the purview of Election Commission’s monitoring committee and candidates hiding the same will face EC action, the CEO said. Sinha confirmed that an IT expert’s help would be taken at each of the district level committee to check misuse of social media and to check illegal use of it for campaigning. Besides, the ECI would keep a watch that nothing objectionable is carried forward through social media. Any violation would be dealt with sternly and action would be taken as per the various IT Acts, said Joint chief election officer Ramesh Chandra. (Times of India 10/10/13)

 

21. The Daily Mail has unwittingly begun a debate on press freedom (1)

In my happy schooldays in India, when verbal disagreements threatened to escalate into violence and physical confrontation — which would mean thrown punches, torn shirts and a tumble in the mud with the entire playground rushing like beach bums running from a tsunami — “going on mothers” was considered the worst provocation. It meant using the word which accused one’s protagonist of maternal incest, the ‘M’ word which the American ghetto seems to have adopted and translated from the centuries old Hindustani word. (OK, that was just a shot at amateur etymology. The US probably arrived at its mother-abuse independently, but a little nationalist boasting never hurt nobody!) Imprecations against one’s mother had to be defended. There were colourful Marathi variations on the theme involving the God Hanuman and several originally-minted insults about another’s mother’s morals, attributes and vocation, local to our school and streets. The sin was universally considered cardinal — one didn’t ‘go on mothers’In the past two weeks a debate about press freedom has been initiated by the Daily Mail, a national newspaper which attacked the Labour party leader’s late father Ralph Miliband. Ed Miliband’s father Ralph Miliband was an academic and a Marxist. The Mail published a shameful article on te latter under the headline “The Man Who Hated Britain”. It was a clear case of ‘going on fathers’ and Ed Miliband, with admirable reflex loyalty and the restraint which being British and having an elevated political position forces on him, didn’t lurk outside the offices of the Mail and punch the editor in the face when he emerged but demanded a right to reply in the same paper. Ed was furious. He appeared on TV and accused the Mail of deliberately lying — as though one could lie unwittingly. I was with him. (Let the newspapers of the world note that if any of them publish an article saying that the late Lt Col, Jamshed Dhondy hated India, not being the leader of any political party, I will send the ‘boys’ out and will myself be there right behind them). Ralph Miliband was a Jewish refugee from Belgium who came to Britain to escape the Nazis. He was a Marxist thinker of the Trotskyist persuasion. His ideology led him to republicanism, to criticising the institutions of the elite which perpetrated class distinctions and snobbery, to critiques of the capitalist past and neo-capitalist present of Britain. Ralph was also an outspoken supporter of trade unions and was in favour, however remote the possibility, of a proletarian revolution in the UK. There are millions of Britons who hold a combination of opinions similar to those of Ralph Miliband. I myself would by and large agree, with a few exceptions. I wouldn’t, for instance, demand the abolition of the Monarchy, though I am in favour of occasionally chopping one of their heads off to remind them who is boss. My thus favouring Royalty has nothing to do with admiring the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister’s shapely and famous posterior — which I don’t — but everything to do with not wanting some jackanapes such as Michael Gove, the present Education Secretary to be nominated ‘President’ of the country. Then again, I am in favour of trades unions and of abolishing elitist schools and universities (with the exception of course of Cambridge which has produced some civilisation-altering science and many fine writers and persuasive columnists). The Daily Mail found some diary piece Ralph had written when he was 16 and a young lad in Britain in which he said that he found the English to be rather suspicious of foreigners. This rag of a newspaper found material in this youthful and truthful observation to justify its headline. The Mail’s effort was directed at propagating the nonsense that the Labour leader, owing to the inevitable influence of his father, was a crypto-communist. Ed replied saying his father had sought refuge in this country, was grateful for its protection and had served as an officer in the Royal Navy in World War II. Ironies multiplied as the controversies took shape. Ed’s opponents at the polls, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, leaders of rival parties, weighed in on his side saying he was completely justified in rebutting accusations against his father. Others pointed out that it was the Daily Mail and its proprietor Lord Rothermere who had supported Hitler and the Nazis before the war began. If anyone had sought to betray Britain, it was the Mail’s owners. The Mail didn’t apologise to Ed. Instead it published an article standing by its earlier stance. The article was aimed at the pig-ignorant and considerably large section of Britons who probably believe that Lenin was a founder member of The Beatles. The Mail’s articles argued that Ralph Miliband was self-evidently an advocate of a Stalinist dictatorship in Britain, complete with repressive gulags. Unfortunately for the Mail there is now an all-party commission contemplating how to control the excesses of the British press without curtailing its freedom. Ed is party to this formulation which will become law. The Mail may live to regret ‘going on fathers’. (Hindustan Times 14/10/13)

 

22. ‘Media has more freedom in India than in the West’ (1)

NAGPUR: The parameters for development are diverse and one should not judge the government on the basis of a 4.5% growth rate, said union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde. America has been shut down due to the economic downturn, but not a single employee has been discontinued in India, he said. Shinde was speaking after unveiling the ‘Statue of Freedom of Press’ at Lokmat Media’s printing plant at Butibori near here on Sunday. “It was on this day that Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar parted ways with the communally biased society and converted to Buddhism along with his followers. The society today needs to contemplate over the reasons behind Ambedkar’s decision. Communal forces should ask themselves why Ambedkar chose to convert to Buddhism,” he said, and asserted that such elements would not be allowed to prevail. He said the print, electronic and social media in India has more freedom as compared to the West. Shinde said until now America boasted of the Statue of Liberty but today the “world’s biggest democracy has given the world the first Statue of Freedom of Press”.The black marble statue shows a man and a woman reading a newspaper installed atop a jet black granite pedestal. Shinde said it is a true representation of freedom of the entire media as the curtain that veiled the statue, carried mastheads of all major regional, national and international dailies. Thirteen of the state’s senior journalists were felicitated by Shinde for their contribution to journalism. Lokmat Group chairman and MP Vijay Darda, Maharashtra minister for social justice Shivajirao Moghe, EGS minister Nitin Raut, local MP Vilas Muttemwar and Wardha MP Datta Meghe were among those present. (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

HIV/AIDS

23. AIDS initiative may have prevented 600,000 HIV infections in India over decade: Study (3)

Around 600,000 people in India may have been saved from becoming infected with HIV over ten years with the help of a programme funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a study. In an evaluation of the 2003-launched AIDS project Avahan, researchers from the School of Public Health at Imperial College, London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that Avahan prevented more than half of the infections that would have occurred without its intervention. An investment of over 250 million dollars for the Foundation, Avahan involves outreach and risk reduction education programmes, condom distribution and social marketing to build community resilience and reduce the stigma attached to HI. The main part of the evaluation was based on data from 24 districts in south India where Avahan operated, covering the period from 2004 to 2008, and it found that in these districts, 62,800 infections were prevented in the first four years of the programme, which increased to 606,000 over a decade. According to researchers, Avahan can be effective at controlling HIV in the population at large, adding that if the programme is replicated, it is possible that the large scale expansion of this intervention to other settings in Asia and Africa could have a demonstrable impact on the worldwide HIV epidemic over the next decade. (DNA 1/10/13)

 

24. Centre okays Rs 8,632 crore for AIDS control (3)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday gave the nod for gross budgetary support of Rs 8,632.77 crore for the implementation of Phase-IV of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) by the Department of AIDS Control functioning under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The decision by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs(CCEA)chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which took place against the backdrop of the NACP III having yielded the desired results. This will facilitate the integration of the NACP-IV with the other national programmes and align it with the overall goals of the 12th Five Year Plan for  inclusive growth and development. Having initiated the process of reversal in several high prevalence areas, the fourth phase of the NACP will focus on accelerating the reversal process and ensure the integration of the programme response, even as there will be continued emphasis on prevention. The main objectives of the NACP IV are to reduce new infections by 50 per cent, to provide comprehensive care and support to all persons living with HIV/AIDS and treatment services for all those who require it. It is proposed to be achieved through intensifying and consolidating the prevention efforts, with the focus on high-risk groups and vulnerable population and the general population. (New Indian Express 4/10/13)

 

25. 12 Madurai prisoners test HIV positive (3)

MADURAI: In a shocking revelation, 12 inmates of the Madurai Central prison are found to have tested positive for HIV in the past few months. But, these inmates are left in the lurch due to lack of treatment. There are about 1,700 inmates in the central prison. In the last six months alone, 12 new HIV positive inmates have been identified. Sources from the Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society (TANSACS) allege that lack of cooperation and interest among the higher officials of the society and central prison has been hindering treatment for the inmates. Treatment for the newly-detected cases in the last six months could not be started due to this. “As many as six inmates were found with HIV infection in April this year alone after undergoing the mandatory tests for new inmates of the prison. In May, no case was detected. However, six cases were detected between June and September. Since homosexual activity is rampant in the prison the inmates have high risk of getting infection. Detecting the HIV patients and providing required treatment for them is indispensable,” said sources from the TANSACS. Doctors say that testing the HIV patients at regular intervals is absolutely necessary. They should be brought to the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) on the premises of the Government Rajaji Hospital for treatment. They would be provided with medicines and kept in observation to analyse the patients’ reaction to the medicine. Sources from TANSACS said that they could not provide treatment for the HIV inmates since they are not brought to ART centres by the prison authorities. Citing inadequate police strength to escort the inmates to the centre, the officers refuse to send them for treatment. As a consequence, the inmates are deprived of proper treatment ending up in getting only regular tablets, they said. Moreover, TANSACS officials could not follow the HIV positive inmates when they are released on bail since majority of the prisoners’ address available with the prison are found to be fake, the sources added. When contacted, M Kalirajan, district programme manager for prevention and control of HIV-AIDS, Madurai said, “We are aware of the situation. We have taken up the issue to the notice of our project director a month ago. Action is yet to be taken. We have also suggested an alternative idea of sending ART specialists inside the prison to treat the patients.” K Anandan, superintendent of police, Madurai Central Prison when contacted said that they rely only on the city police to escort the HIV positive inmates to GRH. At times when the city police’s strength is fully utilised for heavy security the inmates cannot be taken to the hospital. In such cases they would send paramedical staff to collect tables from the hospital, he said. (Times of India 5/10/13)

 

26. Nursing students spread festive cheer in HIV+ kids (3)

KOLKATA: Little Rahul Das gets jittery every year before Durga Puja wondering who would buy him new clothes. The 7-year-old boy from Barasat was only a toddler when he lost his father to HIV/AIDS. His mother, also HIV-positive, begs for a living. HIV-affected Rahul was over the moon on Tuesday when he got new clothes for this year, thanks to nursing students and staff of the College of Nursing, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. “Ami packet ta khule dekhbo ki dress acchhe? (May I open the packet to see what dress is in it?)”, asked Ria Mistry. The five-year-old lost her father to AIDS before she was born. Her mother succumbed to the disease two months ago. Since then, she has been living with her ailing grandparents in Basirhat. The students and staff of the nursing college distributed clothes to around 60 HIV-positive children. Most of these kids got the disease from their parents. A few of the thalassaemic children got infected during blood transfusion. “Durga Puja is the time when people especially children love to flaunt their new clothes. Most of these children are orphans. Our students and staff have collected money to bring a smile on their faces. Such an interaction also helps us change the attitude of people towards HIV-positive patients,” said S Das, a senior lecturer at the college. This is the second successive year the college has gifted clothes and other gifts to HIV-positive children under the ‘Joy of Giving’ campaign. For the students it was not just the joy of giving but an opportunity to interact with HIV patients. “Even in the medical fraternity, awareness on HIV/AIDS is very low. An interaction with these patients helps remove the mental block. Spending time with them is an opportunity to learn and understand them better,” said Apabrita Bandyopadhyay, a fourth-year nursing student. The college has tied up with North 24-Parganas Network for People living with HIV/AIDS (NNP+). West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society project director Utpal Bhattacharya, who was present at the function, lauded the students and teachers of the college for their gesture that touched the hearts of several kids. The principal of the medical college, Suddhadhan Batabyal, and the nursing college principal handed over the gifts to the kids. “The gesture by the students and staff of the nursing college has touched us. These children are needy and they have none to shower them gifts. Giving them new clothes to wear during the festival means a lot to them,” said Shukla Chakraborty, vice-president of NNP+. (Times of India 9/10/13)

 

27. Irda seeks to prohibit denial of cover to eligible HIV patients (3)

Mumbai: Life insurance companies have been asked to put in place board-approved underwriting policies with respect to products for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). In a draft circular issued on Friday, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) proposed life insurance cover for PLHA should not be denied if the eligibility criteria according to the board-approved underwriting policy were met. Irda said the board-approved underwriting policy should provide clear guidelines on PLHA and clearly indicate all possible risks to be considered for underwriting, along with the eligibility criteria to consider such proposals in terms of medical and non-medical parameters. The regulator added the policy should also specify all the risks that would be deferred and denied/declined. The circular is effective April 1, 2014. Irda said the underwriting policy should clearly indicate the specific loadings applicable for PLHA, in terms of the different stages of the disease, over and above the tabular premium of a product filed and approved by the authority under the ‘file-and-use’ procedure. This would be reviewed regularly. With respect to people who were HIV-negative on the date of commencement of the contract and were, subsequently, found to be HIV-positive during the term of the policy, Irda proposed insurers shouldn’t reject/deny any claim on such grounds. In all such cases, the underwriting guidelines and claims settlement guidelines applicable during the commencement of the contract would be applicable. For pricing the risk, Irda said a mortality study conducted by the Institute of Actuaries of India, along with a working group constituted by the National AIDS Control Organisation, in annexure-I might be referred. The standard underwriting guidelines for life insurance products framed by the Life Insurance Council in annexure-II may be adopted for underwriting till individual companies gained experience. Insurers, however, feel it would be extremely difficult to price the product. A senior life insurance official said due to lack of data on HIV/AIDS and the fact that it was still perceived as non-curable, it would be a challenge to cover the risk. “Even if we price it, it might not be affordable for the common man,” said a senior executive of another private life insurance company. Irda said in the case of health insurance products offered by life insurers to those who had acquired HIV/AIDS after the commencement of the insurance policy, various options could be provided —PLHA as a critical illness; providing a lump sum on becoming HIV-positive; conversion of the lump sum into annuity for life in the event of the insured becoming HIV-positive; and providing health cover on a benefit basis, excluding the treatment for HIV/AIDS. “With respect to those who are HIV-negative on the date of commencement of the contract and are, subsequently, found to be HIV-positive during the term of the policy, insurers shall not reject/deny any claim on such grounds,” Irda proposed in the circular. In all such cases, the underwriting guidelines and claims settlement guidelines applicable at the time of commencement would be applicable. The insurer may also renew the cover based on the company’s board-approved underwriting policy for PLHA. All insurers would put board-approved underwriting manual, claims manual, proposal form and all other necessary systems in place before April 1, 2014. Companies have been given 15 days to send their views/comments to Irda. (Business Standard 12/10/13)

 

28. Don’t deny claims of HIV infected policy holders: IRDA (3)

Insurance sector regulator IRDA has asked life insurers not to reject any claim of those HIV infected persons who were HIV negative at the time of commencement of policy. It has also asked the insurers to put in place a board approved policy with respect to insurance products for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). “With respect to persons who are HIV negative at date of commencement of the contract and subsequently found to be HIV positive during the term of the policy, the insurers shall not reject/deny any claim, on such grounds. “In all such cases, the underwriting guidelines and claims settlement guidelines applicable at the time of commencement shall be applicable,” IRDA said in a circular. Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) said insurers may offer products to such people with designs such as PLHA as one of the critical illness, providing a lump sum on becoming HIV positive or conversion of lump sum amount into annuity for life in the event of insured becoming HIV positive during the term of contract. They may also design the product providing health cover on benefit basis, excluding only the treatment of HIV/AIDS, it added. The regulator said that in all such cases, the underwriting guidelines and claims settlement guidelines applicable at the time of commencement shall be applicable. “Renew the cover based on the company’s board approved underwriting policy for PLHA,” it added further. IRDA said that the circular will come into effect from April 1, 2014. “All the insurers shall put in place the board approved underwriting manual, claims manual, proposal form and all the other necessary systems before this date,” it said. (The Fiancial Express 13/10/13)

 

29. HIV patients left in the dark due to delay in issuing results (3)

MADURAI: The absence of a chief medical officer (CMO) at the voluntary counselling and testing centre at the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) is causing unnecessary delay in providing immediate results for HIV patients. Due to this, the follow-up and treatment for the newly-detected HIV patients is also at stake. Officials of the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (Tansacs) fume over the unnecessary delay in announcing the HIV test results, which make them to run from pillar to post in search of the patients who test positive. They say that every month around 10 to 15 HIV positive patients tested at the VCTC could not be traced from a total of around 45 positive cases. Although the time needed for the preliminary test is only a couple of minutes, it takes one day’s time to announce the results due to the absence of a CMO, who is the authority to approve the test result. Sources from Tansacs say that an estimated 120 HIV positive cases go untraced every year due to this delay. They do not return the next day to receive the results mainly due to fear. If the results are furnished instantly they can be counselled and treated, they add since the anti-retroviral therapy centre to treat the patients is available inside the same building. “While there are already 4,550 HIV positive patients in Madurai district under treatment, the Tansacs officials are concerned about the growing number of untraced HIV patients in the district. The untraced HIV patients pose threat of spreading the disease swiftly,” say sources. At present, one of the professors from the department of microbiology is in-charge of the VCTC. However, she cannot stay at the centre since she has to engage in classes at the medical college. Sources from Tansacs, however, urged to depute an assistant or postgraduate medical student for the test confirmation. When contacted, M Kalirajan, district programme manager for Prevention and Control of HIV-AIDS, Madurai said, “We are aware of the problem and have taken the issue to our higher officials and waiting for action. The problem is there in the centre for the last two years. We have also urged the hospital authorities to bring an end to the problem,” he said. When contacted, authorities of the Madurai Medical College said that they have received complaints from Tansacs officials and are looking into the issue.  (Times of India 15/10/13)

 

CORRUPTION

30. Lokayukta Bill passed again, govt accepts only one objection of Guv (5)

Gandhinagar: The state government on Tuesday again passed the Gujarat Lokayukta Commission Bill 2013 with a majority, accepting only one objection related to the definition of Governor of the total eight raised by Dr Kamla Beniwal. After she returned it with special remarks in August, the Bill was tabled for the second time in the ongoing monsoon session of the legislative Assembly on Tuesday for reconsideration. While the opposition Congress was absent following their two-day suspension from the House, Gujarat Parivartan Party president Keshubhai Patel supported the Governor’s remarks and was the lone member opposing the Bill on Tuesday. The Bill will be re-sent to the Governor and she will be obliged to sign the Bill this time or refer it to the President. In April, the Narendra Modi government while passing this Bill had proposed to repeal the 27-year-old Act completely and replace it with the new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill 2013 in which it has seized the key powers of the Governor and Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court in selection of the Lokayukta. The government, in a gesture of bending a bit, removed the line — “one who acts on aid and advice of the council of minister” — to define the Governor in amended Bill passed on Tuesday. The Governor in her remarks had described that definition as “an attempt to belittle the dignity of the highest constitutional office of the state”.Finance minister Nitin Patel told the House that the Bill is “exactly on the lines of the Lokpal Bill by the Central government that proposes to make the Prime Minister the head of selection committee, which would comprise a Cabinet minister, Speaker, Leader of Opposition and Supreme Court Chief Justice”. He quoted President Pranab Mukherjee, who, while defending the Lokpal Bill as the Union Finance Minister had said that “one should not have any doubt for a committee headed by PM”. (Indian Express 2/10/13)

 

31. Lalu Prasad jailed for five years (5)

RANCHI: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad was sentenced to five-year rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case on Thursday. The sentence immediately disqualifies him from Parliament and bars him from elections for 11 years, raising questions over the leadership of his party ahead of Lok Sabha elections due next year. Special CBI Judge Pravas Kumar Singh sentenced the two-time former Chief Minister, another former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, Jagdish Sharma, JD(U) MP from Jahanabad, and other convicts, lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail here, through videoconferencing. Mr. Prasad, 65, who was convicted on September 30 in a fodder scam case, was also fined Rs. 25 lakh. Like other politicians, he was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He claimed he was innocent. Mr. Mishra, 76, was sentenced to four-year rigorous imprisonment and was asked to pay a fine of Rs. 2 lakh. Mr. Sharma also faces disqualification in the light of a Supreme Court judgment that an MP or MLA would lose his seat immediately after he was convicted by a court for crimes with a punishment of two years or more. If they did not pay the fine, the convicts would serve six more months in jail. Six other politicians and four IAS officers were also sentenced to prison terms for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury when Mr. Prasad was heading the RJD government in undivided Bihar in the early 1990s. .(The Hindu 4/10/13)

 

32. Will pass Lokpal Bill after coming to power: Kejriwal (5)

NEW DELHI: Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal is not only confident of emerging victorious in the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections, but has even decided how and when his government will convene a special session to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill if his party come to power. Addressing the media on Saturday, Mr. Kejriwal said when the AAP is sworn in, it will convene a special Assembly session on December 29 at the Ramlila Maidan and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill as promised. Mr. Kejriwal said December 29 has been chosen because it was on this day in 2011 that Rajya Sabha member Rajniti Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal tore a copy of the Bill in Parliament. Targeting the other political parties for failing to pass the Bill, he said despite assurances and expression of intent to do so, there has been no move to pass the Bill in the Parliament. The AAP’s chief ministerial candidate, Mr. Kejriwal refused to even consider the possibility of the AAP not coming to power. He asserted that the party’s claims of winning the Delhi polls are based on “scientific data” and consecutive polls spread over the past six months have indicated that the party is on a winning curve. On what gives the party the confidence to claim a walkover against a three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Yogendra Yadav said: “Few parties work on the basis of evidence…we conducted a poll in Delhi in February that showed AAP’s chances of winning at 14 per cent, whereas the Congress and the BJP were given 35 per cent each. Subsequently, at the end of August, we conducted another round of survey, which showed the Congress and the BJP having lost their margin by nine and four per cent, respectively, but the AAP had gained by 13 per cent. We have put the raw data on our website for all to see and examine.” He said the forthcoming elections in Delhi will be “bipolar” as it will be a choice between the “honest politics” of the AAP and the “corrupt collective politics of the BJP and the Congress”. “This is for the first time that polls in Delhi will be a realigning election. So far it has been a contest between the BJP and the Congress, but now it will be a choice between the Congress and the BJP on one side and the AAP on the other.” Mr. Kejriwal went so far as to claim that the BJP and the Congress have modified their campaign strategy to target the AAP and are refraining from referring to each other. “In their respective campaigns both parties are only targeting the AAP, the Congress makes no mention of the BJP and vice versa. They are speaking the same language, they are both accusing the AAP of being the ‘agent’ of the other, and it almost seems that they have jointly executed their strategy.” Commenting on the stand that both parties have taken on the controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers, Mr. Kejriwal said both the Congress and the BJP should “walk the talk” by fielding candidates with no cases of heinous crimes against them. The mainstream parties should also take a cue from the AAP and give details of all donations received by them, he said. The party will contest elections for the first time on December 4, when Delhi goes to polls. It admitted that its foray into national politics will be decided after the Delhi debut. (The Hindu 6/10/13)

 

33. CBI to close corruption case against Mayawati (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Tuesday said it will close its investigation into alleged corruption charges against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, officials said. The decision comes over a fortnight after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) decided to close its probe against Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, citing lack of evidence. CBI officials refused to give more details on the closure of Mayawati’s case. On August 8, the Supreme Court had disposed off a petition seeking review of its earlier judgment of quashing CBI investigation into alleged disproportionate assets case against the four-time Uttar Pradesh chief minister. The court had held that the investigating agency had exceeded its jurisdiction by lodging a police case against the BSP supremo without the court’s direction. The Supreme Court also said that its order on Mayawati was only in connection with the Taj Corridor case and the court did not go into other aspects. The CBI inquiry against Mayawati began after allegations of financial irregularities surfaced duing the development of the areas around the Taj Mahal, a World Heritage site. The Taj Corridor, as it was called, was commissioned by her in 2003. (Times of India 8/10/13)

 

34. Indian firms lack policies on corruption: Survey (5)

New Delhi; Indian companies are against ‘facilitation payments’, but lack policies on bribes to secure business contracts, says an international survey. The survey shows that Indian companies, like many of their international counterparts, are unprepared to meet the challenges of adhering to international anti-corruption laws, not to mention a tightening domestic regulatory framework. Meanwhile, the risks to business of prosecution, fines and reputational damage continue to grow. Control Risks, a global risk consulting firm, and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted a survey among general counsels and compliance heads of 316 companies globally to examine their attitudes toward bribery and corruption risks. Commenting on the survey’s findings, Toby Latta, CEO of Control Risks in Asia Pacific, said: “Corruption is one of the most significant challenges adversely affecting the Indian economy. Bribery is neither a cost-effective nor a sustainable business strategy.” Indian companies are most concerned about operational bribes and third-party risks. They lag behind in providing anti-corruption training to their employees, having whistle-blowing mechanisms and budget dedicated to anti-corruption initiatives, it suggests. The three countries with the largest numbers of respondents in the survey were India (45 companies), the US (44) and the UK (43). The Indian respondents represented 19 commercial sectors, the largest being manufacturing (16 companies). Many companies are risking their reputations by not implementing internal procedures to prevent the use of bribery by employees. Only 40 per cent of global respondents have whistle-blowing lines and this figure is much lower (24 per cent) for Indian respondents, the survey showed. (Business Line 9/10/13)

 

35. Solar scam: Kerala HC clean chit for Chandy (5)

KOCHI: The Kerala HC on Friday gave chief minister Oommen Chandy a clean chit in what has come to be called the “solar scam”. This comes just a day after Chandy announced the terms of reference for a judicial probe into the matter. The judicial probe would inquire into whether the chief minister’s office and Chandy himself had a role in the “solar scam”.The clean chit came as the court disposed of a petition by activist K Joy, seeking that CCTV visuals from Chandy’s office be examined to check if one of the accused, Saritha Nair, was at his office, accompanied by Sreedharan Nair. The businessman has claimed that he made an investment in the fraudulent enterprise led by Saritha Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan after Chandy asked him to invest. “Saritha Nair might have business interests, but there is nothing to prove that chief minister Chandy had a role in the matter, or that he did anything wrong. There is nothing to implicate him, and there is no evidence against him,” the court said, adding that there was no reason to examine the CCTV visuals. The court also pointed out that 33 cases have been registered in connection with the solar scam, and none of those whose made the complaints have so far questioned the fairness of the state police or the conduct of its investigations. Chandy, asked for a response to the court’s observations, said: “What can I say?” The court’s observations, however, come as major reprieve for Chandy, who has been put on the defensive by an aggressive Left opposition ever since the scam broke out in June this year, with the arrest of Saritha Nair. Sreedharan Nair, one of those defrauded in the case, complained that he had lost money he entrusted to a couple who promised him an agency to manufacture solar panels. He had asserted that he had even met the chief minister, accompanied by Saritha Nair, an accused in the case. Two weeks after the arrest of Saritha Nair, her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan was also taken into custody. The couple allegedly defrauded people by offering solar energy solutions at huge discounts, and often lured people into investing in their enterprise by citing an acquaintance with people in high office in the state government. When the two failed to make good promises made to clients, several cases were lodged against the couple with state police. Telephone call records of the two accused revealed that they had been in close touch with influential people in Kerala. While one member of Chandy’s personal staff was arrested in the case and released on bail later, two others lost their jobs. The state police have so far charged the couple with 33 cases. In some of the cases, popular TV actress Shalu Menon was also accused. Menon is out on bail. (Times of India 11/10/13)

 

36. Coal scam: FIR against Kumar Mangalam Birla, ex-coal secretary (5)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday filed the first information report (FIR) against Aditya Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Hindalco Industries Ltd in the case related to the allotment of captive coal blocks between 1993 and 2010. An FIR has also been registered against former coal secretary PC Parekh. The agency is investigating the coal allotments as part of a Supreme Court monitored probe. A spokesperson for the Aditya Birla group said that the company had not received any FIR. After registering the 14th FIR in the coal scam, CBI teams carried out coordinated searches at nearly six locations in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar. “They have been booked for criminal conspiracy,” a senior CBI official said. “Simultaneous searches are going on at Mumbai, Delhi, Bhubaneswar and Hyderabad,” the official said. The fresh FIRs have been registered in connection with the allotment of the Talabira-II coalfield in Odisha, that was allocated to Hindalco Industries in 2005. Shares of Hindalco were down 2% to Rs.108.35 at 10:57am on BSE on Tuesday, while the benchmark Sensex was trading 0.38% lower at 20,534.64. (Hindustan Times 15/10/13)

 

 

TERRORISM

37. Seven SIMI members escape from Madhya Pradesh prison, one nabbed (12)

Bhopal: In a major embarrassment for prison authorities, seven prisoners escaped from Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa jail in the wee hours Tuesday. According to reports, the seven undertrial prisoners, including two who had shot dead three persons in a broad daylight attack some years ago, were members of terror outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The police have claimed to have nabbed one of them. The seven broke the wall of the toilet to escape the jail and in the process, attacked two constables — Lokesh Hirve and Suro Tiwari — with knives. The police have now declared a high alert in Khandwa and adjoining areas. The injured constables have been admitted to hospital. After receiving information about the incident, two jawans of Cheetah force also tried to stop the accused from fleeing but could not do so despite an exchange of fire with them, sources said. The suspected SIMI activists snatched the wireless sets and loaded rifles of both the Cheetah jawans too, they said. Confirming the news, ADG Prisons CV Muniraju said that seven terrorists broke the wall of a toilet and escaped around 3-4 am. Promising to take an action against the erring officials, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta said the authorities would probe as to why this negligence happened. One terrorist has been arrested, Gupta said, adding the fact that others are roaming freely is dangerous for the state. Commenting on the jailbreak, Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said that the incident happened due to security lapses and an action must be taken against those responsible for it. The prisoners who fled from jail are — Amjad, Aslam, Zakir, Mehboob (all from Khandwa), Ejazuddin (of Narsinh Yard, Kareli), Abu Faizal (Juhu), Aabid Mirza (of Oont Kuwan, Hatampura, Khandwa), Superintendent of Police Manoj Sharma said. However, one of them, Aabid Mirza, was later caught from Sarvodaya Colony here, Sharma said, adding that the rest are absconding. The Kotwali police received information about the whole episode around 5:15 AM and efforts were on to nab remaining six accused by forming 15 police teams, he said. Taking serious note of the whole episode, Madhya Pradesh Jail Minister Antar Singh Arya has ordered a high-level probe into it. The minister told a news agency at his Sendhwa residence that he has given orders to Principal Secretary, Jails, to immediately reach Khandwa. Arya said that action would be taken against the guilty jail personnel after the probe was completed. (Zee News 1/10/13)

 

38. 13 get life term for terror camp hiring in J&K (12)

Kochi: An NIA special court on Friday sentenced 13 people to life imprisonment on charges of recruiting young men from Kerala for terrorist camps in Jammu and Kashmir. National Investigation Agency (NIA) special judge S. Vijayakumar had Tuesday held the 13 guilty of waging war against the nation but let off five others for lack of evidence. Of the 13, four were handed out a double life term. They included T. Nazeer, the self-styled south India chief of the terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. The case came to light in 2008 when four Kerala youths were shot dead by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Nazeer was arrested in 2009 close to the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya. Nazeer is already serving a life sentence for the 2006 Kozhikode twin bomb blasts. (Zee News 4/10/13)

 

39. Four more militants killed near LoC, says Army (12)

Srinagar: On a day when senior commanders visited the embattled Keran sector, the Army claimed to have killed four more militants close to the Line of Control in north Kashmir. On the 12th day, Saturday, of the massive combing operation in Kupwara district, the troops foiled a fresh infiltration attempt by heavily armed militants at Fateh Gali, 25 km west of Shalbata village, a Defence spokesman at the headquarters of 15 Corps said. He claimed that four militants of the group — who had crossed the LoC, walked 3 km in rugged terrain and reached close to an Indian Army post late Friday night — were killed even as they directed heavy fire at a bunker. Six AK-47 rifles and 10 pistols were among the weapons recovered from the slain militants, the spokesman said. With these, as many as 19 militants are claimed to have been killed in the operation that began on September 24 in the Shalbata area, close to the LoC. Though the Defence spokesman did not mention anything about the recovery of the bodies of the militants killed in the staggered operation, sources in Kupwara told The Hindu that only two bodies had been handed over to the police. The bodies were buried in Keran on Saturday. A day after Army Chief General Bikram Singh said the operation was in the last leg, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt. Gen. Sajiv Chachra, and GOC 15 Corps Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh carried out an aerial survey of the embattled area. They flew past Shalbata, Juma Gund, Zirhama and other villages to have a first-hand account of the ground situation. They interacted with field commanders and soldiers at Zangli Kupwara, headquarters of the 28 Infantry Division.  (The Hindu 6/10/13)

 

40. Army says Keran was desperate infiltration bid (12)

New Delhi: Army chief General Bikram Singh on Tuesday sought to reject the perception that the Keran incident was on the pattern of Kargil intrusion of 1999, saying it was just an infiltration bid by terrorists but suggested the complicity of Pakistan Army in the episode. He insisted that terrorists were not occupying any higher ground but sitting in a “nallah” (rivulet) near the Line of Control in Kashmir valley. “It was a desperate infiltration bid, which has been foiled,” Gen Singh told reporters in Ghaziabad on the sidelines of the Air Force Day parade. He was asked about the incident in Keran in Kashmir where the Army was engaged for the last 15 days with a group of 35-40 militants about 300-400 metres inside Indian territory having a supply-line to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, an incident which reminded about the Kargil intrusion of 1999 when Indian posts were occupied. “A large number of (TV) channels have talked about this being an intrusion. It is not. If this was intrusion, the adversary would go and occupy dominating ground which is defensible,” he said. Seeking to downplay the incident, he said, “In this case, they were sitting in a nallah. Which adversary is going to dominate an area by sitting in the nallah?”  At the same time, he suggested the complicity of Pakistan Army. “On the LoC, we are in eyeball-to-eyeball situation. It is impossible for the terrorists to do any activity without Pakistan Army’s knowledge. There is no way that they can operate there without Pakistan Army… I am clear that no terror activity can take place along the LoC without Pakistan Army support,” he told Times Now. Asked about evidence in this regard, the Army Chief said the terrorists were provided cover fire to infiltrate in Keran from Pakistani posts. The Army chief said that seven of the terrorists involved in the Keran sector had apparently pulled out from there and tried to infiltrate from other areas into Kashmir valley but were gunned down by the security forces. IAF Chief NAK Browne was also asked by reporters whether the Keran incident reminded him of the Kargil intrusion. “Instead of saying that this is Kargil-type situation, nobody is coming or nobody is ocupying anything. Be rest assured. The Army jawans are well trained and have adequate fire power,” he replied. “Because of the terrain and the situation there we do not want to expose our boys. The good part is that we have not lost any of our boys,” Browne said. Asked why the Army troops have not been able to recapture the positions held by the Pakistanis, he said, “Let us not hype the situation. There is a word called ‘savlanuth’ in Hebrew. The meaning of that word is patience.” (Hindustan Times 8/10/13)

 

41. Talks with militants within constitutional parameters: Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (12)

Islamabad: The Pakistani military fully backs the government’s move to hold peace talks with banned militant groups but these parleys must be held within constitutional parameters, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Friday. There is an opinion that the government was forced to go in for talks with militants because of the failure of military operations but this is far from the truth, he said. Kayani, set to retire next month after leading the army for six years, further stressed the need for strengthening democracy while addressing a passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. The 61-year-old army chief described terrorism as a “big challenge” that goes against both Pakistan’s ideology and Islamic teachings. “To deal with it, the national leadership chose the option of giving talks a chance. The Pakistan Army supports this move,” he said. “The people and the political leadership have to decide the limits for these talks…It is very important that this process leads to unity among the people and not divisions. It is necessary to find a solution to this problem within the Constitution of Pakistan.” The use of force is the last option and the army is fully prepared to exercise this option if necessary, Kayani said. He pointed out that the army has made sacrifices in the war against terrorism and achieved key successes against militants. In this regard, he cited the 2009 operation to flush out militants from the northwestern Swat Valley when they moved to within 100 km of Islamabad. Pakistan, he said, is passing through a critical and difficult phase and the military leadership must play its role for strengthening the democratic system. “Nations that accept and face challenges emerge stronger,” he said. He noted the successful holding of elections this year and said a democratic government had completed its tenure for the first time in Pakistan. However, the country could have achieved much more if mistakes not not been made in the past, he said. Pakistan had moved away from the ideals of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, he said. The country’s growth had also been retarded by the lack of institutional harmony, unequal economic opportunities, intolerance and a weak system of governance, he said. Kayani said one should accept that no individual or institution alone has the solution to these problems and neither can they be overcome in a few months or years.  (Zee News 12/10/13)

 

42. India, US to target financial networks of Lashkar, JuD (12)

Washington: India and the US on Sunday agreed to work together to target the financial network and fund raising activities of terror outfits and individual terrorists associated with these organisations. The decision by the two countries, in this regard, was taken during a meeting between Finance Minister P Chidambaram and US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The two leaders jointly chaired the fourth annual meeting of India-US Economic and Financial Partnership held at the IMF headquarters here. Chidambaram and Lew also agreed on commitment to deepening dialogue on implementation of international anti-money laundering, combating the financing of terrorism and expanding cooperation on countering illicit financing. This will include targeting the financial networks and fundraising activities of terror organisations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the Haqqani network and individual terrorists associated with these organisations, India said in a statement after the meeting. These commitments were also reflected in a joint statement issued after Chidambaram’s meeting with Lew. “They also agreed to enhance cooperation between our agencies in fighting against counterfeiting currency and illicit financial flows,” the statement said.  (Indian Express 14/10/13)

 

43. 60 Jammu and Kashmir terrorists neutralised in 6 months (12)

New Delhi: Security agencies said they had “neutralised” at least 60 top-ranking operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Badar and dismantled several terrorist networks in south and north Kashmir in the last six months. “A few cells are still active. They include LeT second-in-command Qasim in north Kashmir. He has now become the self-styled commander of the group. But most of LeT and JeM networks in south Kashmir were destroyed. Several covert operations were launched against the arms supply lines to terrorists,” a source said. A senior officer said the LeT was weakened but ISI was trying to revive the terror outfit’s parent organisation based in Pakistan by providing shelter, weapons, money and terror training. In the aftermath of Afzal Guru’s hanging in February, sources said, there was an increase in terror attacks and the number of encounters went up to 20 within six months. Nine terrorist outfits under the United Jehad Council organised a conference in February and reiterated their resolve to step up attacks in India. Also, there was a systematic crackdown on hawala transactions to terrorists and separatists. Sources said there was an intelligence input on these terror outfits cultivating modules in Bangladesh to keep terror supply lines open. A wanted terrorist had revealed that trained terrorists were being launched from Bangladesh and Nepal, they added. (New Indian Express 15/10/13)

 

 

Posted by admin at 1 October 2013

Category: Uncategorized

HUMAN RIGHTS/ RIGHTS GROUP/ NHRC

1. US court issues summons to Manmohan  (1)

JALANDHAR: Weeks after securing a summons from a US court against Congress president Sonia Gandhi for protecting perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, rights group Sikhs For Justice has now obtained another summons from a federal court in Washington against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his alleged role in sanctioning cash rewards in the 90s for Punjab cops involved in fake encounters and protecting the architects of the riots. The case has been docketed and assigned to US district judge James E Boasberg. The plaintiffs have 120 days to serve summons on the PM, who will be in Washington this week to meet US president Barack Obama. However, SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannu said that since it was an uphill task to serve summons to the PM through regular process during his meeting with Obama in White House, an emergency motion will be filed in the court seeking alternative means to deliver it to the White House staff and members of PM’s security personnel. Justifying the filing of rights violation lawsuit against the Prime Minister, SFJ said that he should be held accountable for funding crimes against humanity and protecting security force personnel involved in extrajudicial killings of Sikhs in Punjab. The human rights violation suit, filed under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) for funding several counter-insurgency operations in Punjab resulting in killings of people, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Under ATCA and TVPA, US federal courts have jurisdiction over cases of human rights violations even though incidents occurred on foreign soil. The complaint filed on September 25 alleged that Manmohan’s culpability in the crimes started in 1991 when he took office of the finance minister. Manmohan approved and financed, as head of finance ministry, “cash rewards” for killing Sikhs through extra-judicial means. The 24-page complaint also claimed that during his tenure as PM, Manmohan has been actively shielding and protecting members of his political party who were involved in anti-Sikh riots. Sikh groups are also holding a “justice rally” on September 27 in front of the White House during Obama-Manmohan meeting. (Times of India 27/9/13)

 

2. Rights panel begins probe into ‘suicide’ (1)

BERHAMPUR: A team of the Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC), Hyderabad, on Wednesday came to Ganjam district to inquire into the death of one Sabyasachi Patnaik. Patnaik (27) was working as a news reader of a private Odia channel and had hanged himself to death in his rented house at Vanasthalipuram, Hyderbad in February last year  A native of Siddeshwar in Ganjam, Patnaik had joined the private channel as a news reader in 2011 and was staying at Dwarakamayi Nagar in Vanasthalipuram, Hyderabad. He was staying with his colleague, Jeenu Kumar Jena, who also worked as an editor-cum-reporter for the same channel. Unable to perform well in his work and family problems reportedly forced Patnaik to take his life, the local police had then claimed. Though police had closed the file, the India Media Centre had appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to conduct a thorough inquiry. Accordingly, NHRC directed the Andhra Pradesh DGP to conduct an inquiry and submit a report by September 30 this year. As per the directive, the HRPC team from Hyderabad reached Odisha and questioned family members of Patnaik at Sidheswar village. The family members reportedly told them that Patnaik was subjected to mental torture at his work place. (New Indian Express 28/9/13)

 

3. Human rights activists demand justice for Reingamphi (1)

NEW DELHI: A group of human rights activists on Monday contested the police theory of suicide behind the death of a 22-year-old Manipur girl whose body was found at her residence in Chirag Delhi in May. A S Reingamphi was found in a pool of blood at her rented accommodation on May 29. There were severe injuries on her eyes, nose and legs. The police has maintained that these were caused by rodents. Four months on, no arrests have been made. Reingamphi’s friends and family have alleged murder and sexual assault and expressed dissatisfaction with the way the crime branch of Delhi Police has proceeded with the investigations. The viscera report issued by the Forensic Science Laboratory found no traces of poison or drugs in the body, they say. On August 8, the victim’s cousin AS Chirmayo moved the Delhi high court with a writ petition asking for the case to be transferred to the CBI. Amiy Shukla, who works with the Human Rights Law Network that is looking into Chirmayo’s petition, said that the investigation has been problematic since the beginning. “The scene of crime was not sealed. No fingerprints or pictures were taken from there,” she says. Activists also alleged discrepancy in the post mortem report by Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), the second in this case. Page 11 of the report says that it can’t be ascertained if the injuries occurred before or after death. Page 14 of the same report says the bleeding pattern was from the face was post death. They also raised strong objections to MAMC having conducted a “two-finger test” on the victim’s body, to ascertain if she was “habituated” to sexual intercourse — something that the Justice Verma Committee held has no bearing when ascertaining sexual assault. Chirmayo alleges that she was being stalked and harassed by her landlord and his brother in law. “We mentioned that in the FIR as well. The viscera and histopathological report found human semen on her torn clothes. Now, the police status report says there were rodent footprints around her body. There have been two postmortems already. But we still don’t know the cause of her death,” he says. The case was transferred to the crime branch in June after an intervention from Delhi’s minister of women and child development Kiran Walia back. “This is after the 16 December case, after the police reforms, and after the ordinance. Stalking is now a punishable offence. The police were pulled up for refusing to file FIRs. Yet, it took 300 people picketing outside Malviya Nagar police station for 27 hours simply to get an FIR registered,” says Nandini Rao of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). This incident joins the growing list of cases of sexual violence against those from India’s north-eastern states. May 2005 saw the gangrape of a BPO employee from Mizoram. The main accused in the case is absconding. A 19-year-old Manipuri woman was raped and murdered in October 2009 allegedly by a PhD scholar from IIT. (Times of India 1/10/13)

 

TRAFFICKING

4. Youth, Bengali girl’s aunt booked for human trafficking (1)

CHANDIGARH: A 19-year-old girl from West Bengal suffered injuries when she jumped from a moving motorcycle to escape harassment in Bhiwani city on Wednesday. The girl had taken lift from a motorcyclist to run away from Bhiwani, as she was allegedly being sold to a youth by her aunt. Investigation officer (IO) of the case, Ram Kishan, told TOI on Thursday that they were trying to arrest the girl’s aunt Meena, a resident of Burdwan district of West Bengal, and find out whether a gang was active in trafficking of women to the state. According to the girl, Meena had brought her to Bhiwani from her village in Bengal on September 21 for a tour, stating that her daughter was also living there. “On Wednesday afternoon, Meena took the girl to some place in Bhiwani where she was handed over to a youth. When the girl came to know that she was being sold to the youth, she ran away from the spot,” said the IO. The girl then took lift from a motorcyclist to go to the railway station. However, the youth started harassing her when he came to know about her story, said sources, making the girl jump from the moving motorcycle. Cops, who were deployed near the spot, rushed to the girl and took her to the hospital, thinking that she was an accident victim. However, in the hospital, the girl narrated the entire episode to police. After being given treatment, the girl was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday. On her complaint, police have lodged an FIR against Meena and an unknown youth, who was buying the girl, under sections 366 (kidnapping), 370 (2) (buying or disposing of any person as a slave) and 34 (common intention) of IPC. Meanwhile, police have decided to send the girl to a women’s shelter home in Narnaul (Mahendergarh). (Times of India 27/9/13)

 

5.  ‘Human trafficking is a global concern’ (1)

Kochi: Experts from different parts of the country got together to discuss the legal framework regarding issues of human trafficking in the city on Saturday. The two-day national consultation on ‘Anti-trafficking – strategies and roadmap to address issues’ which began on Saturday is being organised by the Human Rights Law Network, Kerala, and supported by the U.S. Consulate, Chennai. The meeting became a forum for activists, social workers, and legal experts to discuss the issues surrounding the policies and national and international anti-trafficking law. The inaugural address of the meet was delivered by Lissy Jose, member of the State Women’s Commission. Dr. Jose highlighted the issues of human trafficking in Kerala. Talks held later during the day examined human trafficking from various perspectives. Indrani Sinha, who established Sanlaap, an organisation in Kolkata that works to protect the rights of women and children, spoke on the human rights concerns around human trafficking. She said that victims of trafficking were up against money power and criminal conspiracy. Agents of trafficking treated the victims as commodities and tried to exploit them as much as possible, she said. The discussions highlighted that human trafficking accounted for a large share of all illegal trade across the globe. The sessions also brought out the legal issues faced by organisations trying to rehabilitate persons who have been trafficked, especially across national borders. M.P. Antony, director of Rajagiri Outreach, gave an overview of the human trafficking situation in Kerala. The meeting raised the issue of violation of human rights when migrant labourers are trafficked across State borders. Other eminent speakers at the meeting discussed issues of rehabilitation, the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, reproductive rights violations, and sensitisation. Those who suffered human trafficking are victimised at several levels, the meeting noted. Victims of trafficking are taken out of their homes and denied all human rights, privacy, and access to justice. (The Hindu 30/9/13)

 

6. Rural girl from Dharwad to speak at UN conference (1)

DHARWAD: Manjula Munavalli of sleepy Ramapur village in Dharwad taluk will visit Geneva to participate in the 66th conference of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) on October 10. Thanks to KIDS, an NGO, Manjula will have a chance to present her views on children’s rights at the conference. A PUC I-year student at RLS PU College, Dharwad, Manjula is the only representative from Karnataka to participate in the meet. Afsana of Gujarat is another representative from India to participate in the conference. Mary of Mumbai will be travelling with these two girls to Geneva as translator. Manjula has been associated with KIDS, which has been promoting child welfare activities in rural parts of Dharwad district for several years. She is also the vice-president of Gubbacchi Goodu Makkala Mahasangha, a confederation of children’s welfare associations. It’s a privilege to represent India…. I will speak on issues like child marriage, human trafficking, child labour and sexual assaults on children in India. I am confident of drawing the attention of the powers that be with my presentation. (Times of India 1/10/13)

 

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

7. Dalit suicide: Atrocity charge against GIDC officer not applicable, rules HC (2)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court (HC) has prima facie taken a view that the charges of caste-based atrocity levelled against an officer of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) in Gandhinagar with reference to the suicide of a Dalit clerk earlier this month are not applicable. The court observed this while acting on a quashing petition moved by one of the three accused officers in the case. Based on a complaint lodged by the brother of the deceased, the officer and two others had been booked for abetment to suicide by Gandhinagar police under the provisions of the IPC and Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act, commonly known as the Atrocity Act. Naresh Chavda, a clerk with the GIDC, had committed suicide by consuming insecticide on September 2 in Udyog Bhavan. Naresh’s brother, Raju, had lodged a complaint, accusing three officers for the suicide of his brother. The police registered an FIR against them. In his FIR, Raju named the three officers as Pathak, Vijay Shah and Samir Vakil. Issuing notices to state government and Raju, the court has posted the matter for further hearing on October 10. (Indian Express 26/9/13)

 

8. MP: Dalits told to get clicked with dead animals for wards’ scholarship (2)

Indire: Finding no way out, the Dalits in Dahi block of Dhar district are now busy in getting their photographs clicked in front of dead animals as per ‘order’ by the local tehsildar. The photographs will act as a ‘proof ’ and help their wards avail scholarships of ` 1,850 per year under Ashurakshit Dhandho Mein Lage Parivaar Ke logo Ke Vidhyarthiyon Kee Purva Matric Scholarship scheme of the state However, such a clause had never been put while filling forms. “I have made this ‘clause’ for my personal satisfaction. How would I believe that a person is from that particular community? I have not stopped anyone from signing but demanded the photographs as proof. There is no such clause of the government but I have to do this to ensure there is no fraud,” said tehsildar Dahi DK Dubey. Meanwhile, dissent is brewing among the community people. Some are compelled to click photographs for the sake of the future of their children, while others have decided not to draw the scholarship, citing that the clause is an ‘insult’ to their community. Bharat, the representative of the community, said this was for the first time the clause was added. “Our children get ` 1,850 as scholarship from the government every year and this amount is enough for us. However, most of us are not going to certify the form because the tehsildar is asking for a photograph while doing the act,” he said. Shaane, a resident of Piplod village of the block, has gone to certify the documents for about five times. “The tehsildar is asking for a photograph as proof. We have a certificate of the village panchayat, but he refused to sign without the photograph,” Shaane added. Another member of the community, Raval Singh, said the tehsildar’s order has insulted our community. There are more than 250 children from this community in about 150 families in the block and all will suffer if this clause continues to be in place. The tehsildar’s ‘demand’ has agitated the dalits as they virtually have to plead photographers to get their pictures with dead animals. At least a dozen enraged members of the community have faxed a letter to district collector complaining about the clause on Thursday. (Hindustan Times 28/9/13)

 

9. Four held for ostracising Dalits

DHARMAPURI: Four persons were arrested here on Friday on charges of ostracising Dalits. Police said K. Maadhu (45) alias Muthukan, milk procurer from a private dairy, M. Ramamurthy (38), G. Saravanan (35), who owns grocery shops and P. Peraman (51) owner of a bunk stall at Mahendramangalam village were arrested on charges of socially boycotting 170 Dalit families living in two colonies in the village. Sources said the problem arose when Dalits started putting up huts to oppose caste Hindus who had planted mango saplings a few days ago on a two-acre land belonging to Basaweswara Temple. It was alleged that the caste Hindus were planting the saplings to prevent land from being acquired for distribution among Adi Dravidars. Already two acres of temple land had been acquired by the government from Hindu Religious and Endowment Board and distributed among 36 Adi Dravida families. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department removed the saplings and the huts, and put up a board cautioning against such activities. Eight persons, four from each community, were arrested and remanded. After this, the caste Hindus started boycotting the Dalits by not procuring milk for a private milk depot owned by a caste Hindu and stopped providing groceries from three shops of caste Hindus. Based on a petition lodged by V. Madhaiyan (38) of a Dalit colony, Mahendramangalam police have arrested the four caste Hindus and registered a case under Sections 505 (2) (promoting enmity between communities) and 3 (X and XIV) of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. All the four were produced before the Palacode Magistrate and remanded. (The Hindu 29/9/13)

 

10. Caste clashes trigger violence in Govt Law College (2)

COIMBATORE: Four dalit students of Government Law College, Coimbatore, were brutally assaulted by a group of non-dalit students and some hired goons with deadly weapons inside the college premises on Monday afternoon. The armed gang damaged three motorcycles and burnt another two-wheeler. They vandalized the student hostel and managed to escape in two vehicles before police arrived on the scene. More than 50 police personnel were deployed at the college campus and the college principal declared a holiday on Tuesday.

 

The injured students have been identified as Murugesan, Anandaraj, Azhaguraja and Kalaiyarasan. Murugesan, a second year student of BABL, was assaulted by the gang with a sickle in his classroom. Anandaraj and other dalit students, who were near the main gate of the college, were chased by the armed gang and they ran towards the student hostel. Anandaraj had locked the main door of the hostel. But the gang damaged the door and continued to assault him. Another dalit student, Azhaguraja, was attacked with a sword while he was entering the college campus. He sustained injuries on the left side of his chest. Kalaiyarasan sustained minor injuries on his forehead. Anandaraj, Azhaguraja and Murugesan have been admitted at Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH) and Kalaiyarasan received treatment as an outpatient. “Students from Thevar, Gounder and Vanniyar communities have formed a non-dalit student’s forum inside the college campus and political parties are supporting them. The dalit students are unable to roam freely outside the college campus,” said a student. Consequently, the 45 dalit students plan to get their transfer certificate from the college management. M Sudhir, principal, Government Law College, notified the Vadavalli police station when the violence broke out. Immediately ADSP P Muthuraj, Perur sub-division DSP Thangadurai, Vadavalli inspector (in charge) Vivekanandan, Madukkarai police inspector Vinod and other police officers rushed to the spot. But the culprits escaped before the officers arrived. A motorcycle was damaged by the armed gang and it was found in front of the college main entrance. Another motorcycle was burnt near the student’s hostel. Two more motorcycles parked inside the hostel campus were also damaged. “There was previous enmity between students who belonged to different communities. We have deployed police personnel and the culprits will be arrested soon,” said DSP Thangadurai. “We have declared one day leave on Tuesday. We hope to solve the problem within a couple of days. We will suspend the students who indulged in the attack,” said M Sudhir, principal of the college. The violence was triggered after two students of BABL had a fall out on Friday. Sargunam, a second year dalit student of BABL had previous enmity with Nishanth as he did not like being teased by Nishanth and his friends. On September 27, a few seniors intervened and patched things up between them. On Saturday, six students attacked Sargunam and his friend Pradeep Kumar with an iron rod and wooden logs inside the college campus. Meanwhile, a twelve member gang on Sargunam’s side attacked Nishanth and five others. Based on the complaint, Vadavalli police registered a case against 18 students from both the sides. All of them have been suspended by the college management. (Times of India 1/10/13)

 

HEALTH/ EPIDEMICS/NRHM

11. Encephalitis claims 10 more lives in Uttar Pradesh; toll climbs to 319 (3)

Gorakhpur: Ten more children have succumbed to encephalitis at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur in last 24 hours, taking the death toll due to the disease to 319 in eastern district of Uttar Pradesh this year. The deceased include three children from Gorakhpur, two from Maharajganj and one child each from Deoria, Kushinagar, Sant Kabirnagar and Siddharthanagar districts of eastern UP, while one child from adjoining Bihar also succumbed to the disease, health officials said. Thirty three more encephalitis patients have been admitted to the hospital in the last 24 hours, they added. This year as many as 1560 encephalitis patients, mostly children, were admitted to BRD Medical College Hospital, of which 319 died, they said. (NDTV 29/9/13)

 

12. 32,000 cases, 100 deaths in India this year: Dengue (3)

Pune: National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme officials have counted more than 32,000 cases of dengue and 100 deaths in the country this year. Kerala has had the highest number of cases at nearly 7,000. The fatality rate is not as bad as it was last year, when 240 of 50,000 cases died across the country. Dr A C Dhariwal, director of NVBDCP, points out there are guidelines on combating the disease and there is no cause for panic. Dengue does, however, present fresh challenges. It is no longer a cyclical problem, though that depends on where the outbreak occurs. The virus transmits itself round the year in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, while it has remained a seasonal phenomenon in the northern, central and eastern states, NVBDCP officials say. In the latter areas, transmission tends to pick up in the post-monsoon months from September to December. Dengue has become endemic with even places like Samba in Jammu having reported an outbreak; last year it was Palighat in Arunachal Pradesh, says Dr Kalpana Baruah, NVBDCP joint director. (Indian Express 30/9/13)

 

13. ‘Rural areas in Rajasthan most affected by contaminated drinking water’ (3)

JAIPUR: A recent report of the Union water resources ministry states that villages in Rajasthan are most affected by contaminated water in the country. According to the report, in Rajasthan, 25,504 rural habitations or 1.09 crore people are getting water with chemical or bacterial contamination. Assam comes next with 12,879 rural habitations or 0.44 crore people affected by contamination, followed by Bihar with 10,587 affected households. In India, 84,294 rural habitations have access only to water contaminated by chemicals, the Union water resource minister Harish Rawat stated in the Lok Sabha recently. Incidentally, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh in the north have zero habitations affected by polluted water. Increasing urbanisation and demographic pressures not only put additional demand on available drinking water but also generate huge quantity of wastewater. Wastewater has a potential to adversely affect the quality of both surface water and groundwater resources. Three-fourth of the surface water resources in India are polluted due to untreated wastewater and 80% of surface water-pollution is caused by sewage alone. According to WHO, contaminated drinking water results in the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera and dysentery and is said to be the main cause for the rising child mortality rate in the country. “Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation implements the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP). A budgetary allocation of Rs 11,000 crore has been provided for the year 2013-14. Under the scheme, the government has given priority to providing affected habitations with safe drinking water. However, the state governments are vested with powers to plan, approve, execute and implement drinking water supply schemes,” says the report. Provision of safe drinking water in villages assumes greater significance as that is where majority of the population lives with poor infrastructure and sanitation facilities. Apart from fluoride, which is an endemic problem affecting groundwater, drinking water quality in rural habitations is also infested with other anthropogenic chemicals. Recent case studies indicate that about 95% of the regions contain a higher fluoride level in groundwater than the maximum permissible limit as decided by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Nitrate (as NO3-) contamination has appeared as another anthropogenic threat to some intensively cultivable rural habitations. Besides, biological contamination has appeared as another issue of unsafe drinking water resources in rural areas of the state. Recent studies have claimed a wide variety of pathogenic bacteria including members of the family Enterobacteriaceae in local drinking water resources. (Times of India 30/9/13)

 

14. Infant mortality rate still high in state, says health minister (3)

GUWAHATI: Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said though the state government has taken many steps to reduce the infant mortality rate in the state, it is still high compared to other parts of the country. The minister said malnutrition was the main reason for the high maternal mortality rate (MMR) and infant mortality rate (IMR) in the state. The health department is conducting inter-departmental meetings to find a way to reduce malnutrition and IMR. “It is true that the rate of IMR is higher compared to other parts of country. Even after initiating various schemes to contain the IMR, there hasn’t been significant improvement. Earlier, the rate was even higher, and there has been a slight dip in the IMR after the National Rural Health Mission became active. Inter-departmental discussions are on to tackle this problem.” He added that malnutrition, which affects about 30 to 39 per cent children in the state, is the main reason for the high IMR. According to the latest data from the Register General of India (RGI), there was a marginal improvement in national average IMR from 44 deaths every 1,000 live births in 2011 to 42 fatalities last year. Barring West Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra and Kerala, majority of the states recorded improved IMRs. Assam has one of the highest IMR rates (55) in the country. Madhya Pradesh’s IMR rate is 56. While the IMR in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh is 53 each, it is 32 in West Bengal. (Times of India 1/10/13)

 

LAND ACQUISITION/ SEZ

15. Future special economic zones to come under land acquisition Act (4)

Mumbai: The new land acquisition Act will apply to all future special economic zones, and the old Act is no longer valid, said Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday. Addressing a press conference here , Ramesh said that the Act was very comprehensive and transparent. “In future, you will not see the type of ‘hera pheri’ (underhand dealings) which happened while acquiring land for various Special Economic Zone (SEZ) projects across the country,” he said. On Friday, President Pranab Mukherjee gave assent to the new Act, which is now being called The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. It replaces the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The new legislation provides for much higher compensation to the families that are required to sacrifice their land for public projects. Ramesh pointed out that if the land acquisition for a SEZ had happened five years ago then the retrospective provisions in the new Act will apply. If the acquisition has taken place within the last five years, then the retrospective clause will not be applicable. Criticising the SEZ projects in the country, he said that vast tracts of land were acquired under the garb of SEZs by the real estate companies for realty development, he said. “This law deals with the future SEZs and not the past SEZs. In future, SEZ land for real estate purposes would be curbed,” the Minister said. Ramesh added that the new law has not dealt with SEZs that have been de-notified or whose land-use purpose has been changed. He said the rules for the Act would be formed by December. The rules could either be notified by January 1 or April 1 next year, he said. (Business Line 29/9/13)

 

16. Jairam Ramesh defends Land Acquisition Bill (4)

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government’s concern that all economic development will come to a standstill with the new Land Acquisition Bill is “unsubstantiated and baseless”, said Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday. He said that the government was the biggest squatter on land. “Across India, land has been acquired by government and it remains unutilized even after 30-40 years of acquisition,” Ramesh said. He said he disagreed with the Maharashtra government’s stand as under the new act, the land cost is not more than 5% of the total cost. “While the financial cost will go up, the social cost will come down. Today’s compensation is pathetic. We cannot justify it. While the government’s concerns are legitimate, they are largely exaggerated,” he said. Ramesh said over the decades, over 4 crore tribals had been displaced without rehabilitation and compensation. The act seeks to correct the situation and reduce agitations across the country due to land acquisition. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 will be notified in two months and the rules will also be published simultaneously. Ramesh said it was Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar who had chaired all the eight meetings of the Group of Ministers on the draft bill. “It was Pawar who had informed that the state government had promised 22.5% of the developed land to be returned to the land owner. Based on this feedback, we made it 20% of developed land in a project to be returned to land owners in the new act,” he said. Ramesh reiterated that the new act does not apply to private projects, only to public-private partnership. He said in Maharashtra, vast tracts of land had been purchased by speculators in the hope that they would get enhanced compensation in view of the new act. “We have put in a clause that in case of land purchased after September 5, 2011, 40% of the awarded compensation be given to the original land owner,” he said. He said the Centre is yet to formulate a policy on de-notified SEZs. (Times of India 30/9/13)

 

17. Tribals in Narmada to stage protest over govt land acquisition policy on October 2 (4)

Vadodara: Thousands of tribals from 70 villages situated around the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada district are planning to stage a protest rally on October 2 against the “high-handedness” of the state government in acquiring land through the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) for tourism purpose. Villagers have alleged that in a letter dated March 6, 2013, KADA had informed village panchayats that 52 villages would be included as part of the government project to develop tourism infrastructure in the area. The state government had first notified the implementation of the project eight years ago, identifying 16 villages for land acquisition. It proposes construction of hotels, golf course, camping grounds, resort, water parks, among others, in the region, with the aim to give boost to tourism. The KADA has now expanded its claim over 70 villages. Sources said the development of the area had intensified in the wake of the proposed Sardar Patel Statue at Sadhu Bet near Bharuch. The protest comes about a month before Chief Minister Narnedra Modi’s mega rally at the site of the statue on October 31 to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. “The KADA used threatening words in the letters sent to the panchayats. ‘If you do not respond on time, we will consider it as consent,’ it wrote. This is not a way to treat the authority of a village panchayat, especially for a project that is meant for tourism,” said social activist Rohit Prajapati, who is part of the protest rally which is being organised under the banner, KADA Virodhi Manch. The protesters are also expected to be joined in by tribals of six villages whose land was acquired by the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) in 1962-63 to construct the dam. The villagers are demanding proper compensation for their land, alleging that they were compensated only for the standing crop when the government should have compensated them for the land lost under water. (Indian Express 1/10/13)

TRIBALS

18. ‘Aggressive’ Rahul rallies tribals, taunts Gujarat CM (6)

JAGDALPUR (BASTAR): Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday addressed a rally a mere 43km from the spot where the Maoists wiped out the entire party brass little more than three months ago, and said the leaders were killed to silence the voice of the common people. Showing rare aggression, he said the BJP government’s failure led to their slaughter. “Thirty-two people were killed in the Maoist attack. Where was the government? The tallest Opposition leader was killed, where was the government? When the leaders of tribals are not safe, what about masses?” he asked. Attacking the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Rahul said just one man can’t run the nation. “The BJP thinks just one man can run the nation,” Rahul said, in a barb at Modi. He also took on the Raman Singh government for poor infrastructure and acquisition of tribal land. “Have you seen any doctor in hospitals and health centres in Bastar?” he asked. The crowd roared in the negative. “Our aim is to empower tribals by vesting power in their hands. We believe the nation is run by the people,” Rahul said. Criticising the BJP government for Chhattisgarh’s dilapidated health infrastructure, Rahul said hundreds of people die of gastroenteritis every year, but hospitals are in a shambles. “The land belonging to tribals is taken away. If they want land of the rich, they will buy it. If it’s of the poor, it’s acquired,” he said. The event brought leaders of warring factions of the state Congress on a common platform for the first time in more than three months in Rahul’s presence. How long will the warring groups led by former CM Ajit Jogi and Pradesh Congress chief Charandas Mahant remain on the same page is open to question. Criticising the Raman Singh government, Rahul said he had stopped at a village with a population of 2,000. “I tried to find out how many people have passed the 12th standard. There was one. What kind of government you have?” he said. The Centre has pumped in more than Rs 10,000 crore for development, but the government changed its names to take credit of Central schemes, he said. Rahul began his speech with a reference to Congress leader Nandkumar Patel killed in the Maoist attack. “When Patel met me in Delhi, I had asked him whether Congress will win Chhattisgarh. He told me the party cannot lose. The people are with us.” Then he said there are two types of people in politics. “Those who fight for the people and others who fight for themselves. Late Patel, V C Shukla, Mahendra Karma and others who raised the voice of the people were silenced in the Bastar attack,” he said, hinting they were the ones who fought for the people. (Times of India 27/9/13)

 

19. Tension at R’kela as tribals claim land near temple (6)

Bhubaneswar: Tension prevailed between tribals and a section of Hindus over a patch of land near the Gundicha temple at Chhend Colony here on Saturday. The tribals of the nearby Bagbudi slums had on Friday locked the temple’s entrance gate and constructed a temporary fence on the open space along with engraving the main points of PESA scheme on the temple wall. The members of temple committee and VSS market committee rushed to the spot and bleached the temple wall and removed the fence with the knowledge of police. Apprehending any untoward activity, police force has been deployed on the spot since then. But the situation turned tense on Saturday morning when members of both groups assembled on the spot. More police were deployed under the supervision of Panposh Sub-Collector SB Mishra. Demanding opening of the lock, the people blocked all the entry points to Chhend Colony for more than four hours. When the situation worsened further, the Sub-Collector urged both groups to give more time to resolve the dispute in a fair manner by holding a joint meeting of representatives from both the groups, senior citizens and district administration officers. Now the area is under the vigil of armed police. In another incident, at Bisra, communal tension still prevailed as the tribals put up their Sarna flag on a land which is claimed to be a Muslim’s. Police forces have also been deployed at the spot. (Pioneer 30/9/13)

 

20. NGOs call new round of night road blockade (6)

SHILLONG, Sept 30 – Taking the month-old agitation forward, ten NGOs fighting for the introduction of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Meghalaya have called another set of agitation from October 1 beginning with night road blockades. The NGOs, which include the student bodies of the three major tribes of Meghalaya, announced that it would continue its fight with the Government until it gives in to their demand and implements the ILP in Meghalaya to check influx. In the new phase of agitation, the NGOs have called night road blockades from October 1 to October 4. On each of these nights the blockade would be from 8 pm to 5 am the next morning. October 2 has been spared owing to Gandhi Jayanti, the NGOs said. Meanwhile, the State Cabinet has approved a draft bill on Tenancy. The bill intends to monitor the activities of the tenants who come to the State for work, especially non-tribals. The bulk of these workers go to the coal mines of Jaintia Hills, although there is a small population of permanent non-tribal residents who have settled in these hills for generations. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has stressed that the Government would seek a special session of the Assembly, if need be, to pass the Bill this year. This, along with other legislations would help check influx, he stressed. However, the NGOs aren’t convinced. The NGOs said that the proposed bill would only protect the illegal migrants who would live as tenants in the State. They further accused the Government of “buying time” by introducing the bill. The NGOs say that ILP is the only solution to the influx problem, although the 2001 Census data tells otherwise. It states that there is a drop in the non-tribal population in the State over the past decade. It is exactly a month now when the talks between the NGOs and the Government failed on the issue of implementing the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to stop influx in Meghalaya and since then the law and order situation has deteriorated. On August 29, the NGOs and the Government sat for a talk whether to implement ILP to stop influx, but immediately after its failure the NGOs called for agitation across the State. Since then, week after week, the NGOs either called bandhs, night road blockade and office picketing. In the process, the law and order situation in the State capital has deteriorated with several cases of arson and assault reported primarily on non-tribals and their business houses. Four shops and several vehicles have been damaged so far. A number of people were also injured in the attacks. Last night, another police vehicle was torched at Lawshohtun locality here. The police have not been able to trace the culprits behind the attacks carried throughout the city. In fact, the residences of additional chief secretary, BK Deb Barman and the Inspector General, BR Rana was attacked by groups. (Assam Tribune 1/10/13)

 

MINORITIES: MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS & COMMUNAL RIOTS

21. To attend or not to attend: muslims divided over Modi’s rally (7)

New Delhi: The Gujarat CM, who is also BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, is the mascot for the Delhi unit of the party in the upcoming assembly polls. Some of the recent rallies addressed by him across the country appeared to have attracted the community, which had so far kept its distance from him over the 2002 Gujarat riots.  Even as the city unit is expecting 20,000-odd Muslims to turn up for the rally, many Muslims in the Walled City — one of the areas in the Capital with a large concentration of the community — say they will not attend. But for those living in east Delhi’s Seelampur and Shahdara say they will participate in the rally. “It will be like cheating the whole community if we go for the rally. They did not have the courage to organise the rally in Central Delhi as they knew there would be protests from the Muslims. Only those Muslims who are BJP workers will attend,” said Nimmi Quereshi, a resident of Old Delhi. Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal is planning to organise a protest march on the same day. “People here are looking for a change but that doesn’t mean we will vote for the BJP. Even if the BJP fields a Muslim candidate, we will vote for some other candidate as we cannot trust the party,” said Akram, who runs a restaurant in Jama Masjid area.BJP leaders said Muslim workers in areas such as Shahdara, Mustafabad, Madipur and Seelampur have been asked to mobilise support from the community and bring them to the rally venue. “Whatever happened is past and we are now looking for development. We will support a candidate who brings in development,” said Jalaluddin Ansari of Shahdara. Ansari said buses have been arranged to take at least 2,000 Muslims from Shahdara to Rohini. “We have contributed money and arranged the buses. We are not forcing anyone to wear anything in particular,” Ansari said, referring to a recent Modi rally in which Muslims were reportedly asked to wear skull caps and burqas. (Hindustan Times 28/9/13)

 

22. Christian youth oppose Niddodi project (7)

Mangalore: A total of 113 parishes from the district, 49 from Udupi and other Christian groups participated in a march from Bendoorwell Church to DC Office Describing it as another project that will destroy the lush environment of the region, several members of Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) and other Christian organisations on Saturday pledged their opposition to 4,000-MW Ultra Mega Power Plant at Niddodi. Nearly 300 people marched from Bendoorwell Church to DC Office, registering their opposition through hundreds of placards that read: “Save Niddodi, Save Karavali”, among others. The organisation also launched signature and postcard campaigns. They will be sent to the Chief Minister and Union Ministers. “We’re not against development…but we need responsible development in the rich, fertile lands of our district,” said Daryll D’Souza, Editor of the youth magazine Amcho Yuvak, adding that the government should instead focus on non-polluting, renewable sources of energy. In their memorandum, ICYM has said that damage has already been done in the district by institutions such as MRPL, BASF and UPCL. A total of 113 parishes from the district, 49 from Udupi and other Christian groups participated in the protest. (The Hindu 29/9/13)

 

23. Proud to favour minorities, farmers: Mulayam Singh Yadav (7)

LUCKNOW: Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Mulayam Singh Yadav on Sunday reiterated the stance of his party towards minorities and farmers insisting that it will continue thus no matter how much the opposition accuses him of politics of appeasement. Mulayam was addressing a gathering on the occasion of foundation day of Mumtaz Degree College here on Sunday when he said the UP government was facing the challenge of communal violence but was determined to bring the guilty to book. “I am repeatedly accused of favoring minorities and farmers. But I don’t care. Our party’s policy is to work for the betterment of the suppressed and the deprived. We believe both minorities and farmers are suppressed and deprived of the life they are entitled to for contributing so much to the country and its future,” Mulayam said. He said farmers provide foodgrain to the nation and minorities provide brassware, carpets, chikan and Banasari clothing which in turn fetch foreign exchange and a variety for Indian markets as well. “It is not only me who says it. Sachchar Commission Recommendations and Rangnath Misra report too say the same thing. Congress constituted two commissions but never bothered to implement the recommendations,” said Mulayam, adding that he spoke to the prime minister and a host of top leaders in the Congress demanding they implement on the basis of the two reports, but in vain. Mulayam spoke about the scheme under which the government is offering Rs 30,000 for the marriage of Muslim girls from below poverty line families and how some political parties were pointing fingers at the government on the issue. “But this will not deter the SP from carrying the scheme forward. I have told Akhilesh that he must now give away this aid at public functions in order to send a message across that we are not shying away from standing by the minorities,” said Mulayam. (Times of India 30/9/13)

 

24. Post Riots, Samajwadi Party committee to strengthen communal harmony in Muzaffarnagar (7)

Lucknow: Samajwadi Party on Sunday constituted a “Sadbhavna Samiti” (harmony committee) comprising senior state ministers, in bid to strengthen communal ties after the Muzaffarnagar riots. The committee headed by Shivpal Singh Yadav was constituted by party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is keeping an eye on the developments in west Uttar Pradesh after the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, party sources said. The committee members include – ministers Shahid Manzoor, Ramgovind Chowdhury, Ram Sakal Gurjar, Sahab Singh, Yogesh Pratap, Virendra Singh, Kamal Akhtar and Balram Yadav. The ministers have been entrusted with the task of maintaining communal harmony by talking to people and visiting their homes, sources said adding, Mulayam held a meeting with the leaders at his residence here and directed them to camp in the affected areas to generate confidence among people. “The leaders have been asked by Mulayam to personally visit the families of victims of both sides and inform them that the government was concerned about them,” sources said. “Our party is against communalism and wants to maintain communal harmony. We will ensure that people have trust in the government by telling them it will do whatever is needed to heal their wounds,” Shahid Manzoor told reporters after coming out of the meeting. (Indian Express 30/9/13)

 

25. Don’t wrongfully detain Muslim youth: Shinde (7)

NEW DELHI: Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has written to all states and Union territories to “ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in the name of terror”, sparking off outrage in the BJP over his “anti-secular and divisive” move. Shinde, in his letter to chief secretaries of all states and UTs sent on Monday, wrote that “the Central government has received several representations alleging harassment of innocent Muslim youth by law enforcement agencies. Some of the minority youths have started feeling that they are deliberately targeted and deprived of their rights”.Confirming that he had signed the letter, which asks the states to fast-track terror cases featuring Muslim youth as accused and provide legal aid to undertrials belonging to the minority community, on Sunday, the home minister said he had decided to “write to the states after several NGOs and civil rights activists approached me alleging wrongful detention of innocent Muslim youth in terror cases”.An incensed BJP alleged that Shinde was attempting to divide the country on communal lines and demanded that he be sacked immediately. Calling his directive “unconstitutional and questionable”, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “it would have been fair to the country had he not mentioned one particular religion.” CPI leader D Raja, while acknowledging that Muslim terror undertrials were indeed languishing in jails as the law enforcement agencies delayed filing of chargesheets, however questioned the timing of the Shinde’s move just ahead of elections. Dismissing the criticism, Shinde said, “The BJP and others can say whatever they want…I have done my job as home minister”.According to sources in the MHA, the ministry brass has been seized of the issue of minority undertrials “languishing” in jail in terror cases for some time now, with minority affairs minister K Rahman Khan and even Congress leader Digvijaya Singh lodging complaints in this regard and seeking remedial steps. However, there was a view in the ministry that the steps to fast-track terror cases and provision of legal aid should not be confined to Muslims alone but cover all undertrials locked up in jails for long due to failure of the investigative agencies to file chargesheets on time. In August, the NIA accepted that there was no evidence against nine Muslim men who spent five years in jail after they were accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Not only this, there is a big question mark on the role of German Bakery blasts convict Himayat Baig in the 2010 attack after arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) mastermind Yasin Bhatkal denied Baig’s link to the attack. Incidentally, this is not the first time the MHA has selectively highlighted the “harassment” of Muslims. During the National Integration Council meet here last week, the ministry has circulated data showing the religion-wise breakup of victims of communal riots, in an apparent bid to highlight how the minorities were the worse-hit in communal violence. (Times of India 1/10/13)

 

WOMEN

26. Woman killed by ‘husband’ for giving birth to girl (8)

HYDERABAD: A 24-year-old woman, who was allegedly attacked by her husband and in-laws for giving birth to a girl, succumbed while undergoing treatment at Golconda on Wednesday. Police said Sadia Begum got married to Hashim in October, 2012. Since her marriage, her husband and mother-in-law Amina Begum had been harassing her for more dowry, police said. When Sadia conceived, her in-laws warned her that they would not accept her if she fails to give birth to a boy. “Sadia gave birth to a girl 28 days ago. For a few days, she was at her mother’s residence at Second Lancer. On September 5, when she went back to her husband’s house she was attacked,” police said. In another case, a housewife who set herself ablaze after being allegedly harassed by her sisters-in-law, succumbed to burns at Alwal on Wednesday. Police said that V Lavanya, a resident of Turkapalli, borrowed money from her sisters-in-law Anuradha and Jyothi. As she failed to repay the money, the enraged sisters reportedly went to Lavanya’s residence and attacked her on September 21. Two days later, on September 23, she set herself ablaze. (Times of India 27/9/13)

 

27. Now, you can help map unsafe zones for women (8)

MUMBAI: Citizens can now play an active role in making Mumbai safe by contributing to an online initiative that will map unsafe zones and incidents of sexual harassment. The project-HarassMap-Mumbai -encourages victims of sexual harassment to report their experience on a real-time . Launched by women resource centre Akshara on Thursday, the online map allows women who report an incident to maintain their anonymity if they wish. Victims can offer specifics about the type of harassment they suffered, the place where the incident occurred and the profile of their harasser. It also urges Mumbaikars to log in and report areas where they feel unsafe, be it due to the lack of adequate street lighting or the absence of police patrolling. The areas show up as coloured dots on a map reflecting the heightened risk quotient of an area. The platform seeks to break the culture of silence surrounding violence against women. It hopes to use crowdsourcing as a means to map the magnitude of such harassment as well as draw attention to areas where harassers routinely lurk. “It would help us get a true picture of how the city treats its women,” said actor Rahul Bose. “The US, with its population of 316 million, reported nearly 84,000 rapes in a year. But India, with its 1.2 billion people reported merely 24,900 to highlight how many such crimes went unnoticed and unspoken of. “This site will be listening to survivors as well as holding up a mirror to men.” “We will map the trends which emerge and pursue the police to take action to make public spaces safer,” said Nandita Gandhi of Akshara. The interactive interface will also provide information about various support services available to women survivors of violence. For instance, it would be a handy guide to neighbourhood police stations, women’s helplines, legal aid services and shelter homes. “If we find that a woman who logs in needs help, we will alert the police,” said an Akshara spokesperson. (Times of India 28/9/13)

 

28. Never compromise on your dignity, association tells women (8)

TIRUCHI: Women should never compromise on their dignity, strive to have a separate identity, and never allow the feeling to get into their mind that they were weak, speakers at a zonal meeting of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) said here on Friday. Imparting value-based education would go a long way in enabling women to gain confidence and tackle challenges more courageously, they said at the meeting organised by the Khajamalai Ladies Association (KLA). In her presidential address, Bina Jain, president, AIWC, New Delhi, said the changing values in society were to be blamed for the growing atrocities on women. Noting that women were suppressed within the family structure and outside, Ms. Jain said women should never compromise on their dignity. Education played an important part to live with dignity, she said and added that it helped women stand on their own feet and gave them the confidence to face challenges. Ever since its inception in 1927, the AIWC had been working for the empowerment and welfare of women and the girl child. Towards this direction, the organisation had been conducting skill-based income generating and capacity building programmes and programmes to inculcate in them the spirit of reliance and consciousness about their strengths to take their own decisions, Ms. Jain said. The AIWC had plans to take up rural empowerment in a big way, she added. S. Rajeswari, Superintendent of Police, Tiruchi, said women were physically and mentally strong and smart. Women were extremely talented and they should realise and make use of their innate skills and strength to excel in life, Ms. Rajeswari said. K. Meena, the former Vice-Chancellor, Bharathidasan University, said value-based education for women would greatly help them in gaining confidence. Opportunities were abound in today’s world and women should try to build their entrepreneurial skills to be economically independent, she added. Sheela Kakde, AIWC secretary general and KLA managing trustee Fathima Mannan were present. (The Hindu 29/9/13)

 

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

29. Governments’ turn: Set a course for lower aviation emissions (9)

May 2013 will be remembered as the month that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere burst through the symbolic 400 parts per million (ppm) barrier. June 2013 will be remembered as the month in which thousands of people died in the floods that ravaged the state of Uttarakhand. Climate change and the tragedies of Uttarakhand may not seem directly related. But what the models of climate scientists tell us is that as greenhouse gases mount in the earth’s atmosphere, the climate will become more variable – and more unpredictable. And that the countries that will suffer the most are tropical countries like India. Today, the earth’s atmospheric reservoir is fast filling with carbon dioxide. We do not know how much space is left but it is not much, certainly not enough to burn even a fraction of the fossil fuels we have left in the ground. This should worry us. To avoid increasing occurrence and intensity of floods, droughts, cyclones, and other extreme weather all economic sectors need to do their fair share, and the aviation industry should be no exception. India can and should join in worldwide efforts under way to stem the greenhouse gases emitted by global aviation. Airlines are the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas output and by 2020 are projected to be emitting 70% more than they did in 2005. Without a market-based measure to deliver the industry’s carbon neutral growth pledge by this decade’s end, that pollution will only soar further. If, as seems likely, the amount of air travellers increases with the world’s population – and its wealth – airlines will need an alternative energy breakthrough to substantially reduce their emissions, given their dependence on fossil fuels. But none is in sight. The current switch to biofuels is a gradual process that may not deliver sustainable emissions reductions in time to make a difference without a market-based solution. As international governments decide to gradually set global emissions limits, airlines will be forced to compete with other economic sectors for the right to burn the fossil fuels that power their industry. This will be especially difficult for the airlines, as other sectors can more easily transition to energy efficient, renewable and electric options. Nudging these sectors to price their emissions might best be done by encouraging airlines to lead the way, and put a price on their own pollution. But this is an issue too important to leave up to the airlines alone. It’s now time for international action from international leaders like India and the United States. In the US, President Barack Obama is supporting a “market-based solution to climate change,” telling US law makers, “[I]f Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” The upcoming triennial meeting of the ICAO assembly offers him and India a perfect opportunity to advocate for a detailed timeline in which the airline industry would reach a market-based solution that would ensure reductions in airline emissions. President Obama has already directed US officials “to conduct international negotiations to pursue a worldwide approach to address aircraft emissions, including the environmental impact of aircraft emissions.” However, it is understood that behind ICAO’s closed doors, the US has proposed that only emissions that occur in sovereign airspace be accounted for, meaning that even if every country participated, this approach could only sum to 22% of global international aviation emissions at most. This would effectively shield the aviation industry from its responsibility for the other 78% of its emissions – a clearly unacceptable situation. India should stand for a solution under which all airlines are accountable for their global emissions. Indeed, climate simulation models have already advanced towards establishing a methodology that would show the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions towards flood risk, and thus the risk to industries responsible for those emissions. If policy-makers will not act, let us just hope that it does not take a greater tragedy than Uttarakhand to force effective action against those who, through a conscious disregard to substantial and unjustifiable risk, recklessly endanger the planet itself, and all those who live on it. (Times of India 25/9/13)

 

30. Environment panel to conduct random checks to curb industrial pollution (9)

Pune: In a bid to check on industrial pollution, District Planning and Environment Committee is all set to conduct random checks on industries emptying effluents into rivers. The decision was taken at the committee meeting presided over by District Collector Vikas Deshmukh. A four-point agenda was discussed which included checking on industrial waste, preserving medicinal plants and action against companies emptying effluents. The panel is gathering information on industrial pollution and will ready an agenda in three months. Once the data is collated, a study will be undertaken by a private agency, said officials. Data from all departments will be sort for readying the report, said the collector. Treatment of rivers in the civic limits was also discussed in the meeting. Officials said the main reasons for pollution were treated and untreated domestic and industrial effluents, use of chemical fertilisers, absence of flow of water through the year, growth of water hyacinth, sand mining and bathing and washing along the river.  (Indian Express 26/9/13)

 

31. Pollution: Plastic menace is back (9)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The year 2013 had opened with fresh hopes of making the city free from the grip of plastic carry bags, with the authorities turning strict in seizing bulks of plastic carry bags from big as well as small shops. Yet, as the months passed by, the authorities themselves turned lax. The announcement made a few months ago by the City Corporation of reviving the hologram affixation project has simply made it easy for some shops, which earlier had switched to cloth bags, to return to the previous situation. As per the official version, the health wing of the City Corporation is more interested in finding a solution to the garbage menace now. The reappearance of the garbage-filled plastic bags on the city streets is proof of their use among the people.  Meanwhile, officials say that they are still active in seizing plastic carry bags below 41 microns randomly as the law does not permit seizing bags above that thickness. About the hologram project, when contacted, the Corporation officials said that the stiff opposition put up by the traders had made them put it on hold. “The medium and small-scale vendors have come up with stiff opposition to the project. And if we have to continue with the project, fresh talks have to be initiated and probably it would start at the upmarket level,” said a Corporation health official. Meanwhile, the Corporation is also considering holding talks with the wholesale distributors of plastic carry bags as the vendors have questioned the practicality in affixing holograms on every carry bag. On receiving orders, the C-DIT (Centre for Development of Imaging Technology) had printed 10 lakh ‘digitally-numbered high-security holograms’ almost a year ago. If the hologram-affixed carry bags reach the market, one bag would be priced at a minimum of Rs 5. (New Indian Express 27/9/13)

 

32. Green areas spreading in desert after heavy rains (9)

JAISALMER: Global warming is set to change the climate of Rajasthan forever. According to leading London-based scientists, the deserts of Rajasthan will become swampy by 2030. The findings of these scientists, which are published in the journal, ‘Nature’, a few years ago, had also said the north-east areas of the state will change to drought-affected regions. In the last one decade, several indications have been observed which are likely to cause the change, including heavy rains, in western Rajasthan, while the north-east areas are yearning for rain. Usually, October is when winter sets in western Rajasthan, but this year, it’s still raining since the last two days in Jodhpur and Barmer. Twenty years ago, Barmer and Jaisalmer like most desert areas witnessed 20mm rainfall and only sands visible on all four directions, but slowly, with the increase in rains, the scene of the entire area has changed so much so that flooding villages have become quite common. In July and August this year, Sankada area of Pokaran sub-division of Jaisalmer witnessed continuous rains during nights making low-lying areas were filled with water. Similarly, in a hamlet at Fatehgarh area, a 10-year-old child died due to heavy rains and storm and many colonies in Ramgarh area were flooded. Even Dabla area was filled with water. However, the rains have also brought greenery and although prosperity is seen in the desert areas, many species found in dry area are also on the verge of extinction, which could become subject of concern. With so much of rains, many rivers have also become active. Kak river, which once used to flow in Chundhi area recently became active and its water has started flowing from the Ganesh temple in between the river. A four-feet water level has also drowned the idol of Lord Ganesha. Such situation has started becoming normal almost every monsoon season. In 2006, Barmer and Jaisalmer witnessed heavy floods demolishing thousands of houses demolished and killing dozens of people. Senior groundwater scientist Dr N D Inkhia said the reason of change in this area is due to increase in agriculture. He said agriculture which started in the 90s using groundwater has played an important role. Along with groundwater-based cultivation, agriculture work is taking place continuously for last many years due to the continuous availability of water from canals. Dr Inkhia said that with the increase in moisture in air and increase in plants, the speeds of wind has reduced and the atmosphere became favourable for rains, due to which the number of days of rains season has increased. Groundwater-based cultivation has been benefitted to the maximum with the increase in rains and water from tube wells is used less during kharif season. Meteorological department’s deputy director B R Bishnoi said in last year’s findings from a research by London-based scientists had said change in the earth’s axial tilt by about half a degree in 1000 years has had also affected a change in the seasonal cycle. Winters are setting in late and monsoons stay longer due to the tilt, they said. Moreover, with the increase in heat and breeze from south west seas, moisture in desert areas is increasing, resulting an increase in the average rainfall. Prior to 1992, the rainfall recorded in the desert regions in the state used to be 20mm and has seen increased to 165mm in the 2000 and after which the average rainfall has increased to 210mm. (Times of India 30/9/13)

 

EDUCATION/ RIGHT TO EDUCATION

33. Recommendations on implementing RTE Act to be sent to Minister (11)

BANGALORE: After a two-day public hearing on complaints received about violations under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) has decided to submit a list of recommendations to Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Kimmane Ratnakar for effective implementation of the Act. The recommendations include transparent allocation of seats under RTE quota meant for children belonging to “disadvantaged and weaker” backgrounds. Members of the commission urged the government to formulate a centralised system for admissions under the RTE quota in private unaided schools. H.R. Umesh Aradhya, chairperson of the commission, said, “There is a need to ensure that admissions under the RTE quota in private unaided schools are completed by December to help parents figure out alternatives, if necessary.” After receiving various complaints against private schools increasing fees, KSCPCR has urged the government to introduce a common fee structure for schools based on availability of infrastructure. Earlier, during the programme, Chandrashekaraiah, a former judge of the Karnataka High Court, who was a part of the jury, released judgments in 32 cases heard during the public hearing earlier this month. He said that the judgments given to them would send a strong message to private schools that were “taking advantage of parents and students ignorance”. The copies of the judgments would be given to the Block Education Officers, Deputy Directors of Public Instruction, school managements and the complainants. To help children avail themselves of seats in private unaided schools under the RTE quota under Section 12 (1) (c) of the Act, the commission has decided to set up cells in all districts to simplify the admission process in the next academic year, according to Mr. Aradhya. (The Hindu 27/9/13)

 

34. Link education with socio-economic development: Veep (11)

PATNA: Graduating students of Central University of Bihar (CUB) were advised by the Vice-President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, to become ambassadors of peace, goodwill and harmony between communities and regions. Addressing the students at the CUB’s maiden convocation on Thursday, Ansari quoted Aristotle as saying, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Altogether 156 students of various master’s programmes of the 2009-11, 2010-12 and 2011-13 batches received their degrees. Altogether 134 were present while the rest received their degrees in absentia. Three students, one from each batch, received the best university graduate award, named ‘Chancellor gold medal’, for scoring the maximum marks across all streams. Focusing on scientific and technological development, Ansari said the CUB should evolve new formats to link education with social and economic development. “In the Indian context, quality, affordability and accessibility should be adopted to develop the education system,” said Ansari, adding, “I am confident that Bihar would get a boost on its journey of progress from the contributions of CUB and its alumni.” Terming human rights a social duty, Ansari said, “Our point of reference should be the Constitution of India and we are duty bound, legally and morally, to address the lacunae in the policies and institutions pertaining to human rights.” Recalling Emperor Ashoka’s edicts on human rights and the views of United Nations’ former general secretary Kofi Annan on the issue, Ansari covered several aspects of individual rights. “We will not enjoy security without development. We will not enjoy development without security and, we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights,” Ansari quoted Annan. He added, “In recent years, many new agenda have come under the ambit of human rights, such as conflict over natural resources or issues of gender equality.” Speaking on the occasion, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who is also the CUB chancellor, appreciated the proposed five-year integrated master’s programme in arts and crafts. “In my knowledge, the course is probably a first in the country that would help renew the forgotten crafts of India,” she said. That both the CUBs (at Gaya and Motihari) would be situated at rural location, Kumar hoped that the university would succeed in bridging the urban-rural divide in education. “Only education has the power to bring about a peaceful revolution. It should not be limited to the higher classes if the Indian democracy is to be empowered,” said Kumar, an MP from Sasaram. Also present on the dais were CM Nitish Kumar, education minister P K Shahi, CUB vice-chancellor Janak Pandey and registrar Mohammad Nehal, among others. (Times of India 28/9/13)

 

35. ‘Educational institutions more important than religious ones’ (11)

DIBRUGARH: Union minister for development of northeastern region (DoNER) Paban Singh Ghatowar has said that educational institutions are more important than religious institutions as they impart true knowledge to the seeker. Addressing a meeting organized on the occasion of donation of funds for a classroom by the Sohanlal Jain Charitable Trust in Makum College on Saturday, Ghatowar said the number of illiterates in the country is very high and a major challenge for policy makers in the country is to spread literacy among them. The DoNER minister appreciated the role of his government in implementing the Right to Education Act. Lauding the effort of trustees Vijay Jain and Vikas Jain, Ghatowar said that a majority of educational institutions in the state were first founded by the people of the area. It was much later that the government came into the picture. He assured the college authorities that he would help the college attain the status of provincialised college. The college has about 1,200 students. Makum College principal Jyotimoyee Dutta Barooah said the DoNER minister has allotted Rs 6 lakh from his MPLAD funds for the library of the college. Among those present at the meeting were parliamentary secretary and Tinsukia MLA Rajinder Prasad Singh and Chabua MLA Raju Sahu. (Times of India 29/9/13)

 

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

36. Over 755,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon (13)

Beirut: The UN’s refugee agency said Wednesday that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has crossed 755,000 after an increase of about 14,000 refugees in a week. More than 650,000 refugees were registered in Lebanon while more than 105,000 are still waiting for their registration process to be completed, Xinhua reported citing a weekly report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It added that the registered refugees are benefitting from aid provided by the Lebanese government, the UN agencies and some non-governmental organizations. The report said that strict security measures were being taken in the Bekaa area and they may be extended to other areas that host Syrian refugees. In June, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called the international community’s attention to the burden inflicted by the huge influx of Syrian refugees on Lebanon, stressing that his country is no longer capable of handling the influx by itself. (Zee News 25/9/13)

 

37. HC directs Lankan refugees to subit fresh representation (13)

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed Sri Lankan refugees, housed in a special camp at Poonamallee near here, to submit fresh representations to the Tamil Nadu Public Department (SC) Secretary on their request for transferring them to camps at Gummidipoondi or Puzhal. Passing the order on a petition by Suresh Kumar, one of the inmates, Justice K K Sasidharan said though the inmates were not entitled to any kind of special rights, they were entitled to live like human beings and directed the authorities to consider and dispose of the representations which would be made by the inmates in the camp at Poonamallee on merits. He said that till a decision was taken by the government over their transfer, the inmates should be permitted to stay at Poonamallee. The inmates filed a petition in the High Court challenging the state government’s decision to transfer them to a special camp at Tiruchirapalli. Kumar submitted he suffered severe injuries in his spinal chord when he was arrested by on December 17, last year and said it was not possible for him to live without the help of others. The Deputy Secretary to Government, Public Department (SC), in his counter, denied the allegation of Kumar and said the petitioner is a “hardcore cadre” of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Kumar worked in the electronic wing of LTTE and suffered injuries during the civil war in Sri Lanka between the armed forces and the rebels and so he was immobilised and bedridden. He was capable of handling laptops and computers, the Deputy Secretary said in his counter. A total of eight Sri Lankan nationals were accommodated in the Poonamallee special camp and the government had taken a decision to shift them to Tiruchirappalli special camp as the prison officials wanted to use the premises for accommodating borstal inmates of Saidapet Sub Jail, the counter said. The Judge, while allowing the petition in part, said inmates of the special camp were not prisoners in the strict sense of the term and said they were entitled to certain basic rights and directed them to give a fresh representation to the government requesting to transfer them to nearby camps. (Zee News 26/9/13)

 

38. Bru families’ repatriation to resume from today (13)

AGARTALA, Sept 29 – Amidst uncertainty, Mizoram Government is all set to resume repatriation of Reang refugees sheltered in relief camps in North Tripura Kanchanpur subdivision, from tomorrow, official sources said. As part of the fresh initiative, altogether 121 refugee families from Naisinghpara and Ashapara are scheduled to leave here for their ancestral land at Mizoram’s Mammit district on September 30, said the District Magistrate of North Tripura Prashanta Kumar Goyel on Monday. Around 37,000 Reang tribal refugees have been sheltered in six North Tripura camps since 1997 after they fled Mizoram following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos. Refugees have been receiving free ration and cash doles for their livelihood from the Centre since 1997. President of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) Saibunga, however, informed that they were not informed officially about the repatriation of refugees, but they are aware about the development from different sources. He claimed that the families set to be repatriated are lured with better cash benefits and free ration. Denouncing the repatriation move, MBDPF president said that earlier Mizoram Government officials of Mammit district had assured that all displaced victims would be given a Rs 1.25 lakh cash and two years of free ration. However, none of these demands were met, claimed Saibunga. A senior official on condition of anonymity informed that continuous presence for over 16 years of refugees from Mizoram has been a matter of concern for Tripura. The long stay has its own socio-economic and law and order problems. In the past, around 4,500 refugees had returned in 2010 and 2011 following continued persuasion by Mizoram and Home Ministry officials. Mizoram is expected to have its Assembly election in the end of November or early December this year. (The Assam Tribune 30/9/13)

 

39.  ‘Structured programme for returnees crucial’ (13)

JAFFNA:  “You can’t transplant them just like that,” says S.C. Chandrahasan, founder of Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR ), speaking of refugees in India who might want to soon return to Sri Lanka. Son of Sri Lanka’s Federal Party leader S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, he was here recently to vote in the first ever Northern Provincial Council elections. OfERR estimates that about 6,000 people have returned after the war, while as many as 68,000 refugees live in camps in Tamil Nadu. Additionally, about 34,000 live outside camps, after they found jobs locally. Based on his work with Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu spanning over three decades, Mr. Chandrahasan says four years after the war, people are getting ready to come back home, but a developing a structured programme for returnees rather than a spontaneous one is important. “There are success stories of people who have returned and lead a good life, we get them to interact with the refugees back in India through Skype,” says Mr. Chandrahasan, but there are also instances of people who went back to India because the support available here was short-lived. He suggests that the two governments consider an arrangement similar to the OCI (Overseas citizen of India), which would allow unrestricted movement of refugees for a limited time period, he says: “that would help children complete their education in Tamil Nadu”. “The Sri Lankan government is also about to complete restoration of its railway network — that would be a big boon for those returning home,” he says, visualising a time when refugees could take the ferry service from Rameswaram to Talaimannar, and then hop on to the railway grid.(The Hindu 30/9/13)

 

JUDICIARY/ LAW

40. Cabinet overrules Supreme Court, clears ordinance to protect convicted MPs (19)

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared an ordinance to protect convicted MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification — a move that seeks to nullify an order by the Supreme Court. The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2013 allows convicted MPs and MLAs to continue in office if their appeal is admitted by a higher court within 90 days and the conviction stayed. But they won’t be entitled to vote during House proceedings or draw salaries and allowances until the case is finally decided. Earlier, the government failed to get a Bill to this effect passed in the monsoon session of Parliament due to pressure from the BJP. The Bill was then referred to the department-related standing committee. On July 10, the Supreme Court had ruled that an MP or MLA would be immediately disqualified if convicted by a court in a criminal offence with a jail sentence of two years or more. The Supreme Court had struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protects convicted legislators from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months. Holding that Parliament had exceeded its powers in providing such an immunity, the cout had ruled that Parliament lacked legislative competence to enact this provision since it was in direct conflict with Articles 101 and 102, which stipulate the principles for those who want to contest elections as well as those who have been elected. The court had ruled that no relaxation could be given to a sitting MP or an MLA when an ordinary citizen is barred from contesting elections if he stands convicted on the date of polling. (Indian Express 26/9/13)

 

41. PIL seeks ban on second generation politicians (19)

CHENNAI: A PIL has sought amendments to the Representation of the People Act, to bar legal heirs of political leaders from contesting elections or holding positions in the government. The PIL seeking a ban on second generation political leaders from garnering all positions for themselves, has been filed by advocate R Balasubramanian. The first bench comprising acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, before which the PIL came up for admission on Thursday, merely reserved the orders on the matter. It was neither admitted nor notices issued to the Election Commission of India which had been cited as respondent in the PIL. When the matter was taken up, Balasubramanian contended that after independence several top national-level and regional political leaders had brought their family members into politics. Now, several states from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu had leaders grooming their family members for top positions, he said, adding that he had sent a representation to the election commission of India on September 10 to amend the RP Act suitably so as to prevent family and dynastic rules. Since there was no response from the commission he said he was constrained to file the present PIL. The bench, before reserving orders, merely sought to know from the PIL-petitioner whether the election commission had any power and jurisdiction at all to bring in amendments in the Constitution and the relevant law. To this, Balasubramanian said the commission represented the Centre and that he had sent the representation to it as it was the proper channel. (Times of India 27/9/13)

 

42. NGO opposes law on manual scavenging (19)

Ahmedabad: Janvikas, a city-based voluntary organisation, is upset over the latest law on manual scavenging. It has expressed unhappiness over the law as it reportedly favours lowering of manhole workers in drains with protective gear. The Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 received assent of the President on September 18. “The provisions of the Act are not intended to eradicate manual scavenging in any form. The Act talks more about insanitary latrines, open drain and pits, but says not much on widespread manual scavenging going on due to open defecation for the lack of sufficient sanitation,” said Jitendra Rathod of Janvikas. He said that the practice of manual scavenging in the Indian Railways, especially in rail coaches, will continue because manual handling of human excreta is not to be considered as manual scavenging if done with safety equipments. Moreover, the Act does not talk about possible action that can be taken against any authority for not implementing the provisions of the Act, he pointed out. The organisation has demanded that manual scavenging in any form and at any place must be stopped. “It should not be practiced even with safety devices. Safety equipments may be provided to sweepers for their better health and dignity, but manual scavenging is an undignified work and must be prohibited in any form,” Rathod said. If at all a manhole worker is to be lowered in a drain, it must be listed in the Act what type of protective gear and other cleaning devices will be listed when rules are framed, Rathod said, adding that manhole workers must be trained by institutes like the fire brigade and only certified manhole worker be allowed to enter a drain. (Indian Express 30/9/13)

 

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

43. Ensuring a need-based support system for farmers (20)

COIMBATORE: Heeding the call of the State Government to provide need-based support to farmers, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) held a Farmers’ Conference, here on Friday, to collect inputs from stakeholders. The conference, which went on non-stop for six hours, was chaired by Agriculture Minister S. Damodaran. The event, where 30 farmers from as many districts, presented their views, was a culmination of a month long exercise that started with obtaining feedback at the Panchayat Union, Taluk and district-levels, the media, and political parties. Commissioners and Directors of six allied departments were also present to hear what the farmers had to say. According to Vice-Chancellor of TNAU K. Ramasamy, this is the first step in the Government’s plan to transform agriculture in the State that would lead to increasing the production twofold and the farmer income threefold. That the exercise was a serious effort was seen from the fact that the output received so far was released in the form of a booklet and distributed to the 500-odd farmers who participated in the conference on Friday. Mr. Damodaran said that this first-of-a kind initiative was to formulate schemes and measures for farmers based on their need. This would be in keeping with the Chief Minister’s policy that “people are not for schemes, but schemes are for people.” “All the suggestions are good and acceptable so much so that nothing can be rejected. Farmers have gone into much detail to come up with these and it will go a long way in transforming agriculture. We will try to implement these suggestions as soon as possible,” he said. Suggestions pertaining to other departments such as Revenue and Public Works will also be represented to the respective ministers and officials,” he added. He urged farmers to adopt the latest technology and equipment, developed by TNAU, to make agriculture profitable. Sandeep Saxena, Agricultural Production Commissioner and Secretary to Government, Tamil Nadu, the outcome of the exercise was to make the ‘Vision Tamil Nadu 2023’ a reality by ensuring “food security to food surplus and smile on the face of the farmer.” “The focus is also to increase the use of equipment by the farmer with the help of the Department of Agricultural Engineering. This was to address the problem of labour shortage. This will be done based on a census that will ascertain the need and supply. Individual farmers have a limitation in bargaining. This can be overcome by creating Farmer-Producer Companies that will bargain, decide the price, and market the produce,” the Commissioner said.M. Rajendran, Director of Agriculture, and Satyabrata Sahoo, Commissioner of Horticulture and Plantation Crops, were present besides others. The inputs received on Friday would be sorted and classified under different headings and consolidated with the inputs received so far before submitting a final draft to the Agriculture Minister, Mr. Ramasamy said. (The Hindu 28/9/13)

 

44. Debts killed 1.98 lakh farmers in a decade: Report (20)

New Delhi: About 1.98 lakh farmers committed suicide in India between 2001 and 2012 as the benefits of high growth failed to trickle down to the rural areas, says the India Rural Development Report 2012-13 released on Thursday. Indebtedness and lenders confiscating land have been attributed as the main causes of the farmers’ deaths. Around two-third of the farmer suicides were reported from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Depicting the darker side of India’s growth story, the report also shows why the poorer states show the smallest improvements in the prevailing multi-dimensional poverty scenario. The report was prepared by a government-funded Infrastructure Development Finance Company and released by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. As per the findings, around 65% of India’s poor lived in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2011-12, against around 50% in 1993-94. Discussing the report, Ramesh said India had made ‘a great but spotty advances’in rural infrastructure. Around 57% of the land degraded in the country was because of man-made reasons including extensive use of chemicals in farming. The report also said that from modest two lakh pump sets to extract groundwater exploded to over 20 million in 2009. This has been driven by green revolution policies and subsidies on pumps but it has resulted in one-third of country’s districts been termed ‘unsafe’ for ground water extraction. (Hindustan Times 29/9/13)

 

45. Land acquisition act will help tribals and farmers: Jairam Ramesh (20)

Mumbai: The pathetic track record of rehabilitation and resettlement of more than three crore displaced tribals since independence is the key cause of Maoist problem in India, said Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development in Mumbai on Sunday. The Minister said that the new land acquisition bill will ensure that the displaced tribals and farmers get their due rights. The act, renamed as ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’ has been signed by the President of India and is expected to be notified within next two months. The Central Government has changed the 119 years old act, which was said to be the root cause of number of struggles by tribals and farmers against the forceful acquisition of their lands. The new act has been opposed by activists like Medha Patkar, claiming it as less progressive than expected, and by a few business groups, claiming it to be against industrialisation. Mr. Ramesh claimed that the act will not work against idustrialisation and urbanisation. “I am happy that the act is opposed by both sides. Which means that I have taken a middle path and that is good for the country,” he said, calling the concerns as exaggerated. Mr. Ramesh said that though at first glance the financial price for land acquisition seems to go up, it will bring down the social price of it. He made it clear that the government cannot force industrialisation and urbanisation on people by police firing. “The less conflict driven and tribal and farmer friendly path of industrialisation will be paved by this act,” he said adding that new act will also be applicable for land acquisitions of all future Special Economic Zones. The Minister accepted that misplaced and unkempt land records in the country are major reasons for trouble over land acquisition. The National Land Record Modernisation Program is expected to ‘reasonably update’ the land records across the country in next four to five years. (The Hindu 29/9/13)

 

POVERTY/ HUNGER

46. Rural poverty down in south, remains high in north, east: Study (21)

NEW DELHI: Rural poverty is declining in southern India while it is stubbornly entrenched in the north and the east, a study has found. Among the worst performers on rural poverty are Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP. “In 1993-94, nearly 50% of India’s rural poor lived in these states. This figure rose to 63% in 2009-10 and 65% in 2011-12,” the report says. Prepared by the IDFC Foundation, the report adds the number of rural poor in these states are increasing. Crucially, the states with higher cases of rural poverty also have higher cases of severe poverty. The new findings are important in the study of rural poverty that has gained centrestage in the policy discourse with higher devolution of funds for development and entitlement schemes. Releasing the report, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The decline in poverty has been far from uniform across the states. It is evident that rural poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP.” A key finding is that poverty remains significantly high among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in rural areas. “Poverty among SCs and STs declined faster than the average between 2004 and 2010, but they constitute 44% of the rural poor despite representing 30% of the rural population,” the report says. Quantifying the poverty among the marginalisd castes, the report has found that over half of the STs in MP, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, and nearly 70% in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, are poor. The rate of poverty among various minority communities varies vastly. According to the report, Muslims and Buddhists have higher rates of poverty whereas Sikh and Christian communities have lower rates of poverty. “This difference in religious and social groups is largely attributed to inequality and discrimination faced in accessing educational opportunities, capital endowments and restricted occupational mobility,” it says. (Times of India 28/9/13)

 

47. Poverty alleviation needs to be top priority: PM at UN (21)

United Nations: With over a billion people living in abject poverty globally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday emphasised the need for “inclusive growth” and said poverty alleviation should be a top priority for the international community. “The problems of over a billion people living in abject poverty around the world need to be attacked more directly,” Singh said in his address to the UN General Assembly. Poverty remains a major political and economic challenge and its eradication requires special attention and a new thrust, he said. “This priority should anchor the post-2015 Development Agenda, which should be shaped by the member states so that it enjoys the broadest possible support and acceptance,” Singh told the international leaders at the UN headquarters in New York. He said the issues of peace, security, human rights and governance are important and need to be addressed. “But we will fall short of realising an ambitious post- 2015 development agenda if we focus merely on governance issues at the cost of robust economic growth,” he noted. “This agenda should not be merely about reprioritising domestic spending, but also about fostering genuine international partnership between the developing and developed countries to bring about change,” he said. Stressing that countries need the policy space necessary to set their own domestic priorities, Singh said no one knows the condition of developing countries better than the developing countries themselves. “It is, therefore, important that the UN set clear and concise goals and provide practical and well-defined means of implementation, including adequate flow of resources and transfer of technology, taking the views of developing countries fully into account,” Singh said. The Prime Minister said a meaningful post-2015 agenda must place equally high priority on food and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, water, sanitation, energy and discrimination against women. “Especially critical is women’s equal access to economic opportunities, and that they do not become victims of violence or targets of prejudice,” he said. Informing the august gathering of international leaders, Singh said India promotes inclusive development in multiple ways. “Legislation has broadened access to education and secured rural livelihoods. We are now building the world’s largest programme for food security. Digital technology is being harnessed to improve the delivery of public services and benefits to the people,” he said. Proud of partnerships with developing countries, Singh said using its modest resources, India has built strong ties with Africa and the Least Developed Countries. New Delhi, he said, is committed to building 100 institutions in Africa, have offered capacity building support including thousands of scholarships and made available concessional assistance of over USD 9.5 billion. “India and Africa are engaging through the India-Africa Forum Summit process. We also look forward to participating actively in the 3rd Conference on the Small Island Developing States in Samoa in 2014 and contributing to its outcome,” Singh said. Describing climate change as one of the defining challenges, Singh said: “We must summon the necessary political will for crafting a robust global response to climate change on the basis of equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.” (Zee news 29/9/13)

 

48. Udhagamandalam association expresses concern over use of children for begging (21)

Udhagamandalam: The Public Awareness Association of Udhagamandalam has expressed concern over the increasing use of children for begging. At a meeting of the association held here on Saturday, members pointed out that groups of beggars, particularly from the plains, were indulging in the practice of exploiting children. The police should take action against them. By another resolution, the association wanted action to be taken against cattle owners who allow their animals to stray into the town. The animals were posing a serious threat to motorists. Service bodies like the Rotary and Lions clubs should set up treatment centres for stray animals. Efforts should be made to establish aviaries in various parts of the district. A survey should be conducted to identify senior citizens who are below the poverty line. The benefits of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act should be extended to the urban areas. Association president G. Janardhanan presided over the meeting. (The Hindu 30/9/13)