Posted by admin at 1 September 2016

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News Collection from 1st August to 31st August 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Gujarat Dalits put BJP govt on notice, protest march to reach Una on Independence Day (2)

Protesting the flogging of a Dalit family by gau rakshaks in Una for skinning a dead cow, thousands of Dalits gathered in Ahmedabad Sunday where community leaders put the BJP-led government in Gujarat on notice ahead of the 2017 assembly polls. Seeking strong measures to check atrocities against them, leaders asked Dalits to give up disposing dead cattle and stop cleaning sewers to “send a strong message” to the state government. They announced a march from Ahmedabad to Una between August 5 and August 15. They said they plan to gather in Una on August 15 to observe and “feel independence” there. The Dalit Maha Sammelan in the Sabarmati area of Ahmedabad, organised by Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti (UDALS), flagged several pending Dalit issues, including justice in the Thangadh killing of three Dalit youths in 2012. Valji Rathod, father of one of the three youths killed in Thangadh of Surendranagar district, declared he would sit on a hunger strike in Gandhinagar from Monday. Addressing the gathering, UDALS convener Jignesh Mevani, raising what he said were unresolved legal and constitutional issues of Dalits in Gujarat, said: “This government believes in Daliton ka Utpidan, Daliton ka Vinash (persecution and annihilation of Dalits) and not in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.” Referring to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very hurt and upset over the Una incident, Mevani told the gathering: “I want to ask Rajnathji, if during his governance in Gujarat (between 2001 and 2014), did Modi visit a single Dalit family of Gujarat which faced atrocity? If the answer is yes, we will wind up our protest programme.” “To give a strong message to the government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want the government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life,” he said. “If atrocities on Dalits do not stop, we will show our strength in the 2017 assembly polls,” he said. Mevani mentioned several issues which he said concerned Dalits: enactment of Reservation Act to fill the backlog of reserved vacancies, absence of exclusive criminal courts for trial of atrocity cases, criminal prosecution of Una police officers for criminal negligence in the flogging case, utilisation of funds under the Scheduled Caste (SC) sub-plan and Scheduled Tribe (ST) sub-plan via enactment of a special legislation, actual allocation of surplus land to landless Dalits under provisions of the Agriculture Land Ceiling Act. He demanded a public apology from the Gujarat government for withdrawing a book on Dr B R Ambedkar. He said criminal cases filed against Dalits recently in different parts of the state should be withdrawn. Some family members of the victims in Thangadh and Una also addressed the gathering. Among them were Jitu Sarvaiya and Keval Rathod from Mota Samadhiyala. They are related to Balu Sarvaiya who, along with six of his family members, was flogged by gau rakshaks on July 11….  (Indian Express 1/8/16)

Una Dalit attack: BJP MLA Raja Singh who defended gau rakshaks booked for ‘hate speech’

Hyderabad: A case has been registered here against Telangana BJP MLA Raja Singh for his remarks which allegedly defended the attacks on Dalits in Gujarat’s Una and supported the cow vigilantes involved, the police said on Thursday. Mala Sankshema Sangam president B Ramprasad lodged a complaint with Mangalhat Police here accusing Singh of delivering hate speech through his statements. Following the complaint, a case was registered on August 2 under IPC section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) against the BJP MLA, Mangalhat Police Station Sub-Inspector Sekhar said. “The matter is under investigation,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (Goshamahal Division) K Ram Bhupal Rao told PTI. In a two-and-half minute video posted on Facebook on July 30, Singh had defended the cow vigilantes, saying those who consume cow meat are bringing “disgrace” to the entire community and should be “taught a lesson”. “I am asking those Dalits (who kill cows). Is it necessary to murder cow and eat its meat? This is absolutely wrong. It is because of such ‘galeez’ (dirty or disgusting) Dalits, that the image of whole Dalit community, which is patriotic, follows dharma, and worships cows, is tarnished. “I support the beating (up) of Dalits who slaughter cows to consume its meat. It is apt. I also support those who taught them a lesson,” Singh had said in the video. He had said there are so many Dalits in Telangana who take part in ‘Gau Raksha’ along with him.READ | Gau rakshaks taught a valuable lesson to Dalits by beating them up: BJP MLA Raja SinghTelangana AAP workers, led by their leader Somnath Bharati, had on August 2 held a demonstration near Hyderabad Police Commissionerate demanding registration of an FIR against Singh and his arrest. On July 11, four Dalit youth were beaten up by cow vigilantes at Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluka of Gir-Somnath district when they were skinning a dead cow. Though the youth pleaded they are from the skinning community, the vigilantes thrashed them alleging they were involved in cow slaughter, sparking an outrage. (Indian Express 4/8/16)

Upper caste moms-to-be refuse food served by Dalits in UP anganwadis (2)

The Uttar Pradesh government’s ambitious plan to provide nutritious food to pregnant women and malnourished children, called Hausla Poshan Yojana, has run into deep-rooted caste trouble. According to officials, pregnant women in many places have flatly declined to eat food, however nutritious it may be, that is prepared by an Anganwadi worker from the scheduled castes. Under the scheme, which began on June 20 and will be launched across the state in four phases, pregnant women and malnourished children would be provided cooked, nutritious food and one fruit each. Pilibhit district programme officer Raj Kapoor told TOI that as many as 18 pregnant women at Dhankuna village alone, under Amaria block, refused to consume the food on Thursday, saying that it had been cooked by an “untouchable” woman who is the Anganwadi in-charge. “In a similar way, a group of six students in a government primary school situated on the Barkhera-Daulatpur road in Pilibhit has not been eating the midday meal since the beginning of the new academic session as the cook hired by the school belongs to the scheduled caste,” Kapoor added. While reports of women from the upper castes being reluctant to accept food cooked by Dalit Anganwadi workers have surfaced from many other centres across the state, this is the first instance of outright boycott, officials said. According to a senior official associated with the nutrition programme in Agra, cases of resistance to food prepared by schedule caste and schedule tribe women have surfaced in the district too. (Time of India 5/8/16)

Dalit boys ‘assault’ upper caste schoolmates in Madurai district (2)

Madurai: Six minor Dalit boys studying in a Panchayat school in the district have been booked for allegedly assaulting and outraging the modesty of six of their schoolmates belonging to an upper caste, police said on August 8. The accused are being questioned. The incident took place on August 5 night near the school campus under M Kallupatti police limits when the victims were returning home, District Superintendent of Police Vijayendra S Bidari said. The boys allegedly smeared cattle dung on the six, four girls and two boys, and attacked them with lethal weapons, injuring them, besides outraging the modesty of the girls. All the six have been hospitalised. A complaint was lodged last night by the parents of the victims, following which cases had been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and IPC sections 341 (wrongful restraint) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons) against the minor boys, who have been detained for questioning, Bidari said. The motive for the assault was being investigated, police said, adding since those involved were minors they suspect some elders could have instigated them. (Indian Express 8/8/16)

2 Dalits Tied To Tree, Stripped, Beaten Allegedly By Cow Vigilantes In Andhra Pradesh (2)

Two Dalit brothers were allegedly tied to a coconut tree, stripped and thrashed for skinning a dead cow in Andhra Pradesh, in a redux of the outrageous attack last month in Gujarat that has pivoted protests and a huge political controversy for the central government. On Monday in Amalapuram, Mokati Elisa and his brother Lazar were hired to skin a cow that had died of electrocution, the police said. While they were on the job, the brothers were attacked by around 100 “gau-rakshaks” or cow vigilantes who arrived at the spot accusing them of stealing and killing the animal. The cow was electrocuted while grazing, said a senior police officer. Its owner, a vegetable vendor, had hired the brothers to skin it. The brothers are in hospital; one of them is reportedly critical. Two of their attackers have been identified as Gangadhar and Ramana. It was in neighbouring Telangana last weekend that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out a hard-hitting message against attacks on Dalits and cow vigilantism, saying: “If you have a problem, if you feel like attacking someone, attack me, not my Dalit brothers. If you want to shoot anyone, shoot me, not my Dalit brothers.” He said “fake Gau Rakshaks” are “dividing the nation and should be isolated”.Last month, four tannery workers were stripped to the waist, tied to an SUV, flogged and paraded for skinning a dead cow in Gujarat’s Una. The incident led to massive Dalit protests that were leveraged by opposition parties as they targeted the Modi government, accusing it of failing to protect the most underprivileged of society. After days of opposition fire in parliament, the prime minister broke his silence on the attacks at his first-ever townhall last week in Delhi, in which he said “most of these Gau Rakshaks are anti-social elements who commit crimes through the night and masquerade as cow protectors in the day.” (NDTV 10/8/16)

Congress demands probe on Dalit beating by ‘gau rakshaks’ in Andhra Pradesh (2)

New Delhi: Asserting that injustice against Dalits would not be tolerated, the Congress on Wednesday asked Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to initiate a probe against the recent incident in Amalapuram where two Dalit brothers were allegedly tied to a coconut tree, stripped and thrashed for skinning a dead cow. Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury stated that nobody would bear injustice against the Dalits. “The state’s chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu should initiate a probe to find out the accused. I am surprised as to how this disease of cow vigilantes has reached Andhra Pradesh,” Chowdhury told ANI. “Nobody will bear injustice against the Dalits and the state government will have to bear the consequences. The Chief Minister will have to tell as to what actions he has taken in this regard,” she added while assuring support to the Dalits. Earlier on Monday, two brothers, who were hired to skin a cow that had died of electrocution, were attacked by around 100 ‘gau rakshaks’ or cow vigilantes, who arrived at the spot accusing them of stealing and killing the animal. The brothers are presently undergoing treatment at a hospital with reports indicating that one of them is critical. As per reports, the police have identified the attackers. The incident comes just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out a hard-hitting message against attacks on Dalits and cow vigilantism. Addressing a public meeting on his first visit to Telangana on August 7 after assuming office, the Prime Minister asked the people to beware of its ‘fake’ protectors trying to divide society and the country and asked the states to severely punish them.“I would like to tell all countrymen that they beware of these fake cow protectors,” he said. Prime Minister Modi asked the states to identify the people who want to destroy the social fabric and take stern action against them. (Indian Express 11/8/16)

Bhavnagar tense over dalit sweeper’s suicide (2)

Rajkot: Tension prevailed in Bhavnagar city after some sanitary workers pelted stones on the ambulance carrying the body of 40-year-old dalit sweeper, Mukesh Gohil, who worked with the Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation (BMC). The workers alleged that Mukesh had died because of work pressure from his immediate supervisor V P Gohil, executive engineer with solid waste management department of BMC.However, postmortem report confirmed that Mukesh committed suicide on Friday and was declared brought dead at the civil hospital. Following the incident, the executive engineer V P Gohil was suspended with immediate effect. Mukesh, a resident of Valmikivas in Jamnakund area in Bhavnagar, had hanged himself at his residence on Friday evening. Soon, as the news spread about Mukesh’s death, large number of dalits started gathering at the civil hospital on Saturday and alleged that Mukesh died because of work pressure from Gohil and demanded immediate action against the officer. When Mukesh’s body was being taken in an ambulance, some of them pelted stones on it. Police resorted to mild lathicharge to bring the situation under control. Initially, Mukesh’s family members refused to take custody of his body, but the deadlock was broken after Gohil was suspended by the BMC authorities. “When the ambulance was about to leave civil hospital campus some people pelted stones on it. There were some antisocial elements and police resorted to mild lathicharge to disperse the crowd,” said I G Sheikh, deputy superintendent of police, Bhavnagar. A complaint was lodged against the mob for stone pelting and damaging public properties. Heavy security was deployed at the hospital after the stone-pelting incident. “Sweepers had demanded immediate transfer of Gohil on Friday. So, we transferred him to other department. Then, they demanded his suspension. So, on Saturday we suspended Gohil and have assured Mukesh’s kin of all possible help,” Manoj Kothari, municipal commissioner at Bhavnagar, told TOI. “I have asked the concerned department to find out what actually happened and whether Mukesh was under work pressure or not,” Kothari added.  (Times of India 14/8/16)

People returning from ”Dalit pride march” attacked (2)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat police have arrested 22 persons who allegedly assaulted Dalits returning from the Dalit Pride March held in Una to protest against atrocities and discrimination faced by Dalits in the state. The clashes between Dalits and other community members took place near Samter village late on Monday night, when a group of Dalits was returning after the rally. Four policemen were among those injured in the clashes. The police had to baton charge and lob tear gas shells to disperse mobs clashing over stone-pelting. According to sources, the incident occurred near Samter, where villagers allegedly blocked the road and started assaulting Dalits. “After the rally, anti-social elements blocked the road near Samter when Dalits were returning. They attacked a group of Dalits. We lobbed 46 teargas shells, fired 6 rounds in the air and used batons to disperse the mob,” Gir-Somnath Superintendent of Police H.R. Chaudhary told the media on Tuesday. The SP added that 22 persons have been arrested for rioting and assaults on Dalits and policemen. In the stone-pelting, at least a dozen members of the Dalit community were injured and around eight of them suffered severe wounds. The victims claimed that the residents of Samter attacked them to avenge the arrest of 12 people of the village in connection with the public flogging of Dalits by cow vigilante groups on July 11, which triggered state-wide protests by Dalits. They said that of the 30-odd people arrested till date in the Una incident, 12 are residents of Samter, located near Mota Samadhiyala, where cow vigilantes assaulted a group of Dalits for allegedly skinning a dead cow. The Dalit community has now demanded police protection for its people in villages near Una. “We want police protection, otherwise dominant local castes will keep assaulting us,” said Balubhai Sarvaiya from Una. Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned the Gujarat government to act against those assaulting Dalits, or face the consequences in the Assembly polls next year. Mr Kejriwal, who was here to pay last respects to the Swaminarayan sect’s Pramukh Swami, slammed the BJP government, alleging that BJP leaders were hand in glove with those assaulting Dalits in the state. “The police again did nothing to save the Dalits who were attacked. This proves that the attackers are goons sent by the BJP government,” Mr. Kejriwal said.“I want to warn the Gujarat BJP government that if they do not refrain from supporting anti-social elements who target Dalits, the people of Gujarat will teach the government a lesson in the assembly polls next year,” Mr Kejriwal said, adding that the BJP government has failed in the state and there is widespread anger against the government as a result. According to him, the Gujarat government first targeted the Patidar community and was now harassing the Dalit community. “It seems every community in the state is frustrated with the government and is raising its voice. There is jungle raj [lawlessness] in Gujarat,” he claimed. (The Hindu 16/8/16)

Gurgaon: Upper caste men beat Dalits as they outperform Yadavs in kabaddi (2)

Gurgaon: A friendly game of kabaddi held to promote inter-caste harmony in Gurgaon went horribly wrong after the Dalit team was thrashed by upper caste men, when they outperformed the rival team. According to reports, trouble began when the Dalits took a lead against the team of Yadavs and soon angry spectators started firing shots in the air and assaulting them with bamboo sticks. The kabaddi tournament was organised by the community head to promote friendly ties between various castes on the occassion of India’s 70th of Independence Day. Close to 40 teams from across Delhi-NCR region were invited to play and the teams included other castes like Gurjars, Jats and Agarwals, to name a few. Eyewitnesses say that the men beat up even those who tried to intervene and stop the violence. Four Dalits were seriously injured in the scuffle. “They said, ‘how can you low cast people win against us? We’ll leave you in such a state that you can never play again’,” Raju, a Dalit player who was thrashed by the men was quoted in a report. While some residents said that inter-caste clashes between Dalits and Yadav are not uncommon in the area, the local councillor claimed that caste had nothing to do with the violence. According to the councillor it was just a unfortunate co-incidence that the members who were beaten up were from the same caste. A complaint has been filed over the incident and the police are investigating the case. No arrests have been made so far. (Deccan Herald 18/8/2016

‘Khaki terror’ forces Dalits to flee homes in UP village (2)

SAHARANPUR (UP): Every night since the last Independence Day, Dalit men in Saharanpur’s Usand village have been making their way to the nearby forest to spend the night while the women watch out for police jeeps. At least three Dalits have died in the village over the last week, allegedly in police excesses. While the police deny that any brutality took place, villagers here tell horror stories of how policemen and PAC personnel rained down on them with lathis and riot-gear. Tensions began on August 15 after a man from another caste told a Dalit to “deposit” his daughter as “collateral” for a debt he owed. When the two communities came face to face, the police was called. According to police, there was a riot-like situation in the village which needed to be contained “by use of mild force”, but residents allege police only targeted Dalits. “They came down on us heavily as if we were animals. We were beaten so badly and there isn’t a single Dalit house in the village which the police did not ransack. At least a hundred police and PAC personnel went on a rampage. The irony is that this took place on Independence Day. Sarita Devi, Rakesh Kumar and Chaman Singh were beaten so badly that night that they died. They were all Dalits. Such is the atmosphere of fear that we have started sleeping in the forest while the women watch out for police. Even the sound of an ambulance siren in the distance is enough to send our children scurrying for cover,” said Ravi Kumar. Saharanpur SSP Manoj Tiwari said, “From what I have learnt, members of two groups were at loggerheads. Some people even attacked the police, so we had to resort to use of force. We registered a case against around 20 unknown accused for attacking the police. It is possible that some of them are sleeping in the forest to evade arrest. As far as the fear of the people is concerned, I will visit the village and assure them that they have nothing to fear.” (Times of India 22/8/12)

Dalits thrashed again for refusing to lift carcass (2)

Ahmedabad: The cow vigilantes had also videographed the incident and it went viral on social media after a nationwide uproar over July 11 public flogging of four dalit youths at Una. Days after reports of a dalit boy being punished near Ahmedabad for saying his community had decided against removing carcass of dead animals, another incident of self-styled cow vigilantes thrashing two more Dalits for refusing to dispose of the carcass of a calf on Sunday, came to light. The latest incident took place in Mandal village of Rajula taluka in Saurashtra region. “A couple of days ago, a calf was found dead on the village roadside. Sarpanch Atabhai Ahir approached Nagji and asked him to dispose of the dead animal and he refused saying that the community had decided against disposing dead animals after the attacks on the community,” Soma Rathod, elder brother of Nagji, said. “This enraged the sarpanch and his men, who roughed up Nagji and Mayabhai Rathod.” Both, Nagji and Mayabhai were later admitted to a private hospital in nearby Mahuva town. “We have lodged a complaint against seven accused and have handed over the investigation to Rajula’s deputy superintendent of police of SC/ST Cell,” V M Zala, police inspector, Dungar police station, said. “We have also arrested the sarpanch and three others under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other sections of IPC,” the officer said. This is the second attack on Nagji’s family. On May 22 last, a group of about 19 cow vigilantes had roughed up seven dalit boys, including Soma’s son, at Rajula for skinning dead animals at a place officially allotted to them by local authorities. The cow vigilantes had also videographed the incident and it went viral on social media after a nationwide uproar over July 11 public flogging of four dalit youths at Una. Though the victims gave a representation to the local administration and police on May 30 to take action against the culprits, no arrests were made. The aggrieved even took out a 70-km bike rally from Rajula to Amreli town on July 7. It is only after the video went viral and innumerable protest rallies shook the state after Una incident, did the police take action in late July. Soma complained that his family and community were constantly harassed and economically isolated by the villagers. (Deccan Herald 24/8/2016)

Discriminated by Dalits and caste Hindus, Irulas lodge complaint (2)

VILLUPURAM: Had the occasion not been grim, it would have been a heartening sight to see caste Hindus and Dalits joining hands together for a common cause. When sections from these two communities forged a union at Palapattu near Tindivanam on Monday, it reportedly turned out to be an alliance of oppressors against a marginalised community — in this case Irulas — whose crime was to attempt a renovation of their houses on a poromboke land. Along a pathway leading to the village crematorium in Palapattu is a settlement of Irulas, housing nine families on a government poromboke land. Trouble started on Monday when one of the families decided to renovate their dilapidated house. Murthy (30) and  Durga (28), an Irula couple, had been living with their sons Mohanraj (8) and Dhanasekar (2) in a thatched hut that was way past its due date of repair. When the couple started rebuilding the hut, Vaithyanathan (45), a caste Hindu man owning one acre of agricultural land adjacent to the poromboke land, along with his supporters, including a few Dalits, reportedly picked up a quarrel with them. The couple claimed that the group abused and attacked them, asserting that only they had rights over the poromboke land. Durga says that there are nine families, comprising 27 members, housed on the small tract. Over the years, lack of space and basic amenities has taken a heavy toll on them. Cramped for space, they had decided to renovate the hut, but all it managed to do was open the floodgates of abuse. After the incident, she lodged a complaint with the  Palapattu police, who registered a case and booked seven persons, including caste Hindus and Dalits. The officials were on the lookout for the accused, who have since absconded. The alleged attack on the community is not an isolated incident, but part of continued oppression dating well over three decades. A brief respite came in 2014, when some human rights activists and Irula Welfare Association members tried to shed light on their plight. The intervention drew flak from the intermediate caste, and even from the Dalits in the village, who restricted the activists’ entry to the Irula settlement. However, the escalating tension sent the official machinery into an overdrive, leading to the Collector and other senior officials making a beeline for the village. With the village in spotlight, the officials made a slew of promises to address the Irula community’s need for basic amenities, and even made available electricity connection and drinking water supply. However, this reportedly did not go down well with the caste Hindus and Dalits, who contended when they themselves were not getting such facilities, the minority Irulas could not get access to them. The result was that the Irulas’ access to road, drinking water and even power supply was restricted. When contacted, Tindivanam tahsildar Mathiazhagan said, “Efforts were made to give the community access to all the amenities, except patta, as we do not have enough vacant land to contribute to the Irulas. We are searching for a suitable site, and once it is decided, they would be relocated,” he added. (New Indian Express 26/8/16)

Dalits to burn Manu Smriti outside High Court: Jignesh Mevani (2)

Jaipur: Gujarat Dalit agitation leader Jignesh Mevani on Sunday said that Dalits will burn copies of Manu Smriti, the ancient legal text codifying the caste system, outside the Jaipur bench of Rajasthan High Court which has an idol of Manu on its premises. “We have an ultra-liberal Constitution and protecting it is the duty of the courts. But having an idol of Manu on the premises of a High Court speaks volumes about our judiciary as the book stands for patriarchy and casteism,” Mevani told The Indian Express. “Hence, we will burn copies of the text outside the gates of Jaipur bench of Rajasthan High Court,” said Mevani, who is also the convener of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti. The Samiti was created following the public flogging of Dalits in Gujarat’s Una for allegedly skinning a dead cow. “Our slogan will be ‘Manu Smriti jalayenge, poora desh hilayenge’ (will burn Manu Smriti, and shake the nation). It’ll take place on December 6, the death anniversary of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar,” Mevani said. “It’ll be a milestone in the history of the nation. We will campaign all over the country for it and lakhs of Dalits from across the nation will gather in Jaipur for the event,” he said. Before the protest, Mevani said that they will also get in touch with organisations with similar ideologies in Rajasthan, and those which are working for empowerment of the marginalised classes and communities.The idol was reportedly set up in 1989 by Rajasthan Judicial Officers Association. However, following objections, a Full Court Resolution directed that it be relocated. But this was, in turn, challenged by Jaipur-based Acharya Dharmendra. On August 13 last year, the matter was again taken up in the High Court after a period of 25 years. A bench of Chief Justice Sunil Ambwani, Ajit Singh and V S Siradhana issued notices to the Centre and state government, impleading them as respondents to the petition. “The matter is still pending before the High Court but it is not really an issue,” said Ram Manohar Sharma, President, High Court Bar Association. (Indian Express 29/8/16)

TRIBALS

Activists to express solidarity with tribals’ stir (6)

KALPETTA: A group of activists under the aegis of various organisations, including the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGM), is preparing to stage a fast in front of the collectorate here on theInternational Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9, expressing solidarity with an indefinite agitation launched by a group of tribal women at Mananthavadi demanding the closure of a Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) outlet there. Addressing a press conference on Monday, M. Geethanandan, coordinator, AGM; K.K. Mujeeb Rahman, coordinator, Kerala Madyanirodhana Samithi (KMS); and N. Maniyappan, secretary, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes coordination committee, said though the tribal women under the aegis of Adivasi Forum had been staging the agitation for the past 200 days, the government was yet to take any steps to close the outlet. (The Hindu 2/8/16)

In Delhi, Hemant fans tribal land fears (6)

New Delhi, Aug. 2: Leader of the Opposition and former chief minister Hemant Soren today alleged the state government’s “ploy” to dilute tribal land rights would set Jharkhand ablaze. ” Jal, jangal, zameen (water, forests and land) is the basis of our politics and there is a traditional mobilisation on these issues, pioneered by Sidho and Kanhu Murmu and Birsa Munda. As inheritors of their legacy, it is our duty to defend these laws which were enacted after bloody struggles,” Hemant said, referring to the Raghubar Das government’s ordinance to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act of 1908 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act of 1949, both of which seek to curb transfer of land inhabited by tribals in scheduled areas of the state. “To put it simply, if this illegitimate ordinance is implemented, it will lead to bloodshed and the ensuing law and order problem will be beyond any government’s control,” Hemant told The Telegraph before leaving to meet President Pranab Mukherjee with his father, MP Shibu Soren and other JMM MPs and MLAs. The changes the ordinance would bring include a provision for tribal land to be acquired for infrastructure projects under CNT Act and for change in land use in SPT Act. The government has claimed that thse would help tribal landholders pledge their property and for loans. But, Hemant claimed the ordinance has been brought to bypass the legislature in order to sell off whatever tribal lands are left. “We fought it in the Assembly, we will fight it in the streets. Whoever feels this ordinance is wrong will join us,” he said. (The Telegraph 3/8/16)

Survey of ooru bhumis to prove game changer (6)

PALAKKAD: The move to survey the land in Attappadi and demarcate the ‘ooru bhumis’ of all the 192 oorus of this tribal region could ensure the much needed documentation of tribal land which in turn would help to create a valid record of the land holdings. And Ottappalam Sub Collector P B Nooh, who initiated the move, said, though, the ooru bhumis with clear demarcation and fixed boundaries existed in all the villages, neither  the local bodies nor the moopans (tribal chieftains) of these villages had land records or title deeds in their possession to support their claims.He said the survey has been completed in 55 oorus and it is proposed to complete the process in the remaining oorus within two months. Around 40 members of the Survey Department had been on the job since January.As many as 2,750 houses were built by the ST Department in 2015-16 which had taken up most of the open spaces in many villages. The Tribal Extension Officer of the Sholayur village Suresh Kumar adds that the exercise would help to document the areas in Attappadi and in the future the surplus land could be distributed to the landless tribals,if any. Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) project officer P R Rema Devi said the Revenue Department was undertaking the survey with the help of the Survey Department. They had provided an estimate for the survey of all the oorus in Attappadi and the ITDP released `4.30 lakh for the purpose. Additional Tahsildar of Mannarkad, Jayarajan said the survey will see to it that the tribal beneficiaries of a large number of Central and state government schemes belonged to the oorus where it is being implemented and “outsiders” do not corner them. Moreover, it is the ooru moopans, who has the final say on the boundary of each ooru if there were no documents. He said they have received 976 applications for land and after the survey is over, each family will be given a minimum of one acre of land. It is the  Sub-divisional Committee headed by the Sub Collector which will decide on the distribution of land. If a family had 80 cent, the remaining 20 cent will be given. He said that till date 517 tribals have been given 483.13 acre. K A Ramu, Thampu activist, said that only 282 persons were given pattayams in 2009 and since then no meaningful distribution of land has been made to the tribals. And in several cases the land alloted was adjacent to the forests and located far away from the oorus and the tribals had failed to cultivate them. In the past, there were even cases where the tribals had refused to accept the land allotted to them. (New Indian Express 7/8/16)

Govt providing school, hospital to tribals: Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram informs Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Tribals and others dwelling in forests, are being provided facilities such as schools, dispensaries, fair price shops and electricity, the Lok Sabha was informed today. Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said the Section 3(2) of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act 2006 provides for diversion of forest land and other facilities. The facilities include school, dispensary or hospital, anganwadis, fair price shops, electric and telecommunication lines, tanks and other minor water bodies, drinking water supply and water pipelines, water or rain harvesting structure, vocational training centres, roads and community centre, he said. “Clearance of such development projects are recommended by the Gram Sabha, Central government also issues directions under Section 12 of Forest Right Act and clarifications and guidelines for proper implementation of the Act,” the Minister said. Oram said the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act 2006 (FRA in short) was enacted with the objective of correcting the historical injustice done to the forest dwelling STs and other traditional forest dwellers. (Indian Express 8/8/2016

Nomadic tribes and their tales of woe (6)

CHENNAI: The University of Madras observed the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9 with special reference to nomadic tribes living in India. This year, the theme focused on right to education. At the talk, the speakers also highlighted the problems that nomadic tribes faced in India. While ethnic tribes have faced discrimination for eons, nomadic tribes face even severe problems. They have difficulty in establishing an identity as they do not have any permanent residence. “The idea of personal entitlement is completely new to nomadic tribes. All land is community land. They might believe in territories but introducing them to ownership can be hard,” said C K Sreedharan, former IFS officer. “Empowering the tribes would mean empowering them through land reforms and entitling them to a land.” Providing education to a migratory group will involve convincing them to settle down and the government will have to set up a livelihood for them. The right to education for indigenous people is protected by Article 14 of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, among other things, states that “Indigenous people have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions to provide education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.” Improvising on reservation or ‘positive discrimination’ has increased literacy among these communities. Sumathi, Head of, Anthropology, University of Madras said that there is “a criss-cross between sedentism and nomadism” and that strategies to help them become difficult. Sometimes, nomads tend to settle in one area, while the settled ones might migrate to another place in search of better habitat. There is an estimated 370 million indigenous people in 90 countries. By practicing unique traditions, they retain their social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies they live in. (New Indian Express 10/8/16)

Centre, State snatching tribals’ rights: Brinda (6)

KHAMMAM: CPI(M) polit bureau member Brinda Karat lambasted both the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and the TRS government in Telangana for allegedly trying to snatch away the legal, moral and historical rights of tribal communities over forest land. The Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Chandrasekhar Rao government here were bent on evicting tribal people from their natural habitat, infringing upon the rights of tribal communities under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), in the name of afforestation, she charged. She was speaking at ‘Maha Dharna’ held under the aegis of CPI(M) district committee in front of the Collectorate here on Wednesday. Earlier, scores of tribal people, mainly comprising women ‘podu’ farmers, land oustees of various irrigation and coalmine projects, took out a huge rally in the town to press for a charter of demands. CPI(M) State secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram, Bhadrachalam MLA Sunnam Rajaiah and others took part in the rally. Their main demands include grant of pattas for ‘podu’ lands as per the provisions of the FRA, sanction of bank loans to ‘podu’ farmers, scrapping of GO 123 and provision of statutory compensation to land oustees under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. Addressing a large gathering at Dharna Chowk, Ms. Brinda Karat said, “KCR wants to be friends with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” (The Hindu 11/6/16)

Kandhamal deaths: Tribals killed in crossfire, Odisha govt tells NCSC (6)

Bhubaneswar: A month after five Dalits, including a two-year-old, were killed in police firing at a village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, the state government has told the National Commission for Scheduled Castes that the five tribals were caught in crossfire between the security personnel and Maoists. The state government has, however, said that an SIT probe into the incident is under way and action would be taken against security personnel if they are found guilty. The government’s reply comes after chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P L Punia, submitted a report to the state government where he debunked the crossfire theory of the police. “In case of crossfiring, there would have been casualties or injuries to the police personnel and Maoists, which did not happen. The police have registered an FIR based on the submission made by the Commandant SOG which is not only one-sided but blatantly concocted and untrue and to cover up the misdeed of the jawans,” Punia wrote in his report. The state government, however, has said the SOG personnel were engaged in a gunfight with Maoists on July 8. “During such firing, some of the villagers travelling in an auto sustained bullet injuries which resulted in death of five persons and injuries to four others. In this context, Baliguda police station case no 109/2016 dated July 9 has been registered on the basis of the report of the sergeant leading the SOG team,” the home department said. It added that an SIT has been formed under the Addl DG, Human Rights Protection Cell, to probe the incident. A commission headed by the district and sessions judge of Kandhamal is also looking into the incident. (The Indian Express 13/8/16)

Assam: The troubling dynamics of Tribal identity (6)

Thirteen people were reported killed and 20 injured in Assam’s Kokrajhar town, after terrorists opened fire in a market area on August 5. According to the 2001 Census, the Scheduled Tribe population of Assam was 12.41 per cent, of which Bodos are about 40 per cent. But, within the Bodoland Territorial Area District, an area of 27,100 sq km (or 35 per cent of Assam), the Bodos constitute less than 30 per cent, with no other ethnic group (Assamese speakers, Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus, Koch-Rajbongshis) having absolute majority. This tension between Bodos and the 70 per cent of non-Bodos leads to periodic conflict in Kokrajhar. The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was formed as a special territorial privilege, under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, in a Memorandum of Settlement in February 2003 between the Government of India, Government of Assam and the Bodo Liberation Tigers. The BTC has 12 members. While insurgency-related deaths are showing a downward trend in the state, the recent tragedy shows the strength of tribal identity. (Business Standard 14/8/16)

Chakma tribals observe ‘black day’ (6)

AGARTALA: Around 7.5 lakh Chakma tribals observed a “black day” on Wednesday to protest the occupation of their original homeland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh. Over 2.5 lakh Chakma tribals reside in Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. A section of the tribals also live in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. Over five lakh Chakma tribals have been living in mountainous CHT in southeast Bangladesh. (Times of India 18/8/16)

Forest rights under siege in Nagada (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Even as an embarrassed Odisha Government tries to build basic communication infrastructure to connect Jajpur’s Nagada, it has come to fore that the resident tribal communities have not received their entitlements due under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), which has played a crucial role in the enactment of FRA, sent in a fact-finding team to assess deprivation of the forest dwelling tribal communities in Nagada. It found that the Government organised Gram Sabha on July 29 after the malnourishment deaths came to fore. Interestingly, Odisha claims to have issued the highest number of individual forest rights (IFR) in the whole country – a massive 3,78,675 titles. However, the picture of Nagada reveals that there are hundreds of such villages where FRA implementation is yet to start, CSD alleged and demanded that Government must disclose a village-wise status of FRA implementation in the State including hundreds of forested and un-surveyed villages. The four-member team interacted with community members and Government officials, and found that most of the Juang families in the village are landless and cultivate forest land for livelihood. These primitive tribals are entitled to individual forest rights and community rights titles as well as PTG habitat rights. “The interaction with the community made it clear that they are unaware of FRA, Forest Rights Committee and the fact that community rights have to be recognised. It was only after Nagada issue that the Government machinery woke up and organised Gram Sabha meeting on July 29 in the village under FRA,” the report said As per the Record of Rights (RoR), the survey and settlement of the village was conducted in 1980s. The CSD report said Nagada revenue village is located over 761.45 acre of which just 19.38 acre (2.54 per cent) has been recorded as private. Of the rest 742.07 acre Government land, forest land measures up to 668.60 acre constituting 92.79 per cent where most families of the three hamlets in the village carry out cultivation. Nagada is surrounded by reserve forest from its west and south sides where the tribals are entitled to get community rights over forest. CSD alleged that the Government has a plan to create a gateway for mining in the area. “While the Government failed to construct a basic road for tribals in the hilly tracts, why is it constructing a 60 feet wide road from Ashokjhari to Nagada, right into the forest? The purpose is to facilitate mining agencies who have eyes on chromite deposits there,” it added. (New Indian Express 19/8/16)

Now, cops will work to uplift tribal people (6)

COIMBATORE: A month ago, when the state government passed an order to set up a separate wing in the police department to curb naxalite activities, Coimbatore district police not only followed the order but proactively started planning several activities to reach out to the tribals of over 30 villages that lie on the interstate border area. Besides trying to generate goodwill among them, officials were also on a drive to ensure that tribals did not get influenced by naxals. On Sunday, district police officials conducted a medical camp for tribals from Kuppepalayam and Attukal villages at an elementary school in Thondamuthur. It benefited 112 tribal men and 56 women.On Saturday, nearly 55 students from villages surrounding Anaikatti and Pillur Dam were taken on an industrial visit to various corporate companies such as Lakshmi Machine Works to provide them first-hand knowledge about their functioning. “Later, they were taken to the Karamadai and Thudiyalur police stations, where they were briefed on the functioning of police,” said inspector of Thudiyalur. This, he said, was mainly done to ensure that their relationship with police improves. Last week, police had secured jobs for nearly 10 tribal men at corporate companies and city hospitals. “We also conducted a camp where 48 drivers were trained and issued LLR. They will also be issued licenses soon. This is to empower them,” said a police officer. Two driving school instructors visit Mangarai daily to train youngsters there. The district police officials have also plans to set up a recreation centre for the tribals, with indoor games and libraries. “Many tribals are school dropouts. But there are graduates as well. They hardly have any sport facilities or infrastructure. This will help them bring out their talent,” said another police officer. Police officials are also set to conduct a workshop to create awareness on government exams and civil services exam among tribals. “We will bring experts from the field who will personally meet qualified tribal youths and inform them about various exams that they may write,” they said. (Times of Inia 22/8/16)

Agartala tense as clashes erupt during tribal forum rally (6)

At least 30 people were injured, some critically, dozens of vehicles torched and property destroyed in clashes between supporters of the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) and a section of non-tribals in Agartala city on Tuesday. Security forces have been deployed in strength in the tension prone localities of the city. Trouble began after supporters at an IPFT procession got into an argument with shopkeepers at Surya Chowmuhani area around 3 p.m. The tribal party had organised a procession and rally demanding a separate State for the 33 per cent indigenous population. The violence soon spread to different parts of the city. At least 30 people were injured in the clashes and stone pelting, dozens of two and four wheelers were set on fire and many shops damaged. Shops and business establishments downed shutters even as residents ran for cover. Police were initially outnumbered but additional forces were soon deployed. Tripura Director General of Police K. Nagraj reached the Chowmuhani area and made an effort to pacify the mob. Security personnel brought the situation under control after about 30 minutes. “The situation is now under control; seriously injured people are being treated in hospital and security forces have been deployed across the city,” Mr. Nagraj told The Hindu at 7 p.m. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 have been enforced in the city. (The Hindu 24/8/2016)

‘Government-run tribal schools in Khammam violating human rights’ (6)

HYDERABAD: AN inquiry was conducted on the mysterious deaths of 26 tribal children in the government-run tribal homes, that occurred over a period of two years in Khammam. Rupa Kapoor, member, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Wednesday paid a visit to three tribal residential schools in Khammam. “The situation is pathetic and needs urgent attention. There is a gross violation of human rights is what I have observed,” Rupa said.  The first, Tribal Residential School for Girls in Mustafa Nagar has 323 children crammed in a space meant for half the number. “Hostel and classrooms double up as one. They reside and study in the same place. There is not enough ventilation either,” she added. Rupa also pointed that kids were drying their undergarments inside and not out under the sun. “This is a sanitation problem. They are bound to contact diseases when clothes are not sun dried,” she added. With no proper infrastructure, food for the kids was being prepared out in the open with no cover. Adding to the misery, toilets are located outside the premises putting the girls in a much more dangerous situation. A few of these deaths were attributed to snake bites. Rupa confirmed this. “They are prone to snake bites considering the location of toilets,  especially in the night.” There is no care taker and are under the watch of a guard, added Rupa.  The Tribal Residential School for Boys located at Revathi Theatre Centre she visited after was relatively better said Rupa. However, it lacks basic requirements like tables, chairs, school bags or recreational facilities. Another school for girls is located 20 km away from Khammam town in Gollagudem village. “The huge building for 330 girls is spacious and airy. There is a space for play also, but they are prone to scorpion and snake bites. Located far from the city, they are not equipped to deal with emergencies,” she noted. The district collector has been alerted and has been asked to submit an Action Taken Report to the NCPCR in the next 15 days. “In case they fail to do so, further action will be taken. They have been given three months time for infrastructure development by when children should be shifted either to a bigger space or some of them should be moved,” she said. Officials complain that parents do not allow for transfer of children. “They should be provided counselling as they cannot survive in such crammed spaces,” she said. (New Indian Express 26/8/16)

Tribal outfits dead set against Netas using Dana as a pawn (6)

SAMBALPUR: Resentment is brewing among tribals of Western Odisha region at the way Dana Majhi case is being handled by Kalahandi administration and political parties. Members of several tribal outfits are peeved at Dana not being allowed to perform the death rituals of his wife, Amana Majhi. On Sunday, the NH-353 passing through Balangir was blocked for two hours at Bangomunda by members of Paschim Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Mahasangha over the issue. The blockade disrupted traffic on Gopalpur-Raipur route and roads to Balangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi.They also submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanding arrest of the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of Kalahandi and dismissal of the District Collector for their insensitivity. General secretary of the outfit, Niranjan Bisi, said it was an inhuman act to prevent Dana from performing the ‘Dihi’ (third day death ritual) of his wife. “The administration should have acted sensibly and not forced him to come to Bhawanipatna to meet the Collector and the CDMO,” he said. While the family of Amana was supposed to perform third day rituals as per tribal tradition, Thuamal Rampur Block Development Officer on Friday took Dana and his 14-year-old daughter Chandni to the Sub-Collector’s office for inquiry into the incident and the reasons that prompted him to carry his wife’s body on his shoulders to his village, Melghara. The denial of right to the family to perform rituals for the sake of investigation came in for sharp criticism from all quarters. Dana had alleged that the Collector asked him whether he had killed his wife. “She asked what problems I encountered in the hospital. When I said I took my wife from the hospital after she died, the Collector asked me whether I had killed my wife,” Dana told the Congress team, which visited his village Melghara on Saturday.Kalahandi unit president of Paschim Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Mahasangha Parmananda Majhi charged the political parties with playing politics over death of a tribal woman. He said a seven-member team of the Mahasangha had called on Dana, who is confused and panic-struck. “If the State Government is committed to development of tribals, let it provide them basic amenities rather than all political parties using them as pawns,” he observed. Kalahandi District Adivasi Sangha president Kishore Chandra Bhoi was critical of political parties and said padayatras and fact-finding team visits can wait for 10 days. Apparently, Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das had said that he would begin a padayatra from Melghara to Bhawanipatna to create awareness among tribals of the district about their constitutional rights. (New Indian Express 29/8/16)

WOMEN

3 arrests, but no headway in Bulandshahr gang-rape case (8)

Bulandshahr: Despite arrest of three suspects, there seems to be no headway in the investigation into the gang-rape of a woman and her teenaged daughter on NH-91 last week even though Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had announced that the case would be cracked within 24 hours. Questions have been raised by locals as to whether those arrested were really involved in Friday night’s gory crime. Bulandshahr MP Bhola Singh said the police arrested three persons in haste to fulfil the assurance of the Chief Minister. Innocent people are being harassed by the police, he alleged, adding that the real culprits are being spared under political pressure. Earlier, the police arrested three men who were presented before the local court, which sent them to 14 days in judicial custody in Bulandshahr jail. The suspects have been identified as Shawed, a resident of Dehpa Hapur; Rahees, a resident of Sutari Bulandshahr; and Jabar Singh, a resident of Rabupura in Gautam Budh Nagar. “We are looking for other culprits whose role in the crime has been revealed during investigation,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Laxmi Singh said. Meanwhile, the victims told IANS that the police was apathetic towards their plight and did not provide any medical treatment. Neither were there any counsellors to deal with their trauma, the victims said. It was only when the crime was reported in the media that the police swung into action, they added. (Business Standard 2/8/16)

In UP, rape cases up 161% in a year; 30% spurt in rape bids (8)

MEERUT: At a time when gruesome details of the Bulandshahr gang rape case+ have shocked the nation and questions are being raised at the lawlessness rampant in Uttar Pradesh, here’s some statistics that are anything but encouraging. There has been a 161% rise in rape cases in just one year (2014 to 2015). Recent data released by UP State Crime Records Bureau show that the cases have gone up from 3,467 in 2014 to 9,075 in 2015. Not just this, even attempt to rape cases have seen a huge hike of 30%.More worryingly, authorities say this might just be the tip of the iceberg. According to the NCRB 2014 report, if the national figures are compared with UP-specific statistics, it is evident that the increase in number of rape cases each year in UP has been more than the country-wide spike — almost twice the national average. While India recorded an increase of 65% in rape cases from 2010 (22,172) to 2014 (36,735), UP recorded an increase of 121% from 2010 (1,563) to 2014 (3,467). Zareena Usmani, chairperson, UP state commission for women, said, “Indeed, there has been a rise in rape cases, but the good part here is that at least women are coming out in public to report it. Earlier, the cases were very meagre in number but now the women are feeling confident enough to go to the police.” Police officials, too, attribute this trend to a “changing mindset” among women and a reduced stigma attached to rape. Navniet Sikera, IG, Women Helpline, Lucknow, said, “The number of rape cases has seen an upsurge throughout the country. There were times when only 1,500 complaints for crime against women were getting filed in an entire year, but now this number has shot up to 2,000 complaints in a day. This is a sign of increasing awareness because girls are not quiet anymore, and people see them not as victims but survivors.”But while more cases are being reported today, questions still remain on the police’s efficacy in investigating them. Giving the example of the recent Bulandshahr gang rape, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chairperson, National Commission for Women (NCW), said, “There are quite a number of cases which are filed on wrong sections. Like in the Bulandshahr gang rape case, police had not included Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in the FIR despite a teenaged girl being raped. It was only after we brought it to their notice that it was included.” Incidentally, while the number of rape cases has shot up drastically, crimes against women in general seem to have dipped by 32%, from 52,409 in 2014 to 35,527 in 2015. However, authorities say that this could be due to the fact that a large section of the population in UP — particularly those from the rural and poor backgrounds — do not report cases of minor crimes or sexual harassment. Kumaramangalam said, “The statistics do not reflect the true state of affairs in UP because a lot of the cases are not reported, especially by women from illiterate and poor background. Figures that show crimes against women dipping in UP are highly doubtful because 60% of the total complaints we get are from Uttar Pradesh alone.” (Times of India 3/8/16)

Bulandshahr rape: ‘Third woman was disrobed, her saree used to tie other 2 (8)

LUCKNOW: The criminals who assaulted the Noida family on NH-91 in Bulandshahr past midnight on July 29 had disrobed all the three female relatives in the car and not just two as made out to be so far. The third woman was also physically attacked and subjected to sexual harassment. Her medical examination, however, was not conducted after the crime. In another serious lapse on the part of the government doctor conducting the medical examination at the Bulandshahr hospital, no definitive opinion was given even though multiple injuries were noted on the two targeted females. Prepared by Dr Saira Bano, the medical officer of Kasturba Government Women’s Hospital, Bulandshahr, the report notes the severe injuries on both the arms of the mother and daughter and the presence of two injuries on the minor girl’s private parts. Despite making a note of injuries and being well aware about the ordeal the two faced, Bano in her final opinion has said that it “may be a case of sexual assault”.The family of six were travelling from Noida to Shahjanpur in a sedan. The occupants of the car were two brothers, who work as security guard and cab driver in NCR, their spouses and a boy and the girl child of the two couples. The accused separated the brothers and the boy from the three female occupants after waylaying them. .. (Times of India 6/8/16)

Four women raped, modesty of 9 outraged every day in Delhi in 2012-15 (8)

New Delhi: At least four women were raped and modesty of nine outraged every day on an average between 2012 and 2015 in the national capital, according to data compiled by the Delhi Police regarding crimes against women. In these four years, the number of rape cases increased threefold. While altogether 706 cases of rape were registered in 2012, it shot up more than three times to 2199 in 2015. In all, 1636 cases of rape were recorded in 2013 and 2166 the following year. Rape cases jumped nearly six times in the past 15 years, with 381 registered in 2001 and 2199 in 2015, according to the data. Besides, while 727 incidents of assault on women with the intent to outrage their modesty were reported in 2012, the number soared to 3515 in 2013, 4322 in 2014 and 5367 the following year.

Cases of rape registered between January and mid-July in 2015 was 1120, which increased by 66 to 1186 till the middle of July, 2016. Women are not secure even within the confines of their homes as data show constant increase in the dowry cases and cruelty by husband and in-laws.The total number of cases filed against their husbands and in-laws during these four years was 13,984, with a steady rise in such offences. In 2012, a total of 2046 such cases were reported. The number rose to 3045 the next year and 3194 in 2014. In all, 3536 such incidents were recorded in 2015. Between January and middle of July 2015, 1842 cases were registered, while the figure for the corresponding period this year was 2163. Out of total 681 dowry deaths in the four years under review, 134 happened in the year 2012 and 144 the next year. The figure rose to 153 in 2014 and witnessed a slight decline at 122 in 2015. (Deccan Herald 7/8/16)

Three months leave for victims of sexual harassment: Govt (8)

NEW DELHI: Women employees who have complained of sexual harassment can get three months leave during the pendency of inquiry, Union minister Jitendra Singh informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The government does not maintain any centralised data on the number of sexual harassment complaints, he said. Section 12 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provides for grant of leave up to three months to an aggrieved woman employee during the pendency of inquiry in to her case, he said in a written reply.”Such leave may be granted by the employer if a written request from the aggrieved employee duly recommended by the local committee or the internal committee, as the case may be, is received,” said the minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions.To a question seeking details on the number of sexual harassment complaints registered by women employees as on date, the minister said “centralised data is not maintained”. As per the law, sexual harassment includes physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing any pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Besides, implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental treatment in employment; implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; interference with her work, creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment for her; and humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety may also amount to sexual harassment. (Times of India 11/8/16)

RS passes Bill to raise maternity leave to 26 weeks (8)

New Delhi: Cutting across party lines, elders in Rajya Sabha today passed a Bill that provides for 26 weeks maternity leave, even as some members sought norms for paternity leave so that parents can share the responsibility of raising children. The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was moved for consideration and passage by Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, was passed by a voice vote. The measure also seeks to increase maternity benefit from 12 to 26 weeks for two surviving children that would benefit about 1.8 million women in the organised sector. “The very purpose of this Bill is to increase the working women force because in the work force, participation of women is decreasing day by day,” Dattatreya said. He said the law is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.Citing the maternity leave rules prevalent in various countries, Dattatreya said post the enactment of the Bill, India will jump to the third position in terms of the number of weeks (26) for maternity leave, behind Norway (44) and Canada (50). Highlighting that there are more nuclear families now, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said the Bill has its roots in malnutrition, as breastfeeding the child is recommended which is not possible unless the mother is in physical proximity of the child. Moreover, after giving birth, a woman’s body needs to heal over a period of time, she said, adding “it is a very stressful time for the mother, who should be with the child”.Observing that the legislation will go a long way to ensure that the future generations are healthier, Gandhi said the Women and Child Development Ministry had recommended raising maternity leave from 12 weeks to 8 months but it was considered too long for the employer. The Minister said the Government was thinking of introducing direct benefit transfer for women and it was “under consideration”. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her full paid absence from work, to take care for her child. Cabinet had yesterday given ex-post facto approval to the amendments made to the Maternity Benefits Act, that aims to raise maternity leave for women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Sarojini Hembram (BJD) said India unfortunately ranked 127 globally when it came to gender equality and sought paternity leave as well terming it very important. Vandana Chavan (NCP) while supporting the Bill, pointed out that the provision of 50 employees was in conflict with the Factories Act provision that entails mandatory creche facility for establishments having 30 or more women. However, Dattatreya clarified that the provision of 50 employees will be applicable to even those organisations which do not have a single woman employee, highlighting that even a man can bring a child to the office creche. Chavan also sought paternity leave to remove the gender bias prevalent in the society….  (Deccan Herald 11/8/160

Women vulnerable in India’s richest civic body (8)

Mumbai, Aug 16 : With average 29 cases of sexual harassment each year, the women employees of India’s richest and Asia’s biggest civic body — Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai — are a vulnerable lot, a RTI query revealed here on Tuesday. The statistical data provided by the Complaints Committee of Women Sexual Harassment Prevention of ‘Savitribai Phule Women Resource Centre’ has indicated an alarming growth in sexual harassment of women in the civic body, said well-known Mumbai RTI activist Anil Galgali. “Unfortunately, they refused to share the data regarding implementation of the orders passed by these vigilance bodies responsible for stopping sexual harassment, on grounds that the information falls under ‘restricted’ category,” Galgali said. On the RTI query, MCGM Public Information Officer and Administrative Officer Rekha Kale informed Galgali that between 2013 and 2016, a total of 118 sexual harassment complaints were received. Of these, the PIO said 21 were filed in the current year, averaging around three per month till July, Galgali said. From these cases, 96 per cent were listed as ‘cleared’, but four cases registered this year were shown as ‘pending’ in the MCGM records. “However, they did not share information on those cases where the ‘action taken report’ has not been filed on the orders issued by the statutory vigilance groups, or whether those found guilty after inquiry were ever punished or not in all the cases ‘cleared’ since 2013,” Galgali observed. Another fact that came to light was of 16 members on the vigilance committee in force since 2009, eight, including the president and secretary, were related to the medical field. In a letter to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Galgali demanded that the MCGM should name and shame all the officers or staffers who were found guilty in sexual harassment cases investigated by the statutory committee. “Their names must be prominently displayed on the MCGM’s website and on all notice-boards with their photographs. This would act as a strong deterrent for others and fear of public reprisals will reduce future instances,” Galgali told IANS. He further urged that the appointments on the statutory committee should be for a fixed tenure to ensure that vested lobbies do not get to control its functioning and allow utilisation of varied senior officers with experience for its work. (New Kerala 16/8/16)

New law to book cheating husbands mooted (8)

HYDERABAD: The State is initiating steps to come to the rescue of helpless victims of dubious marriages. State Home and Labour Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy said on Tuesday that they will consult the Union Ministry to bring in a legislation that will help bring cheating husbands, who are holed up in a foreign land, to justice. The Minister said that there have been innumerable cases in the State where the husbands took dowry and abandoned or harassed the wife after leaving the country. With pressure on the local police to book the accused, he said that with a law it would be easier to legally punish such persons. The Minister was speaking at a conference on ‘Safe Legal Migration, Overseas Employment and Role of Government Agencies, Diaspora: Telangana’ organised by Tomcom (Telangana Overseas Manpower Company Limited). In his address on the inaugural day, the Minister said that there were 10 lakh migrant workers from Telangana working abroad. He said that some of the unskilled workers were being exploited due to lack of awareness and Tomcom was helping people leave the country to work in a legal manner. He informed that 750 workers, who were selected in job melas held by Dubai based companies in the State, would leave in batches before the end of year. Rajiv Trivedi, Principal Secretary, Home said that the State intended to reduce the outward flow of migrants. With irrigation projects worth thousands of crores and new IT and corporate companies setting shop or expanding base in the city, he said they were confident that there will be a “reverse migration” soon. He said that the State has been successful in stopping children from being trafficked for camel races or minor girls from old city getting married to men from Gulf. The conference was attended by various stakeholders like NRI associations, NGOs, activists and government representatives working on the issues related to migration. Rebecca Tavares, UN Women Representative for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka said that she had heard of many accounts of human rights violations on women migrant workers and there was a need for policies that can protect women. Technical sessions and panel discussions were held on the subject as part of the day-long conference (The Hindu 17/8/16)

Child sex ratio set to fall to a little over 800 girls per 1,000 boys in Uttarakhand: Study (8)

New Delhi: A study conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India has found that child sex ratio i.e number of girls per 1,000 boys is all set to fall drastically to a little over 800 by 2021 census. The report, “The State of Female Foeticide in Uttarakhand” has been presented by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. The sex ratio at birth (SRB) as per the Asian Centre for Human Rights was 861 in 2011-2012 and 867 during 2012-2013 respectively in Uttarakhand. If under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of 48 deaths per 1,000 births in India is taken into account in the context of Uttarakhand, the child sex ratio in the state would have reduced to 813 in 2011-2012 and 819 in 2012-2013. Uttarakhand has the seventh lowest child sex ratio (CSR) in the age group of 0-6 years among 35 States/UTs of India as per the 2011 census with CSR of 890 girls per thousand boys. As per the statement of Health Minister J P Nadda before the Parliament on March 3, 2015, not a single conviction was secured during 2009 to December 2014 under the pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act), 1994 in Uttarakhand. On the implementation of the Nanda Devi Kanya Yojana (NDKY) launched in 2009 and renamed as Hamari Beti Hamara Abhiman (HBHA) in 2014, the report stated that the Uttarakhand government failed to achieve its primary objectives to reduce gender imbalance in child sex ratio, prevent female foeticide and provide social and economic security to the girl child. The scheme itself is designed not to have any impact. The NDKY is extended only to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families while the Above Poverty Line (APL) families who use and can afford sex selective abortion are completely left out. As per the BPL survey conducted by the Uttarakhand government during 2011-2012, there were a total of 6,19,718 BPL families, but as per the state government’s own admission, only 30,830 girls or 4.97% of the BPL families were given benefits under the NDKY in five years from 2009 to 2015. In terms of those born, as per the 2011 census, a total of 2,50,803 females in the age group of 0-2 years or an average of 83,601 girls are born annually in Uttarakhand. If only 30,830 beneficiaries were extended benefits under the NDKY from 2009 to 2015, it implies that 6,166 girls were given benefits annually against the birth of 83,601 girls i.e 7.37% of the girls born annually…  (Business Standard 22/8/2016

AISA expels member booked for raping scholar (8)

The All India Students’ Association (AISA) expelled student activist Anmol Ratan on Monday after a complaint was lodged against him in a case of sexual assault. AISA Delhi State Secretary, Ashutosh Kumar, said that the association would be unflinching when it comes to gender justice, even if it involves a leading member of the organisation. “We stand by the complainant and will extend all possible support in her fight for justice,” said Mr. Kumar. The JNU administration, meanwhile, said that it stood for the dignity of an individual, respect for women, and that it strongly condemned the rape on campus on August 20. The administration said that the incident has shaken the JNU community and tarnished the image of the university. The administration added that appropriate measures would be taken to prevent such incidents in the future. “The JNU community stands with the victim. The administration appeals to students, staff and teachers to remain vigilant against such incidents,” the university said. On Monday, the JNU and Delhi University campuses saw protest rallies being organised against the AISA activist with students burning effigies of the accused. Saket Bahuguna of the ABVP said: “How long will AISA continue to shame JNU and malign its name? Merely distancing itself from the culprit will not do justice with the rape survivor.” He added that AISA should help the police in nabbing Ratan and expose all his wrong-doings. Calling for speedy action, the JNUSU said that it stood by the complainant. It urged students to refrain from enquiring about details or the identity of the complainant. “The responsibility of women’s safety cannot be placed on women alone. It is the responsibility of the society to respect a woman’s integrity, freedom and consent. We have asked the Vice-Chancellor to strengthen and empower the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH),” the JNUSU said. (The Hindu 23/8/126)

Triple talaq violates Article 21, woman tells SC (8)

NEW DELHI: Can an arbitrary and unilateral divorce through triple talaq deprive the wife of her rights in the matrimonial home and custody of her children, a Muslim woman asked in her petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday while challenging the constitutional validity of the process to end a marriage. The court agreed to hear on Friday the writ petition filed by Ishrat Jahan from Howrah through advocate VK Biju, who mentioned it before a bench of Justices AR Dave and L Nageswara Rao. After the court suo motu started examining the effect of triple talaq on Muslim women’s rights, triple talaq victims Shayara Banu and another woman, besides Muslim women organizations, questioned the validity of the personal law practice. Significantly, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) defended triple talaq and said the court had no jurisdiction to decide its validity. In her petition, Ishrat Jahan sought a declaration from the court that Section 2 of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 was unconstitutional as it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (equality), 15 (nondiscrimination), 21 (life) and 25 (religion) of the Constitution “in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq) as a valid form of divorce”. This is the question also raised by Uttarakhand based Shayara Banu and another Muslim woman, and Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh through its president Farah Faiz. Jahan added some critical questions to the main challenge. She said the Constitution, through Article 21 and its interpretation by the SC, guaranteed every citizen a right to life with dignity. Could a woman, divorced through arbitrary and unilateral triple talaq, be thrown out and lose her rights on a matrimonial home, Jahan asked. She said she continued to live in her matrimonial home with grave risk to her life despite her husband divorcing her through triple talaq. ..(Times of India 24/8/16)

Surrogacy bill will not be easy to implement, say women activists (8)

New Delhi, Aug 24 : Women rights activists said on Wednesday that surrogacy regulation bill approved by the Union cabinet was a step in the right direction but surrogacy was a complex issue and implementing the proposed law will be challenging. “Renting a womb has become a commercial exercise and not the way it should be. There is certainly a need for regulation,” said All India Democratic Women’s Association President Subhashini Ali. “In many countries, there is a counselling of people who want surrogacy, saying that the adoption option should also be considered. They are told all the many health hazards also. The person who is a surrogate, her rights have to be protected,” she Ali added. According to Sarojini N.B. from the organisation Sama, who has been closely involved with the issue, implementation of the bill is challenging. “The implementation of law is challenging. The ban (on commercial surrogacy) might push it underground,” she said. Sarojini feels that altruistic surrogacy with relatives can cause further exploitation of women in a patriarchal set-up. “Only ‘altruistic surrogacy’ with close relatives, i.e. within the ‘family’ is going to be allowed. There is enough evidence that shows the exploitative nature of the ‘family’ as an institution where women may be subjected to various kinds of patriarchal pressures, including coercion to act as surrogates. We need to look into it carefully,” she said. The director of the Joint Women’s Programme India and Vice President of the YWCA of India, Jyotsna Chatterjee said: “It’s good that commercial surrogacy has been banned. One of the major things is that it was almost becoming a malice like prostitution.” Raising issues concerning identity, she said, “If an Austrian man from Europe comes, and goes for a surrogate child in Mumbai, what is the nationality of the child? Will he/she be Indian or Austrian?” “Though surrogacy has been very helpful for women who have not been able to have their own children, like everything else it has become a fashion,” Chatterjee said. …  (New Kerala 24/8/16)

Woman burned alive for dowry in Muzaffapur (8)

Patna: A 24-year-old woman, Khushbu Kumari alias Shabnam, was allegedly burned alive by her husband and other family members at Kurhani Tola under Kurhani police station area in Muzaffarpur district on Sunday, around 71km from Patna. Police sources in Muzaffarpur said that the neighbours of Khushbu heard her screams on Sunday morning and spotted flames rising from the house, after which the police were alerted. The woman died by the time neighbours and police arrived to rescue her. “Khushbu’s body was recovered in a completely burned condition,” said Kurhani police station SHO Raman Kumar, adding it was yet not clear if she was burned alive or was strangulated before being set afire. The body has been sent for autopsy to SKMCH, Muzaffarpur, which would shed light on whether she was burned alive.The SHO said the woman’s mother, Anita Devi (50), has lodged a named FIR with the Kurhani police station. She has named Khushbu’s husband Jitendra Kumar Singh (26), brother-in-law Dharmendra Singh (22) and mother-in-law Manju Devi (49). He said Anita has informed police that Khushbu’s in-laws and husband were demanding Rs 5 lakh as dowry from her for the past two years.”She got married in 2012 and the couple had a nine-month-old boy,” the SHO said, adding Jitendra was a farmer. All the three accused escaped from the house after the incident. He said Khushbu was a native of Karpoori Gram village under the Mufassil police station area in Samastipur district. (Times of India 28/8/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

High incidence of child abuse in Telangana (14)

HYDERABAD: The Central Government has recently put out a report that Telangana was almost on par with Andhra Pradesh when it came to violence and sexual abuse against children in 2014 when the States were divided in the middle of the year. The number of cases registered in the States in that year was 1,930 and 2,059 respectively. The Ministry of Women and Child Development said in its report that 3,277 persons were arrested in the 1,930 cases booked in Telangana. An official of Women and Child Welfare Department of Telangana told The Hindu that the spurt in child abuse cases in the State was a result of the menace of child marriages and child labour, both of which were offences under different Central legislations. Telangana was one of the top States in child marriages according to UNICEF. Child labour was also rampant here due to a racket in bringing children from Odisha, Bihar and other States and employing them in petty works for a paltry wage.A woman who was called “amma” (mother) was employed to cook food and provide them accommodation. More startling details about the living condition of children were revealed in `Operation Muskaan’ taken up twice a year to rescue them in coordination with police, the official said. It was found that Hyderabad had become a hunting ground for contractors bringing children from other States for employment. Also, runaways from home due to neglect and incompatible parents were vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence. The official said a camp conducted by UNICEF and an NGO for children at the juvenile home at Saidabad showed that 50 of them tested positive for drug abuse. In their quest for money to buy drugs, they landed in wrong hands. It was one such instance when a Class X pass orphaned boy became victim of sexual abuse by none other than a member of Child Welfare Committee, supposed to be the protector of children, here two months ago. Krishna, the CWC member, had promised to get a seat for the boy in a college and took him home from the State-run accommodation. It was one of those rare incidents when a member of the CWC resorted to the assault. The State Home officials were also found lax in the case as the boy was supposed to be sent under escort which was not done. (The Hindu 1/8/16)

TOI-Unicef drive on child labour (14)

PATNA: The Times of India and Unicef, as a part of their joint campaign against child labour, invite people to be a part of the movement in form of contribution of photographs or stories on child labour.The readers can write/post comment on Facebook on page – actnowstopchildlabour – or blog their views on https://wordpress.com with search key for blog – actnowstopchildlabour. They can also e-mail the pic or story on “stopchildlabourbihar@gmail.com” or WhatsApp on 7546811116. All the platforms will be used as an eye-opener for the various stakeholders of the society to act against child labour issues. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device. (Times of India 2/8/16)

1,077 children died in state tribal schools in 15 years (14)

MUMBAI: As many as 1,077 tribal children below the age of 15 have died between 2001 and 2015 in state-run Adivasi schools, tribal welfare minister Vishnu Savra has said in a written reply before the state assembly. In order to investigate the reasons behind the deaths over the last two years, the state government appointed the former state director of health services, Subhash Salunke. On the basis of his feedback, the state has set up a committee to implement improvements, Savra said. Among the changes that are being implemented are improving drinking water and bathroom facilities in tribal schools. Also, building compound walls and allowing the school’s management to spend up to Rs 1 lakh to improve infrastructure. (Times of India 4/8/16)

Obama, Malala to join child rights crusade in Delhi (14)

NEW DELHI: Delhi may get to see President Barack Obama once more soon. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s war against the government’s apathy to child slavery is getting a global boost. He plans to bring here together, on one platform, Nobel laureates Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi, Malala Yousafzai, Muhammad Yunus, Betty Williams and F W de Klerk to champion the cause. Satyarthi will declare the date soon, which may even be before the US elections get over. The low-key crusader sporting a trademark kurta-pyjama, and salt and pepper beard says, “The idea is to create a voice that governments and UN agencies can’t break with their bureaucratic frameworks. A strong moral force that will push for a holistic policy agenda and on the basis of experience and learning from grassroots, and will question and change policies that are adversely affecting children.” Satyarthi’s organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan has saved more than 82,000 children from exploitation. The conclave will be an ongoing exercise, with each consecutive meeting to be held in a new country. In June 2015, child right organisations gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, where Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi called for freedom for the world’s children from slavery, labour, abuse, trafficking and illiteracy. A recent World Bank study conducted in 50 countries estimated every year of schooling will bring a return of an additional 0.37 per cent GDP growth rate. There are 168 million child workers and 200 million unemployed adults in the world. “It is not a dearth of jobs but illiteracy, poverty and lack of stricter laws that give people the moral confidence to hire children as cheap labour,” says the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Today, 41 per cent of the Indian population is below 18 years of age. “We only spend 4 per cent of our budget on this segment. How can we consider them a dividend if we don’t invest in them?” Satyarthi asks. He had hoped to work hand-in-hand with the government to implement and enforce the new law on child labour. “Laws are merely tools. What we need are hands to work on those tools. And those are the hands of very ordinary people,” says the child rights activist. (The Sunday Standard 7/8/16)

Proposed amendments to Child Labour Act need review (14)

The Child Labour Amendment Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament has some provisions that raise concerns, and questions that are disturbing. The new Bill prohibits children under the age of 14 from working, but the problem is the exception for ‘family businesses’. Children below 14 will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside school hours and during holidays. Children between 15 and 18, now defined as adolescents, will be permitted to work except in mines and industries. It has also drastically reduced the number of hazardous jobs that 15- 18-year-olds are banned from doing from 83 to 3. The Bill seems to have brought in a new concept of ‘part-time student, part-time child labour’ along with part-time teachers. The government says the law will help poor families earn a living and give children a chance to acquire skills. Now, some children will go to school, come back, study, play, learn, relax and otherwise enjoy life. But ‘some other poor children’ must wake up early in the morning, work before going to school, then run to school and come back and work again at home and sleep late in the night? They will have no leisure, no time to play or study, leading to serious short- and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences. These tired, sleepy, unhealthy children may soon drop out from school. Is this joyful learning, quality education, a happy childhood? Will it not perpetuate a labour force of children and adolescents that will be cheap and vulnerable working in cottage and small-scale industries, manufacturing units operating out of residential areas claiming to be family enterprises and the unorganised sector, which can now flourish unregulated as family enterprises and work out of hazardous units. The Census 2011 shows that 33.9 million children are out of school and vulnerable to labour. Around 1.01 crore children in the 5-14 age group earn for their families. They will not be protected under the proposed amended law. Why this discrimination among children? Is it only because he or she is poor? Many poor families send their children to work. Poverty has made parents sell children, send them for begging, and force them into child labour. The very premise that children can work in families is deeply flawed. Making children work is not the solution. There is a need for strengthening their families through dedicated poverty alleviation programmes. How will the government enforce this new law? Which will be the implementing and monitoring agency? Under the current Child Labour Act, 1985, when labour inspectors would visit factories where children were found working, all turned out to be ‘relatives ‘of the factory owner. There were practically no prosecution for any violation of existing laws pertaining to child labour. The owners, in many cases, could not be prosecuted because there were no witnesses. Corruption among government officials charged with enforcement of labour laws is notorious and widespread. Labour inspectors, medical officers, local tehsildars, police and magistrates are known to be susceptible to bribery. This Bill is open to exploitation and abuse of children. ….. (The Hindu 11/8/16)

‘Govt has failed to prioritise child rights’ (14)

Chennai: It is the power of the people that can create a difference in society. Mass movements can initiate policy changes, feels Nobel Peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, who was in the city on Friday for an education summit. It is that idea that forms the core of the global 100 million for 100 million campaign that the child rights activist is planning to launch at the end of this year. “It is important that youth who are hungry to create an impact are given a platform to help the other 100 million victims of violence,” says the 62-year-old, “We have to create mass scale mobilisation and demand so that politicians are forced to take note.” Involved in activities in 50 villages in Karnataka at present, Satyarthi had worked directly and partnered with organisations for rescuing child labourers in Tamil Nadu. “I had worked with organisations to help children in the fireworks, match sticks, leather tanning industries in Sivakasi and Dindigul. I want to revive the programmes that were started more than a decade, and am in talks with some NGOs,” says Satyarthi on his first visit to the city after receiving the Nobel. Though the journey of the activist spans nearly 36 years and has touched the lives of millions of children globally, his first step towards this life began on his first day of school, when he questioned why a young boy was stitching shoes outside his school. He then went on to collect money to buy books for poor children. Talking about the lack of priority to child rights and labour issues in the state Satyarthi said, “According to latest data, Tamil Nadu is one of the three states with the highest number of child trafficking and missing cases. But this is not a problem unique to this state. It shows we as a society and as a government have not been able to prioritise protection and rights of our children. There is a lack of understanding of child rights in society and that reflects in the government too.” His grassroot movement Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) has liberated more than 84,000 children from exploitation. Enhancing budgetary allocation for education of children, eradication of child labour and preventing child trafficking, says Satyarthi, are the most essential steps towards a better environment for children. But two years after receiving the peace prize, the amendments in child labour law have been a letdown for the child rights activist. “The new child labour law has blurred the line between learning skills in the family and working in a family enterprise which is dubious and has opened the scope for exploitation. Another issue is that the law has dropped hazardous occupation from 83 listed before to just three,” explains Satyarthi whose efforts had led to the adoption of International Labour Organization Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour in 1999. (Times of India 13/8/16)

245 child labourers rescued (14)

Chennai: The Labour Department’s policy note tabled in the Assembly said that during the last five years, 245 child labourers have been rescued in Tamil Nadu: while 100 of them have been admitted in special schools, 77 have been handed over to Child Welfare Committees. The remaining 68 have been entrusted to their parents. Under the National Child Labour Project, 18,415 children were mainstreamed from the special schools in the last five years and over 3,700 children benefitted from the cash assistance given by the State government during the last four academic years. (The Hindu 17/8/16)

UP child rights body starts adoption of anganwadis (14)

LUCKNOW: Setting a precedent of sorts, the state commission for protection of child rights, initiated a campaign for adoption of anganwadi centers to engage community in the interest of preschool kids. As a part of the same, five anganwadis in Jawahar Nagar area of the city were adopted by Loreto Convent Alumni Association and CBR foundation.Member, UPSCPCR, Nahid Lari Khan stated that community’s participation can play a crucial role in child development. “The effort aims at transforming aangawadis into playschools, where kids would be provided with learning kits to attract and retain kids so that they may be initiated to education.” The kids were also provided with new mats, schoolbags, tiffin carriers, water bottles to further encourage others to attend classes regularly and increase enrolment. A free health camp was organized by health department to detect disability and deficiencies in children. It also provided for screening of elders for seasonal ailments such as dengue, malaria. (Times of India 17/8/16)

Delhi street children beg to fund porn addiction, say NGOs (14)

New Delhi: Twelve-year-old Raju (name changed) was among the 50 boys Delhi Police picked up from the streets and brought to a de-addiction centre at Delhi Gate to be counselled to lead a normal life. Unlike other boys who are addicted to drugs, Raju is addicted to porn. He is ready to beg or commit crime to watch a short clip, he said. “My friend first got me into the habit. Initially, he used to show me a clip for Rs 10. As I got addicted, he raised the rate to Rs 20, and then to Rs 30 a clip. So I began to beg and pick pockets to fund my habit,” said the boy. The Delhi Police often picks up children begging or thieving on the streets and takes them to shelters, mostly run by NGOs. At the 10-12 prominent children’s shelters in the city, 80% are drug addicts and 10% are addicted to porn, say authorities. In addition, children also stay in shelters for the homeless. So, it is hard to estimate the extent of porn addiction among all children from the streets, counsellors at de-addiction centres said. Most of them are introduced to porn and drugs by their friends, who later abuse them for their gain, say counsellors. “It was one of my friends, who showed me how to do drugs. First, we used to only inhale drugs. Later, we graduated to injections. I had to take three doses a day. To sustain my habit, I used to snatch and steal at railway stations. Now, I am returning to normalcy. I don’t want to do drugs anymore,” said another child at the Delhi Gate shelter. “There have been a few cases recently where children were addicted to porn. The kind of questions they ask can shock anyone. We believe that there is a gang that makes them addicted and then force them into begging. The children are ready to do anything to watch porn,” said Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) executive director, Rajesh Kumar. The group operates de-addiction centres. “Life is not easy on the streets and children earn to watch porn and buy drugs. There is a need to create awareness among them. It is important to take them off street and educate them. Sex education is also necessary,” said NGO Plan India executive director, Bhagyashri Dengle. The NGO runs four children’s shelters in Delhi. SPYM’s Rajesh Kumar said it is difficult to convince parents to send their addicted children to shelters because they are a source of income. “In most cases, the parents are drug addicts themselves, and they send their children to begging as a way of earning,” he said. A Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) survey said 80% children are forced into begging by their parents. (Hindustan Times 22/8/16)

MP children in distress can share ‘mann ki baat’ via postcard with child rights panel (14)

BHOPAL: Children of state can now also share their “mann ki baat” via postcard. Madhya Pradesh Commission for Protection of Child rights has introduced the “Mann ki baat via postcard” programme for children, who face any kind of trouble in their day-to-day lives. They just need to write about their problem on a post card and send it to chairman, Madhya Pradesh commission for protection of child rights (MPCPCR), Raghvendra Sharma. Schoolstudents will be provided postcards with the address of MPCPCR office. Complaint boxes will also be installed in schools where they can drop these post cards.”It all began this Independence Day. The decision has been taken to bring down the stress level in students. Also, in times of depression, children must feel that people are there to support them,” Raghvendra Sharma told TOI. “There has been a spurt in student suicide cases this year. Most of them were depressed and did not get the proper attention and counselling at the right time. We don’t want to lose more precious lives. We hope ‘Mann ki baat’ initiative will help students overcome stress and stand for their rights during tough times,” he added.  MPCPCR will also maintain the confidentiality on request.”If children find writing postcards difficult, they can directly call on my number or our office number for making complaints. Our office number is 0755-2559900,” Sharma said. MPCPCR is also requesting NGOs and schools to help them make the post cards with addresses available to students in different schools. (Times of India 23/8/2016)

Rescue operation brings smile to 18 child labourers (14)

KARIMNAGAR: Odisha police and Child Welfare department along with local police and ICDS officials, under Operation Muskaan, rescued 18 child labourers working at various brick kilns across the district. The rescue operation was carried out between Aug 17 and 24 wherein they raided several hotels, homes and brick kilns. A three-member team led by circle inspector Padma, after receiving information, rescued the minors from brick kilns of Jagtial, Raikal, Malayala, Kothapet, Sultanabad, Karimnagar and Huzurabad. Karimnagar Integrated Child Protection Scheme officer Parveena said the government had formed 12 teams to find the children who went missing from various villages of Odisha. They suspected that the children were working as child labourers in other states. Among 18 rescued children, two were handed over to their respective parents while others were taken to Odisha. District collector and district child protection society chairperson Neetu Prasad said that under Operation Smile Scheme phase-1, about 478 children were rescued and about 1,818 children were rescued from various places across the district under phase-2. (New Indian Express 26/8/2016)

High Court right, RTE can’t go against child: Activists (14)

New Delhi: The high court judgment on Siddharth International School does much more than just direct a school to admit a disabled child. Activists pointed out that the judgment will have a “far-reaching impact”, can help hundreds of kids and serve as a check on governments interpreting the law in a way that goes against children. The court made several important observations regarding “age-appropriate” class, distance and neighbourhood, and right to education for the disabled. It also said the 25% of EWS/DG ( economically weaker section and disadvantaged groups) quota in private schools benefits the 75% of fee-paying kids by making them “more sensitive and humane”. The original order to admit the child was that of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal’s. The school challenged it citing several issues, one of which was discrepancies in Priyanshu’s age documents. However, after deciding that the school does have a vacant EWS/DG seat, HC observed, “Discrepancy in the date of birth…in the present case is due to poverty, ignorance and backwardness of relatives.” The court further cited the RTE Act that no child will be denied admission “for lack of age proof”.”Sections 8(c) and 12 is for the benefit of the child and meant to ensure that he/she gets access to elementary education, despite any technical difficulties,” said the judgment. The school had also argued there is an “upper-age limit” for admission. Activists appreciated the HC judgment. “The court has interpreted the provisions of the RTE Act and it’ll have a far-reaching impact. Its stand on age-appropriate classes is not just for Priyanshu. It has also maintained that you can’t interpret any provision of the RTE in a way that goes against a child. This is binding even on governments,” said lawyer-activist Khagesh Jha. The court has even made it possible for children living in Delhi’s border areas to seek admission in its schools. The private school had argued that the boy stayed in Ghaziabad, faraway from the school, and had no means of commute. The DoE’s field visit “confirmed…there is a nearby and direct road from the house to the…school” and the neighbourhood norms were met.”The government itself denies admission to children living across the border. As per this order, only actual distance will count, not state borders,” said Jha. Priyanshu’s leg got amputated below the knee in an accident; his father died a few months later. His mother works in a factory that manufactures plastic spoons. She earns around Rs 5,000-6,000 a month. Although the court agreed that MACT “had no jurisdiction” to direct the school to admit, it chose to praise the presiding officer “for the empathy and sensitivity displayed.” (Times of India 29/8/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Trump, PM Modi speak same language against Muslims, minorities: Kanhaiya Kumar (7)

Kozhikode: JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on Monday alleged that US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were speaking in one language against “Muslims and other minorities”. “Both are speaking against Muslims. In America, Trump says Muslims and Blacks should go out and in India, Modi’s leadership is also speaking in the same line against the Muslims, Dalits and other minorities”, Kumar, who is also leader of All India Youth Federation (AIYF), said. Speaking at the inaugural function of the three-day National General Council meeting of the AISF here, he alleged “Facist spokespersons of RSS are propagating anti-Mulsim politics.” He also took a swipe at Modi for his comparison of Kerala with Somalia. Kerala being a developed state in education, social and economic sectors and its hospitality attracts people from other states and many parts of the world as well, he said. But Modi had compared such a state to Somalia. “BJP’s national council meeting is going to be held in Kozhikode soon and when Modi comes closer to know about Kerala he will realise what he said was a mistake”, the AIYF leader said. On the campaign against beef eating, he alleged that “without addressing the basic problems faced by the youth, RSS and BJP are punishing people in the name of cow and flaring up communal feelings in order to divide the people.” (Indian Express 1/8/16)

SC: Minorities as much ‘children of soil’ as majority (7)

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the low rate of conviction in 2008 Kandhamal riot cases in Odisha, the Supreme Court cited on Wednesday its four-decade-old judgment that minorities are as much children of the soil as the majority, and held that members of the minority community should not be deprived of their rights to conserve their religion and culture. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit reiterated a 1974 verdict in which the apex court had batted for the rights of minority communities as granted by the Constitution. “The minorities are as much children of the soil as the majority and the approach has been to ensure that nothing should be done, as might deprive the minorities of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, of a consciousness of equality and of the awareness that the conservation of their religion, culture, language and script as also the protection of their educational institutions is a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution,” the bench said while referring to the 1974 verdict.The spiral of communal violence, triggered by the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad member Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, had claimed 39 lives while 232 churches were damaged. According to an NHRC report, the violence spread after Swami’s body was taken through various parts of the district in a procession. While 6,495 people were arrested, only 493 have been convicted and trial is going on in 150 cases. Of the 827 communal violence cases that were registered, chargesheets were filed in 512 cases and 315 cases were closed as police did not find any evidence or offenders could not be detected. The accused were convicted in 78 cases out of 362 cases in which trial was completed, marking the conviction rate at a dismal 21%.Terming the figure of conviction rate in 2008 riot cases as “disturbing”, the bench asked the state government to re-examine all cases and take appropriate steps. (Times of India 4/8/16)

 “National Educational Policy 2016 is anti-minorities” (7)

THOOTHUKUDI: Condemning the “anti-Dalit and anti-minorities features” in the ‘National Educational Policy 2016’ the Coordination Committee of Christian Educational Institutions organised a demonstration near VVD Signal here on Saturday. Speakers at the protest venue said the National Education Policy draft proposed by Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) was an obvious attempt to subvert equity and secularism of India’s pluralistic society and hence it should be redesigned by including outstanding educationists from various sections of the society.They said the Vedic and gurukul systems of education, which were being projected as the “model” for the National Educational Policy, would only lead to ‘varnashrama dharma’ and discrimination of students from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Class and even women students. The segregation of students as ‘meritorious’ and ‘less meritorious’ at the elementary education level would relegate the ‘less meritorious’ to vocational stream and channelize the ‘meritorious’ alone to higher forums of education and this could not be accepted. “It will be another form of perpetuating hereditary labour followed in ‘kula kalvi’ and varnashrama dharma,” the speakers pointed out. Some of the inputs given by the MHRD for the draft National Educational Policy were against the constitutional values of equality, secularism and pluralism. The ethos and content of the policy was reflective of the communal agenda of the BJP Government at the Centre. The preamble and the body of the document was totally silent on the historical contribution by the minority Christian and Muslim communities to the cause of education and healthcare by establishing the first batch of schools and hospitals in India and have contributed a lot to nation building through a stupendous network of institutions offering quality education to students, particularly to deprived pupils, the speakers said.There should be a nationwide discussion before preparing the draft, in which educationists from all sections of the society including religious minorities, Other Backward Communities, SC / ST communities, differently-abled and women, should be included instead of getting it from a couple of bureaucrats, they demanded. Bishop of Thoothukudi RC Diocese Most Rev. Yvon Ambroise inaugurated the demonstration in which teachers from educational institutions being run by the RC and CSI Christians and members of the Muslim organisations and Dalit outfits participated. (The Hindu 7/8/16)

US report on international religious freedom to be released on Wednesday (7)

Washington: The US’ annual official report on international religious freedom will be released on Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson has said. The Congressional-mandated report would describe the status of religious freedom in every country for the year 2015. This is for the first time that the State Department would be commenting on the status of religious freedom in India with a first full year under the Modi government. “The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations, and individuals, and US policies to promote religious freedom around the world,” State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters yesterday. In the absence of Secretary of State John Kerry, the annual report would be released by the Deputy Secretary of State . The US Department of State submits the report in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, Trudeau said. In its last report for the year, the State Department had noted that there had been restrictions on “free expression” on basis of religion in India. “Authorities continued to enforce laws designed to protect “religious sentiments” which, according to observers, at times had the effect of limiting free expression related to “religion,” the report said, adding that some government officials made discriminatory statements against members of religious minorities. “In some cases, local police failed to respond effectively to communal violence, including attacks against religious minorities, although local officials used broad authorities to deploy police and security forces to control outbreaks of religiously motivated violence,” the State Department said. (Indian Express 10/7/16)

‘India’s religious minorities were attacked with impunity in 2015’ (7)

WASHINGTON: Religious minorities in India were repeatedly targeted in 2015 and attackers acted with impunity, said the annual report of the U.S. State Department on International Religious Freedom. The report echoes the findings of U.S. Congress-authorised International Commission on Religious Freedom’s report earlier this year. Violence against Muslims under the guise of “cow protection” finds special mention. “Religiously motivated communal violence, including attacks by Hindus on Muslims due to alleged cow slaughter, led to deadly attacks and public rioting. Hindu nationalists threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians and destroyed their property because of their beliefs and in disputes over the location of churches and mosques,” said the report, released on Wednesday. The report acknowledges a promise by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect the religious rights of all, but also notes that several leaders associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Union Minister Mahesh Sharma and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have made statements to the contrary. “On several occasions, such as at a meeting in February with Christians in New Delhi, Prime Minister Modi publicly stated he would defend religious freedom,” the report said. “Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar remarked, “Muslims can stay in India, but they will have to give up eating beef,” and federal Minister of Tourism Mahesh Sharma called the Dadri killing an “accident” and warned against interpreting the killings as religiously motivated. The report notes that in 2015, in clashes with Sikhs protesting the desecration of their holy book by unknown assailants, police killed two protesters, and 80 others were injured. The State Department report also quotes the findings of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which said that while in the April 2014-March 2015 period, there was reduction in communal violence, it increased later. “In the first six months of 2015, the MHA reported 330 incidents and 51 deaths, an increase over the 252 incidents and 33 deaths recorded over the same period during the previous year,” the report said (The Hindu 11/8/16)

‘Impart lessons on tolerance in schools’ (7)

Mumbai: The BJP-led government’s latest move to incorporate lessons on “tolerance and democratic society” in school textbooks is likely to stir a hornets’ nest in the state. The government has issued several instructions to the School Education Department (SED) as part of its initiative to “win trust and create peaceful environment” among the minority communities. Imparting lessons on tolerance and democracy are part of them. Parties like Samajwadi Party are already up in arms against the government over the issue, terming the move as an attempt to label Muslims. The government resolution issue has recently asked the SED to implement special measures, which include adding in textbooks lessons enabling students to learn the “true teachings” of all religions and inculcate values of democracy and tolerance. The policy also emphasises on promotion of Marathi language among the minority students. “The Urdu-medium students lag behind in Marathi language, which leads to an inferiority complex among them. To prevent this, Marathi needs to be established in Urdu-medium schools. Besides, a special programme should also be implemented to encourage Urdu-medium students to learn Marathi,” cites the policy. According to the state data, about 70 per cent minorities, especially Muslims, live in urban areas, mostly slums. The state government has directed the officials of the urban development department to improve these settlements. However, the Samajwadi Party has strongly protested the state government’s plans advocating all-religion teachings for minority students. SP leader Abu Asim Azmi said, “Why only minority students? Why is it not being implemented for students from majority communities? It is a matter of personal choice. In case somebody is interested to learn the language, it’s fine. But education on all religions should not be made mandatory. Instead the state government should think of providing modern education to students.” (Asian Age 11/8/16)

Atrocities on Dalits, minorities, women shameful, says CM (7)

BENGALURU: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday termed as “shameful” the recent incidents of atrocities on Dalits, minorities and women in the country, and said they have made every “right-thinking Indian hang his head in shame and question the very existence of civilized society”. Delivering his Independence Day speech at Field Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground here after unfurling the national flag, he said: “The time has indeed come when we need to launch a movement akin to the freedom struggle to fight against these divisive forces.” He said a nation was best built with love, mutual cooperation and amity, and not mutual hatred and ill will.“We need to sustain our efforts to remove poverty, illiteracy, superstitions, casteism, and communalism which are plaguing our onward march towards progress and prosperity,” Mr. Siddaramaiah said. Patriotism, in its truest sense, was respecting the freedom of others to follow the practises of their choice. He said “the concept of freedom was neither shallow nor narrow, and it was not merely limited to any particular field, let alone politics.” Stating that the result of his government’s sincere efforts in the last three years was before the people to see, the Chief Minister said it was a matter of “immense pride” that through the four budgets presented, his government had been able to fulfil nearly three-fourths of the promises made by the Congress in its election manifesto. Noting that his government is farmer-friendly, he said: “the successive drought conditions during the last five years have left our farmers in severe distress.”Mr. Siddaramaiah said proposals of providing one more kg of rice to beneficiaries under the Anna Bhagya scheme and a kg of tur dal under concessional rate to the BPL families are under “active consideration of the government”. The government proposed to build memorials at a cost of Rs. 3 crore in the honour of eminent Dalit personalities such as B. Rachaiah, N. Rachaiah and B. Basavalingappa. It has been envisaged to make AYUSH Department more people friendly, he said, adding that a 100-bed hi-tech panchakarma hospital and a 100-bed nature cure and yoga hospital would be set up in Mysuru city. It was also decided to set up 50-bed hospitals in Mangaluru, Gadag, Chickballapur, and Davanagere, he said. (The Hindu 16/8/16)

Judicial power given to state minorities panel (7)

MANGALURU: The state government has conferred judicial powers to Karnataka State Minorities Commission, chairperson Bilkis Banu said. While other commissions set up by the state government already had such powers, the Karnataka State Minorities Commission was not one among them. This confers the commission with civil powers including the right to issue summons, she said. Interacting with reporters, Bilkis said the commission is aware of the issue faced by schools run by minorities in obtaining recognition certificate. If 25% of students studying in such institutions are children from minority community, those schools will get recognition as an educational institution with minority status, she said. This rule has been brought in place to provide education to children from minority communities. Referring to the recent instance of a Hindu vigilante group creating ruckus in a school on the pretext that Arabic was being taught there, Bilkis said she visited the school in Bondanthila. The students were being taught Arabic, German and other foreign languages to equip them with new skills. Bilkis said the commission will take appropriate action after obtaining reports from the city police commissioner. (Times of India 18/8/16)

Centre committed to development of minorities: Naqvi (7)

Vadodara, Aug 21 (PTI) Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi expressed concern over the poor financial status of minorities in the country, saying the Centres initiative Mission Empowerment is working towards the development of minorities, focusing on employment and education. Naqvi, the Minister of State for Minority Affairs, told reporters at Harni Airport here last evening that it is sad that over 50 per cent of minorities are living below the poverty line, but the Centre is committed to the development of every section of society. “Our Mission Empowerment (initiative) is focused on development of minority communities in all states. I have been discussing with the state governments on issues and implementation of minority welfare programmes…be it employment, education infrastructure, and scholarships,” he said. “We are against any negative agenda. We are for good governance only. We will not allow anyone to dent our agenda,” he said. Naqvi had made a halt at Harni airport before visiting Nadiad in Kheda district last evening where he addressed a gathering. (India Today 21/8/16)

Intellectuals must unite against intolerance: Nitish Kumar (7)

New Delhi: TARGETING THE BJP and RSS, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Tuesday that those who “never had faith in the Tricolour” are now taking out tiranga yatras. Praising the “award wapsi” campaign, he appealed to intellectuals to unite against “the current climate of intolerance” and work together on an “alternative narrative” to counter the Sangh Parivar ideology. “I feel good that those who never accepted the Tricolour, those who never had faith in the Tricolour that it was the national flag, are now taking out tiranga yatras,” said Nitish. He was speaking at the release of a book, Hum Bheed Hain, by late author Professor Raghuvansh. Sharing the stage with him was writer Ashok Vajpeyi, who was among those who returned the Sahitya Akademi Award last year to protest against rising intolerance.Addressing Vajpeyi, Nitish said, “You launched a big campaign against intolerance… the campaign should not stop… The issue of intolerance raised by you still exists.” “In the kind of situation that exists today, you will have to bring an alternative ideology. An alternative narrative will have to be created. Merely releasing books and recalling views of socialist authors like Raghuvanshji will not suffice,” he said. “In the current climate of intolerance, authors and intellectuals cannot confine themselves to just holding the pen. Majority of the people are not in agreement with what is going on today, but that voice of dissent is not being expressed prominently. People from all walks in life who believe in an alternative narrative will have to work together,” he said. Seeking to widen his footprint beyond Bihar, Nitish plans to attend such “conferences of intellectuals” across the country to counter the alleged attempts to “saffronise” the academia and educational institutions. “It’s not that what is happening today cannot be brought to an end. Some people used to think the same thing during Emergency. That time too, some felt that it would never end… We will have to fight… show solidarity,” said Nitish. Recalling how the Samajwadi movement “fell apart” due to “individual egos”, he said “those who claim to believe in socialism are a divided lot”. He stressed the need for socialist forces to unite. Amid the ongoing debate on cow vigilantism, Nitish said, “A campaign was launched as if they alone will protect cows while all others will get them killed… An attempt to create a certain atmosphere is being made.” He said people would have to unite against “this era of ‘prachar tantra’ (propaganda)”. Editor-author Om Thanvi was also present on the occasion. (The Indian Express 24/8/16)

Minorities panel slams Bombay HC verdict (7)

HYDERABAD: On a day the Bombay high court lifted a ban imposed on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, chairman of the minorities commission Abid Rasool Khan on Monday said that this matter was not up to the courts to decide as the religious scriptures are more than specific on this matter. “Its more of religious obligation where something has been told that it should not be done; after that it’s the choice of the person to do it and face Allah on the day of judgement,” Khan said. Speaking in the context of a significant judgement, Khan maintained that Islam says it is not desirable for women to visit graveyard but stressed that there is no ban as such. “The Quran is more than specific on this matter. However, we have never barred any woman from entering the graves or shrines. But there must be certain decorum that they must maintain, during their visit,” he told TOI. He further added that there was no need for any judicial intervention as the religious scriptures have been more than clear on the do’s and dont’s of visiting such places. “If women still want to go and do it, then it’s their choice and they should be allowed to do it. We should not stop them from doing so,” Khan said. He saw women being allowed to go into the sanctum sanctorum of dargah as also being part of “evolutionary” process, noting that earlier it was desirable that women should not go to mosque to pray.”But later on, women are going to mosques and praying along with men in separate sections, including most of the mosques in Hyderabad and Saudi Arabia. So, this is evolution and how mankind changes evolutionary things”.”Women were earlier only at home and never used to go out, but today they are coming out and want to go to dargah, so let them go and pray,” he said. But Khan stressed that when women go to dargah, where a pious and revered saint is buried, they should maintain decorum and dignity. … (Times of India 27/8/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Call for Muslims and Dalits to unite (7)

Kozhikode: Scholar Badri Narayanan has called upon the Dalits and Muslims of the country to put up a unified front against Hindutva elements which were trying to appropriate the Dalit space. Delivering a talk on ‘Dalit movements and Hindutva agenda’ jointly organised by the Keluettan Padhana Kendram and the Secular Collective in Kozhikode on Tuesday, Mr. Narayanan, professor of social sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, said Hindutva outfits had been trying to placate the Dalits of the country over the last few decades. These groups had ignored the Dalits in 1950s and ’60s and had concentrated on bringing the tribespeople into the Hindutva fold. The Dalits, who were not allowed their voting rights earlier, began to develop as a vote bank in the ’70s when they stood with the Congress. In the ’80s, the Hindutva groups started making concerted efforts to get Dalit votes through regional strategies. The Hindutva concept of Ramarajya was different from the Gandhian concept of the same and involved anti-Muslim sentiments, Prof. Narayanan said. (The Hindu 3/8/16)

Show the world that Islam is a religion of peace, Muslims told (7)

MANGALURU: Minister for Haj and Urban Development R. Roshan Baig said here on Wednesday that Muslims should show the world that “Islam is really a religion of peace”.Addressing a gathering at the Haj camp at the old terminal building of the Mangaluru International Airport, the Minister said that “terrorism is a disease” and Islam does not preach violence. Those Muslims who indulge in terrorist activities and violence do not belong to Islam, he said. He asked Haj pilgrims to pray for peace in society, particularly the coastal districts of the State prone to communal trouble. “Pray for peace in the State and country,” he said. The Minister said that Haj pilgrims from India are less subjected to security checks at Madina than their counterparts in Pakistan. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

Muslim families threaten migration from Agra (7)

AGRA: In contrast to BJP claims about Hindus migrating from several areas of UP, including Agra, due to pressures from members of minority community, a group of Muslim residents from Itimad-Ud-Daulah area on Monday put up posters of “house for sale” outside their residences, accusing SP backed land grabbers of pressuring them to sell their properties. Accusing the administration and the police of doing nothing to prevent the land grabbers from harassing them, the residents claimed that several people had already moved out of Itimad-Ud-Daulah and many more would follow. The residents, who carried posters demanding action against local cops, alleged that a group of land grabbers, patronised by ruling SP leaders, had been pressuring them to sell their properties and harassing them continuously for the same. “When we refuse to sell, they adopt all sorts of terrorising tactics, including threatening to take our lives,” they alleged. A resident told TOI on condition of anonymity that the land grabbers were also trying to forcibly take possession of an empty piece of land, which for decades was being used by them, adding the miscreants were backed by a relative of a powerful UP minister. Dubbing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as “anti-minorities”, the residents said the government was doing nothing for them. When contacted, SSP Preetinder Singh said he has no knowledge about the migration, but admitted that there was some tension in the area because of long standing property dispute. “This is not a communal issue,” said Singh, adding that they were trying to resolve it amicably. (Times of India 8/8/16)

Muslim organisations demand complete ban on beef exports from India (7)

NEW DELHI: Condemning attacks by cow vigilantes, minority organisation Ittehad-e-Millat Council (IMC) arranged a seminar to highlight the problems and demanded a complete ban on beef export from India and stop illegal slaughter to curb cruelty against cattle. They also sought to clarify that “beef” which is associated with cow was being incorrectly used to define export of buffalo meat and hence the government also needs to bring in clarity on the matter to prevent misuse of the word. The demands, put out in a memorandum addressed to Union home minister Rajnath Singh, were endorsed by representatives from Muslim and dalit communities at a packed Mavlankar Hall in Constitution Club. It was also announced that if these demands were not met by the government, the protesters will take their agitation to the streets and Ramlila Grounds. “We would like to express our apprehensions with respect to the atrocities, suppression and discrimination meted out to the Muslim minority, on the pretext of cow protection, beef eating, terrorism, national security, etc. Since the death of a man beaten to death after being accused of eating beef last September in Dadri, vigilante groups of cow protectors have flourished,” said a statement released by the IMC. “After a long silence, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finally joined the fray, condemning attacks by Hindu cow protection squads and vowing to investigate those engaged in violence,” the statement said. “There have been several instances of religious violence against Muslims in recent past, frequently in the form of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs that form a pattern of sporadic sectarian violence between Hindu and Muslim communities,” it further added.IMC has demanded that “the slaughter of cows and calves should be strictly banned in India. The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgement upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by different state governments in India. 24 out of 29 states in India currently have various regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or sale of cows. Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim are the states where there are no restrictions on cow slaughter.” It is further pointed that “many illegal slaughter houses operate in large cities such as Chennai and Mumbai. There are more than 30,000 illegal slaughter houses in India and efforts to close them down have so far been largely unsuccessful. Government of India should bring a legislation to completely ban the slaughter of cows and calves. Muslims are not interested in eating beef.” Speaking on the occasion, Congress MP Digvijay Singh attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointing out that “sabka saath sabka vikas” was a farce and went on to cite the response of the government to the Dadri case. Joining the chorus for ban on beef export he also demanded the use of the word “beef” for buffalo meat must be stopped and the definition made clear to prevent misunderstanding and abuse of the word by vested interest. (Times of India 11/8/16)

Owaisi dares other parties to debate on condition of Muslims (7)

Lucknow, Aug 13 () All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi today challenged other political parties to debate on the condition of Muslims in the country and the allegations levelled against him. Addressing party workers here, he claimed since Independence, the condition of Muslims in the country has gone from bad to worse and none of the other political parties, including the Congress, has ever bothered to address the issue. “SP, BSP, Congress and BJP leaders call me communal and accuse me of giving inflammatory speeches. Do flowers shower from the statements of their leaders?” he asked. “I challenge all the other parties to debate on the condition of Muslims in the country and the allegations levelled against me,” said Owaisi. The MP from Hyderabad claimed that the contribution of Muslims in India’s freedom struggle and that ‘maulanas’ had issued ‘fatwas’ against the British were “not mentioned” anywhere by historians. He also claimed that Muslims in India have trusted “everyone” but got nothing except “backwardness” in return and called leaders from the community representing other political parties such as Azam Khan of the SP, Naseemuddin Siddiqui of the BSP and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress “Muslim dealers”.Accusing the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh of “spreading casteism”, he said “Yadavwaad”, instead of “samajwad” (socialism) had taken root in the state. Taking a jibe at Azam Khan, Owaisi said that the UP minister’s buffalo was not stolen but it “ran away” after being “harassed”.He said following Azam’s footsteps, a BJP MP has now lodged a complaint alleging that his dog ‘Kallu’ has been stolen. “Politics in Uttar Pradesh is now revolving around a buffalo and Kallu,” said Owaisi. In a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently taking a tough stance on hooliganism in the name of cow protection, the AIMIM chief said, “I have told (Union Home Minister) Rajnath Singh that all the so-called cow vigilantes actually belonged to his party.” (Times of India 14/8/16)

Persecuted Muslim families get new homes in UP (7)

Kandhla (Uttar Pradesh): A hundred houses festooned with colourful bulbs lit up at once, shattering the darkness, literal and real. Children broke into joyous rapture that is heard over the strident din of the generator used to power the bulbs. It was a spectacle the kids had not seen in three years, ever since a murderous mob drove them all out of their homes in a nearby village. Subey Deen, 40, standing a few metres away from his new house, looked delighted. It was a far cry from that dark night of September 2013 when he and his family as well as hundreds of others were holed up in the house of a neighbour, an influential Jat, in Hasanpur village. Outside, a frenzied crowd with firearms, blinded by communal passions and seething with rage, waited to wipe off the entire Muslim population of the village. Thanks to the army which intervened, all of them escaped. Subey Deen shuddered over the past and quickly turned his gaze towards the lighted bulbs at his new home, one of the few which is bigger than others because he and his brothers pooled their resources. “Sanstha ki madad ke bina ye ghar banana mushkil hota,” (It would have been difficult to build this house without the NGOs’ help),” Subey Deen told IANS. He saw the house being built brick by brick with the help of some social activists and NGOs, primarily Sadbhavna Trust (Lucknow), Hunnarshala Foundation (Kutch) and Vanangana (Chitrakoot in UP). Most affected families of Hasanpur, more than a hundred of them, decided to live at one place after the relief camp at Jaula village in Shamli was wound up. Of the 136 families, 121 got financial compensation from the Uttar Pradesh government. Having spent a full year in the relief camp without work, and with a part of the compensation (Rs 5 lakh per family) gone into keeping themselves alive, the affected villagers had just enough to buy about 100 sq yards here at the rate of Rs 2,000-2,500 per sq yard. ….. (Business Standard 15/8/16)

Ten years since Sachar report, Muslims still 3 per cent in IAS, IPS (7)

Mumbai: Among its various recommendation for the welfare of Muslims, the Sachar Committee had stressed the need for increasing the share of Muslims in IAS and IPS. Ten years on, the share of Muslims among IAS officers has risen marginally while that among IPS officers has fallen. The Sachar Committee report submitted in November 2006 had shown that in IPS, there were 128 Muslims, or 4 per cent, among the 3,209 officers serving then. As of January 2016, there are 120 Muslim officers, or 3.19 per cent of the 3,754 serving IPS officers. An individual is absorbed into the Union civil services cadre in either of two ways: by clearing UPSC or by being promoted from the state civil service. What has dropped significantly is the share of Muslims among IPS officers who have been promoted to IPS from the state cadre. Seven per cent in 2006, this had fallen to 3.82 per cent in January 2016. Out of 912 officers promoted to IPS from the state cadre, the Sachar report listed 65 Muslims. In 2016, there were 44 Muslims among the 1,150 IPS promotees. Among IPS officers who took the UPSC route, the share of Muslims has risen. At the time of the Sachar report, there were 63 Muslim officers who made up 2.7 per cent of the 2,297 directly recruited IPS officers. That share is now 2.91 per cent, with 76 Muslims among the 2,604 directly recruited officers. sachar-graphThe share of Muslims in IAS, meanwhile, has improved slightly, from 3 per cent at the time of the Sachar report to 3.32 per cent as of January 2016— 164 Muslims in a total of 4,926 serving IAS officers. Of these, 96 are direct recruits, or 2.7 per cent of the 3,511 Indians who cracked UPSC. This share was 2.3 per cent of 2006. “The share of Muslims, who make up over 14 per cent of the population, in administrative services is very poor,” said Dr Amitabh Kundu who headed the post-Sachar evaluation committee. “A truer test of the disparity would be to see the total number of people who are applying for these posts. Our estimates suggest that the number [Muslims among all applicants] is in the region of 8 per cent.” Of the 172 Muslim direct recruits to the two services, 48 are from UP, which is followed by Bihar with 34 and J&K with 22. (Indian Express 18/8/16)

Tension during rally to Islamic conversion centre (7)

MALAPPURAM: A major possible clash between Hindu Aikya Vedi and the Popular Front was averted thanks to the timely intervention of the district police, in Manjeri, near here, on Saturday. The police registered cases against nearly 100 persons from each side when the Popular Front, numbering nearly 5,000, challenged the Hindu Aikya Vedi march taken out to an Islamic conversion centre in Manjeri. Divulging the details, the police said that the Aikya Vedi took out the procession about 9 am from the court premises only to be challenged by the activists of the Popular Front from the opposite direction. Vehicular traffic was also thrown out of gear for more than three hours as the two organisations took positions on the sides of the road, exchanging slogans in highly heated moments. The police added that the two groups were all set to confront in the middle of the city when they came close to each other and traded charges. A sub-collector, four DySPs, 10 CIs and a company of Malabar Special Police were in place as a preventive measure in Manjeri. “Had the police force not there, it would have been a real law and order issue,” said district police chief Debesh Kumar Behra. BJP leader Kumman Rajasekharan, accusing the conversion centre of undermining the communal harmony, led the protest to Sathya Sarani conversion centre, but was intercepted half way by a heavy posse of police personnel. “It is an illegal conversion centre. They are disrupting communal harmony by converting people to Islam. We cannot allow this to happen. This march is to register our protest against this,” alleged Hindu Aikya Vedi leaders. The Popular Front leaders, meanwhile, accused that Aikya Vedi was attempting to deliberately tarnish a centre which was running peacefully. They added it was the Aikya Vedi which was a real threat to religious harmony. (New Indian Express 21/8/16)

Triple talaq effect? 5 in 1,000 Muslim women divorced (7)

Divorce and separation rates are higher among Christians and Buddhists, and lowest among Jains, according to freshly released Census 2011 data. Although separation rates are higher for Hindus than Muslims, divorce is more prevalant among the latter. The share of those who have lost a spouse to death is the highest among Buddhists, followed by Christians. Widowhood rates are much higher among Hindus and Sikhs than Muslims. A complex web of religious and social factors is responsible for these trends, which are similar to those discovered in the previous Census. Although divorce is legally allowed for Hindus, it may still carry social stigma. This could be the reason why the separation rate for Hindus was 5.5 per thousand married people, while the divorce rate was pegged at just 1.8 per thousand. Separation includes wives abandoned by husbands. Among Muslims, it seems the triple talaq provision pushed up the share of female divorcees to five per thousand, against 2-3 per thousand for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. However, Christians and Buddhists have similar rates of women divorcees. The rate of widowhood is directly linked to the well known demographic fact that women live longer than men. This results in two to three times the number of widows compared to widowers across all communities. Another factor at work is life expectancy. Muslims have the lowest average life expectancy of all communities and this results in the least number of widowed people, at about 73 per thousand married persons. Among Hindus and Sikhs, the share is about 88 per thousand, while it is higher for Christians (97) and Buddhists (100).An interesting dimension of the marital status details released by the Census relates to never-married persons across different communities. Among those who have attained the marriageable age, that is, 21 years for men and 18 years for women, Hindus have the lowest share, at 16% unmarried men and just 10% unmarried women. This indicates a very high drive towards early marriage, with many tying the knot before attaining the legal marriage age. Christians have the highest rate of unmarried persons of marriageable age, at 21% among men and 18% among women. But across all communities, a smaller share of women are still unmarried after the legal age than men, indicating the relentless pressure on women to get married. (Times of India 24/8/16)

SC entertains another petition on triple talaq (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court entertained yet another Muslim woman’s petition challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq mode of divorce but refused to pass any interim order on her questions relating to her rights over her children and the matrimonial home after divorce. Appearing for Howrah-based Ishrat Jahan, advocate V K Biju said his client was in a pitiable condition as her husband, working in Dubai, uttered triple talaq to her over phone immediately after marrying for a second time.A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said since the court was already hearing a bunch of petitions questioning the validity of triple talaq, it would issue a notice on Jahan’s plea and tag it with the pending petitions for elaborate hearing later. W hen Biju stressed on second marriage of his client’s husband, the bench said, “As long as Muslim personal law permits, men in the community can contract up to four marriages.” In her petition, Jahan asked whether arbitrary and unilateral divorce through triple talaq could deprive the wife of her rights over the matrimonial home and custody of her children. But the court refused to pass any interim order on these issues, including protecting her children who have been allegedly taken away by her husband.Jahan sought a declaration from the court that Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 was unconstitutional as it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (equality), 15 (non-discrimination), 21 (life) and 25 (religion) of the Constitution. This question was also raised by Uttarakhand-based Shayara Banu, Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh through its president Farah Faiz and another muslim woman. Jahan has added some critical questions to the main challenge. (Times of India 27/8/16)

Body to appeal Surya Namaskar decision (7)

Mumbai: A prominent organisation working for the welfare of Muslims is all set to approach the Bombay high court against BMC’s decision to make Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation) compulsory in all municipal schools. The Jamiat-e-Ulema, Maharashtra’s contention is that the civic body’s decision allegedly violates fundamental rights of Muslim citizens enshrined in the Indian Constitution. “We are challenging the BMC’s decision of making Surya Namaskar compulsory in civic-run schools on grounds that it violates the fundamental rights of Muslims provided under the Constitution of India,” said Advocate Tahwar Khan Pathan, appointed by the body to file the petition. He added that Surya Namaskar is against Islam and is part and parcel of yoga which requires spiritual and physical bowing before the sun for bhakti (devotion) and the one performing it requires to recite shlokas (prayers) and hence, a Muslim cannot perform it. Advocate Pathan said that the decision is in violation of Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) of the Constitution of India and hence, they would raise this issue in court. Hafiz Nadeem Siddiqui, president of the Jamiat-e-Ulema, Maharashtra, said, “Today, everybody is aware of the condition in which BMC schools are working and due to which, the number of students is reducing in these schools. There is a lot of constructive work that requires the attention of BMC officials but instead of concentrating on these important aspects to improve the condition of municipal schools, officials are more interested in politics and in forcing controversial decisions on students.” Mr Siddiqui also said that the Jamiat had filed a similar petition in the Madhya Pradesh high court challenging the same issue and the government had filed an affidavit in the MP high court that they would not compel any student to perform Surya Namaskar. “We are hopeful of getting justice from the Bombay high court too,” he said. (Asian Age 30/8/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Church demolition triggers protest (7)

Vijayawada: Tension prevailed at Tarapet in the city on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday when the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) authorities faced resistance from the clergy and laymen for demolishing a portion of the Roman Catholic church St. Peter’s Cathedral as part of the road-widening project. The church was built more than 100 years ago. Hundreds of Catholics, supported by opposition parties, staged a protest at the church on Monday morning even as VMC staff returned to the site to complete the demolition process. They wondered why the VMC failed to serve a notice on church authorities before embarking on pulling down the structure. Sources said VMC officials and workers came with earth-movers and demolished a wall and a complex adjacent to the church. The Catholic fraternity opposed the move arguing that the alignment of the road should have been changed as the religious structure, which was built some time in the middle of the 19th Century, has a historical significance. “Taking the shrine’s history and prominence into consideration, VMC officials should leave the structure untouched. They carried out the demolition without informing the church authorities or serving a notice,” said Samuel, a member of the church. Locals, led by YSRCP corporators Shaik Asif and Bolla Vijay Kumar, demanded an explanation from the VMC for taking up the exercise without informing the church authorities. The church management alleged that the officials have insulted Catholics by damaging some idols at the Cathedral during the demolition work. The police later took a few agitators into custody and released them later. A police picket has been arranged at the place. (Times of India   2/8/16)

SC orders additional compensation to Kandhamal violence victims (7)

New Delhi, Aug 2 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered additional compensation to the victims of 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district in Odisha. The bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit ordered additional compensation, holding that what was paid to the victims of the violence was not adequate. The court verdict pronounced by Justice Lalit came on a petition by Archbishop Rachel Cheenath. (New Kerala 3/8/16)

Communal violence deprive minorities of their sense of belonging: SC (7)

NEW DELHI: Religious minorities are “as much children of the soil as the majority” and nothing should be done by the majority community to deprive them of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, the Supreme Court observed in a judgment condemning repeated incidents of communal violence targeting minority communities. A Bench of Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and U.U. Lalit said the State’s actions should never cause minorities to fear the extinguishment of their “consciousness of equality.” The measure of civilisation prevalent in a nation is the extent to which its Minorities feel secure and are not subject to discrimination or suppression, the apex court held in a judgment directing the re-investigation of 315 cases of communal violence against Christians in the 2008 Kandhamal riots in Odisha. Over 230 Christian religious establishments and 39 people were killed in the riots. The State Police arrested 6495 persons and registered 827 cases of communal violence. However, chargesheets were filed in only 512 cases. The police concluded that no offence or offender could be detected in the remaining 315 cases. The apex court expressed its chagrin at the snail-paced delivery of justice to the victims even though eight years have passed since the violence. “Trials have been completed only in 362 which resulted in conviction in 78 cases while 284 cases ended in acquittal and only 15 appeals have been filed,” it noted. But it refused to order a CBI probe. In a judgment authored by Justice Lalit for the Bench, the apex court pointed to the case of the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh to hold that both the Centre and the State where the communal violence occurred were obliged to shell out additional compensation to be paid to the victims. “Incidents of communal violence had occurred in and around Muzaffarnagar in the year 2013 and that the State itself had decided to pay compensation… We have considered the scales at which compensation has been granted and disbursed in the present matter. In our view the ends of justice would be met if the State Government and the Central Government are directed to pay additional compensations,” the apex court observed. The judgment is the last in a series of orders passed by the Supreme Court since 2008 on a batch of petitions filed by several persons, including Arch Bishop Raphael Cheenath, highlighting the failure on part of State of Odisha to protect innocent people whose human rights were violated after the unfortunate assassination of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and some others on August 23, 2008 by Maoists. The apex court orders over the past years spans a variety of issues which followed the violence, including proper and adequate facilities in refugee camps, steps to prevent communal violence, to provide adequate compensation to the victims of communal violence, to order institution of a Commission of Inquiry, etc. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

VHP: Demolish 52 K’mal churches on Govt land (26)

Bhubaneswar: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Thursday accused the Christian missionaries of “forcing” Dalits to convert in Kandhamal district. The VHP Odisha unit demanded that the State Government implement the direction of the High Court to demolish the 52 churches that have allegedly encroached Government land in Kotagada tehsil of Kandhamal district. It too urged converted Christians of the district to come back to the main stream of the Hindutva. Addressing a Press conference here, VHP Odisha working president Dr Badrinath Pattnaik said while the State administration demolished many temples on Government land as per the Orissa High Court order, it is yet to demolish churches erected of Government land in Kandhamal district. “A VHP activist had filed a writ petition at the High Court seeking demolition of churches constructed on Government land, and the HC directed to evict all encroached Government land in Kotagargh tehasil of Kandhamal district in February 2016. It is disappointing that the State Government is yet to evict the encroachments,” said Pattnaik. “We demand that all 52 churhes constructed on Government land be demolished soon as per the High Court order,” said Patnaik. Among others, State VHP leader Arun Kumar Upadhaya, Prafulla Chandra Mishra and Pramod Kumar Das were present. (The Pioneer 5/8/16)

Catholic Church official concerned over new tax bill (7)

New Delhi: Church officials have expressed concern over India passing a new law to unify its tax system, saying they want it to be implemented without burdening the millions of poor in the county.

“Most reforms consider the rich and mostly are in their favor. The needs and concerns of the poor are not considered. That is the concern,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The Upper House of Indian Parliament on Aug. 3 passed the Goods and Services Tax Bill after political parties and state governments agreed on its terms in wide discussions and debates in parliament and outside for over eight years. The law, which aims to implement a comprehensive tax on goods and services, replaces separate taxes levied by the federal and state governments. The law facilitates a single common national market and needed a constitutional amendment to pass in parliament. Bishop Mascarenhas told ucanews.com that church leaders are concerned as to “what taxes will continue and what will merge” after the bill is implemented. Experts in the government claim the new bill will make commodities cheaper but “we don’t believe that unless we see it on the ground level” the bishop said. “We don’t believe in any political party as far as public money is concerned,” he said adding, “our main concern is that the poor may not suffer” because of this bill. Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi said in a statement he is “seriously concerned about its implementation and its consequences on the poor sections of the society.” Media discussions say the bill will help industry and exports besides helping the government widen its tax network and simplify the tax payment process and documentation. Government data shows only 1 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people pay income tax to the government, while everyone including the poorest, who buy essential commodities, are paying tax some times up to 20 percent. Experts agree that while a unified tax is a common phenomenon in most developed countries, they are unsure how it will play out in the market of India, where 180 million people live in poverty, not having even one full meal a day. Archbishop Couto said he wants the “government not to burden the poor with additional taxes and to work out strategies and policies to make essential commodities affordable to the poor.” Jesuit Father Denzil Fernandes, executive director of Indian Social Institute said “the impact of the bill will be more on the poor than the rich because commodities that are cheap for the rich, is not what poor buy.” He said that bill is said to make products like automobile and restaurant food cheaper, which are not the concern of the poor. Hence “the bill is more pro-rich than the poor,” he said. The bill has to pass a few more steps to become a law. It must be passed in the Lower House and then must be ratified by more than half of the 29 states in the country. When that is done, it has to be signed by the Indian president to become law. However, these steps are seen as mere formalities as the critical issues such as tax rates have already been debated and agreed upon. (Ucan India 8/8/16)

Christians observe ‘black day’ (7)

CHENNAI: Catholics and Church of South India members observed Wednesday as a black day to mark the Constitution Order that said that only Hindus can be Scheduled Castes. The order was amended in 1956 and 1990 to include Sikhs and Buddhists respectively. At an event on the Santhome church premises, leaders of both Catholics and the CSI called for the repeal of the 1950 order. Archbishop George Antonysamy of the Madras and Mylapore Archdiocese told presspersons that the Order went against the spirit of the unity of the country. “We demand an end to using religion to divide us. Not just Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, but also those from Islam and Christianity should be considered Scheduled Castes,” he said. In a statement, the organisers said that then-President Rajendra Prasad was to blame for the situation. “Influenced by the RSS, the parent of the BJP, the first President of India signed this order that goes against the Constitution. This has led to irrevocable damage to Dalit Christians,” it said. (The Hindu 11/8/16)

Catholic outfits seek probe into nun’s allegation (7)

KOCHI: The KCRM-Ex-priests and Nuns Association and the Joint Christian Council have urged the State Government to initiate action against persons against whom Mary Sebastian, a member of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) Palai, Kottayam, has raised torture allegations. Mary had alleged that she was physically and mentally tortured by her superiors at the CMC, and that they tried to give her psychiatric medicines forcefully. Kerala Catholic Church Reformation Movement (KCRM) state president K George Joseph demanded that a high-level inquiry be conducted against the Church authorities for the alleged torture. According to them, incidence of nuns dying under suspicious circumstances is on the rise in the State, and that in most cases the investigation turns out to be an eyewash. Joint Christian Council state president Joseph Velavil said a representation had been submitted before Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, explaining the various issues pertaining to the Catholic Church. The Association leaders also demanded a detailed inquiry into functioning of the orphanages run by the Catholic Church. “Around 450 orphanages are functioning in the State. In Kottayam district, 56 orphanages and old-age homes are functioning,” pointed out the Association leaders, adding that the Central and State governments were provided proper statistics of the assets of the Catholic Church. (New Indian Express 14/8/16)

Christians condemn Patanjali’s ‘holy Cross’ commercials (7)

Mumbai, Aug 16 : The Indian Christian Voice (ICV) on Tuesday condemned yoga guru Baba Ramdev for a TV commercial which depicts the holy Cross while urging Indians to boycott all foreign products. While the Christian community has no objections to Baba Ramdev’s boycott call, it is unhappy over the use of the holy Cross to show British rule in India. “We strongly object to the depiction of the holy Cross, the very symbol of the Christian faith. We feel this is Baba Ramdev’s agenda of targeting a particular minority community. We demand that this commercial should be immediately withdrawn from all public domains,” ICV President Abraham Mathai told IANS. Such demagoguery would definitely result in increased attacks on churches and Christian institutions in India, Mathai pointed out. He added that ICV was writing to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other concerned officials and departments on the objectionable commercial. The latest commercial shows a black-and-white clip depicting the pre-Independence ‘Swadeshi’ movement and suddenly zooms to a map of India with three crosses jutting out in three directions. Between the crosses the words E, I and Co. are shown to represent the East India Company which subsequently paved the way for British colonial rule in India. The ICV chief said that by obliquely singling out a particular minority community would make them vulnerable to hate attacks and extremism. “All Indians of all communities have been living harmoniously side by side for centuries. The last thing we need is someone trying to make us a ‘one-religion’ country. Baba Ramdev and his followers would do well to understand the beauty of Indian democracy and brotherhood,” Mathai said. (New Kerala 16/8/16)

Gang assaults Manipuri evangelist in Bengaluru, police on lookout for attackers (7)

BENGALURU: Five unidentified men assaulted a 26-year-old person, who hails from Manipur, near his house in Lakshmipuram in the wee hours of Thursday. A police source said, “The victim has been identified as Evan Mamang Kipgen, a native of Manipur, who has been working with the Thadou Christian Fellowship Church (TCF) as an evangelist for two months now.” Kipgen said, “I was returning home after visiting a friend in Lakshmipuram around 2.30am. A few persons were standing at a junction near my house. When I crossed them, they came up to me from behind and assaulted me for no reason. I do not know what provoked them to do it.” He said that he did not understand what the attackers were talking about as they were conversing in Kannada. “They didn’t rob me, but assaulted me. The moment I raised an alarm, a few residents turned up and they fled from the scene,” he said. Later, Kipgen approached the jurisdictional police and registered a complaint. The Thadou Students’ Association, Bengaluru, has condemned the intolerant action of the miscreants. ‘Many instances of robberies in area’The Paogousiem Lhouvum, Information & Publicity Secretary, Thadou Students’ Association, Bengaluru, in a press statement said, “In the interest of the general public, we urge the police to kindly take up necessary measures for the security and safety of the public in and around Lakshimipuram area since there have been many incidences of attacks and robberies in the area.” Indiranagar police have taken up the case and are probing it. The accused are still at large. Police said, “We are yet to trace the accused. We are gathering information from the complainant about the attackers.” (Nw Indian Express 19/8/16)

Chhattisgarh Catholic Council expresses concern over attack on Christians (7)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh Catholic Council has expressed serious concern over increasing incidents of attacks on Christian priests, religious places and institutions, alleging that the role of police is also not impartial. “We express community’s deep anguish over the recent incidents of attacks and unlawful actions. We urge the state government to take stern action against those responsible and to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” said a Council press release which was issued after a high-level meeting held in the state capital. The meeting was attended by Bishops of Raipur, Raigarh, Jashpur, Jagdalpur and Ambikapur Catholic Diocese, priests, nuns and representatives from different parts of Chhattisgarh. Unanimously condemning the incidents of attacks on Christians, the Council pointed out that there were incidents wherein a handful of people, belonging to so-called religious organizations, attacked Christian minorities and slaps false cases against them. “The role of police is not impartial as it often seemed to be under pressure from these groups. They register cases without proper investigation,” the council said. “Christian community feels insecure as the state government has neither taken any stern action nor issued any guidelines to deal with such situations. Morale of attackers are high,” Council alleged. (Times of India 21/8/2016)

Indian cardinal: victims of anti-Catholic pogrom were martyrs (7)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai has said that the Christians killed during a savage burst of religious violence in 2008 in the Kandhamal region deserve to be recognized as martyrs. Speaking to the AsiaNews service, as Christians in India prepare for an August 30 observance of the victims, the president of the Indian bishops’ conference voiced his hope that those killed in Kandhamal “may soon be raised to the altar of the martyrs.” The spasm of violence that tore through Kandhamal– a remote section of eastern Orissa state– began when a prominent Hindu-nationalist leader was killed, and his followers blamed Christians for the slaying. (Evidence later emerged that the crime was committed by a Maoist group.) Mobs of Hindu militants attacked Christian villages, leaving more than 100 dead and driving tens of thousands of people into hiding in the forests. The Indian bishops have called repeatedly for prosecution of those who incited the violence, and compensation of the victims. To date these pleas have been unsuccessful. Catholic Culture 26/8/16)

Mother Teresa’s birth anniversary celebrated in Kolkata (7)

Kolkata, Aug 26 : Days before she is declared a saint by the Vatican, special masses and prayers marked Mother Teresa’s 106th birth anniversary celebrations here on Friday. Candles were lit and the nun’s grave at Mother House — the global headquarters of her Catholic order Missionaries of Charity — was decorated with flowers as the sisters and other eminent persons sang hymns, read from the Bible and recalled her celebrated life. Mother Teresa is set to be canonised by Pope Francis at the Vatican on September 4, a day ahead of her 19th death anniversary. By a coincidence, Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, barely 10 days after her 86th birthday. A large number of people, including school children and residents of the various homes run by the MoC, congregated at Mother House, which wore a festive look. A special prayer card for the faithful read: “We thank you (Lord Jesus) for the gift of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who will be canonised in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.” Similar programmes were organised at the other homes run by the Missionaries of Charity. The four-day Mother Teresa International Film Festival (MTIFF), which would feature 23 foreign and Indian films made on or inspired by the Nobel laureate, was inaugurated during the day at the state government-run auditorium Nandan. Paying homage, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “My deepest respect on the birth anniversary of Mother Teresa.” Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Prema, who is already in the Vatican, said in a message that the order was looking forward to the celebrations of the Mother’s sainthood with great joy. “It will be a moment when gathered around Mother we shall have an experience of universal family of the children of the one Heavenly Father. The difference of caste, creed, colour, rich, poor will not prevent us from rejoicing together in the honour bestowed on Mother,” said Sister Prema. Underscoring that the sainthood to be bestowed on the Mother would inspire the people in Kolkata as also all over the world to follow her example of humble services for everyone, she said: “Mother is with God and as she promised us she continues to light the light of hope and peace in everyone’s heart.” (new Kerala 26/8/16)

Mother Teresa’s canonisation portends more conversions: VHP (7)

New Delhi: Mother Teresa’s canonisation portends more conversions to Christianity, an issue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have considered before deciding to send a delegation to the Vatican, the VHP said on Sunday. “The canonisation of Mother Teresa is an alarm bell that now there would be more conversions in India and more funds (for conversions) would be routed to India,” Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) International Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain said here. He said granting of sainthood to a person based on miracles attributed to them was not “practical” in today’s times. “Do you expect miracles to happen in this age,” he wondered. Jain warned that with more conversions, there would be more unrest in the society. He said Modi should have considered the issue before deciding to send an official Indian delegation to the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican. “The issue of Mother Teresa’s services vis-a-vis religious conversions is not new. We have been raising it for years. I think the Prime Minister should have thought over it before he decided to send an official delegation to the Vatican,” Jain said. An official Indian delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is scheduled to attend Mother Teresa’s canonisation ceremony at the Vatican on September 4. On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address paid tributes to the late Catholic nun for her services to the poor of India, saying that Indians should be proud that Mother Teresa is being officially declared a saint. The nun founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that runs hospices in India. She died in 1997. (Business Standard 28/8/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Italy says 6,500 migrants rescued since Thursday (13)

Rome:  The Italian coastguard said the bodies of five migrants were recovered from the Mediterranean, while more than 6,500 people had been rescued off Libya since Thursday. In one operation by the Italian navy vessel Vega, “five migrants were picked up out of the sea, three people were resuscitated and two were already dead,” the coastguard said on its Twitter account yesterday. The German aid group Jugend Rettet added that its ship Iuventa had taken part in the same operation to save 130 people packed onto a rubber dinghy that was taking on water, and had also recovered two bodies. A fifth body was found aboard a fishing boat from which some 470 migrants were rescued by the Italian navy and the Malta-based aid group MOAS. Yesterday’s rescue missions off the Libyan coast brought 1,100 migrants and refugees to safety overall, bringing the total to 6,530 since Thursday, said the Italian coastguard which coordinates the operations. According to the latest figures from the UN’s refugee agency earlier this week, more than 89,000 people, most from sub-Saharan Africa, have arrived in Italy by sea since the start of the year in search of a better life in Europe. The tally is comparable to the total of 93,000 recorded for the January-July period last year. More than 3,000 migrants have died trying to make the crossing, an increase of more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). (Business Standard 1/8/16)

‘State no dumping ground for migrants’ (13)

GUWAHATI: Former CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to the Centre’s decision to grant citizenship to migrants who enter the country due to religious persecution in Bangladesh. Though Mahanta did not criticize the Centre directly as his party, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), is now a part of the ruling alliance in the state, Mahanta expressed his displeasure with the Centre’s plan. He told the media that the Centre should focus on implementing the Assam Accord rather than allow migrants to settle down. “Even if the country decides to give shelter to these victims of religious persecution in the neighbouring country on humanitarian ground, they should be given refugee status as per international law. Assam should never be the dumping ground for migrants,” he said. The Assam Accord states that anyone who had entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be declared an illegal migrant irrespective of religion. “The Union home ministry is liable to implement the Assam Accord in its true spirit to solve the issue of illegal influx into the state. Since India and Bangladesh are now on friendly terms, the two countries should discuss the matter and stop such incidents of religious persecution and migration,” Mahanta said. Expressing discontent with the Centre’s approach to the state’s flood and erosion problems, Mahanta said, “Besides declaring Assam’s flood problem as a national calamity, more financial assistance should be provided to the state so that proper relief and rehabilitation of the victims can be provided.” Though Union home minister Rajnath Singh visited the state a few days ago and reviewed the situation, he did not announce any financial package for flood relief, nor did he agree to declare the state’s floods as a national problem. Mahanta brought up the auction of marginal oilfields in the state yet again, urging the Centre to rethink the move. He said the AGP government, when in power, had never backed the idea of privatizing the marginal oilfields. Asking both the state and the Centre to reconsider the decision of privatizing the marginal oilfields, he stated, “It is being said that the decision to privatize oilfields was taken during the AGP regime (1996-2001). That is not correct. We have always opposed any such move. In the interest of Assam, we want the Centre to reconsider its decision.” (Times of India 4/8/16)

UN agency welcomes ‘landmark step’ by North and Central American countries to protect refugees

New York, Aug 5 : The United Nations refugee agency on Thursday welcomed a joint commitment by nine North and Central American countries acknowledging the need for stronger protection of asylum-seekers, refugees and internally displaced people in the region, where crime and gang violence have driven thousands of people from their homes. Through the San Jose Action Statement, the governments of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and the United States vowed to work together to strengthen protection of refugees fleeing Central America, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is vital and immensely gratifying to see the countries of the Americas coming together in a regional approach to devise humane, collaborative solutions for people in desperate need of life-saving help, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a press release. This is the path to helping the most vulnerable among us regain lives of dignity, he added.The undertaking comes ahead of the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, on 19 September at UN Headquarters, in New York, as well as a summit on the global refugee crisis, hosted by US President Barack Obama during the high-level segment of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly on 20 September. According to UNHCR, the countries said that they are confronted with a growing number of asylum-seekers and refugees and that they recognize the need for asylum systems to identify and respond to those in need of international protection. Most asylum applications are from people who have fled widespread violence by heavily-armed, transnational gangs in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala that have made these countries known collectively as the Northern Triangle of Central America one of the most dangerous places on earth. The UN refugee agency added that the San Jose Action Statement also stressed the importance of timely identification and documentation of people in need of protection, of unhindered access to fair and efficient procedures for protection, of finding alternatives to detention for asylum seekers and of ensuring their access to legal aid. In individual declarations accompanying the Action Statement, Costa Rica, Mexico, US and Honduras said that they would undertake efforts to address the challenges confronting refugees and to protect vulnerable people fleeing violence. The joint statement is the outcome of an unprecedented gathering of concerned governments organized by UNHCR and the Organization of American States (OAS) in Costa Rica last month. It was also attended by four countries of South America and other interested States. [The Action Statement] is a visible and significant demonstration of the willingness of countries from the region to work together to address the plight of refugees, internally displaced persons and others in need of protection, in a spirit of solidarity and within a collaborative responsibility sharing framework, said UNHCRs Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Trk, who co-chaired the meeting with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS. (New Kerala 5/8/16)

75 more Sri Lankan Tamil refugees set to return home (13)

CHENNAI: Seventy five Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu will leave for their native land on Tuesday under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. Diplomatic sources in the deputy Sri Lankan high commission said that on Tuesday 29 members of seven families will fly out of Madurai, 31 13 families will depart from Trichy and 15 of eight families will fly out of Chennai. There are more than 64,000 Sri Lankan refugees in 109 camps in India. Refugees who are going back are from the erstwhile war-torn regsions of Mannar, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Mullaitivu. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is providing free tickets to those returning, along with a reintegration allowance of $75 per person, transport allowance of $19 and a non-food grant of $75 per family. According to records with the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission, 1,770 refugees belonging to 870 families have returned to Sri Lanka in the past two years. The trend is a sign of reconciliation and moving towards permanent peace, a diplomat said. The Sri Lankan Deputy High commission has seen an increase in the number of applicants seeking clearance to return home. Those who have lost their passports are given fresh passports after establishing their identity. S Anbarasan, one of the refugees living in a camp at Poonamallee said, “I came here 17 years ago. My relatives in Mannar say now it is peaceful back home. I am going back on Tuesday. I am excited. I am also worred that I ahve to start from scratch. Chennai: Seventy five Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu will leave for their native land on Tuesday under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. Diplomatic sources in the deputy Sri Lankan high commission said that on Tuesday 29 members of seven families will fly out of Madurai, 31 13 families will depart from Trichy and 15 of eight families will fly out of Chennai. There are more than 64,000 Sri Lankan refugees in 109 camps in India. … (Times of India 8/8/16)

Rajya Sabha appoints 10 MPs to jt panel on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (13)

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha today named 10 of its members to the Joint Committee of Parliament that will go into the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. A resolution moved by Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, on behalf of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, for appointment of ten of its members to the Joint Committee of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was carried by a voice vote. Members who were nominated to the Committee were Vinay Sahasrabuddhe (BJP), Dilip Pandya (both BJP), P Bhattacharya, Bhubaneswar Kalita (both Cong), Javed Ali Khan (SP), Derek O’ Brien (TMC), Harivansh (JD-U), Prasanna Acharya (BJD), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) and Swapan Dasgupta (Nom). The draft Bill seeks to help migrants of virtually all denominations – except Muslims – from the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship after a stay of six years. After Opposition objections, the Bill was yesterday referred to the Joint Committee after it was moved in Lok Sabha. The Home Minister had then told the Lower House that he agreed with the suggestion of members from all sides to send the bill to the panel. (Zee News 12/8/16)

Data on refugees difficult to find? (13)

HYDERABAD: A Right to Information (RTI) activist has claimed of being made to run from pillar to post for obtaining data on refugees living in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts he sought around eight months ago. According to activist Syed Qutubuddin, the information was requested from the authorities concerned so as to study the conditions of refugees — especially Rohingyas — living in and around the city. The delay, he said, reflects the attitude of the government in providing information to ordinary citizens. The RTI query which requested information about the numbers of refugees, ‘interventions’ of the state governments and how it has been liaising with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, among others was first addressed to the office of the chief secretary of the Telangana government last December. It was later forwarded to the home department under relevant sections of the Right to Information Act of 2009. After the stipulated time, the RTI activist filed the first appeal with the appellate authority of the home department in March. “A letter dated January 18 from the general administration department (GAD) informed me that the query was forwarded to the home department. However, despite the first appeal, so far no information from this department has come forth. Not even a single statistic, leave alone responses to other queries,” he said. When no details were received, Qutubuddin approached the AP Information Commission to file the next appeal. In a letter dated July 19, the commission then directed the public information officer and appellant authority — the office of the principal secretary — of the Home Department to appear before it for a hearing. In the letter, the commission directed the respondents to “file copies of information furnished to the appellant”. (Times of India 14/8/16)

UN aid chief releases $50 million ‘lifeline’ in emergency funds for people in urgent need (13)

New York, Aug 17 : The top United Nations relief official released on Tuesday $50 million for severely underfunded aid operations in six neglected emergencies around the world from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which supports urgent, life-saving humanitarian responses. The new funding will provide critical assistance for two million people in dire humanitarian need, including 200,000 refugees, 665,000 internally displaced persons, 170,000 returnees and 530,000 people in host communities. This funding is a lifeline for the worlds most vulnerable people caught up in forgotten crises, Stephen OBrien, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which he heads up. The allocation will allow humanitarian partners to respond to protracted emergencies in Central Africa, caused by armed conflicts, political instability and human rights violations, and compounded by food insecurity and disease outbreaks. It will benefit aid operations in the Central African Republic, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as Rwanda, which is hosting refugees from Burundi and DRC. A portion will also support aid operations in Eritrea in responding to current needs due to arid conditions and poor rains. The new funding will also boost relief operations in Yemen where an estimated 21.2 million people require humanitarian assistance. This release brings the total allocation from the CERFs underfunded emergencies window in 2016 to $150 million. So far, the Fund has received $311 million in contributions for 2016 and disbursed nearly as much to 35 countries for life-saving activities around the world. According to OBrien, in recent years, the global refugee crisis has put enormous pressure on CERF to help millions of people fleeing conflicts that linger for lack of a political solution. AS such, and in light of other ongoing challenges and conflicts, he emphasized that all humanitarian emergencies are underfunded this year. I wish I could allocate more CERF funds to these and other protracted crises, given the enormous needs. However, contributions to the Fund are limited and demand from humanitarian partners around the world is high, he said. OCHA, which manages the Fund on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, estimates that this year, there will be a $50 million shortfall on the annual $450 million funding target. I am very concerned that this could force the Fund to significantly reduce allocations for underfunded emergencies in the future, noted the UN relief chief, appealing to all UN Member States, regional organizations and private citizens to scale up their support to CERF and enable us to save more lives. (New Kerala 17/8/16)

Tripura ready to send back Brus to Mizoram (13)

AGARTALA: The Tripura government recently said it was ready to send back Bru refugees living in camps in the state to Mizoram but the final repatriation plan was yet to be formalised. The Union home ministry has decided to repatriate around 37,000 Bru refugees from Mizoram, who have been living in six camps in North Tripura for the past 19 years, from November this year. Tripura chief secretary YP Singh said the Mizoram government would have to submit the final movement plan which is necessary to make the repatriation a success. Bru refugees have demanded security in Mizoram, cluster-based rehabilitation and at least a year’s financial and social security package but the Lal Thanhawla government has not agreed to the demands. As a result, despite several attempts at repatriation, no headway has been made, Singh pointed out. Thousands of Brus had left Mizoram and migrated to Tripura after rebels of Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) gunned down a game watcher of the state forest department inside Dampa Tiger Reserve along the Mizoram-Bangladesh border on October 21, 1997. Since 2010, some Bru families have returned to Mizoram but most chose to stay back in the camps in Tripura. (Times of India 17/8/16)

More than three million displaced in Yemen – joint UN agency report (13)

New York, Aug 22 : A joint report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has found that the conflict in Yemen has resulted in the displacement of some 3,154,572 people, of which 2,205,102 remain displaced across the country and some 949,470 have attempted to return home. The crisis is forcing more and more people to leave their homes in search of safety, Ita Schuette, UNHCRs Deputy Representative in Yemen said in a news release on Friday, announcing the report. The news release added that due to the escalating conflict and worsening humanitarian conditions, displacement across the country has seen an increase of about seven per cent since April, with 152,009 individuals fleeing from violence during this period. The report, prepared by the Task Force on Population Movement, a technical working group led by the two agencies as part of the humanitarian response to the crisis in Yemen, also said that a significant number of those displaced are attempting to return home, a 24 per cent increase of some 184,491 individuals. However, it cautioned that movements remained fluid and correlated to moments of lulls or perceived improvements in the conflict. IDP returnees are considered to remain within the displacement cycle as long as they have not achieved a sustainable reintegration and their needs remain high, as is also the case for the non-displaced host community, said Laurent De Boeck, IOM Chief of Mission to Yemen. The news release further added that prolonged displacement had adversely impacted the communities hosting uprooted populations, substantially increasing pressures on already scarce resources. The majority of those displaced, some 62 per cent, are being hosted by their family and friends while others are using unsuitable shelters. It further said that for those displaced, the primary challenges continued to be the basic essentials: food, shelter and drinking water. .. (New Kerala 23/8/2016)

Greece says at least 41,000 asylum seekers on its territory (13)

Athens: Greece has at least 41,000 refugees and migrants who are seeking asylum, mostly Syrians eligible to relocate within the EU, the migration minister said on Tuesday. Yiannis Mouzalas told a news conference that Greek and UN services had recorded 54,000 refugees and migrants on Greek territory between June and the end of July. Over 41,000 of them on the mainland have expressed interest in asylum, or have made formal requests. Another 2,000 have agreed to be returned home. At the same time, there are another 11,000 people currently being processed on Greek islands after landing there from neighbouring Turkey. Mouzalas said the operation was designed to “begin to rein in the chaos”, which overwhelmed Greek authorities after a succession of Eastern European and Balkan countries shut their borders to migrants starting in February. Before the closures, and an EU-Turkey deal designed to stem the flow came into effect in March, over a million people had passed through Greece in 2015, primarily Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war. The migration minister admitted that there are additionally “around 4,000″ people who are avoiding follow-up registration as they hope to cross the border with the help of smugglers. But Mouzalas denied reports that hundreds of people were being allowed to sneak across the border to Macedonia and Bulgaria. “This is a lie,” he said. “If 700 were leaving every day (as is claimed) we’d have no refugees left (in Greece).” (Zee News 23/8/16)

UN Chief to meet war displaced in Sri Lanka (13)

Colombo, Aug 26 : UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will meet war displaced people during a visit to Sri Lanka next week, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday. Ban will visit Sri Lanka from August 31 to September 2 at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government, Xinhua news agency reported. In Colombo, the Secretary General will meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and call on President Maithripala Sirisena. The UN chief will travel to the southern town of Galle where he will participate in an event involving youth under the theme “Reconciliation and Coexistence: Role of Youth”.He will also visit the northern town of Jaffna where he will meet Governor of the Northern Province Reginald Cooray, leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan and members of the main minority Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, and a resettlement site. During the visit, the UN Secretary General will also meet several Cabinet Ministers, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and leaders of political party as well as civil society representatives. (New Kerala 26/8/16)

Govt plans Rs 2000 crore package for people displaced from PoK (13)

NEW DELHI: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitching for the rights+ of those living in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir+ and Gilgit-Baltistan regions+ of Pakistan, the government has proposed a Rs 2,000-crore package for people displaced from PoK living in India. The home ministry is expected to place the details of the package before the Cabinet for approval soon, senior ministry officials said.It is learnt that J&K government has identified 36,348 such families which will get around Rs 5.5 lakh each. Refugees from Pakistan + , mostly from PoK, were settled in different parts of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts over a period of time. They do not have the status of permanent residents. Some of the families were displaced during partition in 1947, and others during the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. The displaced people can cast their votes in Lok Sabha polls but not in the elections to the Jammu & Kashmir assembly. Jammu and Kashmir Sharanarthi Action Committee (JKSAC), an organisation representing the displaced people of PoK, has maintained that the package should not be seen as final settlement as Rs 9,200 crore was required to settle all of them. The NDA government had in January 2015 approved certain concessions for refugees from Pakistan settled in J&K after considering their problems. These includes special recruitment drives for induction into paramilitary forces, equal employment opportunities in the state and admission for children of refugees in Kendriya Vidyalayas. Modi had for the first time talked about the plight of people of PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan at an all-party meeting convened to discuss the J&K situation on August 12. Three days later, while addressing the nation on Independence Day, he again referred to the three regions under the control of Pakistan. The government has maintained that PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan are part of J&K. There have been reports that the government is planning to invite the diaspora from PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan for the next Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas to be held in Bengaluru. (Times of India 29/8/16)

Sri Lankan refugees stage dharna against patta cancellation (13)

TIRUNELVELI: Members belonging to 10 Sri Lankan refugee families living in Kalaignar Colony near here staged a dharna on the Collectorate premises on Sunday evening after the pattas of their lands were reportedly cancelled recently. The protesting refugees said 34 Sri Lankan refugee families living in Kalaignar Colony near Gangaikondan received free house sites for which pattas were given following the efforts taken by former Tirunelveli MLA Nainar Nagenthran in 2014. While a few of them had constructed houses under the Chief Minister’s Green House Scheme, the others might get the freebie soon. “Even as the economically weaker beneficiaries are waiting for the Green House, the pattas for the free land were cancelled on Saturday based on false complaints given by a few people. If our pattas are not renewed and given to us, we’ve decided to start living on the Collectorate premises,” said K. Sudha, one of the protestors. After Palayamkottai Tahsildar Balasubramanian met the protesting families and assured them that the issue would be taken up with the Collector to find an amicable solution, the protestors gave up the agitation around 6.30 p.m. and left the Collectorate. (The Hindu 29/8/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Modi govt spent over Rs 35 cr to advertise achievements (1)

Mumbai: The Narendra Modi government spent Rs 35.58 crore on advertisements in print media, highlighting its achievements after it completed two years in power in May, an RTI query has revealed. RTI activist Anil Galgali had sought information on expenses incurred by the Centre for publishing advertisements in leading newspapers across the country on its second anniversary on May 26, 2016. The Public Information Officer of Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) Rupa Vedi provided the details about advertisements issued in 11,236 newspapers, including those in regional languages. According to the information furnished by DAVP, the sum was spent under various heads pertaining to Transforming India, Vikas ki Raftaar, Badhha Karobar, Jan Jan Ka Uddhaar and NDA goverment Two Years. In another query in the RTI, Galgali had sought details of advertisement expenses incurred by the Manmohan Singh government on its second anniversary. The DAVP said there was none. “Please be noted that no advertisement campaign was undertaken by the DAVP on the completion of two years of the Manmohan Singh government,” reads the reply. Meanwhile, Galgali has written to PM Narendra Modi requesting him to make these expenses public by putting the information on its website like it did in the case of various foreign trips. ” It would be extremely welcoming that if his government follow the policy of austerity and does not indulge in wasteful expenditures,” said Galgali. (Deccan Herald 1/8/1`6)

RTI revelation: Rs 2,958 crore spent on Ganga ‘clean-up’ without visible results (1)

LUCKNOW: It is not just the opposition which is out to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotive connect with the river Ganga. Statistics show that very little has been done in the past two years of BJP rule — in spite of spending Rs 2,958 crore of the Rs 3,703 crore allocated — to improve the condition of the holy river. The response to a Right to Information (RTI) poser by a Aishwarya Sharma, a Class 10 student from the city, to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has revealed that the much-hyped ‘Namami Gange’ programme is largely on paper, much like the previous schemes declared in the past 30 years. In her RTI question on May 9, the 14-year-old Lucknow girl has sought answers to seven queries, which included details of the number of meetings the Prime Minister chaired on the sensitive issue, budgetary provisions and the expenses so far. Subroto Hazra, the central public information officer with the PMO, had forwarded the query to the union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry for a response. K.K. Sapra of the ministry responded on July 4 and the answers explicitly show that Modi’s ‘Ganga Maiya ne bullaya hai’ (Mother Ganga has summoned me) credo, which endeared Modi to the masses, specially in Varanasi, was little beyond an attempt to milk sentiments and votes. The ministry said that Rs 2,137 crore was allocated for the national mission of Ganga cleaning in 2014-15. This was cut by Rs 84 crore to Rs 2,053 crore. But the union government, despite the hype, spent only Rs 326 crore, leaving more than Rs 1,700 crore unspent. The situation did not change much in 2015-16 either and, in fact, the union government slashed the budgetary allocation from the proposed Rs 2,750 crore to Rs 1,650 crore. Of the amended budget, Rs 18 crore was unspent in 2015-16. “This is completely baffling, keeping in mind the high-decibel campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself on cleaning the Ganga,” an upset Aishwarya told IANS, adding she was deeply disappointed. For the current 2016-17 fiscal, the student said the union government does not have any details of the expenses so far of the Rs 2,500 crore allocated. Aishwarya also sought to know from “Modi uncle” why he has not been serious on the crucial project as is evident by the fact that of the three meetings of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), the Prime Minister chaired only one on March 26, 2015. The other two meetings — on October 27, 2014 and July 4, 2016 — were chaired by Union Minister Uma Bharati. In contrast, Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh had chaired all the three meetings of the NGRBA held in his second tenure — on October 5, 2009, November 1, 2010 and April 17, 2012. “I can just hope that Modi uncle delivers on this front as we all have high expectations from him,” Aishwarya said with a wry smile. Now, only time will tell whether the Modi government, which has promised to spend Rs 20,000 crore over the next five years on Ganga rejuvenation and cleaning, delivers on its promise or not. For now, rather than ‘Ganga Maiya ne bullaya hai’ the apt credo is “Ganga Maiya ko bhulaya hai” (Mother Ganga has been forgotten). (New Indian Express 3/8/16)

File notings on court rules not exempt from RTI (1)

NEW DELHI: In a significant ruling, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Wednesday held that notes and orders in the file leading to framing and notification of Supreme Court Rules, 2013 (which deal with issues related to functioning of courts) are not exempt from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. An order by Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur observed that the notes and orders are not covered under Section (1)(g) of the RTI Act as ‘assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes’. “The framing of Rules is a legislative function and it is neither a judicial function nor it is concerned with any security measures. The note/notings/ deliberations relating to framing of Rules cannot be termed assistance given in confidence for law enforcement. The provision can relate to payment to informers by police, IB and CBI, etc,” the order said. The applicant, Satya Narain Shukla from Lucknow, had approached the CIC after his petition seeking photocopies of notes and orders in the concerned file on Supreme Court Rules, 2013 prescribing requirement of prior interaction with the Registrar for permitting a party to appear and argue the case in person was not entertained. It was declined on the ground that the deliberations made in the Full Court meeting and the disclosures of the same would render the ‘system unworkable n practice’. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

PMO discloses salary of its staff; Bhaskar Khulbe highest paid (1)

New Delhi: The monthly salary of all officers working in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has been made public as part of suo motu disclosure under the RTI Act with senior IAS officer Bhaskar Khulbe the highest paid at Rs 2.01 lakh. Khulbe, who is Secretary to the Prime Minister, gets a monthly remuneration of Rs 2.01 lakh, according to details of the salary as on June one, 2016 put on the PMO website. Nripendra Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and P K Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to Modi get Rs 1,62,500 per month, plus pension, each. All these top bureaucrats are retired civil servants. Six Joint Secretaries in the PMO — Tarun Bajaj, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, T V Somanathan, A K Sharma, Anurag Jain and Debashree Mukherjee — get a monthly salary ranging between Rs 1.55 lakh and Rs 1.77 lakh, it said. Rajeev Topno and Sanjeev Kumar Singla, both private secretaries to the PM, get a monthly salary of Rs 1.46 lakh and Rs 1.38 lakh respectively. Sharat Chander, Information Officer, and J M Thakkar, Public Relations Officer in the PMO, get a monthly remuneration of Rs 1.26 lakh and Rs 99,000, respectively, according to the PMO website. Five other bureaucrats including the PM’s close aide Sanjay R Bhavsar, working as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the PMO, draws monthly remuneration of around Rs 1.1 lakh, it said. Besides Bhavsar, four other OSDs are Hiren Joshi, Pratik Doshi, Hemang Jani and Ashutosh Narayan Singh. The PMO has also made public details of monthly remuneration given to Secretary to former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. N C Jhingta, Secretary to Vajpayee, gets Rs 1.42 lakh while G Muralidhar Pillay, Singh’s Secretary, draws monthly remuneration of Rs one lakh (plus pension), the PMO said. These disclosures have been made under Section 4 of the Right to Information(RTI) Act that casts an obligation on all public authorities to suo motu disclose, among others, details of remuneration given to all its employees for the sake of transparency. (Business Standard 9/8/16)

Order on providing info on cabinet decisions stayed (1)

Kochi: The high court has stayed the state information commission’s order asking the state government to provide details of the decisions taken at the meetings of council of ministers under Right to Information (RTI) applications. Justice P B Suresh Kumar issued a stay after considering during admission hearing a petition filed by the government through the chief secretary challenging the information commission’s order of June 15. The order was issued while considering an appeal filed by advocate D B Binu, who is the general secretary of Kerala RTI Federation. Information regarding the agenda, minutes, and decisions taken in the cabinet meetings between January 1 and March 12, 2016 were sought under RTI by the applicant. Orders issued to implement the decisions of the council and decisions upon which further actions could not be pursued owing to non-authentication of the orders by officers were also requested. The state information commission issued the order to provide the information sought for after the applicant questioned denial of information in an appeal. In the petition filed in the high court, the state government sought a declaration that it need not provide decisions taken in the cabinet meetings under RTI. The court should declare that such information need to be provided only by the concerned administrative departments and that too only after the matter is complete or over, government has demanded. These two demands were raised in addition to seeking an order quashing the state information commission’s order. (Times of India 11/8/16)

13,000 RTI applications pending: CIC (1)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: More than 13,000 Right to Information (RTI) applications are pending in the office of the State Information Commission, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Vinson M. Paul has said. He was speaking at a seminar on RTI organised here on Saturday by the RTI Kerala Federation and the Human Rights Justice Vigilance Forum.Even as the information commission chastises various public officials for delays in handing over information sought by citizens, the fact was that there was a backlog of applications in the office of the commission itself. Applications from 2011 were pending in the office, he said. (The Hindu 14/8/16)

114 sexual harassment complaints registered in BMC since 2013 (1)

Mumbai: An RTI query has revealed that 32 sexual harassment complaints were registered in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation every year on an average since 2013. So far, 17 such cases have been registered in 2016. The data was provided by BMC’s Public Information Officer and Administrative Officer Rekha Kale to RTI activist Anil Galgali. Mr. Galgali said, “The data provided by the Complaints Committee set up for the purpose under the Savitribai Phule Women’s Development Centre exhibits an intolerable level of such complaints. There were 34 complaints in 2013, 32 in 2014 and 31 in 2015. What is alarming is the refusal of the civic body, which claims to have disposed of all complaints registered in the past three years, to provide data on implementation of orders of the vigilance bodies.” Of these cases, 96 per cent were listed as ‘cleared’, and four cases registered this year were shown as ‘pending’. Mr. Galgali said, “The PIO has said the names of the complainants, accused and the nature of offence [sexual harassment] is of a confidential nature and sharing them is prohibited under Section 13 of the Working Women’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Act 2013.” He said the Section was being used to protect the culprits. Mr. Galgali has written to BMC chief Ajoy Mehta asking him to make public the names of the offenders on the BMC website. (The Hindu 17/8/16)

Students can access answer sheet under RTI: Supreme Court (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to “scrupulously” follow its 2011 judgment that it is a student’s “fundamental and legitimate right” to access his answer sheets under the Right to Information Act. The recent order by a Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi came on a plea by two students, Kumar Shanu from Noida and Paras Jain from Delhi, seeking the court’s permission to initiate contempt proceedings against the Board for charging Rs.700 per copy of an answer sheet. Over and above this, students are compulsorily required to go through the process of verification of marks for which they have to pay another Rs. 300 as fee. Only then, would they be eligible to apply for a copy of their answer sheets. In short, they contended that a student ends up coughing up Rs. 1,000 to the CBSE to obtain a physical copy of his answer sheet. The information came out in a reply from the CBSE to an RTI application made by the petitioners. The CBSE, however, contended that the charges levied were incidental and not for profit. The petitioners contended that the practice was in contempt of a 2011 judgment — CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors — of the Supreme Court, which held that an “answer sheet is an information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act and therefore, examinees/students have a fundamental and legal right of having access to their answer sheets under RTI Act.” The 2011 judgment had held that there existed a fiduciary relationship between the examining body and the student. The petitioners contended that the CBSE was levying these charges when the RTI Act had intended students to access answer sheets, which qualify as ‘information’, for Rs. 2 a page along with Rs. 10 for the RTI application. It had argued that students falling under the Below Poverty Line category were guaranteed free access to their answer sheets under the law. “It is ironical and astonishing that the CBSE, being an educational institution responsible for educating a large section of the society, is blatantly flouting the law laid down by the Supreme Court,” the petition said. (The Hindu 19/8/16)

Maharasthra CM’s portfolios most ‘complaint-prone’: RTI reply (1)

Mumbai, Aug 22 : The portfolios handled by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have received the maximum number of public complaints in the past two years, averaging around 12,205 per month, an RTI query has revealed here on Monday. RTI and social activist Anil Galgali had sought details of the number of complaints made to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) and other departments and their current status. The CMO’s Public Information Officer (PIO) Vaishali Chavathe replied that in the 20 months since November 2014, the CMO has received 244,112 complaints relating to 31 government departments. Of these, the maximum complaints pertain to the Home, Revenue, Urban Development, General Administration and Rural Development departments. Three of these — barring Revenue and Rural Development — are handled by Fadnavis himself. According to the RTI reply, Home tops the list with 71,475 complaints, Revenue and Forests is a distant second with 24,293, followed by Urban Development’s 15,388, General Administration’s 9,461 and Rural Development at 9,368. While clocking an average of 12,205 complaints per month, the five departments alone account for 53.24 per cent of the total public complaints, the PIO said. Other major departments with many public complaints include Industry and Energy and Labour (8765), Housing (8608), Textiles and Marketing (7776), School education (7101), Animal husbandry and Dairy development (6382), Public Works Department (5166), Law and Judiciary (4640), Public health (4193), Social Justice (3877), Higher and Technical education (3693), Food and Civil supply (2875), Medical Education (2458), Finance (2288), Water resources (1830), Planning (1186) Directorate-General of Information and Public relations (1189). The other departments with lesser complaints include: Minorities Affairs (924), Tourism and Culture department (845), Tribal (807), Chief Secretary’s office (724), Environment (667), Employment and Self-employment (602), Water supply (597), Women and Child welfare (370), Marathi dept (181) and Parliamentary Affairs (107). However, Galgali said the CMO could not provide complaints pertaining to the Employment and Self-employment department for nearly 12 months since July 2015 onwards. In a letter to Fadnavis, Galgali drew his attention to the fact that “the problem of common man is not addressed by the respective departments, making them write to the CM for redressal.” “The CM should tighten the grievance redressal system in the respective departments, by passing instructions to the department heads, which will lead to lessening of the load on the CMO, which will enable the CMO to divert attention towards other pressing problems in the State,” Galgali urged. The increased numbers of complaints also highlights the inactiveness of the department heads for which remedial measures should be initiated, he suggested. (New Kerala 22/8/2016

RTI success stories to be made available for public? (1)

On the occasion of completion of more than 10-years of implementation of the RTI Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release success stories of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release success stories of Right to Information (RTI) Act, during a programme to be held in October, to mark over 10 years of implementation of the transparency law enacted by the UPA government. The RTI Act, which was enacted in 2005, mandates time- bound reply to citizens query on governance related matters. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal authority for the RTI Act, wrote on Tuesday to chief of Administrative Training Institutes of all state governments seeking success stories. The institutes impart training for promotion of the transparency Act. “RTI Act has been instrumental in ensuring greater and more effective access to information to all citizens of the country, especially the marginalised sections of the society,” it said. On the occasion of completion of more than 10-years of implementation of the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission is going to hold annual convention in October, the DoPT said. “To mark this event, the Commission proposes to bring out a volume titled ‘success stories of the Right to Information Act, 2005′, which would be released for public by the Prime Minister during the annual convention,” it said. The state administrative training institutes have been asked to forward all the documented success stories maintained by them, the directive said. (DNA 23/8/2016)

Chennithala objects to denial of Cabinet info (1)

KOCHI: Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Thursday came out in support of the State Information Commission’s directive to provide information on Cabinet decisions taken from January 1, 2016 and March 12, including the minutes of the meetings. In a petition filed in the High Court seeking to implead himself in the State government’s writ petition challenging the commission’s directive, Mr. Chennithala said that the State government could not interpret the provisions of the Right to Information Act to meet its attempts to cover up information from the public for political reasons. Mr. Chennithala, in his petition, said that the Right to Information Act, 2005, recognised that sharing of information by the government with citizens was beneficial to the functioning of democracy. Right to know provided under the RTI Act was treated as a facet of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Besides, the statement of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the floor of the Assembly was contrary to the contentions advanced in the writ petition. He said that if the information sought for was not available with the office of the Chief Secretary and was available with other departments, the public information officer attached to the Chief Secretary’s office ought to have transferred the application to those departments. Mr. Chennithala said that the State government had not mentioned the alleged harm being caused to the protected interest in providing information as required under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act. In the absence of any such ground, the petitioners could not claim any benefits of exemption as per Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act. So, the government was liable to provide all Cabinet papers, including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries, and other officers. The High Court while admitting the government’s petition had restrained the State Information Commission from taking coercive steps against the Public Information Officer in pursuance to the order. (The Hindu 26/8/16)

RTI activist arrested for accepting bribe in Doon (1)

DEHRADUN: A joint team comprising personnel from the police department and the vigilance department arrested an RTI activist on Saturday for allegedly accepting Rs 20,000 as bribe from a forest department employee. The activist had claimed that he is in possession of sensitive documents related to forest department employees and threatened to make them public. Shafeeq Ahmed — a forest beat officer — told the police that he had been receiving phone calls from a person who introduced himself as RTI activist Vinod Kumar Jain. Jain claimed that he had documents which could prove that Ahmed had got a promotion based on forged certificates. He then demanded Rs 1 lakh from Ahmed to hand over the documents which he claimed that he had received after filling an RTI application. After several rounds of negotiations, both of them agreed to settle the matter for Rs 20,000. “The team arrested Jain while he was accepting the amount in Nehru Colony area,” said SSP Dehradun Sadanand Date. According to preliminary investigation Jain was found to have filed RTI applications with various government departments to collect information about their employees. “We are trying to collect more information about him and his properties and belongings,” added Date. (Times of India 28/8/16)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Draft national education policy rekindles debate on mother tongue (11)

BENGALURU: Resurrecting the debate on the medium of instruction, the draft National Education Policy (NEP) has stated that it could be in the child’s mother tongue, local or regional language, if the States “desire” so. The issue has been debated in Karnataka and seen long-drawn-out court battles. In fact, the draft policy’s stand on the issue comes as good news for the State government, which in May 2014 lost a nearly two-decade-old legal battle related to the State’s language policy of 1994.Despite losing the battle in court, the government had also passed an amendment to the RTE Act in April 2015 in order to make mother tongue the medium of instruction in primary classes.The document titled ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016’, circulated to States, says: “All States and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools, up to Class V, in mother tongue, local or regional language as the medium of instruction.” While acknowledging that English plays an important role and that it is necessary to make children proficient in reading and writing in the language, the draft states that if States opt to have the medium of instruction in the mother tongue, then there is a need to ensure that the second language is English. While the State government is happy with these developments, private school managements don’t feel so. D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said the matter was already settled as the apex court had given its verdict. “Both, the State and Union governments are using this for political vendetta and are not willing to listen to the aspirations of parents,” he said. Ironically, the State government too had softened its stand on the medium of instruction, and had said that the final choice should be with the parents rather than the government. But, it had maintained that the medium of instruction should be the mother tongue in government and aided schools at lower primary levels. However, during consultations, the former Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Kimmane Ratnakar, had batted for mother tongue as medium of instruction during the NEP discussions. (The Hindu 2/8/16)

Delhi to oppose draft education policy (11)

New Delhi: The Delhi government is likely to oppose several proposals on higher education in the draft New Education Policy (NEP), including that of a central ‘Indian Education Service’ and a centralised induction programme. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia held a meeting with several professors and the vice-chancellors of Delhi Technological University, National Law University, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and the head of IIT-Delhi, on Wednesday, to discuss the draft NEP’s recommendations. Interestingly, government sources say, they didn’t just go with the 43-page list of “inputs” the HRD minister had posted but also studied the 230-page draft report of the TSR Subramanian Committee. The IES will be opposed on the ground that “institutions build faculties over years” and a centralised service will mean “frequent transfers.” “This just won’t work and the government will oppose it,” says a source. Delhi government is also against capping the number of colleges that can be affiliated to a university. “Putting a number means even those that don’t have 100 will want to increase. There was discussion also on whether an affiliation model works at all or not,” he says. (Times of India 4/8/16)

‘Complete overhaul of Indian education system needed’ (11)

HYDERABAD: Well-known scientist and recipient of the nation’s highest honour ‘Bharat Ratna’, C N R Rao, on Friday called for a complete overhaul of the education system to make learning more enjoyable to students.”Quite a few students who get into IITs fail in the first year. That goes to show that preparation for the competitive examination is just learning the answers without knowing the subject,” Rao said during an interaction with students at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT). “It does not quite benefit if a student gets 99.9 per cent marks in the examination but hardly has knowledge of the subject,” he said. Rao delivered the IICT foundation day lecture on ‘Evolution of the chemical bond and its impact on science in India and in the world at large’. The lecture coincides with the 100th anniversary of chemical bonding and was part of the national conference organized by CSIR-IICT, Indian National Science Academy (Insa) and Chemical Research Society of India (CRSI).Addressing a packed auditorium of scientists, students and researchers, Rao took them through a journey of the history of chemistry.. (Times of India 6/8/16)

Over 1 lakh schools in India have just 1 teacher (11)

DEHRADUN: A report on single-teacher schools across the country, tabled in Parliament on Monday, has thrown up some alarming statistics on the education scenario in India. A solitary teacher is running the show in as many as 1,05,630 government elementary and secondary schools in the country, with MP emerging as the worst state where 17,874 of the institutions have just one teacher each. UP has the second-highest number of elementary and secondary schools- 17,602-where single teachers are performing the role of educators for multiple classes. UP is followed by Rajasthan (13,575), Andhra Pradesh (9,540) and Jharkhand (7,391), according to the annual report (2014-15) of the HRD ministry that was tabled by junior minister Upendra Kushwaha. No state can boast of having no single-teacher schools. UTs have performed better, with Daman & Diu, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Lakshwadeep recording no single-teacher schools in two categories. Delhi has 13 such schools. Bihar, which was in the news after the infamous “topper scam” surfaced in June, has 3,708 single-teacher schools. The MHRD report comes close on the heels of a TOI report last month which had revealed that 41 primary and middle schools in Gurgaon are one-person wonders with teachers doubling up as administrators, clerks, caretakers, wardens, midday meal servers, nurses and sundry crisis managers. The report was based on a recent UDISE (unified district information for school education) survey, an annual exercise conducted by the state education department in association with Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. While successive central governments have stressed the right to education, the ground reality is far from the specified objectives, with states flouting norms of the RTE Act. According to RTE guidelines, there has to be one teacher for every 30 to 35 students in government and private schools.According to the MHRD report, the states and UTs, apart from Delhi, that have registered the lowest number of elementary and secondary schools with a single teacher are Andaman and Nicobar Islands (16), Tripura (45), Dadra & Nagar Haveli (49) and Mizoram (73).Among the Himalayan states, Uttarakhand has the highest number of schools with single teachers at 1,771. Himachal Pradesh has 1,119 such schools while Jammu and Kashmir has 1,430. Punjab has 1,360 single-teacher schools; Haryana has recorded the number at 888 and Gujarat at 778. The data for student-teacher ratio in these single-teacher schools was not available. (Times of India 9/8/16)

Free education upto postgraduate level for the economically backward (11)

Guwahati: The Assam government is going to make admissions from the senior secondary level to the postgraduate level free of cost for economically backward students, state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced on Wednesday. The state government had earlier announced free admission for students taking admission into higher secondary, three-year degree and polytechnic diploma courses whose family income is less than Rs 1 lakh per annum. “We are going to provide free admission to students from financially poor backgrounds at the postgraduate level from the next year itself. It is an endeavour to make higher education accessible to needy students,” said Sarma during an interactive session of the state budget with academicians and students at Gauhati University here. The education minister also insisted on bridging the gap between theory and practice. “It is only when we can reduce the gap the theoretical and practical aspects that the government will become more relevant,” said Sarma. He urged the university authorities to arrange interactive sessions between students and senior bureaucrats for effective use of government plans. Sarma, who also holds the finance portfolio, said the challenge ahead is to synergize finance and education if Assam has to surge ahead. He also gave a clarion call to the academia to turn their attention towards villages in order to increase the purchasing power of the rural masses, which he said is key to the state’s growth. The minister said the BJP-led government in the state has been working to turn revenue villages into the centres of activity as he lauded the state government 2016-17 budget presented in the assembly recently. “From reforms to welfare of the common man, the budget has everything,” Sarma said. (Times of India 11/8/16)

Start-up to raise resources for better RTE implementation (11)

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 14 () A group of youths from Kerala, through their start-up venture, have joined hands with a Delhi-based NGO to raise resources for better implementation of Right to Education Act. The start-up titled ‘azadi.in’ provides an online platform to raise resources for legal fees through crowd funding in order to empower millions of ordinary citizens by taking up their issues legally. As its first project, the IIM-Bangalore-incubated company has taken up the Right to Education Act (RTE) and related issues. Its founders– Radhakrishnan Ram Manohar, Sidharth Vijyan and Praveen Paul– said their dream is to see 1.5 million schools in India get better facilities, meeting the scarcity of over one million toilets, enrolling the eight million students in the age group of 6-16 entitled to free education but still out of schools and resolving the shortage of five lakh teachers. Vipul Mudgal, Director of NGO ‘Common Cause’, which shot to fame through its interventions in the 2G spectrum case and coal scam, said thousands of schools in the country lacked adequate teachers, classrooms, toilets, drinking water, books, uniforms, libraries, mid-day-meal kitchens or playgrounds. “Despite a constitutional guarantee, millions of children are out of school, or without quality education. We thought instead of running after limited funders, we should collect small funds from a large number of people and decided to partner with azadi.in,” he said. (Times of India 14/8/16)

Draft new education policy and Minorities (7)

HYDERABAD: The draft of the New Education Policy has riled several socio-religious bodies from the minority community. Most, including the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have slammed the Centre for what they describe as efforts to saffronisation education. They have termed yoga as “un-Islamic” and criticized the introduction of Sanskrit claiming that it is a “dead language”. But what many perhaps have overlooked is that the report of the Committee for Evolution of the New Educational Policy in Chapter VI makes it clear its understanding and usage of Article 30 of the Constitution. The Article which gives religious and linguistic minorities the right to establish and administer their institutions. It now it appears that these find themselves in the Centre’s crosshairs. Sample this: In the section marked Application of EWS Quota to Religious and Linguistic Minority Institutions, the report speaks of “balance” of provisions of Article 30, Article 21 (A) – the state to provide education to children of age six to 14 — and Article 15 (4) — which deals with prohibition of discrimination on any ground. The tone, tenor and language of an excerpt from Chapter VI — which describes how minority institutions have used Article 30 (1) cannot be ignored. The excerpt reads thus: “Without entering into the legal aspects, it is now important to reconcile the right of the economically weaker sections with the right of the minorities under Article 30 (1); particularly when minority institutions often appear to clutch at any prop to ensure that their obligations, met by other aided or unaided schools, are circumvented. This issue needs further examination and clarification, not only to expand the scope of reaching out to EWS [economically weaker sections] students, but also to ensure that minority institutions are established only for the genuine reasons envisaged by the Constitution — that they are actually designed to meet the basic objective to meet the predominant needs of minorities- that they do not use their ‘Constitutional’ privilege to manoeuvre out of national obligations established in overall public interest.” Several organisations and politicians have asserted the right on religious minorities – Muslims and Christians included – to establish their institutions and run them by invoking Article 30. Shockingly, the report generalises and implies that minority institutions do not fulfil their obligations even as it accuses them of not fulfilling “national obligations”. The choice of words is disturbing…. (Times of India 18/8/16)

Education department recommends disaffiliation of 6 National Public School units (11)

BENGALURU: The Department of Public Instruction has written to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recommending  the disaffiliation of six schools run by National Education Trust. The schools are on the radar for allegedly submitting a fake minority certificate to the Department to avoid giving 25 per cent seats under the RTE quota. Confirming this development, Commissioner for Public Instruction Sowjanya told Express, “We have recommended to the CBSE that affiliation of these schools be withdrawn.” The Department wrote to the CBSE chairman on August 11 after it conducted a probe following a communication it received from the National Commission for Minority Education Institutions (NCMEI) stating that the minority certificates provided by the schools were fake. The Department’s letter to the CBSE chairman reads: “The management of these schools has violated the RTE Act and are indulging in fraudulent means to circumvent provisions of the RTE Act and are involved in criminal activities. Hence, this is a request to withdraw the CBSE affiliation of the above said schools and to take further action as per extant rules.” A few weeks ago, the Commissioner for Public Instruction had directed officials to file a complaint against the schools after they got a communication from NCMEI in February that stated that the minority certificates produced by the six schools were forged. The Bengaluru city police have received a complaint against five schools in the city and theyhave sought legal opinion, sources said.  In Mysuru, an FIR has been filed against the school.  Meanwhile, a private complaint has also been lodged with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), New Delhi. Sources said the CBI has written to the Commissioner for Public Instruction seeking information about the case. The communication from CBI, which is signed by Dr Subramanyeshwara Rao, SP, ACB (Anti- Corruption Bureau), CBI, reached the department on August 15. (New Indian Express 19/8/16)

Region-wide campaign to press for education demands(11)

AURANGABAD:Socialist organisation Akhil Bharatiya Samajwadi Adhyapak Sabha has announced a region-wide campaign to press for different demands. Its demands include offering free education from preschool up to postgraduate level and expanding the reach of the RTE Act, 2009. “A rally covering different districts of the region will start from Aurangabad as a part of the campaign on August 23,” Sharad Javadekar, co-ordinator of Marathwada Shikshan Hakka Yatra, told newspersons on Saturday. “The week-long campaign will cover Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Parbhani and Nanded districts of Marathwada. The main aim of the campaign is to sensitise masses about different issues plaguing the education sector. Through our region-wide rally, we will reach out to the masses of Marathwada with our agenda and seek public support to see desired changes,” he said. Elaborating on key demands of Akhil Bharatiya Samajwadi Adhyapak Sabha, its national vice-president Ajmal Khan stressed the need for increasing the age limit of RTE beneficiary students. “The age limit must be revised from the existing 6-14 years to 4-18 years to ensure even the poor and downtrodden have access to education. Such measures will lay a sound foundation for extending the benefit of free education further up to the postgraduate level,” he said. (Times of India 21/8/2016)

Region-wide campaign to press for education demands (11)

AURANGABAD:Socialist organisation Akhil Bharatiya Samajwadi Adhyapak Sabha has announced a region-wide campaign to press for different demands. Its demands include offering free education from preschool up to postgraduate level and expanding the reach of the RTE Act, 2009. “A rally covering different districts of the region will start from Aurangabad as a part of the campaign on August 23,” Sharad Javadekar, co-ordinator of Marathwada Shikshan Hakka Yatra, told newspersons on Saturday. “The week-long campaign will cover Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Parbhani and Nanded districts of Marathwada. The main aim of the campaign is to sensitise masses about different issues plaguing the education sector. Through our region-wide rally, we will reach out to the masses of Marathwada with our agenda and seek public support to see desired changes,” he said. Elaborating on key demands of Akhil Bharatiya Samajwadi Adhyapak Sabha, its national vice-president Ajmal Khan stressed the need for increasing the age limit of RTE beneficiary students. “The age limit must be revised from the existing 6-14 years to 4-18 years to ensure even the poor and downtrodden have access to education. Such measures will lay a sound foundation for extending the benefit of free education further up to the postgraduate level,” he said. (Times of India 21/8/2016)

‘Our full report on education has not been published’ (11)

New Delhi: Former Cabinet Secretary and head of the committee on the new education policy, T.S.R. Subramanian tells The Hindu that the government published only extracts of the report submitted by the committee , as the report was critical of India’s journey in education. The title of your committee on the new education policy was changed from ‘drafting committee’ to ‘evolution committee’. Now your report is being called ‘inputs’. Has its importance been watered down? I don’t know if the expectation was that we would praise the system. We have done wholesale criticism… The main reason why the report was not published and extracts were given was that this criticism should not come to the public. Unfortunately, there is nothing to praise. We showed the reality. It has nothing to do with A or B but shows 70 years of misgovernance.If a good policy comes, I don’t think credit needs to be given to anybody in particular. As a country we can’t wait now. See where Korea is. See what China has done. When will we change things? There were wide-ranging consultations last year and they are going on even now. Does it make sense? Hopefully, the system is poised to announce the decisions. I do not see this as a reopening of issues. I see it as consolidation of reactions. Inputs won’t come from Mars; so another three years’ examination won’t help. But I think the Minister is keen — he is correctly not looking at one person, source or report. Education policy is too important a thing to be attributed to one person, party or idea. It will affect the entire country. What matters is what solutions come. Cosmetic changes will be disastrous.Each of these 95 recommendations can be converted into policy, modified or rejected. It has details on how things are to be done. In 1986, they did not have a framework committee to convert policy into action points. There was no time-frame. It is for the Ministry to decide. But that, in my opinion, is absolutely essential. There should also be monitoring. Otherwise, any new policy will be in the air…. (The Hindu 26/8/16)

Delhi hits education low with failure rate (11)

The national capital may boast of the best education ecosystem in the country but a government survey has found that the failure rate at the higher secondary level among Delhi students is the highest in India at 7.50 per cent. Thanks to the government schools that have largely overlooked the quality aspects of education and maintaining standards. Delhi has around 5,600 schools, of which close to 3,400 are run by the government. These schools cater to the masses that come from different segments of the society. So it becomes all the more important to lay greater attention in the classes—individually as well as collectively to maintain standards of education. “Unfortunately, this is lacking,” admitted a vice-principle of a government school. Lack of effort to track the learning outcome in classes or initiative to address student absenteeism was also cited as some of the reasons for the state of education in the government schools. Of particular concern was the performance of students in the Science stream, where the failure rate was over 40 per cent. As per a report compiled by the District Information System for Education (DISE) under the HRD Ministry, the failure rate among the boys are 8.50 per cent and 6.39 per cent among girls, with the average rate at 7.50 per cent. The all India average in comparison is just about 1.78 per cent. Among the big states, only Karnataka has a retention rate of 4.58 per cent, but less than Delhi. “There is no accountability in the system. Unlike in private schools where teachers’ performance are assessed and students are evaluated regularly, government managed schools fail to do so despite education norms,” said an official of the HRD Ministry, who is also associated with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan initiative. As part of its initiative to emphasise on infrastructure creation, the Kejriwal government had announced 8,000 additional classes in this year’s budget. However, question loomed large over the quality of education provided. Lawyer and education rights activist Ashok Agarwal raised serious doubts about the competence of the teachers, saying if an aptitude test would be conducted, 50 per cent of them would fail. “They function more like a government servant, forgetting their onerous task towards the student community,” he said. According to the survey, government teachers also lose a good number of days performing non-teaching activities, further hampering the learning process. It said that over 12 per cent of the teachers in the city are engaged in non-teaching assignments related to census duties and elections. This results in the loss of 21 days from activities. (New Indian Express 28/8/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Urban poverty can’t be dealt with in isolation (21)

You cannot eradicate or change slums until you understand what creates them and keeps them growing; that is where the social sciences can be invaluablePeople migrate to urban areas for many reasons: search for work, displacement from lands and livelihoods, drought, water and food scarcity, disasters, poverty, mortgage-driven debt and, in many situations, conflict. These people are from a range of income groups, including individuals and households with lands but unable to cope with difficulties in farming. Seasonal migration to cities in search of work is an annual phenomenon; but this year the numbers increased due to the severity of the drought. Thousands of farmers and labourers from drought-affected districts in the country, facing failed harvests, having already borrowed money at high interest rates to buy seeds, fertilisers as well as food for themselves and their cattle in their villages came to cities to find work. A number of distressed farmers, unable to repay their loans, were driven to suicide. Migrants in cities work long hours in low-paid, insecure, unsafe jobs, and are exposed to a wide range of environmental hazards because of the lack of basic infrastructure in the informal settlements they live and work in. Migrants are disproportionately represented within some of the worst-quality informal settlements, like temporary camps for construction workers; small temporary structures on public land; or settlements set up by recent migrants, often on the urban peripheries.Dominant development theories assume that slums are a transitory phenomenon characteristic of fast-growing ecoznomies; and during the later stages of economic growth, slums progressively give way to formal housing with the trickling down of the benefits. According to these theories, living in slums is only a phase in the life cycle of rural migrants; and slum dwellers eventually move into formal housing within the city, with the benefits of migration passing to the next generations…. (The Hindi 1/8/16)

Poverty-stricken couple in Karnataka, tries to sell its eighth child (21)

KOLAR: Pushed to desperation by poverty, an illiterate couple in Kempasandra village of Malur taluk recently tried to sell their eighth child—a baby girl. The child welfare department intervened on time and prevented Krishnappa and Parvathamma from selling the newborn. The child is now in the department’s custody. Krishnappa, a daily-wage labourer, decided to give the child to someone who could take care of her as he was unable to bear the burden of a huge family, said district child welfare officer Mahesh Babu. Krishnappa and Parvathamma have seven children, including five daughters and two sons. Parvathamma became pregnant for the eighth time and was supposed to deliver in the first week of July. When she did not develop labour pain, she was rushed to a hospital in Kolar on July 24. Enroute, Parvathamma gave birth to a girl. As the baby was underweight and the mother was suffering from anaemia, both were admitted to SNR Hospital. Unable to bear the expenses, Krishnappa decided to sell the newborn. As soon as child protection officer Chaithanya came to know about it, she sent officials to the hospital. When Krishnappa said he couldn’t look after the child, officials took the responsibility. “The infant will be handed over to childless parents as per rules,” Babu said. Chaithanya said she received an anonymous call saying a man was trying to sell his child. “Soon, we met the couple and convinced them not to sell their daughter. They were not educated and not aware of family planning,” she said. … (Times of India 2/8/16)

25-30 yrs needed for lifting Indian poor above intl line: Govt (21)

New Delhi:     Sushma Swaraj, UNDP chief discuss sustainable development goals Chemistry is key to achieve the sustainable development goals: Neil Hawkins India ranks 110th on Sustainable Development index No culling of animals ordered by Central government: Anil Dave Indian bags UN honour for corporate sustainability initiativeIt will take 25-30 years for India to lift its poor people above the international poverty line which has been pegged at $1.25 (about Rs 80) per person per day, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. For lifting people above the poverty line of $5 per person per day, it would take about 200 years, he said while replying to a debate on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which prescribes poverty eradication as one of the objectives. The UN has ushered in the ambitious 2030 SDG with an aim of ending poverty, hunger and assure gender equally while building a life of dignity for all over the next 15 years. SDG includes 17 goals and 169 targets. Dave said poverty eradication is the most important goal and if it is achieved, other things would automatically fall in place. “Politicians and bureaucrats have to see that if we want to eradicate poverty what needs to be done…it will not happen till we deal with the illicit micro financing which leads to outflow of capital,” he said. With regard to the SDGs set by the UN to be achieved by 2030, the minister said more clarity is needed on the methodology for achieving these. “India is committed to achieve the SDG goals….But we need more clarity on how to achieve them by 2030,” he said. Quoting Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Dave said SDG goals are good but it would be improper to achieve right goals through wrong means. (Business Standard 3/8/16)

With caste on menu, tribal children go hungry (21)

KRISHNAGIRI: It is only a distance of 100 metre to the nearest anganwadi centre and its promise of nutrition. Yet, it is an insurmountable distance for the tribal children of Periya Mallahalli tribal colony in Mallahalli village of Kotayyur Panchayat. “Look at our children, what if they say something that invites trouble,” asks 22-year-old Mangamma, flashing her toothy smile stained by dental fluorosis, as a little army of unkempt children huddle up from across the habitation. “We didn’t send our children and nobody from the anganwadi has ever visited our colony to persuade us to send the children,” she says of the centre, folded into one room in a Lingayat household. Subtle rules of social engagement directed by caste equations have denied this tribe its access to the angawadi centre in the predominantly upper caste Lingayat village in Thally block here. As of date, not a single tribal child of Periya Mallahalli has tasted the food of the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) centre in Mallahalli village. Incidentally, the teacher of the anganwadi centre had written to the higher-ups to replace eggs with bananas. “Lingayat children don’t eat eggs,” says Pachayammal, the anganwadi teacher. “The tribal children don’t come to the centre and they are never there,” she says. Pachayammal holds the additional charge of a centre in Thagatty Panchayat. The anganwadi of Mallahalli Panchayat is the main centre. The centre’s cook Dudamma claims to cook 1.5 kg of rice per day for over 30 children. But, ask her about the portion for each child, and she fumbles. The original anganwadi was built out of DRDP (Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj) funds only five years ago, but was abandoned soon after a section of the tin roof was blown away by the wind. Today, two emaciated buffaloes wander about the spacious partially tiled interior of the centre, reportedly built at a cost of Rs.78,000. …  (The Hindu 7/8/16)

Union govt sanctions 36,254 houses for urban poor in Karnataka (21)

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday sanctioned 36,254 houses for Karnataka at an investment of Rs 1,468 crore under various sponsored schemes. An inter-ministerial committee chaired by Secretary, Housing and Poverty Alleviation, Nandita Mukherjee, approved construction of 12,371 houses for Karnataka under the Affordable Housing in Partnership component of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) for rehabilitating slum dwellers. Another 23,883 houses will be built in 207 cities and towns for urban poor under the Beneficiary Led Construction component of PMAY (Urban). The Central government will provide an assistance of Rs 558 crore for construction of these houses for urban poor in Karnataka. In the last fiscal, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation approved construction of 16,522 houses for urban poor in Karnataka taking the total number of houses approved for the benefit of urban poor so far to 53,776. (Deccan Herald 11/8/16)

Lack of quality, pay take their toll,project to feed tribal kids witnesses stunted growth (21)

KRISHNAGIRI: When the UNICEF and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) joined hands to launch an ambitious mid-day meal scheme for tribal children from six remote hamlets in Krishnagiri, hopes were high that the agencies would go a long way in tackling the problem of malnutrition crippling the district. The big names in the child welfare arena ticked all the right boxes and hit the ground running with their game-changing project. However, two years on, the much-touted scheme is gasping for breath, with the officials of both the agencies playing blame game over unflattering results. The project, the first such foray by the international agency in Asia, was taken up at Thally block – an area picturesque enough to be called ‘Little England’, largely due to its climatic conditions and the hill ranges, but often in the news for all the wrong reasons like rampant child marriage, high dropout rate among tribal schools and high infant mortality rate among others. It was in this block the officials zeroed in on six villages – Thakkati Colony, Jodukarai, Sivapuram, Ezhumanaithotti, Aatur and Thadikethanthotti – around 125 km from the district headquarters and selected 78 children in the age group of two-and-a-half years to five years to provide them quality and nutrient-rich food. A kitchen was set up at Arthakkal village in Thakkati panchayat and a van was commissioned to take the food to children on all days except Sunday. However, when Sunday Express paid a visit to these centres, it found that 15 of the original 78 children had already dropped out of the scheme. While at some centres the workers complained of poor quality food dished out to the children, at other places the staff were nursing a grouse against the agencies for not disbursing their salaries for over six months. At a centre, which was slated to answer the nutritious needs of the children from Monday to Saturday, the Sunday Express found that the workers took weekends off, forcing the children to skip their meals. At Thakkati Colony, three children dropped out of the ICDS centre to join District or the Panchayat Union Primary Schools. Of the original 20 children selected under the scheme, 17 remain.Attrition has taken a toll on the Sivapuram centre as well, with three opting out of the scheme, leaving the number at six from the original nine. Callousness of the staff too is writ large on the facilities, with the officials giving attendance a skip. At Thakkati the rolls were last marked in 2015, while at the latter centre, it stopped in April. When the Sunday Express landed at the Arthakkal ICDS centre on a Saturday last month, the doors were shut. “Usually the anganwadi does not function on Saturdays. A few from the village had complained to authorities, but nothing changed,” says Madevan, whose son attends the centre. All the six centres followed the same pattern, with none of them monitoring the proceedings or inspecting the day-to-day activities. ….. (New Indian Express 14/8/16)

Centre cuts Rs 165 crore Livelihood fund (21)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government lost Central assistance of over Rs 165 crore under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) due to poor utilisation of the grant meant for economic uplift of the rural poor. “The Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) could not spend the funds available during 2012-15 due to which the Government of India reduces the Central share by Rs 165.35 crore and the State Government could not release a portion of its matching share of Rs 7.93 crore,” said the annual technical inspection report on the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). A demand-driven scheme, the rural livelihood mission aims at reducing poverty by providing gainful self-employment through micro-economic activities to rural poor. Under the scheme, women self-help groups (SHGs) are provided financial support to start economic activities for sustainable development. The OLM is a registered society and designated as the State Mission Management Unit (SMMU) for implementation of the scheme. The Centre had released Rs 128.79 crore to the State in 2012-13 under NRLM. The State Government provided matching grant of Rs 35 crore as against its share of Rs 42.93 crore. Though Rs 167.51 crore was available with the State Government including the unspent balance of the previous year, it could utilise only Rs 71.31 crore (43 per cent). The Government could not better its performance in 2013-14 so far as utilisation of funds under the scheme is concerned. It could utilise Rs 50.84 crore out of Rs 137.14 crore made available under the scheme. The SMMU could utilise Rs 204.71 crore out of a total grant of Rs 245.34 crore received under the scheme during 2011-15 and utilisation certificate for Rs 122.15 crore was submitted. This resulted in reduction of Central assistance, the report said. The inspection report of the CAG attributed the poor fund utilisation of the SMMU to improper planning and non-preparation of annual action plan as stipulated by NRLM. “The audit found a number of deficiencies in planning, execution and monitoring of the scheme. In the absence of annual action plans, target could not be fixed at block and district level,” the CAG report said. The key features of NRLM are formation of SHGs, capacity building of the members, provision of revolving fund and capital subsidy, credit linkage to SHGs based on their micro-investment plan and marketing support. However, a large number of SHGs could not start the intended livelihood activities due to lack of thrust on investment plan and coordination with banks, the report said. (New Indian Express 18/8/16)

Restore rice quota: Ramesh to Centre (21)

Thiruvananthapuram:Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala wrote to the Centre demanding the withdrawal of its decision to discontinue the interim food grain allotment to the state. Chennithala wrote to food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan protesting the Centre’s decision to stall the allotment of food grains. He demanded immediate sanction of 7,082 tonnes of rice and 2,849 tonnes of wheat for distribution among BPL category and 15,488 tonnes of rice and 5,049 tonnes wheat for distribution among APL category customers in the state. In his letter, the opposition leader said that the government’s decision citing that the state was yet to implement the national food safety act, would push lakhs of citizens in a consumer state like Kerala to starvation and poverty. He said the most efficient public distribution system was functioning in the state, where almost 97% of people were covered by the system and there were PDS shops in every two kilometres. “There will be all the more demand for the food grains due to the coming Onam festival season in the market. The shortage of rice and wheat in the market will also lead to black marketing and hoarding,” Chennithala pointed out in his letter. (Times of India 22/8/2016)

UN sounds alarm as 4.5 million people need food aid in Boko Haram-hit north-east Nigeria (21)

New York, Aug 24 : The number of people in need of food assistance in north-eastern Nigeria has nearly doubled to 4.5 million from March, according to a mid-August analysis by various agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP).All indications point to an extremely grave situation, said Abdou Dieng, the UN agencys Regional Director for West Africa, in a news release. As the rains set in and the lean season deepens, and more areas are opened up to access humanitarian aid, the full scale of hunger and devastation is likely to come to light, he added. In the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the number of people struggling with severe food insecurity, or in an emergency phase requiring food assistance to survive, has risen fourfold since March to exceed one million, the analysis found. The Boko Haram-related insurgency in these states has caused population displacement, disruption in livelihoods, and acute food insecurity. Moreover, it is estimated that at least 65,000 people in newly liberated but still inaccessible areas in Borno and Yobe are facing famine-like conditions. The situation remains fluid, with more people uprooted in areas where fighting goes on. Some formerly displaced people are meanwhile returning to find their rural homes uninhabitable: forced to stay in urban areas, they are entirely reliant on external assistance. Further burdened with spiraling inflation, families have to beg, run up debts or skip meals to survive. Many are reduced to consuming low-nutrient foods and then, only once a day. A worsening economy could push up the number of people in need of food assistance in the countrys northeast by another million as early as next month. A separate food assessment by WFP has warned of soaring prices in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.WFP is scaling up its response, aiming to reach over 700,000 people with food and cash assistance in the coming months. This will include specialized nutritious food for 150,000 children under age five. WFP requires $52 million to continue providing life-saving assistance until the end of the year in north-eastern Nigeria. Dieng noted that tens of people have been killed or injured in Nigeria and in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger in the past days alone, an indication that Boko Haram violence is set to keep pushing more people into hunger and suffering. (New Kerala 24/8/2016)

Kalahandi’s tale of woes far from over (21)

Bhubaneswar: If Phanus Punji became symbol of Odisha’s abject poverty in 1984, more than three decades later, Dana Majhi’s story has shaken the state and grabbed international attention. Phanus, the poor woman had sold her sister-in-law Banita for Rs 40 and a saree to feed other members of her family in 1984. Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had to fly down to Amlapali village (now in Nuapada district) to see for himself the poverty in which people lived in. The Phanus case made the Centre pump in huge funds by floating KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) special scheme. But, 30 years later, the harrowing tale of Dana Majhi, who on Wednesday carried his wife’s body on his shoulders, after being deprived of a vehicle, has put Kalahandi back in international limelight. The state’s poorest district is still the poorest. The situation in Kalahandi has not improved at all. The remote villages remain as neglected as it was three decades ago. This shows the government’s lack of will to ensure that basic services reach the poor. “Successive governments are making publicity stunts in the name of Kalahandi and poverty and the end result is what we saw in case of Dana Majhi,” said human rights campaigner Biswapriya Kanungo. Between 1984 and 2016, the KBK region reported many starvation deaths, which the successive governments never admitted. In 2009, five members of Bariha family in Chabripali village in Balangir district died due to reported starvation. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent its special repertoire Damodar Sarangi to probe the matter. Two members of Supreme Court Food Commission had also visited Chabripali. But these cases, which were reported and probed, soon faded into oblivion with the state government turning a blind eye to it. State advisor to Supreme Court Right to Food Commission Rajkishor Mishra said the state government’s inclusive policy is a misnomer. The Dana Majhi incident only exposes how the poor are being excluded from availing basic services. “It is a very sorry state that in their names schemes are being made and they don’t benefit from them,” Mishra said. Dana’s wife Amang battled for life on a verandah in the TB ward in Kalahandi district headquarters hospital, Bhawanipatna and died. After death also, she was not given a dignified final journey. (Times of India 28/8/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

87% Indian-worker exploitation complaints from Gulf nation (14)

As thousands of laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia were said to be without food, 87 per cent of complaints received from Indian workers at Indian missions across nine countries were from six Gulf countries, with nearly half of those from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to government data. Indian missions across nine countries received 55,119 complaints of ill-treatment and “exploitation” of Indian workers over the last three years, according to data tabled in the Lok Sabha by the Ministry of External Affairs. Of these, the Indian mission in Qatar received 13,624 complaints, followed by missions in Saudi Arabia (11,195), Kuwait (11,103) and Malaysia (6,346). On July 30, 2016, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj acknowledged the hunger facing laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia. “The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over Ten Thousand. It is not 800 as is being reported,” she tweeted. Sushma Swaraj promised, through a series of tweets, “that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food”.The complaints received from Indian workers include “non-payment/delayed payment or underpayment of salaries, long working hours, inadequate living conditions, physical harassment, non-renewal of visa and labour card on time, refusal to pay for medical treatment, denial of leave and air-ticket to home town on completion of contract period, forcible custody of passport and visa and refusal of leave or exit/re-entry permits”, the ministry said in its reply to parliament. No specific complaint of sexual abuse was reported, the ministry added. Twenty-four per cent of Indians jailed aboard in Saudi prisons Saudi Arabia has more Indians in prison than any other country: 1,697 of 7,213, according to another Lok Sabha reply. Saudi Arabia is followed by United Arab Emirates (1,143). The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain — account for half of all Indians jailed abroad and 87 per cent of mis-treatment complaints received from Indian workers. The Indian mission in Saudi Arabia registered 1,676 complaints during the first half of 2016. Poor working conditions put an Indian living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait at 10 times the risk of death compared to an Indian living in the US, IndiaSpend reported in August 2015. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Kuwait report between 65 and 78 deaths per 100,000 Indian workers. An average of 69 Indians die every year in the six Gulf countries. The corresponding figure for the rest of the world is 26.5, almost 60 per cent lower. (Business Standard 2/8/16)

MGNREGA workers demand pending wages (14)

Mandya: Workers from different parts of the district, who had worked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), have demanded immediate clearance of their pending wages. Under the banner of Karnataka Pranta Krishi Koolikarara Sangha (KPKKS) and Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane (JMS), they staged a protest outside the Mandya Zilla Panchayat office here on Thursday and raised slogans against Chief Executive Officer B. Sharath for not releasing payments. The agitators urged the zilla panchayat to address the issue as workers have been facing financials hardships owing to long delays in wage payments. The workers across the district were not paid their wages in the last five weeks, claimed Devi, JMS district president, who also added that the delay in payments was common in Mandya. She said that several workers had worked across the district for various developmental projects under the MGNREGA scheme. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

Delhi government plans major overhaul of labour laws (14)

New Delhi: After increasing the minimum wages by 30 to 40 per cent, the Delhi government said it also has further plans to overhaul the labour norms in the national capital. The government will award contracts only if the service charges per person quoted is 7.5 per cent of the tender value or above under its new policy. According to labour minister Gopal Rai, it will help prevent unscrupulous contractors from demanding a cut from the employees’ wages. The government pays service charge so that employers are compensated for their spending on employees’ uniform, equipment, conveyance and workspace amenities. “Usually the contractors make employees pay for service or management charges, it’s punishable by law,” Mr Rai said. Earlier on Friday, the government had said it is set to increase the minimum wages by next week. Currently, the minimum wages are Rs 9,568 for unskilled workers, Rs 10,582 for semi-skilled workers and Rs 11,622 for skilled workers. Those violating the minimum wage norms will have to pay an increased penalty, Mr Rai said. The Minimum Wages (Delhi Amendment) Bill 2015 has scaled up the penalty from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 and the imprisonment term from six month to three years. The Bill is awaiting assent of the Centre. Abhinav Rai, officer on special duty to the labour minister, said that the Cabinet has approved the new tender policy. According to him, all Delhi government departments have been directed to follow the new policy. The government is planning to extend benefits of Provident Fund and Employees’ State Insurance to even minimum wage earners. “We are going take the matter up with the Centre,” Mr Rai said. Stating that the minimum wages rules will apply to both the public and private sector, Mr Rai claimed that lakhs of contract workers in Delhi would benefit from the reforms initiated by the Aam Aadmi Party government. A policy has also been drafted to regularise the contract workers in various government departments, according to Mr Rai. “We had sent the file to the lieutenant-governor. But he returned it, raising objection on provisions related to age relaxation and extra marks in recruitment exams to those already working with the government on contractual basis,” he said. He added that the government is seeking legal opinion before resending the file for L-G’s nod. (Asian Age 7/8/16)

Focus on problems of women at workplace (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Problems of working women in both organised and unorganised sectors persist, notwithstanding the tall promises made by different political parties to take corrective measures. A majority of parties conveniently forget the promises made by them after they come to power, all India secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) K. Hemalatha has said. She was addressing delegates at the inaugural of the sixth State-level convention of working women organised by CITU-Greater Visakha Nagar Committee here on Saturday. . State president of CITU Ch. Narasinga Rao said: “Women employed in Brandix India Apparel City are allowed to relieve themselves within a minute and their washroom breaks are highly restricted. There is a need to unite for a common cause and fight for the rights of these women who are deprived of basic amenities at workplace.” State convenor of CITU Working Women Coordination Committee Dhana Lakshmi and city convenor M. Kameswari welcomed the announcement made by the Centre to increase the maternity leave for private sector workers to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. (The Hindu 7/8/16)

LS passes Factories Amendment Bill to increase overtime hours for workers (14)

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Factories Amendment Bill to increase the overtime limit of factory workers from 50 hours to 100 hours in a quarter. It also proposes to increase the overtime working hours for factories with “exceptional” workload from 75 hours to 115 hours in a quarter. Further, Centre or states may increase this overtime limit to 125 hours in a quarter in the “public interest.” “The need for increasing overtime hours is based on the demand from industries so that factories can carry out the work on urgent basis,” the Bill said. Significantly, the Central government has been empowered to make exempting rules and orders related to the overtime hours in a quarter “to ensure uniformity”. At present, only state governments are empowered to pass exempting orders related to the overtime hours. The Centre has also empowered itself to frame rules under the Act on issues related to terms and conditions of the workers in a factory and make separate rules related to fixed working hours, period of rest among others for persons engaged in urgent repair work.The Bill will now be introduced in the Rajya Sabha. The Union government didn’t table the detailed amendments to the Factories Bill which were introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and later referred to the Standing Committee. Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said that “since consideration and passing” of the detailed Bill “may take some more time” in Parliament, the present Bill amending only two clauses were introduced “to facilitate ease of doing business so as to enhance employment opportunities.” Revolutionary Socialist Party MP NK Premachandran said the Bill was introduced in a “very hasty manner” and had “far reaching consequences.” Some MPs raised concerns that the Bill sought to take away the powers of the state governments in framing the rules under the Factories Act. “We are not taking away any rights of the state governments…The Central government is only making an addition. All the executive powers will remain with the state governments,” Mr. Dattatreya said. Mr. Dattatreya said certain safeguards were taken to protect the interest of the workers such as not allowing anyone to work for more than 12 hours in a day and the provisions supported the International Labour Organisation framework. The Union Cabinet also gave an ex-post facto approval to the introduction of the Factories Amendment Bill of 2016 in Parliament. (The Hindu 11/8/16)

Rights panel takes up case of Ajmer silicosis workers (14)

JAIPUR: Taking suo motu cognizance of news reports about silicosis patients in Ajmer district being asked to prove their identity as mine workers before being awarded the Rs 1 lakh compensation, the state human rights commission on August 5 sought a response from the district collector. The SHRC has sought a list of all patients of silicosis certified by the Pneumoconiosis Board; it has sought details of when the patients were certified, when they applied for compensation, and when the money was released to them. It has also sought to know reasons for delay in release of monetary support. Vikas Singh of the Grameen Evum Samajik Vikas Sanstha in Ajmer said, “On August 3, 35 silicosis patients received Rs1 lakh each. In just the Masuda block of the district, we identified over 100 patients. District authorities have assured us that 21 more would get the compensation money this week. We brought to the notice of authorities that 13 patients had died before getting the money. In Beawar, there were 21 silicosis patients who were limestone workers. They had also been working on stones brought from the mines. Since they were not mine workers, there was some confusion about whether they will be eligible for compensation.” Taking the Ajmer district collector to task, Dr MK Devarajan of the state human rights commission said it was strange that authorities could ask for proof. Nothing in the rules requires such documentary evidence. Once a patient is diagnosed as suffering from silicosis, all that is required is a self-declaration about the nature of his work. The instructions seeking identity proof were on the basis of communication taken “out of context,” SHRC explained. Devarajan explained that in the early years, the work on silicosis was confined to mine workers. However, after those engaged in the construction industry and even sculptors in stone began to be diagnosed with the condition, state authorities extended compensation to such workers too. If those working in the mines could actually prove they were mineworkers, there might have been no need at all for the compensation offered by the Rajasthan Environment and Health Administration Board (REHAB), Devarajan explained, as workers could then approach the labour courts. Mine owners would be responsible for their safety, and would be liable to compensate them in case they fell ill because of their work. Rana Sengupta of Mine Workers Protection Campaign said that if workers approached the labour courts, they would be entitled to a much larger compensation package. However, mine owners in the state operate without following the rules. There are no records of attendance of workers at the mines or any lists of those engaged in the work, Devarajan noted. In the absence of these records, workers cannot approach the court for compensation. It was precisely for this reason that REHAB funds were made available for compensation, the human rights commission member pointed out. (Times of India 12/8/16)

Domestic workers to be brought under ESI fold soon: Dattatreya (14)

Hyderabad: Labour Ministry will soon launch a social security scheme for domestic workers on pilot basis in Delhi and Hyderabad as part of Central government’s commitment to provide health insurance for all, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said. “We will roll out a new scheme to bring domestic workers under the ESI fold. This scheme intends to provide ESI facilities to domestic workers. Employers need to contribute Rs 200 monthly towards this scheme that will enable medical facilities for domestic workers,” Dattatreya told reporters. “We have decided to start the scheme soon as pilot project in Delhi and Hyderabad … We will involve NGOs also besides will talk to state governments to make the scheme better,” the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment said, adding that Rs 200 per month contribution by employers will provide medical insurance for domestic workers and his/her family. Reiterating government’s commitment to bring all the unorganised sector workers under social security schemes, he said the process has begun to include around five crore construction workers to provide them with EPF and ESI facilities. On Rajya Sabha recently passing the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016, that provides for 26 weeks maternity leave, Dattatreya said India will move to third position in terms of the number of weeks for maternity leave after Norway and Canada. “The Bill will benefit over 1.8 million women workers,” he mentioned. The minister said Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill-2012 has been passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, besides Employee’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill-2016 and Factories (Amendment) Bill-2016 have also been passed by Lok Sabha. Reacting to a query on enforcing the rules of various labour laws, Dattatreya said, “We are trying to constitute dedicated teams giving them provisions to act ensuring effective enforcement (monitoring of rules).” Six regional conferences will be held across the country by the Labour Ministry in this regard, he added. (Business Standard 14/8/16)

Employers can pay PF dues through PayGov portal: EPFO (14)

New Delhi: PayGov is a centralised platform for facilitating all government departments and services to collect online payments for government services,” the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) said in a statement. At present SBI collects remittances on basis of EPFO. Retirement fund body EPFO today said the Employees Provident Fund Scheme has been amended to include PayGov for financial transactions, thus enabling PF dues to be collected through the portal. “The EPF Scheme has been amended to include PayGov platform for financial transaction. PayGov is a centralised platform for facilitating all government departments and services to collect online payments for government services,” the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) said in a statement. At present, State Bank of India (SBI) is the sole collector of PF remittances on behalf of the EPFO. Elaborating about other major achievements, EPFO said it redressed more than 40,000 grievances in June-July. Out of the pending grievances, most were pending for disposal for less than 7 days. Other developments in the period include giving an option to EPFO members to enhance their pensionary benefits. The benefits are available to members who defer their pension upto 59 or 60 years of age with or without contribution after the age of 58 years. The benefit is increase in original pension by 4 per cent in case of completion of one year and 8.16 per cent in case of completion of 2 years after 58 years. In case a member defers the pension with contribution, the contributory service after 58 years of age will be included in calculation of pensionable service and pensionable salary, but will not be considered for determining eligibility. For availing this benefit, a member must have completed atleast 10 years of service on attaining the age of 58 years. It said that with the objective of giving special emphasis on securing compliance in respect of all eligible contractual workers, meetings were held with CPWD, DMRC, MCD, NBCC, Railways and National Highway Authority of India during the period. A meeting of the Sub Committee of Central Board, EPF on Construction Workers was also held in which it was decided to explore whether cess collected on behalf of construction workers can be utilised to pay part of employees share of EPF of such low paid workers.The online filing through ECR (Electronic Challan cum Return) is going to be further simplified with the Version II of ECR. The return format has also been simplified, it added. (DNA 18/8/16)

Major trade unions in Goa to join all India labour strike on Sept 2 (14)

PANAJI: All major trade unions in Goa under the banner of “Goa Convention of Workers” has decided to back the nationwide general strike call to be observed on September 2 against “anti-labour and anti- people policies of the Governments.” All major trade unions of Goa comprising of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Goa Municipal Employees Union (GMEA), All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), Co-ordination Committee of Goa Government Employees (CO-CO-GGOE), Electricity Employees’ Union Goa (EEU), Government of India Navigation Employees Union (GOINEU), KTC Drivers & Allied Employees Association (KTCD&AEA) and Goa Government Employees’ Association (GGEA) participated in the protest demonstrations organised in Goa on Tuesday. The nationwide strike will demand that the Centre stop forthwith the process of amending the existing Labour Laws, withdraw forthwith Road Transport Safety Bill, stop disinvestment of Central Public Sector Undertakings and FDI in Defence, Railways, Retail trade, Insurance, Banks and other financial sectors. At Goa level, the demands are revision of Minimum Wages for all schedules of employment with linkage to Dearness Allowance. Minimum Wage not less than Rs.18,000/- per month w.e.f. January 1, 2016, abolition of contract labour system in all perennial and permanent jobs operations in Government and private establishments, regularizing the services of all contract workmen employed under PWD Labour Supply Society, Drishti Lifeguards, Kadamba Transport Corporation Ltd., (KTCL) and all other Government instrumentalities, equal pay for equal work to all contractual employees, implement Universal Social Security cover for organized and unorganized workers with a National Social Security Fund, legislation to ensure 10 per cent service charge to the hospitality sector and hotel employees and immediate action against corporate defaulters who fail to pay loans secured from public financial institutions, said Adv. Suhas Naik, convenor, GCW. (Hindu Business Line 19/8/16)

Only 10% workers get minimum wage: BJP (14)

NEW DELHI: Leader of opposition Vijender Gupta has questioned the government’s decision to increase minimum wages in the city as it has not been able to implement the existing structure. “We welcome the government’s decision but I would like to question whether it can be implemented. Even now private firms working with the government are not paying the existing wages. A large number of these employees are working at Delhi Secretariat and Old Secretariat,” said Gupta, adding that the AAP government had not taken action against any errant company or contractor. Thousands of workers employed at liquor shops are also being made to sign for specific wages but are being paid much less, he alleged. The city has 60 lakh eligible workers but only 10% get the actual wage, claimed Gupta. He, however, emphasised that the government should ensure that industries didn’t shift to the neighbouring states with much lower minimum wages. “Delhi has 24 labour laws but only 10-11 labour inspectors. In 1970s, the labour department had 570 employees but today it has just 170. Is the government prepared to deal with labour issues to be created by the new rules?” asked Gupta. In response, labour minister Gopal Rai said the government was committed to implement the new structure revising the minimum wage from Rs 9,500 to Rs 14,000. Implementation of previous structures, Rai said, was lackadaisical as penalty provisions were weak with a fine of Rs 500 and a jail term of six months. “We have proposed to increase the fine to Rs 50,000 and the jail term to three years.” The Bill was among those returned by the Centre on technical grounds. Rai said the government was planning to draft a policy to ensure that all these workers get their stipulated wages. (Times of India 23/8/2016)

Rs. 1,850 crore lying unused with worker welfare board (14)

NEW DELHI: With over Rs. 1,850 crore lying untouched, the Board has spent just over three per cent of the funds on welfare schemes for construction workers. A major reason for the funds going untouched is that only 17 per cent of the estimated 10 lakh construction workers in Delhi are registered with the Board.“As of now, we have 1.7 lakh registered construction workers. The number is less because such workers are primarily floating population. While tracking and mapping them is an issue, getting them to register is also a problem as most of them are illiterate,” said A. Nedunchezhiyan, Secretary of the DBOCWWB.He also informed that until July this year, the Board had around Rs. 1,850 crore of unused funds. Records revealed that since its inception in September 2002 till August last year, the Board earned revenue amounting to Rs. 1,860.88 crore through cess deposited by government authorities, PSUs and other private agencies based on the construction cost of their projects. However, it could spend only Rs. 55.25 crore of the earnings on the welfare of construction workers. In fact, the Board’s expenditure on itself surpassed the permissible limit of five per cent of its total expenses, which stood at Rs. 169.85 crore. It spent Rs. 9.69 crore for administrative expenses whereas the sanctioned amount is Rs. 8.49 crore.When asked about the reason for accumulation of such a huge amount of unspent money, a senior official said: “This is the case with all States, and Delhi is no exception. As much as Rs. 24,000 crore of money collected as building cess is lying unused and it is an ongoing matter in the Supreme Court.” (The Hindu 23/8/16)

Can’t former tea vendor PM Modi feel our pain, ask street vendors (14)

New Delhi: Our Prime Minister says he was a vendor himself, a tea vendor, then why is he so indifferent to the continuing and illegal harassment of street vendors? Why don’t our protesting voices reach him?” says Jitender Bahadur Singh, a wiry man in his early fifties.Mr. Singh, who till recently used to sell readymade garments in Lajpat Nagar central market, was one of the scores of hawkers in Delhi who braved the rain on Wednesday afternoon to stage a protest march from Palika Bazaar to Jantar Mantar. His shop was shut down before Independence Day and he hasn’t been allowed to set it up again. With my business disrupted time and again, I have run up a debt of Rs. 1.5 lakh,” said Mr. Singh. The protest rally, organised by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), was attended by vendors from Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Sansad Marg, besides other parts of Delhi. They carried placards stating that shutting down of their businesses would leave them with only one option – begging. “The police harassment has become unbearable. We can’t even leave our stall for two minutes to go to the toilet – the cops come and confiscate our wares. They do this even without making a panchnama, which is illegal,” said Kanchan Devi, a street vendor from Sarojini Nagar market. Arbind Singh, national coordinator of NASVI, said: “Municipal bodies are neither respecting the judiciary nor the executive. Despite High Court stay orders against eviction, and provisions of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 offering them protection from police harassment, vendors are being slapped with arbitrary challans of anywhere from Rs. 5,000 to Rs.10,000 and their stalls declared illegal.” Kuldeep Srivastav, a vendor from Lajpat Nagar, said: “Dalals have taken over the business of extorting street vendors. They do a round of the market on a scooty and collect money on behalf of cops or municipal officials or even local politicians. If you don’t want to be evicted, you have no option but to pay up.” Renu, who sells garments on Janpath, said, “I have been selling clothes from the same spot in Janpath since 2002. I have multiple documents to prove the legality of my stall. But ever since the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) got a new director of enforcement in February, the harassment has been acute. Nearly 4,000 vendors have been evicted in the NDMC area since then. The latest excuse for eviction is smart cities.” The NDMC area is one of the localities picked for development under the smart city mission. As per the Street Vendors Act, 2014, no hawker can be evicted from their spot until a survey of existing hawkers has been carried out, hawking and no-hawking zones demarcated, and identified hawkers issued vending certificates. (The Hindu 26/8/16)

77 return from Saudi labour camps (14)

JAIPUR: Seventy-seven Rajasthanis stranded in labour camps in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia were evacuated from the country on Thursday. Krishna Kunal, the acting principal resident commissioner in New Delhi, said these labourers were stuck in labour camps after their company, Oger, went bankrupt. While 70 workers reached Delhi on Thursday, seven more were expected to reach the capital tonight, he said. The state government has ensured free transportation and food, and will give the evacuees an aid of Rs 1,000 to meet their immediate needs. Officer-in-charge Vimal Sharma is coordinating the effort under the Rajasthan Shramik Kalyan Prakosht. District collectors from places where these labourers belong have been put on alert and asked to attend distress calls from those returning home. The Rajasthan Skill Livelihood Development Corporation (RSLDC) will organize a skill upgradation and re-employment programme for these labourers. A workshop has also been proposed for the workers in Jaipur, he added. (Times of India 26/8/16)

Kerala Minister asks State to constitute minimum wages board (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Kerala Minister for Fisheries, Cashew Industry and Harbour Engineering and CITU vice-president J. Mercykutty Amma on Sunday said Andhra Pradesh should constitute a board for revision of minimum wages for the workers. During her visit to CITU office here, she told reporters that Kerala was successfully revising minimum wages for the workers engaged in 83 scheduled industries by constituting a board. She said for instance, the minimum wage for cashew workers in Kerala was Rs.400 to Rs.450 per day (all inclusive) whereas in AP it was Rs.165 plus DA (around Rs.215). “We also give pension to all at Rs.1,000 per month and offer ESI and Provident Fund facilities to all categories of workers. Ms. Amma, who was here to interact with industrial workers to make general strike on September 2 a success, during her visit to CITU office near Jagadamba junction paid rich tributes to two youth, who were killed in police firing at Basheerbagh during anti-power tariff hike agitation in Hyderabad 16 years ago. She later released a booklet brought out by CITU on the struggle undertaken by the workers of Brandix India Apparel City. Ms. Amma said the benefits being given by Kerala government were availed by 43 lakh workers belonging to organised and unorganised sector. She said they were implementing the best Public Distribution System by supplying 13 items including rice and pulses to the poor. Rice is given at Rs.4 per kg. The government is spending over Rs.1,000 crore on the subsidised rice scheme. The Minister said Kerala also had set up a board for migrant workers to take care of their requirements. She said minimum wages were being revised once in every three years. On the general strike, she said the working class of the country had decided to fight against the anti-people policies of the NDA government. The strike should be made successful to provide better working conditions and social security for the workers deployed in organised and unorganised sector. CITU State president Ch. Narsinga Rao, district general secretary S. Ramesh and city treasurer S. Jyothiswara Rao were present. (The Hindu 29/8/16)

RESERVATION

Gujarat govt to withdraw 90% cases related to Patidar agitation (25)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat government today said it would withdraw 90 percent police cases lodged against Patidar community members during the state-wide agitation, led by their leader Hardik Patel, for reservation under OBC category last year. A review committee headed by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel met on July 29 to discuss the matter “sympathetically” after leaders from the agitating community made repeated appeals to her to get the cases withdrawn, an official statement said. “After discussion, Anandiben decided to withdraw around 90 per cent of cases lodged against Patidar community members in connection with the (reservation) agitation,” it said. The government had earlier ordered withdrawal of 155 cases. At a meeting last Friday, Anandiben ordered to withdraw 54 more cases in addition to the 155 cases. She also ordered the state home department to take necessary steps to withdraw an additional 182 cases at the earliest, the statement said. With this, 391, or nearly 90 per cent, out of a total of 438 cases lodged against Patidar community members will be withdrawn. A mass gathering of the Patidar community members on August 25 last year had turned violent. Patidar leader and convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Hardik Patel was also among those arrested in connection with the vandalism. He was recently granted bail by the Gujarat High Court in two sedition cases as well as Visnagar loot and vandalism case and is presently residing in Udaipur as per the bail condition. (Zee News 1/8/16)

Gujarat HC quashes 10% upper caste quota (25)

AHMEDABAD: In a setback to the Gujarat government, the high court quashed its decision to carve out 10% quota from general category for upper caste families with low income of up to Rs 6 lakh per annum on Thursday. A division bench of Chief Justice R S Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi held that the ordinance reserving quota for upper castes on basis of their income was “unconstitutional and contrary to fundamental rights guaranteed to the petitioners under Articles 13(2), 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution”.The court said that income cannot be considered a basis for social backwardness of a community. Observing that the state government has no power to make such provisions, the hihg court directed it to cancel admissions granted under 10% EBC quota. This will mandate reshuffling of admissions especially in engineering and other professional courses. The HChas granted two weeks to the government to approach the SC. The HC rejected the government’s contention that the EBC quota is not reservation, but a classification. The court also noted that this provision violates maximum 50% reservation norm. The court pulled up the state government for its false claims that policy was formed after a survey. (Times of India 5/8/16)

50 p.c. quota sought for BCs (25)

VISAKHAPATNAM: BC communities must be ready to launch a ‘militant’ type agitation to realise their demand of 50 per cent reservation in legislatures, president of BC Welfare Association R. Krishnaiah said here on Saturday. Though the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Assemblies have passed resolution to provide 50 per cent reservation for BCs in legislatures, Chief Ministers of both States were not showing interest in sending it to the Centre. They should lead all-party delegations from their respective States and impress the Prime Minister the need to provide reservation for BCs. He also demanded formation of BC sub-plan, allot funds and disburse the same to BC beneficiariesState president of BC Electricity Employees Association Polaki Srinivasa Rao and other office-bearers were pres (The Hindu 7/8/16)

Gujjar stir: HC seeks govt reply on plan of action (25)

JAIPUR: Rajasthan High Court on Monday sought an explanation from the state government on whether it plans to impose a financial penalty or take legal action against Gujjar leaders including BJP MLA Prahalad Gunjal, Kirori Singh Bainsla and 13 others for defying its orders of September 2007 during the Gujjar agitation. The court also asked why the government officials should not be held in contempt for not being able to stop the agitation. After the government counsel sought time for a reply, the court set August 16 as the next date of hearing in the case. The single bench of the high court in September 2007 had directed the agitating Gujjars not to indulge in violence, cause loss of property or hold mahapanchayat without the local authorities’ permission. But the Gujjar leaders defied the court’s directions. The state government then filed a contempt petition in September, 2007, against Bainsla for flouting the HC order not to indulge in violence and disrupt public life. The single bench of Justice Mahesh Chand Sharma on Monday asked the government who would pay for the damages to the public property during Gujjar agitation and if the government planned to impose financial penalty or put those who were held in contempt for disobeying the Rajasthan High Court order, in jail.The court also asked why a content of court proceeding should not be initiated against those government officials who failed to stop the agitation despite a Supreme Court order and an interim order of the Rajasthan high court in this regard. Advocate Shailander Singh said that Colonel Kirori Singh Bainsla appeared before the court along with many other Gujjar leaders. The court has asked him to appear before the court during the next hearing on August 16 also. Meanwhile, a meeting of Rajasthan Gujjar Reservation Committee was held on Monday. The committee members including Bainsla, Captain Harprasad, Advocate Shailander Sharma, Himmat Singh Gujjar, Bhura Mal and Atar Singh, among others, expressed dissatisfaction over the progress made by the cabinet sub-ministerial committee regarding various issues related to Gujjar reservation. .. (Times of India 9/8/16)

Rajasthan delegation meets home minister Rajnath Singh (25)

JAIPUR: Disappointed with the state government’s slow pace in tackling legal hurdles related to quota for Economically Backward Classes (EBC), members of Samajik Nyay Andolan met union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi to demand amendment in the Constitution. The organisation’s representatives sought a policy-based solution for all quota stirs in the country. The 14% Economically Backward Classes quota passed by the state assembly in 2015 has been facing legal impediments as the Constitution does not allow reservation in jobs or educational institutes on economic basis. Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat raised the issue of reservation for economically backward in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday and appealed for an all-party consensus for an amendment in the constitution to allow this. “Union home minister Rajnath Singh later assured us to hold serious discussions on the issue once the parliament session was over. He reiterated BJP’s commitment to declaration on the issue made in the election manifesto,” said Surendra Singh Shekhawat of the Samajik Nyay Andolan. Besides Shekhawat, the delegation that met Singh included Yashvardhan Singh (Jhunjhunu), Rajendra Singh Bhinyad (Barmer), Bhanwar Purohit (Bikaner) and Arvind Khotiya (Sikar), among others. Earlier on Monday, the delegation had met union minister for social justice and empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot on the same subject. (Times of India 11/8/16)

Telangana to up quota for Muslims, STs in proportion to population (25)

Hyderabad, Aug 12 : Telangana government will go for a special legislation on the lines of Tamil Nadu to increase the quantum of reservation for Muslims in proportion to their population in the state, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao said on Friday. He also announced that the reservation for Scheduled Tribes (STs) will also be enhanced in proportion to their population as envisaged in the Constitution. The Chief Minister said this after two commissions constituted by the government to study the socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims and STs submitted their reports to him. Muslims, who constitute 12.68 per cent of Telangana’s 3.52 crore population, currently enjoy four per cent quota in education and jobs. STs, who are 9.34 per cent of the population, are availing six per cent reservation. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had made election promise to increase the quantum of reservation for both Muslims and STs to 12 per cent each. The government in 2015 constituted two panels headed by retired IAS officers to study the socio-economic and educational conditions of these communities. As the implementation of poll promises will take the total quantum of reservation to over 50 per cent, the ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court, TRS government proposes to request the Centre for a constitutional amendment as was done in the case of Tamil Nadu, where the total quota is 69 per cent. The Chief Minister said there was a need for Tamil Nadu like legislation in Telangana to enhance the quota for weaker sections. He said as Muslims were very backward, there was need for reservation for the community to provide them educational and job opportunities. Chandrasekhar Rao also held a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Mehmood Ali, Minister for Tribal Welfare A. Chandulal, and top officials to discuss measures to be taken to enhance the quota for Muslims and STs and to improve their socio-economic and educational conditions. Advocate General Ramakrishna Reddy made suggestions as to how to take necessary steps as per the Constitution. (New Kerala 12/8/16)

Jat quota: Haryana notifies criteria for ‘creamy layer’ (25)

Chandigarh: The Haryana government today notified the criteria for the exclusion of the “creamy layer” within the Backward Classes category as per the schedule appended to the Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institution) Act, 2016. Announcing this here, a Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Department spokesman said the children of those who have a gross annual income of up to Rs three lakh would get the first preference as far as the benefits of reservation in services and admission in educational institutions are concerned. The remaining quota seats would go to those in the Backward Classes category who earn between Rs three lakh and Rs six lakh per annum, he said. Those with an annual income of above Rs six lakh would be considered the “creamy layer” under section 5 of the Act, the spokesman added. The Haryana government had granted a 10-per cent quota in government jobs and educational institutions in the state to Jats and five other communities by carving out the Backward Class ‘C’ category following protests in February. However, it was stayed in May by the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had given the Haryana government time till August 24 to issue a notification taking out the ‘creamy layer’ from the quota granted to the six communities. (Zee News 17/8/16)

Sports quotas illegal, scrap them: Hyderabad HC (25)

HYDERABAD: The Hyderabad high court has called upon state governments across India to consider dissolving the sports quota for admission in educational institutes, saying it provided a backdoor entry to students who were not meritorious. The quota does not have constitutional sanction either, it added. In an order dated August 8, a copy of which was made available only on Wednesday, the HC also criticised the Andhra Pradesh government for including “insignificant” games under the sports quota. “It is sad to note that except video games, all other games that one could conceive of have been brought within the sports quota to enable persons who cannot excel in studies to gain admission into medical courses through the backdoor,” a bench of justices Ramasubramanian and Anis said. The court thus dismissed a petition filed by a student challenging NTR University of Health Sciences’ decision to not consider her for an MBBS seat under the sports quota stipulated by an Andhra Pradesh government order that included six more games in the quota apart from the 28 added since 2008.The six new games are: tennikoit, powerlifting, netball, throwball, sepak takraw (kick volleyball) and boxing. Holders of merit certificates in all the listed games are eligible for MBBS and engineering seats. The bench said sports quotas were “inventions made for the purpose of diluting the constitutional guarantees granted to SCs, STs and BCs”, adding that they were also harming sports. “Ultimately, persons who gain admission into medical courses under this quota lose their flavour for sports..,” the bench said. (Times of India 18/8/16)

No admissions, appointments in Gujarat on 10% quota (25)

New Delhi, Aug 22 : The Supreme Court on Monday said the stay of Gujarat High Court verdict quashing 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections (EWS) will continue but no admission or appointment would take place on the basis of the quota that was carved out in the wake of Patel agitation in the state. While directing the hearing of Gujarat’s appeal against the high court order on August 29, a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said the August 4 stay order would continue along with the undertaking that no admissions would be made on the basis of 10 per cent reservation. The Gujarat High Court, while staying its own judgement to enable the state government approach the apex court challenging it, had recorded an undertaking by the Gujarat government that no admissions would be made on the basis of 10 per cent reservations. At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court bench that Gujarat government was challenging the August 4 high court verdict quashing May 1, 2016 ordinance providing for reservation for economically weaker sections amongst upper castes in the state both in education and employment. As Rohatgi told the court that the high court itself had stayed the operation of its own verdict, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium said that the stay was for two weeks which came to an end on August 17. The high court had stayed the operation of its own judgement as Gujarat government had sought two-weeks time to approach the Supreme Court. Telling the apex court that the judgement quashing the 10 per cent reservation was no more on hold, Subramanium said that the August 4 stay was subject to undertaking by the state government that it would not make any admissions or appointments under the ategory. … (New Kerala 22/8/2016)

Stay on Gujarat HC order on quota to remain, says SC (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday extended for a few more days the Gujarat High Court’s interim stay on its own judgment quashing an ordinance for 10 per cent reservation in education and government employment to the poor among the upper castes in the State. A Bench, led by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, said the High Court’s August 4 order would continue to be in operation till August 29, when the court would hear the appeal. Meanwhile, the Bench got an assurance from Attorney-General Mukul Rohatg that there would be no admissions under the quota till further directions. (The Hindu 23/8/16)

Justice for backward communities: Creamy layer verification procedures to be enhanced (25)

KOCHI: Kerala PSC chairman K S Radhakrishnan on Wednesday said the creamy layer verification procedures should be enhanced to ensure equal justice for backward communities. “A section among the backward communities still remain backward as the benefits of reservation are enjoyed only by a section of them. Some people do not even get an opportunity,’’ he told a news conference convened to shed light on the PSC’s activities under his stewardship.‘’ The ST sections are lagging behind despite the several crore spent on their upliftment,’’ Radhakrishnan said. And he claimed that under his stewardship a major overhaul was carried out in the PSC. ‘’ In the past five years, many outdated practices which PSC had been following were dispensed with and timely ones brought in and the results of tests were announced in a time -bound manner,’’ he added.According to K S Radhakrishnan, the PSC had issued 4,398 notifications in the last five years. During the previous five- year period it was 3,753.  As many as 3,489 rank lists  were published during 2011-2016. “We conducted 2,783 examinations in 2011-16 and in 2006-11 it was 1,019.  Number of interviews held were 2,839 and  1,761 respectively,  an increase of 61 per cent. A separate syllabus for PSC, for the first time in its history, came into existence in 2013. Malayalam was made a a mandatory subject for most of the examinations,” he pointed out. The PSC chairman said it was during his stint that the PSC initiated steps to fill up 3,146 SC/ST vacancies which had been pending for the last 27 years.  Of these, Advice Memos  had been issued to 2,038 candidates. Recruitment to 609 tribal watcher posts for tribes living in forests was carried out on a war footing. For this the PSC members went to tribal settlements in forest  in person to receive applications and conduct the interview.Besides, the recruitment to 4,273  NCA posts which had remained vacant for several years was notified and recruitment procedures completed. Advice Memos were sent  for 2,714 posts. To complete the recruitment to the remaining 1,559 posts, the government has to take a decision on the 963 vacancies among them. …  (New Indian Express 26/8/16)

SC extends stay on order quashing Gujarat quota (25)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday extended by a fortnight the interim stay on a High Court order quashing an ordinance allowing 10 per cent reservation in education and government employment to the poor upper caste communities in Gujarat. A Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud was asked by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi to allow the stay order to continue till the next hearing. The court clarified that there would be no admission till further orders. The State appealed in the Supreme Court against the Gujarat HC’s order on August 4, quashing the ordinance meant to quell the Patidar agitation for quota in the State. It called the ordinance “unconstitutional”. The State contended that the judgment by a Division Bench, led by Chief Justice R. Subhash Reddy, did not consider the fact that the 10 per cent quota was based on “reasonable classification” and not reservation as such. (The Hindu 30/8/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

NHRC directive to officials on projects for tribals (1)

KALPETTA: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which reached the district on Monday to study various issues of tribespeople, especially the issues of the unwed tribal mothers, directed the officials concerned on Tuesday to be more vigilant while drafting and executing welfare projects for tribal people. The team led by Justice Cyriac Joseph gave the direction after an interactive session with the leaders of various tribal organisations in the district. Tribal people should get justice on time and political interest or any vested interests should not be a hindrance for it, Justice Cyriac Joseph said. “Allotment of funds by local civic bodies for the welfare projects for tribesmen was very poor,” Justice Joseph said adding that many a time even the allotted fund for the purpose was not being utilized effectively. “Ignorance of tribal people on the welfare projects is the major reason for the exploitation,” he said adding that active interventions of the organisations working for tribal people could make a positive change in the sector. Leaders of tribal organisations brought various issues of the marginalised sections of the society such as dearth of basic amenities in tribal hamlets, lack of healthcare and educational facilities, addiction of tribesmen to alcohol and interventions of contractors in tribal housing projects to the attention of the panel. They also requested the panel to recommend setting up de-addiction centres under the government to tackle the alcoholic addiction of tribesmen. (The Hindu 3/8/16)

HC upholds compensation for human rights violations (1)

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has dismissed a writ petition filed by a policeman challenging State Human Rights Commission’s February 25 order directing the State Government to pay a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to a Tiruchi-based trader who was booked in a false case, stripped and beaten black and blue in public view on November 27, 2007. A Division Bench of Justices K.K. Sasidharan and B. Gokuldas held that the Commission was fully justified in placing reliance on the “cogent, consistent and trustworthy” evidence of other traders at Gandhi Market in Tiruchi to find the petitioner Sivakumar, besides an Assistant Commissioner of Police and an Inspector of Police, guilty of human rights violations. (The Hindu 3/8/16)

Ignorance of law cited as cause for rights violations (1)

ERODE: Lack of awareness was the main reason for human rights violations in India, State Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties S. Balamurugan told a gathering of students at Sathyamangalam recently. Speaking at a programme organised at Bannari Amman Institute of Technology by Sudar, a non-governmental organisation, under the aegis of NSS, Mr. Balamurugan said a healthy society warrants knowledge about laws among students of both schools and colleges. The law for human rights protection was passed in India in 1993, and subsequently the National Human Rights Commission and the State Human Rights Commissions were formed. But, these bodies are now able to make only recommendations for action to the governments. They must be granted powers for executing their orders as well, he said. College Principal K. Saravanan, presided. Retired Deputy Commissioner of Police R. Chakravarthy spoke on National Human Rights Commission, and R. Shanthi, Professor, spoke on Women and Child Rights. (The Hindu 5/8/16)

 ‘Civil society must unite against those harming environment’ (1)

Shivamogga: Social activist S.R. Hiremath said civil society should launch a collective struggle against forces engaged in the plundering of natural resources in the name of economic development. Mr. Hiremath was speaking after releasing the book Swargakke moore maili at a programme held at the premises of Shivamogga Press Trust on Saturday. The book is a compilation of articles written by English author Jeremy Seabrook translated to Kannada by renowned journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju and poet Rosy D’Souza. Mr. Hiremath said that economic liberalisation has widened the socio-economic disparity and has resulted in unabated destruction of the environment. A sizable chunk of green cover has been lost and the rivers have been polluted owing to industrialisation and illegal mining, he said. The activist said peace and non-violence were the weapons with which Mahatma Gandhi succeeded in humbling the British and liberating the nation from the imperial rule. Just as Gandhi mobilised the masses against the British rule, it was necessary to appraise the masses about the ill-effects of economic liberalisation, he said.Referring to the incidents of research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the charge of sedition levelled against student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Mr. Hiremath said that these occurrences proved that the space for freedom of expression in society was declining. (The Hindu 7/8/16)

Iron Lady turned away, has no place to stay (1)

Imphal/Kolkata: After breaking her fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal, Irom Sharmila found it difficult to find a shelter on Tuesday night. She went to at least two places, but was turned away. The police later brought her to the Imphal City Police Station. Perhaps that is indicative of the fact that many who came forward to support her over the last decade-and-a-half found it a little challenging to accommodate her, after her release. “It could be because of the fact that a few underground organisations have questioned the withdrawal of Ms. Sharmila’s fast,” said one of her associates. Earlier, Namoijam Oken and Khetri Laba, leaders of the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) a Meitei insurgent outfit, and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) an ultra-leftist group, addressed Ms. Sharmila as “elder sister”, and urged her not to end the fast. That, perhaps, is the key reason she did not have much support while being produced in court on Tuesday. Only a few women and handful of activists stood by her side as her 16-year struggle changed course. Opinion on her decision to end the fast remained clearly divided in Manipur. “People in Manipur do not trust Indian electoral politics. They think that by joining politics, Irom Sharmila will end up like them,” Malem Ningthouja, an academic and activist, told The Hindu. Babloo Loitongbam, Director Human Rights Alert, Manipur, also a close aide of Ms. Sharmila, has a different take on the matter. “Sixteen years ago, when a young woman started a fast demanding removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) she was being laughed at. Today, she symbolises the protest against AFSPA across the country. Who knows five years from now what her political course may chart out to be,” said Mr. Loitongbam. At the all-women market Ima Keithel, in the heart of the city, women do not endorse her decision to join politics as Ms. Sharmila’s mission “remained incomplete”. Outside Manipur, she has strong support and many said the ‘Iron Lady’ has “good reasons” to withdraw her fast now in 2016. Civil rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen said it will be “wrong to state that Sharmila’s job remained incomplete.” “For the last 16 years her fast has been a crucial point in the movement against AFSPA and it would be extremely cynical and a wrong representation of the facts to say that the fast has turned out to be a failure after it is withdrawn,” Dr. Sen told The Hindu. (The Hindu 10/8/16)

Highest number of long-stay mental health patients in Pune, Thane: NHRC report (1)

Pune: As many as 3,025 persons with mental health problems have been staying for more than five years at 47 government mental hospitals across the country. Chennai, Pune and Thane have the highest number of these long-stay patients, says a new report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). A combined strength of 978 patients with mental health problems has been staying for more than five years at regional mental health hospitals in Pune, Thane, Nagpur and Ratnagiri. Another 700 patients have been staying at these institutions for more than a year and 466 patients are destitute. Sujata Saunik, Principal Health Secretary, Maharashtra, said that Maharashtra’s mental health institutions had the highest number of long-stay patients. “Issues related to long-stay patients are complicated and a majority are homeless. Also in several cases, their relatives do not want them back. Hence, an effort has been initiated to start a half-way home at Nagpur and set up a centre of excellence with the Tata Trust to help patients who have recovered earn their own livelihood and be independent,” Saunik told The Indian Express. Regional mental health hospitals at Thane and Pune have the highest number of long-stay patients. As many as 373 patients have been staying at the regional hospital in Pune for more than five years and another 389 are in Thane’s institution. A total of 338 patients have been staying at Pune’s facility for over a year and 235 persons at Thane’s. At Nagpur regional mental health hospital, there are 170 patients who have been staying for more than five years and 111 patients staying for more than a year. A report of the technical committee of the NHRC on mental health, based on affidavits submitted by each state or UT to the Supreme Court, had earlier this year made 30 recommendations for each state. Members of the committee — Pratima Murthy, Sudhir Kumar, Nimesh Desai and Balbir Kaur Teja — in their report ‘Mental health care in India — Old aspirations… renewed hope’ had also said that addressing the issues of long-stay patients should not become an exercise to ‘get rid’ of them because they occupied hospital beds. “It is important to know whether patients are returning to a family that will provide care or whether their quality of life will improve if placed in an institution or a community setting,” the members had said. Another 3,448 persons with mental health problems have stayed for over a year across 47 government-run mental health institutions in the country and at least 1,588 persons admitted to these institutions are destitute. As many as 551 persons have been staying at Chennai’s IMH for over five years and another 733 for over a year… (Indian Express 11/8/16)

NHRC meet: Need uniform civil code, single definition of ‘child’ (1)

NEW DELHI; A uniform civil code that keeps in mind women’s rights, a definition of a ‘child’ that has a single age limit and the removal of contradictory provisions of the Indian Penal Code that deal with sexual assault were some of the suggestions that emerged from a consultation held by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Taking stock of India’s human rights record, the NHRC organised a national-level consultation on August 12 and 13. Stakeholders, including activists and government officials, discussed prevailing condition and recommended changes to improve human rights in India. The consultation was organised as part of the NHRC’s process of preparing a report for the Third Universal Periodic Review of human rights to be done by the United Nations next year. The U.N.’s Human Rights Council carries out a review every four years for its member nations. Based on reports by the NHRC, the Home Ministry and NGOs, the U.N. makes recommendations to the government. An NHRC statement said India should “work towards having a uniform civil code from women’s perspective to enable them to have equal rights, irrespective of their religion, to ensure a secular justice system,” (sic). Another suggestion was to remove provisions of Section 377 of the IPC, which deals with unnatural sex but has been used to criminalise the LGBT community, and Section 375, which deals with rape, as they contradict each other. “Do away with provisions under Section 377 and 375 IPC, which are contradictory to each other as acts that are non-criminal under Section 375 IPC remain criminal under Section 377 IPC,” said the NHRC statement. The NHRC also suggested doing away with different age limits for children. For example, the age of a child is defined differently when it comes to prosecution for criminal offences or extending benefits under child rights’ laws. While these were the suggestions taken into account, the NHRC’s report for the Universal Periodic Review could include or exclude some of these points. An NHRC source said that the report would be compiled soon. India is expected to submit its national report to the U.N. by February 2017. (The Hindu 15/8/16)

NGO moves SC against misuse of sedition laws (1)

New Delhi: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court over the “blatant” misuse of sedition laws by successive governments, despite an apex court ruling narrowing down its scope. NGO Common Cause, along with anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar, sought direction for “strict compliance” with the court in its Kedarnath vs State of Bihar (1962) decision. The court had then held only those acts which involved incitement to violence or violence constituted a seditious act under Section 124A of the IPC. “In carrying out arrests and slapping charges, the police and governments have rarely, if ever, respected this restriction. Successive governments have blatantly used Section 124A to stifle the voice of dissent and to further their political goals,” the PIL filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan contended. The move comes in the backdrop of the Bengaluru Police registering an FIR against Amnesty International India after anti-India slogans were raised during an event organised by the NGO in Bengaluru on Saturday. Citing the National Crime Records Bureau report, the petitioners pointed out that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 and 58 arrests were made, but there was only one conviction. The petitioner sought direction making it compulsory for the authority concerned to produce a reasoned order from the director general of police or police commissioner certifying that the “seditious act” either led to the incitement of violence or had the tendency or intention to create public disorder before lodging an FIR. The petition listed out cases lodged to ‘threaten’ writer Arundhati Roy, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, civil rights activist Binayak Sen, 67 Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh, actor Aamir Khan, Tamil folk singer S Kovan and JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The petitioners also quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who had in 1922, said, “Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.” (Deccan Herald 18/8/16)

NHRC sends notice to WB govt over mental hospital case (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the West Bengal government over reports of an NGO finding some mentally-challenged men and women patients lying naked on dirty floor at a government hospital on Independence Day. “They had not bathed or shaved for months, had visible signs of various diseases. The toilets were so filthy that nobody could use them. The bed sheets were full of bugs,” the NHRC today said. In a statement, the Commission said it has taken a suo motu cognisance of a media report that “a team of NGO Anjali visited Berhampore Mental Hospital on Independence Day and found naked men and women, all mentally-ill patients, lying on dirty floors in a very bad condition.” The NHRC has issued the notice to the Chief Secretary of the West Bengal government and sought for a detailed report on the state of affairs in that hospital along with the status of other mental hospitals run by the state government. It has also asked its Special Rapporteur, East Zone, Domodar Sarangi, to assess the situation on the ground and submit a report to the Commission. The state government as well as the Special Rapporteur have been given eight weeks to respond, it said. Reportedly, the Hospital Superintendent of Berhampore Mental Hospital refused to make any comments on it when approached by the NGO team. The Chief Medical Officer also denied the calls made by the NGO, the NHRC statement said. The Commission, reiterating its commitment towards the promotion and protection of rights of mentally ill persons, has observed that the contents of the news report are “distressing”.According to the media report, carried on August 17, there are about 430 patients, including men and women, staying at the Berhampore Mental Hospital at present. “There is no facility of laundry, no barber and bathrooms are in such a bad condition that the patients often fall on the ground and hurt themselves,” it said. (Business Standard 19/8/16)

Charging Amnesty International with sedition is a big mistake: Shashi Tharoor (1)

NEW DELHI: Congress Party MP Shashi Tharoor on Monday said that charging human rights watchdog Amnesty International with sedition is a big mistake. “Amnesty has not advocated violence. If anyone indulges in encouragement of violence and hate speech, they should definitely act against them, but sedition is a grave charge,” Tharoor told ANI. He said that national security in our country is not going to get compromised by few people shouting slogans. “As far as I am concerned this charge should not have been brought, and now that the Home Minister of Karnataka has decided to drop it, I think we should now turn the page and move on,” he added. Karnataka Home Minister G. Parameshwara had yesterday said Amnesty International was not wrong in organising the event and that did not amount to sedition. The comment garnered a strong reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley alleging that some political parties were indulging in votebank politics for nefarious gains. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, “”My basic question to (Chief Minister) Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Home Minister G. Parameshwara is why are they interpreting sedition, it is their constitutional duty to register cases of sedition against not only Amnesty India, but also against its office bearers and participants, who raised anti-India slogans. They should book them immediately and take appropriate action.” On August 13, the Indian chapter of Amnesty International had organised an event as part of a campaign to seek justice for “victims of human rights violations” in Jammu and Kashmir. That event took an ugly turn with heated exchanges and a raising of anti-India slogans. Mounting pressure on the government post the incident, BJP activists staged protests in Bangalore and other places demanding that a case of sedition be registered against Amnesty International. Karnataka Police filed an FIR under Section 124 (a) of the Indian penal Code (IPC) amounting to sedition against Amnesty on August 15. The case was registered at the J.C. Nagar police station in Bengaluru. (New Indian Express 22/8/2016)

Crackdown on NGOs (1)

Non-governmental organisations (NGO) have been under pressure since the Modi government took charge at the Centre. Data from the home ministry showed it had cancelled registration of 13,972 NGOs since 2011 across 34 states and Union territories. Of these, 72 per cent or 10,046, NGOs were banned after May 2014, when the Modi government took over. Business Standard analysed the data, based on the names of NGOs. About 12 per cent of these banned NGOs had Christian names and two per cent had Muslim names. While in smaller states like Goa and Meghalaya, Christian names accounted for about 70 per cent of banned entities, among the top 10 states, 414 or 43 per cent of banned NGOs were from Kerala, followed by Tamil Nadu (354, 19.4 per cent) and Telangana (104, 15.7 per cent). Uttar Pradesh accounted for the largest number of banned NGOs, with 51 NGOs having Muslim names. But, this accounts for only 4.2 per cent of the state’s tally. Karnataka ( 39, 3.6 per cent) and West Bengal (31, 2.8 per cent) are the other top 10 states, with Muslim names high among banned entities. (Business Standard 22/8/2016)

‘Government-run tribal schools in Khammam violating human rights’ (6)

HYDERABAD: AN inquiry was conducted on the mysterious deaths of 26 tribal children in the government-run tribal homes, that occurred over a period of two years in Khammam. Rupa Kapoor, member, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Wednesday paid a visit to three tribal residential schools in Khammam. “The situation is pathetic and needs urgent attention. There is a gross violation of human rights is what I have observed,” Rupa said.  The first, Tribal Residential School for Girls in Mustafa Nagar has 323 children crammed in a space meant for half the number. “Hostel and classrooms double up as one. They reside and study in the same place. There is not enough ventilation either,” she added. Rupa also pointed that kids were drying their undergarments inside and not out under the sun. “This is a sanitation problem. They are bound to contact diseases when clothes are not sun dried,” she added. With no proper infrastructure, food for the kids was being prepared out in the open with no cover. Adding to the misery, toilets are located outside the premises putting the girls in a much more dangerous situation. A few of these deaths were attributed to snake bites. Rupa confirmed this. “They are prone to snake bites considering the location of toilets,  especially in the night.” There is no care taker and are under the watch of a guard, added Rupa.  The Tribal Residential School for Boys located at Revathi Theatre Centre she visited after was relatively better said Rupa. However, it lacks basic requirements like tables, chairs, school bags or recreational facilities. Another school for girls is located 20 km away from Khammam town in Gollagudem village. “The huge building for 330 girls is spacious and airy. There is a space for play also, but they are prone to scorpion and snake bites. Located far from the city, they are not equipped to deal with emergencies,” she noted. The district collector has been alerted and has been asked to submit an Action Taken Report to the NCPCR in the next 15 days. “In case they fail to do so, further action will be taken. They have been given three months time for infrastructure development by when children should be shifted either to a bigger space or some of them should be moved,” she said. Officials complain that parents do not allow for transfer of children. “They should be provided counselling as they cannot survive in such crammed spaces,” she said. (New Indian Express 26/8/16)

Odisha: Dead woman’s legs, hip broken for easy transport; probe ordered (1)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Human Rights Commission has started a probe into a case of hospital workers in Balasore district allegedly breaking a body at the hip so that they could carry it in a bundle.On Thursday, the panel’s chairperson, justice BK Mishra, issued summons to the inspector general of railway police and the Balasore district magistrate over newspaper reports and TV images that showed two hospital sweepers breaking the bones of a body and wrapping it in a sheet. District magistrate Pramod Das said he asked for a report from the railway police over the incident, which comes on the heels of outrage over a tribal man being forced to carry his dead wife on his shoulders in Kalahandi district. The body was of Taramani Barik, an 85-year-old widow, who died after she was run over by a goods train near Soro railway station in Balasore district. The doctors at the Soro Community Health Centre declared her dead. Railway officials, who wanted to take the body to the district headquarters hospital in Balasore town (30km away) for an autopsy, found no ambulance or vehicle. A junior railway police official asked sweepers at the health centre for help. As the body had stiffened, sweepers allegedly broke the leg and hip bones so that it could be neatly packed into a bundle. They then carried the body in the sack all the way from the hospital to the railway station on their shoulders on a bamboo pole. The woman’s son, Rabindra Barik, alleged that the railway police treated her mother in the most inhumane way after her death. “They should have shown some dignity. The sweepers who broke the bones should be punished,” he demanded.In Kalahandi, Dana Manjhi had to wrap his wife’s body in a cloth and walk to his village Melghara in Rampur block, about 60 km from Bhawanipatna district headquarters, after hospital authorities did not provide a mortuary van or an ambulance. Manjhi, who was accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter, was spotted by some local reporters who called up the district collector and arranged for an ambulance for the remaining journey. (Hindustan Times 27/8/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Complaints against SC, HC judges may go to panel (19)

NEW DELHI: The government has proposed setting up a mechanism to deal with complaints against judges in the apex court and in all 24 high courts in the country despite resistance from the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Supreme Court collegium. The provision for a secretariat has been included in the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges.+ Including retired judges, the secretariat will be tasked with evaluating complaints against the judiciary and recommending action. It will also screen candidates to be considered for appointment in the apex court and high courts. The CJI and the collegium have been resisting such a mechanism as the higher judiciary believes it will impinge on their independence. As of now, complaints against the judiciary are referred to the CJI who decides how they are to be dealt with. In a decision taken at the highest level, the government has resolved not only to have a secretariat for the collegium, in the SC and in all HCs, but also lay the rules for appointment of retired judges to the secretariats. The latter will be appointed with the consent of the CJI and the chief justices of the respective high courts. By introducing the screening mechanism through the secretariats in the SC and high courts, the government seems to have decided to shelve the proposed Judges Accountability Bill to avoid any confrontation with the judiciary. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha in 2012 but it lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th House. As of now, there is no formal mechanism to deal with complaints against judges+ . All complaints against the judiciary are referred to the CJI who decides how they are to be dealt with. After striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act last year, the SC had asked the government to frame the MoP incorporating five key factors, including a mechanism to ensure transparency in appointments, a secretariat and a mechanism to deal with complaints. The government is of the opinion that the higher judiciary should not see these measures as an infringement on the independence of judiciary since appointment of retired judges for the secretariat would be made by the CJI in case of the secretariat for the apex court while chief justices of HCs would do so in states. “The retired judges will be working under the CJI and the chief justices + and hence there should not be any misgivings on the executive’s interference in the affairs of the higher judiciary,” a source said…. (Times of India 1/8/16)

Supreme Court upholds High Court stay on foresters’ recruitment (19)

Nagpur: Fate of 310 foresters continues to hang in balance with Supreme Court upholding the stay granted by Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on the direct recruitment by the state government. Earlier, hearing writ petition filed on August 13, 2015 by a forest guard Sunil Fulzele and Maharashtra Forest Guards & Foresters Union, the HC had stayed the process to fill 310 vacancies of foresters. Of these, 157 vacancies were already filled in 2014 while the remaining 163 were to be filled in by 2015. Justice Vasanti Naik at the HC had stayed the notification by the state terming bad in law. According to the petitioners, as per the service rules of 1987, minimum qualification for foresters is HSSC. A forester can be appointed by nomination (25%) and by promotion (75%) of the available vacancies. Later, as per rules framed by the forest department on June 30, 2011, on the basis of DM Sukthankar Committee Report, appointment of foresters was completely to be done on 100% promotion basis only. However, the forest ministry issued a notification on October 22, 2013 stating that 75% of the posts of foresters were liable to be filled by promotion on the basis of seniority and 25% of the posts were liable to be filled by accelerated promotion on the basis of merit (graduates). It is stated that for being eligible for promotion in 25% quota, a candidate is required to clear a departmental examination. Though the qualification prescribed for appointment/promotion to the post of forester is HSSC, the notification said that a candidate would be allowed to appear for the examination only if he possesses a degree or any other equivalent qualification, declared thereto. The contention of the petitioners was upheld by the high court bench citing an example of judiciary itself. The bench said if prescribed qualification to recruit judges and promote them is LLB, you cannot put separate yardsticks for LLM candidates. The high court finally granted stay on August 25, 2015. Now the apex court too has continued the stay. (Times of India 4/8/16)

Fast-track court judge fails CJI’s law test (19)

NEW DELHI: An aspiring district judge, ordered by a high court to be appointed to that post, ended up ruining his case as he failed to answer CJI T S Thakur’s elementary questions on law and procedure in a packed courtroom on Monday. As a result, the Supreme Court stayed his appointment. Having served as a fast track court judge in Arunachal Pradesh for 12 years on an ad hoc basis, he was eligible to be absorbed as a regular district judge. But the Gauhati high court, on the administrative side, examined the Scheduled Tribe fast-track judge’s performance and rejected his appointment. The judge had appeared for the written exam for recruitment of district judges in Arunachal Judicial Service and failed to secure 35%, the minimum criteria for ST candidates. After failing to get through the normal process, the judicial officer moved the Gauhati high court, which directed his appointment as district judge considering his length of service. The administrative side of the HC appealed against the order before the SC through advocate Sneha Kalita. Appearing for the HC, senior advocate Vijay Hansaria told a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud that in 2012, the SC in Mahesh Chandra Verma case had ruled that those appointed on ad hoc basis as fast-track court judges had no right to the post. The SC had directed that these ad hoc appointees would have to undergo written examination as per the guidelines laid down in Brij Mohan Lal case, Hansaria said. After hearing arguments, the bench asked the petitioner’s counsel whether the client was present in court. Finding that he was present, the CJI called him before the bench and decided to take an informal test.The CJI asked, “You have been a judge for 12 years, so tell us in a suit for specific performance, what is the first thing that a judge would look for in the case?” Finding his answers way off the mark, the bench decided to put the most elementary question in law, “What is the difference between Section 304-I and 304-II of Indian Penal Code? The judicial officer fumbled even as all eyes in the packed courtroom were on him.The court asked another elementary question, “First appeal is filed under what provision?” Even more nervous, the man told the bench that he had been out of touch with law and procedure for the last three years as he had been knocking on various doors for his absorption as regular district judge. But having taken an impromptu test, the bench stayed the HC order directing his appointment as district judge on regular basis. (Times of India 9/8/16)

PIL filed to scrap bill increasing salaries of MLAs (19)

Mumbai: A petition has been filed in the Bombay high court to scrap the bill of the Maharashtra government that increases the remuneration and pension of Legislative Assembly members. Activist and former journalist Ketan Tirodkar filed the PIL in the high court. The petition said that the state’s debt burden stood at `3.79 lakh crore as on March 31 this year, the highest among all Indian states. The state’s salary burden was increased from Rs 22,879 crore in 2007 to Rs 79,941 crore in 2016. The pension payment jumped from `4,683 crore to `24,730 crore in the same period, according to the petition. Mr Tirodkar further said that each child born in the state would have to bear a burden of around Rs 26,000. The petition said that the government did not have the money to give adequate pension to retired teachers and public prosecutors. On the one hand, farmers’ suicides were increasing and the state did not have money to help them but, on the other, it had enough money to increase the remuneration of the Legislative Assembly members. Mr Tirodkar therefore demanded that the HC direct the state to scrap the bill. He demanded that the court direct the state to refrain from putting any extra burden on the state treasury hereon by way of additional benefits to people’s representatives. The petitioner demanded that the state be directed to deposit Rs 5 crore in the Legal Aid Society of Maharashtra as a penalty for mooting such ‘atrocious bills, which only add to the existing misery of the people’. The petition asked the court to teach a lesson to ‘state-sponsored robbers who are looting the treasury from the floor of the House’. (Asian Age 10/8/16)

Centre-Judiciary turf war over MoP delays hiring, transfer of 227 judges (19)

NEW DELHI: At a time when the judiciary is reeling under tremendous pressure due to backlog of cases, the Ministry of Law and Justice has the names of 227 judges pending with it for appointments and transfers to various High Courts in the country. As on date, 24 High Courts across the country have a standing vacancy of 477 judges. Express has learnt that the government has forwarded a list of 78 names to the Collegium, led by the Chief Justice of India, T S Thakur, to be considered for appointment. The whole process, as per Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), takes six months as states, Intelligence Bureau and the Supreme Court Collegium have to be consulted before the appointment. The High Court of Madhya Pradesh has a shortage of 19 judges and is learnt to have a list of 19 names for appointment. This is followed by the Madras High Court, which has forwarded names of 30 judges against 37 vacancies. Similarly, the High Court of Karnataka has sent names of 35 judges while the High Court of Hyderabad has forwarded names of 36 judges to fill equal number of vacancies. The inordinate delay in the appointment of judges is mainly due to the delay in finalising the MoP as both the judiciary and the government are not able to reach a conclusion over few clauses in the draft. MoP details the procedure to be followed during the judicial appointments. While the Central government had formulated the MoP, the Supreme Court sent it back for reconsideration as it gave power to the government to reject a person recommended by the collegium. Though the government had the right to reject a candidate’s name under the earlier procedure, the executive would have to appoint the person, if the collegium reiterated the name. The other reason for vacancies is the increase in sanctioned strength by the government and retirements of the judges. (New Indian Express 12/8/16)

Supreme Court to decide on RTI requests to judiciary (19)

New Delhi: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will decide on the conflict between the right of citizens to obtain information under the RTI Act and the right of the judiciary to not disclose information pertaining to the judiciary, such as the appointment of judges, transfers and collegium decisions. A three-judge bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C. Pant and A.M. Kanwilkar asked Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur to post before a Constitution Bench the issues raised in the appeal the central public information officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court against a Delhi high court judgment directing that information on appointment of judges be furnished. Acting on a petition from S.C. Agrawal, the CIC directed the CPIO to furnish information on the correspondence exchanged between constitutional authorities with file notings relating to the appointments of Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha (all to the Supreme court) superseding Justice A.P. Shah. The Delhi high court confirmed this order. The present appeal is directed against this order. The bench said, “We are of the considered opinion that a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution is involved in the present case which is required to be heard by a Constitution Bench. The case on hand raises important questions of constitutional importance relating to the position of the CJI and the independence of the judiciary on the one hand and on the other the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.” The bench recalled the earlier reference order which said “RTI Act merely recognises the constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression. Independence of judiciary forms part of basic structure of the Constitution. The independence of judiciary and fundamental right to free speech and expression are of a great value and both are required to be balanced. The current debate is a sign of a healthy nation. This debate on the Constitution involves great and fundamental issues. Most of the times we reel under the pressure of precedents.” The bench said questions like does the concept of independence of the judiciary require that the information should not be furnished, does the information amount to interference in the functioning of the judiciary, and so on will have to be considered. Does the information have to be withheld to avoid any erosion in the credibility of the decisions and to ensure a free and frank expression of honest opinion by all the constitutional functionaries, which is essential for effective consultation and for taking the right decision? and is the information sought for is exempt under Section 8(i)(j) of the RTI Act? (Asian Age 18/8/16)

NGO moves SC against misuse of sedition laws (19)

New Delhi: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court over the “blatant” misuse of sedition laws by successive governments, despite an apex court ruling narrowing down its scope. NGO Common Cause, along with anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar, sought direction for “strict compliance” with the court in its Kedarnath vs State of Bihar (1962) decision. The court had then held only those acts which involved incitement to violence or violence constituted a seditious act under Section 124A of the IPC. “In carrying out arrests and slapping charges, the police and governments have rarely, if ever, respected this restriction. Successive governments have blatantly used Section 124A to stifle the voice of dissent and to further their political goals,” the PIL filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan contended. The move comes in the backdrop of the Bengaluru Police registering an FIR against Amnesty International India after anti-India slogans were raised during an event organised by the NGO in Bengaluru on Saturday. Citing the National Crime Records Bureau report, the petitioners pointed out that 47 cases of sedition were filed in 2014 and 58 arrests were made, but there was only one conviction. The petitioner sought direction making it compulsory for the authority concerned to produce a reasoned order from the director general of police or police commissioner certifying that the “seditious act” either led to the incitement of violence or had the tendency or intention to create public disorder before lodging an FIR. The petition listed out cases lodged to ‘threaten’ writer Arundhati Roy, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, civil rights activist Binayak Sen, 67 Kashmiri students in Uttar Pradesh, actor Aamir Khan, Tamil folk singer S Kovan and JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The petitioners also quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who had in 1922, said, “Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.” (Deccan Herald 18/8/16)

HC orders PIL to look into amended law on reservation of PU land (19)

Nagpur: A division bench of Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has directed filing of a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding reservation of lands for public purposes under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act, 1966. The HC bench feels that the amendments to the MRTP Act by the state, after HC orders in an earlier PIL, defeat the basic purpose the act. On Thursday, a division bench comprising justice Bhushan Gavai and justice Vinay Deshpande issued notices to respondents, including Maharashtra’s Urban Development Department (UDD), asking them to file a reply before September 8. State town planning director in Pune, along with deputy directors in Nagpur and Amravati are other respondents in the case. In the earlier suo motu PIL (No. 79/2014), the court had taken cognisance of inaction by local authorities, which allowed reservation of lands for public purposes to lapse. The then division bench of justice Gavai and justice Pradeep Deshmukh had sought an explanation from the government on two issues, including the action to be taken by government to ensure that reservation of lands for public purposes doesn’t lapse. UDD joint secretary Avinash Patil had filed an affidavit that an amendment was made to Section 127 of the MRTP Act, 1966, where the period of 12 months was increased to 24 months for taking necessary steps to acquire the land. The bench had then disposed of the PIL after approving the steps taken by the government to ensure that reservation of land for public purposes doesn’t lapse. Thereafter, Rupesh Raghuwanshi filed a petition before the HC contending that his land at Mangrulpir, Washim, was reserved for a shopping centre and parking as per MRTP Act, but since the government failed to purchase it from him within 12 months, he applied to develop it on his own, which was rejected. The plea was listed before the bench of justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and justice Indira Jain, which on June 20 allowed his prayer, stating that since the government had failed to acquire the land due to shortage of funds, it would be available to the petitioner to develop. They also said the amendment in Section 127 of MRTP Act defeats the basic purpose of the act, hence the issue needs to be considered afresh. Citing the earlier bench’s orders, the second bench directed UDD and town planning director to file affidavits pointing out acquisitions made to honour reservations under the MRTP Act from 2006 till date. Similarly, they asked for the number of reservations which have lapsed because of court or government orders all over the state. The judges have directed filing of a PIL on the basis of this judgment, to find out whether authorities complied with the HC’s earlier directives, and asked the HC registry to place the PIL before the appropriate bench. (Times of India 19/8/16)

Lawyers protest delay in setting up of Dumka high court (19)

DUMKA: Lawyers of the district bar association expressed their reservations against the state government’s delay in setting up a high court bench in Dumka. They formed High Court bench sthapna sangharsh samiti in a meeting of the district bar association on Friday for this purpose. State Bar Council member and former district president of the district bar association Gopeshwar Prasad Jha said the sangharsh samiti was formed to mobilize the lawyers practising in different district and sub-divisional courts of Santhal Pargana. “The demand for setting up a high court bench dates back to the undivided Bihar but the respective state governments remained reluctant towards the matter even after one and a half decade,” Jha said adding any further delay in that regard only amounted to the denial of justice to a vast section of local litigants.He said most of the litigants from Santhal Pargana cannot afford the cost of approaching the Ranchi High Court . “Poverty coupled with the distance between Santhal Pargana and Ranchi ultimately discourage them to a great extent in moving ahead for appealing against the judgments delivered by the district courts” Jha who has been made one of the convener of the lawyers’ body. .. (Times of India 21/8/2016)

Triple talaq violates Article 21, woman tells SC (19)

NEW DELHI: Can an arbitrary and unilateral divorce through triple talaq deprive the wife of her rights in the matrimonial home and custody of her children, a Muslim woman asked in her petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday while challenging the constitutional validity of the process to end a marriage. The court agreed to hear on Friday the writ petition filed by Ishrat Jahan from Howrah through advocate VK Biju, who mentioned it before a bench of Justices AR Dave and L Nageswara Rao. After the court suo motu started examining the effect of triple talaq on Muslim women’s rights, triple talaq victims Shayara Banu and another woman, besides Muslim women organizations, questioned the validity of the personal law practice. Significantly, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) defended triple talaq and said the court had no jurisdiction to decide its validity. In her petition, Ishrat Jahan sought a declaration from the court that Section 2 of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 was unconstitutional as it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (equality), 15 (nondiscrimination), 21 (life) and 25 (religion) of the Constitution “in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate talaq-e-bidat (triple talaq) as a valid form of divorce”. This is the question also raised by Uttarakhand based Shayara Banu and another Muslim woman, and Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh through its president Farah Faiz. Jahan added some critical questions to the main challenge. She said the Constitution, through Article 21 and its interpretation by the SC, guaranteed every citizen a right to life with dignity. Could a woman, divorced through arbitrary and unilateral triple talaq, be thrown out and lose her rights on a matrimonial home, Jahan asked. She said she continued to live in her matrimonial home with grave risk to her life despite her husband divorcing her through triple talaq. ..(Times of India 24/8/16)

Regulation of surrogacy must but Bill needs a rethink, say experts (19)

Hours after the Union Cabinet passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, it has invited mixed reactions from doctors and surrogate mothers. The draft Bill, which aims at protecting the rights of surrogate mothers, bans commercial surrogacy and has proposed that candidates for the same will be limited to “close relatives” only. Speaking to dna, Sunaina (32), a surrogate mother who is carrying a baby, expressed her concern over the Bill. “I will get Rs4 lakh once I deliver the baby. My family was in need of the money. I have two daughters, one eight and the other four. The government should ensure that surrogates like me as well as couples wanting children benefit without exploitation. With this new Bill, both will suffer.” The most recent birth via surrogacy that the city has seen has been of actor Tusshar Kapoor’s son. Before him, actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan too got sons via the same method. To prevent exploitation of women, especially of those in rural and tribal areas, the government has prohibited foreigners from commissioning surrogacy in India. As per the Bill, only married Indian couples with proven infertility will be allowed to take the help of surrogate mothers. Dr Daisy Alexander, principal of Rizvi Law college who has done her PhD in surrogacy, welcomed the decision. She said, “It was necessary to regulate surrogacy. During my thesis, I found that women were used as a commodity. Touts were exploiting them and making money. Many did not receive post-natal care.” According to IVF experts, out of 100 IVF cycles, 2-3% need surrogacy. “Surrogacy is suggested if the woman’s uterus is damaged or absent. Regulating surrogacy is a good move, but the point that only close relatives will be allowed to become surrogates needs to be reviewed. Most couples will not have close relatives who will agree to do this,” said infertility expert Dr Aniruddh Malpani. He added that misuse of surrogacy and exploitation of surrogates by some doctors has led to such a Bill. Agreeing with him, Dr Bipin Pandit, gynaecologist and member of the Maharashtra Medical Council said surrogacy is a legitimate scientific treatment of assisted reproductive technology. “How many close relatives will be willing to become a surrogate mother? Couples who have no choice but surrogacy for becoming parents will suffer,” said Pandit. The Bill will be introduced in Parliament in the winter session. “I am happy that the Bill has been passed. I still have to look at it in detail, but it seems that it will be possible for those who genuinely need it. The only outcome we will need to look at will be how many women agree to bear someone’s child for nine months for altruistic reasons,” said Dr Duru Shah, president-elect of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction. In 2012, India’s surrogacy market was estimated to be worth more than $400 million a year, according to a report backed by the UN. Each birth costs as much as Rs12 lakh, out of which the surrogate mother gets only Rs3.5-4 lakh, apart from Rs5,000 a month for her food and nutrition supplements. The rest of the money goes towards the lawyer, doctor, lab tests, ART bank and hospital charges. In 2012, about 6,000 surrogacy births took place. The rise in surrogacy births is not just linked to infertility. A surrogate mother, after having the embryo formed out of the parent’s sperm implanted in her womb, is kept away from the family till the delivery and is under care of the clinic. The law governing death during pregnancy is vague and there is no insurance. All these are covered by the agreement. (DNA 25/8/16)

Bombay High Court dismisses government appeal in blasts case (19)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday dismissed the state government’s appeal against the acquittal of three people accused in the Mulund blasts case, and a simultaneous plea seeking the enhancement of their jail terms. The court rejected the state’s requests on technical grounds. A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Amjad Sayed dismissed the appeal filed against the acquitted accused — Mohammed Nadeem Paloba, Haroon Rashid Lohar and Adnan Mulla — saying the appeal has been filed for the enhancement of punishment for the convicted accused, and the state should challenge the acquittals through a separate appeal. The court also dismissed the appeal against the three convicts since even though they were convicted with less than the maximum punishment prescribed under the law, they had already undergone more than the maximum possible punishment for which they had been convicted. Senior counsel Yug Mohit Choudhary, along with advocate Sharif Shaikh, had pointed out to the court on the last date of hearing that some convicts — namely Mohammed Kamil, Noor Mohammed Ansari and Anwar Ali — were facing a maximum punishment of three years only. They had also pointed out that during arguments on the quantum of punishment, the public prosecutor had said that he was leaving it to the court to decide their punishment and the trial court had awarded them two years’ imprisonment. The court was informed that these convicts had already undergone eight years of imprisonment during the trial. (Asian Age 30/8/2016)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

 ‘60 % complaints to Haryana rights panel pertain to cops’ (1)

Chandigarh: Nearly 60 per cent of the 6,570 complaints received by the Haryana Human Rights Commission in the last three-and-a-half years, pertain to the Police Department like unfair probe and custodial torture. “The commission was set up in September, 2012. During the last three-and-a-half years we received 6,570 complaints, 60 per cent of them pertaining to police, out of which we disposed of 4,604 plaints while 1,966 are pending,” its chairperson, Justice Vijender Jain (retd) said here on Monday. This year till July, the Commission had received 1,865 complaints, he said, adding the nature of complaints against the police include unfair investigation, registering false cases, custodial torture among others. The tenure of Justice Jain, who will turn 70 on Tuesday, as the chairperson of the Commission ended on Monday. The Commission had issued notices to the Director-General of Civil Aviation and the Secretary of Civil Aviation as there were reports that some airlines were charging hefty amount from travellers between Chandigarh and Delhi when the national highway was blocked due to the Jat stir in February. “Nobody can exploit the misery of the citizens. This case is still going on,” he said. Asserting that people have right to clean environment, Justice Jain said the Commission has played a proactive role and sought report from the Deputy Commissioners about the status of village ponds and other water bodies which included information pertaining to if these were polluted or filled up by land mafia and encroached upon.-PTI (The Hindu 2/8/16)

Eight policemen suspended for caning villagers (1)

HUBBALLI: Eight policemen were suspended for brutally caning of villagers, including women and children, in Navalgund last week. The policemen, attached to Navalgund and Vijayapura district reserve police, had rained lathis in retaliation to an attack on a police jeep in Yamanur village during the Mahadayi protest. Dharwad SP Dharmendra Kumar Meena said eight constables were seen caning the farmers in a video captured on the premises of Navalgund police station. “The constables have been identified and suspended on Tuesday morning,” he said. Of the eight suspended cops, two are attached to Navalgund police station, four to Belagavi and two others to Vijaypura District Reserve police. Police have refrained from revealing the identities of suspended policemen fearing retaliatory attacks from farmers and agitators. SP Meena said, “We cannot reveal the identity but we have examined the footage thoroughly and found no other police staff involved.” Two days ago, the home department had suspended an inspector and a police sub inspector while a deputy superintendent of police rank officer was transferred. The agitators are now demanding the suspension of higher officials who ordered the lathi charge. “Suspending constables will not help. They (constables) were just discharging their duties. One must find out who ordered caning of farmers when the Navalgund town was shut without any protests,” said an agitating farmer from Navalgund. Last Thursday, a day after the Mahadayi river tribunal’s decision rejecting 7.56 tmcft of water to Karnataka, farmers in Navalgund burnt down government offices and vehicles. The police had detained 120 people from Navalgund. All the detainees are now in Ballari jail. There has been a statewide demand that the farmers be released. Police are also looking at the possibility of criminal elements, who in the guise of protesters burnt down government properties in Navalgund. ADGP Bhaskar Rao said the police team is studying the video footage acquired from different news channels and videographers. “Based on the footage we are ascertaining the identities of people who vandalised properties. It appears some of them are not farmers.” (New Indian Express 3/8/16)

Punia demands CBI probe in Kanpur Dalit man’s death (1)

Kanpur: National Commission for Scheduled Castes Chairman P L Punia today demanded a CBI probe into the custodial death of a 26-year-old Dalit man. Punia met the family of Kamal Valmiki, who was found dead at Ahirwan police station on Thursday under suspicious circumstances. He was picked up along with another man, Raju Mistri, in a case of loot. “Kamal’s family has alleged that the policemen had beaten him up with a steel rod and even gave him electric shocks. When he died, they hanged his dead body to show that he committed suicide,” said Punia after meeting Kamal’s family. Even the post mortem report stated he died due to excessive use of force, Punia added. Punia said that Kamal’s family has demanded a probe by the CBI into his death and that all the 15 suspended policemen should be arrested on the charge of murder. “Kamal’s family lives in a shanty. If indeed he was a dacoit, then at least his house would have been in a better condition,” said Punia, trashing police’s charge that Kamal was a dacoit. He has also demanded that the state government provide financial assistance to Kamal’s family, a house and government job to at least one member of the family. Three officers, including station in charge Jiwanram Yadav have been suspended in this connection, taking the total number of suspended police personnel to 15, Kanpur SSP Shalabh Mathur had said yesterday. An investigation into the death has been ordered in the matter but no arrests have been made so far. (Times of India 6/8/16)

Irom Sharmila breaks 16-year fast against AFSPA: 10 things to know (1)

Irom Sharmila, who has campaigned demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Forces Act (AFSPA) in Manipur, broke her 16-year fast on Tuesday. Here is a snapshot of Sharmila’s struggle:

1. Irom Chanu Sharmila broke down as she broke her fast in Imphal. She announced that she would go mainstream with her struggle against AFSPA, and contest the coming elections. 2. Sharmila repeatedly said she knew nothing about politics. But she appealed for 20 independent candidates to come forward and stand with her attempts to ‘topple CM Ibobi’ (reference to Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh). 3. Sharmila said her aim is to become the Chief Minister of Manipur and repeal the imposition of AFSPA in the state. 4. Sharmila began her fast on November 5, 2000. She also vowed not to look into a mirror or comb her hair till AFSPA was lifted in Manipur. 5. Her fast came after an event that is referred to as the ‘Malom Massacre’, in which 10 civilians were shot down by troops of the Assam Rifles. The firing by the security forces had come in the aftermath of an explosion that targeted troops. The civilians killed in the incident had been waiting in a bus stop, and had included a 60-year-old woman and 18-year-old Sinam Chandramani, a National Bravery Award winner. 6. Since then, Sharmila has been periodically released and re-arrested soon afterwards on the charge of attempting suicide. 7. Her periods of detention have also seen the use of medical methods to pump food and nutrition into her system to keep her alive. 8. Sharmila has met her mother only once since she began her fast, saying watching her mother’s anguish would break her resolve. 9. Sharmila’s act of defiance has seen her become an international icon. 10. Some of the awards and recognitions that she has received include the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (2007), Mayillama Award (2009), Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Human Rights Commission (2010), Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (2010), Sarva Gunah Sampannah Award for Peace and Harmony from the Signature Training Centre (2010). In 2013, Amnesty International declared her a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ and continues to refer to her this way. (Times of India 9/8/16)

Custodial death case: Pre-arrest bail denied to 3 Sangli cops (1)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has rejected a plea for pre-arrest bail by three Sangli police officers who were booked for the custodial death of an accused. Rejecting the trio’s plea, saying at the most it was a case of causing hurt to extract a confession, Justice Anand Badar said prima facie a case of abetment to suicide could not be ruled out. Rajshekhar Nandgond, who was detained as a suspect in a rape and murder case, was found hanging in the public latrine attached to Umadi police station on June 6. The HC rejected the anticipatory bail applications filed by the police officers Rajaram Chincholikar, Pramod Rode and Ganesh Waghmode. Additional public prosecutor Swapnil Pednekar said the custodial interrogation of the three personnel was necessary. “Perusal of papers of investigation goes to show that though not arrested, deceased Rajeshekar was virtually in the custody of the accused persons,” said Justice Badar. The court referred to statements by a lady police officer who had seen Rajshekhar and another lady being assaulted. “Prima facie… it appears that because of constant torture by applicants for a period of three days, Rajshekar had (ended his life),” the judge said. (Times of India 12/8/16)

Five killed as protesters clash with security forces in Kashmir (1)

Srinagar: The volatile situation in the Kashmir Valley took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when five civilians were killed and 52 injured, including 24 security men, prompting mainstream political parties to express concern over the “shrinking political space.” While four persons died in Budgam district, one was killed in Anantnag. Locals in Budgam alleged that a CRPF patrol team opened fire “directly at stone-throwing protesters” in the morning, killing two on the spot. Two others died in hospital. The locals said there was no attempt to fire pellet shotguns or tear-gas shells to disperse the crowd. “The CRPF fired to kill. All victims died of bullet injuries,” one resident alleged. Five of the injured were shifted to Srinagar hospitals. A police spokesman, however, claimed that the crowd tried to snatch weapons from security personnel, forcing them to open fire. “Twenty-two personnel were injured in clashes in Budgam district,” the spokesman said. In a separate incident in Anantnag, security forces opened fire at a procession, killing a youth and injuring 11 others. In the afternoon, a mob set fire to the house of a local Army man in Anantnag district. Fresh violence forced the authorities to stringently continue with curfew restrictions in large parts of the Valley. No movement of locals and vehicles were allowed in the Valley, where Internet services remained shut and mobile phone services suspended. In Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, violent protests left two policemen injured where a protester died on Monday. Hurriyat faction chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has asked people to march towards the United Nations office in Srinagar as the death toll of civilians touched 65 since July 8, the day militant commander Burhan Wani was killed. Separatists have asked people to hold sit-in protests in their localities on Wednesday. Mainstream political parties, meanwhile, claimed they were losing space because of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Centre’s failure to control the situation. “Six protesters dead in Kashmir in the past 24 hours but let’s sort out Balochistan since we are doing such a good job in J&K at the moment,” tweeted former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Mr. Abdullah said he would hold a meeting of all Opposition parties in Srinagar on Wednesday to “deliberate on the role that can be played by mainstream parties.” Meanwhile, the Army claimed that the five infiltrators killed near the LoC in Uri on Monday were planning “a major attack in J&K.” (The Hindu 16/8/16)

Imphal’s Robita begins fast unto death against AFSPA (1)

Guwahati: Days after activist Irom Sharmila Chanu ended her 16-year hunger strike, another Manipuri woman, Konthoujam Robita Leima, started an indefinite fast against AFSPA on Saturday. Robita (32) said she was not only demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), but also implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP), a special pass regime for outsiders to enter Manipur. “I have decided to follow ‘eche’ (elder sister) in Sharmila’s footsteps. From today, I am starting my fast-unto-death agitation and appeal to citizens to support me. I also seek Sharmila’s blessings. She is my inspiration,” Robita, a mother of two, told DH over phone from Imphal. At a press conference on Friday, Robita said that the flames of the agitation should be kept alive and carried forward. Meanwhile, a large section of civil society organisations and women’s groups have opposed Robita’s fast. She did not find support from her husband and in-laws too. Robita, while talking to mediapersons on Saturday, charged that a few members of a civil society group tried to forcibly confine her in their office to stop her from commencing the fast. “Robita wanted to fast at her NGO’s office, but the police did not permit that. She then started fasting in front of her residence at Kongba in Imphal East district. Police have been deployed at the location. She might be arrested too,” Robita’s legal counsel Tezkumar Singh told DH from Imphal. (Deccan Herald 14/8/16)

Kashmir unrest: Lecturer allegedly beaten to death by army (1)

Shabir Ahmed was a lecturer by profession. He was among the 28 people arrested by Indian army on late Srinagar: Situation after the killing of Hizbul Commander Burhan Wani in Kashmir is not improving despite appeals from PM,CM and now from army. Ongoing protests and mounting number of deaths due to clashes between security forces and protesters has now reached 67 after the death of a Lecturor Shabir Ahmad in Khrew area of Pampore in Pulwama district. Residents of Shar village of Khrew in Pulwama District have alleged that on late Wednesday night, army barged into the residential houses in area and harassed the local residents.According to the locals, the dead body of Shabir Ahmed was given to the family on Thrusday early morning. Shabir was one among the arrested 28 people by the army from the area. Shabir’s brother has also been critically injured by the army who is in a critical state at SMHS hospital, Srinagar.Police said that army first approached police for the hand over of Shabir’s body to the family. The police refused to do comply following which the army then approached hospital authorities to hand over the dead body to which the hospital authorities obliged.Police sources also said that Shabir was beaten to death by the army. When army commander of Srinagar based Chinar Corp was asked about incident, he confirmed the incident, calling it a very unfortunate and said he has asked for a detailed report from unit. He has also said that there will be a reaction only after getting proper details of incident. .. (India Today 18/8/16)

CBI takes over probe into Bulandshahr gang-rape (1)

NEW DELHI: The CBI on Friday registered a case in connection with the gang-rape of a woman and her daughter at Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. “The case has been registered following an Allahabad High Court directive on August 12. Sections 395, 397, 376D and 342 of the Indian Penal Code, besides Section 4 of POCSO Act have been invoked,” said a CBI official. The Allahabad High Court ordered a CBI probe into the gang-rape incident after observing that the police investigation so far was “unsatisfactory”. The agency has taken over the investigation of the case that was registered at Kotwali Dehat police station in Bulandshahr on the allegations of abduction, dacoity and gang-rape of the woman and her daughter by about half-a-dozen assailants in the fields of Dostpur village in the intervening night of July 29 and 30. The Uttar Pradesh Police claim to have arrested five of the accused and one is absconding. Police arrested Raesuddin, Sahbaz and Zafar Singh two days after the incident and later arrested Saleem Bawariya, the alleged leader of a Bawariya gang, and two others Zubair and Sajid.The incident had taken place when six members of a Noida-based family were travelling to Shahjahanpur in UP. At the national highway passing through Bulandshahr, their car was stopped by criminals at Dostpur village. The assailants dragged the 13-year-old girl and her mother out and raped them in a field nearby. The victims and their entire family identified the accused after they were shown around 50 photographs of criminals in the area. The incident evoked huge outcry and received widespread criticism over the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. (New Indian Express 21/8/2016)

NHRC demands action over police ‘torture’ of tribals (1)

CHENNAI: Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report that the Tamil Nadu police illegally detained a 17-year-old boy of the kurava community and two of his family members in Chennai in connection with a burglary, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought action from the state government. “The police tortured them in the most inhuman way, purportedly on the ground that they belonged to a tribe dubbed by the British as criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. The law is extinct now but presumably the mindsets remain unchanged as the boy is learning what it meant to be born a kurava,” said a release issued by the NHRC. (Times of India 24/8/2016)

No need for CBI probe into prisoner’s death, says HC (1)

CHENNAi: More than four years after a PIL sought CBI probe into the death of Raja of Dindigul while in police custody, Madras high court has concluded that probe by the central agency was unwarranted since the reports by the judicial magistrate and police did not indicate any foul play. Raja was in police custody on June 7, 2012, when he attempted to flee but fell down and suffered grave injuries. He succumbed to injuries later. Advocate P Pugalenthi, director of Prisoners Rights Forum, filed the present PIL seeking CBI probe, besides registration of murder case against all the police personnel involved in the ‘custodial torture’ and death of Raja. The mandatory magistrate report had already been filed, and now The CB-CID came out with a finding that it was not a case of custodial death, but grave injuries were suffered by Raja during his attempt to escape from custody. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan, recording the details, said: “In view of all the facts and circumstances, we are not inclined to accept the plea of counsel for the petitioner for investigation by CBI.” The CB-CID’s report revealed that they had taken note of the judicial magistrate’s findings as inputs before concluding that it was not custodial death. Noting that a copy of the status report should be given to Pugalenthi, the judges said it is for the judicial magistrate to consider the final report filed in his court by the police authorities The bench also recorded the fact that departmental proceedings had been initiated against the police personnel of special crime team, for their casual and lethargic attitude towards the custody of the accused. It tempted him to attempt an escape, the bench said. (Times of India 26/8/16)

Torture slur on police (1)

A 25-year-old man is struggling for life at a government hospital in Sitamarhi after he was allegedly subjected to third-degree torture in police custody for three days. Prem Ranjan was allegedly picked up by the police from his village Dumari Kala that falls under the jurisdiction of Majorganj police station on August 22 for interrogation in an extortion case. Victim’s father, Satya Narayan Singh (65), a retired government employee, alleged that his son was tortured at the Majorganj police station for three days and then produced before the court on August 26, completely violating the stipulated limit of 24 hours. “My son was being forced to confess the crime, but he refused to do so. Enraged over this, the cops subjected him to third degree by pouring hot tea on his private parts and also subjected him to electric shocks,” the father said over phone on Monday. The jail officials shifted Ranjan to the Sadar hospital after his condition deteriorated on Sunday. “He had complained of severe pain in his private parts when he was being admitted to the district jail on August 26,” a senior prison official said. The father said a police team headed by Sitamarhi additional superintendent of police (operations) Sanjeev Kumar had detained his son for questioning in connection with the extortion money allegedly demanded from a private road construction company. Dharmaveer Singh, the munshi (caretaker) of the construction firm, was shot dead by a gang of armed criminals in Sitamarhi on June 20 this year for failing to pay the extortion money. New Kshatriya Sangathan Fauz, a local criminal gang, claimed responsibility of the incident. Apart from Ranjan, three others, including Manish Kumar and Badri Singh, residents of Hariram village in Sitamarhi, were detained for interrogation. The police, however, lodged an FIR against the accused on August 25 and forwarded them to jail the next day. Sitamarhi superintendent of police S. Hari Prasath said he would look into the allegations against the police. “I have not received any official complaint from the victim’s family in this regard,” the SP said over the phone from Sitamarhi. This is not an isolated case. Three policemen were forwarded to jail a few months ago for harassing an accused in custody in Bhagalpur. Baburam, the superintendent of police of Aurangabad, is facing department proceedings for harassing a youth in custody when he was posted in Sheikhpura as police chief. A Sitamarhi social activist, Guddu Pandey, said: “Police contributed to the maximum number of complaints related to violation of human rights in the state.” (The Telegraph 30/8/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Social media like Anandiben’s FB resignation, call it Digital India initiative (1)

New Delhi: Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel sprang a surprise on Monday by offering to resign from her post, saying the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) needed a fresh face in the state before elections next year. Considering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s affinity to social media — he has often been critical of ministers who do not aggressively use digital platforms to tout the government’s achievements — it wasn’t completely unusual that Patel chose Facebook to convey the news. With this she probably became the first CM to announce her resignation on social media. (Hindustan Times 1/8/16)

Police refuse to accept scribe’s complaint (1)

RAIPUR: The Dantewada district police in Chhattisgarh have refused to accept the complaint of a journalist who was allegedly threatened by a Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) member on a social media group. Prabhat Singh, a journalist who works for the Hindi daily Patrika , went to the Dantewada city police station on Sunday evening to register a complaint against the VHP Geedam block vice-president Mahesh Soni who had suggested on a WhatsApp group that Mr. Singh’s hand, legs and head should be “chopped off.” “I went to the city police station by they refused to accept my complaint and asked me to produce more documentary evidence,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu . He had already produced the screenshots of the VHP leader’s comments. Ironically, the police had acted swiftly in a similar case against Mr. Singh in March this year and arrested him within hours for allegedly posting an obscene post on a WhatsApp group related to a police officer. Known to be a fearless journalist who had been critical of Chhattisgarh police and Bastar police chief S.R.P. Kalluri for alleged atrocities against tribals in the name of anti-Maoist operations, Mr. Singh was released on bail last month. When he was arrested in March, a social media campaign was launched against him by some elements supported by the police, who openly called Mr.Singh “anti-national and a Maoist sympathizer”. (The Hindu 2/8/16)

2 held for posting insulting messages on social media (1)

SURAT: A message hurting religious sentiments of minority community shared over social media around a month ago led to tension at a college in Athwalines on Wednesday. Two youth were arrested later in the day for posting the message on the chat group. A group of youth from minority community had rushed to Sarvajanik Education Society (SES) campus on Wednesday evening to target the youth who used derogatory language in the chat. Police swung into action and deployed additional forces at the SES campus to disperse the crowd. “Police controlled the situation and arrested two youth for allegedly posting derogatory messages in a chat group,” said G A Sarvaiya, police inspector, Umra police station.Vikar Ahir and Krunal Patel were arrested for posting the messages in group named Vishwa Hindu Rakshak. The group includes students from city colleges. Ahir is student of Bachelor of Arts while Patel is member of the group and not a student. They have been held for allegedly posting the derogatory messages. A member of the group took screen shot of the messages and saved in his mobile phone. The screenshot was made viral recently creating furore among youth from minority community. Since Wednesday morning youth from minority community started gathering at SES campus. Fearing attack, Ahir went to office of principal of MTB College. Later police was alerted and the arrived at the college to control the situation. (Times of India 4/8/16)

University caught in a fix over student magazine row (1)

PUDUCHERRY: Drawing flak over the handling of the release of a controversial student magazine, the Pondicherry Central University is caught in a “damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t” situation. First, the in-charge Vice-Chancellor Anisha Basheer Khan officiated over a recent function that featured the release of Widerstand , which is German for resistance, the annual magazine brought out by its Students’ Council. The following day, after learning that the magazine had several articles sharply critical of the policies of the BJP-led Government at the Centre, the university administration distanced itself from it. “The views expressed by the authors in their articles are theirs and the university administration has absolutely no role in the same,” a statement put out by the university said. Many articles in the magazine have taken pro-Opposition positions on a range of issues from terming the Rohith Vemula suicide in Hyderabad Central University as an institutional murder, opposing the sedition cases against student leaders in the JNU as a clampdown on freedom of speech and expression and attempts to “saffronise” education. An article by a history student mocks at the national film jury wondering whether the awards exercise was aimed at promoting understanding and appreciation of cultures of different regions of the country in cinematic form or “was the exercise merely to distribute them (awards) among those who — you think — won’t return the awards as many of our eminent writers did?” By the time the university sought to wash its hands of the publication, the BJP and the ABVP cadre had begun protests burning copies of the magazine which they alleged contained “divisive” content that could vitiate the campus atmosphere. The university stopped the circulation of Widerstand and locked away about 4,000 copies in a room, hoping that the problem would go away. On the contrary, the problem only got bigger since then as the SFI and the Ambedkar Students’ Union (ASU) launched protests against the attempts to throttle free speech on the campus and the issue caught nation-wide attention, even figuring in the zero hour of the Upper House. According to G. Anjali, Student Editor, the contents of the magazine were mostly re-published material drawn from various publications whether relating to the unrest in JNU, the Hyderabad University, or saffronisation fears. In its latest fire fighting move, the university stripped P. Moorthy of the post of Dean of Students’ Welfare for failing to verify the contents of the magazine — and, as sources added, leading “the VC and other officials to release the book in a casual manner.” ABVP leaders at the university said that several other articles that were critical of the Leftist ideology were nixed. “To our knowledge, at least six articles, including five from women students, severely criticising Leftist ideology were rejected by the magazine committee. The so-called ambassadors of freedom of speech should know that suppressing an opposing point of view is a violation of freedom of speech,” an ABVP leader said. As the university administration looks for a way out from the Catch-22 situation, the SFI and the ASU have called for a protest rally demanding the reinstatement of Prof. Moorthy on Monday. (The Hindu 8/8/16)

Identify those targeting journalists, establish rule of law in Kashmir: RSF to India (1)

Srinagar: Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), an international organisation that promotes freedom of the press, has called on Indian authorities to investigate the attacks on two journalists in Kashmir and identify the forces’ personnel responsible for abuses against journalists. In a statement, it said that “after physical attacks on at least two journalists in the past few days in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for investigations to identify members of the security forces responsible for abuses against journalists and all other violations of freedom of information.” (Greater Kashmir 11/8/16)

Anti-India slogans: Amnesty India booked for sedition, denies charges… (1)

Bengaluru: A sedition case was filed against the India chapter of Amnesty International on Tuesday for allegedly allowing its employees to raise anti-India slogans at an event on Kashmir in Bangaluru. The development was confirmed by Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara, who said that a sedition case has been filed against the India brand of Amnesty International for raising pro-Kashmir freedom slogans at a Bengaluru based event. “We have to now look into it more seriously, they have taken the case, registered an FIR, investigating what exactly has happened and also looking to those videos and CCTV tapings. Whatever the police investigations, according to that, action will be taken,” said Parameshwara. (Zee News 16/8/16)

Marginalised sections still neglected: Activists (1)

VISAKHAPATNAM: At a time when the country celebrated its 70th Independence Day, not everyone seemed to be happy with the conditions of the marginalised sections of the population. Many members of the student community from the city and those who were formerly students and now advocates of human rights observed that true freedom for all was still a distant dream. A former literature student of Hyderabad Central University and an advocate of LGBT Rights, S Ratnam said, “There is no real freedom of expression even in the so-called mainstream society. Many of those who come from middle class backgrounds are forced to adhere to certain societal norms, rules and regulations and any deviation results in social expulsion, though not in the legal sense. People who are differently inclined or those who by nature tend to be sensitised are looked upon with mistrust and scorn.” “Most SCs and STs as well as those from other non-privileged backgrounds are treated as unwanted elements in society who should be done away with. This attitude has only strengthened over a period of time and we will have a difficult time to shake it off. When we talk about freedom, even after 70 years, we only talk about those who have been politically empowered, what about all those at the receiving end?” asked P Mallar, an activist who fights against caste prejudices and societal stereotyping.S Ravi Kanth Reddy of MEECONS pointed out that the flaw lies entirely in our reasoning and approach towards the needy. “Unless we get the word charity out of the dictionary our attitude will always remain feudal. We should allow people to discuss, talk and argue on an open platform. Until then, the society we live in will always be closed,” he opined. P Harini, a B.Tech student noted that language sometimes becomes a barrier. “Only those who speak English and Hindi fluently are allowed to mingle even among the students. The others, no matter how brilliant, are simply left on their own and treated as second rate citizens. Unless we correct this, nothing much will come out of the other efforts,” she added. (Times of India 16/8/16)

Social media top priority of brands for customer engagement (1)

NEW DELHI: Social media has become the top strategic priority for brands in India as they look for complete customer engagement, says a study. According to the annual Marketing Monitor study across the Asia-Pacific by global insights consultancy TNS, marketers across the region ranked social media as the top element guiding their planning process as well as the top metric used to measure performance of campaigns. TNS India MD, South India & Sri Lanka and Head of Brand and Communications Practice S Visvanathan said: “India’s online environment is developing very fast. As more consumers and customers start connecting to the Internet through mobile and start accessing different digital platforms, the amount of data available will explode.” He, however, said businesses are typically overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data generated. “It is important that marketers devise effective ways of extracting insight from this data before it is too late,” Visvanathan cautioned. As per the study, the other metrics on the top five priority list for the companies in their planning are brand tracking, market share data, what the competition is doing and information from ad agencies.As many as 50% of the marketers use social media for brand communications, 43% for customer service, 36% for sales channel and 31% use it for providing insights for product development. The top three platforms used on a daily basis by the companies in India are Facebook , Google+ and Twitter. TNS Digital Director (APAC) Zoe Lawrence said social media has become an intrinsic part of daily lives, with 94 per cent of connected consumers in India using social networks, switching between Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as the top three channels. “This mass adoption of social (media) provides marketers with an array of sources when it comes to developing strategies and evaluating the effectiveness of their marketing activity,” he added. (Times of India 17/8/16

Nationalism being questioned in the name of freedom of expression: Amit Shah (1)

Mangaluru, Aug 21: BJP President Amit Shah today said nationalism was being questioned in the name of freedom of expression and “propaganda” against nationalism could not be considered as freedom of speech. “It has become a fashion for some people nowadays to question nationalism. This is being done in different places and new theories are being planted. “Nationalism is being questioned in the name of freedom of expression,” he said, addressing a gathering at Mangalore University auditorium as part of BJP’s ‘Tiranga Yatra’ and ‘Balidana Smarane’ (honouring martyrs) campaign here.(ALSO READ: Amit Shah slams Nehru-Gandhi family for lack of development in country)  Shah said, “Some people were also campaigning on social media on whether nationalism was necessary or not” and that he would like to tell them that independence would not have taken place if there was no love for the national and patriotism. “The propaganda against nationalism could not be considered as freedom of speech,” he said. “The entire nation should unite to uphold patriotism. Freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and many more sacrificed their lives for the country,” he said. Shah appealed to the youth to read the history of the country and understand how many people sacrificed their lives for it. The programmes were being organised to pay tribute to the freedom fighters, to inspire the youth to follow in their path and to remind the youth that the independence the country achieved was because of the sacrifice of lakhs of people, he said. “This should be an inspiration to the youth to live their life for the country. To live for the nation was the message of this Yatra,” he said. Shah also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his foreign policy has emphasised on trade along with culture. The economy of the nation was moving in the right direction, he added. (India.Com 21/8/16)

Baloch leaders booked: JKNPP calls on Centre to slap sedition charges against separatists (1)

Jammu: Calling on the Centre to respond to Pakistan in kind for booking Baloch leaders for siding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) asserted that all anti-national elements, including the separatists in the Valley, must be booked on charges of sedition. “The Baloch leaders who have been fighting for the cause of the people regarding the denial of the basic rights of Balochistan, thanked the Prime Minister for raking up their cause and projecting the sufferings of the people of Balochistan. And Pakistan, taking an extreme step of booking these people for sedition charges, this is ridiculous,” JKNPP leader Harsh Dev Singh told ANI here. Emphasising that this clearly shows the frustration of Pakistan, which is facing lots of pressure from within the country, he further said that Pakistan was booking only those people for sedition who are thanking PM Modi. “The separatists and the anti-nationals who have been persistently waging war against India, who have launched the India-hate campaign in Kashmir, are propagating in favour of Pakistan. No action has been taken against these people,” Singh said. He called on the Centre to ensure to all those who have “waged a war against India” are booked under sedition. Five cases have been registered against Baloch leaders-in-exile in Balochistan`s Khuzdar area for allegedly backing PM Modi`s remarks on the atrocities in Pakistan`s Balochistan province.The cases were registered against Baloch Republican Party`s (BRP) Brahamdagh Bugti, Baloch liberation leader Harbiyar Marri and Baloch Students Organisation chairperson Karima Baloch. The complaints were filed by Munir Ahmed, Maulana Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Hussain, Ghulam Yaseen Jatak and Muhammad Rahim at five police stations in Balochistan`s Khuzdar area, reports the Dawn.Acting District Police Officer Khuzdar Muhammad Ashraf Jatak said the petitioners claimed that Bugti, Marri and Karima Baloch had `supported` PM Modi`s August 15 speech. The Baloch leaders-in-exile were booked under Sections 120, 121, 123 and 353 of the Pakistan Penal Code which refer to “concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment”, “waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Pakistan”, “concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war”, and “assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty”.PM Modi, in his Independence Day address, had thanked the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for the goodwill they have shown towards him. He had in an all-party meeting on Kashmir said the “time has come that Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against the people in Balochistan and PoK”.His statement about atrocities in Balochistan has hit a nerve with Pakistan, which has now voiced that it would raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Last week, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri slammed the Indian Premier`s remarks days after Baloch leader Bugti appreciated `support` given to the Baloch people. (Zee News 23/8/2016)

Mizoram bans politicians from lecturing in colleges (1)

AIZAWL: The Mizoram government has issued an order prohibiting politicians from delivering lectures on political issues in colleges and universities of the state. The order was notified soon after Zoramthanga and Lalduhawma, the heads of opposition parties MNF and ZNP respectively, delivered lectures in colleges across the state. The order, issued by the director of higher and technical education department R Lalrosanga on August 18, said such lectures upset students and disturb the environment in colleges. “Teachers in government colleges were notified that they should refrain from inviting politicians to deliver lectures in their concerned subjects,” the order said and added that teachers who disobey the order would be penalized. The government order has not gone down well with teachers, students, unions and opposition parties protesting strongly. Intellectuals accused the Lal Thanhawla government of attacking freedom of speech. The Mizo Students’ Union, Aizawl City College Joint Students’ Union and Mizo Zirlai Pawl or Mizo Student’s Federation met state higher and technical education minister R Romawia on the issue. The student leaders quoted Romawia as saying the state government would reconsider its decision. The opposition parties also slammed the government for imposing restrictions on students “as they (the students) should be able to differentiate between political historical facts and propaganda.” Academicians said the restrictions would handicap students, especially those studying political science. (Times of India 24/8/16)

Watchdog calls out India for failing to protect journalists facing threats (1)

New Delhi: Indian journalists hold placards during a protest against attack on journalists in Mumbai. The Committee to Protect Journalists counted 27 journalists killed for their work since 1992, and noted it was still investigating more than two dozen cases to determine if those journalists’ deaths were also work related. (AP)  India is failing to help and protect journalists who are facing violent threats or attacks for their work, an international watchdog agency said Monday, noting a pattern of resistance in investigating crimes targeting reporters. The Committee to Protect Journalists counted 27 journalists killed for their work since 1992, and noted that it was still investigating more than two dozen cases to determine whether those journalists’ deaths were also work-related. Most at risk are small-town journalists investigating corruption, rather than journalists in big cities like New Delhi or Mumbai. Read | Reporting under duress: Journalists in India work amid increasing danger The New York-based watchdog said in a report released Monday that it could find only one case in 10 years in India in which a suspect was prosecuted and convicted for killing a journalist, but that the suspect was later released on appeal. “Perpetrators are seldom arrested,” said Sujata Madhok, a member of the watchdog. “The torturously slow Indian judicial system, together with corruption in the police force and the criminalization of politics, makes it possible to literally get away with murder.” The watchdog’s findings are supported by another report, released in 2015 by India’s own media watchdog, the Press Council of India. That report found that even though the country’s democratic institutions and independent judiciary were strong, people who killed journalists were getting away with impunity. “The situation is truly alarming,” the Press Council said, warning that the trend could hurt India’s democracy, and pressing Parliament to pass a nationwide law ensuring journalists’ safety. .. (Hindustan Times 30/8/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Communal tension in UP’s Bahraich over harassment (7)

Lucknow: Communal tension gripped Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich town on Sunday night after Hindus and Muslims clashed over an alleged incident of sexual harassment of a few girls, police said on Monday. Reports said some Muslim boys had been allegedly harassing girls enrolled in a dance school in Qazi Katra locality under Dargah police station of Bahraich, 130 km north of state capital Lucknow. The girls informed their parents who in turn lodged a complaint with the police but no action was taken against the boys. On Sunday evening, when the girls arrived at the school to attend their classes, a group of boys asked for their mobile numbers and addresses. The girls refused and alerted their parents. Soon members of the girls’ families arrived at the spot and challenged the boys, who started pelting stones. Members of the other community came out in support of the hoodlums. Finding themselves outnumbered, the girls and their family members took shelter in a nearby temple. Later, police dispersed the mob and rescued the girls and their family members. At least three people were injured in the clash. “The police arrested four people and raids are being conducted to arrest the main accused who is absconding. An adequate police force has been deployed in sensitive localities and the situation is normal,” superintendent of police, Shaligram Verma told Hindustan Times. “An FIR has been registered against five people and over 100 unidentified people under Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 336 (act of endangering life or personal safety of others), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), IPC,” Verma added. The injured were sent to the district hospital and two of them, who were seriously injured in the clash, have been referred to Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University (KGMU) for treatment. “The parents and the girls have lodged several complaints with the police regarding eve teasing by the boys of a particular community but the police turned a blind eye to the harassment. The anti-social elements got encouraged and started harassing the girls,” Shiv Kumar Gautam, a school teacher, said. (Hindustan Times 1/8/16)

Communal violence deprive minorities of their sense of belonging: SC (7)

NEW DELHI: Religious minorities are “as much children of the soil as the majority” and nothing should be done by the majority community to deprive them of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, the Supreme Court observed in a judgment condemning repeated incidents of communal violence targeting minority communities. A Bench of Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur and U.U. Lalit said the State’s actions should never cause minorities to fear the extinguishment of their “consciousness of equality.” The measure of civilisation prevalent in a nation is the extent to which its Minorities feel secure and are not subject to discrimination or suppression, the apex court held in a judgment directing the re-investigation of 315 cases of communal violence against Christians in the 2008 Kandhamal riots in Odisha. Over 230 Christian religious establishments and 39 people were killed in the riots. The State Police arrested 6495 persons and registered 827 cases of communal violence. However, chargesheets were filed in only 512 cases. The police concluded that no offence or offender could be detected in the remaining 315 cases. The apex court expressed its chagrin at the snail-paced delivery of justice to the victims even though eight years have passed since the violence. “Trials have been completed only in 362 which resulted in conviction in 78 cases while 284 cases ended in acquittal and only 15 appeals have been filed,” it noted. But it refused to order a CBI probe. In a judgment authored by Justice Lalit for the Bench, the apex court pointed to the case of the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh to hold that both the Centre and the State where the communal violence occurred were obliged to shell out additional compensation to be paid to the victims. “Incidents of communal violence had occurred in and around Muzaffarnagar in the year 2013 and that the State itself had decided to pay compensation… We have considered the scales at which compensation has been granted and disbursed in the present matter. In our view the ends of justice would be met if the State Government and the Central Government are directed to pay additional compensations,” the apex court observed. The judgment is the last in a series of orders passed by the Supreme Court since 2008 on a batch of petitions filed by several persons, including Arch Bishop Raphael Cheenath, highlighting the failure on part of State of Odisha to protect innocent people whose human rights were violated after the unfortunate assassination of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and some others on August 23, 2008 by Maoists. The apex court orders over the past years spans a variety of issues which followed the violence, including proper and adequate facilities in refugee camps, steps to prevent communal violence, to provide adequate compensation to the victims of communal violence, to order institution of a Commission of Inquiry, etc. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

Communal clashes in Bihar district over video on deities (7)

CHHAPRA/PATNA: Communal violence+ broke out in parts of Saran district of Bihar on Friday after a video showing desecration of deities of a community went viral on social media. The situation remained tense on Saturday, forcing the administration to take out a flag march in the district. Till Friday night, violence was limited only to the Maker block. But on Saturday morning, it spread to Chhapra. Rioters damaged+ several police vehicles and district magistrate Deepak Anand was injured in brick-batting. More than 2,000 armed security personnel were deployed on the streets of Chhapra by Saturday afternoon. The administration has imposed prohibitory orders till Monday and ordered immediate shutdown of Internet services in the district. “The situation is tense, but under control. Even though group clash took place on Saturday morning in town area, the rioters were immediately dispersed,” Anand said, adding that four people have been arrested for rioting.Maker police station SHO Sanjay Kumar Gupta said one Mohammad Mubarakh (22) of Dakshin Tola in Maker, who presently lives in Bengaluru, put the objectionable video on social media. Saran ADM Rajesh Kumar said three companies of Bihar Military Police, two companies of ITBP and one company of Indian Reserve Battalion have been deployed in Chhapra. “One company of Rapid Action Force has been called from Ranchi, Jharkhand,” the ADM added. Besides, two companies of STF are on way to Chhapra from Patna and Gaya. (Times of India 7/8/16)

Communal tension in Poonch, shops shut

Jammu: Tension erupted in border Poonch town on Tuesday afternoon with majority Muslims closing their business establishments in protest over alleged scuffle between two persons including a shopkeeper belonging to different communities. Both of them have been identified as Molvi Anwar Hussain Shah, 45, and Ankur Bali, 30. While the former was a teacher at the Jamia Zia-ul-Uloom, Poonch, and the other was dealing in the sale of watches and mobile phones. Trouble erupted when Molvi visited him for replacement of a watch purchased from him a few days ago saying it was not working properly and the latter refused to oblige him saying that it had been broken. After heated arguments, both came to blows. During scuffle, the glass at the counter of the shop also got broken. Local people intervened and rushed Molvi to the hospital after he complained of pain in the stomach and the head. From there, he was rushed to Government Medical College Hospital at Jammu for specialized opinion of neurologist. Though Medical Superintendent of the District Hospital at Poonch, Dr Mumtaz Bhatti, said that the Molvi was “fine’’ with “no apparent injuries on him’’ and they have referred him to Jammu “only as a precautionary measure to seek the opinion of a neurologist also’’, the news spread like wild fire leading to tension in Poonch town with Muslims closing down their establishments and holding demonstration. Some of the demonstrators even raised pro-Azadi slogans. Ankur Bali was arrested and a case registered against him. Police personnel in strength were deployed in the town, with senior civil and police officers trying to defuse situation by persuading prominent people from both communities maintain peace. Meanwhile, Romesh Bali, uncle of the arrested shopkeeper, accused Molvi and his accompanying supporters of attacking his nephew. They ransacked the shop and even took away a number of mobile phones, he said, putting the total loss at around Rs 2 lakh. He accused police of not taking cognizance of their complaint. (Indian Express 10/8/16)

BJP legislator being probed over Bihar communal tension (7)

Patna: The Bihar Police have launched a probe into the alleged involvement of a BJP legislator over the communal tension in Saran district, a police official on Thursday said. Saran Superintendent of Police Pankaj Kumar Raj told IANS that a probe was underway into the role of Bharatiya Janata Party legislator C N Gupta. “We are investigating into Gupta’s role. Action against him would be initiated or taken only after investivation completed,” he said. On Tuesday, video clips emerged and were telecast by local Hindi news channels showing Gupta leading a mob of people, armed with traditional weapons in Chapra district headquarters of Saran during a shutdown called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal and despite the district administration issuing orders prohibiting any public gathering to maintain law and order. “Instead of appealing to people to maintain communal harmony and peace, Gupta was leading a march of VHP and Bajrang Dal supporters in Chapra, in full view of district administration, that resulted in violence. Shops and houses of minority community members were attacked,” Congress legislator Shakil Ahmad Khan said. Khan told IANS that it was clear that Gupta violated prohibitory orders and instigated people that created communal trouble. “The state administration has to take a tough stand to send a strong message for communal harmony,” he added. Some social activists in Chapra have also blamed Gupta for the communal tension in Saran town. They said Gupta was wellknown for his decades long associatin with the RSS and other Hinduvta organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal. Gupta, however, has denied any involvement in violence.The trouble began when some youths of Balha village and other youths from Maker village blocked roads last week to protest police failure to take action against those who had posted an objectionable video clip online. Trouble escalated and angry mobs attacked the houses and shops of minority community members on Friday. Some youths attacked the house of the prime accused, which led to the communal tension, an official said. On August 5, violent clashes took place between both communities and shops and houses were targeted at several places. The following day, violent clashes were reported and the VHP and Bajrang Dal called a day-long shut-down, forcing shops, schools and colleges to remain closed. Over a dozen persons, including policemen, were injured, 55 shops torched, houses looted and 62 persons were arrested. (Business Standard 12/8/16)

Molestation leads to communal tension in Farrukhabad (7)

KANPUR: An alleged molestation incident led to tension between members of the two communities in Farrukhabad district on Saturday. Police said a youth hailing from Ghumna Bazaar locality misbehaved with a girl of the other community in the evening. Police reinforcements have been rushed to the spot. Sources said when the girl informed her family members about the incident, they rushed to the spot and inquired about the youth who stays nearby. The girl’s family members allegedly barged into the house of the youth and thrashed him. Later, they went to Kotwali police station to lodge a complaint. A few people, who came in support of the youth, also reached Kotwali to lodge a complaint against the girl’s family. The situation became volatile, when someone from the crowd opened fire, leading to chaos. The two groups then started throwing stones on each other. Senior district and police officials rushed to the spot along with police and PAC. District magistrate Karn Singh Chauhan said that vigil is being maintained. “The situation is under control and security has been tightened. Round-the-clock patrolling would continue to avoid backlash,” the DM added. (Times of India 14/8/16)

Tension after army razes part of religious structure (7)

Meerut: Timely intervention of senior police officials helped in averting a confrontation between members of minority community and army personnel over demolition of a portion of a religious structure in communally-sensitive Muzaffarnagar on Monday. Some army men razed a newly-constructed toilet, built adjacent to the religious structure in Khalapar area. The structure is on army land and the case over its ownership is pending in the court. According to police, the extension of toilet was illegal as there was a stay on any new construction on the land, which belongs to the army. After the army personnel razed it on Monday, some people of the community spread rumour that the religious place itself was demolished. In no time, a large number of people gathered at the site and started protesting. “We rushed to the spot with police force. It was indeed an illegal structure, as no new construction is allowed on a land as the matter is sub-judice. However, the tension was over a rumour that the religious structure had been brought down, which was not true,” said Deepak Kumar, senior superintendent of police (SSP). Kumar, along with UP minority commission’s member Zulfikar Ali, appealed to the people to maintain calm. The crisis was defused after the district magistrate and other senior officials had a word with the cleric of the religious place. Later, it was decided that neither the army nor the people of the community will construct anything till the dispute is settled in the court,” the SSP said. (Times of India 16/8/16)

27 arrested for post-Dalit rally violence in Una (7)

UNA: Tension eased in Una and nearby villages on Tuesday even as police arrested 27 people for violence that broke out after the 10-day Dalit asmita yatra culminated in form of a massive rally in the coastal town on the Independence Day . Thousands of Dalits from across the state, who had trooped into Una on Monday , pledged to relinquish skinning dead cattle and entering gutters to clean the drainage. Dalits also issued a one-month ultimatum to the state government that if they were not given land as an alternative income source, they would undertake a `rail roko’ of an unprecedented scale. Jignesh Mevani, convener of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, told TOI on Tuesday if the government does not start working on land allotment to Dalits, they will launch rail blockade from September 15. “The venue for beginning the protest will be announced on September 1,” he said. However, situation had turned tense after the rally as Dalits returning to their native villages were attacked near Samter, the village 7 km from Una from where maximum number of cow vigilantes were arrested for flogging four Dalits on July 11. At least 14 Dalits were injured in two separate assaults on Monday as well as Sunday afternoon near Samter. Eight of them were shifted to Ahmedabad for treatment. The situation only worsened in the evening when a mob attacked police teams and torched their vehicles in Samter. In Samter, police lobbed 46 tear gas shells and fired in the air to disperse the mob and eight cops were injured in the clash. The clarion call “You take cows’ tail, give us land” given by the Dalit leaders found support from JNU students leader Kanhaiya Kumar and family of Rohit Vemula, the Hyderabad student who had committed suicide, and renowned documentary maker Anand Patwardhan. Vemula’s mother Radhika and Balu Sarvaiya, whose two sons were among the four brutalized on July 11, hoisted the tricolor. “I am yet to get justice but the Dalit movement in Gujarat has forced chief minister Anandiben Patel to resign. I’m here so that no other Dalit children face what my son did,” Radhika Vemula told the gathering.Kanhaiya Kumar said that Dalits of Gujarat have punctured the much-hyped Gujarat model of development. “We want freedom from casteism and brahminical culture,” he said. “Several years ago, (LK) Advani had also embarked on a yatra from Somnath. But that yatra was to divide the country on communal lines. The yatra initiated by Dalits and Mewani is aimed at ending the scourge of casteism,” Kumar said to a thundering applause. (Times of India 17/8/16)

Jammu: Poonch tense after Amarnath pilgrims, Muslims clash (7)

Jammu: Three days after a grenade attack hurt 15 at Poonch town, communal tension erupted in Mandi area of the border district following a clash between some of the Buddha Amarnath pilgrims and local Muslims on Tuesday afternoon. Trouble erupted when some pilgrims raised provocative slogans and local Muslim youth to raise counter provocative slogans. Reports reaching Jammu said that the situation in Mandi which had only Muslim population was highly surcharged with even the Poonch district Superintendent of Police, J S Johar, allegedly manhandled and some vehicles damaged by locals. Giving details, sources said that Chhari Mubarak (holy mace of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati) was accorded a warm reception by local Muslims when it reached Buddha Amarnath shrine at Mandi from Poonch town around noon. However, trouble erupted when some pilgrims later went to the bazaar and raised slogans like “Bharat Mein Rehna Hooga, Vandematram Kehna Hoga” or “Bharat Mein Rehna Hoga, Ram Ram Kehna Hoga”. Some elderly Muslims initially tried to stop them, but as they did not listen, local Muslim youth assembled and started raising pro-Azadi slogans. This rose tempers on both sides and they even had a scuffle. However, the sitaution was saved by local police and para military personnel who intervened and separated both the groups. However, in the process, some window pances and wind screen of some vehicles got broken. The incident led to tension in Mandi town with locals closing their business establishments in protest. The news spread and local Muslims at Sathra and Nangali also downed their shutters and started holding demonstrations. Senior civil and police offiacers rushed to Mandi and held a meeting of local people to defuse the situation. However, as tempers were running high, some local youth allegedly manhandled the SP during the meeting after later allegedly slapped one of them. With more reinforcements rushed to Mandi from Poonch, situation was stated to be under control. Buddha Amarnath yatra will conclude on Raksha Bandan falling on August 18. Only on Saturday evening, fiften people, many of them pilgrims on their way to the Buddha Amarnath shrine, were injured in a blast outside a bus stand in Poonch town. Police suspect that a hand grenade was hurled at pilgrims. The blast had come a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a strong message to Pakistan, indicting it for fomenting trouble in Kashmir. He told an all-party meeting that “when we talk about Jammu and Kashmir, we should talk about Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.” (Indian Express 17/8/16)

Hindus, Muslims clash in Bareilly over use of loudspeakers in mosque (7)

Communal tension gripped Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly town on Friday afternoon after Hindus and Muslims clashed over the use of loudspeakers for ‘azaan’ or call for namaz in a mosque. A group of men from the Hindu community entered into an argument with the Muslims at the mosque in Hafizganj area. The situation took a violent turn after both groups indulged in stone-pelting and firing, sources said. At least 20 people were injured in the clash. “The first team was dispatched from the local police station as soon as we came to know about the incident. Later, additional forces were sent to control the situation,” superintendent of police (rural) Yamuna Prasad said. Over 300 men from both the sides indulged in violence and fled the spot when additional police force reached there. Reports of clashes from neighbouring areas continued to pour in till late in the evening. Local police, who were in Shahjahanpur to ensure security arrangements ahead of Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s visit, were called back by the evening to ensure law and order. Police have started the process of identifying and arresting those who were involved in the clash. “Our teams are investigating the matter and those who indulged in violence will soon be behind bars,” the SP said. Sources claimed that tension was simmering in the area since last week after some Hindus opposed the use of loudspeakers for ‘azaan’. Though the situation was defused after the intervention of local police but the issue remained unsolved. (Hindustan Times 21/8/16)

Muzaffarnagar riot refugees build homes (7)

ALIGARH: After spending two to three years in relief camps, over 130 families affected by the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots have finally got a new address as they hope to restart life by building new homes at ‘Yeh Mera Ghar’ colonies in Kandhla and Kairana. The Uttar Pradesh government had given victims a compensation of Rs 5 lakh, with which some families bought plots of land adjoining each other. Each family was also given Rs 1.95 lakh for construction material. Most of the work, from digging the foundation to laying the bricks and putting the cement on them was done by the families. Sadbhavana Trust, Lucknow, Vanangana from Chitrakoot and Delhi-based activist Farah Naqvi were core partners in this relief effort and invited Hunnarshala Foundation from Kutch, Gujarat, to assist the construction work. “I was at Juala camp for two years and came here every day to build a two-room house. My son, Mohammad Munawwar, 22, wanted blue, pink and green colours for the house. I couldn’t say no. After all, we were getting a roof over our heads for the first time in three years,” said Hadeesa Bi, originally from Hasanpur in Muzaffarnagar. (Times of India 22/8/16)

Hardik accuses Modi of using Patidars for ‘orchestrating’ 2002 riots (7)

Ahmedabad: Hardik Patel shot to limelight when he successfully mobilized his community for the agitation demanding reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs. (PTI files) Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel on Wednesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of using the community for “orchestrating” the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.Patel sent the letter from Udaipur where he is in six-month exile as per the bail condition of the Gujarat high court in connection with a sedition case. In the letter dated August 24 (a copy of which is with HT) with subject ‘Modiji you have stabbed the Patidars in the back’, the 23-year-old has mentioned six cases reported during the 2002 riots wherein Patidars in large numbers have been convicted and awarded life imprisonment. “We all know that Narendra Modi has orchestrated the 2002 riots. Reaping the benefits of the communal riots, first he became the CM and then went on to become the PM,” said Hardik in the letter. “Patidars who were accused in these cases are languishing in jails. When Modiji is PM now, he can seek clemency from the President for the accused Patidars. But he won’t do so now as he wants to project himself as a secular person to India and the world,” he added. According to the list mentioned the letter, 31 Patidars in Sardarapura massacre case, nine in Ode-I massacre, 23 in Ode-II massacre, 25 in Dipda Darwaja case, six in Naroda Patia and 11 in Mehsana case have been awarded life imprisonment. Patel, a resident of Viramgam, shot to limelight when he successfully mobilized his community for the agitation demanding reservation benefits in college admissions and government jobs. Twice the agitation had turned violent, resulting in death of 13 Patidar youths and damage to public properties to the tune of Rs 44 crore.He was booked for sedition in October 2015 and stayed in jail for nine months before getting bail in July this year with a condition to remain outside Gujarat for six months. (Hindustan Times 25/8/16)

Over 13k Muzzaffarnagar riots victims not on electoral rolls, claim activists (7)

Meerut: With the process of voter registration for 2017 UP polls set to begin soon, an uphill task is awaiting the Shamli district administration which has to ensure that all the riot-displaced people of neighbouring Muzaffarnagar district make it to the electoral rolls. Activists put the number of displaced people in Shamli at 13,000, a figure which the district administration termed as “exaggerated”. “We have been working with Muzaffarnagar riots victims since 2013. Getting their documents in order is an uphill task. After the riots, around 6,000 families were forced to shift their base. Of these, close to 2,800 families came and settled in Shamli district,” said Akram Akhtar, project manager of an NGO, Afkar India Foundation. “It has been three years to the Muzaffarnagar riots. But around 13,000 people still don’t have voter ID cards. These people are not on the electoral rolls, and the elections are almost upon us,” Akhtar added. He alleged that the district administration has done several surveys, but skipped the areas where riot-displaced people live. “I think, this was only done out of convenience. I hope that this time, these people will be able to get their names on the list,” Akhtar said. When contacted, Shamli district magistrate (DM) Sujeet Kumar said several people have been included in the voter list and the 13,000 figure is exaggerated. “It is true that some people may not have voter IDs, but the figure of 13,000 people is exaggerated. Perhaps the activists are quoting old figure. In the last couple of years, several displaced people have been registered as voters,” the DM said.He also said that the administration will launch a campaign to include more voters. “We are starting a drive from September 15. We will set up camps in rural areas so that people can easily register to vote. As far as displaced people are concerned, they are citizens of the country. We will ensure that they are able to exercise their right to vote,” Kumar said. Activists in neighbouring Muzaffarnagar claim that riot-victims faced similar problems there, but on a smaller scale. “We don’t have the final figures yet since we are in the middle of conducting our survey. But riot-victims in Muzaffarnagar have also not got their voter ID cards yet. The number, however, is much less than in Shamli.” (Times of India 26/8/16)

COMMUNALISM

RSS organisations trafficking girls from Assam, says Congress (26)

NEW DELHI: The age group of the girls, belonging to the Bodo and Santhal communities from Assam’s Kokjrajhar district, ranged between three and 11, Chaturvedi claimed. The Congress has accused three RSS-affiliated organisations of trafficking young tribal girls from Assam and “indoctrinating” them with the Hindutva ideology. Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi claimed that the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Vidya Bharti and Sewa Bharti –  both RSS-affiliated outfits – “trafficked” 31 girls aged between three and 11 years from Assam in active connivance with the BJP-ruled governments in the states. A detailed investigation and documentary evidence has “unflinchingly established” as to how the Sangh Parivar “flouted” Indian and international laws on childrens’ rights to traffic the tribal girls from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat to ‘indoctrinate’ them. The age group of the girls, belonging to the Bodo and Santhal communities from Assam’s Kokjrajhar district, ranged between three and 11, Chaturvedi claimed. Mahila Congress president Shobha Ojha wondered whether this was what Prime Minister Narendra Modi meant by ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. Ojha also demanded that the 31 girls be returned to their families at the earliest. The Congress leaders claimed that the girls were brought to Delhi from five border districts of Assam – Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon on June 11, 2015. “The girls were rescued after intervention from Childline, Delhi, an NGO working for childrens’ rights. But the police did not register a case due to political diktats,” Chaturvedi said. (Deccan Herald 1/8/16)

RSS eyes religious fests for its ‘patriotism’ campaign (26)

Lucknow: To spread “nationalism”, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has decided to organise several programmes on Hindu religious festivals to urge people to take the pledge of “patriotism”. As part of the initiative, the RSS’ Paschim Prant unit has started a campaign — “Ek Kanwar, Rashtra Ke Naam”. Under this, the RSS volunteers are taking out a Kanwar Yatra from Haridwar, from where they would collect water from Ganga, to be offered to temples of lord Shiva in western UP districts. On their way from Haridwar, the volunteers are distributing T-shirts along with the “Tiranga (The Tricolour)” to other kanwariyas and locals. These T-shirts display messages like — “Bharat Mata ki Jai,” “Mera Bharat Mera Kartavya”, “Ek Kanwar, Rashtra ke naam”. Pictures of “Bharat Mata” are also printed on the T-shirts. Several lakh pilgrims visit Haridwar, Rishikesh and Gangotri during the Hindu holy month of Shravan to fetch Ganga water. As per the officials, pilgrims from nearly 350 places of western UP had gone to these three places in Uttarakhand in the ongoing Shravan month and were now returning to the temples here. “We offer these T-shirts to pilgrims at price ranging between Rs 60 to Rs 100. We also give them Tricolour with request to carry it while walking back to their home towns with Kanwar. The objective of the programme is to develop patriotism among the people as just like the “bhakti” they have for lord Shiva,” said Ajay Mittal, RSS’s Paschim Prant Prachar Pramukh. RSS volunteers too wear these T-shirts while taking out Kanwar Yatra holding the Tricolour. In districts of Paschim regional unit, RSS volunteeers have put up photographs of “Bharat Mata” at the rest houses, which are temporarily put up to offer refreshments to kanwariyas. Mittal said, “We are requesting kanwariyas to pray to lord Shiva while offering holy water to make India “Vishwa Guru” and eradicate evils like casteism and inequality from the society.” He also said that similar campaigns would be run in future too with same objective. For example, in the upcoming Navratris, Tricolour and such T-shirts would be distributed among the “bhakts” visiting temples, “Ratri Jagran” and Dussehra fairs. (Indian Express 4/8/16)

VHP: Demolish 52 K’mal churches on Govt land (26)

Bhubaneswar: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Thursday accused the Christian missionaries of “forcing” Dalits to convert in Kandhamal district. The VHP Odisha unit demanded that the State Government implement the direction of the High Court to demolish the 52 churches that have allegedly encroached Government land in Kotagada tehsil of Kandhamal district. It too urged converted Christians of the district to come back to the main stream of the Hindutva. Addressing a Press conference here, VHP Odisha working president Dr Badrinath Pattnaik said while the State administration demolished many temples on Government land as per the Orissa High Court order, it is yet to demolish churches erected of Government land in Kandhamal district. “A VHP activist had filed a writ petition at the High Court seeking demolition of churches constructed on Government land, and the HC directed to evict all encroached Government land in Kotagargh tehasil of Kandhamal district in February 2016. It is disappointing that the State Government is yet to evict the encroachments,” said Pattnaik. “We demand that all 52 churhes constructed on Government land be demolished soon as per the High Court order,” said Patnaik. Among others, State VHP leader Arun Kumar Upadhaya, Prafulla Chandra Mishra and Pramod Kumar Das were present. (The Pioneer 5/8/16)

Cow vigilantes to intensify cow protection campaign (26)

RAJPURA (PATIALA): The All India Gau Raksha Dal, along with its supporting organisations on Tuesday, decided to intensify its cow protection programme in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and UP. A meeting of All India Gau Rakshak Dal, Vishav Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena (Bal Thakeray) and Bajrang Dal took place in the Badi Gaushala, Purana Rajpura. Harish Singla, president of Shiv Sena Patiala curtly declared that they had decided to intensify cow protection campaign even after the warnings issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They would collect hundreds of cows and make them sit in Delhi near the PM’s house, who was basically a tea vendor. In one voice the participants praised Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for constructing gaushalas in all the district headquarters at government expense. They were tough towards Narendra Modi who had allegedly ditched them after coming to power, they said. Satish Kumar along with two others was on Sunday booked by the Rajpura police for violence during cow protection campaign. He was whisked away after getting the information that two media teams were coming to interview Satish Kumar. To a question the gau rakshaks said that the accused trio had left a little while ago and they do not know where they were. Satish Kumars cell phone was not responding. Superintendent Police Rajinder Singh Sohal said, “The three accused have been absconding after registration of the case.” Gau Raksha Dal secretary Gurpreet Singh claimed, “Some of the bad elements were indulging in extortion under the garb of cow protection. A Bajrang Dal activist, close to the BJP, allegedly was caught for taking Rs 30,000 from a cow smuggler.” They denied if anybody had urinated in the mouth of a cow smuggler as reported by the media. The Hindu radicals said that if an FIR could be registered for killing a lion why not for slaughtering a sacred cow. Those opposing the campaign should tell what had they done for wandering herds of cows? Mahant Rajinder Chandi Das declared that they would not allow the police to arrest supporters of cow protection campaign. Bhagwan Krishan also loved cows and protected them, he said. The main accused Satish Kumar had got 500 FIRs registered against the cow smugglers. The smugglers’ lobby had now hatched a conspiracy to put him into trouble. Interestingly, some of the radical leaders were accompanied by Punjab police constables armed with modern guns their body guards. On the other hand, the Rajpura police was searching for Satish Kumar and two others. (Times of India 9/8/16)

VHP attacks PM on cow, says he will ‘pay in 2019’ (26)

New Delhi: Differences seem to have surfaced between the RSS and the VHP over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks against self-proclaimed “cow vigilantes” who have let loose a series of attacks on dalits. The RSS condemned the attacks on dalits and termed the violence “inhuman”, urging state governments to take action against elements trying to “disturb communal harmony and trust”. While the RSS backed Mr Modi’s move for action against the “gau rakshak” outfits, reports from Ahmedabad said the VHP, in an unsigned statement, called Mr Modi’s “anti-socials by night and gau rakshaks by day” remark shocking and an insult to “cow protectors”. It also warned that the BJP will pay a heavy price for it in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “Thousands of butchers killing one lakh cows every year are not termed ‘goondas’ and gau rakshaks like Gita Rambhiya (killed in Ahmedabad years ago) are termed ‘goondas’… This shows your change of heart,” said a statement by the VHP’s Gujarat unit, which demanded a nationwide law banning cow slaughter. In Agra, VHP Braj region vice-chief Sunil Parashar said the PM’s remarks have “hurt” gau rakshaks and that “he will have to pay for it in the next Lok Sabha polls”. Saying that the VHP was the only outfit which worked for cow protection, Mr Parashar said the government must conduct a survey to identify who have beef-running shops in the name of gau raksha. He also told the PM to stop being friendly with Pakistan as this would “cost him the Centre’s chair”. The VHP vowed to continue its work on cow protection, saying it had been doing it for a long time and would continue to do so. The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha’s Aligarh wing held a protest against the PM. In a statement, RSS general secretary Bhaiyya Joshi said: “We appeal to all sections of society to remain aware of elements who want to disturb communal harmony and trust. We expect the administration to take speedy action against such individuals and groups who break the law.”Significantly, the RSS had also issued a statement on Sunday denouncing the attacks on dalits. Mr Joshi said several political parties and leaders of various castes were trying to create a situation of uncertainty, which was not conducive to harmony. Refusing to comment on attacks on dalits and Muslims by cow vigilantes, VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said there was a lot of controversy about it. “We will not like to comment on the issue. However, cow protection has been going on for long. We will continue to work for it,” Dr Jain said. (Asian Age 10/8/16)

Following petition by Hindutva groups, police to act against illegal abattoirs (26)

Bengaluru: Following a petition by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal leaders that illegal slaughterhouses “thrive during Bakrid”, which falls on September 13 this year, the State police has issued a circular to all districts to strictly enforce Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964. In the circular issued on behalf of Director General and Inspector General of Police Om Prakash, Assistant Inspector General of Police M.V. Chandrakanth has directed SPs, Police Commissioners and Range Inspector Generals to identify illegal slaughterhouses and take action. The circular also makes a specific mention of Tannery Road and Shivaji Nagar areas in Bengaluru, which according to the petitioners has the “highest number of illegal slaughterhouses”. Though, according to a senior police officer, such circulars are issued every year, this time the police have decided to be extra vigilant. “We anticipate serious issues this time as vigilante groups want to make the most use of such situations,” a senior police officer said. The city police have already alerted police stations which fall at the entry and exit points of the city. Police stations like Electronics City, Yeshwantpur and K.R. Puram have been instructed to keep a tab on cattle transportation activities, he said. The jurisdictional police of sensitive areas have also been alerted to step up security to ensure law and order, he added. Interestingly, the police are not contemplating any specific action against vigilante groups, including those associated with VHP and Bajrang Dal, which have been carrying out attacks on people in the name of “cow protection”. It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his recent statement on cow protectors, had suggested that States prepare dossiers on vigilante groups. However, the police in some sensitive districts have on their own started identifying persons involved in vigilante attacks in the name of cow protection. For instance, police in Chikkamagaluru, which saw Dalits at Shantipura in Koppa taluk being attacked recently, has started making a dossier on vigilante groups. (The Hindu 12/8/16)

On I-Day eve, Hindu Mahasabha observes ‘Black Day’ (26)

MEERUT: At a time when the entire country is making preparations to celebrate Independence Day, members of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha waved black flags to mark their 70th ‘Black Day’ and protest against the Constitution of India at the organisation’s office on Sharda Road in Meerut on Sunday. The leaders of the Hindu outfit claim to have been observing this day as ‘Black Day’ for the past 69 years to put forward their demand for declaring India as a “Hindu rashtra” and protest against the constitution that declares India a secular country. “It was a black day for India when the British and some Indian leaders agreed to divide the country on the basis of religion, but Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru did not allow four crore Muslims to leave India thereby leaving the dream of a Hindu rashtra unfulfilled,” claimed Pandit Ashok Kumar Sharma, national vice-president of Hindu Mahasabha. Abhishek Aggarwal, a member of Hindu Mahasabha, said, “We do not believe in the Constitution of India and we have been protesting against it for the past 69 years. Secularism doesn’t exist in India and that is why we mourn the Constitution.” “Earlier, arrests used to be made whenever black flags were waved outside our office, but after 1987, the court refused to let cops arrest our protesters,” Sharma told TOI. (Times of India 14/8/16)

RSS unhappy on Modi’s remark on cow vigilantes (26)

Nagpur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements against cow vigilantes and perpetrators of Dalit atrocities have upset Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor. Soon after Modi’s remark, RSS General Secretary Bhayyaji Joshi reacted saying cow protection is paramount, but it should not be misused to exploit fissures within the community. Sources say, the sentiment within organziation however, has not been so moderate. Insiders say Modi’s statement seems to have come as a move to appease Dalits, which the RSS has been recently wooing, but it has not gone down well with the old-school Swayamsevaks also. In a recent informal interaction with media, a senior RSS functionary said Modi should have avoided making the remark that 80% of gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) are goons. In a later statement, the RSS functionary also pointed out that Modi himself had scaled it down to a handful of them in a subsequent public function. Apart from the RSS, workers in affiliates like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal are simmering with anger apart from other organizations loosely affiliated with the Parivar on cow protection. A senior VHP member from the city, said the government has come out with a law to protect the cow, but has not laid down the mechanism for its implementation. This has led to volunteers take up cudgels. “Now it is the gau rakshaks who are being harassed by the police for supporting a noble cause. As we have worked closely with the RSS we cannot express our ire openly, but we are waiting to get the right forum,” said the VHP leader requesting anonymity. “Modi promptly reacted when it came to Dalits in his home state, but what about the attacks on Muslims, like the Aklaqh incident in UP. On the one hand the BJP and RSS trying to project that they are including Muslims in their fold. But the recent stance has led to a trust deficit among Muslims, as the Parivar probably finds a larger vote bank among the Dalits,” said a Muslim leader associated with BJP. Beef exports have jumped by 44% and the business is certainly not controlled by Muslims or Dalits, he added. A number of associated organizations and individuals affiliated to the RSS on the issue are unhappy with the Prime Minister’s remarks. BC Bhartia, who presided over the closing ceremony of Viswhvamangal Go Gram Yatra, said the remark that “80% of cow vigilantes are rogues” has left us demoralized.” “The prime minister also meant that anti-social elements need to be eliminated from the work on cow protection. For others, it is time to introspect and the job has to be undertaken with full responsibility. However, the word 80% also evoked concern among genuine activists,” said a middle-rung RSS worker promoting cow conservation. (Times of India 15/8/16)

BJP worker killed by VHP, Bajrang Dal activists for transporting cows (26)

Udupi: In a brutal incident of cow vigilantism, a BJP worker was killed and another person injured allegedly by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists who waylaid and attacked them near Hebri in this district last night. Praveen Poojary (28) and Akshay Devadiga (20) were surrounded and attacked with sharp weapons by the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists as they were transporting three cows in a vehicle, Udupi district Superintendent of Police K T Balakrishna told PTI. Poojary died instantly while Devadiga has been admitted to a hospital at Bramhavar, he said. Seventeen people were arrested and a hunt was on to nab the others involved, he said. The coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada have been reporting cases of cow vigilantism in the last several years. The incident comes days after the Union Home Ministry had cracked the whip on cow vigilantism, asking all states not to tolerate anyone taking law into their hands in the name of protecting cows and to take prompt action against such offenders. The Home Ministry advisory had come two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked cow vigilantes and asked people to beware of these ‘fake’ protectors trying to divide the society and the country. He made these comments after his government and BJP came under attack over incidents of violence against Dalits and Muslims by cow vigilantes in various states including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Meanwhile, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara said prima facie cattle trade-related business dispute may be the reason behind the killing of the BJP worker. “… Seventeen people have been arrested in connection with the incident, they (police) are suspecting some sort of a cattle trade-related business dispute,” he told reporters in Bengaluru, adding police have taken up the case. Noting that he does not see a communal angle to the incident “at this point of time”, Parameshwara said “some reason must be there, we will find out”. He said “… We don’t know at this stage, but they are suspecting some sort of a dispute because of the trade, it is not definite, but they are suspecting. Investigation will give us the final picture.” Parameshwara also expressed concern over repeated incidents relating to beef and cattle trade in Karnataka. “We are vigilant, we will definitely try and maintain peace and order. I appeal to the people who are trying to create this kind of disturbance not to do this because we are a tolerant society and we should not create these kind of issues,” he said. (Asian Age 18/8/16)

If India is your country, cow is your mother: Raghubar Das (26)

Kolkata: Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das addresses the media during the State’s investment promotion event Momentum Jharkhand, in Kolkata on Friday.Jharkhand Chief Minister, while stressing that there should be no violence in the garb of cow vigilantism, says cattle smugglers may be involved in the recent events of violence over cow protection. Amid the raging controversy over cow vigilantism, Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das on Saturday said those who consider India as their country should treat cow as their mother. Mr. Das, however, stressed that there should be no violence in the garb of cow vigilantism and said cattle smugglers may be involved in the recent events of violence over cow protection. “The entire Sangh Parivar is on the same page on the issue of cow protection. Those who consider India as their country will treat cow as their mother,” Mr. Das told PTI during an interview. On whether there were differences in the Sangh Parivar over the issue of cow slaughter and cow census, Mr. Das said, “The Sangh Parivar is united on this matter. Cow is our mother. Those who are living in India and are Indians, those who consider India as their country, for them cow is their mother.” Mr. Das’ comments come in the backdrop of a controversy over cow vigilantism and attacks on Dalits over the issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 6, 2016 hit out at cow vigilantes, saying he felt enraged at such “anti-social elements” who indulged in crimes by the night and masqueraded as cow protectors by day. Mr. Modi’s comment had drawn sharp reactions from VHP international working president Pravin Togadia, who said by dubbing them as “anti-socials” the Prime Minister had insulted them. “What our Prime Minister has said on this issue is right.. …  (The Hindu 21/8/2016)

Mohan Bhagwat directs all RSS-affiliated organizations to work in tandem (26)

AGRA: In the backdrop of some Hindu organizations taking objections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “anti-socials by night and gau rakshaks by day” remarks against cow vigilantes, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday directed all organizations affiliated with the Sangh, including VHP and the BJP, to work in tandem and maintain proper coordination. Addressing about 236 workers and leaders of Braj and Meerut region from its 33 affiliated organizations, Bhagwat said though each of the organisation works independently, proper coordination amongst them was must for nation building and progress. Bhagwat said all Swayam Sewaks should work selflessly and give their best to the country. According to a press note issued by RSS, Bhagwat encouraged workers of all the organisations to meet each other in a “friendly manner” often to ensure even if independent, are coordinates to achieve the common goal of India’s progress. During the meeting the representatives of the organizations affiliated to the Sangh, including VHP, BJP, Vidya Bharti, Akhil Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh, Kisan Sangh, Sehkar Bharti, Krida Bharti, Purva Sainik Sewa Parishad, Rastriya Sikh Sangat, Vigyan Bharti and Laghu Udyog Bharti, briefed the RSS supremo about the work done by them in the last two and half years.According to political observers, Bhagwat’s directions to all organizations for maintaining coordination, despite their independent operations, is a clear message to the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, to refrain from publicly airing their resentment against PM’s remarks on cow vigilantes. Recent statements by some VHP leaders decrying the PM’s remarks had caused embarrassment to the BJP, as it gave an impression of rift within the Sangh. (Times of India 24/8/16)

It’s up to Centre to frame law on cow slaughter, says Parameshwara (26)

MANGALURU: Stating that it was for the Centre to frame law on cow slaughter, Home Minister G. Parameshwara has said that law will take its own course against Hindutva groups attacking cattle transporters. “Nobody can break the law,” he said while speaking to presspersons on Friday. Dr. Parameshwara said there were larger issues relating to illegal transport of cattle and demand for ban on cow slaughter and only a law could address it. “If the Union government comes out with a comprehensive law, we will welcome it,” he said. The State police are on the alert following reports of residents of Kasaragod joining the IS terror outfit. “If we get any information about any organisation influencing people then we will definitely work on it.” On his promise of removing orderlies, he said the proposal of providing Group ‘D’ employees as followers to senior police officers has been placed before the Finance Department. Dr. Parameshwara said he was yet to receive the Criminal Investigation Department report into the death of Deputy Superintendent of Police M.K. Ganapathy and on the allegations by him of harassment by the former Minister K.J. George and IPS officers A.M. Prasad and Pronab Mohanty. (The Hindu 27/8/16)

RSS begins sale of new uniform at Rs 250 a piece (26)

New Delhi: RSS is set to replace khaki shorts, its trademark attire for 90 years, with brown trousers from October 11 and the sale of the new dress has already been launched with each piece costing Rs 250.According to sources, around 7 lakh trousers are to be provided in first phase to the members of RSS, which is the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP. The RSS will formally adopt the new “Ganavesh” (uniform) from Vijayadashami, the organisation’s foundation day that falls on October 11 this year. “Around 2 lakh full pants have already reached offices of organisation in various states that is being provided to all its members,” head of the RSS’ communications department Manmohan Vaidya said.mThe trousers will replace the knee-length khaki shorts that members of the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, have worn for the last 90 years. The decision to switch to the brown trousers was taken in March this year at the annual meeting of the organisation’s highest decision-making body, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha. The Sangh has announced that it would do away with its traditional trademark “khaki” knickers that it has used for over nine decades and replace them with the brown trousers, that would be matched with white shirt, black cap, brown socks and bamboo sticks. The new full pants have been stitched in different parts of the country, but the raw material has been bought from the textile town of Bhilwara in Rajasthan, the sources said. The new uniform that will be sported by all RSS members at the annual Vijaydashmi celebrations will see a sea-change in the uniform and the organisation is preparing for the transition. (Indian Express 29/8/16)

TERRORISM

Terrorist violence incidents rose by 60% in 2016: Govt (12)

New Delhi: The number of incidents related to terrorist violence has shown a 60 per cent increase in first seven months of 2016 as compared to last year, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Replying to a question by newly-elected Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said the number of terrorist violence incident in the state up to July was 117 in 2014, 101 in 2015 and 163 this year. The minister said “cancellation of diplomatic initiative with militants by the central government” was not the reason for the rise in militancy. “Since a larger number of terrorist neutralisation has taken place, the terrorist organisations based in Pakistan are now increasing their efforts to promote radicalisation through vested interest groups and social media and increase the attacks on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir forcing them to retaliate and give it a shape of civil resistance,” Ahir said in his reply. (Zee News 3/8/16)

2006 Aurangabad arms haul case: Abu Jundal, 6 others sentenced for life (12)

Mumbai: 26/11 Mumbai attacks key plotter and Lashkar-e-Toiba operative Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal was among seven persons sentenced to life imprisonment today by a special MCOCA court in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case. Besides Jundal, six other convicts–Mohammed Aamir Sheikh, Billal Ahmed, Sayed Akif, Afroz Khan, Mohammed Aslam Kashmiri and Faizal Ataur Rehman (who is on death row in the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train bombings case)– were handed out life by designated Judge Shrikant Anekar. Prounoucing the sentence, the court said that all the seven convicts will serve imprisonment till their (natural) life. Also, two other convicts–Mohammed Mujaffar Tanvir and Dr Mohammed Sharif– were handed out 14 years of imprisonment while three others–Mushtaq Ahmed, Javed Ahmed and Afzal Khan were awarded eight years imprisonment. The court while sentencing all the 12 convicted, today observed that it has taken into consideration the gravity of offence, lack of remorse (of the accused) and potential effect on common man in the case. …  (Deccan Herald 5/8/16)

Rajnath talks tough in Pak, seeks action against terror-backing nations (12)

Islamabad/New Delh: Home minister Rajnath Singh used a meeting in Pakistan on Thursday to seek the “strongest” action against countries that back terrorism and pilloried those who eulogise terrorists, delivering a terse message that was not covered by the Pakistani media. Singh did not name any countries or individuals in his speech at the meeting of Saarc interior ministers but there was little doubt he was referring to Pakistan. The remarks were an apparent reference to the stance adopted by Pakistan on slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and the subsequent unrest in Kashmir that left about 50 people dead last month. Islamabad angered New Delhi by referring to Wani as a “Kashmiri leader” and a “martyr” besides describing his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. “If we are to rid ourselves of terrorism, we will have to genuinely believe that attempts to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists are misleading, and thus, no type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever,” Singh said in his speech. “Strongest possible steps need to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations but also those individuals, institutions, organisations or nations that support them.” Women supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami attend an anti-Indian rally holding pictures of Burhan Wani in Karachi. (AP) Singh said mere condemnation of terrorism was not enough and that terrorists must not be eulogised or glorified as “martyrs”. Singh, who returned to India late Thursday afternoon, said he would speak in Parliament about his visit to Pakistan.As the Saarc meeting began at Serena Hotel in Islamabad, the frost permeating bilateral ties was plain for all to see. Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was receiving participants at the entrance of the venue and shaking their hands. When Singh and a grim-looking Khan came face-to-face, their hands barely touched before the Indian minister moved into the hall, witnesses said. … (Hindustan Times 5/8/16)

14 killed, 15 injured in Assam’s Kokrajhar after terrorists open fire in market (12)

KOKRAJHAR, ASSAM: Fourteen civilians have been killed after terrorists opened fire at a weekly market at Balajan Tinali in the heart of ASSAM’s Kokrajhar. Security forces in the area have killed one of the terrorists. Fifteen civilians have been reported injured in the incident. An AK-47 has been recovered from the terrorist who was killed after an intense gun battle that lasted about 20 minutes. Additional forces have been rushed to the spot, even as other terrorists are being pursued by security forces. Apart from opening fire on the market, the terrorists also lobbed a grenade that ravaged three shops. Assam DGP Mukesh Sahay has said the attack was carried out by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit), or NDFB (S). Assam Chief Minister Sarabananda Sonowal has spoken with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the incident, news agency ANI reported. This sudden incident of firing on people at a public place in broad daylight is first of its kind in the militancy-ravaged state. The shoot-out occurred when the state was in a state of high alert in view of the coming Independence Day. Defence PRO Lt Col S Newton said, “We suspect there were at least three militants and one of them have been killed. Army is searching the area for the other militants.” (Times of India 6/5/16)

Mumbai Police submits report on Zakir Naik (12)

Mumbai, Aug 9 () The Mumbai police probing the alleged provocative speeches of Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik, who is under the scanner of various Central agencies as well, has submitted its report to Maharashtra Home department, a senior official said today. The report will now be vetted by the Home department and sent to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for further action, Principal Secretary (Home) Vijay Satbir Singh said. The Mumbai police was asked to probe Naik’s past speeches available online, to see if any of them could have inspired youths to join terrorist organisations, amid reports that his preachings inspired some of those involved in Dhaka terror strike. The city police was also conducting a joint inquiry (with other probe agencies) into the functioning of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), to scrutinise the finances it has received from various parts of the world. Naik, who is now abroad, has been facing heat over allegations of inspiring some of the Dhaka attackers through his speeches. There were media reports that “provocative” speeches had inspired some of the terrorists who carried out Bangladesh’s worst terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka that left 22 people dead on July 1. Naik had a lengthy interaction with Indian media via Skype from Saudi Arabia on July 15, rubbishing the charge that his sermons had inspired terror activity, including the Dhaka attack. He has ruled out returning to India this year and claimed his remarks were “blown out of context” and that he has never inspired any terror activity. Stating that he is a “messenger of peace”, Naik had also accused Indian media of running a trial against him by hyping on unverified reports and doctored clippings and statements being shown out of context. Meanwhile, the city police yesterday registered a case against an IRF employee and three others, including two arrested earlier by Kerala police in connection with alleged ISIS recruitment case in the southern state. They have been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), a senior police official said today. (Times of India 9/8/16)

Confession of Pak terrorist: Lashkar fuelling unrest in Kashmir, says NIA (12)

New Delhi: National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday said that a Pakistani terrorist in its custody has said that he learnt from his handlers that the ongoing stir in Kashmir has been precipitated by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). He has also said that he was infiltrated into Kashmir to mix with the agitating crowds and throw grenades at security forces, NIA has claimed. The terrorist, identified as Bahadur Ali alias Saifulla, is a resident of Lahore and is presently in NIA custody. Kashmir has been on the boil for over a month since the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. “During communications with Bahadur Ali, Alpha-3 (LeT control room) told that the LeT cadreshad been successful in fuelling large scale agitation in Kashmir after EID subsequent to the death of Burhan Wani in Kashmir. Further investigation is continuing on the disclosure of Bahadur Ali regarding his role in the present unrest in Kashmir,” NIA IG Sanjeev Kumar Singh said while releasing a CD of Ali’s confession of being an LeT-trained terrorist. “Bahadur Ali was member of one of the groups who was directed to take advantage of the current situation in Kashmir and throw grenades by mixing into the crowd,” Singh added. Singh also said that Ali was trained and infiltrated into India with active support from Pakistan Army and its border forces. “Since the onset of summer of 2016 LeT, with the help of Pak forces deployed on the border has been infiltrating heavily armed trained terrorists into India with the direction to mix with the local people and create disturbance and attack police and security forces,” Singh said. NIA IG Sanjeev Singh at the press conference in Delhi on Wednesday. NIA IG Sanjeev Singh at the press conference in Delhi on Wednesday.He claimed that NIA had collected evidence which showed that Ali was trained and equipped by military personnel. “Arms, ammunition and equipment recovered from terrorists establish support and involvement of military experts. For example, engineering modifications done on ICOM RT sets (made in Japan) to cover whole range of VHF frequency, requires high degree of precision engineering in electronics,” he said. To further establish his case, Singh added, “Providing the terrorists with specific Grid References for the route to be followed and use of GPS, compass and topographical sheets during movement also establish that these LeT terrorists were trained and mentored by military experts.”Singh also said that Bahadur Ali was constantly guided and directed by the LeT control centre Alpha-3, which was available on a prefixed frequency on ICOM handsets, being carried by Ali and his associates. … (Indian Express 11/8/16)

Modi questions Pak. on rights abuses in Balochistan, PoK (12)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched a sharp attack on Pakistan for its support to terrorism and thanked the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) for their recent messages of support. Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, Mr. Modi, in an obvious reference to the recent incidents of atrocities against Dalits by cow vigilante groups, also called for social justice. He said: “There is no meaning in economic prosperity if it is not accompanied by social justice.” “When you look at things from the scale of human values and humanity… when innocent schoolchildren were massacred in Peshawar, the Indian Parliament wept, every school in India shed tears at this tragedy. On the other hand, we have a situation where some people glorify terrorists in our country,” the Prime Minister said, without naming Pakistan that described the slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani as a martyr.In his 90-minute speech, Mr. Modi said that ever since he had asked the Pakistani establishment to look at human rights abuses in Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK, he had been flooded with messages of gratitude by the people of these areas. “I am grateful to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK who have thanked me in the past few days. If people of Balochistan thank me, they are thanking the 125 crore Indians,” he said. The Prime Minister had, in an all-party meeting on Kashmir last week, said that Pakistan had no business speaking about Jammu and Kashmir when it was “dropping bombs on its own citizens” in Balochistan and other areas. (The Hindu 16/8/16)

Terrorism makes Indo-Pak relationship difficult to grow: S Jaishankar (12)

New Delhi: Indian diplomacy today is in many ways, more practical, more outcome-oriented and more development-focused, said Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on Wednesday while giving a speech at Delhi’s Foreign Correspondents Club. Stressing on the need to go that extra mile for India’s neighbours, Jaishankar said we have to offer them terms of engagement that are attractive to them. “As biggest country of region, we have to go the extra mile, we’ve to reach out to our neighbors, we have to make them feel secure,” he said. While maintaining that India in the last two years has put in great effort to reach out to Pakistan, Jaishankar said the terrorism issue makes the relationship difficult to grow. “While we all agree that we should move forward, it doesn’t always go very smoothly. Problem is that the terrorism issue has become so central to the relationship that it makes the relationship difficult to grow. Looking at the neighbourhood, we clearly face a unique challenge in respect to one country which is Pakistan,” said Jaishankar Jaishankar’s remarks on Pakistan comes two days after an invitation extended by Islamabad to India for resolving the Kashmir issue, which has led to strained bilateral ties between the two countries. “At times, domestic politics of our neighbours pose challenges. We’ve learnt to be patient. We have one standout country in the region which has a different view of terrorism which makes it a difficult partner for all of us,” added Jaishankar. Two days after Pakistan invited India for talks on Kashmir, India on Wednesday turned down it’s proposal for foreign secretary-level talks, saying terror remains the core concern but asserted that it would like to discuss aspects related to cross-border terrorism which are central to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir. (The Indian Express 17/8/16)

NIA reveals why ISIS bigger threat to India than Pakistani terrorists – Read details (12)

New Delhi: The Islamic State (IS) terror group is a bigger threat to the country than the Pakistani militants, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has arrested scores of terrorists in various raids against the terror network, has revealed. “The sheer number of cases and recruitment attempts that have come to light in less than two years clearly show the level of threat we are facing. “Daesh has become the biggest terrorist organisation,” the Times of India (TOI) quoted NIA DIG Alok Mittal as saying. In the rest past, the agency had arrested dozens of IS operatives and sympathisers in different parts of the country. Mittal said, “The NIA has registered eight cases so far. Chargesheets have been filed in six of them, while the remaining two are under investigation.” Though there is no official confirmation regarding the number of youths radicalised by the terror network, but according to an estimate, the figure is in the range of 7,000 to 8,000. Mittal, a 1993 batch IPS officer, was awarded the ‘President’s Police Medal’ at the Independence Day celebrations in Delhi for his anti-Daesh efforts. Around 50 people, like Mumbai businessman Ashfaque Ahmed (26) and his two cousins, have already left the country, and a few hundred are prepared to travel to Iraq and Syria, where the extremists control large swathes of territory. Such recruits pose major security challenge as there are fears that they may carry out lone-wolf attacks on their return, the report said citing the officer. Some of the recent attacks in Europe have been blamed on people who had previously travelled to Syria. “There is a high possibility of lone-wolf terror activity in the country. Recently, we arrested a Daesh operative from Kolkata, Abu Musa, who had planned to travel to Srinagar and stab foreign tourists,” the report said quoting Mittal. Indian security agencies were focused on Pakistan-based militant groups such LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen and Indian Mujahideen, but after the Kalyan engineering student Areeb Majeed’s arrest in 2014, authorities started to seriously consider the threat from Daesh. Majeed was radicalised online and travelled to Iraq to join the group. He later returned to India. Majid’s arrest was our first success. He is currently facing trial, Mittal said. …  (Zee News 22/8/2016)

Centre okays NIA probe into cases of missing from Kerala (12)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday gave the nod for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take up the cases registered in Kerala’s Kasargode and Palakkad against some youth, who along with their families, left their homes during May-July with the intention of joining terror outfit Islamic State. The Home Ministry order points out that the preliminary inquiry has revealed that the aforesaid accused persons have entered into a criminal conspiracy to support and further the terrorist activities of IS. At least 21 people including women and children have been reported missing from these two districts and it was the Kerala Police which first registered the cases after some of the missing people sent messages to their families here about their whereabouts, while some of them had said that “they have reached the Islamic State”. Of the 21 people, 17 are from Kasargode district in the northern tip of Kerala, and four from Palakkad district. The Kerala government had also completed all the formalities and requested the central government to initiate a NIA probe. (Business Standard 23/8/16)

At least 11 police killed, 70 wounded in southeast Turkey PKK bomb attack (12)

Istanbul: Eight Turkish police officers were killed and 45 people injured on Friday when a car bomb blamed on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants exploded outside a police building in the southeast of the country. The bomb attack caused immense damage to the headquarters of the special anti-riot police force in Cizre, with television pictures showing a thick plume of black smoke heading into the sky. Eight police officers were killed and 45 more people wounded, two of them seriously, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, quoting the local governorate. Television quoted the health ministry as saying 12 ambulances and two helicopters had been sent to the scene. Early pictures showed that the police building had been completely gutted by the power of the blast, reduced to a shell surrounded by a pile of rubble. Adjacent buildings sustained severe damage and some were still on fire, television pictures showed. Anadolu said the bomb had gone off 50 metres away from the building at a control post. It said the blast had been carried out by the PKK. Security forces closed the main road to Cizre from the provincial capital of Sirnak to the north after the attack, Anadolu added. The Turkish security forces have been hit by near daily attacks by the PKK since a two-and-a-half year ceasefire collapsed in 2015, leaving hundreds of police officers and soldiers dead. The PKK has kept up its assaults in the last weeks after the unsuccessful July 15 coup by rogue elements in the military aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The latest attack comes two days after Turkish forces launched an unprecedented offencive in neighbouring Syria which the authorities say is aimed both at jihadists and Syrian Kurdish militia. Turkey on Thursday shelled the Kurdish militia fighters in Syria, saying they were failing to observe a deal with the US to stop advancing in jihadist-held territory. Ankara sees the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia as terror groups bent on carving out an autonomous region in Syria and acting as the Syrian branch of the PKK. The government has vowed to press on with the campaign to eradicate the PKK from eastern Turkey after a purge in the army for those responsible for carrying out the coup. Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK first took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out an independent state for Turkey’s Kurdish minority. It is proscribed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. (Business Standard 26/8/16)

NIA seeks custody of ISIS woman recruiter (12)

NEW DELHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought custody of a 29-year-old woman Yasmin Ahmed for her alleged role behind recruitment of youths from Kerala to terror group Islamic State (ISIS). Sources said that the agency has approached NIA court in Kochi seeking police remand of Yasmin for further interrogation.  “We have sought police remand as it is alleged that Yasmin is behind recruiting many youths for terror organization,” said sources adding that the court would take up the matter on September 6. Yasmin was arrested by Kerala police from Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on July 31 when she was about to leave the country for Kabul. She was taken into custody just before she was about to board a plane to Kabul where her husband Abdul Rashid, also allegedly linked to ISIS, resides. A senior agency officer said that her interrogation will lead to many other accused allegedly involved in propagating and recruiting youths across the country, especially in Kerala.  The agency has recently taken over the case of mass disappearance of youths from various parts of Kerala und under mysterious circumstances and had registered a first information report against unknown people and the terrorist organization — ISIS.  Further, the officer said that Yasmin is the second wife of main accused Abdul Rashid, a native of Kasaragod, and is alleged to have played a key role in the recruitment of about 21 youth from Kerala in ISIS. The agency and other anti-terror units of various states have so far arrested 54 people after registering cases to investigate their alleged links with Islamic State. The officer further stated that they are in touch with the special investigation team, who had interrogated Yasmin where she made some revelations.  “During interrogation, she is alleged that the terrorist outfit is in touch with clerics and youths in Kerala and other parts of the country. She also revealed that ISIS is secretly running terror classes in Kerala and at least 40 people have been indoctrinated,” said the NIA officer adding that the terror outfit is using various platforms to propagate its ideology and to attract youths. Yasmin, who hails from Bihar but and was a school teacher in Kerala, also told special investigating team many ISIS recruiters have held classes on Kerala. Rashid is believed to be behind the disappearance of youth from Kerala.  Yasmin was top go along with the group but due to some problem with her four-year-old child’s travel documents she could not leave the country. She came to Kerala three years ago after she found a job at a school in Malappuram, where she met Rashid. (New Indian Express 30//8/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Maoists’ latest threat to tribals: stop cultivating or leave the village (12)

BERHAMPUR: Maoists have allegedly started disrupting agrarian activities of poor tribals, who do not support their violent activity, in Malkangiri district of Odisha. According to sources, the Naxalites started adopting this new strategy in Mathili block of Malkangiri district ahead of their martyrs’ week observation from July 28 to August 3. They have till now targeted tribals at remote villages and hamlets in three panchayats of Mathili block, namely Salimi, Temurupalli and Kartanpalli. Hundreds of tribal Maoist supporters and militias have surrendered before the police from these areas. Mathili block, bordering Chhattisgarh, is a strategic location for Naxalites and most of their leaders active in this region are from outside Odisha and depend on local support, which has started to dwindle. Armed Maoists are now moving around remote villages of these three panchayats. They are threatening tribals to stop the cultivation process and leave the village or face dire consequences. Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Mitrabhanu Mohapatra confirmed these recent developments. He said this speaks of the frustration of ultras as more and more tribals have started to realise the futility of violent movement of Maoists. It is an irony that the ultras are now destroying livelihood scope of tribals although they claim their fight is for economic development of the downtrodden. To strengthen their threats, the Naxalites are abducting some tribals from their farms and releasing them after threatening them. Two tribals from Jandaraguda village under Mathili block, Suka Kabasi and Nilaram Madhi, were abducted by Maoists on July 17 and later released. Both had earlier received threats from the Naxalites to stop their agricultural activity and leave the village. Some other former Maoist supporters of the village also were threatened. According to sources, on July 19, Sama Madhi was taken away by the Maoists from Kukurkund village of Temurupalli panchayat and later released. (The Hindu 1/8/16)

Woman among 3 Naxals killed in encounter with police in Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: Three Naxals, including a woman, were on Friday killed in a fierce gun-battle with security personnel in a dense forest pocket in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, police said. The encounter occurred early this morning in the forests of Kacheghat area when a team of state’s District Reserve Group (DRG) was out on an anti-Naxal operation in the region, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI. Based on inputs, a team of DRG had launched the operation in Faraspal’s interiors forests, located on Dantewada-Bijapur border, around 450 kms from here. A group of armed Naxals opened indiscriminate fire on the security personnel close to Kacheghat village following which an encounter broke out between the two sides, he said. Bodies of three cadres, including a female, clad in ‘uniform’ were later found. Besides, two 315 bore revolvers, a muzzle loading gun, some daily use items and two bags were also recovered from the spot, he said. A thorough search of the area is underway and more details are awaited, the SP added. (Asian Age 5/8/16)

Naxal supporters are now ‘vikas doot’ for the govt (12)

Nagpur: The Area rakshak dal (ARD) and Gram rakshak dal (GRD) members, functioning as support base for Naxalites at villages, were anointed as ‘vikas doot’ or ambassadors of development by the government after attending the residential ‘melawa’ organized between July 28 and August 3 coinciding with Naxals’ ‘Shaheed Saptah’. In all, 1,449 supporters from across the district attended the camps. This was the first time that ARD and GRD members were invited to the camps instead of slapping them with preventive actions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi might be one of the biggest target of the Naxalites but it was his vision of Yoga and Swachh Bharat that were inculcated among the village-level supporters of the rebels during the ‘melawas’. State police’s Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO) cell now claims to have transformed the Naxalite supporters to government’s development ambassadors which too is part of Modi’s vision. Nine camps were organized by Gadchiroli police at each sub-division, following a strategy planned by ANO. Naxalite supporters from each village were invited to attend apart from other tribals. Various government schemes, policies and plans were discussed at the camps and the supporters were enrolled in different projects and handed over their benefits. Various materials of daily use were also distributed among them apart from conducting health check-ups. Awareness programmes on Panchayats (extension to scheduled areas) Act, 1996, or PESA Act, were also organized in the camps. Naxalites had been trying to fuel anti-government sentiments by interpreting PESA Act from their point-of-view which ANO is trying to counter. Forest officials were also roped in to ensure they shared information on schemes and projects which can pave way to income generation for the Naxalite supporters and villagers. Senior officers, including superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, Abhinav Deshmukh, too addressed the participants. Inspector general of police, chief of state ANO, Shivaji Bodkhe, whose conceptualized the camps, said the ARD and GRD members were now with the government as they were exposed to progressive policies. … (Times of India 6/8/16)

Renegade Naxal leader wanted for 20 murder cases shot dead in Telangana (12)

Hyderabad: Renegade Naxal leader and most wanted gangster Mohammed Nayeemuddin alias Nayeem was shot dead by elite anti-Naxal commandos in Shadnagar town, Mahbubnagar district in Telangana early on Monday. Mahabubnagar police confirmed that the operation began at 8:30 am but refused to give more information. Nayeem was involved in at least 20 murder cases and was accused of killing IPS officer KS Vyas. He was also involved in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and was suspected to have given information to the police about the criminal who was killed by the Gujarat police in 2005. He was also on the radar of Andhra Pradesh police in connection with the murder of TRS leader K Ramulu who was shot dead by unidentified persons on May 11 in Nalgonda town in 2014. (Deccan Chronicle 8/6/16)

Gangster Nayeem got Rs 25 lakh for Naxal info (12)

Hyderabad: Gangster Nayeem bagged the maximum cash rewards from the police for the heads of Naxal leaders. After his arrest on February 12, 1993 in connection with the murder of IPS officer N.S. Vyas’, he became an informer for the police and was released in May 2000 on bail. After his second arrest in connection with APCLC member K. Purushotham’s murder, he was used by the police for eliminating top Naxals or nabbing them alive. During 2000-09, Nayeem played a key role in nabbing and killing Naxals. He used to target those who had high rewards on their heads. An official source said he used to get rewards from Greyhounds and SIB for passing information about top Naxals. “At one stage he was totally dependent on rewards for his bread and butter. He had bagged around Rs 25 lakh from united AP police and around the same from Karnataka, Odisha and Maharashtra. He gave key information for eliminating Naxals in Karnataka,” the official said. “To gather more info from surrendered Naxals, police used to encourage Nayeem by giving him the responsibility of handing over benefits for ex-Naxals. Using info given by them, Nayeem used to plan his tasks.” A retired police officer said that police had encouraged neighbouring states to use the services of Nayeem. “This led to the establishment of Nayeem’s network in Chattisgarh, Mahara-shtra and Odisha. From 2009, he started extortions with the help of rowdy sheeters from the Old City and surrendered Naxals,” the retired official said. Although Nayeem was wanted in around 100 cases no reward was announced by any agency for him. He was the most wanted by the police in Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Warangal districts and Hyderabad. Nayeem was also the most wanted for the CBI in Sohrabuddin’s case. In Sohrabuddin’s case, Nayeem was the only witness. He had sent Sohrabuddin and his wife to Mumbai from Hyderabad in a bus.The kids who were rescued from Nayeem’s den were sent to various state homes in the city on Wednesday. Acting on an appeal made by Balala Hakkula Sangam (BHK), the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) recorded their statements. The CWC has confirmed that nine of the children are minors. The committee has recorded their statements including their native places and why they were brought to Nayeem’s den. A source from the CWC said that all the nine children were aged between 8 and 18. “We have sent the five girls to the Kasturba home at Narsingi and the four boys to the Saidabad home,” the source said. (Deccan Chronicle 11/8/16)

41 Maoists surrender in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Forty-one people, said to be members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), surrendered to the police in the insurgency-hit Narayanpur district of south Chhattisgarh on Saturday, according to the Chhattisgarh police. “In a major success of the consistent anti-Maoist campaign, which is underway in Bastar, 41 Maoists including three women from Benur area of Narayanpur decided to leave the path of violence and join the social mainstream on Saturday,” said Narayanpur district Superintendent of Police Abhishek Meena. “They were active in the Maoist organisation for over seven years and involved in many anti-police and criminal activities,” the SP added. (The Hindu 14/8/16)

Chattisgarh: Four Naxals killed in clash with security forces (12)

Raipur: Four Naxals, including a ‘commander-rank’ woman cadre, were on Wednesday gunned down while a jawan was injured in an encounter between security personnel and the ultras in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. The skirmish took place in the wee hours of Wednesday in the restive Dabba-Kunna hills when the joint team of CRPF, District Reserve Group and STF was out on an anti-Maoist operation, according to Dantewada Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap. “While four cadres were killed, a jawan was also injured in the face-off,” he said. Based on specific inputs, the operation was launched by security forces last night to flush out ultras hiding in the forests near Dabba and Kunna villages, the SP said. The two villages are located on top of a hill which lies along the Dantewada and Sukma districts border, about 500 km from the state capital Raipur. A group of armed Naxals opened indiscriminate fire at the security personnel close to Dabba village following which an encounter broke out between the two sides. In the face-off, four ultras, including a woman, who were armed with country-made weapons and explosives, were killed, the SP said. Two ‘commander-rank’ cadre including a woman are among the killed ultras, he said. Besides, a DRG jawan sustained injuries in the incident, he said. During a search, the bodies of the killed Maoists and at least seven firearms and a huge cache of Naxal-related items were recovered from the spot, Kashyap said. Reinforcement was rushed to the spot and efforts are on to evacuate the injured jawan, he said, adding that further details are awaited. (Indian Express 17/8/16)

Commando injured in Naxal encounter in C’garh dies (12)

Raipur: A District Reserve Group (DRG) commando who was critically injured in a fierce encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, today died at a private hospital here. Constable Aditya Pratap Tanwar (25), posted with DRG in Dantewada district died at around 8 AM at Ramkrishna Care Hospital here, a police official told PTI. His body was sent to his native place Pali in Korba district where he will be cremated with full honours, the official added. The jawan had sustained three bullet injuries in his stomach in the gun-battle with ultras that took place in the restive Dabba-Kunna hills under Katekalyan police station limits yesterday. Four ultras, including a ‘commander-rank’ woman cadre, were also gunned down in the skirmish. The operation was jointly launched by a team of CRPF, DRG and STF based on specific inputs about presence of ultras in the forests near Dabba and Kunna villages, located on top of a hill which lies along the Dantewada and Sukma districts border, about 500 kms from here. Lauding the bravery of the martyred jawan, Station House Officer (SHO) of Katekalyan Police station Vijay Patel said, Aditya, armed with Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), most of the time led the patrolling party from the front during their operations in the area. Being a member of DRG, a locally raised specialised force to counter left-wing extremism, Aditya had face off with ultras many a time and every time he successfully thwarted the Maoists, the SHO said.During yesterday’s operation also Aditya was in the lead position, carrying UBGL, when security forces spotted a Naxal hideout in the forests close to Dabba village, he said. On sensing security personnel, rebels opened indiscriminate fire on them following which Aditya immediately launched retaliatory action which was equally matched by his other colleagues, the SHO said. According to his colleagues, Aditya’s timely action caused maximum damage to ultras’ camp giving them no opportunity to dominate further, said the officer. (Business Standard 19/8/16)

Naxal Killed In Face-Off With Security Force In Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur:  A naxal was gunned down in an encounter with security forces in Errabor police station area of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district while a CRPF jawan was injured in a pressure bomb blast laid by Maoists in the same area. “The face-off between a small action team of ultras and a joint team of security forces took place about 2 kms deep inside the forests from the spot where the explosion took place at around 8 AM,” Sukma Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela told PTI over phone. CRPF’s head constable Dilip Kumar Boro belonging to 212th battalion had sustained injuries in the explosion while a team of paramilitaries was heading for security duty at the weekly market of Errabor village, he said. Security forces were tasked to ensure security to the weekly market, located just about 200 meters away from the Errabor police station which lies at 500 kms away from here. Following the blast, a separate team of security personnel, comprising CRPF, Special Task Force (STF) and district force, launched an intense combing operation in the forests around the village anticipating movement of ultras, he said. Ultras, who were present at the spot during the blast, opened indiscriminate fire on security forces following which they retaliated leading to the death of an ultra, he added. During searches, the body of the rebel besides a country-made weapon was recovered from the spot, he said adding the operation was still underway inside the jungle. The injured head constable was admitted to a local hospital and his condition is stable, he added. (NDTV 21/8/2016)

Man’s body recovered after anti-Maoist operation in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district (12)

Raipur: A man’s body, alleged to be that of a Maoist, was on Wednesday recovered after an anti-Maoist operation by security forces in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, police said. The body was recovered on Wednesday morning after a gun battle between suspected armed rebels and securitymen near Ponga Bhejji village when a joint team of Special Task Force (STF) and district force was out on an anti-Maoist operation in Dornapal police station area, Sukma Superintendent of Police Indira Kalyan Elesela told PTI. Based on specific inputs that Kerlapal Area Committee of Maoists had planned to carry out an attack on security forces, the composite squad involving 70 personnel launched the operation from Dornapal to the interior forest on Tuesday night, the SP said. While security forces were advancing to Ponga Bhejji village, around 450 km from Raipur on Wednesday morning, a group of suspected armed rebels opened fire on them following which a gun battle broke out between both sides, he added. However, the group soon escaped into the dense forests, he said. “During searches, the body of a male Maoist clad in a ‘uniform’ was recovered along with one automatic pistol and one muzzle loading gun,” the SP said. The identity of the man is yet to be established as operation is still underway in the region, he added. (The Hindu 24/8/16)

Naxal killed during encounter with security forces in C’garh (12)

Raipur: A joint team of security forces today gunned down a Naxal during an encounter between them and the ultras in Chandometa forest of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district. The skirmish took place this afternoon on the foot of the densely forested Chandometa hills, Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, S R P Kalluri said. Chandometa is located on Chhattisgarh-Odisha border around 55kmfrom Darbha Police Station. Acting on a specific input about the presence of Maoist commanders Vinod and Sanju along with 20 cadres in the area, an operation was launched last evening by the composite squad of District Reserve Group (DRG) and Special Task Force (STF), he said. Today, when the security forces were advancing to the specified location at the bottom of the hill, a gun-battle broke out after a group of Maoist cadres opened fire on them, the IG said, adding thatthe encounter lasted for about half-an-hour following which rebels escaped. During the search, the body of a male Maoist along with weapons and contraband were recovered from the spot, the IG said, adding the identity of killed rebel is yet to be ascertained as forces are still carrying out the operation. He is the fourth ultra to be killed this month in three encounters in the region bordering Odisha. Two Maoists were killed on August 1, while another was killed on August 16 in that area, Kalluri said. (Business Stanard 28/8/16)

Seek solution through democracy: Ahir to Naxals (12)

Chandrapur: Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Ahir called upon Naxalites to put down arms and join the mainstream to seek a solution to their problems through democratic means. Talking on the sidelines of his recent visit to Gadchiroli for ‘Tiranga Yatra’, he urged Naxals to use their strength to defend the borders of the country instead of fighting their own people. Ahir said ballot is more powerful than bullet in democracy. “While a bullet can only take a life, the ballot has the power to elect a government that is responsible to resolve every problem in a country. We gained independence because of the sacrifices and martyrdom of freedom fighters. After 70 years of freedom, they (Naxals) are still fighting with their own people.” “There is a pro-people government at the Center and state. So stop killing your own people. Put down your arms and come stand with us so that your problems could be resolved,” he said. Ahir said, “Trianga Yatra has been organized all over the country to remember the sacrifice and martyrdom of freedom fighters. Now, the country faces greater threat from external forces like Pakistan. Still government is forced to spare large chunk of its paramilitary forces to deal with Naxal menace in troubled areas like Gadchiroli. Instead of wasting your might in fighting with your own people (police), join the mainstream and use your strength to defend your own country,” Ahir urged the Naxalites. He suggested them (Naxals) to use democracy and rights enshrined in the Constitution to raise their problems and seek its solution. “Bullet is not the solution of any problem. Even we are not happy firing bullets at Naxalites. There is no need of firing bullets in the country as whoever sheds the blood, it is the blood of our countrymen,” he said. (Times of India 30/8/16)

TRAFFICKING

Awareness campaign against trafficking (1)

Kokrajhar, July 31: The Nedan Foundation, an NGO based in Kokrajhar, carried out a campaign to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons in Gossaigaon town yesterday. The foundation used art to campaign in different parts of the town. Silhouettes of young girls with the captions #Every8minutes and #missingGirls were painted on public walls in vulnerable areas. The campaign attracted more than 300 people in two areas of Gossaigaon subdivision. “Through the campaign, local communities were provided with Childline helpline numbers and contact details of local NGOs working on child trafficking so that if they see any child in danger or if a child goes missing, they can immediately contact them and seek help,” said Swrang Narzary, a volunteer. Many citizens in the town signed pledges to end child trafficking in the region. Street plays and discussions on child trafficking were also held. Launched in 2014 by iPartner India, Every8Minutes is the first campaign of its kind that aims to stop child trafficking in India by building awareness and with the participation of local communities. It works in over 20 locations through their anti-child trafficking partners across India to end this modern-day slavery. The Every8Minutes campaign is collaborating with 17 partner organisations across 11 states in India, including Assam that ranks as the country’s second-highest trafficking zone. The campaign aims to spread awareness about the exploitation and abuse of trafficked children and gets more people to report suspected traffickers and victims to the authorities by dialing 1098, India’s Childline number. “Child trafficking and slavery thrive because there’s a demand for cheap labour in this country. We want people to intervene and say something when their neighbour’s domestic help is a child, when they are being served by a child at a restaurant or they see a child working in a brick kiln or construction site,” said Sumitra Mishra, iPartner India’s country director. (The Telegraph 1/8/16)

Guardians deny Assam tribal girls’ trafficking (1)

Guwahati: The controversy over the trafficking of 31 tribal girls from Assam took a new turn on Tuesday when parents of the girls came before the media, claiming that they have sent their children to get a better education. The Rashtra Sevika Samiti Assam (RSSA), an affiliate of the RSS, brought these parents before the media after the Congress raked up the issue. The office bearer of the RSSA clarified, “It wasn’t trafficking. 31 tribal girls from poor families were taken for better education with due consent from their guardians and village heads who have signed to give their approval.” Uttar Asom Prant Sanchalika Dr Malati Baruah and Uttar Asom Bouddhik Promukh Sandhya Goswami of RSSA said, “This isn’t the first such incident. We take tribal girls from far-flung, riot-hit and backward areas for better education. So far, a large number of such tribal girls of the region have been given better education at our institutions.” The RSSA representatives, operating under the supervision and guidance of RSS, pointed out that many such girls have already been facilitated better education through their intervention and are now well placed in the society. “This year, we’ve sent as many as eight girls from the Northeast,” the NGO claimed. Informing that the RSSA was set up in Assam in 1975, they said, “RSSA was running as many as three girls hostel in Assam, one in Mizoram and 30 elsewhere in the country.” Akhil Bharatiya Sampark Promukh Sunita Haldikar, who was also present in Guwahati, said, “There are 180 girls who are getting education in RSSA-run shelter homes.” In an obvious bid to counter the propaganda campaign, the RSSA presented many guardians of the said 31 tribal girls who vehemently denied the charges of their wards being trafficked. The NGO also presented before the media those girls who received education due to RSSA and are now well-settled. Meanwhile, Assam Congress has also threatened to rake up the issue in the Assam Assembly. (Asian Age 3/8/16)

Anti-child trafficking drive makes an impact (1)

KANNUR: With the initiative of the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC), district administration, and the police to check child labour serving a clear warning to people who employ children trafficked from other States, efforts are now under way to repatriate at least 10 children rescued from their bonded labour. The initiative against child trafficking was launched last month in view of the CWC assessment that a large number of children trafficked from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are working as child labourers in parts of the district. The drive helped rescue of 15 children by Childline volunteers here in June. The CWC is now preparing to complete the formalities for the repatriation of 10 of them to their families. “The orders for repatriating five children have come through and the process of completing the formalities in respect of five more children will begin soon,” said Anju Mohan, District Child Protection Officer.The children being repatriated are from Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, and Tiruvallur and Vellore in Tamil Nadu, she to The Hindu . Letters have been sent to the CWCs of the respective districts the children hail from to ensure their future protection. Five of the 15 rescued had already been released to their parents, she said. Of the children rescued from the district, six of them were freed from households in Panur here. It was projected that nearly 500 children were illegally employed here, mostly in households. According to district CWC chairman T.A. Mathew, some of trafficked children, now freed, were found to be working for up to six years. (The Hindu 3/8/16)

Guv concern over girl child trafficking (1)

GUWAHATI, Aug 6 – The Governor of Assam PB Acharya has expressed his concern over the alleged trafficking of girls to other States. In view of this, Acharya met Runumi Gogoi, Chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and also the representatives of Child Welfare Committee, Kokrajhar on Thursday and sought her report and asked them about the veracity of the incident. Runumi Gogoi categorically said that the Commission denied the news published in a section of the media that the girls were trafficked. Governor Acharya asked the Commission to work diligently for the protection of child rights. He advised the commission to sensitize the people regarding child trafficking. (The Assam Tribune 7/6/16)

27994 Women and 23699 Children Rescued from Human Trafficking during 2014-16 (1)

New Delhi: As per the information available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, a total of 27994 women were rescued from human trafficking under various purpose of human trafficking like Sexual Exploitation for Prostitution, Forced Labour, Begging, Petty Crimes, Removal of Organs and other reasons. 7568 were rescued in 2014, 16701 in 2015 & 3725 in 2016(till June). Similarly a total of 23699 children (below 18 years) were rescued from human trafficking under various purpose of human trafficking i.e. 7670 in 2014, 11954 in 2015 & 4075 in 2016 (till June). The Government of India is already undertaking measures to combat trafficking. The Ministry is implementing the scheme of Ujjawala” for prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation, re-integration and repatriation of victims of trafficking. The scheme provides for their rehabilitation through shelter, food, counseling, medical & legal aid and vocational training. Under the Ujjawala scheme, 162 Protective & rehabilitative Homes have been set up which can accommodate up to 8100 trafficked victims. In addition, the Ministry runs Swadhar Shelter Homes which also provides rehabilitation to women in difficult circumstances including trafficked victims and their children. There are 302 Short Stay Homes and 289 Swadhar Homes across the country which can accommodate up to 43370 women in difficult circumstances including trafficked victims. Besides, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 supplemented by the Indian Penal Code prohibits trafficking in human beings including children for the purpose of prostitution and lays down severe penalties for trafficking. The Ministry also conducts advocacy, awareness generation, sensitization programmes for prevention of trafficking of women and children. Common factors leading to trafficking of women and children are illiteracy, lack of vocational skills, economic-distress, migration, growing consumerism, ill-treatment by parents/guardians, desertion by spouse, dejection in love and deception. This information was given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Women and Child Development , Smt. Krishana Raj in the Rajya Sabha today. (Business Standard 11/8/16)

As human trafficking rises 60%, 6 reasons new bill falls short (1)

Every day, 15 Indians are traded against their will to be, among other things, sexual slaves or forced labour, but a draft law to prevent India’s growing tide of human trafficking cases — which rose 60 per cent in the four years to 2014, the last year for which data are available — is being criticised for six reasons. It is clear that existing laws under four acts are failing. From a decadal perspective, the trafficking of minor girls surged 14 times over the decade ending 2014. Girls and women comprised 76 per cent of human-trafficking cases that year. Human trafficking in India for sexual slavery has grown in concert with economic growth, IndiaSpend reported in April 2016. To address these failures and create a one-stop law to address diverse facets of human trafficking– sexual slavery, begging, forced labour and organ trafficking — a draft bill called Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, will be introduced in the next session of Parliament by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and it comes up short on these counts: * The draft bill has not clearly defined trafficking, whether it would include those taken for organ harvesting or forced labour. * The draft bill does not talk about modes of rehabilitation and who will be responsible. * The draft bill does not refer to the cross-border repatriation of victims from Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries. * It is not clear how the government intends to set up the Organised Crimes Investigation Agency, as ordered by the Supreme Court, to investigate trafficking. * The draft bill talks about a special investigative agency, but its structure, composition, powers and function are unclear. *The draft bill talks of an Anti-Trafficking Fund, but it is not clear what the money will be used for. There is no mention of compensation to victims. The bill is being introduced “to prevent trafficking of persons and to provide protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking and to create a legal, economic and social environment against trafficking of persons and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. …  (New Indian Express 14/8/16)

Hyderabad: 17 kids in Nayeemuddin’s houses, cops probe trafficking angle (1)

Hyderabad: The Special Investigation Team probing the activities of gangster Mohammed Nayeemuddin, who was shot dead on Monday in an alleged encounter, has begun a separate investigation to determine if Nayeemuddin and his gang were involved in human trafficking. During raids at a house in Shadnagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad, and two houses in Cyberabad area, police found 17 children, including four adolescent girls. “They are all Nayeem’s distant relatives and relatives of relatives from extremely poor families of Nalgonda district. They were living in the three houses and were being taken care of by domestic helps and cooks. Although they are related to Nayeemuddin, we will investigate if there was any trafficking and sexual abuse of the children,’’ SIT chief Y Nagi Reddy said. The SIT also found photographs of Nayeemuddin dressed as a woman. Officials said that either he used it as a disguise to evade the police or he was into cross-dressing. The 17 children — in the age group of one month to 17 years — have been taken to District Child Welfare Homes, where they are being counselled by members of Child Welfare Committees of Mahbubnagar and Ranga Reddy districts. “The children are scared and unable to accept that Nayeemuddin is dead. They are in trauma. We are not ruling out sexual abuse,” an official who conducted the counselling said. The SIT dismissed reports that tribal girls from remote villages of Nalgonda were found at Nayeemuddin’s houses. “Of the 17, three are Nayeemuddin’s own children, three are children of a cook named Afsa and two children are of a care-taker Farzana. The rest all are children of distant relatives of Nayeemuddin or his wife Haseena. They have not seen their parents for several months, so we suspect they were either bought by Nayeemuddin for trafficking or abuse. They hail from very poor backgrounds,’’ the official said. Some of the older children have told counsellors that Nayeemuddin was their uncle, and that they also go to school. Mahbubnagar Child Welfare Committee chairperson T Sridhar said that of the nine children rescued from Shadnagar, where the alleged encounter took place, three girls are aged 14, 15, and 17. “The rest are all below 9 years age. They have not opened up but I don’t think they faced any abuse, sexual or physical. All of them are healthy and refer to Nayeemuddin as uncle,’’ Sridhar said. The police are also investigating four missing persons complaints, including those of a woman and her daughter in Nalgonda, and suspect that Nayeemuddin killed them. “We are looking at suspected murders of Nadeem, an acquaintance of Nayeemuddin; Nasreen, a resident of Bhongir; and mother-daughter duo Hina and Cheliya. They were associated with Nayeem but are reported missing for several months,’’ an SIT official said. The SIT has so far arrested or detained 20 gang members or associates of Nayeemuddin from Hyderabad, Cyberabad, Mahbubnagar, and Nalgonda districts. “We have identified 20 houses owned by Nayeemuddin under various names. The helpline that we started has received 60 calls today from people who were threatened by Nayeemuddin to sell their lands or were victims of extortion,’’ SIT chief Reddy said. He said that Nayeemuddin kept meticulous records of land deals and cash transactions, payments for his staff and associates. “Like an advocate maintains his case files, Nayeemuddin jotted down details of land survey number, area, market value of land and how much he paid for it, former owners’ names etc on a piece of paper and attached it to each file. We have found hundreds of such jottings,’’ another official associated with the investigation said. (Indian Express 15/8/16)

Delhi police busts human trafficking gang, arrests 8 (1)

New Delhi: A Special Investigation Team busted the notorious gang of human trafficking, operating in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and other parts of India. Police has arrested 8 accused in this case. During the course of this investigation, SIT conducted raids at the various districts of Punjab and Haryana i.e Mansa, Bhatinda, Patiala, Sangrur, Ambala and Kurukshetra. Two girls including one minor have been rescued from the clutches of accused Babli, the kingpin of above human trafficking gang, from her rented house at Kurukshtra. The rescued minor girl aged 15 yrs belongs to Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh while the other girl is from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. Khajuri Khas Police station registered a complaint from the resident of Janta Colony, New Jafrabad, who stated that her daughter aged 12 years was missing since July 2, 2006 from Khajuri Khas. After the registration of the case, an investigation was carried out by the Delhi Police fter almost 10 years on August 2, 2016, a girl came at the same police station and recorded her statement, stating that she was kidnapped in 2006 when she was on her way to visit her sister. In her complaint, the girl said that she was made unconcious after a handkerchief was put to her face and on gaining conciousness, she found herself in a room full of girls and boys. After enquiring from one of the girls, she was told that she is in Ambala and was brought there for sale following which she was injected to unconciousness. The next day when she regained her conciousness, she was taken to a jungle where a car was waiting to take her to Gujarat on the pretext of taking the girl back to her home. In Gujarat, the girl was kept in a house built in fields where she was raped repeatedly by two cousin brothers and their friend, beaten and forced to work in the fields. She was kept there for three years after which she was marrried to a 40-year-old truck driver. She was sold to 9 time in the year 2009 itself. (India Today 18/8/16)

Human trafficking racket: Rickshaw puller ‘scout’ among 3 more arrested in Delhi (1)

New Delhi: Delhi Police have arrested three more persons in connection with the alleged kidnapping and sale of a 12-year-old girl from northeast Delhi 10 years ago, taking the number of those held in the case to 11. The girl, who was sold at least 12 times, raped, and married off twice, found her way back home on July 26 and was reunited with her mother and sister. Among the three held in the second phase of arrests is a rickshaw puller, Ramesh (28), who used to act as a scout for the human trafficking racket while roaming around bus stands and railway stations, said police. “He would look out for minor girls moving about alone and offer to take them where they wanted to go. However, he would take the girls to his house and contact Babli (an accused held in the case) and sell each girl for Rs 10,000,” A K Singla, DCP (northeast), said Monday. Singla added Ramesh had been arrested in 2006 in a similar case. “There are more cases where his name has cropped up. Ramesh said he came to know of this racket from other rickshaw pullers. We are investigating if more rickshaw pullers are involved,” said Singla. The two others were arrested from Punjab. (The Indian Express 23/8/2016)

Four held for abusing, trafficking minor girl (1)

PANAJI: The Ponda police in Central Goa has arrested three men and a woman, all from Maharashtra, for trafficking and sexually abusing and exploiting a minor girl, for over a month. The four — Datta Dilip Suryavanshi (30), Zopadpatti, Kolhapur; Raju Shivaji Jadav (22), Ganesh Colony, Kolhapur; Amol Somnath Patil (20), Banda, Kolhapur; and Manisha Datta Suryavanshi (25), Zopadpatti, Kolhapur — were arrested on Tuesday and remanded in police custody by a local Ponda court on Wednesday. Charges have been filed against them under various sections including the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. According to the police, the four arrested along with six others, including another woman, trafficked a 15 year-old girl from Mumbai to Kolhapur and from Kolhapur to Goa, confined her at various places on the way, for more than one month, and allegedly forced her into prostitution by using the premises during their stay as a brothel. The police has registered cases against two other persons who collected the juvenile victim from a Panaji bus stand and took her to a hotel, as also against the owner of the hotel and three unknown persons who forced her to have sex with them. The girl has been sent to Apna Ghar at Merces in north Goa. (The Hindu 25/8/2016)

Assamese child saved from car showroom (1)

MALAPPURAM: Raising suspicions about a possible child trafficking racket, a team of officials rescued an Assamese child engaged in labour at a car showroom at Manjeri, near here, on Thursday. The child, who looked between 14 and 15 years, had produced an identity card certifying that he was an adult. Jaffer Malik, Perinthalmanna Sub-Collector who ordered the raid, said that the ID card issued by Maheripar panchayat in Assam looked blatantly fabricated. “It’s apparently a fake ID. It naturally raises doubts about a racket. We will investigate it with the help of Assamese authorities,” said Mr. Malik. This was the third similar case in recent weeks in the district involving Assamese children. In an earlier case, the child had slipped the net of the authorities by misleading them with a fake certificate. A meeting convened by Mr. Malik the other day had decided to conduct joint raids in the wake of complaints about immigrant children being engaged in hotels and restaurants in the district. The Assamese child was caught during Thursday’ s joint raid involving police and labour officials, Child Protection Unit, Child Welfare Committee, and Childline. “As it is a joint raid, we could act upon it quickly,” said Mr. Malik. Child Welfare Committee member examined the boy and sent him to Government Children’ s Home at Tavanur. District Child Protection Officer Sameer Machingal said that it would be a short-term placement. Further course of action for the child will be decided later, he said. The Child Rights Commission in Assam, when contacted by its Kerala counterpart after a child labourer was rescued on July 21, said that it could not locate the child’ s address given in the ID and certificate. “No doubt it’s a fake ID. But what raises concern is the involvement of some people in pushing these children into labour by fabricating certificates for them,” said Mr. Sameer. Mr. Malik said that the joint raids on hotels, bakeries, restaurants, and other business establishments would be strengthened in the coming days as part of curbing child labour. (The Hindu 26/8/16)

25 per cent rise in trafficking cases: NCRB (1)

New Delhi: Human trafficking has emerged as the fastest rising crime, an increase of over 25 per cent in 2015, according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have reported the highest number of such cases. However, the overall incidents of crime in 2015 increased by merely 1.4 per cent as compared to 7.5 per cent in 2014. (see box)  The NCRB’s annual report is likely to be released by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday. According to it, nearly 6,500 incidents of human trafficking were registered across the country in 2015 — up from 5,400 such cases in 2014. Human trafficking, according to the NCRB, includes crime such as “importation of girls from foreign country, procuration of minor girls, buying of minors for prostitution, selling of minors for prostitution” and crimes under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956. A Home Ministry official said that the sharp rise in number of human trafficking cases is due to special focus of both the state and the Central governments on stemming the menace. In December last year, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to complete within six months the consultation process for a comprehensive law on prevention of human trafficking. “The numbers show that the state governments are taking the issue seriously, and more such cases are being registered. Earlier, many cases would go unreported,” the officer said. The NCRB report has been delayed by two months. The report is generally published every year in June. Sources said the delay was due to West Bengal and Delhi as they sent their data on crimes as late as June…  (Indian Express 30/8/16)

CORRUPTION

Govt departments set up vigilance wings to fight graft (5)

Bengaluru: Harassed by corrupt babus demanding bribes or delaying work? Fret not. Aggrieved persons will soon be able to seek the help of vigilance wings of the state government department. Four months after facing criticism for disbanding the Lokayukta and establishing the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Karnataka government has started the process to constitute vigilance wings in all government departments, boards and corporations in its effort to fight corruption. It has also framed guidelines to exclusively deal with corruption cases involving officials. “We have been setting up vigilance wings in all departments on the lines of the central vigilance system to ensure more accountability, transparency and probity in governance,” TK Anil Kumar, principal secretary, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) said. Vigilance officers will be empowered to receive complaints and grievances against officials of the respective departments and look into them to provide speedy remedies. Kumar said the government will appoint a vigilance officer in each government department and normally it would be the department head below secretary level. “Principal secretaries or secretaries will not be appointed as vigilance officers as they have a busy schedule,” he added. Another DPAR official, who is overseeing the setting up of vigilance cells, said vigilance officers will have to maintain secrecy while gathering information regarding acts of corruption and misuse of power by public servants and public representatives. They will also have powers to conduct surprise raids and conduct inquiries on complaints of corruption. However, they would have to seek the permission of a competent authority to lodge an FIR. In the case of public representatives and class-I officers belonging to the IAS, IPS and IFS, the approval would have to come from the chief minister who would be advised by the chief secretary. When SM Krishna was the chief minister, the then chairman of Karnataka Administrative Reforms Commission Harnahalli Ramaswamy had recommended setting up of such wings. In its order dated February 2, 2016, the Karnataka high court had also directed the state government to create vigilance wings in all departments. A Vigilance Advisory Board has also been created to guide and supervise the vigilance mechanism of the government and to guide and administratively supervise the functioning of vigilance officers and the ACB. “Unlike the Lokayukta, the vigilance cell will not be an effective mechanism, particularly in Karnataka where people are afraid to complain. Moreover, why would any official act on their colleagues in their own department unless they have a personal agenda? It could also lead to bad blood within the department,” said Ravi Vignesh, convener of an NGO fighting corruption. (Times of India 3/8/16)

CBI nodal agency for banks to report high value frauds (5)

NEW DELHI: The CBI has been made the nodal authority for banks to report high value frauds worth over Rs 50 crore in public sector banks. The move comes after Reserve Bank of India (RBI) noticed that banks do not have a focal point for filing complaints with the CBI. As a result, the investigative agency has to deal with dispersed levels of authorities in banks. “The CBI will act as centralised agency to receive complaints of frauds from banks,” Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary told PTI. A Joint Director level officer has now been authorised in the CBI to receive complaints of frauds of over Rs 50 crore from the banks. After receiving such reports, the officer can recommend investigation by any of the agency’s wings (Anti Corruption, Economic Offences or Bank Security and Fraud Cell), official sources said today. The officer-in-charge can then also recommend a probe by the Enforcement Directorate, they said. The Chief Vigilance Officers, who act as distant arm of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to check corruption, of banks have been asked to act as nodal officers to coordinate in reporting such cases to the CBI, the sources said. The CVC exercises superintendence over CBI for probing corruption cases. A total of 171 bank fraud cases involving funds of over Rs 20,000 crore were probed by the CBI during 2015. One of the high-profile bank fraud cases being probed by the CBI and ED is of liquor baron Vijay Mallya involving an amount of over Rs 9,000 crore. As per norms, the complaints in cases of frauds in public sector banks involving Rs three crore and upto Rs 25 crore are to be made with CBI’s Anti Corruption Branch (where staff involvement is prima facie evident) or with the Economic Offences Wing of the agency in cases where staff involvement is prima facie not evident. … (New Indian Express 7/8/16)

ED unable to attach assets of Mallya (5)

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate is preparing to initiate the second round of attachments under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act after the embattled Vijay Mallya recently skipped his appearance before a special PMLA court in Mumbai under a proclamation order issued under sections of the Criminal Procedure Code.The Enforcement Directorate, which has identified movable and immovable assets worth Rs. 6,000 crore allegedly belonging to Vijay Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines, is unable to proceed with their attachment proceedings. This, because police agencies are yet to formally launch investigations in all the cases of alleged wilful loan defaults. The agency has prepared a list of assets acquired by Mr. Mallya in different parts of the country. Details of overseas assets in his name and those of various entities associated with him are being collated. Two months ago, the agency attached assets having a market value of Rs.1,411 crore of Mr. Mallya and United Breweries (Holding) Ltd., in connection with money laundering investigations into the Rs. 900-crore IDBI Bank loan default case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation a year ago. The CBI initiated the probe on the basis of a complaint filed by one of its own officials.Unable to convince 16 other banks into lodging separate complaints, the CBI recently decided to probe all the loan defaults under the same case given that it has found evidence of inter-linked financial transactions. A special CBI investigation team has also been established for the purpose. The agency had earlier said that it would file multiple charge sheets in the IDBI Bank case, which will also cover the other issues of loan defaults. However, the decision is yet to be formally communicated to the ED. The ED has found evidence to suggest that at least two of the properties under scanner were disposed of well before it initiated attachment proceedings in the IDBI Bank case. A Mumbai court recently declared the businessman a proclaimed offender in the ED case. (The Hindu 7/8/16)

HC asks govt for solution to empower ACB, Lokayukta (5)

The state government on Tuesday submitted to the High Court that 27 cases have been registered at the newly created Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the last four months. Expressing displeasure over the way the ACB and the Lokayukta are functioning, Justice A N Venugopala Gowda directed the state government to come up with a solution to empower these institutions to address the increasing cases of corruption in governance. Additional Solicitor General Krishna S Dixit submitted that prosecution of sanction orders (PSOs) of IAS officer S M Raju, IPS officer D C Rajappa and IFS officer Narayanaswamy are still pending. He said that the Supreme Court, in the Subramanian Swamy’s case has said that if there is a delay of more than two months in granting PSO, it can be considered as PSO granted to carry on the investigation into the corruption charges against officers. Justice Gowda sought details of the pending PSOs and directed the government to come up with solutions to improve the functioning of the two institutions, so that the court can pass orders. The bench adjourned the hearing to August 17. (Deccan Herald 9/8/16)

Judicial inquiry into Goa cooperative bank scams: Goa CM (5)

PANAJI: The chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar said in Goa legislative assembly on Thursday that a judicial inquiry will be ordered into Goa State Cooperative Bank Ltd (GSCBL) after opposition benches alleged a deep-rooted corruption in the functioning of the Bank.The GSCBL, the apex financing agency in the cooperative sector has been mired in controversy during last few years for its alleged illegalities. Raising the issue during ‘question hour’, the independent legislator from Fatorda Vijai Sardesai said, the registrar of cooperative societies and chairman of the GSCSBL connived to sell properties of the bank worth crores of rupees; those properties were sold for peanuts. “The central registrar’s seal was misused. They forged documents,” said Sardesai demanding a judicial inquiry. Pointing at one such sale of property located in Baiguinim, Fatorda MLA said, SN Bhobe, the bank valuer in 1995 had estimated the value of 63000 sq meters of parcel of land at Rs 8.19 crore but an eleven years later the bank sold it for Rs 1.36 crore. (Times of India 11/8/16)

’200 corruption cases pending in court for over 20 yrs’ (5)

New Delhi: There are 1,416 cases waiting for closure for more than 10 years, while 2,099 cases are pending between five and ten years, 1,015 cases between three and five years and 1,905 less than three years.Two hundred corruption cases against government officials are pending in courts for more than 20 years, but once a proposed amendment to anti-corruption law is passed, such situations will be a thing of past. There are 1,416 cases waiting for closure for more than 10 years, while 2,099 cases are pending between five and ten years, 1,015 cases between three and five years and 1,905 less than three years. This “very ghastly picture” was drawn by Chief Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary when he appeared before the Rajya Sabha Select Committee, which was examining the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013.According to the amendment proposed for Section 4 of Prevention of Corruption Act, a special judge shall ensure the completion of the trial within a period of two years If the trial is not completed within two years, the special judge should record the reasons. The judge can seek more extensions, but the “total period for completing the trial shall not exceed four years”. Supporting the provision in the bill for setting a time limit, Chowdary said, “it makes no sense to have a trial after 20 years in corruption cases”. Of the total 6,635 cases, he said, even if one removes around 2,600 cases, which are less than four years, there are still 4,000 cases pending. His comments are part of the proceedings of the committee placed in the Rajya Sabha last Friday. However, in the panel, questions were raised whether Parliament can fix such a time frame and what would happen if the trial is not completed in four years. Chowdary said judgements by the supreme court show that if a trial is not conducted within a reasonable time, it will be quashed irrespective of the merit of the case. MPs also asked the same questions to which the top officials of department of personnel and training (DoPT) said the accused would not be acquitted on that basis. In its report, the panel headed by BJP MP Bhupender Yadav expressed hope that judges would complete trial within two years without seeking extension. (Deccan Herld 14/8/16)

Modi Govt. has completely failed in curbing inflation: NCP (5)

New Delhi, Aug. 15 (ANI): Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his claim that the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre has been able to bring down the consumer price growth from 10 percent to six percent, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday said the ruling dispensation has completely failed in curbing inflation. “Nothing will work with estimation. The main thing is what were the prices of pulses, rice, vegetables, onions in 2014 and what it is now. You will get to know the reality. The government is a complete failure in curbing inflation,” NCP leader D.P. Tripathi told ANI. Tripathi said the most important and best thing about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech is to end red tapism. “He has stressed on that. That is why he has spoken on government’s Karya Sanskriti (work culture). The new work culture is that there should be immediate solution to problems,” he added. Escalating his attack, the NCP leader said the Prime Minister came to power by talking about black money and corruption, but there have been no discussion or progress in that regard. Raising his concern for the Baloch nationals, Tripathi said expressing sympathy with them is India’s duty. Addressing the nation after unfurling the national flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort this morning, Prime Minister Modi conveyed his greetings to 125 crore Indians at home and abroad and said that his government is surrounded with aspirations. He emphasized on sensitivity and accountability in governance. Outlining his government’s achievements, Prime Minister Modi said the government curbed inflation rates and will continue to work to ensure food plate of poor is not affected by inflation. Saying the government faced problems due to drought, he, however, hailed the farmers for increase in food grain production. He said sowing of pulses has increased 1.5 times this year and it will help solve problems of demand shortfall. Asserting that ‘unity in diversity’ is the whole essence of the Indian culture, the Prime Minister said there is no place for violence and atrocities in the nation. (ANI) (New Kerala 15/8/16)

Even money given for VVIP bandobast has been gobbled up (5)

SANGAREDDY: A higher official is one who keeps an eye on his subordinates and their activities. But what if the higher official himself pressurises his subordinate to resort to corrupt or illegal activities? The suicide on Wednesday by a sub-inspector of police for allegedly being pressurised by his higher officials to collect mamools (bribes or protection money) exposed the rampant corruption in the police department. Many other SI-level officers too might have faced the same situation. “Whatever you want to collect (from people), we must get our share or you will face the consequences,” a senior official allegedly told a newly-appointed SI. According to sources, police stations are  given the task of collecting bribes as per the potential of the area. After Kukunoorpally SI B Ramakrishna Reddy’s suicide, several lower-level officials are discussing harassment by higher officials. There are allegations that senior officials assign monthly targets to CIs and SIs. “Those who are not willing to collect bribes (mamools) get transferred,” an SI of the district said on condition of anonymity. A circle inspector-level officer was forced to seek transfer to a rural police station recently after he refused to collect mamools as per the demands of his superiors, sources said. Surprisingly, this collection of mamools is  continuing even after the government sanctioned maintenance expenditure of `50,000 to city police stations and `25,000 to rural police stations. There is another section who are also the troubled lot. “Constables too face the heat from his superior, the SI,”said a constable. They said the issue of bribe is not new in the department. Recently, ACB officials trapped a sub-inspector working at Tekmal police station. Usually, the expense incurred on police for making arrangements for VVIP bandobast is sent to the SP’s office by the government. From there it is disbursed to divisional level and then to lower level men. There are allegations that this money meant for making security arrangements does not often reach the police station level. It can be recalled that the relatives of Ramakrishna Reddy, who committed suicide on Wednesday, alleged that DSP Sridhar had demanded ` 4 lakh from the Kukunoorpally police station as share of the money received for arranging security during the  prime minister’s recent tour. A head constable from Sangareddy corroborated the charge area that the money allocated for VVIP tour bandobast would not percolate to the police station. (New Indian Express 19/8/16)

Top IT official named suspect in Kerala corruption case (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Central Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing inquiry into the “bribe for favourable tax assessment” scam has touched the top echelons of the Income Tax department in Kerala. In its First Information Report (FIR) filed in the CBI Special Court here, the agency has named Chief Commissioner of Income Tax Anil Goel as a prime suspect in the graft case.It has indicated how a network of shady chartered accountants, powerful businessmen and corrupt IT assessors dominated the department and made it, arguably, a symbol of sleaze in public eye. The other accused are Balachandran, owner of a textile showroom in the capital, his auditor, K.I. Koshy and Sarat, an IT officer. The CBI’s case was that in September last the suspect IT officers “entered into criminal conspiracy to collect illegal gratification from various high value IT assessees under their jurisdiction.” The agency alleged that Mr. Goel met Mr. Koshy in his office and “threatened to order an IT survey” on Mr. Balachandran’s new showroom and “in order to avoid the same demanded Rs.15 lakh.” He allegedly directed Mr. Koshy to meet Mr. Sarat and “settle the matter in consultation” with him. The “demand for Rs. 15 lakh was reduced to Rs. 10 lakh and the money was delivered to Mr. Sarat for onward transfer to Mr. Goel,” the CBI alleged. The CBI told the court that the suspect officers had “negotiated with a number of business firms, their auditors and proprietors and collected huge amounts of bribe” to protect the businesses “in matters pertaining to their IT assessment.” It alleged that on at least three occasions in September/October 2015, the IT officials had transferred Rs.29 lakh to Mr. Goel’s wife, Juhi Goel, in Mumbai. (The CBI has named her a suspect in the case). They “threatened IT payers under their jurisdiction with adverse action to facilitate the illegal transfer of the tainted money from Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai,” the investigating agency said. (The Hindu 22/8/2016)

To clamp down on black money, government set to ban cash transactions over Rs 3 lakh (5)

NEW DELHI: The government is set to ban cash transactions over Rs 3 lakh as it seeks to clamp down on black money in the economy following recommendations from the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. The government, however, is yet to decide on the SIT’s other proposal to bar cash holdings over Rs 15 lakh due to opposition from trade and industry, sources told TOI. “There are concerns that this will result in harassment by tax officials,” an officer said. The Rs 3 lakh-limit is aimed to ensure that transactions are made using credit or debit cards, cheques or drafts which can be easily tracked. Despite the crackdown on unaccounted money, authorities continue to unearth several transactions involving purchase of jewellery or even cars in all-cash deals. The finance ministry is also trying to promote use of plastic money and recently did away with transaction charges+ for government services. In the past, businesses have cited payments to workers, especially smaller players, to justify large cash holdings. But the argument is seen to have become weak in the wake of a spurt in number of bank accounts, especially after Jan Dhan was launched two years ago. The government has already initiated several steps, including banning cash advance of more than Rs 20,000 for property transactions. The move came after income tax raids revealed unaccounted cash was often attributed to “recently concluded property transactions”. A similar limit has been placed on repayment of bank loans. The SIT had suggested the twin moves citing examples of countries such as France and Italy, that allow transactions up to a certain limit.The largest beneficiaries and conduits for Black money are political parties that spend 1000”s of Crores on Elections but reveal only a fraction of the expenditures and “donations” they re… Read Moreprakash The panel argued that cash transactions of over Rs 20,000 were rampant and often tax was not being deducted at source as prescribed under the law. “Question of levying penalty will arise only when such transaction comes to knowledge of I-T department because it is difficult to find out or locate the same,” the SIT said in its report. (Times of India 22/8/16)

Vigilance court nod for probe into bar bribery case (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on Saturday received permission from its special court here to further investigate the controversial bar licence renewal bribery case. The development is fraught with political and legal implications for the Kerala Congress (M) leader and former Finance Minister K.M. Mani, the prime accused in the case. It has also denoted a remarkable turnaround in the agency’s declared stance that there was no evidence to prosecute Mr. Mani. (The court had twice turned down its inquiry reports absolving Mr. Mani of all guilt in the case). The agency’s abrupt reversal of its position on the case came on August 23 when R. Sukeshan, Investigating Officer (IO), filed a confidential report in the court. Mr. Sukeshan said a further investigation was necessary in the case to unearth the “incriminating evidence which were purposefully concealed or distorted by some material witnesses”. The “new facts touching the allegations involved in this case, which were not considered by the IO earlier, is forthcoming”. He could not “obtain expert scientific analysis of the materials collected during the investigation” to form an opinion due to “imposition of an outer time frame” by the court. Mr. Sukeshan’s report remained classified. However, the conjectures about its particulars were many and varied.One version aired by television channels said the report detailed a conspiracy at the top level in the Vigilance to sabotage the case. The surmise apparently spurred prominent ruling front leaders, notably V.S. Achuthanandan, to demand prosecution of the “suspect officials”. Elaborately quoting several judgments, A. Badharudeen, Inquiry Commissioner and Special Judge, Vigilance, ruled that further investigation was permissible if an IO obtained further documentary or oral evidence even after he filed the final report in the case in court. The report on such an additional inquiry could be termed a “supplementary report”. The court has not stipulated any deadline for the Vigilance to file its report. (The Hindu 28/8/16)

Chopper scam: Middleman says will to meet Indian cops in Dubai (5)

New Delhi: Embattled middleman in the VVIP chopper scam Christian James Michel has written to CBI, saying he is willing to meet with Indian investigators in Dubai and has sought the withdrawal of Interpol Red Corner Notice against him in case the meeting takes place. In the letter to CBI on August 25, the English law firm representing him, said Michel is ready for a meeting at the Indian consulate in Dubai too. Claiming to be innocent, he said he might have some information which could enable the Indian authorities to progress with their probe into the scandal. Michel, against whom there exists a non-bailable warrant, said he is reluctant to come to India for the proposed questioning as he fears that “a long period of time might elapse”, between his questioning here and withdrawal of criminal charges or conclusion of criminal trial, during which he will be detained against his wish. “Michel vigorously denies having been involved in any wrongdoing relating to this matter — and in particular, we are instructed that he denies making or facilitating any corrupt payments to inducements relating to this matter,” the letter read. The British national has also claimed that he has not received any communication from the Indian authority regarding the charge sheet against him in court and the issuance of non- bailable warrant. Subject to certain conditions, Michel has offered to return to India not less than 7 days before the scheduled start of any criminal trial against him and attend every court hearing which he might be required to attend “until his innocence or guilt has been established”.The conditions for the same are that within two days of the meeting with investigators in Dubai or through video conference, they shall ask Interpol to withdraw the Red Corner Notice against him as long as he sticks to his promise of appearing in court. He also wants that no authority shall arrest or otherwise detain him in relation to this matter until he is found guilty and subsequently sentenced. Michel had allegedly played a key role in swinging the Rs 3,727-crore deal for AgustaWestland to supply 12 VVIP choppers to India in 2010. AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, allegedly paid more than Rs 370 crore as kickbacks to secure the deal. (Deccan Herald 30/8/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate Change Centre to come up at IIT Kharagpur (9)

Kharagpur: The Union Department of Science and Technology is planning to set up a Centre of Excellence at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to focus on climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, the institution’s director said here on Sunday.”The project will include water resources, biodiversity, agriculture, ocean and marine ecosystem, coastal and island vulnerability including sea level rise, extreme events, disaster risk reduction and management, Socio-economic vulnerability and Livelihood,” IIT Kharagpur director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti told the media after the institute’s 62nd convocation. The project – which is expected to have a total budget of Rs 10 crore for five years – will focus on vulnerability and risk assessment due to various environmental drivers in a climate change scenario over eastern India. The objective is to develop an integrated modelling system using coupled models, machine learning and data analytics to predict extreme events. It will help in carrying out risk and vulnerability assessment of various environmental divers and propose remedial solutions, said Chakrabarti. The project will also provide comprehensive analysis and understanding of various extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, pre-monsoon convective activity, extreme ocean waves and storm surges, sea level rise, extreme rainfall patterns, flash floods and their interactions in the overall assessment of vulnerability and risk in climate change scenarios. (Business Standard 1/8/16)

Forests declining, but tree cover on agricultural land increasing globally (9)

NEW DELHI: Although deforestation continues unabated in tropical forests, a new study has revealed some unexpected good news: tree cover on agricultural land is increasing across the globe, capturing nearly 0.75 Gigatonnes (billion tonnes) carbon dioxide every year. “Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43% of all agricultural land globally had at least 10% tree cover, up from eight percent in the preceding decade,” said Robert Zomer of the World Agroforestry Centre, lead author of the study. “Given the vast amount of land under agriculture, agroforestry may already significantly contribute to global carbon budgets.” This tree cover on agricultural land will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land-use change which was estimated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at about 24% of the world’s emissions. However, trees on agricultural lands are not considered in the greenhouse gas accounting framework of the IPCC. Trees on agricultural lands – also known as agroforestry systems – have the potential to contribute to reduce the impact of climate change while improving livelihoods and incomes and providing invaluable ecosystem services at the same time. The World Bank estimates that globally 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry farming systems, especially in developing countries. A team of researchers from various institutions in Africa, Asia and Europe carried out a study to assess the role of trees on agricultural land and the amount of carbon they have sequestered from the atmosphere over the past decade. The new study shows that the distribution of tree cover on agricultural land depends on climatic conditions in different parts of the world. High tree cover is found in humid areas such as South East Asia, Central America, eastern South America, as well as central and coastal West Africa. Tree cover on agricultural land was moderate in south Asia, sub-humid Africa, central and western Europe, the Amazonia and mid-west North America. On the other hand, low tree cover was found in east China, northwest India, west Asia, the southern border of the Sahara Desert, the prairies of North America and southwest Australia. Remarkable differences are noted in changing biomass carbon stocks over time among countries. Brazil, Indonesia, China and India had the largest increases, while Argentina, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone had the largest decreases in biomass carbon stored on agricultural land. “Study results show that existing tree cover makes a major contribution to carbon pools on agricultural land, demonstrating the potential to add to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” said Jianchu Xu of the World Agroforestry Centre. “If tree cover is accounted for, the total carbon stock is over four times higher than when estimated using IPCC tier 1 estimates alone.” Given the large amount of agricultural land where tree cover is below its potential, the study suggests that a huge mitigation potential exists and should be explored more systematically. (Times of India 4/8/16)

Gangotri glacier retreating at 12m annually: Experts (9)

DEHRADUN: Gangotri glacier, one of the largest in Uttarakhand, is retreating at 12 metres per year, said scientists at the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED) who are studying the site to come up with long-term strategies to combat the threat posed by global warming. The team is measuring the retreat of the 30-km-long glacier and the water flow in the Ganga. “The Gangotri glacier is receding at 12m annually. Our team is collecting data of the Ganga river flow and scrutinizing the receding of the glacier. The glacier retreat rate for this year is yet to be studied,” said chief investigator of the project, Kireet Kumar, senior scientist, GBPIHED in Almora. Giving details on how the field study was being conducted, Kumar said that the team is using GPS to mark the new point of glacier retreat.The team is also examining Chaturangi glacier, which is 4.5 km from Gangotri. “The study of Chaturangi glacier which feeds Gangotri is important to assess the river flow in Ganga,” said Kumar. Kumar, however, said that the glacier retreat is unlikely to drastically affect Ganga river flow. “It will not affect the river flow because natural springs, rivulets and rain water contribute towards increasing the water flow. Also, the glacier’s contribution to the river flow is reduced after catchment areas like Devprayag.” The GBPIHED team will complete its study in September this year and the data will help unravel the hydrology of the glacier. Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave in a written reply in the lower house of Parliament said that according to the latest glacier mapping carried out by the ISRO, 87% of glaciers have shown no change, while 12% have retreated and 1% have advanced. The ISRO had studied 34,919 glaciers in Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra and Trans Himalaya region using satellite data from 2000 to 2001 and 2010 to 2011. (Times of India 7/8/16)

NGT orders inspection of 200 industries in Ghaziabad (9)

NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered inspection of over 200 industries in Ghaziabad to check if borewells are installed on their premises. The direction came on a plea seeking closure of all industrial units in Ghaziabad and Hapur that extract groundwater illegally. Justice U. D. Salvi ordered the Ghaziabad District Magistrate to appoint a team of officers to conduct inspections, and submit a report to it. Petitioners Sushil Raghav, a Ghaziabad resident, and NGO Society for Protection Of Environment and Biodiversity had alleged that indiscriminate extraction of groundwater in the areas had resulted in the depletion of water tables. Advocates Rahul Choudhary and Meera Gopal, representing the petitioners, said around 240 industries withdrew groundwater through borewells that had been dug illegally. The green court also directed the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to file its reply in the case before the next date of hearing. The court had earlier issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Ground Water Authority, U.P. government, State Pollution Control Board and others in the case. (The Hindu 9/8/16)

Culture festival caused damage to environment: NGT panel (9)

NEW DELHI: An expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal to assess the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplain due to Art of Living’s World Culture Festival recently submitted its report. NGT on Wednesday said the report had concluded that the festival caused damage to the environment but hadn’t quantified the damage in monetary terms yet. The tribunal, which was hearing an application by activist Manoj Mishra, said respondents could apply for copies of the report. All respondents, including AOL, were directed to submit their reply to the findings within three weeks. NGT also suggested that the ministry of water resources assign the assessment of monetary compensation to be paid by AOL to an independent agency . The expert committee that drafted the report based on site visits comprised Shashi Shekhar, secretary, water resources ministry, CR Babu of Union environment ministry , Prof AK Gosain from IIT-Delhi and Prof Brij Gopal from Jaipur. In February , NGT had directed the expert committee “to suggest steps for restoration of the damaged site and to suggest an approximate cost that Art of Living needs to pay for restoration”. The bench has now asked the expert committee to quantify the damage to the floodplains and “furnish the tentative cost of restoration”.AOL on Wednesday alleged that one of the members of the NGT’s expert committee had close ties with the petitioner, “which explains the unscientific functioning”. In a statement, AOL said it had filed a report by an “independent environment expert”, which stated that the WCF didn’t cause any damage to the floodplains. “Importantly, we have also filed an application to reconstitute the expert committee on the ground that the committee is biased. Our application has been filed on the basis of strong irrefutable evidence. The committee has admitted that it had, in the first instance, inadvertently recommended the compensation amount without any scientific assessment,” AOL stated. It added: “The NGT is yet to hear our application for reconstitution of the committee. Hence, it is not logical to take the report of the committee into consideration before our application is heard.”  (Times of India 11/8/16)

Zero tolerance over Ganga pollution: Environment Minister (9)

New Delhi, Aug 12 : Union Minister of State for Environment Anil Madhav Dave on Friday spoke about “zero tolerance” for pollution in the Ganga river, adding that government policies may be reconstructed from scratch if required. Dave told the media here that a solution to the long-pending issue of the Western Ghats will be found. “Let me make it clear that we have zero tolerance over the pollution in the Ganga. Even the treated water of tanneries in Kanpur, or other industries, if unfit for drinking, will not be allowed to flow into the river,” the minister said. Echoing Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya’s vision to maintain the water flow in the Ganga basin, the minister said: “Let’s not talk of saving Ganga, let’s talk of serving it.” “No one, in my knowledge, loved the Ganga as Malviya did. We will take ahead the document signed between him and British on the issue.” The 1916 document called for uninterrupted flow of a dedicated stream of the river through a canal and the main stream, while advocating for dams on the river. As for the flood situation in Bengaluru in Karnataka, where pollution and vanishing water bodies had prompted the authorities to take up massive demolition drives, the minister said: “That’s the file I have at the top of my table right now.” Speaking on the pending issue of conservation of Western Ghats where about 25 crore people live across an area of 1,29,037 sq km, the minister said the matter would be resolved within six months. “Every state has its own stand. We will take a clear stand on the issue within six month, keeping the people in mind,” he said. The minister who advocates conservation of nature with the indigenous people, said that his ministry will preserve the Ghats as well as the people living there.The Western Ghats that runs parallel to the western coast of India are spread over Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Its one of the eight biodiversity hotspot in the world and since 2010 two special committees formed for its conservation had submitted their reports in 2011 and 2014. “These must be roads and schools in those areas; people living there also deserve development. I will visit the most remote areas of the Western Ghats,” he said, adding that Tamil Nadu, which had not yet submitted its stand on the conservation, will clear its stand in a meeting soon. As for GM crops, the minister spoke of “innovation” while advocated “organic farming”, cautiously saying, “soil must not be spoiled; money should not flow outside the country”.”India needs people like Subhash Palekar, who used innovative zero budget farming, using organic methods, and set examples in Amravati in Maharashtra,” he said. (New Kerala 12/8/126)

Environment activists join hands to save the Hindon (9)

MEERUT: Environment activists from seven districts of Saharanpur and Meerut divisions joined hands on Sunday to save river Hindon, a tributary of the Yamuna. They have outlined a roadmap for the purpose, including creating awareness among villagers residing along the banks and taking legal actions against industries polluting the river. Various non-government organisations (NGOs) working for environmental causes in Meerut, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautambudh Nagar convened under the leadership of Krishan Veer Chaudhary of the Bhartiya Krishk Samaj to brainstorm on how to make the Hindon pollution-free. Naveen Pradhan of Research and Relief Society moved a proposal to appoint Chaudhary the convener of the movement, which was accepted unopposed. Vikrant Tongad of Safe Green says that Hindon merges into the Yamuna at Gautam Budh Nagar, where it is highly polluted. Director of NEER Foundation, Raman Tyagi, said that to draw more and more people to the movement, it had taken the help of social networking site Facebook. He said work was on to develop a website dedicated to river Hindon. A quarterly newsletter is also being published for the cause, he added. It was decided on Sunday that a workshop will be held in September in Ghaziabad where Uma Bharti, union minister of water resources and river development and Ganga rejuvenation, and union minister Sanjeev Balian, who is an MP from Muzaffarnagar, would be invited to share the ground reality of the dying river. In October, a Hindon Bachao Yatra will be launched from Saharanpur to Gautam Budh Nagar. (Times of India 14/8/16)

Art of Living event ‘completely destroyed’ Yamuna floodplains, expert committee tells NGT (9)

NEW DELHI: The ‘World Culture Festival’ extravaganza organized by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) on Yamuna has “completely destroyed” the riverbed, an expert committee told the National Green Tribunal. “The committee observes that entire floodplain area used for the main event site i.e. between DND flyover and the Barapulla drain (on the right bank of river Yamuna) has been completely destroyed, not simply damaged. The ground is now totally levelled, compacted and hardened and is totally devoid of water bodies or depressions and almost completely devoid of any vegetation. “The area where the grand stage was erected (and the area immediately behind it) is heavily consolidated – most likely with a different kind of external material used to level the ground and compress it. Huge amount of earth and debris have been dumped to construct the ramps for access from the DND flyover and from the two pontoon bridges across the Barapulla drain,” the expert committee, set up by the NGT, told a bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar. The tribunal had directed the seven-member expert committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources, and senior scientists and experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, IIT, Delhi and other agencies to inspect the site of the World Culture Festival held in March this year. The committee, in its 47-page report, has said that due to the three-day event, the floodplain has lost “almost all its natural vegetation” like trees, shrubs, tall grasses, aquatic vegetation including water hyacinth, which provides habitat to large number of animals, insects and mud-dwelling organisms. ….  (Times of India 17/8/16)

Gurgaon: Polluting industries to be moved out of housing areas (9)

Gurgaon: The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) will conduct a survey from Monday to identify polluting industrial units that are operating in residential areas. The survey is being initiated after the state government ordered to work out modalities for relocating industries from residential areas to comply with the pollution control norms which state that industrial units should operate outside residential zones. In Gurgaon, there are 2,000 industries that mix with residential zones. On March 5, the Centre framed a new policy based on pollution load and asked all states to classify non-polluting industries under a new category according to their requirements. Apart from the existing ‘Red’, ‘Orange’ and ‘Green’ categories of industries, the HSPCB introduced a new category – White – that does not requires environmental clearance. “As we have new parameters to identify industries, which are the source of pollution in the city, we are conducting a survey to recognise the units that should be removed,” Bhupender Singh, regional pollution officer, HSPCB, said. The new criteria is developed under the guidance of the Ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF) based on the pollution index, which is a function of emissions (air pollutants), effluents (water pollutants), hazardous wastes generated and consumption of resources. An official of HSPCB said after analysis of the survey report, notices will be issued to the units for relocation. The white category industries may continue as per existing norms of the pollution department. The units under the orange category would be given two years to comply with pollution control norms. “A span of six months will be provided to green units to shift out of the residential areas. We do not have any red category units in residential areas of the city,” Singh said. (The Hindustan Times 22/8/2016)

‘Ultimately, melting ice caps affect coastal regions’ (9)

Panaji: Over the years, the vast ice cover around the North Pole has shrunk due to global warming. This has led to rise in sea levels which ultimately affects coastal regions like Goa, said Goa Science Centre and Planetarium, director, M M K Balaji. “Due to the melting of the ice caps, the water is denser than the normal sea water, raising the sea level. This ultimately affects coastal regions as they are likely to submerge. Goa will definitely feel the impact,” he said. He further added that from 1950 till date, the average global temperature has been increasing continuously. “Since then, it has increased by 0.9 degrees celsius,” said Balaji. He attributed a number of factors that are adding to global warming. “In Goa, there is rampant deforestation and conversion of agricultural land into developmental zones for real estate. Air pollution owing to dense traffic also increases chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). All these factors indirectly impact the arctic region,” he said. Explaining this phenomenon, through a series of stunning images of the Norwegian Young Sea Ice Expedition 2015, the centre in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian consulate general has organized an exhibition titled ‘On Thin Ice’. In January 2015, the Norwegian Polar Institute sent its research vessel into the North Pole. On board were researchers who wanted explanations for climate change. These researchers took measurements in the constant polar night and concluded that people living in low-lying coastal areas will be affected as a result of melting glaciers. The exhibition consists of the knowledge gathered from this expedition. The Goa Science Centre is organizing the exhibition till September 22 at its premises in Miramar. From Goa, the exhibition will travel to Delhi and then Norway. (Times of India 23/8/16)

Large-scale changes in land use land cover weakening Indian monsoon: IIT study (9)

Mumbai: Large-scale changes of land use land cover (LULC) from forest land to crop land and the loss of green cover in north-east and north-central India has caused the weakening of the monsoon, a new study carried out by the Interdisciplinary Program in Climate Studies (IPCS) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, has revealed. Led by Professor Subimal Ghosh and Supantha Paul of IPCS, the study looks at changes and variability of Indian monsoon and its association with local factors such as recent changes of land use land cover. The study has been published in Scientific Reports by Nature Publishing Group. Satellite data revealed large-scale changes of LULC in India. Large-scale deforestation has been observed when the LULC map derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-Radiometer for the 2000s is compared with that derived from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer for the 1980s. The data reveals a significant decrease in leaf area index, a technical term used to measure green cover. A regional simulation of Indian south-west monsoon with two different LULC of 1980s and 2000s, keeping large-scale circulation same, reveals statistically significant reduction in monsoon rainfall over north-central and north-east India with the changes in forest cover. Large-scale conversion of forest land to crop land resulted in conversion of deep-rooted vegetation to shallow-rooted vegetation that further reduces evapo-transpiration (ET), a local moisture source to precipitation. The precipitation generated from local evapo-transpiration is known as recycled precipitation. The recycled precipitation contributes to around 25 per cent of total monsoon precipitation during the end of the monsoon in the months of August and September. Prof. Ghosh said, “Due to large-scale deforestation, there is significant reduction in the recycled precipitation and hence in total precipitation. Our earlier study published in the Journal of Hydrometeorology showed that the recycled precipitation is quite high in north-east and north-central India. Impact of deforestation is quite prominent in those areas due to reduction in ET and recycled precipitation.” He said LULC changes have significant implications on future rainfall projections and should be taken into account while developing climate models. “For Indian monsoon, impacts of LULC change are critical and need to be considered for regional projections and planning.” The study also warned that if deforestation continues unabated, the conditions of drying of the Indian subcontinent due to warming of Western Indian Ocean could become more critical. This needs to be seriously considered in the development of national policy of regional climate change mitigation. (The Hindu 25/8/16)

Order industries to bear cost, CPCB requests NGT (9)

Kochi: The central pollution control board (CPCB) has pleaded to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to direct polluting industries to bear the remediation cost to save Periyar in Eloor area. The board submitted that its state-level body would inspect secured landfill areas, effluent collection tanks, hazardous wastes, raw material storage areas and any other waste spills/dump areas at Eloor. It would direct the industries to remove the waste found on its premises and move the same to a common treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF). The treated effluents should not be discharged through Kuzhikandom canal as it may continue to wash the sediments further down the creeks. The flow has to be contained to facilitate remediation activity. Therefore, the industries should be directed to submit a time-bound action plan to stop discharging treated effluents to the canal, the board submitted. The CPCB also apprised the green court that decision on seeking funds from the Centre and state governments for remediation works would be made once the remediation objectives, plans and its detailed project report (DPR) was finalized. The deadline for completion of the DPR is December. Regarding the future course of action in the Eloor-Edayar area, the board said remediation measures have been given utmost priority. It said that multiple contaminants including DDT, endosulphan, chlorobenzenes and metals such as manganese, vanadium, zinc and chromium have been found in soil, groundwater, sediments and surface water and immediate steps needed to be initiated to rejuvenate the water body. (Times of India 27/8/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

Whitefly fear forces Punjab farmers to uproot cotton crop (20)

NEW DELHI: While farmers in parts of Punjab have started uprooting cotton crop fearing whitefly pest attack, officials from the State government and the Centre are touring the cotton-belt to monitor the situation. The pest attack, which caused extensive damage to Bt cotton crop last year in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana, had been reported this year as well in a few villages of Malwa region, mainly Fazilka district of Punjab. Farmers are worried that there could be increased infestation if the current hot and humid weather conditions continue to prevail for the next 15-20 days. An increase in jassid pest attack, which too sucks the crop like the whitefly, is worrying farmers in parts of Mansa and Bathinda districts. After facing farmers’ wrath in the poll-bound State last year, the ruling Akali government and the Centre are taking no chances. The team of officials and experts touring the cotton belt for surveillance will hold a review meeting on August 3. “We have been able to control the spread this season, as it is limited to 132 acres in a few villages… But the next 20 days or so are critical. If it rains it will be good for the crop. Whitefly pest grows and spreads in dry, hot and humid conditions,” Jasbir Singh Bains, Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, told The Hindu . Mr. Bains is a part of the expert team. Mr. Bains disagreed that farmers were uprooting cotton crop due to whitefly pest. “It’s the late sown cotton crop that farmers have uprooted in a few villages, to replace it with paddy to ensure better returns,” he said. Whitefly attack caused extensive damage to Bt cotton varieties last year in Punjab and Haryana, resulting in a drop of nearly 40 per cent in production. Bt cotton accounted for over 98 per cent of the total cotton sown last year in both the States. The remaining two per cent was the indigenous cotton varieties. This season too, Bt cotton accounts for over 93 per cent of the total cotton sown. After the losses they suffered last year due to whitefly attack, farmers in both Punjab and Haryana have planted less cotton this year. In Punjab, the area has shrunk to 2.56 lakh hectares, against 4.50 lakh hectares last season. In Haryana, cotton has been sown in 5 lakh hectares this year, against 5.80 lakh hectares last year. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

Over 12,000 suicides in farm sector in 2014 (20)

New Delhi: Over 12,000 farmers and farm labourers have committed suicide across the country in 2014, government said in Rajya Sabha today. Observing that 5,650 farmers and over 6,000 farm labourers had committed suicide, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the total number of suicides relating to the farm sector in 2014 stood at 12,360. As several members expressed concern over farm deaths during Question Hour, Singh said the total number of suicides in the country during 2014, including those in the farm sector, was over 1.31 lakh. He also rejected a member’s charge that cases of farmers’ suicide were being under-reported. As members suggested providing central compensation to the kin of the deceased and waiving off their loans, Singh said that improving the income of farmers was the most important solution and the government is focussing on it. The Minister also said that the government had launched a number of schemes to alleviate the distress of agriculture sector including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, while various states have increased the amount provided to families of those farmers who commit suicide. While in Punjab, compensation has been enhanced from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh since July last year, Andhra Pradesh has also increased the amount to Rs 5 lakh.In Telangana too, the state government has enhanced the compensation in case of farmer suicides from Rs one lakh to Rs 5 lakh, while in Karnataka, each of the family members of the farmer committing suicide is provided with Rs one lakh each. In Maharashtra, an amount of Rs one lakh is provided. (Business Standard 5/8/16)

Three farmers commit suicide (20)

Bidar: The district witnessed suicides by three farmers in different villages for different reasons in the last two days. Narasappa Dasharath Chincholi (38) hanged himself in his field in Chillargi village in Bidar taluk on Friday. He was worried about the crop loss due to the recent heavy rains. . He was also worried about the marriage of his three daughters, police said. Circle police inspector Ramappa Savalagi and assistant sub inspector S. Padmavati visited the spot. A case has been registered in the Janawada police station. Shivajirao Ramarao Bajolage (70), of Bhalki consumed pesticide on Thursday. He was worried about crop loss on his four-acre land. He had taken loans of Rs 1.2 lakh. He had suffered crop losses for two years, police said. He was given first aid in Bhalki, but died while being brought to the district hospital. Urmila, wife of the deceased, has complained to the police that he was always thinking about repaying loans and the crop loss. Santosh Nivadage of Lakhangaon village in Bhalki taluk jumped into the Manjra river on Thursday. His body was fished out on Friday. Scarce rainfall and crop damage for three years had made him desperate. He had called his wife Sangeetha that he would commit suicide after he left home on Thursday morning. (The Hindu 7/8/16)

A farming that pulsates with higher profitability, productivity (20)

CHENNAI: In the quiet corners of the State, farmers of five panchayats have been silently revolutionising pulse farming. Under ‘Pulse Panchayat’, an MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) initiative, over 1000 farmers in Pudukkotai have managed to achieve a 60% increase in the yield and also increasing the land under pulses cultivation in the three years since the project was started in 2013, the farmers said. What was first started in the Edaiyapatti panchayat has grown to include four other panchayats, leading to the formation of the Illuppur Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (IAPCL). The company now sells its own products under the brand ‘Pattikadu’. “Pulse panchayat is a concept, not an institution, that works with panchayats to increase the production, productivity and profitability of pulses cultivation,” said Thachinamurthy Krishnan, Chief Executive Officer,  IAPCL. To diversify the sources of income for the farmers, the IAPCL integrates dairy, poultry and organic vegetables with pulses cultivation. Today, the cultivation area of pulses has increased from 40-50 acres to about 250-300 acres. In 2015, 20 tonnes of pulses have been sold with the total sales of all integrated products valued at around 48 lakh, he added. Between the increase in the price of pulses in the market and the low price that the pulse farmers themselves receive for their produce, the money is lost because of the middlemen involved, he said. By eliminating the need for these middlemen and by reducing transport costs by having their own processing mill within 10 km of the  cultivated area, the company is able to procure the produce at a better price. The consumer has also a reason to rejoice. The difference between the market price and that of the Pattikadu pulses is at least `20, Thachinamurthy said. According to him, the fall in pulse production is because pulses are grown in rainfed areas and these farmers don’t usually receive loans because their income is impacted by the vagaries of nature.R.I Palanichamy, Director, IAPCL and a pulse farmer with four acres of land, said that his son Chandrasekar, who left farming to work for a private company, had  returned to help his father manage the farm. “Now he thinks why he should toil for 12 hours a day when he can look after the farm for 3-4 hours and still make the same amount of money,” he said.

Thachinamurthy said that the MSSRF did not intend to take the model to other panchayats in the immediate future but hopes to make this a model that could be replicated while achieving a turnover of at least 5 crore. With this, the farmers will be able to get a minimum of `10,000 every month as regular income. “We want to bring back home several Chandrasekars in the five panchayats, who have left farming for other work,” he said. Meanwhile, their ‘Pattikadu’ stall at the MSSRF consultation on pulses was doing brisk business. “Two days into the consultation, we only have 30 kg of pulses left of the 200 kg we brought,”Thachinamurthy said. The farmers and representatives of the IAPCL were there for the farmers’ session of the three-day consultation on the theme of pulses organised by the MSSRF to commemorate the birthday of their founder Prof MS Swaminathan. (New Indian Express 9/8/16)

Maharashtra Cabinet approves climate-resilient agri project (20)

MUMBAI: In a bid to tackle drought and water scarcity as a result of climate change, the Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday allotted Rs. 1.5 crore from the Emergency Fund to create 23 special posts to implement a project on climate-resilient agriculture. The project, which will be supported by the World Bank, aims at studying crop patterns and types as per climate change, which will help the State government tackle challenges faced by the farm sector. According to the government, the growth rate of agriculture is on the decline as a result of severe drought, heavy rains and water scarcity, thereby decreasing agricultural production and profit. The government has observed that such a situation is ultimately responsible for the rising number of farmers’ suicides. The project aims at suggesting changes in crop patterns and promoting extensions to agri businesses. “This will help farmers to not lose patience in adverse times and to ensure that they reclaim their original condition,” said a government official. The official added that the project would get financial aid from the World Bank and has received approval from the central government. The project management cell will be set up in Mumbai and will be responsible for creating a detailed project report, implementation plan and its functioning. (The Hindu 11/8/16)

Centre told to consider farmer’s plea to use pathway (20)

Madurai: The Madras High Court Bench here has directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State government to consider permitting a farmer owning a piece of cultivable land atop a hill in the midst of a forest at Vadakadu in Dindigul district to use an existing pathway. Justice M. Venugopal passed the order while disposing of a writ petition filed by S.M. Jaya Prakash, the recent purchaser of the farmland from the widow of its previous owner who had been cultivating the property for long as it was the practice among many hill rangers in and around Ottanchattram to grow vegetables on private lands in forest areas. “Cultivation of vegetables finds a place in the forest area for more than 100 years and access to patta lands is through reserve forest area wherein at several junctures, rights vested in those jungles are highly recognised. Vegetable production is the source of livelihood of several farmers as the lands in between the said forest is ideal for cultivation,” the petitioner said. He sought a direction restraining District Forest Officer and his subordinates from obstructing his access to the pathway used for transporting vegetables from his private land. Contesting the case on behalf of the DFO, an Additional Government Pleader claimed that the petitioner had so far not made any written request seeking permission for utilising the existing pathway. The judge directed the petitioner to first submit a representation to the Dindigul Collector within four weeks, seeking a certificate that the pathway was the only access to his land. On receipt of such a certificate from the Collector, he was ordered to make a representation to the DFO. The DFO, in turn, was directed to forward the representation to the State Forest Secretary through the Chief Conservator of Forests. The Secretary “is directed to send all the papers to the Central Government for approval. It is open to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment to pass necessary orders expeditiously as possible,” the judge said. He restrained forest officials from preventing the petitioner from using the pathway until the Centre takes a decision on the issue. (The Hindu 17/8/16)

 

The unsung heroes of Telangana farmlands (20)

HYDERABAD: Parched lands. Ruined crops. Crying faces. The state has seen the highest number of farmer suicides in the country and perhaps not as many details in their lives, dependent largely on uncertain rains, have been covered. But when it is done by some students, especially when they contribute some money for the peasants through their photography, it feels art is standing up for the peasants. As part of a photography workshop done in the villages of Telangana, Saurabh Chatterjee, the city-based photographer and his students contributed `500 to the Hasnabad Farmer Services Producer Company. He partnered with RangDen an NGO, and now since the workshop is complete, the photographs are on display at Lamakaan till August 21. Entitled ‘A Summer Day In Telangana’ the exhibition features life-like photographers of farmers ploughing their fields or women with the shiny sickles in their thin, bony hands. In June the entourage visited Chinna Nandigama and Pedda Nandigama villages in Mahbubnagar and shot the pictures. It was just after the onset of monsoon. “After the first monsoon shower, farmers start sowing the seeds which is what we captured in some photographs,” says Saurabh. One of the photographs shows a farmer with his oxen and plow while the dust envelopes his feet in thick sheet. The toil continues in other photographs hanging on the wall and suddenly you see bursts of colours i.e., rural women in bright red, green and yellow colours working in the fields. Sometimes they are looking at the camera, in some pictures away from it. But a sturdy determination is written on their faces hardened by time. The movements of their hands tell you that a man can be destroyed, but can’t be defeated. Some of the photographs tell you what the peasants may have gone through. For example, a black and white photograph shows a woman’s fingers holding the keen edge of a sickle as if she were used to hold cruelty with naked hands. The strength transcends even in the still wheel of a bullock cart abandoned by some farmer who is still there in its shadows. (New Indian Express 17/8/16)

Denied loan eligibility cards, tenant farmers plan state-wide protest (20)

Hyderabad: Upset with the state government for the delay in distribution of loan eligibility cards (LECs), over 14 lakh tenant farmers in the state are planning to organise a state-wide protest on August 26 and 27. According to revenue records, the government has renewed only 894 loan eligibility cards since May this year. While surveys commissioned by both government and various organisations show there are over 14 lakh tenant farmers in the state, the TRS government, in 2014, fixed a target of covering only 4.15 lakh tenant farmers under loan eligibility certification. However, the government issued only 44,000 cards in 2014-15 and 57,000 cards in 2015-16. This year, the number has not even crossed the 1000 mark. “The government’s lack of focus on farm sector is forcing farmers to raise their voice. The tenant farmers are the most distressed in the state. A widespread agitation has been planned and the tenant farmers will hold two-day dharna in front of revenue offices across the state on August 26 and 27,” said Teegala Sagar, general secretary of Telangana Tenant Farmers’ Association. The tenant farmers desperately need the LECs as possession of the card is mandatory to avail crop loans from banks. Without the cards, they are also not eligible to receive subsidies on seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. The cardless tentant farmers are also left out of any relief scheme related to crop loss following calamities like drought or flood. Even their families are not eligible for government relief in case they commit suicide. “Over half of the 2,400 farmers who committed suicide in the last two years are tenant farmers. Over 40 per cent active farmers are tenants. It is astonishing to note the government is not serious about addressing this large chunk of the farming community,” said P Padma, general secretary of Telangana State Rytu Sangham. Admitting the lack of progress in issuing LECs, deputy chief minister Md Mahmood Ali who holds the revenue portfolio said, “The problem is that we are coming across many bogus cases. Hence we need to do due diligence. However, we have instructed revenue officials to not delay in issuing cards to genuine beneficiaries, and there will not be further delay,” Mahmood Ali said. (Times of India 19/8/16)

Rs 1,100-cr project to curb farmers’ suicides: Fundkar (20)

The Maharashtra government has decided to launch a Rs 1,100-crore pilot project for Yavatmal and Oismanabad districts to curb farmers’ suicides. Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar announced on Friday, after inaugurating the new hostel of the Vasantrao Naik College for Biotechnology here.Expressing concern over the farmers’ suicides in Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts, Fundkar said the move was aimed at “empowering the farmers”.”The state government has sanctioned a Rs 1,100 crore-pilot project for both the districts aiming to empower the distressed farmers thereby curbing the spate in suicides,” he said. “The project would help the farmers to start ancillary business along with their farming so that they could enhance their earnings to lead a dignified life”, he added. Fundkar said several agriculture colleges across Maharashtra were being run without necessary facilities to train the students and the state government will soon act against them. “Such colleges would be identified and their recognition would be cancelled if they fail to improve their existing facilities,” he said. (Business Standard 21/8/2016)

Family of farmer who killed himself seek police protection (20)

BENGALURU: A senior police officer on Tuesday visited the family of farmer Shivanna, who committed suicide on Sunday, at Gavinagamangala in Magadi taluk and recorded their statements. The 52-year-old farmer had ended his life by consuming poison. In his suicide note, he blamed the son of DG&IGP Om Prakash for abetment of suicide and a couple of police officers before his death. In their statement to the police officer, the family asked for protection as Shivanna had named some influential people in his suicide note. Speaking to Express, Shivanna’s daughter Mamatha said, “Circle inspector Nandish recorded the statements of my mother and brother. We need police protection as my father was facing threats to life. If anything happens to our family, Lokesh and his family will be responsible,” she said. “We also asked the police officer to take action against Lokesh and his wife, who assaulted my father as they are responsible for his death,” she added. (New Indian Express 24/8/16)

2 indebted farmers end lives in Mansa (20)

MANSA: Reeling under debt burden, two farmers ended lives in Mansa by consuming poisonous substances. Mansa is rattled by suicides due to mounting debt as more than 30 cases of farmer suicides have been reported in last one year after failure of cotton crop in October 2015. One of the victims, Gurmail Singh (56) of Khudal Kalan village, owned 2.5 acres of land and owed Rs 8 lakh to banks and moneylenders. He gulped a poisonous substance on Thursday morning at his home. His elder brother Sukhdev Singh said, “Gurmail was under stress for being unable to repay the loan. He had taken the loan few years ago for the marriage of his elder daughter. Now, he was to marry off another daughter.” Other farmer Satpal Singh (37) of Kahangarh village owned 1.5 acres of land and had debt of Rs 2.5 lakh. His brother Pappu Singh said Satpal was in depression for failing to repay the loan and committed suicide on Wednesday night by consuming poisonous substance. Farmer outfits BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) and Punjab Kisan Union (PKU) mourned the suicides of both peasants due to debt. PKU president Ruldu Singh Mansa demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the bereaved families. (Times of India 26/8/16)

Farmers join hands to claim dam water rights (20)

Nashik: Once bitten, farmers on the banks of the Godavari left bank canal are twice shy. Taking a cue from the lesson during the last drought, the farmers have come together to form a front – Water Users’ Association – to seek water for agriculture from the water resources department. The department, in turn, will establish the farmers’ right over water in the dams. In 2015-16, when Maharashtra experienced one of the worst droughts in its hisyory following poor rain in the two preceding years, the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) had asked the water resources department to release water from the Gangapur and Darna complexes. But the water entitlement was low. “The Godavari Left Bank Canal irrigates about 12,000 hectares of land but the demand registered with the canal is only for irrigation of 4,500 hectares. This means that about one-third of water of its total capacity was required for irrigation. The MWRRA has released more amount of water downstream,” a senior water resources department officer said,  He added that the farmers have now come forth to complete their registrations and raise their demand for water with the department. “The farmers, along with other water users, have decided to form the association and enter into an agreement with the department for water for irrigation purposes. The MWRRA will take into account the demand and decided the water sharing model for the people in Nashik and the users downstream,” said Rajendra Jadhav, president of Nashik-based NGO Jalchintan.”We have a federation of the WUAs, of which, 24 are working on Waghad project. Similar ones have also been established on other projects as well. The benefits of the system are tremendous given that every farmer gets his applied share of water and it also brings down losses of water,” Kawle said.As many as 25 Water Users’ Associations will be formed on the Godavari Left Bank Canal.The farmers and the gram panchayats have also been asked to form WUAs and place their demand for water. (Times of India 28/8/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Narmada Dam’s height increasing work to finish before schedule (4)

Ahmedabad:          ‘Newly-constructed gates will remain open keeping the operational height of the dam at the existing 121.92 metres, until rehabilitation works for displaced persons is over’ Construction work to increase the height of Narmada dam at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district to 138.72 metres from existing 121.92 metres will be completed by December this year, nine months ahead of the schedule, a top government official said on Monday. In June 2014, soon after Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) had approved the proposal to raise the height of the dam by putting up radial gates on it. The construction work began in October, 2014. “The scheduled time to increase the height of the Narmada dam to 138.7 metres was September next year. Instead of that, we have set ourselves a target to finish the work by December 2016,” chief engineer of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), P C Vyas, said. Even after completion, however, the newly-constructed gates will remain open keeping the operational height of the dam at the existing 121.92 metres, until rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) works for dam-displaced persons is completed. The NCA will have to give a go-ahead to operationalise the gates after it is convinced that all R&R work is completed, as per the orders of the Supreme Court. The State-run SSNNL is the implementing agency of the Narmada dam project “Construction of piers and bridge have been completed, and all thirty radial gates have been installed on the top of the dam. Only finishing and auxiliary works are left which we will complete by December,” Mr. Vyas said. He said construction work was expedited to advance the actual target date with both the SSNNL management and construction company making special efforts on their part to finish the work at the earliest possible. Infrastructure major Jaypee Associates is involved in the construction of the dam. “Coordination between the management headed by SSNNL CMD S. S. Rathore and the contractor helped expedite the work. Engineers worked hard day and night and contractor put extra resources for this,” Mr. Vyas said. In June 2014, the Narmada Control Authority gave a go-ahead to the State government to raise the height of the dam as per the Supreme Court order. Chief minister Anandiben Patel, while announcing this at a rally, had termed that as a “historic day.” A majority of R&R work is to be done by the Madhya Pradesh government. The benefits of increased turbine power production will be shared in different proportions between Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments, while water for irrigation will be shared between Gujarat and Rajasthan. When commissioning the work, the state government had set a three-year target to complete the construction being done at an investment of Rs 270 crore and using 11,000 tonnes of reinforced steel and 1,20,000 cubic metres of concrete. The decision to raise the height of the dam has met with resistance from social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan convener Medha Patkar who termed it as “undemocratic” and alleged that the affected people were not consulted and given a hearing. – PTI (The Hindu 2/8/16)

Luring investors, battling land acquisition go together in Jharkhand (4)

Ranchi, Aug 5 : While BJP-AJSU government in Jharkhand is holding road shows to attract investors, the opposition has stepped up its protests against land acquisition and changes made in two laws that protect the rights of tribals. On Thursday, while Chief Minister Raghubar Das held a road show in New Delhi, leaders of the opposition parties went to Hazaribagh district to court arrest to protest acquisition of land by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for the Pakri-Barwadidh coal mining project. The opposition leaders courted arrest in response to an FIR lodged against them, but the police refused to make the arrests on the ground that the investigation was going on. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) and the Congress have joined hands to protest against the state government’s move to use the ordinance route to make changes in the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT). Enacted in 1908, the CNT Act restricts transfer of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. However, a tribal may transfer his land through sale, exchange, gift or will it to a fellow Scheduled Tribe member and residents of his own police station area. The SPT Act also protects the land rights of Jharkhand’s Santhal tribe who primarily inhabit six districts: Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Pakur, Sahibganj and Jamtara. The opposition alleges that the government of Raghubar Das, a non-tribal chief minister, wants to change the two laws to make it easier for its crony industrialists to acquire land in restricted tribal areas. The state assembly has already witnessed disruptions over the issue. Jharkhand Congress spokesman Rakesh Sinha told IANS that the party would hold an agitation on August 9, the World Tribal Day, against the ordinance sent to the President of India to make changes in the two laws. A JMM delegation led by party chief Shibu Soren and former chief minister Hemant Soren met the President three days ago and demanded that the ordinance be returned to the state. The opposition leaders have also united against land acquisition made by the NTPC and “undue favours” being accorded to private companies in land acquisition. … (New Kerala 5/8/16)

Landless heroes who fought against land acquisition (4)

HYDERABAD: It’s the weakest of the weak that have emerged victorious against the mighty Telangana State government in the High Court on Wednesday, at a time when the protesting villages under the Mallannasagar project were reportedly giving in one after the other. Ironically enough, the petitioners from Bardipur village of Jharasangam mandal in Medak district, who challenged the controversial GO 123, did not own an inch of land anywhere. They are agricultural labourers, all from marginalised communities, and predominantly women. “We are very poor, and totally dependent on farm labour. How should we live if the lands are taken away, and we lose work? We have nowhere to go,” complains Algi Tukkamma in a choking voice, with the least inkling that her name will henceforth be repeated with reverence, whenever the ‘Algi Tukkamma and others vs. the State of Telangana’ is invoked in the hallowed court rooms. All the 23 members who challenged the GO were here to attend a meeting, in the backdrop of the judgment quashing the order. Tukkamma, in her fifties, lost her husband two years ago, and lives with her two sons, who are also agricultural labourers. Her husband Pentaiah died of heatstroke, while working in mid-summer under the employment guarantee scheme. ‘Apathbandhu’ scheme, which promises monetary compensation to the families of heatstroke victims, did not come to her help. “I made several rounds to the mandal headquarters, but to no avail. Every time I went, I was told, the money was yet to come,” she says. The second time she was deprived of compensation was, when the government decided to acquire farm lands of three villages under the GO 123 for National Investment and Manufacturing Zone. For once, she decided to retaliate. With most farmers from Bardipur, Cheelapalli, and Yelgoi villages yielding to the government, 16 women and seven men from the Dalit colony of Bardipur came together to fight the case under the guidance of the Telangana Agricultural Workers Union. Most of the other villagers came to know of the case only after the judgement was delivered. “We cannot lose more than we have already lost,” says A. Jayamma succinctly. Born and married in the same village, she is relatively the more educated in the group. She left her General Nursing and Midwifery course in the city after two years of study, owing to poverty. “I was not used to farm labour. But I had to learn it for sharing the family burden. Even that was being snatched away,” she says. G. Sailu, the district secretary of the Union, says even farmers were not happy with the price offered by the government, but were forced into signing the agreement. “They were threatened that they would have to make rounds of courts if they didn’t agree,” he says. (The Hindu 6/8/16)

 ‘Govt. ready to pay compensation under LA Act or GO 123’ (4)

HYDERABAD: Minister for Irrigation T. Harish Rao on Tuesday reiterated that the State Government was ready to provide compensation to the people to be displaced by projects either under the provisions of Land Acquisition Act, 2013 or GO 123. Speaking to reporters in the wake of High Court staying the Single-Judge Bench orders striking down the GO 123, he explained that the State Government had formulated GO 123 only to avoid the delay in land acquisition for projects and under no circumstances the government would harm the interests of the farming community. He alleged that Congress was politicising GO 123 only to harm the interests of the farming community who were being denied of irrigation facility in spite of having sufficient water allocation in Krishna and Godavari rivers. The government had redesigned projects only with an aim to utilise 1,300 TMC ft water available in the two river basins effectively and efficiently. Stating that Chief Minister of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh N. Chandrababu Naidu was conspiring to obstruct projects in Telangana, Mr. Harish Rao appealed to the Opposition parties in the State to cooperate with the government to protect the larger interests of the farming community in the State. Meanwhile, Minister for Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development Talasani Srinivas Yadav said the interim stay issued by the Division Bench of the High Court on the Single-Judge Bench orders on GO 123 was a slap for Opposition parties. He stated that the government had planned construction of Mallannasagar project keeping in mind the better future of the farming community in three districts. He suggested the Opposition parties to change their attitude against obstructing projects and cooperate with the government at least after the interim orders of the High Court on GO 123. (The Hindu 10/8/16)

Narmada activists demand CBI probe into rehabilitation ‘scam’ (4)

Bhopal, Aug 10 : Alleging a scam of Rs 1,500 crore in the Sardar Sarovar rehabilitation project, activists of the Narmada Bachao Aandolan in Madhya Pradesh have demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the issue. The activists claimed that as per the report of the S.S. Jha commission, constituted to look into alleged irregularities in the rehabilitation project, those affected did not receive the cash compensation but the middlemen, in collusion with the officers, pocketed the money. In a press conference, several persons associated with the Narmada Bachao Aandolan, including former Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary Sharad Chandra Behar, said the Jha commission report proved that there were irregularities in four districts — Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone — where around 45,000 families have been affected. The activists said: “It was decided that those affected by the Sardar Sarovar project will be given land in exchange of land. That happened in Maharashtra and Gujarat but in Madhya Pradesh, it was decided that cash in lieu of submerged land would be provided.” “The farmers who lost more than 25 per cent of their land were to be given Rs 5.58-6.60 lakh,” the activists said. The activists also demanded suspension of the officials named in the Jha commission report. (New Kerala 11/8/16)

Jharkhand CM meets villagers protesting land acquisition by NTPC (4)

Ranchi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das on Tuesday met villagers protesting against the acquisition of land for NTPC’s Pakri-Barwadidh coal mining project and told them no injustice would be done to them. Das met about 300 people from Barkagaon in Hazaribagh district here in the presence of senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and his son Jayant Sinha, who is currently a central minister and represents Hazaribagh in the Lok Sabha. “The Chief Minister heard the villagers’ grievances and suggestions. He told them he will hold a meeting with NTPC officials and that no injustice will be done with anyone,” Yashwant Sinha told reporters later. Sources said the villagers told Das that they wanted Rs one crore for every acre of their land. Das assured the villagers their concerns will be addressed. He said only the needed farmland will be acquired and the displaced people will be properly rehabilitated. Also present during the meeting was Congress MLA Nirmala Devi who represents Barkagaon in the state assembly. She said: “NTPC is doing work without properly acquiring the land.”The opposition in Jharkhand has united against land acquisition by the public sector National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) as well as “undue favours” being accorded to private companies in land acquisition in the state. The Pakri-Barwadidh coal block in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh was allocated to NTPC in 2010, but work could not start due to the local villagers’ protest. In the past, police had also fired at the protesters, killing one. An FIR was lodged on July 24 against opposition leaders, including former chief Minister Babulal Marandi and former central Minister Subodh Kant Sahay, and 400 people for allegedly trespassing in a prohibited mining area. Jharkhand is currently ruled by a coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). (Business Standard 16/8/16)

381 acres acquired for landless Dalits: Pocharam (4)

NIZAMABAD: Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy said that under the land acquisition scheme 2016-17 to distribute land to landless Dalits, the district administration has so far acquired 381 acres as against the 783 acres by spending Rs.19 crore. Addressing the gathering after unfurling the tricolour on the 70th Independence Day celebrations on Police Parade ground here on Monday, the Minister expressed pleasure over the district getting recognition in the State in respect to the implementation of the Haritha Haram programme. Earlier, he received the guard of honour on his coming to the ground. Students from Vasavi High School, KGBV, SR High School, Tribal Welfare Residential School, and Vignan High School participated in the march-past and staged cultural events which enthralled the audience. Certain departments presented tableaux on their schemes.On the occasion, Mr. Reddy presented cheques relating to assets worth Rs. 40 crore to 2,045 self-help groups. He also distributed commendation certificates to 174 persons, including 163 government employees, for their services. Rajya Sabha MP D. Srinivas, ZP chairman D. Raju, Mayor Akula Sujatha, MLCs, MLAs, Joint Collector A. Ravinder Reddy, and Superintendent of Police P. Vishwaprasad also participated in the celebrations. (The Hindu 16/8/16)

Villager cry for mining rights (4)

Hazaribagh, Aug. 16: Azaadi Bachao Andolan convener Mithilesh Dangi, who is spearheading villagers’ protest against NTPC in Barkagaon, today demanded that land owners be given the mining rights for extracting coal lying beneath their fields. He cited the Supreme Court verdict of July 8, 2013, (in the case No 4,549/2,000), which stated that rayats would be the real owners of minerals found under their land. “Land of Barkagaon is highly fertile and gives three crops a year. So a large number of farmers are not willing to part with their plots. And, the land acquisition Act of 2013 says a company cannot acquire land if 70 per cent of the rayats are not ready to sell it. We didn’t want to give our land, but if the government wants to take out coal, it must follow the apex court verdict. We want mining rights,” he said. In 2011, villagers had formed three companies – Chirudih Barwadih Thermal Power Production Company Ltd with 15 promoters, Lakhura Thermal Power Production Company Ltd with 17 promoters and Kole Thermal Power Production Company Ltd with 17 promoters. claimed that the villagers would be benefited the most if they were allowed to carry out mining on their land. To drive his point home, he claimed that the 12,000 acres acquired by NTPC at Pankri-Barwadih in Barkagaon boasted estimated 1,600MT of coal. The market rate of coal is Rs 3,000 per tonne, which means one acre holds reserves worth Rs 40 crore. Now, NTPC will have to spend Rs 1 crore for compensation and salaries in next 30 years. Then, the PSU will have to pay Rs 1.5 crore as royalty and cess; Rs 16 crore will be the mining cost and Rs 1.5 crore will be miscellaneous. “Therefore, the total expenditure for mining in an acre will be around Rs 20 crore, which means the profit will be Rs 20 crore,” Dangi”Thus, NTPC will earn Rs 2,40,000 crore as profit from Pankri-Barwadih over the next 30 years. Even the government will earn Rs 18,000 crore as cess and royalty.” “And if villagers are given the mining rights, they will earn this profit,” he added. (The Telegraph 17/8/16)

Upper Narmada project: Land row forces rethink (4)

JABALPUR: Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) is likely to revisit Upper Narmada Project and cancel a contract of a private company in view of mounting opposition to land acquisition and dam construction. Under the project, 18,616 hectare land in Anuppur and Dindori districts is to be irrigated and around 1,300 families in 27 villages of Anuppur and Dindori districts are to be displaced.In a petition filed by Hari Singh Marawi of Uper Narmada Bandh Prabhavit Sangh, an NGO, objected to land acquisition process. The petitioner made fresh submission of minutes of meetings of NVDA officials. As per minutes of the meetings, NVDA officials said progress of work is negligible. Instead of extending time line for project completion for contractor, it would be better to terminate the contract, the minutes said. NVDA awarded the contract for developing the dam to Hyderabad-based firm Medha Engineering Infrastructure before completion of land acquisition process. The company has not been able to start work due to protests by locals and legal hassles as several petitions are pending in courts, the minutes said. The officials said as chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan initiated micro-irrigation and piped canal project, there is a need to re-evaluate requirement for water through micro-irrigation in Anuppur and Dindori districts. Calling separate tenders for canal and dam after evaluation would be better, officials said in minutes of the meeting. Sources said first survey for project was carried out in 1970-1972 and another survey in 1979. In 1994, approval for the project were received. Since then there were many protests against land acquisition and a string of cases were filed. Marawi filed a petition alleging, “It was a forceful attempt of NVDA to snatch our ancestral land. We have registered protests at all levels and will continue to resist.” (Times of India 21/8/2016)

Landowners allege disparity in compensation (4)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: People who had surrendered their land for the widening of Kottukal-Karode stretch of Kazhakkoottam-Karode bypass have submitted a complaint to MP Shashi Tharoor the other day alleging disparity in compensation. The Kovalam-Karode Bypass Action Council has stated that there was a huge difference in the compensation for the land acquired for Vizhinjam harbour and NH widening.Action council chairman V Sudhakaran alleged that fair price was fixed for the land as per the old land acquisition act. “The old land acquisition act of 1956 had elapsed on September 26, 2013 and the land acquisition proceedings for Kovalam-Karode stretch began on April 3, 2014. A district level purchased committee (DLPC) was formed to fix land value. However, the officials concerned arbitrarily cancelled the decisions in DLPC,” he alleged. The action council stated that a plot near the PWD road in Kottukal village got Rs 7.25 lakh for the Vizhinjam harbour project, but a nearby plot, which was acquired for NH, was given only Rs 3.25 lakh, which was arbitrarily decided by the district administration. The issues began in the DLPC convened by the then district collector K N Satheesh in November 2013. A group of landowners in Chenkal and Karode areas raised demands for better compensation. Following this, the collector cancelled the DLPC for all places including Kottukal, Kanjirampara and Thirupuram. The action council members allege that the value fixed by the DLPC was cancelled after people in these three villages agreed to surrender the land in DLPC rates. The fair price was later fixed by the district administration, stating that owners who had complaints could file for arbitration. The fair price was much less than the amount fixed in the DLPC. For example, the amount agreed for A class land (plot having access to PWD roads) was Rs 5.15 lakh/cent in DLPC. But only Rs 3.25 lakh/cent was given later. The approved rates for B class land (access to panchayat road) was Rs 4.75 lakh/cent, C class (interior portions) 4.275 lakh, paddy land 3.77 lakh and wetland 3.42 lakh were also slashed. (Times of India 23/8/16)

763 farmers, landless poor move High Court (4)

SANGAREDDY: About 763 farmers and landless poor from Vemulaghat in Toguta mandal of Medak district, the lone village fighting against Mallannasagar, have approached the High Court seeking implementation of Land Acquisition Act – 2013, while acquiring their land for the reservoir. This is the only village which has consistently opposed proposed construction of reservoir falling in the limits of Gajwel and Dubbak constituencies of Medak district. About 67 farmers had already approached the High Court a few days ago seeking implementation of LA Act stating that they were not ready to hand over land under GO 123 to the State Government. Responding to their petition, the court directed the government not to go for forcible acquisition from those who approached the court under LA Act. It has also stated that it would be implemented for those who will approach the court as well. Soon after the court direction, the villagers formed a group and decided to approach the court. After working for more than one week, they have approached the High Court filing fresh cases. In addition to the existing 67 petitioners, another 472 persons have approached the court seeking implementation of LA Act stating that they would get justice only under that. Along with them, more than 291 land less labour also approached the court seeking justice stating that they would get compensation only under the Act but not under GO 123. K. K. Mahender Reddy, the advocate representing the farmers, said that the case would come for hearing on Tuesday. (The Hindu 23/8/16)

Non-tribal residents of Ranchi facing eviction from homes (4)

Ranchi, Aug 28 : More than a lakh non-tribal residents of Ranchi district in Jharkhand are set to lose their homes if an administrative order to restore tribal land to tribal people is executed. The district administration has this month served notice to people who purchased land from a tribal owner — through a Scheduled Area Regulation (SAR) court settlement — to prove that the deal was not fraudulent or illegal. Failure to prove the legality of the deal would result in eviction of all non-tribals from the property in question. Such notices have been served to residents of Vidyanagar, Yamunanagar, Ganganagar, Kishoreganj, Kantatoli, Maulana Azad Colony, Chutia and other places in Ranchi district. According to official data, about 1.50 lakh of the 2.70 lakh houses in Ranchi stand on tribal land. The notices have been served as part of a drive to enforce the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act 1908, which applies to Ranchi district and prohibits transfer or sale of tribal land to non-tribals without permission of the deputy commissioner. However, Section 71A of the CNT Act does allow possession of tribal land by a non-tribal in case the latter had built on the land before 1969 and has been staying there ever since. In such cases, the SAR court fixes a compensation against the land and possession is regularised. Many tribal sellers of land and non-tribal buyers took advantage of this provision of law to regularise their deals that actually took place after 1969. Fake documents were used in such deals to establish pre-1969 possession. After such a deal is signed, the tribal land owner files a fake case in SAR court claiming compensation. During the court’s investigations, the seller and the buyer claim that the deal took place before 1969. The SAR court then directs compensation to be paid and the deal is regularised. Many such deals are believed to have taken place in cases where a tribal owner was a willing seller. Plots of land were thus purchased by non-tribal people from tribals and houses were constructed. Many non-tribal buyers also got mutation of their land done. The present BJP goverment, led by Raghubar Das, had taken a decision to end the SAR courts to stop such abuse of the law, but later changed its mind. It was decided that the SAR courts will continue to function, but with stricter compliance with the law… (New Kerala  28/8/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Malnourishment death prompts Odisha government to form SHGs in Nagada village (3)

BHUBANESWAR: The malnourishment deaths of 19 children in Nagada village in Sukinda block has prompted the Odisha Government to start self-help groups (SHGs) in inaccessible villages of Jajpur district. The Women and Child Development Department on Monday asked the District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO) of Jajpur to start promoting group activity through formation of SHGs in Nagada which comes under Chingudipal gram panchayat. Such groups will have to bring on board beneficiaries of various development schemes in the villages which are located in the inaccessible pockets. A major mandate of these groups would be to create an environment of interaction with the tribal women on various social issues. “We are trying to start a platform where various critical issues concerning the women and child can be discussed with the tribal inhabitants. The objective is to strengthen the community,” Commissioner-cum-Secretary Vishal Dev said. Since tribal communities like Juang have been isolated from the mainstream, local administration has found it extremely difficult to convince them to avail certain healthcare services. “In one case, it took the district administration more than six hours to convince a mother to allow her child to be moved to the Sishu Bhawan at Cuttack from the Nutritious Rehabilitation Centre at Kaliapani,” an officer said. The Government, sources added, is not looking at providing support for economic development through these SHGs, rather issues of sanitation, hygiene and health would be propagated. Besides the group activity, the department will also bring Jajpur under the Nutrition Operational Plan (NOP) which earlier covered 15 high burden districts. Similarly, a communication and sensitisation system under Water, Sanitation and Hygiene strategy will be implemented in Jajpur. Apart from acute poverty which directly leads to stunting and under development, prevalence of malaria and measles have added to the burden of morbidity in Nagada. (New Indian Express 2/8/16)

Nearly 44,000 women die every year while giving birth: Nadda (3)

New Delhi, Aug 2: Nearly 44,000 women die every year while giving birth in the country, with Assam having the highest Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), 300 per one lakh live births, government informed the Rajya Sabha today. “The latest available data on MMR is for the period 2011-13, which is 167 per 1,00,000 live births. As per this, it is estimated that approximately 44,000 women die during delivery every year,” Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda said in a written response to a question.The Report of Registrar General of India-Sample Registration System captures data on MMR periodically and not annually, he said. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand stand second with MMR of 285, followed by Rajasthan (244), Odisha (222), Madhya Pradesh (221), Chhattisgarh (221), Bihar (208), Jharkhand (208) and Punjab (141), Nadda said.To another question, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel said, as per the Sample Registration System, the country has shown decline in Infant Mortality Rate from 40 per 1,000 lives in 2013 to 39 in 2014. On how many people have died due to air pollution, Patel said such data is not maintained centrally. However, in 2012, 4,155 people died due to acute respiratory infection, 3,513 in 2013 and 2,729 in 2014. Lung cancer accounts for 15.6 per cent of all cancer deaths in males in the country and is the leading cause of death. Cervical and breast cancer account for 20 per cent and 17.4 per cent of all female cancer deaths respectively, Nadda said. According to the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the estimated incidences of cancer in 2016 are 14.5 lakh and is likely to go up to 17.3 lakh by 2020, he added. (One India 2/8/16)

Mortality rates decrease in 177 tea gardens (3)

GUWAHATI: The Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) on Wednesday said Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) had come down drastically in 177 tea gardens of the state because of several health and social initiatives rolled out by it in collaboration with Unicef. According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), the state reported an IMR of 48 per 1,000 live births. The state’s abysmal MMR of 328 deaths per 100000 live births is the highest in the country. ABITA officials said specific programmes aimed at the tea garden workers’ community, especially women and adolescents over the past decade, have brought about positive changes. According to data collected by ABITA from 177 tea gardens in upper Assam since January this year, both MMR and IMR have come down compared to the state average. These gardens reported an MMR of 226.81 as compared to Assam’s 301.00, and an IMR of 18.37 as compared to 55 (state’s IMR). In Zone 1 comprising 115 tea gardens, there were a total of 1,521 estate hospital deliveries, 777 government hospital deliveries and 275 home deliveries, making it overall 90% institutional delivery in Zone 1 alone. “Our collaboration with Unicef is more than a decade long. This has brought about significant changes in the lives of tea garden workers, especially women and adolescent girls. The various programmes and initiatives culminated in the reduction of both IMR and MMR,” said Sandip Ghosh, secretary of ABITA.In Zone 3 comprising 62 tea gardens, 90% institutional delivery was recorded compared to just 10% of non-institutional delivery. Using the same model that saw implementation of programmes and initiatives across 177 tea gardens in upper Assam, both ABITA and Unicef are now trying to implement the system across 82 tea gardens on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra. “A lot of work needs to be done in 82 tea gardens located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. We are planning to use the model we used in the tea gardens of upper Assam. Consistent work over the years has yielded positive results and we are expecting the same on the north bank within a few years,” added Ghosh. Altogether, 17.5 lakh people live in the tea gardens of both upper Assam and the northern bank. A total of 277 member tea estates across 15 districts function under ABITA. (Times of India 5/8/16)

Two more dengue deaths in Bengal, toll now 13 (3)

Kolkata, Aug 7 : With two more deaths, the toll in the dengue outbreak in West Bengal has gone up to 13, state health department officials said on Sunday. A total of 1,495 dengue cases have been reported since January this year. A 10-year-old girl, a resident of the posh Salt Lake satellite township – died in the B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital on Sunday morning. The victim, infected with the fengue virus, was in serious state and had been admitted to the hospital earlier this week. A 42-year-old man, residing in the Mukundapur area on the southern outskirts of the city, died at the K.P.C. medical College and Hospital on Saturday. “A total of 112 fresh dengue cases have been reported since Saturday. The total dengue cases this year have gone up to 1,495,” an official said. (New Kerala 8/8/16)

National deworming for children across 27 states/UTs conducted (3)

NEW DELHI: The National Deworming Day, a flagship initiative of the Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, was conducted across 27 states and union territories on Wednesday. National Deworming Day is a nationwide, preschool (anganwadi) and school-based deworming programme that aims to provide all children between the ages of 1-19 years with deworming treatment. “On this day, Albendazole 400 mg chewable tablet was administered to children in anganwadis, government, government-aided, and some private schools as well as children who are out-of-school or are unregistered inanganwadis. The mop-up day, on August 17, will be conducted to reach children who did not get dewormed on deworming day due to sickness or absenteeism,” said Priya Jha, country director, Evidence Action. Given the health and educational impact that worm infections can have on children, parents were encouraged to send their children to schools andanganwadisand take the deworming tablet on. “Based on WHO guidelines the Government of India has mandated that 27 states and Union Territories conduct a second round of deworming as per prevalence rates. School-based mass deworming program is safe, cost-effective, and can reach millions of children quickly. Deworming has been shown to reduce absenteeism in schools; improve health, nutritional, and learning outcomes; and increase the likelihood of higher-wage jobs later in life,” said Jha. Side effects are mild and can include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness especially in children with high worm loads. The first National Deworming day was conducted in 2015 in 11 states, treating 89 million children.This year, 33 states took part in the February 2016 roundwhen179 million children were dewormed. India has the highest burden of parasitic worms in the world. Parasitic worms in children interfere with nutrient uptake, and can contribute to anemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development. According to the 2012 report ‘Children in India’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, Government of India, 48% of children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 19.8% are wasted, indicating that half of the country’s children are malnourished. (Times of India 11/8/16)

Family takes TB patient home untreated believing it to be ‘God’s wish’ (3)

DEHRADUN: Believed to be an incarnation of local God of Chakrata, a 65-year-old patient of tuberculosis was taken back home without treatment on Friday as his family felt his condition was “God’s wish” and not a medical problem. Mangat’s (name changed) family refused the doctors from operating him as they said that he had directed his family to not let any medical practitioner treat him as it would be an insult to God. According to the doctors, Mangat was admitted at a hospital on Wednesday by his son and daughter-in-law and was diagnosed with severe abdominal tuberculosis as his stomach was filled with fluid. His pathology report showed tuberculosis of advanced stage for which he needed immediate medical attention. However, when the man was being prepared to be taken inside the operation theatre for a minor surgery on Friday, he went into a frenzy and scared the hospital staff with his violent acts. His family then refused to put him under treatment and said he was an incarnation of a local God who felt it was an “insult” to be treated by doctors. They further said it was not a medical problem but a “heavenly fault”.Doctors are now worried that patients like Mangat might be a source of TB in the hills. According to medical experts, there are many TB patients in hills who abstain from treatment as so-called local deities have stopped them from taking medicines due to some curse. The TB section of health department now plans to alert its TB teams at local health facilities in Chakrata area to tab such patients and put them on medicines as most of them have left treatment midway due to superstition. (Timeas of India 12/8/16)

65 mentally ill people kept naked for 6 months in Bengal hospital, say rights activists (3)

HYDERABAD: Rights activists have taken to Facebook and Twitter with photos of persons with mental illness that they claim have been kept without any clothes for the last 6 months in a government-run mental hospital in Behrampore town of West Bengal. They have demanded a judicial intervention into the human rights violation issue and said they would approach the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court within a day or two. The rights activists have tried to the bring the issue to the notice of the PMO, official handle of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda by tweeting to them. “In the female ward, some 25 inmates are kept nude and in male ward, some 40 are kept without clothes since the past six months,” said Kolkata-based mental health rights organisation Anjali founder Ratnaboli Ray. The rights organisation has claimed that despite bringing the issue to the notice of state department of health and family welfare and subsequent visit by Chief Medical Officer of Health, Murshidabad district, Subhasish Saha, not much has changed in the wards. “In spite visit of Director, Health Service, Government of West Bengal, Dr Biswaranjan Satpathy five months back, the inmates are kept naked besides being physically abused,” she alleged. Advocate Gaurav Bansal in New Delhi said he would file the complaints. “I will file a complaint at the National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday or would approach the Supreme Court on Wednesday,” he said.”Keeping the inmates nude violates several fundamental, sexual and international rights laid down by the UNCRPD,” he added, adding that the government is bound to follow up on the issue when brought to their notice. “No follow up on the issue shows their insensitivity,” he added. Meanwhile, CMOH Saha did not refute or confirm the allegation but invited journalists from all over West Bengal to come to the hospital and check for themselves. (New Indian Express 15/8/16)

NHRC notice to Bengal over mental hospital’s condition (3)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued notice to the West Bengal government over alleged poor maintenance of a mental hospital in the state. The commission sought a detailed report from the West Bengal government on the Berhampore Mental Hospital, along with the status report on its other similar hospitals in the state. The commission observed that on Independence Day, a team of NGO Anjali visited the government-run mental hospital and found naked men and women patients lying on dirty floors. “They had not bathed or shaved for months, with visible signs of various diseases. The toilets were so filthy that nobody could use them. The bedsheets were full of bugs. Reportedly, the Hospital Superintendent refused to make any comments when approached by the team. The Chief Medical Officer also denied the calls made by the NGO,” said a commission statement. The NHRC said the state-run hospital is bound to take care of its patients. The commission said mentally ill persons are also entitled to the inalienable rights available to other human beings. They are entitled to be treated with dignity, decency and equality and cannot be discriminated against. “There is an ardent need to educate and change the attitude of the public authorities towards the persons suffering from mental illnesses,” the NHRC said. (Business Standard 18/8/16)

Abandonment of kids, elders in government hospitals on the rise (3)

HYDERABAD: Most of the government hospitals in the city are spread across vast acres of land and are often crowded. Some people take advantage of this and abandon their old-aged parents and disabled children there. Recently, on August 7, a four-year-old girl who was mentally retarded was abandoned at Niloufer Hospital premises. At least one case is reported at the hospital every week, and similar incidents were reported at MNJ Institute of Oncology and Regional Cancer Centre, Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital (OGH). Officials of the hospitals said that family members scout for places which are not under CCTV surveillance, to leave their children or wrong address is submitted when patients are admitted at the hospitals. Thus, they do not leave a trail which leads to them. “Most of the times, it is mentally retarded children who are left by their parents at the hospital. We come across at least one case every week. We medically check all such children, offer the required treatment and inform the police who in-turn apprise Shishu Vihar,” said Dr C Suresh Kumar, superintendent of the Niloufer Hospital. “In some cases, people who come from far away places admit their old-age patients, stay here for a day or two and say that they will come back but they don’t. We do not stop them from leaving their patients alone as they come from long distances and have work to attend. We try to counsel such family members by tracing their address. If they do not come, we send the patients to Palliative Care unit,” said Dr N Jayalatha, superintendent of the MNJ Cancer Centre. Nampally Police said that they make an entry into the general diary when informed of such cases and infants are handed over to Shishu Vihar. (New Indian xpress 23/8/16)

20 die of diarrhoea in Chhattisgarh district (3)

Raipur: At least 20 people have died in north Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district due to diarrhoea in last two weeks. According to Sitapur Congrss MLA Amarjeet Bhagat, five people died due to the disease in last two days. “The deaths have been reported from Mainpat area in my constituency. It’s a hilly area and almost all the deceased were tribals. The district administration has set up a medical camp but it is not enough. More than 50 people have been admitted in hospital and one camp is not enough to tackle this,” Mr.Bhagat told The Hindu. Chhattisgarh Health Director R.Prassana and Health Secretary Subrat Sahoo visited the affected area on Tuesday, however, made conflicting statements about the number of deaths in last 15 days. In a late evening statement, Mr.Prassana denied that there was any epidemic in Mainpat area. “Around 20 deaths have been reported over a period of one month. Out of which only five to six are due to diarrhoea. Other deaths were due to old age and other ailments. Medicines were made available and chlorination of hand pumps was done a month ago,” he claimed. Mr. Prassana blamed brewed liquor and unclean surrounding for diarrhoea and said that “change in behaviour” of people was needed to avoid these issues. Mr.Bhagat informed that Asgav, Paigam, Suflaga and Narmadapur villages had been the worst affected. (The Hindu 24/8/16)

Over six lakh people die due to cancer in India: Government (3)

NEW DELHI: With over six lakh people succumbing to cancer and more than ten lakh new cases are reported in the country, the government today said air pollution and unhealthy lifestyles are among the major risk factors for the disease. It said that around seven percent of all deaths in the country are due to various types of cancers. “As reported by World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1 million new cases are reported in India while about 6.8 lakh people die due to cancer in India,” Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. She said that as per WHO-NCD Country Profile 2014, “about seven per cent of all deaths are due to various cancers”.She said that as according to WHO regional office in South East Asia, the region has 14 of the world’s top 20 polluted cities. “However cancer is a multi factorial disease, the risk factors of which include ageing population, unhealthy lifestyles, use of tobacco and tobacco products, unhealthy diet and air pollution,” she said. She said that the government has constituted a steering committee on air pollution and health. Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change has also approved a new mission on health under National Action PLan on Climate Change, she said. She said the Ministry of Petroleum has also initiated a scheme to provide free LPG connection to women belonging to BPL households under ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna’ to reduce air pollution. (The Economic Times 26/8/16)

Violence the biggest cause of injury to women (3)

HYDERABAD: Violence against women (VAW) in India is very high at 35.1 per cent. The latest National Family Health – 4 Survey in Telangana shows that 43/100 women experienced spousal violence and 5.9 per cent of them faced the trauma during pregnancy. Violence continues to be the biggest cause of injury, even leading to death, for women between 18 and 45 years. Reports say one in three women experienced physical/sexual violence in their lifetime. Besides, sexual violence leading to unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions, neglected pregnancies sans proper antenatal care contributed to a major chunk of maternal mortality and near miss mortality especially in India. At a national conference on Fertility Regulation and Women’s Health here on Saturday, an initiative to raise awareness and stop violence against women – DHEERA, was launched here by the Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of Hyderabad (OGSH) on Saturday. A cyclathon was flagged off and hundreds of orange balloons were released.Flagging off the cyclathon, ICOG Secretary Dr. Shantha Kumar said Saturday’s initiative by several organisations working to prevent VAW was a significant step. Other eminent personalities present were Chairpersons, Lalitha Kumaramangalam (National Commission for Women), and Tripurana Venkataratnam (Women’s Commission, Hyderabad Telangana, Additional Commissioner of Police, Swati Lakra. (The Hindu 28/8/16)

HIV/AIDS

HIV positive woman assaulted, forced to leave Bengal village (3)

Kolkata: An HIV positive woman in Hasnabad area of North 24 Paraganas district has been allegedly assaulted and driven out of her village by locals. The woman (27) is currently admitted at the Barasat District Hospital with severe injuries to her head. She was being ostracised for about eight months ever since the villagers came to know that she is suffering from AIDS in November last year. The incident took place last Friday in Benagram village in Hasnabad police station area when she went to the office of South 24 Paraganas Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, an NGO that works for the people with HIV, to submit a written complaint to them. When she returned home late in the evening a section of the villagers demanded that she had to leave the village as “AIDS is contagious” and others will get infected. “Following an argument the villagers brutally assaulted her and tried to strangle her. She was also hit on the head,” vice-president of the organisation Shukla Chakroborty told The Hindu on Tuesday. The woman somehow managed to escape the violent mob and took shelter in her brother’s house in another part of the village from where she was taken to hospital at around 10 pm. A day after the assault a team from the South 24 Paraganas Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS visited the village and tried to convince the locals that AIDS was not “contagious.” (The Hindu 2/8/16)

Parasitic worm infection may increase HIV risk (3)

London:     HPV infection may increase vaginal cancer risk Zambia targets zero HIV infection through male circumcision HIV infection can prematurely age patients by five years Breast milk cuts infection risk in preemies Breastfeeding may lower ear infection risk in babiesPeople infected with a parasitic worm called Wuchereria bancrofti may be more likely to acquire HIV than people who are not infected with the worm, a new Lancet study says. W bancrofti is a mosquito borne parasitic worm. Worldwide, it causes 90 per cent of lymphatic filariasis cases, a disease commonly known as elephantiasis, which is a neglected tropical disease as defined by the World Health Organisation. Lymphatic filariasis currently affects 120 million people (mostly in Asia, Africa, the western Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean and South America) and causes abnormal enlargement of limbs, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma, the study pointed out. “W bancrofti worms live in the lymphatic system of patients, often without symptoms, for years. The long disease duration of W bancrofti infection (around 10 years) creates an ongoing immune response, which we suspect might leave infected persons more susceptible to HIV infection,” explained lead author Inge Kroidl from Medical Centre of University of Munich (LMU) in Germany. In this study, conducted between 2006 and 2011, the researchers analysed 2,699 people in the Kyela district of Mbeya, southwest Tanzania. Participants were visited once annually for five years and interviews were conducted to measure behavioural factors involved in HIV acquisition such as sexual activity.Samples of blood, urine, stool, and sputum were collected to test for HIV and for W bancrofti infection, as well as for Schistosoma haematobium, intestinal helminths, tuberculosis, and malaria. Participants with lymphatic filariasis were twice as likely to become infected with HIV as those without lymphatic filariasis, the findings showed. (Business Standard 3/8/16)

Liquor bills get priority over critical AIDS funding in Karnataka (3)

HUBBALLI : Lack of funds for about a year may have made medicines not easy to access for HIV patients and delayed salaries to workers at antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres, but Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) appears to be quick at clearing liquor bills of some “guests”. Board and lodging bills (which included some expensive brands of liquor) of two people, who were said to part of a visiting NACO team, have been cleared by the KSAPS. This at a time when the Internet and outgoing call facilities of the office of the District Programme Officer and District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit (DAPCU) at Malleswaram in Bengaluru get disconnected as no contingency amount has been released since October 2015. The guests made an “official visit” to Bengaluru on May 7 and 8 (Saturday and Sunday) and the bills were cleared in the first week of June. Interestingly, the NACO team was led by its joint secretary V.V. Dharma Rao on May 7 and 8, but nobody knows who were C.V.S.K. Sharma and Mr. and Mrs. Arvind Krishna for whom rooms were booked at The Ritz-Carlton, Bengaluru, and whose expenses (including liquor bills) amounting to Rs. 79,959 were paid by the KSAPS. The operational funds for the DAPCUs have not been released since October 2015. And this is despite NACO releasing Rs. 60.77 crore for 2015–16 and Rs. 35.27 crore for 2016–17 in addition to Rs. 2.65 crore for institutional strengthening (As per Mr. Rao’s letter dated July 15, 2016).Interestingly, for both project director of the KSAPS Shantha Hulmani and joint director (Finance) Pushpa Varur, it is an additional charge. When The Hindu spoke to them over the telephone, both of them admitted that the payment was made. Ms. Hulmani said Mr. Sharma and Mr. Arvind Krishna might have come with the NACO team, while Ms. Varur said she did not know anything about the team. Ms. Hulmani said she took the additional charge four months ago, and because of audit problem and procedural lapses, several payments were pending and she was pursuing them on a day-to-day basis to get them cleared.On the payment of liquor bills, she said, “if something of that sort had happened” she would get it rectified, and clarified that there was “no vested interest in clearing the bills”. But Ms. Varur said she cleared the bills as she got orders from the project director to do so. (The Hindu 4/8/16)

Goans don’t know much about AIDS, says health survey (3)

Panaji: Knowledge about the effectiveness of contraceptives in reducing chances of being afflicted with HIV/AIDS is high among Goa’s adolescent population, but comprehensive knowledge of the dreaded diseases is poor, says a report of national family health survey (NFHS) – 2015-16. The findings of the survey released with the economic survey 2015-16 indicates that men who are aware that consistent use of condom can prevent HIV/AIDs is as high as 91.9% in urban areas and 84.7% in rural areas, and 89.2% overall. The awareness has in fact risen significantly from 56.8% as reported in the NFHS-3 survey of 2005-06 to 89.2% in 2015-16. In the case of women, the awareness about the use of contraceptives in reducing chances of HIV/AIDS is 80.8% among urban females and 71.7% among their rural counterparts, the overall percentage being 77.4%, the report states. As per NFHS-3 in 2005-06, the percentage of awareness about the condom use was low at 47.6% as compared to 77.4% in 2015-16. But the survey states that men who have comprehensive knowledge of AIDS/HIV comprise only 42.9% in urban areas and 40.4% in rural areas, with 41.9% being the overall percentage. In 2005-06, the percentage of awareness among males was 30.3. In the case of women, those with comprehensive knowledge of HIV/AIDS comprise just 36.0% in urban areas and 32.2% in rural areas, the overall figure being 34.6%. In comparison, the awareness about this aspect among females was just 28.5% in 2005-06, the survey states. But health officials point out that while the awareness about usefulness of condoms in AIDS control is high, it appears contradictory that their knowledge about the dreaded disease is variably low. This may be due to the small sample size of the NFHS survey, sources said. “The awareness about this particular aspect should be higher,” project director, Goa State AIDS Control Society (GSACS), Dr Jose de Sa said. (Times of India 8/8/16)

HIV-positive man in Purulia ostracised (3)

Kolkata: In yet another case of social boycott of an HIV-positive patient, a middle-aged man has been ostracised by a section of villagers in the Puncha area of West Bengal’s Purulia district. The relatives of Soumen Chatterjee (name changed) said the boycott started about a month ago when “the villagers of Bodra came to know that he is HIV-positive”. “They even stopped using the pond where his wife used to wash clothes,” one of his relatives told The Hindu on Sunday. The villagers fear that others will get infected. “They don’t come anywhere near his house and are even avoiding his relatives. If we go to their homes they slam the door on our face,” said a relative. The district health officials said they had allayed the villagers’ concerns. (The Hindu 9/8/16)

HIV-related retroviruses originated 60 million years ago (3)

HIV is part of a subfamily of retroviruses called lentivirus and using genomic data from the exotic Malayan flying lemur (colugo), researchers have claimed to have uncovered the oldest lentivirus ever identified, whose first emergence may date back to as early as 60 million years ago. Lentiviruses cause a variety of chronic diseases in mammals — ranging from the most notorious example of HIV/AIDS in humans to various neurological disorders in primates — yet little is known of their evolutionary history and origin. Until recently, the oldest known lentiviral lineages — in lemurs, rabbits and ferrets — have been found to date back to 3-12 million years ago. The new study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution pushes back the origin of HIV-related retroviruses to 60 million years ago. “We hope that our findings will allow virologists to better understand how lentiviruses evolved and how their hosts developed defenses against them,” said lead researcher Daniel Elleder from Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic. For the study, three samples of colugo genomic DNA containing lentiviral remnants were sequenced and ancient viral genomes were reconstructed and analysed. In future studies, the team wants to follow the timeline even deeper into the past by surveying a broad spectrum of animals, hoping to identify more pieces of the puzzle of lentivirus evolution. (Times of India 11/8/16)

20% of injectible drug users are afflicted with HIV in India (3)

NOIDA: 20% of Injectible drug users are afflicted with HIV in India, said an official of Narcotics Control Bureau of India on the occasion of celebration of International Youth Day. Rohit Sharma, Dy Director (Policy & Coordination), Narcotics Control Bureau of India also shared that the problem of drugs has become very acute in India and Delhi/ NCR is as badly and gravely affected as Punjab and North East India, the only difference being in the type of drugs being used. He was addressing students at a “Sensitization Workshop against Drug Misuse”in Amity university campus on Friday Bringing out the socio-economic gap between the drug consumption habits of people,he said ,”Rural population generally consumes poor versions of smack whereas urban and affluent population consumes synthetic drugs like Cocaine, Meow Meow and often misuse the OTC drugs.” Elaborating on the laws against drug use and selling ,he said that unlike other Indian laws, narcotics laws are very stringent and the minute a person is caught with drugs; he is presumed to be guilty till the time, he is able to prove otherwise. He also explained the link between drug use and HIV infection.”When people take intravenous drugs they share needles, which ups the chances of HIV and Hepatitis cases,” he said. On being questioned by a student about why opium cultivation is not banned in India, considering the grave threat it poses after being converted into heroine and other drugs, Sharma said that banning or prohibition is not a solution since it is bound to create “rebellion” and eventually, possibly leading to a spurt in the use of heroin and related drugs. (Times of India 12/8/16)

Mizoram Church leaders urged to combat HIV/AIDS menace (3)

 AIZAWL, Aug 13 – Mizoram Health Minister Lal Thanzara on Friday appealed to the Presbyterian Church’s Mizoram Synod leaders to take active part in combating the menace of HIV/AIDS in the State. In a ‘Consortium on HIV Prevention and Drug Abuse’ held in Aizawl and attended by leaders of the Mizoram Synod, Lal Thanzara said Mizoram has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the country next only to Nagaland. “Unless coordinated efforts are being made by the government and the church from now, the spread of HIV/AIDS will be beyond control after a period of five years,” he warned. Synod Moderator Rev H Lalrinmawia said the Presbyterian Church has taken steps to combat HIV/AIDS and would continue to do so by cooperating with the State Government. At least 11,374 of the 3,52,737 blood samples tested, have been found to be infected with HIV in the State since October 1990, the meeting was informed, adding around 75 per cent of those infected got the dreaded disease through sex. The alarming fact was that majority of those infected through sex did not belong to the high-risk groups like sex workers or intravenous drug users, according to the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSCACS) officials. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 14/8/16)

Revealing their HIV positive identity cost these workers their jobs (3)

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Women received a representation from 15 former outreach workers who are HIV positive, regarding the fact that they had been arbitrarily removed from their jobs. From 2008 onwards, these workers had been employed on a contractual basis on the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission Program (PPCT) of NACO. In order to effectively carry-out their roles as outreach workers, these individuals had self identified to the community and their families as HIV positive, risking social marginalisation, as they believed that they had the support of NACO. However, since December 2015, these 15 outreach workers have been in dire straits because the NACO grant for their project was transferred out of Delhi, an executive decision regarding which the real stigmatised population in question, these outreach workers, were never consulted. In their presentation to the commission, these Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) had informed us that they had no livelihood and no means of support, and that their health status was deteriorating rapidly as they could not afford good food, vital for their regimen. The commission subsequently wrote to the Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) and was informed that DSACS had no funding to support these PLHIV as the same had been suspended from NACO. When the commission wrote to NACO for reinstatement of these workers, NACO provided a non-committal response, which forced the commission to approach the Health Minister of India J.P Nadda about the issue. In a positive turn of events, the commission is in receipt of a letter from Nadda which assures us that he will be looking into the matter. The commission will try and meet the health minister along with representatives of the outreach workers, to help with the reinstatement process. The commission also plans to pursue the disabilities faced by HIV positive women in a sustained dialogue with the union health ministry. (India Today 17/8/16)

Better understanding of housing may help minimise HIV risk (3)

New York: Understanding housing background and the multiple dimensions of homelessness can help better identify who might be at greater risk of transmitting or contracting HIV, says a new study.The study, published in the Journal of HIV/AIDS and Social Work, highlighted the link between homeless and HIV-risk behaviours. The research looked specifically at residents of single-room occupancy (SRO) housing as they considered themselves homeless, even though they have a place to live, because of uncertainly derived from factors that include concerns about rent increases and an inability to continue to afford even minimal housing such as an SRO. “It’s a transient population that’s bouncing into and out of SRO buildings and other locations, such as staying in overnight shelters or on the street. But on the other end is the long-term resident, who may have been stably housed for 20 years,” said Elizabeth Bowen, Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo. When thinking about how to help minimise HIV risk, the researchers mentioned that it’s important to target the right people.”The long-term residents might need help in other areas, but the research suggests that they’re not engaging in the same risky behaviours, such as drug use or having multiple sexual partners, as the residents who had been homeless more recently or who still considered themselves to be homeless,” Bowen added. This information is critical to social workers trying to identify who might be most in need of help. Bowen said the link between health and housing goes beyond HIV to include many chronic long-term health issues, both physical and mental. SROs might be affordable, but the rent for this type of housing still represents a large percentage of a resident’s income, which is often exclusively Supplemental Security Income. (Business Standard 23/8/2016)

Groom HIV positive, bride calls off wedding (3)

TIRUVANNAMALAI: Hours before the wedding of a 30-year-old man, the bride and her family called it off after they came to know from the officials that he had concealed the fact he was HIV-positive. Friends and relatives of the groom had erected banners announcing the wedding. On seeing the banners, a person telephoned collector and district revenue officer S Palani on Sunday night and alerted them that the groom was HIVpositive. “I received the call at 9.30pm on Sunday. The caller said that the groom is under treatment for HIV. I immediately contacted SP (R Ponni) and joint director of medical services to verify the information and directed the revenue officials to trace the bride’s family and explain the issue to them,” the collector told TOI.The officials verified records with the Integrated Counseling and Testing Centre in the Government Hospital. According to the records, he was under treatment since July 30, 2014. “At 1.30am on Monday, we collected the groom’s medical reports. We contacted him on the number that we found in the report. He told us that he would come and meet us in person within an hour, but he did not turn up,” tahsildar of Chengam M Kamaraj. In the meantime, the officials managed to trace the bride’s sister’s contact number and alerted her. However, she refused to believe them. “By the time we called the bride’s family, he had already told them that rival ‘party workers’ were trying to stop the marriage by spreading lies about him. So, we rushed to the marriage venue,” he added. Medical officer Senthil Kumar, along with Chengam DSP and tahsildar, told the bride and her family members of the groom’s condition. The girl then decided to call off the wedding. TNN”The family was thankful for saving the girl’s life. We are also happy as our continuous effort to collect the medical reports, trace the families within seven hours, that too in late night, turned fruitful” the collector said.The girl’s family sought police protection to return to their village safely. The girl was married off to another man, reportedly a relative, in their native village on the same day. (Times of India 24/8/16)

405 babies of HIV infected mothers born wihtout infection (3)

Aizawl: Out of 437 babies whose mothers were tested positive for HIV, 405 were born HIV negative, officials of the Prevention of Parents Child Transmission Centre (PPTCTC) said today. The figures were revealed in a statistics report related to births from 2011 till July this year, the officials said. All the pregnant women were tested at the Aizawl Civil Hospital and a record was maintained, they said. The PPTCTC was established at the Hospital in 2005 where experts undertook counseling and treatment of pregnant women infected with HIV. The PPTCTC also provided Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) and Multi Drug Regiment (MDR) treatment to the young patients. EID service commenced from 2011 and blood samples of 437 infants were tested at the NICED Laboratory in Kolkata, of which 32 were found to be infected with HIV through their mothers, the officials said, adding, all the babies were given regular treatment and were in good health. Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) Plus Centre was established at the Aizawl Civil Hospital in 2006 where 4,099 HIV positives including 187 minors were registered. Among those who received ART, 1,005 people have died, including 23 minors, since 2011. (Deccan Herald 25/8/16)

Woman alleges hospital forcibly discharged HIV-positive husband (3)

​Mumbai: The wife of an HIV positive man has alleged her husband was forced to take early discharge from a civic hospital despite a deteriorating health condition, which ultimately led to his death on Sunday evening. The incident has again highlighted how discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients is not a relic of the 90s, but an everyday horror unfolding in city hospitals. Anju (name changed), 28, also HIV positive, rushed her husband all the way from Naigaon (near Vasai Road) to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital (previously called Shatabdi Hospital) in Kandivli, with fever on Friday evening, thinking it had better doctors and facilities. To her surprise, doctors insisted his condition did not warrant hospitalization for more than a few hours and discharged him by Saturday afternoon. Burning with fever, her husband could not even leave the hospital compound. Anju immediately brought him to the same hospital’s emergency department, where the doctor said he had to be re-admitted. He was taken to the male medicine ward and started on intravenous fluids. A resident doctor told TOI he had developed septicaemia (infection of blood) and everything was done to save him. The doctor however could not explain why he was considered fit to be sent home. He passed away on Sunday, leaving behind a shattered and hapless family. Anju had no idea what he was suffering from as she was never told by the doctors. “The doctors seemed to be in a mad hurry to send us out of the hospital. I was not allowed to sit close to him, on a stool or even the floor. The nurse would come every hour and ask me to get out of the ward. But how could I leave my husband alone? He was restless and in great discomfort,” said Anju, who has three children aged four, seven and eight years. Both she and her husband have been on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) since the past eight years. The couple learnt about their positive status when Anju was pregnant with her first child. Anju, a homemaker, further alleged they were allotted a bed next to a patient who was lying “lifeless” in the ward for more than two to three hours. “I informed the nurses more than once the man was dead but we were not allocated any other bed,” she said. Medical superintendent Dr Krishnakanth Pimple said he will look into the details of the case. “As a public hospital, we more than often treat HIV-positive patients. So there is no question of discriminating against them. But we will inquire into her allegation and see what went wrong,” he said. He also added it is a protocol to keep patients for more than two hours in the ward before they are moved to the mortuary. Anju said without her husband, who was the sole breadwinner, the family is now staring at an uncertain future. “Two of my children are HIV-positive. How will I ensure nutrition and treatment for them?” she said. She is paranoid her family and in-laws, on whom she now has to rely for financial support, will find out about her HIV status, which has also prevented her from filing a police complaint against the hospital. (Times of India 30/8/16)

 

Posted by admin at 1 August 2016

Category: Uncategorized

( News Collection from 1st July to 31st July 2016)

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Dalits angry over demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan in Mumbai (2)

BELAGAVI: The demolition of the Ambedkar Bhavan, which housed a printing press in Dadar of Mumbai, has angered various Dalit organisations and sparked a protest in the city and across the district. Activists of the Dalit organisations, including the Belagavi District Dalit Sangarsh Samithi and Jai Bhim Sena, took out a procession and staged an angry protest at the Rani Channamma Circle here on Wednesday. They also burnt an effigy of the Maharashtra government. The activists shouted slogans condemning the demolition and criticised the Maharashtra government for its failure to prevent the demolition. They demanded punitive action against those who hatched “a conspiracy to demolish” the bhavan. Dalit leader Mallesh Chougule said that the demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan and the printing press had come as a tactical assault on Dalits, triggering a nationwide anger among community members. A statue of B.R. Ambedkar was also destroyed in the process. Submitting a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, he said that five politicians hatched the conspiracy to demolish the structure and they should be immediately arrested and expatriated from the country. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

Section of Uthapuram Dalits alleges favouritism (2)

MADURAI: Alleging favouritism in distribution of compensation for Dalit families affected in the 2008 clash in Uthapuram in Madurai district, a section of Dalits from the village petitioned the Collector on Monday demanding temporary stoppage of distribution of the balance compensation. “We have recently filed a petition in Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court requesting that all the affected Dalit families should be awarded compensation. So, distribution of the remaining amount should be stopped until the court makes a decision,” said M. Chellapandian, a resident of South Devendirar Nagar in Uthapuram. In a case filed by S.K. Ponnuthai of All India Democratic Women’s Association, affiliated to Communist Party of India (Marxist), the HC Bench awarded a compensation of about Rs. 1.2 crore to 199 victims earlier this year. While a majority of the amount has already been disbursed, work is in progress to distribute the balance amount soon. “The list of 199 people excluded a large number of affected Dalits as the CPI (M), which spearheaded the case, showed partiality in identifying the victims,” alleged N. Palpandi, another resident. He alleged the expenses for the case were met from the common fund of the Dalits in the village. “When everyone had contributed for the case expenses, it is unfair to exclude some while distributing compensation,” he claimed. Mr. Chellapandian also alleged that there were double entries in the list of 199 victims, which meant that the same families got compensation twice. Denying the allegations, T. Chellakannu, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, who actively took part in the litigation process, said that the group of Dalits who were complaining now did not come forward to register themselves when the case was in progress. “Moreover, the list of victims had been cross-checked by government authorities,” he said. “The complaints of double entries have been rectified. The money taken from the common fund of the Dalits was also paid back by those who received the compensation,” he said. “If they feel they also deserve compensation, they can approach court. But it is not fair to stop the compensation for other victims,” he added. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Dalits yet to get freedom, says former official (2)

Mysuru: Former Deputy Director of Pre-University Education H M Rudraswamy, on Wednesday, lamented that Dalit leaders in various political parties have turned into adopted sons of their respective parties that are based on caste system and so, Dalits are yet to get freedom. He was delivering a lecture on ‘Dalit Politics in Modern India and Leadership’, organised by University of Mysore (UoM) Babu Jagjivan Ram Studies, Research and Extension Centre, at Manasagangothri, to mark Jagjivan Ram’s 30th death anniversary. Rudraswamy said, though there are more than 125 MPs and nearly 1,000 legislators belonging to the Dalit communities in the country, the deprived classes are still striving for their constitutional rights. “Though Dalits have the right to education and employment and participate in politics, they are not working for the welfare of the deprived communities. Even today, Dalits are not in a position to decide their political leaders. Every political party’s high command decides Dalit leaders. Though Dalits enjoy powers, they are yet to get independence,” he opined. Speaking about Jagjivan Ram, Rudraswamy said, Ram grew up as a national leader by fighting for freedom along with Mahatma Gandhi. There was no difference between B R Ambedkar and Ram pertaining to social thinking and political stand. It is far from the truth that Gandhi tried to suppress Ambedkar using Jagjivan Ram, said Rudraswamy. Member of Central Advisory Committee, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Deepak Doddaiah said, Babuji pioneered the Green Revolution and he was the man behind the Employees State Insurance Scheme (ESI) for labourers. BJP district (rural) president M Shivanna, centre Director K Sadashiva and guest lecturer G S Bhatt were present. .. (Deccn Herald 7/7/16)

Porbandar Dalit murder: Kin claim body after police detain three (2)

Rajkot: FOUR DAYS after Rama Singrakhiya, a Dalit, was allegedly hacked to death by an upper caste mob in Sodhana village of Porbandar, his family members claimed his body and performed last rites on Sunday after police detained village sarpanch Arbham Karavadra and two others, identified as Bhupat Agrowala and Jaymal Mer, who led the attack on Rama, late on Saturday night. The family claimed the body hours after the victim’s two friends, who had been leading a protest demanding they be allowed bury the man on the same pastoral land where he had been attacked, were arrested in another case on Saturday and released on bail on the same day. Raju Singrakhiya, 22-year-old nephew of Rama (42), claimed the victim’s body in the wee hours of Sunday and the family performed his last rites in the afternoon. Rama was buried in the burial ground for Dalits. His friends claimed that the family’s demand of allowing them to take his body to Porbandar was rejected by police. Rama was allegedly assaulted by a mob belonging to the upper caste Mer community on Wednesday when he went to the village to sow caster seeds on a plot of land which, he claimed, he had been cultivating for the last 15 years. Rama died in PDU General Hospital in Rajkot Thursday while the two injured are still in hospital. … (Indian Express 10/7/16)

77 yrs after Madurai victory, temples still shut for dalits (2)

Seventy seven years have passed since that landmark event, but many temples continue to be out of bounds for dalits. The southern state had witnessed many temple-entry movements some 15 years before Vaidyanatha Iyer’s campaign. Followers of rationalist leader Periyar E V Ramasamy organised such agitations as far back as the mid-1920s. Periyar was among the leaders of a much larger and more comprehensive anti-untouchability movement in Vaikom that decade. But as the Dravidian movement consolidated itself and parties claiming the legacy of Periyar rose to power, they also lost their reformist zeal, observers say. “There may be no restrictions in big temples maintained by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment of the state government. But, entry for dalits is not a cakewalk in several temples controlled by dominant castes in some villages,”says P Sampath, president of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. Sampath’s front has organised 52 temple-entry agitations from 2008 to 2016. Affiliated with CPM, the front says successive governments have responded to such agitations by locking the temples or banning access to all. “Even in a related case this year, the district administration shut the doors of a Shiva temple in Kuttalam taluk at Nagapattinam district citing law and order problems, after we attempted to take dalits into the temple,” he said. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi general secretary D Ravi Kumar blames the situation on the lack of political will on the part of AIADMK and DMK regimes, which have ruled the state for nearly 50 years. “They (AIADMK and DMK) have two different yardsticks for temples controlled by brahmins and nonbrahmins during their rule. While they have focused on the temples with brahmins at the helm of affairs to eliminate caste discrimination, the two Dravidian parties do not have the political will to replicate the same in temples in the hands of caste Hindus,” he said. This despite the rather early start to temple entry in the state. Taking a cue from the Vaikom agitation that was led by Periyar against restrictions on dalits from walking through the streets around the Vaikom temple in 1924, leaders of the self-respect movement in Tamil Nadu carried out temple-entry movements across the state between 1926 and 1930. Dravidian ideologue Suba Veerapandian says the agitations were organised at temples in Suchindram at Kanyakumari district, Erode, Mayiladuthurai and Tiruchirappalli in which social reformers Kuthoosi Gurusamy and K A P Viswanatham participated. This was followed by the temple-entry agitation of Vaidyanatha Iyer, who was then president of Tamil Nadu Harijan Sevak Sangh, in 1939 at Madurai. Iyer’s son-in-law and former secretary of Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya, V K Sthanunathan said Mahatma Gandhi worshipped at Meenakshi temple only after dalits were allowed entry. ….  (Times of India 11/7/16)

4 Dalits stripped, beaten up for skinning dead cow (2)

The victims, who are engaged in skinning in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town, had brought dead cows. While they were skinning the cows, six persons in an SUV approached them and accused them of cow slaughter. The victims tried convincing them that they had brought the carcass for skinning. However, the assailants did not heed to their pleading and started beating them with iron pipes and sticks. After stripping and thrashing them, they were tied behind the SUV and taken to the village. N U Zala, police inspector, Una town police station, said: ‘They stopped their SUV on the main road and started thrashing them again. Three persons who tried to intervene were also beaten up with iron pipes.”After beating them in the village, the four Dalits were packed into the SUV and taken to Una town, 24 km away. Here, they were again tied to the vehicle and thrashed in full public view and taken to the police station. The photos and video of the incident went viral on social media on Tuesday morning. Una town police said that 23-year-old Vasram Sarvaia of Mota Samadhiyala village has lodged a complaint against Pramodgiri Bavaji, Balvant Dhirubhai, Ramesh Jadav, Nagji Vaniya, Rakesh Joshi and one unidentified person. The accused are from Una town and nearby villages. ‘We have arrested three Jadav, Joshi and Nagji,” Zala said, adding all have been booked under attempt to murder and sections of Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act.The seven persons were rushed to a hospital in Una town where condition of one of them identified as Babubhai is said to be critical.No one should be allowed to take law in their hands. The fact that those brutalized were Dalits from poor families makes the offence even more serious.Strictest possible action must be taken against such self-styled cow protectors, who made a complete mockery of the police department by thrashing the four youths in full public view, not once but twice. (Times of India 13/7/16)

UP temple ‘cleansed’ after Dalits perform puja (2)

KANPUR: A priest in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh ‘purified’ a temple with `Gangajal’ soon after a group of Dalit women visited it for worship as part of marriage rituals. Though the group was denied entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in Mangalpur town on Monday , the temple priest and his wife performed the ritual by “cleansing the premises with the sacred water of the Ganga”.”Munni Devi of the Balmiki community visited the village temple along with a dozen women as part of rituals related to her daughter’s marriage that is yet to be solemnized. After the women left, the priest closed the temple for over an hour and washed it with Gangajal,” one of the villagers told TOI.”The priest opposed our entry into the temple and used caste insults against us. When we questioned him, he threatened us. We later performed the puja with the help of some locals,” Devi said. ADM Shiv Shanker Gupta has assured an investigation into the issue. (Times of India 14/7/2016)

5 dalit men attempt suicide in Gujarat (2)

RAJKOT: There is an escalation in protests against the alleged atrocities against dalits in the state. On Monday morning, five dalits consumed poisonous substances in Gondal town of Rajkot district.

They were protesting against an incident near Una town in the Gir-Somnath district in which some dalit youths were thrashed in full public view for skinning dead cows. The five falits reached near Ambedkar statue having threatened self-immolation on July 16. Even as the police had deployed bandobast as precautionary measures, the five protesters – identified as Anil Madhad (35), Jagdish Rathod (32), Bharat Solanki (30), Rajesh Parmar (26 and Ramesh Parghi (34) – attempted suicide. Police rushed all of them to the government hospital for treatment. Brother of Anil Madhad – he is the elected councillor from Congress in Gondal municipality – Dinesh Madhad told TOI that dalits are subjected to inhuman behaviour while the government is not taking any step towards culprits and therefore goons are roaming scot-free. “Police do not take action against such atrocities against dalits and therefore five Dalits decided to take extreme step” Dinesh Madhad said. Earlier on Sunday, Una police arrested two more persons for their involvement in the brutal assault on four dalit youths who were skinning dead cows in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una last week.Meanwhile, Gir-Somnath SP H R Chaudhary has suspended N U Zala, police inspector of Una, and woman constable Kanchan for negligence in discharging their duties in the case. Two other policemen have already been suspended. The outrage over thrashing of Dalits in Una continued in parts of Saurashtra region. On Monday, Dalits carried out a procession and staged dharna with carrying three vehicles of dead animals to collector’s office and demanded swift actions against the accused involved in Dalit atrocities. They also threatened to stop taking dead animals from villages and towns which they are traditionally doing it. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Violent protests in Saurashtra over Una incident (2)

AHMEDABAD: The Dalit unrest in Gujarat has claimed two lives. While police constable died after being injured in stone pelting by Dalit mob in Amreli, another person, who consumed pesticide to protest atrocities on Scheduled Caste (SC) also died on Tuesday. Up in arms against brutal assault on Dalit community members in a village near Una on July 11, the Dalits intensified its protest with eight persons attempting suicide on Tuesday in addition to those seven who attempted on Monday. Over a dozen buses were torched and highways were blocked, forcing the state authorities to suspend bus services in Porbandar, Jamnagar and Junagadh while State Reserved Police (SRP) teams have been deployed in Rajkot, Jamnagar and other places in Saurashtra region. In Amreli, a rally held by the Dalits turned violent as clashes between cops and protesters led to stone pelting in wich one head constable Pankaj Amrelia was critically injured and was taken to Rajkot where he died during treatment. “Around 15 persons including protesters and policemen were injured in clashes in Amreli. One constable has died while others are under treatment at various hospitals,” said a senior police official from Amreli. Meanwhile, Hemant Solanki had consumed pesticide in Bhesan town and during treatment, he died. In entire Saurashtra, situation was volatile with protests rallies planned by the enraged community member, who have given a bandh call in Junagadh and Gondal on Wednesday. The Dalit unrest and subsequent violence triggered by hooliganism of local cow protection group in Saurashtra has caught the Anandiben Patel administration off guard, which woke up to its gravity only on Monday when the matter was raised by BSP in Rajya Sabha. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed to the people of Gujarat and particularly the Dalit community members to maintain peace while assuring that the guilty would be punished. “What has happened in inhuman and condemnable. The state government has ordered a CID (crime) probe and 16 persons have already been arrested,” she said in a statement issued by the state government. Chief Minister will be visiting the victims and their family members in Una on Wednesday. The government has also enhanced compensation to the victims from Rs one lakh to Rs four lakh. Top Congress leader Ahmed Patel demanded judicial probe in the issue and lambasted the state authorities to “protest Dalits in Gujarat.” “Failure of authorities to protect Dalits in Gujarat is absolutely shocking. It is the Gujarat Model? Independent probe is the need of the hour,” Mr Patel, who is Rajya Sabha member from the state, tweeted while reacting on the Dalit unrest in the state. Besides Congress, Aam Admi Party (AAP), which has been trying to set up its base in the state ahead of the next year’s assembly polls, announced that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kajriwal would visit the victims of violence by cow protection group on Friday. Gujarat Congress has requested party vice president Rahul Gandhi to visit the state to meet the victims and also members of the Dalit community. (The Hindu 20/7/16)

For cow vigilantes, Dalits are soft target: Fact-finding team after Una visit (2)

Ahmedabad: A fact-finding team which visited Gujarat’s Una town in connection with the brutal assault of Dalits, has claimed to have found a new trend among ‘cow vigilantes’ to show bravado by making a particular Dalit community as their “soft target”.The incident of beating up of seven Dalit youths in Mota Samadhilya village of Gir-Somnath district last week has triggered large scale protests across the state. The protests worsened yesterday as seven youths attempted suicide with violence and arson spreading to various places in the state. An eight-member fact finding team, comprising Dalits from various city-based NGOs including Dalit Adhikar Manch, which went to the village from here a few days back, found out that the incident was brutal as the alleged beating of youths started from 9.30 AM and continued unabated till 1.30 PM, and inspite of the victims’ kin repeatedly calling police, the latter allegedly did not act. The team members said that Dalits are “soft targets” for these vigilante groups. Dalits are actually not involved in slaughter of cows, but are only doing their traditional business of leather, while they (vigilante groups) refrain from confronting those involved in slaughter, they said. There is a particular Dalit community that deals in the trade of leather. In Gir-Somnath and surrounding districts of Gujarat these self-appointed cow protection committees have come up in the name of saving cows, said Kaushik Parmar, who led the fact finding team to the village. “We have found out that this inhuman incident of beating Dalit youths was not one off. From last many months these particular community members have become target of these cow protection groups,” Parmar said. “There have been at least three such incidents in the past two months in the area when the Dalit community members were beaten up by these so-called cow vigilante groups. All those are related to skinning of dead cows,” he said. “Earlier, such cow vigilantes used to target those who are involved in cow slaughter. But since last seven to eight months, they have started targeting Dalit community members who are involved in leather business and are soft targets, to show off their bravado. It has been noticed that these groups in the past few months attacked Dalits when they were involved in skinning of dead cows,” he said. (Zee News 21/7/16)

Old enmity behind flogging of Dalit youths in Una: Fact-finding team (2)

Ahmedabad: The real reason behind the brutal thrashing of four Dalit youths in Una of Gir-Somnath district that triggered massive protests across Gujarat and even reverberated in Parliament could be previous enmity, a fact-finding team of the Ahmedabad-based Dalit Adhikar Manch has said on Thursday. The eight-member team that visited Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town told HT that the father of one of the assaulted youths had been threatened by the upper-caste sarpanch of the village of dire consequences if he didn’t stop trading in cow hide. “Whatever business you are doing, stop it right now. Else, your dead cows will come alive and for that you have to pay heavily,” the sarpanch is reported to have told Balubhai Sarvaiya six months ago. The sarpanch had also threatened to demolish his house. The four youths were on July 11 publicly flogged, a video of which went viral and triggered nationwide outrage. Angry Dalits have taken to the streets, torching buses and putting up road blockades. Normal life was also hit in Gujarat on Wednesday in response to a bandh call by several Dalit organisations. An Indian Dalit woman waits for a relative’s release from a police station after protestors were detained by police for damaging vehicles and disturbing peace, at Dholka town, some 40 kms from Ahmedabad on Thursday. (AFP)Balubhai told the fact-finding team that on the request of residents of two villages he had sent his son and three others to haul the dead cows from there. The youths were attacked after they had brought back the carcasses and were skinning them. The assailants came in two vehicles and were armed with sticks and iron pipes. One of the vehicles had “President – Shiv Sena – Gir Somath” written boldly on its rear windscreen. Its registration number was stated to be DD 03 F 1294. The men also used casteist abuses while flogging the youths, despite the four victims pleading repeatedly that they were only skinning dead cattle. When Balubhai and his wife came to know about it and rushed to the spot, they were also abused and beaten up. Piecing together evidence from witnesses, the fact-finding committee said the police did precious little to rescue the youths. While they were being forcibly driven to Una after being brutally beaten, the vehicle was stopped by a police team. The assailants spoke to the policemen and were allowed to proceed. The police said visiting the spot was a priority for them. .. (Hindustan Times 22/7/16)

U.P., Bihar lead in crimes against Dalits (2)

NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar lead the country in the number of cases registered of crimes against the Scheduled Castes, official data pertaining to 2013, 2014 and 2015 show. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) counts these States among those deserving special attention. While U.P. has witnessed a political war of words over an expelled BJP leader’s insulting remarks on BSP leader Mayawati, it is Rajasthan that leads in number of crimes against Dalits. Fifty-two to 65 per cent of all crimes in Rajasthan have a Dalit as the victim. This is despite the fact that the State’s SC (Dalit) population is just 17.8 per cent of its total population. With six per cent of India’s Dalit population, the State accounts for up to 17 per cent of the crimes against them across India. With 20 per cent of India’s Dalit population, U.P. accounts for 17 per cent of the crimes against them. The numbers — ranging from 7078 to 8946 from 2013 to 2015 — are high, but so is the population of Dalits in the State. Bihar too has a poor track record, with 6721 to 7893 cases of atrocities in the same period, contributing 16-17 per cent of the all India crimes against Dalits with just eight per cent of the country’s SC population. While Dalits form 15.9 per cent of the State’s population, 40-47 per cent of all crimes registered there are against Dalits.Gujarat on its part has shared corrected figures of crimes against Dalits with the NCSC after an abnormal increase in the figures pertaining to crimes against Dalits in the State. “The anamoly and sudden increase in respect to Gujarat and Chhattisgarh are abnormal and are being highlighted so that these States can provide actual data in case there was a mistake in reporting,” said the agenda note for the NCSC review meeting with the States last week. Gujarat’s numbers of crimes against Dalits had jumped to 6655 in 2015 from 1130 in 2014, which made NCSC officials suspicious. There was also a statistical impossibility in the data — the crimes against Dalits were 163 per cent of the total number of crimes reported. “Gujarat officials corrected the data in the meeting, and these are like previous years,” an official present at the meet said. “Chhattisgarh officials have done the same.” Gujarat’s officials, sources said, were worried that “inflated” data would further damage the State’s record on Dalit atrocities when at a time it is in the eye of storm over the Una incident of public beating of Dalits and the subsequent suicide attempts by Dalits in the state. In an attempt at damage control, the Gujarat government has also released figures claiming crimes against Dalits in the State have “gone down” under the BJP. The corrected figure for 2015 in this data set is 1052, which is lower than figure for 2014. The data also claim that while there were on an average 1669 crimes against Dalits per year in the State from 1991 to 2000, the number declined to 1098 between 2011 and 2015. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

Attack on Dalits: district BJP chief defends Bajrang Dal activists (2)

Chikkamagaluru: The Chikkamagaluru district BJP president and Sringeri MLA D.N. Jeevaraj has defended Bajrang Dal activists who have been accused of assaulting Dalits in the name of protecting cows. The leader said the Dalits were not assaulted and false case was filed against the seven people. Addressing a press conference in Chikkamagaluru on Tuesday, Mr. Jeevaraj described it as a conspiracy by the Congress. He said the five Dalits, allegedly beaten up, had “stolen a cow and slaughtered it.” The Hindutva activists, he said, had only informed the police and not assaulted anyone. He went on to say that Balaraj, one of those allegedly assaulted by the Bajrang Dal youths, had not suffered any injury. Nagesh Angirasa, a member of Praja Prabhutva Ulisi Horata Vedike, in a separate press meet, accused Komu Souharda Vedike that brought the incident to light, of “spreading wrong information about the issue.” (The Hindu 27/7/16)

We cannot be discriminated against any longer: Dalits (2)

NAGAPATTINAM: Head of Pazhag Kallimedu Dalit hamlet, N. Pakkirisamy, said the claim of tradition put forth by caste Hindus in holding mandagapadi during annual Aadi festival of Sri Badrakaliamman Temple at Kallimedu could not be accepted as the temple was originally located in their hamlet. They had every right to stake claim to hold mandagapadi when caste Hindus had been sponsoring the festival for three days. He pointed out that the Dalits were humiliated in 2014 when the procession route of utsavar (processional deity) was cut short. “The temple was shifted from Pazha Kallimedu to Kallimedu sometime back. Hence, it is natural for us to claim the right to hold the ritual. We have been fighting for several years to get our rights. However, our rights are denied as we belong to the oppressed class. We cannot be discriminated against any longer,” Mr. Pakkirisamy said. However, representatives of caste Hindus argued that the agama rules and practices could not be altered under any circumstance. Moreover, a case filed by Dalits on the issue was pending before the Madras High Court. They were ready to abide by the court verdict. “We need to preserve age-old customs and practices. It should not be diluted. We should not be compelled when the matter is before the court,” contended A. Sivasubramanian, a leader of Pillaimar group. As the two sides refused to reach an agreement, Collector S. Palanisamy announced that it has been decided to ban the festival, scheduled to begin on August 8, as the two groups did not reach an agreement. When asked about the Dalits’ threat to embrace Islam, Mr. Palanisamy said their intention was essentially to draw the attention of the officials to the issue. No Dalit in the hamlet has converted to other religions, he said. (The Hindu 31/7/16)

TRIBALS

Shutdown called by Congress hits normal life in Odisha (6)

Bhubaneswar: Normal life was paralysed on Saturday in eight KBK districts of Odisha by a dawn-to-dusk shutdown called by the Congress party to push for “proper implementation” of the Forest Rights Act 2006. The party also protested against the arrest of former Nabarangapur MP Pradeep Majhi and his associates. Shops and business establishments remained closed in eight undivided KBK districts: Kalahandi, Bolangir, Koraput, Sonepur, Nuapada, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri and Rayagada. The Congress workers blocked roads by burning tyres and picketed many places, bringing traffic to a halt. “The state government is taking credit by distributing land pattas to more than three lakh tribals. But in reality, the government has not executed the Forest Rights Act properly,” Congress leader and former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Das said. The state government has betrayed the tribal people by giving only pattas while there was no identification of land, he said. Das said the state government sent the Congress demonstrators to jail to suppress their voice. Former Nabarangpur MP Pradeep Majhi and 18 other Congress workers were arrested on June 25 for allegedly ransacking a range office of the forest department during a demonstration demanding land pattas for tribals. They were released on conditional bail on Saturday. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Prasad Harichandan claimed that the shutdown was successful. He said people spontaneously participated in the movement to show their support for the cause. Rabi Narayan Nanda, a leader of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), said the Congress party is shedding crocodile tears. He said the shutdown call given by the opposition party has had no effect in KBK districts as the tribals are always with the government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

 ‘Upholding tribal rights best tribute to Alluri’ (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Members of various organisations, leaders of various political parties and the general public paid rich tributes to the revolutionary freedom fighter Alluri Seetharama Raju on his 119{+t}{+h}birth anniversary at various places in the city and district on Monday. Alluri Walker’s Association, Seethammadhara: Chief advisor of the association Ch. Narasinga Rao recalled the contribution of Alluri in safeguarding the rights of the tribal people and in protecting them from the British rulers. He ridiculed the State government for observing the birth anniversary of the revolutionary leader as a ‘State festival’ while depriving the tribal people of their livelihood by deciding to allow bauxite mining in the Agency areas of the district, ignoring their interests. Honorary president T. Shantaram sought the naming of the Alluri statue road at Seethammadhara as ‘Alluri Seetharama Raju Walker’s Zone Road’. Kshatriya Youth Association: A blood donation camp was organized by the association in association with the Rotary club Visakha Port City at Kshatriya Kalyana Mandapam at Seethamadhara. Inaugurating the camp, Visakhapatnam North MLA P Vishnu Kumar Raju appreciated the organisers for initiating the noble cause of donating blood, which could saves lives.Visakhapatnam Steel Plant: Director (Commercial) P Raychaudhury garlanded the statue of Alluri Seetharama Raju and paid tributes to the great freedom fighter. He recalled the sacrifices of Alluri in protecting the tribal rights in the Agency area and his crusade against the British rule. Trade union leaders, representatives of Ukkunagaram Kshatriya Association, SC and ST Association and a large number of employees participated. City Congress secretary K. Gopala Reddy paid tributes to Alluri at a programme organised at KNM Girls High School. Competitions were organised for school children on the occasion. Anakapalle MP Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao, former Vice Chancellor of Andhra University GSN Raju and Joint Collector J. Nivas paid their tributes at the Alluri Memorial at K.D. Peta in the Agency area of the district. In the evening, at a State-level function organised by the Tribal Welfare Department at the Kalavani auditorium of VPT, Minister for SC and ST Welfare Ravela Kishore Babu presented merit awards and felicitated tribal youth and students for excelling in their respective fields. Panchayati Raj Minister Ch. Ayyanna Patrudu and Minister for I and PR Palle Raghunadha Reddy, Chairperson of ZPP Lalam Bhavani, former Minister P. Mani Kumari, former ZPP Chairperson V. Kanthamma, MP M. Srinivasa Rao, several other people’s representatives, and district officials participated. Cultural programmes were presented by Girijan artistes. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Innocent tribals become victims of ganja trade: Sarpanches (6)

Visakhapatnam: Officials of the prohibition and excise department should nab the main culprits behind the ganja trade right from the cultivation stage to smuggling in the Visakha Agency, said panelists at a workshop on ‘Prevent Ganja Cultivation and Save Youth from Ganja Addiction’ here on Thursday. Speaking at the workshop organised by the directorate of prohibition and excise department, tribal youths and various panchayat sarpanches said transportation of the contraband has become a major source of income for the forest, excise and police officials. The ganja farmers, most of them tribals, have become victims of the trade as well as kingpins of the business in some cases. They have been supplying seeds and fertilisers and earning crores of rupees through smuggling. “Arresting the ganja growers and transporters and registering cases against them will not serve the purpose. The enforcement department should focus on the kingpins,” Lammasingi sarpanch M Raghunath said, adding that ganja growers are illiterates and were unaware of many legal acts. CID wing inspector general PV Sunil Kumar said uprooting ganja from the Agency was not one department’s job. All the responsible departments such as revenue, forest, excise and police should form a task force and work in coordination, he said. (Times of India 8/7/16)

Tribal girl kidnapped, sold, raped, kept hostage; flees, one held (6)

Jaipur: A 15-year-old tribal girl from Pratapgarh went through a horrifying ordeal for 25 days. She was kidnapped by a woman who took her to Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage for days. She then sold the girl to a man in Kota’s Sultanpur area for Rs 1.25 lakh. He brought the girl to Sultanpur and raped her repeatedly. She was kept hostage in a house. On Wednesday, she managed to escape. Some people who saw her stranded took her to the police following which her buyer was arrested on Friday. The case is yet another instance of growing trend of human trafficking in the state. The girl belongs to Bagwasa village in Pratapgarh. She was on her way to her maternal grandparents’ house in nearby Banswara district when a woman, belonging to a village near Pratapgarh, ran into her. “The woman befriended the girl and then coaxed her into coming with her to a place. She took the girl to Khetakheda village in Madhya Pradesh and kept her hostage there. She then sold her to one Dharmaraj Bairawa, a resident of Surela area in Kota’s Sultanpur,” said a police officer. The officer said that Dharmaraj brought her to the house of his brother-in-law and kept her hostage there. He raped her several times. Twenty-five-year-old Dharmaraj was forcing the girl to marry him. On Wednesday, the girl managed to flee from the house. “The girl was clueless as to where she should go after escaping from the house. Some people saw her stranded and brought her to Udhyog Nagar police station in Kota. We informed the child welfare committee members so that she could get a shelter,” said the officer. The girl narrated her ordeal since she was kidnapped to the child welfare committee members on Thursday. Police have registered an FIR against the woman who kidnapped her and Dharmaraj. The man has been arrested. A team was being rushed to Pratapgarh and Madhya Pradesh for further investigation, the officer said. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Kandhamal row: HRPC SIT to investigate death of tribals in police firing (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Under fire from the opposition political parties for the killings of innocent tribals in a police-Maoist crossfire in Kandhamal on Friday night, the state government today formed a special investigation team (SIT) of the State Human Rights Protection Cell (SHRPC) to inquire into the case. Announcing the decision after a review of the Kandhamal incident at the secretariat here, the chief minister said he has directed that the investigation of the case will be done by a SIT of the SHRPC to be monitored and supervised by an officer of the rank of additional DG. “If anyone is found negligent in his duty after the probe, we will take stringent action,” he said. The chief minister also directed the director general of police KB Singh to have a detailed review of the incident and apply required correctives so that such incident is not repeated in future in anti-naxalite operations. The SIT will take over the case registered at Baliguda police station in connection with the incident. Describing the Kandhamal incident as most unfortunate, the chief minister said the government has taken it seriously. Besides the DGP police, chief secretary AP Padhi, home secretary Asit Tripathy and director, intelligence Sunil Roy attended the meeting. The chief minister had ordered a judicial probe into the incident on Saturday. He had also announced an exgratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of the kin of the deceased and asked the district administration to ensure that the families of the deceased will be covered under different social sector schemes including housing. He had also announced job for a member of each of the family. Meanwhile, the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) today demanded that National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should probe into the incident. OPCC president Prasad Harichandan said the chief minister should visit the village to assuage the feelings of the tribals whose family members have been killed in police firing. A team from BJP headed by state president Basant Panda will visit Kandhamal tomorrow to take stock of the situation. (New Indian Express 11/7/16)

All Adivasi Association of Assam demands ST status (6)

BARPETA, July 13 – The All Adivasi Association of Assam has reiterated its demand to accord Scheduled Tribe status to the Adivasis and warned the government that it will face massive agitation if the demand is not fulfilled within one month. In a memorandum to the Chief Minister, signed by the leaders of the Baksa district committee and the central executive committee, the association stated that lakhs of people living in the State bear all the characteristics of tribals. They stated that their counterparts living in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha are regarded as STs. But it is a matter of regret that the same people with similar ethnicity have been deprived of the ST status here, they said. (The Assam Tribune 13/7/16)

NHRC takes up tribals’ cause, seeks reports (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought reports from Union Home Ministry as well as the State Government on the killing of five innocent tribals in police firing in Kandhamal district last week even as opposition political parties accused the State Government of trying to cover up the incident. Secretary general of the NHRC Satyanarayan Mohanty told mediapersons here that both the Home Ministry and the State have been asked to submit reports within two weeks. Meanwhile, the opposition Congress and BJP have raised questions about impartiality of the probe by the SIT formed by the State Government. The SIT is headed by Additional DG, Human Rights Protection Cell Mahendra Pratap. How can the investigation be fair and impartial, when it will be supervised and monitored by an officer who was suspended by the Government, Leader of the Opposition Narasingh Mishra asked. Mahendra Pratap was Gajapati SP when R Udaygiri incident took place on December 8,1998, Mishra said and added that Naveen Patnaik had then demanded action against the officer. Why the Chief Minister has now entrusted the responsibility to the same officer to monitor and supervise the investigation of such a sensitive case, he asked. The Leader of Opposition demanded that investigation by the SIT should be monitored by the High Court. Senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra also criticised the Chief Minister for trying to cover up the incident by entrusting Mahendra Pratap to supervise the investigation of the case. The Chief Minister had demanded action against the officer after the R Udaygiri jailbreak incident. The CM is trying to cover up the incident by doing so, he said. Meanwhile, a three-member team of BJP MPs will visit Kandhamal on Friday to make an on the spot assessment of the situation. The team comprises Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Jyoti Dhurve and Ramvichar Netam. Former MLAs Pratap Sarangi and Siddharth Sekhar Singh Mardraj, state BJP secretary Sisir Gamang and state executive member Sukanta Panigrahy will accompany the Central team. A team of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) headed by Narasingh Mishra will also visit Kandhamal on Friday. (New Indian Express 15/7/16)

Tribals dying of hunger (6)

Bhubaneswar: The infant deaths (18 in three months), at Nagada village is a case of chronic hunger of primitive Juang tribals leading to acute malnutrition of their children and subsequent death due to lack of medical treatment. “ It reflects a bizarre case of how malnourished children are dying unattended in the chromite ore rich area where mining giants and big companies are minting money and claiming to have undertaken a lot of social activities as part of their corporate social responsibility,” observed a team of civil rights activists who returned from Nagada on Tuesday. Claims of ‘”inclusive growth’, innumerable anti-poverty schemes , nutrition programme, free food etc fall flat at Nagada as no officer ever visits the village which remains inaccessible calling for a hardous trek – climb the hill, they remarked . The village still suffers from hunger, malnutrition, drinking water crisis etc. the tribals area leading subhuman life without drinking water, electricity, food and lack of road connectivity. The government is squarely responsible for failing to provide basic amenities to the tribals. Many families have not been provided ration card under National Food Security Act due to irregularities in survey conducted to identify eligible households. Secondly, as per guideline of Antodaya Anna Yojana, all Juang families deserve to get each 35 kg rice per month.” Most of Juang families have not been covered till date,” said the rights activists led by Mr Pradip Pradhan, member of the advisory group of NHRC on right to food, Sudhir Mohanty, advocate, Odisha High Court, Mr Kalandi Mallik, Mr Sanjay Sahu, Mr Debenbdra Kumar Rout, who formed the fact finding team. The tribals walk for over 10 km to get any service or benefit under any scheme, they are unable to carry their sick children to hospital for treatment. They spend one day ( Rs.200 labour wage per day) to get Rs.300 pension amount under Old Age Pension Scheme. Almost all development programme and food security programme like ICDS, MDM, PDS, NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana, Biju Pucca Ghara Yojana, forest development programme, agricultural and horticultural programme etc. are not implemented in the area. (The Statewsman 20/7/16)

Nutrition for tribals stuck in Odisha government slow lane (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The shocking spate of deaths among  Juang infants in mineral-rich Jajpur’s Nagada has exposed the slow progress achieved by the State in ensuring appropriate nutrition for its tribal populace which is reflected in the level of stunting,  wasting and weight among children. Over the last 10 years, there has been  tardy progress as shown by the Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC) 2013-14. The RSoC, released late last year, is the first such dataset which was available after the National  Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III (2005-06).It revealed that stunting among the  Scheduled Tribe (ST) children (in the age group of zero to five years) is now at 46.1 per cent level whereas severe stunting is 22.1 per cent, both considered very high. The NFHS-III had recorded stunting and severe stunting at 57.2 per cent and 28.4  per cent respectively. Similarly, wasting levels have also shown a slow decline – from 27.6 per cent in 2005-06 to 22 per cent in 2013-14. Severe wasting among children  has marginally dropped from 8.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent in the last 10 years. The underweight status among tribal  children remains high despite a bountifulof schemes – both Central and State  – targeted at the indigenous population. The RSoC shows that 46.8 per cent ST children are underweight while 17 per cent are severely underweight. In NFHS-III, it was 54.4 per cent and 22.9 per cent  respectively. With the issue grabbing headlines, the Odisha Human Rights Commission  (OHRC) on Wednesday asked the Chief Secretary to submit a report on the matter within three weeks. Hearing a petition filed by advocate  Nishikanta Mishra, the Commission considered the enormity of the problem faced by residents of Nagada. To mitigate their woes on a war-footing, the OHRC felt it imperative to provide  immediate medical attention by deputing a dedicated medical team to the village. Besides, safe drinking water, free ration and essential medicines should be provided to the villagers on a regular basis. Opening of anganwadi centres  for benefit of tribal children is of paramount importance, it observed. The petitioner had alleged that death of 19 infants from Juang tribe in Nagada has exposed the Government’s apathy to the problems of the indigenous population. While malnutrition is primarily responsible for loss of lives, welfare schemes, which are in  implementation for targeted groups in the State, have not covered Nagada so far, he added. The inaccessible nature of the terrain has been a main hindrance for villagers  to avail medical services and have access to other benefits, the petitioner added. The rights panel asked the Chief Secretary to look into the matter and submit an action taken report within three weeks.   (New Indian Express 21/7/16)

‘Huts of tribals burnt in presence of officials’ (6)

Raipur: Huts of tribals at four villages of Nagri block in Dhamtari district were burnt during anti-encroachment drive, Congress leaders alleged here on Thursday. A delegation comprising State Forest Minister, Mahesh Gagda, Chhattisgarh Congress Chief Bhupesh Baghel, Leader of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) TS Singhdeo along with others had reached Kusum Bharri and Batan Harra villages in Dhamtari. Notably, Baghel had raised the issue of alleged –‘tyranny and injustice’ at the hands of district administration while vacating the villages- during the recently concluded Monsoon session of State Legislative Assembly. The Forest Minister in his reply while refusing the charges had assured the Chhattisgarh Assembly that appropriate action was taken by the administration and he would personally take the Congress leaders to the villages for taking stock of the ground situation.

State Congress Chief Bhupesh Baghel while talking to The Pioneer said that it was clear that the huts were burnt. He informed that people in those villages were living there since 1978. “Former Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar who was the district collector in 1987 had assured the villagers in written that he would try to solve their problem,” Baghel informed. Meanwhile, Congress Legislature Party Leader TS Singhdeo said that there is video record which shows that the huts are being burnt in presence of forest guards, members of ‘Van Adhikar Samiti’ and police personnel. “It was clearly seen on the spot that farming was done and about 4-5 huts were burnt,” Singhdeo said while adding that Congress party is with the villagers.Meanwhile,  Forest Minister Mahesh Gagda could not be   reached for his comments on the issue. (The Pioneer 22/7/16)

Tribal women accuse forest officials of putting them through strip-search (6)

THENI: A group of tribal women from Kadamalaikundu has demanded action against officials of Forest Department, who allegedly forced them to remove their saris in Cumbum reserve forests. In a petition submitted to Superintendent of Police V. Baskaran here on Monday, S. Paputhai, of Paliyar Colony, Kadamalaikundu, said she and five other tribal families were returning home after collecting forest produce from Cumbum reserve forests on July 16 when a four-member team of forest officials, led by Ranger Sekar, intercepted them and seized the produce, including honey, and frisked them. “They ordered my husband and other men to remove their shirts and dhotis in the name of checking. “Later, they forced us to remove our saris in public. A sum of Rs. 2,000 and a mobile phone were seized from us,” she alleged.On July 17, the Forest Department officials arrested five persons, who went to Varushanadu forest office, to question their atrocity against women. “Now they are in Madurai prison,” said Dhanalakshmi, another tribal woman. Forest officials said that a section of tribal people threw stones at Varushanadu forest office on July 17 and five persons were arrested and remanded in judicial custody in this connection.The women appealed to the Superintendent of Police to take action against Forest Rangers Sekar and Karnan and other officials. A similar petition was submitted to Collector N. Venkatachalam. The Collector said that the petition had been forwarded to Uthamapalayam police for investigation. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Tribals demand strict action against cops (6)

BERHAMPUR: Tribals, Dalits and social activists at a memorial meeting held at Gumudumaha village on Tuesday demanded immediate strict action against police personnel of the Special Operation Group (SOG) who had killed five innocents on July 8 during an anti-Maoist operation. Over 2000 tribals and Dalits from Gumudumaha village as well as other parts of Kandhamal and Kalahandi districts participated in the meeting despite a bandh call by Maoists in protest against the killings. The meeting coincided with a post-funeral tribal ritual, ‘mada thipei’, held for three Kui tribals of Gumudumaha killed in the incident. Mass prayer was also held in memory of two persons of the Christian community. President of the tribal organisation Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samity (KSSS) Lambodar Kanhar, president of the Odisha Krushak Sabha (OKS) Abhiram Behera, convener of Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC), spokesperson of CPI-ML (New Democracy) B.C.Sarangi, former MP Nakul Nayak, former State minister Bhajaman Behera, Congress leader Klesha Pradhan as well as BJD MLA who represents the area, Rajib Patra ,attended the memorial meeting. Various tribal and Dalit village heads also spoke on the occasion. Memorial constructed in memory of the five deceased, erected at the spot of the shoot-out, was also unveiled. The activists demanded murder cases to be filed against those policemen as early as possible. They also felt that the seven-lakh compensation declared by government was not adequate and demanded that it be enhancedIt was decided that on August 1 another mass rally would be held at Baliguda in Kandhamal district for demand of strict legal action against the ‘erring’ policemen. Meanwhile, the second day of the two-day bandh had little impact in Kandhamal district that included the Daringbadi, Baliguda region where Gumudumaha is located. (Times of India 27/7/16)

Govt. has declared war on tribals: Left (6)

BHUBANESWAR: The Naveen Patnaik government has declared a war on tribal communities with every tribal being branded as sympathiser of the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs), allege five Left parties here on Saturday. Drawing attention of Governor S. C. Jamir about deaths of innocent tribals, who were killed by security forces in alleged anti-Naxal operation at Gumudumaha village in Kandhamal district, these parties said the incident was highly deplorable and instead of addressing their livelihood plights, the State machinery had almost declared war on them. “Tribal pockets of Odisha have been fortified with Central and State security forces. They are denied entry inside the forest they have been depending on. Innocent tribals have been caught between the Maoist violence and repression by the State,” said Suresh Panigrahi, member of State secretariat of CPI(M) here. Left parties said five innocent tribals and Dalits were killed from a close distance of 50 to 60 feet on the fateful night of July 8 last when they were returning home in an auto-rickshaw from Baliguda after withdrawing their MGNREGA wage dues. “Gumudumaha incident is not an isolated case. Last year, two such incidents of killing had taken place. First it was under Kotagada Police Station limits of Kandhamal district and the second one took place at Karlapat forest in Kalahandi district. Since, no action had been initiated against the security personnel responsible for the killings, such incidents are on the rise,” said Dibakar Nayak, CPI State secretary. The Left parties have warned the State government that excessive force would further alienate the tribals. They also drew attention on the pitiable condition of Juanga tribes in Nagada, a hilltop village in Jajpur district. It is alleged that 19 children, who have been suffering from chronic malnutrition, died of different diseases in the past few months. “Worst sufferers of poverty and backwardness in Odisha are tribals and Dalits. The government is paying scant attention to address their basic needs. The fund being allotted under Tribal Sub Plan head is being diverted to non-tribal areas,” they said. The Left parties demanded that the family members of victims of fake encounters be paid Rs 50 lakh in compensation and criminal proceedings be initiated against guilty officials. They also demanded provisioning of housing and drinking water facilities for all households in Nagada village. Leaders of CPI (M-L) Liberation, SUCI (C) and AIFB had also joined the delegation, which also apprised the Governor of the situation of tribals. (The Hindu 31/7/16)

WOMEN

Sexual harassment case against Delhi’s ex-chief secretary (8)

New Delhi: A case of sexual harassment was registered against former Chief Secretary Omesh Saigal on Saturday after a complaint of a 52-year-old woman was forwarded to the Delhi Police by the Delhi Commission for Women. Saigal has termed the charge “false”.”We have registered a case against Omesh Saigal under Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South), Nupur Prasad told IANS. She said that the alleged incident took place on June 18, when the women went for swimming in pool of the Panchshila club, of which Saigal is also president, in south Delhi. In her complaint, she mentioned that the accused blocked her way while she was swimming. The complainant, who approached the DCW on June 23, claimed that he had on earlier occasions also deliberately blocked her way while swimming which led her into arguments with him. DCW chief Swati Maliwal took strong note of the suspension of complainant and her husband’s club membership. “Instead of forwarding the complaint to the Local Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act, 2013, the complaint was heard by a sub-committee set up by the management committee of the club. Also, subsequently, in blatant disregard of the act, the club membership of the complainant and her husband was suspended,” the DCW said in a notice to the club. Saigal meanwhile told IANS: “Charges against me are absolutely false.” “I have also filed a defamation case against the woman in Saket court and a notice was served to her on June 22,” he added. (Business Standard 2/7/16)

Anti-female foeticide law not effective enough? (8)

Imphal, July 03 2016: The Govern-ment of Manipur is still unable to implement the Pre-Con-ception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Pro-hibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 effectively in the State. It has been reported that the most common device used in committing female foeticide is ultrasound machine although it is intended to serve as a pre-natal diagnostic technique. An ultrasound machine can determine whether a foetus is a male or a female. RIMS Department of Gynaecology, Head Dr Ranjit said that sex of a foetus can be determined 18 months after conception. Majority of the medical professionals have by and large accepted that ultrasound machine is most widely used in committing female foeticide. The Pre-Conception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 lays special emphasis on use of ultrasound machines by gynaecologists, particularly in private clinics and hospitals. Under the Act, all Government hospitals, private hos- pitals and clinics should get themselves registered with the Family Welfare Department for using ultrasound machines and they should send reports for every case. The reports should be in the format prescribed by Family Welfare Department and they should be accompanied with a declaration from patients that they have no intention to determine sex of foetuses and another declaration from consultant doctors that they never disclose the sexes of foetuses to their patients. To look into this matter, one PNDT cell has been opened at Family Welfare Department. After receiving certificate for installing ultrasound machines, the same machines should be used by doctors/medical professionals who have completed MD in Radio Diagnostics or Diploma in Radio Diagnostics or three to nine months course on Radio Diagnostics and Gynaecologists who possess ultrasound experience certificate of registration. All hospitals/clinics should display sign boards/banner clearly embossed with the words ‘Sex determination is not done here’. Altogether 107 private hospitals, clinics and Government hospitals including RIMS and JNIMS have been registered at the PNDT Cell for using ultrasound machines. Dr Arun of PNDT Cell told The Sangai Express that maximum efforts are being invested to get all ultrasound machine users registered. However, not all registered hospitals/clinics send reports of using ultrasound machines. Efforts are also on to make all ultrasound machines immobile, rather than being portable, Dr Arun said. Non-compliance with the Pre-Conception and the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act 1994 entails a jail term of three years and a fine of Rs 10,000 .(E-Pao 3/7/16)

Khap bans mobile use by minor girls to protect them from sexual exploitation (8)

Agra: After a video showing a 15-year-old girl being forced to strip by her school director was widely circulated on WhatsApp, a khap panchayat in Etah district has banned the use of mobile phones by girls below 18 years of age. The diktat was issued in a gathering of around 4,000 people by a Lodhi Rajput community panchayat in Bhilaipur village and was seen as a precautionary measure to protect girls from sexual abuse or exploitation. “It was a unanimous decision by Lodhi Rajputs. There will be a complete ban on mobile use by minor girls as these devices are corrupting them. Our girls are often trapped and exploited by men from a particular community which has the backing of a powerful political party in the state,” Ramsewak Pehelwan, one of the community leaders, told TOI. On June 30, Jitendar Singh Yadav, director of Sri Krishna Higher Senior Secondary School, allegedly leaked an explicit video of one of his girl students after she refused to have sex with him anymore. In the video, Yadav is seen forcing the minor to strip. “After last week’s incident, the panchayat has also decided to ensure that no child from the community will be studying in Yadav’s school. We are making list of schools where such incidents have taken place but have not been reported. There are at least 20 girls from our community who have been sexually exploited by their school teachers and administrators,” Pehelwan said. Meanwhile, Jitendar Singh Yadav, who was reported to be absconding after the incident, has been arrested by Etah police and has been booked under IPC’s Section 376 (punishment for rape), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and under the POCSO Act. “We haven’t received any complaint about the khap panchayat’s dictate and will look into the matter if we are approached by members of the community,” station officer, Baghwala police station, Anup Bharti told TOI. (Times of India 4/7/16)

47-year-old law can help distressed women in NRI marriages: Law Ministry (8)

NEW DELHI: A law enacted in 1969 offers a ray of hope for distressed women facing harassment in NRI marriages, a Parliamentary panel has been told. The Rajya Sabha Committee of Petitions was on Friday told by the Law Ministry that the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 has provisions to help women married to NRIs facing problems abroad, a panel member said. In most of the cases reported in media, the husband is already married and marries again in India. In certain cases, the husband marries another woman abroad and abandons his first wife. Abuse for dowry is another problem Indian women face after marrying NRIs. The committee had met to hear top officials of the Home Ministry and the Law Ministry on a petition “praying for solution of the problems arising out of marriage of Indian women with Non-Resident Indians”.Members who attended the meeting said most people are not aware of existence of such a law. The law was enacted “to make provision relating to marriages of citizens of India outside India.” One of the key clauses is Section 14 which states that whenever a marriage is solemnized under the law, the marriage officer will have to certify it in the Marriage Certificate Book which will be signed by the parties to the marriage and three witnesses. The certificate will be “deemed to be the conclusive evidence of the fact that a marriage under this Act has been solemnized, and that all formalities respecting the residence of the party concurred previous to the marriage and the signature of witnesses have been complied with.” The law also provides for ‘matrimonial relief’ for spouse. Sources said while various personal laws in the country can also apply, marriages solemnised under the Foreign Marriage Act will be governed by that law. The government, meanwhile, has decided to set up a committee to formulate a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed while dealing with cases of NRI men abandoning their wives, after the Women and Child Development Ministry received several such complaints.Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had recently met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and requested her to constitute a joint committee to develop an SOP. Once the SOP has been prepared, it will be shared with various Indian diplomatic missions abroad. (Times of India 10/7/16)

Centre lays down new rules, bans dress code for women in varsities (8)

New Delhi: The Centre has banned imposition of “discriminatory rules” against women students, like dress code, on the pretext of their safety in higher educational institutions. In a new set of regulations for dealing with cases of sexual harassment of women students and employees on campuses, the Centre has also restricted all higher educational institutions from imposing two different sets of hostel rules for men and women students. The provisions, recently notified by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), separately, are binding on the universities and colleges affiliated to the two regulatory bodies. Any violation of the regulations may lead to withdrawal of recognition granted by the two bodies. “Concern for the safety of women students must not be cited to impose discriminatory rules for women in hostels as compared to male students. Campus safety policies should not result in securitisation, such as over monitoring or policing or curtailing the freedom of movement, especially for women employees and students (sic),” stipulates UGC and AICTE regulations. The regulations providing restriction on over monitoring and policing of women students and employees in university and college campuses assumes significance as several higher educational institutions have imposed discriminatory rules against women in absence of such clear cut provisions. A few months ago, the Hindu College–affiliated to the Delhi University–imposed a dress code for women students, asking them to wear clothes as per the “normal norm of society” in common areas of the campus. The college administration, however, had to withdraw the dress code as it stoked a huge controversy leading to protest by students. A UGC official said: “The regulations have been formulated keeping in view the trends in the higher educational institutions. There are often reports about universities over imposing discriminatory rules for women. It is the responsibility of the institutions to ensure safety of women in the campus. But this does not mean you curtail their freedom.” (Deccan Herald 11/7/16)

World Population Day: Women’s college girls call for gender equality (8)

Patna: Eco Task Force, the green wing of Patna Women’s College, on Monday organised a poster exhibition based on themes like population control and gender equality, role of women in population control and problems of teenage girls. The exhibition, organised to mark the World Population Day, had posters showcasing the problems faced by fairer sex like depression and eve teasing. The programme was inaugurated by Dr Sister M Reema AC, assistant professor at the psychology department. T Divya of BCom third year won the first prize followed by her classmate Rikoo Srivastav who bagged the second prize and Pallavi Kumari and Anamika, who jointly won the third prize. Consolation prizes were given to Arti Kumari, Jagriti Singh and Apoorva Shishodia. Lecture on family planning: Population Research Centre of Patna University’s statistics department organised a lecture to mark the World Population Day on Monday. The theme of the lecture was “Issues of the world population and the present family planning scenario in India”. Citing research works around the globe, joint director of the centre Dr Dilip Kumar said the religious profile of the world was changing rapidly. He also spoke on major issues affecting the implementation of family planning programme in India.NIOS extends admission date: National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has extended the dates of admission in stream two for the last time on the request of students. Regional director of NIOS Sanjay Kumar Sinha said the last date for enrolment has been extended up to July 15 by the chairman of NIOS. Earlier, the admission process was to be over by June 30. PMCH function: PMCH’s department of orthopaedics in association with Bihar Orthopaedic Association on Monday decided to observe 2016-17 as year of knee. Dr Vishwendra Kumar Sinha, head of orthopaedic department, PMCH, said five seminars on knee will be organised during the year. (Times of India 12/7/16)

Sexual harassment victim can take three months’ leave (8)

New Delhi: A woman employee who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can take leave up to three months during the pendency of the inquiry into the complaint. DH file photo. For representation purpose A woman employee who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can take leave up to three months during the pendency of the inquiry into the complaint, the government said on Thursday. This special leave is in addition to the leave she is otherwise entitled to. “The leave so granted to the aggrieved woman under this rule shall not be debited against the leave account,” the latest office memorandum said. The Department of Personnel and Training has issued the office memorandum to announce the insertion of the new rule on the special leave connected with inquiry on sexual harassment in the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972. “Leave up to a maximum of 90 days may be granted to an aggrieved female government servant on the recommendation of the internal committee or local committee, as the case may be, during the pendency of inquiry under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” the rule said. A senior official said this would give the victim time to come to terms with the trauma following the incident. It will also give the employee an option not to encounter the accused in office. Earlier the problem  was that the employee had to take leave if she wanted to skip office after filing the complaint. The official said this is part of the pro-women initiatives of the government. “We need to help them come out of the trauma. Such initiatives will send a message to women employees that the government is serious and they need not fear anything,” the official added. (Deccan Herald 14/7/16)

Violence against women on the rise in state (8)

Guwahati: The latest official figures from Assam Police on violence against women in the state are alarming. An average of 20 cases of ‘cruelty by husband’ were registered daily in the first three months of this year. The period saw 1,855 cases of cruelty by husband registered in all, according to Assam Police records. The number of cases of domestic violence is the highest among all categories of cases of crime against women in the state since 2005. “From 2005 to March 2016, at least 56,896 cases of cruelty by husbands were registered in the state,” records stated. The number of cases in the category has been on the rise. “Around 2,200 cases of cruelty by husbands were registered in 2005. By 2015, this had risen to 9,553. Growing awareness about women’s rights has also encouraged more women to come out and file cases against atrocities by their husbands,” a state police official said, citing the records. A recent study by a local NGO, North East Networks (NEN), working for women’s rights had also drawn attention to the horrifying situation in the state’s rural areas. It found that 83.7% women were physically abused by family members, husbands or employers. The study also found that 34.1% women were forced into sexual intercourse. Besides undergoing physical abuse, women in rural Assam have been found to be facing verbal abuse by their husbands or in-laws for not bearing a child, especially a male child. “The pathetic reality is that women are just not safe and secure anywhere,” said a domestic violence victim. Most cases were reportedly registered in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Tinsukia, Darrang, Udalguri, Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. An average of 20 cases of ‘cruelty by husband’ were registered daily in the first three months of this yearThe period saw 1,855 cases of cruelty by husband registered in all, according to Assam Police records (Times of India 19/7/16)

86 sexual assault cases reported every month (8)

CHANDIGARH: At a time when there is massive outrage against the recent gang rape of a dalit girl in Rohtak, it has come to the fore that Haryana has witnessed 520 cases of sexual assault against women in just six months, that comes out to be 86 cases every month and almost three cases every day. This is the same number of rape cases in 2016 as reported in the first six months of 2015. Significantly, such cases had increased at the rate of 7% annually in the past 10 years from 2006 to 2015. Not only the figures are alarming, rape of minor girls and gang rapes have increased the worries of women activists in the state. “Five-year-old and 13-year-old girls have been sexually abused in the past few days in Rohtak district. The criminals just see the kids and dalits as easy targets,” says Savita Berwal, a Rohtak-based woman activist of Haryana. Recently, a dalit college girl was again gang-raped in Rohtak within three years allegedly by the same five youths. Berwal said the criminals want to shatter girls especially those who show courage. An MPhil in mathematics, Berwal is state unit joint secretary of All-India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) and fighting for the rights of women in the state for the past 10 years. “In the absence of jobs and creative works, the growing army of bachelors is indulging in crimes and drugs. Easily available pornography and poor literature is also contributing to this tendency,” she said. Taking on the political leadership, the woman activist says that increasing curbs on girls especially diktats regarding their dresses is an attempt to demoralize them and encourage the criminals. “What do they want to achieve by asking girls not to wear jeans. Why this ‘Lakhsman Rekha’ for women only,” she said. Haryana State Women Commission chairperson Suman Dahiya pointed out a new aspect of the rape cases, which are reported by the girls after live-in-relationships. “Such complaints are even made after staying together for two to three years. There should be clear guidelines for such cases,” said Dahiya, a lawyer by profession. Haryana DGP K P Singh said the women police stations set up in 2015 have helped reduce the cases of crime against women. In support of his plea, Singh shared comparative figures between January 1 to June 30 in 2015 and from January 1 to June 30 this year. He said during the last 10 years, the rape cases had increased at a rate of 7% per year but these figures have remained static during the last two years. He said similarly, the cases of kidnapping have reduced by 3% whereas these cases had increased at the rate of 32% per year in the past 10 years. He said this year from January 1 to June 30, as many as 801 cases of kidnapping were registered as compared to 825 cases registered during the corresponding period last year.He said that this year from January 1 to June 30, as many as 863 cases of eve-teasing have been registered as compared to 953 cases registered during the corresponding period last year. (Times of India 21/7/16)

 ‘Most women suffer online abuse in silence’ (8)

Kochi: 89% of abuse survivors refused to seek police help in bringing the attackers to book, finds survey. A year ago, a young woman engineer at Technopark, found herself being bombarded by someone with abusive, vulgar messages on Facebook and on the phone. When she threatened him with legal action, he laughed it off, and dared her. At her wit’s end, the woman wanted to file a police complaint, but her parents disapproved. It would tarnish her reputation, they thought, and advised her to bail herself out of social media. “They were eager to blame the platform rather than address the issue of abuse. Any legal recourse, for them, would be a blot on their daughter’s marital prospects. It’s just a miniscule percentage of online abuse survivors who steadfastly file complaints and see them to their logical conclusion. An astonishing 89 per cent of respondents refused to seek police help in bringing the attackers to book,” maintains Nandakishore Harikumar, chief operating officer of reputation management and data mining firm GOIS Software Labs, which has recently held a survey on online abuse faced by women across Kerala. The Kochi-based firm obtained responses from 100 dynamic women online users across professions (doctors, engineers, teachers, etc) and in the 25-35 age group over the past four months for the survey. In its wake, informal parleys were held by the survey team members with male online users aged between 15 and 21 — as most abusers were found to be from this age group — to gauge what they thought of active women online users.The survey revealed that 56 per cent of women face sexist remarks online. While just about 12 per cent of women online users are well-versed with legal recourses, 22 per cent are moderately aware of the provisions and another 22 per cent somewhat aware. A good 16 per cent do not have any inkling of the legal provisions against online abuse of women. “But the fact is that, even among those that are acutely aware of the legal channels, hardly a percentage takes the legal route. Lack of support from family and discouragement on the part of law enforcing agencies also dissuade them from seeking legal recourse,” says Mr. Harikumar.Facebook (89 per cent), mobile phone (83 per cent) and Whatsapp (50 per cent) are the most common channels of abuse, stalking and harassment and nearly 46 per cent of women have uneasy memories of being stalked online. Most attackers (64 per cent) are absolute strangers who target women at random, but a fairly large number of attacks (18 per cent) have emanated from strained relationships in personal life and at workplace. If it was pure sexual harassment (55 per cent) in most cases, 49 per cent of attacks came from men whose love interest was unreciprocated. .. (The Hindu 22/7/16)

Sexual harassment: Paid leave major relief to victims, say activists (8)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The 90-day paid leave granted to a victim of sexual harassment at workplace comes as a major relief to many women employees in the government. Though this provision has been framed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, it came into force recently as the Department of Personnel and Training incorporated it in the Central Civil Services (leave) Rules, 1972. Women activists term the paid leave as a welcome move aimed at providing solace to victims to a certain extent and help them recoup before they restart their professional life. “However, the absence of the victim should not be misused to dilute the case or protect the offender. Though the 90-day leave helps a victim to stay away from the workplace for a while and overcome the trauma, enough care should be taken to ensure that the accused does not get away with the offence,” points out M. Kameswari from the Working Women Coordination Committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Working women feel that the key objective of the significant move should be to prevent atrocities against them and provide a safe environment at workplace. “In most cases, the molester is hardly getting punished and the victim is often treated to a hostile work environment. This is attributed to varied reasons including influence of political parties and abuse of power,” laments R.N. Madhavi, city secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association. Terming the 12-week leave as much-needed relief, psychologists say that this period will be instrumental in addressing the trauma that one has gone through. “Staying away from office will help the victim to erase emotional stress to a substantial extent. But it gravely depends on one’s emotional and physical wellbeing and severity of the abuse experienced,” says S. Radha Rani, Superintendent of the Government Hospital for Mental Care. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Four forest officials booked for harassing tribal women (8)

Uthamapalayam/Theni:  After an enquiry conducted by Uthamapalayam Deputy Superintendent of Police Annamalai in the Surulipatti tribal women harassment case at Royappanpatti police station on Thursday, Uthamapalayam police registered cases against four forest officials – Cumbum Forest Range Ranger Sekar, Forester Prince and two unnamed staff. Cases were filed against them under Sections 342, 294 (B), 354 and 379 of Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 (1) (E), 3 (1) (R), 3 (1) (S), 3 (1) (W1), 3 (2) (5A), 3 (2) (7) of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, according to police sources. Earlier, when Mr. Annamalai, along with women police officers, was conducting an enquiry with the five affected women and a child, members of various voluntary and human rights organisations staged a demonstration in front of Royappanpatti police station, demanding registration of cases against forest officials and their immediate arrest. Periyakulam Revenue Divisional Officer Jamuna conducted her first round of enquiry with the affected women at Kadamalaigundu on Wednesday. More than 15 tribal women had thronged the office of Theni Superintendent of Police on Monday, demanding action against the forest officials, who reportedly harassed the tribal women on July 16. On Wednesday, all India vice-president of All India Democratic Women’s Association U. Vasuki demanded an inquiry by a DSP-level police officer into the charges and the immediate arrest of the forest officials. Speaking to reporters near Theni, she said the affected women told her that the forest officials harassed a group of women and removed their dress – a 13-year-old girl was also among them – on the pretext of frisking them. The forest officials seized their cash and mobile phones, and the tribal women, along with the girl, had to trek 40 km to reach home in the night. Their husbands were arrested and remanded in judicial custody, they claimed. Ms. Vasuki demanded the police register cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and Child Harassment Act. She also criticised the district administration for constituting an RDO enquiry without registering a case. (The Hindu 29/7/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

10 child workers rescued in Surat (14)

Surat: Ten child labourers were rescued by a task force of the labour department from two textile markets located on city’s Ring Road on Wednesday. Official sources said the child labourers were rescued from the textile shops, where they were employed for organizing and packing saris in boxes on job work. All the rescued children hail from Rajasthan and are below 14 years of age. Official sources said the labour department’s task force personnel led by assistant labour commissioner Ashish Gandhi were on a routine survey operation in the textile market. During the operation, the task force team found child labourers at New T.T Market and Shiv Shakti Textile Market on Ring Road. The child workers were made to sit on the floor, beside the sari stacks and boxes and organize and pack saris in the boxes. “The child labourers were caught during the routine operation by the department. Due to frequent raids in the textile markets, the contractors and traders had shifted their illegal activity of employing child labourers to the residential societies in the surrounding areas. The contractors take the residential houses on rent for running the packaging unit employing the child labourers,” said assistant labour commissioner Ashish Gandhi. (Times of India 1/7/16)

Child rights commission to rehabilitate tortured boys (14)

Bengaluru: Three boys – all under 14 years – who were accused of shop-lifting in Hoskote and brutally assaulted by a shopkeeper and his associates on June 30 will be admitted to a boarding school by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) even as the police arrested three more persons in connection with the incident. After meeting the victims and their parents on Monday, Commission Chairperson Kripa Amar Alva told The Hindu that the parents have consented to the idea of admitting the children to a boarding school. “I have counselled the boys. Two of the boys are labourers while one is studying in 8 standard,” Ms. Alva said, adding that the commission will rehabilitate them. The victims narrated their ordeal and showed bruises and injury marks on their hands due to electric shocks administered to them. Unable to bear the beatings, they fell unconscious , but the accused sprinkled water to wake them and beat them again. They were allegedly tortured for over four hours. The commission has summoned the Hoskote police and submit a detailed report based on which necessary action would be taken. On Sunday night, the Hoskote police arrested Nooruddin, Asif and Abdul in connection with the incident. The total number of arrests has gone up to seven. The police said the accused abducted the three boys, took them to their shop and administered electric shocks. The three minors were later taken in a car to an isolated place where they were stripped and beaten up mercilessly. The accused had recorded the torture on their mobile phones and circulated the same as a warning against shop-lifting. (The Hindu 5/7/16)

Children turn policy makers, draft Guwahati Declaration (14)

PUDUCHERRY: Policy decisions relating to protection of children are no more an expertise of adults. Children are taking active part in deciding the strategies to protect themselves. For the first time, four children from Puducherry were part of a historical consultative meeting that drafted the Guwahati Declaration of Children. The children, from 11 states after having a ‘National level Consultation on Ending Violence against Children’ in Guwahati on June 21 and 22, discussed various issues of violence affecting the well-being of children and arrived at various demands. Nearly 35 children attended this meet. Two children from Anbalayam Trust for socio-economic empowerment of rural women and children and two special children from Satya Special School participated in the meeting. Fifteen-year-old Kavya from Anbalayam Trust said that they discussed five different issues including child labour, child trafficking, child marriage, child sexual abuse and corporal punishment. She added that they discussed how a child is affected and what action should be taken by the parents or government. Eighteen-year-old Subramani Anil added that the participants wanted a Children’s Group to be formed to raise awareness to stop child labour and motivate them to go to school. Fourteen-year-old Gautam added that people should be aware that corporal punishment is an offence. Thirteen-year-old Srinivasan from Satya Special School also took part. All the four children talked about the different issues affecting children and the demands they have put together in the Guwahati Declaration of Children. Besides categorising the issues where intervention was required, the children identified the stakeholders and explained their roles in each of the five issues faced by children. The stakeholders include children, their family, society, non-governmental organisations and government. The National Consultation on Ending Violence against Children was organised by the National Action and Coordinating Group . “National Action and Coordinating Group (NACG) is a parallel body to ‘South Asia Initiative for Ending Violence against Children’ (SAIEVAC). SAIEVAC is the apex body of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) created with a vision that all children, girls and boys, throughout South Asia enjoy their right to an environment free from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and discrimination,” said P. Joseph Victor Raj, Director, HOPE Puducherry. The purpose of NACG is to strengthen inter-agency work including the governments and children groups to end violence against children. NACG is composed of UN agencies, multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies, NGOs, civil society organisations, children and young people’s group. P. Joseph Victor Raj, Director, HOPE Puducherry, is one of the 12 National Executive Members of NACG India. (The Hindu 6/7/16)

Child marriage rampant in district (14)

Nashik: The district stands fourth in the list of the maximum number of child marriages reported in the state, according to the data procured from Childline, an NGO that works towards the rights and welfare of needy children. In 2015-16, Childline recorded the maximum number of child marriages, 42, in Ahmednagar, followed by 26 in Beed, 17 in Pune and 16 in Nashik. To rein in the widespread illegal practice, commissioner for woman and child welfare department K M Nagargoje recently held a video conference with the departments and ordered them to work relentlessly to make the state free of child marriage. The commissioner asked the department heads to set up prabhag and gram samitis at city and village levels with extensive awareness campaigns. Child marriage is a human rights violation. Despite laws against it, the practice remains widespread, in part because of persistent poverty and gender inequality. Pravin Aher, coordinator of Childline, Nashik, said that the NGO had been successful in preventing 12 child marriages in the district last one year. “On an average, we get 12-14 tip-offs on child marriages every year. We have put up boards in every community hall and lawn informing people about the disadvantages of child marriage, taking permission from the district collector for the purpose. We had undertaken this activity even before the commissioner directed the departments to initiate such an awareness campaign,” said Aher. In April alone, the peak of wedding season, Childline prevented seven child marriages within a fortnight. Besides, village child protection committees have been established in 1,138 of the 1,161 villages across the district to help curb child marriages. As many as 1,000 anganwadi sevikas have also been trained to handle such situations. District women and child development officer Devendra Raut said, “Following the directions of the women and child development commissioner to make the state completely free of child marriages, we instructed Childline and the district child protection officer to keep a check on the illegal practice. We also asked the gram sevak, protection officer and anganwadi sevikas to inform us if they came across any child marriage case.” … (Times of India 10/7/16)

Rights group: Afghan government fails to protect children (14)

KABUL: A leading international rights group said Thursday that an estimated quarter of all Afghan children work for a living yet the government fails to protect them from injury, death or exploitation. Human Rights Watch said children in Afghanistan work long hours for little or no pay, in labor-intensive industries, including carpet-weaving, brick-making, mining, metal work and farming. Many are forced to leave school early and are driven to hazardous work by extreme poverty, according to a report released by the New York-based group. HRW noted that Afghanistan’s labor law bans children under 14 from work and that Afghanistan has ratified international treaties on child labor. Still, Afghan authorities are failing to protect “tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions,” the report said. HRW said 25 percent of Afghan children aged between 5 and 14 years work, as do 22 percent of those aged between 12 and 14 years. The report also cited a 2013 survey by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that puts “the number of children working ‘in one way or another’ at 52 percent.” “Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, the HRW deputy Asia director. In 2014, the Afghan government listed 19 hazardous occupations banned for children but has “failed to enforce its labor laws through penalties for violators” and has had no strategy for ending exploitative labor practices, HRW said. It called on Kabul to abide by its legal obligations to end child labor, and on the country’s foreign backers “to take urgent steps to protect children” in Afghanistan from dangerous working conditions. (New Indian Exprexss 14/7/16)

Report: link between child marriage and dropouts (14)

BENGALURU: A report on child marriage brought out by the NGO, Samajika Parivarthana Janandolana, showed that 49 per cent of child brides interviewed did not have access to high school, and as a result were forced to discontinue their education. It showed that 91 per cent of the respondents, who had dropped out of school before the tenth standard, were married by the age of 16. Only 3 per cent of respondents continued their studies after marriage. The preliminary report on child marriage, conducted in association with the NGO Child Rights and You, examines socio-economic causes and effects of child marriage in Karnataka, based on interviews with 130 child brides. The report infers that poverty, endorsement of child marriage by religious authorities, and patriarchal traditions such as dowry demands are primarily to blame for early marriages. The child marriage report also points to education as the “key to breaking this vicious cycle”, suggesting a correlation between teenage dropout rates and child marriage. The report recommends that Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 be revised to cater to girls between the ages of 15 and 18. (The Hindu 15/7/16)

RS passes bill prohibiting employment of children below 14 (14)

New Delhi, Jul 19 () Rajya Sabha today passed a bill which prohibits employment of children below 14 years in all occupations or processes except where the child helps his family, with the provision for imprisonment up to two years for any violation. ‘The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill’ makes employment of children below 14 years as cognizable offence for employers and provides for penalty for parents. The Bill, which was almost unanimously passed by voice vote, defines children between 14-18 years as adolescents and lays down that they should not be employed in any hazardous occupations and processes. It provides for enhanced punishment for violators. The penalty for employing a child has been increased to imprisonment between 6 months and two years (from 3 months to one year) or a fine of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 (from Rs 10,000-20,000) or both. The second time offence will attract imprisonment of one year to three years from the earlier 6 months and two years. According to provisions of the Bill, no child should be employed in any occupation or process except where he or she helps his family after school hours or helps his family in fields, home based work, forest gathering or attends technical institutions during vacations for the purpose of learning. Hailing the development as a “historic” step, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said it is aimed at “total abolition of child labour”.Explaining the exception, Dattatreya said that ‘family’ has been exempted as the relationship between employer and employee does not exist and that a law should be framed keeping in mind the ground realities as well as ensuring that it is implementable. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Child Rights Commission against Saturday classes in CBSE schools (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Child Rights Commission on Tuesday directed the CBSE schools against conducting classes on Saturdays for students of Standard I to V. Commission chairperson Sobha Koshy and member J Sandhya directed the CBSE Regional Officer to issue a strict order in this regard. The Commission’s directive was in response to the complaint that a school in the Pathanamthitta district was conducting regular classes for standard I students on Saturdays. “As per the Right to Education Act, students up to the  standard  V should  have 200 working days. Students of standard VI to VIII should have 220 working days. In view of this, the Central schools and state government schools have  already made arrangements limiting the classes to the stipulated days,” the Commission observed.  It said that it was in view of the various physical and mental needs that the school working days were stipulated according to the Rights to Education Act. The  panel also pointed out that the schools cannot ignore such directives. It has asked the CBSE to file an action taken report by August 30. (New Indian Express 20/7/16)

Kids working as child labourers rescued

New Delhi: A total of 37 children, who were found making bindis and wedding cards in two factories in North East Delhi, were rescued by an NGO on Wednesday.The children, as young as ten, were involved in bindi making in a unit in the narrow lanes of Usmanpur and wedding cards in a unit in Pushta in the capital’s North East area. In one unit, the children were using large sheet cutters and printers with chemical inks to make the cards and in the other they were adding glitter and colour to bindis of all shapes and sizes. Most of the children rescued by Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA) NGO had been trafficked from various districts in Bihar by the local village men in a few cases and relatives in the others. Some of these minors had been working in this unit for more than a year, with little or no money being paid for their labour. According to information by the NGO, the children used to sit, eat, and sleep in the same room and were tutored that if someone comes and takes them they will be sent to jail. The elder ones used to get a small amount like Rs 100 once in two weeks or more than that and the minors didn’t get any money at all. This comes a day after the Rajya Sabha passed the Child Labour Bill (CLPRA) which restricts the employment of children below 14 years in all occupations and enterprises, except those run by his or her own family. Several NGOs and activists have said that the amendments do not protect children from the menace of child labour. “The new act is based on the premise that education and work for children can go hand in hand,” said NGO Child Rights and You (CRY). The children have been produced before the Dilshad Garden Child Welfare Committee and they will now be taken to the BBA’s rehabilitation centre Mukti Ashram in Burari. “Hundreds of children in the age group of 14-18 are employed in abusive and unhealthy circumstances like these. If the amendments to the CLPRA as passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday are also cleared by the Lok Sabha, these children will not be rescued because bindi making is not considered hazardous. In this way, the children will continue to be exploited legally,” said RS Chaurasia, Chairperson, BBA.BBA activists were accompanied by the local police, labour officials and civil defense personnels under the leadership of the SDM Seelampur. The BBA team will facilitate in receipt of their back wages and release certificates, along with completion of other legal formalities. FIRs will be lodged against the owners under relevant sections of the law. (Deccan Herald 21/7/16)

Ready reckoner for cops handling child abuse cases (14)

Panaji: Stop child abuse now (SCAN), a Goa-based NGO working on issues of child abuse, released a ready reckoner/guide for the Goa police with vital information on offences against children covered under various child specific Acts and sections under the Indian penal code (IPC) to guarantee greater safety for children, while dealing with child abuse complaints. The pocket-sized guide lists the offences against children, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, assault, corporal punishment, child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, kidnapping, child marriage, Internet related crimes, abandoning a child, begging, giving intoxicating substance and using children to supply intoxicating substances, along with their relevant sections under the Goa Children’s Act (GCA) 2003, Juvenile Justice Act 2015 that came into effect on January 1, 2016 and the IPC. Under the Juvenile Justice Act, offences have been classified into petty, serious and heinous offences. A separate section has been devoted to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, where the offences listed include penetrative sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual harassment, use of a child for pornographic purpose, storage of pornographic material involving a child, abetment of an offence and attempt to commit an offence where punishments go up to life imprisonment. The reckoner specifies that the GCA 2003 overrides POSCO 2012 as it entails greeter punishment. Other laws protecting the interest of children like the Guardianship and Ward Act 1890, The Factories Act, 1948, The Young Person (Harmful publication) Act 1956, the Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act 1960 etc are also mentioned. …  (Times of India 22/7/16)

Implications of the new Child Labour Bill (14)

This week, Rajya Sabha debated and passed a legislative proposal, which has a significant impact on minors below 18 years of age.  The intent of the Child Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2012 is to completely ban ‘children’ (i.e. those below 14 years) from working in any occupation or industry.  The Census data shows that, as of 2011, 4% of the child population was employed in the workforce.  This is about 1 crore children.  The Bill also prohibits ‘adolescents’ (i.e. those between 14-18 years) from working in hazardous jobs.  The Bill is expected to be debated in Lok Sabha in the coming few days. Currently, child labour is regulated under the Child Labour Act, 1986.  When this law was enacted, it intended to cover children below 14 years of age.  This law bans their working in hazardous industries.  From the provisions of the Bill, it seems that its thrust is to bring the 1986 Act in line with the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, that makes education up to 14 years free and compulsory.  This is because the Bill seeks to create an enabling environment for children to be in school, and not in any workplace.The Bill also complies with international norms that require the minimum age for entry into the workforce to be at least 14 years, and prohibits anyone below 18 years from being engaged in hazardous work. While the Bill intends to cover all children, it does allow them to work in two circumstances.  Firstly, it allows children to help out their family and family enterprisesoutside school hours.  This will includeany manufacturing activity, business or work done by family (i.e. parents, parents’ siblings and own siblings).  Secondly, it permits children to be employed in the audiovisual entertainment industry and sports, as long as the work does not affect their school education. On the one hand, the focus of the Bill is to provide an enabling environment where a child can go to school, and not have to earn.  But this may be constrained by challenges related to implementation of the law.  The Census data of 2001 showed that 12% of the working children were employed in hazardous industries, even after 15 years of implementation of the 1986 Act.  This indicates that it has been difficult to enforce the child labour law over the years.  More recent data on children employed in hazardous industries is not available, so it is not known whether implementation has improved since 2001.  While the Bill makes the law more stringent, it may face implementation-related challenges as well.Let us consider a scenario, where a child is engaged in agricultural activities.  To check whether this is prohibited under the Bill, one will have to inquire into whether the child is assisting his family or not.  If it is found that the child is helping out a family member, it will have to further checked if the child’s schooling is affected or not.  These aspects may be difficult to estimate, and may throw up more challenges….  (Business Standard 25/7/16)

 ‘High number of girls married before they turn 18’ (14)

HYDERABAD: Telangana has a long way forward to ensure welfare of children in difficult circumstances, noted child rights activists during a State-level meeting organised here on Monday. “The State ranks high in the country in the number of children, particularly young girls, married off before they turn 18,” said Ramesh Sekhar Reddy, referring to data from the country’s National Family Health Survey. According to the survey, around a quarter of the women aged between 20 and 24 surveyed last year were married before they turned 18, while nearly 11 per cent of the girls aged under 19 at the time of the survey were already mothers or were pregnant. The State-level consultation with NGOs working for children in Telangana was organised by Academy of Gadhian Studies at the behest of PLAN India, as part a countrywide exercise. The consultation saw representatives of nearly 15 NGOs from the city share problems and successes with the gathering. Activists said that the issue of child labour is persistent, as the State does not have adequate facilitates to rehabilitate them. They pointed out that child labour rescued in the city cannot even be housed temporarily, as the two State homes cater to children in conflict with the law. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

Centre asks Law Commission to examine uniform civil code issue (7)

New Delhi: Indicating need for wider consultation before taking a call on a uniform civil code, the government has asked the Law Commission to examine the issue. The Law Ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs has also asked the Commission to submit a report regarding the issue. Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had earlier said that the issue could be referred to the Law Commission for examination. Gowda had said “wider consultations” will be held with various personal law boards and other stakeholders to evolve a consensus and the process may take some time. “Even the Preamble of our Constitution and Article 44 of the Constitution do say that there should be a Uniform Civil Code. It needs to have a wider consultation,” he had said. A decision “cannot be done in a day or two. It will take its own time”, Gowda had said. Implementation of a common code is part of the BJP’s election manifesto. The move asking the law panel to examine the issue assumes significance as the Supreme Court had recently said it would prefer a wider debate, in public as well as in court, before taking a decision on the constitutional validity of ‘triple talaq’, which many complain is abused by Muslim men to arbitrarily divorce their wives. (Asian Age 1/7/16)

Reform must be logic for UCC, not bigotry (7)

About eight months after the Supreme Court sought the Modi government’s view on whether it proposed to make any moves in the direction of having a uniform civil code (UCC), the government has asked the Law Commission of India to present a report on the issue. With the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly election looming large, the communal angle has been underlined by some since the BJP and its precursor, the Jana Sangh, were always insistent on opening up the Muslim personal law space under the guise of common laws for all. But there is not a little hypocrisy here. Social and political groups inclined toward the play of Hindu religion in today’s politics, and Hindu traditionalists, had strongly resisted the Hindu Code Bill (enshrining many aspects of UCC) which sought to give Hindu women a fair and equal deal. President Rajendra Prasad was opposed while Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a strong proponent, as was law minister B.R. Ambedkar. The ruling Congress Party was divided. Eventually only a diluted version could be passed in Parliament. Seeing this state of affairs, the Nehru government, in spite of energetic pro-Hindu women recommendations of the B.N. Rau Committee coming down from before 1947, could do little more than put UCC in the Directive Principles of State Policy chapter of the Constitution, which contains some pie-in-the-sky goals — such as making all people equal and the like, although the then PM was a UCC votary as he was moved by the condition of women in society. In today’s context the social battles in the UCC context concern Muslim personal laws in light of discussions on obnoxious notions such as “triple talaq” and several other practices in some Muslim communities that put down women. Hindu communalists of all political shades are delighted to be pointing a finger at the Muslims. While opposing them, liberal and Left opinion strongly values gender parity and laws to raise women’s status. Many leading gender-conscious voices among Muslims want this goal attained, but not within the UCC construct as this has lately become tainted by association with strident anti-Muslim demands of Hindu communalists. We certainly need a wider debate if we are to maintain the logic of secular politics in a very diverse land, rather than incline toward pandering to perceived religious sentiments and associated politics. There should also be recognition that many aspects of Muslim personal law are indeed progressive and equality-oriented. Perhaps the aim for now could be something parallel to the Hindu Code Bill for Muslim women (although Hindu women still labour under inequalities) with the support not just of Muslim women but other enlightened elements, while also looking to block adherence to the backward customs and practices of all communities across the territory of India. (Asian Age 2/7/16)

Government will stand firm: Madhav on Kashmir situation (7)

New Delhi: BJP leader Ram Madhav on Saturday asserted that an “uncompromising” fight against terrorism is important for Jammu and Kashmir’s development and government will stand firm “eruption or no eruption”, as violence broke out in the Valley after the killing of militant Burhan Wani.”We will always try, be it the state government or the central government, to work for peace and security of the common man of the Valley and also to create atmosphere for development of the state. An uncompromising fight against terrorism is part of it and important,” he later said. Madhav, a party general secretary, is the organisation’s pointsman for the state. Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who is MP from Udhampur, praised the security forces and appealed for peace saying all sections of society must come together in the fight against terrorism, regardless of their political ideology. “We are proud of our security forces. They have achieved a major success on the counter terrorism front”, Singh told reporters in Jammu. “The fight against terrorism is universal and it has to be fought collectively and all sections of society regardless of their ideology must come together and unitedly fight it,” he said. “We appeal for maintenance of peace. The fight against terrorism is collective and requires a united effort of all stake holders in J&K,” he added. On providing security at living places for minorities, including colonies of Kashmiri Pandit employees in the Valley, he said, “The protection and safety of these places is responsibility of the Government and society. They should be provided full security.” (Asian Age 9/7/16)

Najma Heptullah resigns, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi gets charge of minority affairs ministry (7)

NEW DELHI: Union ministers Najma Heptullah and Gowdara Mallikarjunappa Siddeshwara on Tuesday resigned from the Union council of ministers. Their resignations were accepted by the President. Minister of state Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been given independent charge of ministry of minority affairs.Babul Supriyo has now been given the charge of the ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises. Supriyo has been relieved of the charge of minister of state in the ministry of urban development, and minister of state in the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation. The resignations come a week after PM Modi carried out a major expansion and reshuffle of his Cabinet on July 5. The exercise saw induction of 19 new faces in the ministry and changes in key portfolios of several ministers. (Times of India 12/7/16)

 ‘Minorities denied benefits’ (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to respond to a plea alleging that benefits for minority communities are being channelled to the Muslim majority in the State. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur issued notice to the Ministry of Minority Affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, National Minority Commission among others on the petition seeking the setting up of a State Minority Commission. The court, however, refused to restrain authorities from disbursing benefits to any community in the State and asked the parties to respond to the issue within four weeks. The apex court was hearing a PIL plea by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma who alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic ‘minorities’ in the State are being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” due to extension of benefits to unqualified sections of the population. “Communities which are eligible to be notified as minorities, were not awarded their due share of scholarship owing to their non-identification as minorities,” the petition said. (The Hindu 13/7/16)

Minorities should feel environment of trust, development:Naqvi (7)

New Delhi, Jul 14 () Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said there was a need to ensure that minority communities also feel the “environment of trust and development” created by the Modi government and asked officials to reach the benefits of development. “There is a need to ensure minority communities also feel environment of trust and development created by the Narendra Modi government in all sectors. “Along with framing development policies on paper and computer, the officials should also reach out to ground-level to fulfil government’s commitment towards empowerment of the poor,” the Minority Affairs Minister was quoted as saying in a statement during a meeting of senior officials of his ministry. Naqvi said he will take stock of how the schemes aimed at socio-economic-educational empowerment of minorities are being executed on ground after conclusion of forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament. “The Prime Minister has provided a blueprint for this and we have to construct a strong structure so that environment of prosperity and safety among the poor can be ensured and the poor can be made a part of the mainstream development process,” he added. Naqvi also asked officials to implement Centre’s schemes in coordination with states. He asserted that there is no shortage of funds for welfare of minorities, but insisted the money should be spent “with honesty” so that last person in the society gets the benefits of development. “We will keep a close eye on implementation of all welfare schemes to ensure their proper implementation at grassroots level. Officials have a crucial role to play in this regard,” he said. Naqvi said providing better education and employment opportunities to minorities, particularly youths, figures high on his agenda. “We will have to treat the issue of uplift of minorities as a duty and not a formality,” he added. Without naming any party, Naqvi said minorities were left behind as “only formalities were completed in the name of their development” over several decades and stressed on the need for empowering them with “complete honesty”. (Times of India 14/7/16)

Minorities Welfare Department amends Shaadi Mubarak rules (7)

HYDERABAD: To deal with lacunae and plug holes in the implementation of one its flagship schemes, the Minorities Welfare Department has amended certain procedures with regards the Shaadi Mubarak scheme. The department has now made it clear that only tahsildars will verify and process applications. In the past, it was the executive directors of the Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation. The list of beneficiaries will now be approved or countersigned by the concerned legislator. This list will then be sent district minorities welfare officer after which pre-printed cheques will be handed over by the legislator. The department has made clear that these cheques should be disbursed at the mandal or taluq headquarters.The department has done away with the previous system of online transfer of money into the bank account of the beneficiary. Instead, a crossed cheque in the name of the bride’s mother will be issued. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Forum slams Centre for tinkering with citizenship act (7)

Guwahati: The Prabhajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), an anti-immigrant forum led by Supreme Court advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, has objected to the Centre’s move to amend the citizenship act to make Hindus and Sikhs, who have fled from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan out of fear of religious persecution, eligible for Indian citizenship. The Centre on Tuesday tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha, which, PVM said, would pose a serious threat to the existence of the indigenous people of Assam. Thousands of illegal Hindu immigrants have already taken refuge in the state fearing religious persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh. “The priority of any government should be to protect its citizens. Recent studies based on the population growth till 2001 said indigenous population of Assam would become a minority by 2040 or 2047. Due to illegal immigration from the neighbouring countries, natives of at least 18 out of 32 districts will be a minority,” said Hazarika, convener of the forum. Criticizing the state government, PVM alleged that while all the other NE states strongly acted against illegal migrants, regardless of their political affiliation, the Assam government had remained silent on them. He added, “The people of the state gave their mandate to the new government on the assurance of jati, mati, bheti and suraksha kobos (protective shield). Has the influx threat disappeared because the election was won?” Referring to the battle of Saraighat that BJP often evoked during the election campaign this year, the forum said, “After winning the battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan never joined hands with the Mughals. Today, the silence of the elected representatives and the state government means that this is a battle they never intended to fight.” The Citizenship Bill is meant to prevent these religiously persecuted minorities of the neighbouring countries from being treated as illegal migrants here. They will be granted citizenship after completing six years’ stay in India. (Times of India 22/7/16)

‘Rights of minorities will be protected in education policy’ (7)

CHENNAI: Parliamentarians who participated in the seminar on the draft of the National Education Policy assured the Christian missionaries that they would ensure protection to the rights of the minorities. Participants expressed concern over how the government did not consider opinions from grassroots workers such as teachers to develop a comprehensive policy. At a seminar organised by the Consortium of Christian Minority Higher Educational Institutions and Stella Maris College, Ernakulam MP K.V. Thomas and Rajya Sabha members T.K. Rangarajan (CPI-M) and Tiruchi N. Siva (DMK) assured the consortium that the policy would be discussed threadbare in the House before being approved. Mr. Thomas recalled his days as teacher and said colleges were forced to seek donations as government funding was inadequate. Schools had collected donations for noon meal scheme to ensure that children did not drop out of school. Participants should draft a new policy and forward it for discussion, said Mr. Rangarajan. The present government was attempting to promote “fascistic Hindu Rashtra by replacing Indian history with mythology and Indian philosophy with Hindu theology,” he said. Mr. Siva said his leader M. Karunanidhi had issued a detailed statement on the party’s stand on the policy.Mr. Siva said the government should constitute a committee that includes academics, representatives from marginalised sections, minorities, and the people with disabilities to draft a new education policy. The thrust on regulations and absence of academicians’ view points were a cause for concern, said Joshua Mar Ignathios, chairman of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India said. The policy had ignored the poor and dealt marginally with education of women and girl children. The focus was on use of technology and mathematics and science. There was an absence of attention to social sciences, he said. The seminar was held invite suggestions on the policy and forward them to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

Lok Sabha discusses atrocities on Dalits, TMC slams PM Modi’s ‘silence’ (7)

New Delhi: Cutting across party lines, members in the Lok Sabha Monday highlighted the cases of atrocities on Dalits in various parts of the country and demanded steps to prevent them. In the Rajya Sabha, members belonging to the Trinamool Congress staged a walkout to press for a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on attacks on Dalits. LJP member Chirag Paswan, son of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, wondered “who could the 20 crore Dalits of the country look up to for justice”. He raised the issue of two Dalit youths being allegedly thrashed and urinated upon in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. He claimed that a number of cases of atrocities on Dalits had been reported in Darbhanga and Kishanganj because the state government had not acted “against such crimes”. Pappu Yadav, dissident RJD member, charged the Uttar Pradesh government with an attempt to create a rift among different castes. Meenakshi Lekhi of the BJP saw “a lot of politics” in atrocities on Dalits. She cited a number of derogatory expressions used for different denominations of Dalits, and claimed that while they had all been banned, some of them had come back in usage since the assumption of power by the new government in Delhi (implying AAP). “Usage of such words should be stopped,” she said. Mullapally Ramchandran of the Congress referred to the arrest of two sisters on a complaint made by a CPM worker in Kerala and claimed that, as they were daughters of a Dalit leader, they were harassed by police at the instance of Left activists. While his party colleagues K C Venugopal and Anto Antony backed him, CPM members M B Rajesh and P K Biju continued to interrupt him throughout. Thokchom Meinya of the Congress flagged the alleged racial harassment of a Manipuri woman by an immigration officer. He said that people from the Northeast had been facing such treatment even 70 years after Independence, which was reflective of the “failure of nation-building”. He sought to know why the Northeast did not find mention in the National Anthem and why textbooks didn’t teach history of that region. He sought a strong anti-racial law in India. In the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool member Derek O’Brien said he had given a notice under Rule 267 seeking adjournment of business to take up a discussion on the “trend of disregarding the Constitution” and on the “rising protests across the country over attacks of Dalits and minorities”. His party colleague Sukhendu Sekhar Roy claimed that the rights of Dalits and minorities were being curtailed. “The Prime Minister has to come and make a statement on growing atrocities on SCs and STs,” he demanded. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said while the subject was important, the notice under Rule 267 had been disallowed. TMC members then started shouting slogans, calling for the PM to make a statement, before trooping out of the Rajya Sabha. (Indian Express 26/7/16)

Congress questions Modi’s silence on ‘gau goondagardi’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Congress on Wednesday said Sangh outfits have launched “goondagardi” in the name of “gauraksha”, asking why was Prime Minister Narendra Modi silent on repeated attacks on Dalits and Muslims. Attacking BJP for the assault on two women from the minority community for allegedly carrying beef, AICC spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked if the spurt in such aggression was a result of the government’s support for “parivar outfits” with an understanding that authorities would ignore their crimes. Congress general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh said anti-social elements, with saffron bands around their neck, were extorting money from trucks (carrying cattle) in the name of “gauraksha” across India. He asked why wasn’t police acting against them. Singhvi asked if Modi had decided that from “poor to Dalits to minorities, all would be tortured and the government would close its eyes”. “This was not happening a few years ago. It has only started in last two-three years,” he noted.Singhvi said, “The PM’s silence on these issues has made us speechless. Do we have to transpose him to a rally for his eloquence to return? Is his eloquence only for the haves and not for poor, Dalits and minorities.” Singhvi said it has now been established that the cow for which Dalits were assaulted in Gujarat was killed by a lion.”The so-called forward class will not touch its carcass. The Dalits are forced to clear the carcass and when they do so, they are mercilessly beaten up,” he said. (Times of India 29/7/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Muslim women campaign to end triple talaq curse in India (7)

MUMBAI: Just hours after Shagufta Sayyd was married, her new husband told her he was having a relationship with another woman. He was clear the two would have no future, the 21-year-old Sayyd said. He was only marrying her to please his mother. “He said, ‘no, I don’t want to keep you,’” she said. “So he said, divorce, divorce, divorce, three times, and that was it.” Sayyd still insists on using her husband’s surname, until she can end the marriage officially in a court. But like many other women from India’s large Sunni Muslim minority, her fate and status are governed by Muslim Personal Law that follows the tenets of the Islamic faith, as interpreted by local imams and religious schools across the country. The so-called triple talaq, or instant divorce, has been banned in more than 20 Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. But in India, the practice is allowed thanks to the country’s rules protecting Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities following religious law. Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. Those laws include allowing men to divorce their wives by simply uttering the word “talaq,” or divorce in Urdu, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium including telephone, text message or social media post.Some women are fed up with what they say is an archaic and patriarchal rule that too often leaves them destitute. Muslim women do not have the same right, and those left by their husbands have no claim to alimony though they can collect a small payment for three months after divorce. “They have been divorced by speed post, by sending out letters. Some have just simply said “talaq” three times and the divorce has happened,” Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, or the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement. The movement has been fighting for equal laws for Muslim women for six years. “There are cases where women don’t even know that they’ve been divorced,” Niaz said. “The children are without any support. So, it has become very convenient for Muslim men to just say talaq thrice and it is just so easy for him to get the woman out of his life.” Legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has been pushing for uniformity in laws. In 1985, the top court ruled ordered a man to pay alimony to his elderly wife, after verbally divorcing and abandoning her. … (The Economic Times 3/7/16)

IUML opposes move for uniform civil code (7)

Expressing protest against the move of the Union government to implement a uniform civil code, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) on Saturday made it clear that it would soon team up with like-minded organisations and personalities in the country to project their apprehensions on the plan and win a favourable action. IUML secretary E.T. Mohammed Basheer, who explained the party’s stance on the issue at a press conference here, alleged that it was part of a communal agenda endorsed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Even the educational sector in the country was severely communalised with odd reforms and actions, he said. According to Mr. Basheer, the Union government was even reluctant to discuss the findings of the T.S.R. Subramanian committee on new education policy. “The BJP wanted to play communal card in all sectors with the hope that it will fetch them political gains,” he said. The IUML leader said a two-day national executive committee meeting of his party scheduled to commence in New Delhi on July 20 would discuss the concerns of all religious minorities on the uniform civil code and formulate a common opinion for joint action. “The IUML has already submitted a memorandum to the President with signatures of thousands of citizens demanding the removal of Article 44 (secure a uniform civil code) from the Directive Principles of the State policy to ensure justice for religious minorities,” he said. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

IS anti-Islamic, they are not Muslims, says Lucknow Imam (7)

Lucknow: Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahli, Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow, called the Islamic State (IS) as “anti-islamic” on the occasion of Eid on Thursday. He claimed that those who attack pious places like Madina in the month of Ramzan cannot call themselves “Islamic”. “The acts of IS are in no way in accordance to the preaching of Islam. They are anti-Islamic. They are not Muslims,” the Imam told The Indian Express. Condemning attacks in Bangladesh, including the one at the biggest Eid gathering in Sholakia on Thursday, Farangi Mahli said: “Attacks (happening) in the month of Ramzan, including one in the pious city of Medina. In most of these attacks, 90 per cent of the victims are Muslims. This does raise a serious question mark and requires an investigation.”He said: “Ramzan is the most pious month for Muslims and Mecca-Medina are considered the most pious cities… Kharab se kharab Musalman bhi kabhi aisa nahi karega (Even bad Muslims won’t do such a thing)… (Certain elements) are at work to defame Muslims and Islam, which should be investigated.” Farangi has appealed to the United Nations to identify those behind such conspiracies. The Aishbagh Eidgah, meanwhile, for the first time made arrangements for women to offer namaz on Eid. “This year, several controversies have surfaced concerning Muslims. First, there was a controversy regarding talaq… then on other issues, it was projected that ulemas were hurdles in the way of progress of Muslim women… The idea is to give a rest to all controversies,” said the Imam. (Indian Express 8/7/16)

BSP to field 100 Muslims in 2017 UP elections – Times of India (7)

BIJNOR: The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Saturday announced its decision to field five Muslim candidates out of eight assembly seats in Bijnor. Mayawati’s apparent attempt at combining Dalit-Muslim votes has sent the ruling Samajwadi Party into a tizzy. The SP, on the other hand, has only fielded four Muslim candidates for the district’s eight seats. Notably, BSP has tentatively decided to field over 100 Muslim candidates, its highest ever, in the 2017 polls – majority of them in the western Uttar Pradesh. Bijnor has a significant Muslim population. Many assembly segments here have more than a lakh Muslims and over 50,000 Dalit votes. In the last assembly elections, BSP had won four seats in the district while BJP and SP got two each.BSP’s Moradabad mandal coordinator Jitendra Sagar said, “The decision to field five Muslim candidates here was taken by party supremo Mayawati. It will surely benefit our party’s prospects in the 2017 polls.” According to a recent report, BSP has tentatively decided to field over 100 Muslim candidates, its highest ever, in the 2017 polls – majority of them in the western Uttar Pradesh.SP’s district president Anil Yadav, however, said, “BSP’s strategy will not impact our party. Our foundation is solid. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is working very well. Our party will retain power in the next polls.” (Times of India 10/7/16)

Muslim groups, NGOs rally around Zakir Naik (7)

Pune: Several Muslim groups, NGOs and citizens from the city have joined hands to support Dr Zakir Naik, whose speech reportedly inspired one of the five Bangladeshi militants involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka. The Maharashtra Action Committee (MAC) and Kul Jamaat E Tanzeem held two separate meetings on Sunday in Kondhwa and Camp area of Pune, in which members of at least 25 organisations participated. On Tuesday evening, a joint meeting of members of all these organisations was conducted for deciding an action plan to raise support for Naik.Azar Tamboli, general secretary of the MAC, said, “We do have differences on certain issues with Zakir Naik, but the way he is being targeted now is wrong. There is no evidence about his involvement in any terror activities. Putting a ban on him is against the freedom of speech and expression. So we have decided to support him.”“The NSA says Wahhabi Islam is not good for India. This is a wrong statement. Majority of the Muslims follow Wahhabism, which does not promote terrorism. Comparing Sufism and Wahhabism is an attempt to create a divide between the Muslim community, which is already facing major problems, particularly on issues like terrorism. Many innocent Muslims were arrested by investigation agencies in terror cases. In such a scenario, we have decided during the meeting to run a campaign for uniting all Muslims,” he said. “We would also be gathering support from more NGOs and individuals, including the progressive socialist groups. We have spoken to retired Justice B G Kolse Patil for seeking his support. We are likely to stage a protest coming Friday against the media trial and false campaign against Naik. We would launch a massive campaign on social media too and awareness would be created in this regard within the Muslim community and even among non-Muslims,” he added. ….  (Indian Express 14/7/16)

Muslims facing worst ever challenge by ISIS, says Maulana Mahmood Madani (7)

NEW DELHI: Declaring that terrorism will not be tolerated, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) general secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani on Thursday said that the ISIS was inflicting massive harm upon Islam and the Muslim ummah. He was speaking at the Eid Milan reception which was attended by Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Ajit Doval NSA among other dignitaries. Madani said, “Although Eid Milan was an occasion to share our jubilation with each other, the current national and international scenario compelled us to share some concerns about the growing menace of terrorism that needs urgent response. Killing innocent people and spreading anarchy is against Islam. Jamiat representing the true spirit of Islam cannot tolerate any kind of terrorism and barbarism.” “Committing oppression in the name of Islam is a double crime which cannot be condoned,” Madani added while naming ISIS which is according to him “inflicting massive harm upon Islam and Muslim ummah, worst ever within the fourteen centuries of Islamic history”.Madani also expressed his resolve that he and his organisation will never allow ISIS to get its foothold in India and will launch all possible struggles against it. (Times of India 14/7/16)

100 Muslims detained in Jharkhand for rallying in Zakir Naik’s support (7)

RANCHI: Around 100 people, mostly men, who organized a peaceful demonstration on Saturday at Patan in Sahebganj district, 530km from here, to back controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who is at the center of a brewing controversy after Bangladesh asked India to probe his speeches which reportedly inspired a militant in Bangladesh, were detained by police. It was the second such demonstration for Zakir Naik, the last one was organized in Pakur on Wednesday. The participants of the demonstration were mostly locals who raised slogans in support of Naik and protested against the “media trials” of the Islamic fundamentalist. Organized by Hafiz Abdul Salim, the local representative of Popular Front of India, the march was passing through the local marketplace when police detained all the participants. Sahebganj SP P Murugan said the march was organized without district administration permission. “The demonstration had the potential to cause the breakdown of law and order and create tension. In a preventive move the demonstrators were detained,” said Murugan. Besides Zakir Naik slogans were also raised in support of AIMIM chief Assasuddin Owaisi. The protestors claimed that the central government was anti-Muslim and was trying to suppress country’s Muslim leaders. Situated in the north-east of Jharkhand Sahebganj and Pakur have a sizeable population of Muslims. The demonstrations in Pakur like Sahebganj’s were spontaneous. The demonstrators held a banner of the Popular Front of India emblazoned with the photograph of Zakir Naik. A senior police official claimed a possible clash between the pro Naik demonstrators and activists of ABVP was averted by the police’s timely intervention. “A group of ABVP activists arrived at the same spot where the Muslims were demonstrating but there was no clash because the demonstrators were detained and taken away,” SP said. … (Times of India 16/7/16)

Indian Muslim women defy tradition – and men – to be judges (7)

Mumbai: Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), an Indian Muslim women’s rights organisation, is training women to be qazis, or judges, a role traditionally reserved for men, amid growing demand for more representation for women. The organisation is training its first intake of 30 women in Quranic law, constitutional law and gender rights. The year-long programme aims to produce a steady stream of female qazis across India, its co-founder said.The Indian constitution allows Muslims, the country’s biggest religious minority, to regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance through their own civil code. The qazi, usually a hereditary title, plays an important role by solemnising marriage and finalising divorce and settlements. “Traditionally, qazis have all been men, and their judgment has never been questioned, even if many are unfair to women,” said Zakia Soman, a co-founder of BMMA in Mumbai. “But it’s important to have women hear and represent women who are in a vulnerable position. Besides, there is no bar on women qazis as per the Quran,” she said. The move comes at a time of growing dissent against laws that activists say discriminate against Muslim women. A survey by BMMA last year showed more than 90 percent of Muslim women want to end the “triple talaq” divorce tradition and polygamy. Last month, the Supreme Court said it would examine how far it could interfere in Muslim laws, as it heard a plea to end the practice allowing Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” three times. Muslims make up 13 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population, yet government data show they are among some of the most excluded and marginalised communities. The women being trained to be qazis are largely community workers and activists from states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar, Soman said. There are some female qazis in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia. Women qazis in India can help prevent child marriage, ensure that a woman marries willingly, and that a divorce is only granted after a period of reconciliation, and with fair terms for the woman, Soman said. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental institution that oversees the application of Muslim personal law in the country, has criticised the female qazis. “Women don’t have the right to be a qazi,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, secretary of AIMPLB. “Besides, there is no need – there are enough men who are qazis. So it’s completely unnecessary,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But female trainee Safia Akhtar said there was a need for women qazis. “There are many grave injustices against Muslim women, and we deserve a say in matters that concern us,” said Akhtar in the city of Bhopal. “If women can be prime ministers and pilots in this country, then why can’t we also be qazis?” (Indian Express 20/7/16)

Pro-Naik protests worry MHA, but it can do little (7)

New Delhi/Kochi/Jaipur: Central security agencies are watching with concern the recent protests organised by Popular Front of India (PFI) in Bihar and Rajasthan in support of Mumbai-based Salafist preacher Zakir Naik, who is under the lens for his alleged pro-terror rants. Sources in the intelligence agencies say PFI has decided to throw its weight behind Naik, who it feels has done no wrong and is being “targeted” by the government. Not only this, it has decided to take up Naik’s cause and mobilize Muslims for protests and rallies across various centres against the government’s plans to go after the televangelist as well as his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The home ministry realises that even as it keeps tabs on these pro-Naik protests, it can do little to stop PFI unless a prima facie terror case is made out against the preacher, who is now out of the country. The ministry has already sought the law ministry’s opinion on whether Naik could be booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for the pro-terror content identified in some of his speeches. “Only after Naik is charged with instigating his followers to take up terrorism can we act against PFI,” said an officer. Incidentally, PFI has been under the scanner of security agencies ever since it was involved in chopping of the palm of a college professor in Thodupuzha (Kerala) in 2010. At the time, a ban on PFI, given that many of its cadres had been associated with the banned SIMI, was discussed. But the proposal was shelved as just 1-2 cases were not enough to ban an outfit under UAPA. But PFI has been under watch. “It has been noticed that the campaign and issues taken up by PFI are more communal in nature than those related to terror. For example, it has been agitating on Babri demolition, Gujarat riots and lack of legal aid to Muslims,” said an intelligence official. … (Times of India 21/7/16)

Pak Muslims in Meerut seek citizenship (7)

MEERUT: Tahira Sultana, a citizen of Pakistan, has been living in Meerut with her family for over a decade now. She is among the 40 Pakistani Muslims in the city who have applied for Indian citizenship and are awaiting approval. Tahira who was originally from India but shifted to Karachi after her marriage to a relative there, does not want to go back to Pakistan. “I somehow did not like Pakistan, so I came back with my family to India a decade ago. I had been living here on long-term visa and now have applied for Indian citizenship,” she said. Defying popular perception, it is not only minorities but also a number of Muslim citizens of Pakistan have refused to return to their native country, declaring it a “dangerous place”. Many of them have been living in Meerut for several years. According to a letter from a senior intelligence officer in Meerut, there are 42 Pakistani citizens, including two Hindus, who have applied for citizenship. Their candidature was recently cleared by the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) in its report to the District Magistrate of Meerut. According to the letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu , LIU officer V.K. Sharma has recommended Indian citizenship to 33 of the 42 Pakistani citizens in the first stage of investigation. Santkauri, one of the two Hindus on the list, came to India in 1983 where she got married to one Darshan Lal. Since then she has been staying in the city on a long-term visa. She told The Hindu that “most of her family members had shifted to India and were living in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.” Most of the Muslims in the list are those whose parents had migrated to Pakistan during Partition, but who later returned to India in the early and late eighties due to reasons like business and marriage. “My parents belonged to U.P., but they shifted to Karachi during Partition. I got married to one of my cousins here and that’s how I came to Meerut. Now I do not want to go back to Pakistan. India is a much more peaceful place to stay. Besides, I have got my work here,” said Mohammad Aslam, who stays in the Lisadhi Gate area of Meerut. (The Hindu 23/7/16)

‘Hindu exodus’ politics will cost BJP Muslim votes: Party leader (7)

ALIGARH: The tension that gripped Babri Mandi here recently over alleged “Hindu exodus” of eight families can cost BJP its Muslim votes from the area, said a local leader in Aligarh. The fact that Muslims in Babri Mandi vote for BJP came to light when former president of Alpsankhyak Morcha, Rashid Pehelwan, told media that this will backfire in elections and cost them votes from here. He said, “There are some people in BJP who are practising this kind of divisive politics for their own political gains and this will harm the party in the long run. The Muslims of Babri Mandi are BJP voters. There are 500 houses here and most of the Muslims here have voted for the party in the past. The party is not bad, it’s the people and their motives that spoil it. On the one hand Muslims are moving towards BJP and on the other hand petty leaders are harming this movement by low-standard politics.” Rashid has been associated with BJP for 18 years. From being former president of the Morchas he is now member of the state working committee of the party. In the FIR for rioting filed by Ravinder Gupta, father-in-law of the local girl who was allegedly molested, Rashid too has been named along with some of his relatives. In his opinion a minor incident was blown out of proportion for political gains. “In Babri Mandi people from both the communities stay together. An issue of bike collision and reaction led to this kind of politics.”  (Times of India 25/7/16)

Azam Khan seeks Sushma’s intervention on visa issue to Haj pilgrims (7)

Lucknow: Minority Affairs minister Azam Khan  has sought the intervention of Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for expediting the issue of Visa stamped passports to Haj pilgrims. In a letter to Swaraj, Khan said that Haj pilgrimmage is beginning from August 4and so far only 20 per cent of the passports have been stamped with visa.  He said that the delay in the issue of visa stamped passport  is certain to affect the timely movement of Haj pilgrims. Drawing the attention of the Foriegn minister to inconvenience caused to the pilgrims of west UP, Khan said the Central Haj Committee has refused to post its staff at the Haj House in Ghaziabad. “Due to this, these pilgrims will  have to go to  the office of Delhi Haj Committee in Turkman gate area for obtaining the passport, ticket and identifrication ring. They will have to return to Ghazaibad and  undertake yet another bus journey from Ghaziabad to Delhi airport,” he pointed out. Khan said that at the Haj House in Ghaziabad, pilgrims are required to report two days before the flight.  The UP Haj Committee has made arrangements for their journey from Ghaziabad to Delhi airport andhence forcing the pilgrims of west UP to make repeated trips to Delhi was unjustified. Khan urged the Union minister to direct the Central Haj Committee to post staff at Ghaziabad as is posted in Lucknow and Varanasi. He added if the former was unable to post staff then the UP Haj Committee could shoulder the responsibility. (The Pioneer 27/7/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Kerala church welcomes move towards Uniform Civil Code (7)

Kochi, July 3 (IANS) The Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala on Sunday welcomed the Narendra Modi government’s pitch for a Uniform Civil Code in the country. Addressing reporters here, Cardinal Maran Mar George Alencherry said that he welcomes the decision of the central government to go ahead with it. “This should take place through discussions and a consensus should emerge as ours is a hugely diverse country,” said the Cardinal. The Uniform Civil Code is intended to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen. The Bharatiya Janata Party in its 2014 parliamentary election manifesto had promised the Uniform Civil Code. But Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly and former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told reporters on Sunday that the Uniform Civil Code will spell the deathknell of the nation’s secular fabric. “With the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, this is a ploy, but this is going to place people on different decks. This is an agenda of the RSS that the BJP government is trying to implement and it will cause serious repercussions,” he said. But BJP’s state unit chief Kummanem Rajasekheran on Sunday said those who oppose the Uniform Civil Code are those who stand against the growth of the country. “It’s rather strange that some oppose even a discussion which is mooted on UCC. It appears that the Indian Union Muslim League is still living in the days of the Partition and it is unfortunate that the Congress party is supporting them. This is not meant to force the Hindu ideology on others,” said Rajasekheran in a press release issued in the state capital. (New Indian Express 3/7/16)

Is divorce granted by Church considered valid under Indian common law? (7)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today agreed to expedite hearing on a PIL to examine the issue whether divorce granted by a Church, set up under its personal law, could be considered valid under the Indian common law. A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice D Y Chandrachud allowed an interim application moved for early hearing in the case after former Attorney General and senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for petitioner Clarence Pais, sought an urgent hearing. “The application for early hearing is allowed. Hearing of the appeal is expedited,” the bench said. Pais, an ex-president of a Catholic association in Karnataka, said when oral ‘triple talaq’ could get legal sanctity for granting divorce to Muslim couples, why could Canon law decrees not be made binding on courts of law. He had alleged that many Catholic Christians, who married after getting divorce from Christian courts, faced criminal charges of bigamy as such divorces are not recognised by the criminal and civil courts here. “It is reasonable that when the courts in India recognize dissolution of marriage (by pronouncing the word talaq three times) under Mohammedan Law which is personal law of the Muslims, the courts should also recognise for the purpose of dissolution of marriage Canon Law as the personal law of the Indian Catholics,” the plea had contended. The plea had contended that Canon Law is the personal law of the Catholics in the country and has to be applied and enforced by a criminal court while deciding a case under section 494 (bigamy) of the IPC. “This is also applicable for sanction of prosecution considered for alleged bigamy of a Catholic spouse who has married after obtaining a decree for nullity of the first marriage from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal (Christian court),” it said. The Centre, however, had opposed the plea saying Canon law could not be allowed to override Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Divorce Act, 1869. “Since the power for dissolution of marriage has been vested in the court, there is no scope for any other authority including ecclesiastical tribunal to exercise power,” the government had said. (New Indian Express 4/7/16)

Catholic Bishops oppose Centre’s move on common civil code (7)

MADURAI: Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council has expressed fears over the Centre’s reported move to bring in a common civil code, which, it felt, will negate the country’s pluralism and diversity. In a statement issued here on Thursday, Rev. Antony Pappusamy, Archbishop of Madurai, council president, said that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh Parivar were attempting to create public opinion in favour of a common civil code after they found that two other issues in their agenda – construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and repeal of Article 370 according special status to Jammu and Kashmir – did not get support.The council was of the view that if the common civil code sought to generalise rituals unique to a faith, the uniqueness of a religion itself would become questionable. The Archbishop said that the minorities need not have any apprehension over a common civil code if it was proposed by a secular government. But a common civil code put forth by a government which believed in cultural nationalism would only be a ‘Hindu civil code’ and hence unacceptable. The statement said that it was the responsibility of a government to foster the uniqueness of every religion and its symbols, and any attempt to negate them in the name of a common code would mean negation of democracy. (The Hindu 8/7/16)

Church-parish member row over burial space (7)

Thrissur: St Thomas Church at Engandiyur in Thrissur and the members of a Christian family under it have entered into a dispute following the claims of latter that they had booked in advance a burial space for their mother in the church cemetery. The dispute has invited public attention because of its similarities with the recent controversial decision of the Jacobite parish at Attamangalam near in Kumarakom, to refuse permission to bury the maternal grandmother of Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, at the church cemetery. While the objection to the burial of Priyanka’s grandmother was due to disputes over her families allegiance to belief systems of the church, here the dispute is over the payment of fees to the burial space. According to the members Purathoor Kittan family they had booked a space near the tomb of their father Benny who died on April 4, 1972. “Our mother Thankamma Benny had then expressed the desire that she must also be buried next to his tomb, and that is why we had booked a space next to her husband’s tomb about 40 years back, after paying the required amount to the Church,” said her son Jojius Benny Kittan. Jojius said his sister Sheeba was also buried in the church cemetery after her death on October 1, 1967. He claimed the family have lost the receipt and the church authorities have refused to issue a duplicate saying they did not have any records. He said his mother who is now 84 and is ailing now, and the doctors have informed the family her condition is serious. “Anything may happen to her anytime, and her last wish may remain unfulfilled if the church authorities remain adamant,” Jojius said. According to him the church authorities were now demanding that the family can get a permanent tomb only after paying the fresh fees which is about Rs 1.5 lakh.  When contacted the Thrissur Archdiocese authorities said the claims of the family were totally wrong. “We have checked the records and there was no proof for their claims. If we conceded this claim we will be opening the floodgates of litigations because other may also come up with similar claims without any proof,” a spokesman for the Archdiocese said.  He said Archdiocese has informed the family that they can bury their mother in the church cemetery just like others, even though they had migrated from Engandiyur. But this will be permitted if they bring a letter of consent from the priest of the parish where they are staying now. If they wanted to a permanent tomb they will have to pay the regular fees, the spokesman said. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Charges of denying funeral rites false, says Archbishop (7)

Bengaluru: Archbishop of Bengaluru Bernard Moras termed as a blatant lie the allegations of Catholic Christian Religious Rights’ Forum that they were denied permission to hold funeral rites on Monday. “The Archdiocese had made alternative arrangements to attend to the spiritual needs of the church members in the neighbouring church (St James Church, Mariyappanapalya), ever since St Paul the Hermit Church was shut down,” the archbishop said. “The agitators, however, are spreading false propaganda that the neighbouring church of St James is refusing funeral rites by housing the body of a 65-year-old Catholic woman in the canonically shut down Church of St Paul the Hermit Church in Vishwanatha Nagenahalli,” he said. “The agitators are making highly insensitive statements disturbing the peace in the community,” he said in a press release. Moras said he ordered the closure of St Paul the Hermit Church as it was binding upon him by the universal Catholic Church Law (Canon Law) and in full justification of his office as Archbishop of Bangalore Archdiocese. “Erecting of statue, bust or image of any person who is not declared ‘saint’ or ‘blessed’ is not allowed within the church premises. Even after warning, a bust of deceased Bangalore Archdiocesan priest C Selvaraj was unlawfully installed in the church violating Canonical regulations,” he mentioned. (Deccan Herald 13/7/16)

Miscreants set church door afire in Karnataka (7)

Tumakuru: Unidentified miscreants attacked a church in Tumakuru on Thursday morning, setting the door on fire. Police said the miscreants poured petrol on the main door of Tomlinson Church in Siragate and set it ablaze. Teams have been formed to trace the culprits, said SP Karthik Reddy.Philip, a church member, said this is the first time the church has been attacked. “We have been coming here to pray for 60 years. The church is surrounded by peace-loving citizens. We don’t restrict anyone from entering. In the morning, residents living in the vicinity come to walk in the premises,” he said. The church recently celebrated its 86th anniversary. Deputy commissioner Mohan Raj visited the church and promised to provide security. He said damage control will be done. “We won’t allow such incidents to happen. We will take steps to avoid them,” he said. Tumakuru police have registered a case. (Times of India 15/7/16)

Prayers answered: No more a long wait for Christian divorce (7)

NEW DELHI: The government plans to make Christian divorce laws more women-friendly by reducing the period of separation required from two years to one. The Prime Minister’s Office is consulting a wide range of stakeholders before giving it the nod. The Divorce (Amendment) Bill 2016 is likely to be introduced in the Winter Session of parliament, sources told The Sunday Standard. A draft cabinet note has been prepared on the bill, which seeks to amend the Divorce Act 1869, to bring Christian women at par with other communities like Hindus and Parsis. The note has been circulated to all ministries, including Law and Justice, Home and Women and Child Development. The British era ‘Divorce Act of 1869’ is an Act to amend the law relating to divorce and matrimonial issues of Christians. It is applicable to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Christians file for divorce under Section 10 A (1) of the Divorce Act, which prescribes that a petition for dissolution of marriage by mutual consent can be presented before a court only after a judicial separation of two years. The Supreme Court had last year questioned why Christian women should stay separated for two years when others only wait for a year. “It does not make sense to us. It is a pure question of law and you (government) should have acted on your own,” the court had observed. In the past, the Law Commission has recommended amendments to the Act to make it more women-friendly. (The Sunday Standard 17/7/16)

Christians injured in clash in Chhattisgarh (7)

RAIPUR: Tension cropped up at a village in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh after a group of people attacked Christians, reportedly injuring two of them late on Sunday evening. Chhattisgarh Christian association president Arun Pannalal told TOI that the incident took place at village Kamarud where a group of people stormed a house and took away three people and assaulted them. While two of them were later found injured, there is no information about the whereabouts of another person so far. Inspector General of police (Raipur range) Pradeep Gupta told TOI that the incident was of personal nature and does not have communal overtones. ” Police has taken prompt action,” he added. Dhamtari police maintained “it’s a minor incident of clash over old enmity. Some elements are trying to exaggerate and spreading rumours”.However, reports said one Umesh Sahu, against whom a case of religious conversion is already pending, had a fight with someone over money. Later, a group of people attacked him and another person. Both of them are injured and have been hospitalized. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Making continuous efforts to locate Father Tom, will bring him home: Sushma Swaraj (7)

New Delhi: After the purported video of kidnapped Father Tom being tortured by the ISIS cropped up on social media, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday asserted that the Centre was doing everything in its power to bring the Malayalee priest back home safely. Speaking in the Parliament on Wednesday on the matter, Swaraj assured that the government was making same efforts for Father Tom as it did in the case of Father Alexis, who was brought back from Afghanistan. “We are in touch with the countries which can assist us in locating him not only at my level, but the Prime Minister himself held discussions during his visits. We are making continuous efforts to locate Father Tom,” she said. However, Swaraj added that the authenticity of the video on Facebook would be verified first.Earlier, a video clipping allegedly of Catholic priest from Kerala Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted by the Islamic State militants in Yemen, surfaced on Facebook. Four months since his abduction, the video clipping shows the blind-folded priest getting thrashed by unidentified men in an unidentified location. The video has reportedly been uploaded from a Twitter account belonging to Taji Non and carried a message: “I got a vid on WhatsApp for Fr Tom Uzhunnalil under torture. “Besides, a purported image of Father Tom shows him sporting a beard. It also carries a header, “Fr Tom`s entreaty will be uploaded soon ..! will also be uploaded on Facebook.”The person in the video footage bears an uncanny resemblance to Father Tom. (Zee News 21/7/16)

Christian educationists oppose draft edu policy over Vedic leanings (7)

SALEM: In their feedback to the draft Educational Policy 2016, the Tamil Nadu Priests Council and TN and Pondicherry Nuns Council have sought fundamental changes in the proposed policy, calling it a challenge to constitutional guarantees. Claiming to represent Christian community’s 300 years of educational service, the feedback has observations under sub heads of vedic education and gurukul, sanskritisation, compulsory yoga classes; segregation of student community; A final blow to village schools; education system that enslaves teachers; concentration of power; system with no role for minorities etc. The feedback note charges that the draft policy note released on June 30 was not given in regional languages. The five-member committee headed by T S R Subramaniyan had only one educationist, an RSS ideologue, on board, they claimed. After making observations under the above sub heads the Priests and Nuns Councils have made the following demands: The draft New Educational Policy must be dropped completely. The government must depart from the idea of introducing values of Vedic education and Gurkul system which are based on Brahmanical and the Varna principle of social system. The Central government must refrain from infringing on powers of the State by compelling Sanskrit language and must enable development of languages of the states. A new draft educational policy must be framed with the help of educationists, legalists and experts from all fields. The new policy must reflect the country’s diversity, secular and socialist character, brotherhood, social justice, respect State’s individuality, decentralization of power, democratic and other constitutional guarantees. The locus standi of minorities’ educational service must be ensured under the Constitution Article 30 (1). The new educational policy must take cognizance of various judgments of the Supreme Court that have upheld the above constitutional guarantee. (New Indian Express 26/7/16)

Bishops seek review of New Education Policy (7)

MADURAI: The Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) and Tamil Nadu Latin Bishops’ Council (TNLBC) have called for a review of the draft New Education Policy 2016 by eminent educationists. In a statement issued here on Tuesday, Most Rev. Antony Pappusamy, president of the councils, claimed that it was common knowledge that a policy of a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government would not be secular and inclusive. Hence, time was needed to study the New Education Policy in depth and understand it as an inclusive document. The councils, the Archbishop of Madurai said, were not prepared to believe that the policy was formulated in consultation with people of the lower rungs of society. The first paragraph of the policy itself speaks about Vedic education and gurukul system, the statement said and pointed out that the service rendered by Christians to education in the country had no mention in it. The TNBC and TNLBC apprehended that permission for foreign universities would pave way for commercialisation of higher education and centralised guidelines for teacher recruitment would be infringement on the rights of States. The councils would accept the policy only after getting convinced that it contained features that would pave way for emancipation of oppressed people, it said. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

Cardinal condemns killing of French priest (7)

Kochi, Jul 27 () Spiritual head of Syro-Malabar church Cardinal George Alencherry today condemned the murder of a priest in a church in northern France by Islamic State, voicing concern over religious radicalism “misleading and inspiring youth to do anti-national activities in India.” “The brutal killing of Fr Jacques Hamel as he held a church service has sent shock waves throughout the world,” he said here. Two attackers yesterday slit the throat of the 86-year-old priest celebrating Mass in a church in France, killing him and gravely injuring one of the worshippers present, before being shot dead by police. Alencherry said the incident occurred as France was already reeling under the killing of 84 people in Nice this month and a string of other deadly attacks which claimed several lives. The Cardinal also expressed concern over incidents in India wherein people following Christianty were “weaned away” from it to join the extremist ideologies. “It should be seen seriously that hectic activities are on to wean away people who follow Christian faith, radicalise them and inspire them to join anti-national activities,” he said.His statement assumes significance in view of reports of alleged forcible conversion to Islam at the behest of terror outfit Islamic State. Some Keralite Christian youths, including a girl Merin Jacob from Kochi, had converted to Islam before they went missing in Middle East. The senior priest also urged the government to step up efforts to ensure the release of a Keralite priest, Tom Uzhunnalil, from the captivity of extremists in Yemen.Condemning the terrorist attacks targeting Christians in many parts of the world, Alencherry directed that special prayers be held in all Syro-Malabar churches on July 31 in the wake of challenges posed against world peace and Christian faith. (Times of India 28/7/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

 ‘Uncertainty about aid hampers return of Sri Lankan refugees’ (13)

COLOMBO: Chief Minister of the Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran has said that a large number of Tamils, displaced from Sri Lanka during the civil war and now living in India as refugees, are prepared to come back but the uncertainty about assistance is preventing them from returning. “Those who have returned from India are saying that they have not received any aid from the government or non-governmental organisations. When those in possession of land permits visit their lands, they find that people from southern parts of the country have occupied their properties. They are also accusing the Army of supporting such occupants,” Mr. Wigneswaran said, adding that children of the refugees who were born in India were encountering difficulties in getting government jobs in Sri Lanka, despite having the necessary educational qualifications. The Chief Minister was addressing the gathering of landless, internally-displaced persons at an event in Chithambarapuram, about 20 km from Vavuniya town, on Thursday. The event was held to distribute temporary land permits to the IDPs, who have been allotted land within the site of the Chithambarapuram camp. The IDPs, who lived in Tamil Nadu as refugees in the 1980s and returned to Sri Lanka in the 1990s, originally hail from the Northern and Eastern provinces, as well as the hill country region of Sri Lanka. As many as 194 families are living in the camp for over 20 years. Demanding that proper rehabilitation schemes be formulated for refugee-returnees, he said such families should be provided livelihood assistance until they became self-employed. In respect of those who were born in India, the Sri Lankan authorities should issue them birth certificates and national identity cards, apart from documents, recognising educational qualifications that the refugee-returnees had acquired in India. According to the 2015-2016 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Indian government, as many as 3,04,269 Sri Lankan refugees entered India between July 1983 and August 2012 in the wake of “ethnic violence and disturbed conditions in Sri Lanka.” While 99,469 refugees were repatriated to Sri Lanka up to March, 1995, there was “no organised repatriation” after March 1995. As on October 1, 2015, there were 64,368 refugees at 109 refugees’ camps in Tamil Nadu and one camp in Odisha. Besides, about 37,000 refugees were staying outside the camps, after getting themselves registered at nearby police stations, the annual report said. Referring to the participation of the Central government’s Rehabilitation and Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan in the event, the Chief Minister, who made public his differences on the issue of 65,000 houses with the Central Minister in Jaffna a few months ago in the presence of President Maithripala Sirisena, said there was “no doubt” that the North would get help from Mr. Swaminathan till the latter was the Resettlement Minister. (The Hindu 2/7/16)

UN and partners warn of growing poverty for Syrian refugees (13)

New York, July 5 : While significant progress has been made in providing assistance, the number of Syrian refugees living in poverty continues to rise in host countries in the region and access to basic services remains a critical challenge, a new United Nations report warned on Tuesday. The mid-year report of the 2016 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and more than 200 international and national actors, examines progress this year in helping refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. With the Syria conflict entering its sixth year, host governments and communities continue to bear a heavy political, economic, social and security burden. Public institutions are under extreme pressure to deliver basic services to an increasingly large number of vulnerable people, testing the limits of existing infrastructure. The report finds that with the generous support of donors, partners in the Plan have in 2016 delivered cash assistance to 102,853 households, food to 2,035,767 individuals, 1,090,795 primary health care consultations, shelter assistance to 25,148 households and other forms of emergency assistance to refugees and host populations. Support was provided to 5,603 people to find employment. A key aim of the Plan is to invest in national services and systems in the host countries, which are under increased strain, and partners report that almost 200 education and health facilities were supported. There was also promising news in the livelihoods sector, with work permits issued by Jordan to Syrians and a new regulation allowing Syrian refugee access to employment in Turkey. These positive initiatives, supported at Februarys London Conference on Syria, need to be matched by the international community with continuing generous funding and responsibility sharing. Despite this progress, the report warns of growing poverty. It says that in Lebanon, the average debt held by refugee households has increased over the first quarter of 2016 and the number of people living below the poverty line has risen to 70 per cent compared to 50 per cent in 2014. In Jordan, 90 per cent of registered Syrian refugees in urban areas are below the national poverty line, while over 67 per cent of families are living in debt. In Egypt, some 62,000 refugees are living in poverty. The report notes that 30 per cent or USD 1.38 million, of the USD 4.55 billion sought by UN agencies, inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under the Plan, had been received as of 31 May. (New kerala 5/7/16)

Govt plans to amend Citizenship Act to give succour to refugees (13)

New Delhi: Keeping its promise to provide succour to refugees from neighbouring countries, the NDA government is contemplating to amend the Citizenship Act so that Hindus and Sikhs, who had entered India without valid documents could be granted Long Term Visa and citizenship. The issue was discussed threadbare at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar besides others. There are thousands of Hindus and Sikhs who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document.These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship and the existing law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth. “Hence, the government plans to amend the Citizenship Act so that such refugees could be granted LTV and citizenship without any hindrance,” a Home Ministry official said. In its election manifesto before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had declared India as “a natural home for persecuted Hindus” who “shall be welcome to seek refuge”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while campaigning in 2014 had made a distinction between Hindu and Muslim refugees from Bangladesh and arguing that the former should be accommodated. “We have a responsibility towards Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. India is the only place for them. We will have to accommodate them here,” Modi had said. Ever since the Modi government came to power, several concessions have been offered to the persecuted Hindus and Sikhs of the neighbouring countries that include issuing Long Term Visa, allowing such people to buy residential properties, procuring PAN cards, Aadhar card, driving licence, opening bank accounts, lowering of visa fees besides others. Besides, the Home Ministry also organised special camps at district level in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and NCT of Delhi for granting LTV and citizenships. Children of refugees on LTV are allowed to take admission in schools/ colleges/ universities/ technical and professional institutions under foreigner quota without permission from the state government/UT administration. State governments/ UT administration are empowered to grant permission to such people to engage themselves in employment of purely private nature. State governments/UT administration delegated powers for services like grant of visit to additional places, grant of No Objection to Return to India (NORI) and grant of permission to change in mode of travel and port of exit. (Indian Express 6/7/16)

Bru militants to trade guns for development (13)

Silchar, July 6: Bru Revolutionary Army of Union, a militant group active in Barak Valley, today said it would eschew violence if the government ensures development in tribal belts. In a letter released to The Telegraph via a mail, Rajesh Chorkhy, president of the outfit, said it choose the path of violence to highlight the lack of development and apathy. “Reang people are not born to commit crime, taking weapons like AK-47s and M-16s in their hands instead of pen and books. As human beings, we also have the desire to live like the people of other communities. But we are unfortunate that we were treated like animals, being deprived of all rights,” he added. The outfit had recently kidnapped Mono Singh, a forest officer in Hailakandi district, but released him after a few days. “Providing land deeds to the tribal community people has been pending for the past six years and therefore with a view to raise our voice, we had to take such step. I apologise to Singh,” Chorkhy added. He thanked chief minister Sarbanada Sonowal for giving priority to their demand. “There was no one to listen to our cries and it was one of the main reasons behind taking up arms for the sake of the Reang community,” he said. The outfit hoped that the new government in Assam would work for the development of tribal areas. “The tribal villages are not connected with roadways, electricity and drinking water facility even after 69 years of Independence,” he added. Chorkhy in his letter mentioned that government jobs should be given to tribal people for their uplift. He alleged that there were many Anganwadi teachers deployed in tribal areas who got a salary without going to schools. “Nutritional food items for the children were never distributed,” he added. The outfit urged the district administration to take steps to bring development to the tribal areas, rooting out corruption and anomalies. (The Telegraph 7/7/16)

Thousands fleeing violent clashes in Central African Republic – UN refugee agency (13)

New York, July 8 :The United Nations refugee agency on Friday said that more than six thousand people from the Central African Republic (CAR) have fled into Chad and Cameroon to escape renewed tension and violent clashes since mid-June. Refugees arriving in the two neighbouring countries, which already host tens of thousands of refugees from CAR, said they had seen killings, kidnappings, looting and the torching of their homes, Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the regular press briefing in Geneva. Most fled direct attacks on their villages while some said they had run away fearing the fighting would come to their homes. People reported the presence of heavily armed fighters. The exodus from CAR began on 12 June when clashes erupted between livestock herders and local arable farmers in and around the north-west town of Ngaoundaye, Ouham Pende region. Thus far, more than 5,643 refugees have been registered in the villages of Sourouh and Mini in southern Chad. Screening and registration of new arrivals is continuing. A further 555 refugees have crossed to Yamba village in eastern Cameroon. The fighting this year has also affected a further 25,000 to 30,000 people within CAR, including many internally displaced in addition to those fleeing. New arrivals said many people had fled to the bush and might try to cross borders if the situation does not improve, said Fleming. UNHCR shares growing international concern about the displacement and the rising tension and clashes, including in Bangui. She further said that while most of those seeking refuge are women, children and the elderly, more men are fleeing and leaving behind their livelihoods. In Chad, where people have been crossing despite the border being officially closed, about two thirds of arrivals were under 18 years of age and 450 of them unaccompanied or separated from their families. UNHCR protection staff identified more than 20 per cent of those arriving as vulnerable with specific needs. Some had health problems, including malaria, respiratory infections and malnutrition. They are arriving in a poor state; exhausted, weak and hungry with many traumatized. These people, crammed into structures provided by the village host community, need urgent aid, including shelter, food and medical care, added the UNHCR spokesperson. The latest violence comes barely six months after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera ushered in hopes of lasting peace after three years of escalated conflict that left thousands dead and almost one million displaced. … (New Kerala 8/7/16)

Heavy fighting in South Sudan capital, many killed (13)

JUBA (South Sudan): Renewed gunfights broke out across South Sudan’s capital on Sunday between forces loyal to the president and those of the vice-president, officials said Sunday, causing widespread casualties and raising fears that the country is returning to civil war. The fighting hit a UN camp for displaced people hit by the violence, according to witnesses. “The condition is really very bad. We have a lot of casualties this side, I think around 50 to 60 besides those of yesterday,” said Budbud Chol who oversees security at a clinic in the base. “We have civilian casualties. We have rocket-propelled grenades that have landed in the camp which has wounded eight people.” At least one person has died in the camp, he said, but he did not know about casualties outside where the fighting is heavy. Government forces attacked a rebel base in the Jebel area of the capital Sunday morning, said William Gatjiath Deng, a spokesman for the rebel forces. “Three helicopter gunships have just come now and bombed our side,” he said. The army confirmed the Sunday clashes but it is not clear how the fighting started, said army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, who is in the SPLA general headquarters at Bilpham. The fighting appears to be mainly in two areas: Jebel, where there is one opposition base and a UN base which houses thousands of internally displaced people, and in Gudele, where the rebels have another opposition base, including Machar’s compound. There have been huge explosions in Gudele and people are leaving the area by foot, said a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear for her safety. “I’ve gotten calls that I should leave but there was so much gunfire nearby I decided to stay in,” she said. United Nations security radio reported fighting near the house of army chief of staff Paul Malong. “The situation in Juba has significantly deteriorated,” said a statement by the United States embassy. “There is serious fighting between government and opposition forces, including near the airport, UN mission locations, Jebel and elsewhere throughout Juba. US citizens in Juba should remain vigilant … shelter in a safe location, preferably away from doors and windows, and avoid non-essential movements.” The UN mission in South Sudan is on a high security alert with no movement of UN personnel whatsoever, said Shantal Persaud, spokeswoman for the UN mission. Sunday’s fighting is a resumption of the conflict on Friday in which more than 100 people died. A precarious calm was restored on Saturday — the day South Sudan was to celebrate its fifth independence day — that was shattered by heavy gunfire Sunday. … (Times of India 10/7/16)

Order to shift Lankan refugee (13)

Madurai: The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday directed ‘Q’ Branch police to shift Sri Lankan refugee K. Dhayabararaj from a camp in Tiruchi to Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district where his wife D. Udayakala and three children were residing. Justices K.K. Sasidharan and B. Gokuldas passed the interim order on a habeas corpus petition filed by Ms. Udayakala accusing the police of withholding their passports and detaining her husband in Tiruchi special camp though they were willing to go back to their country. Contesting the HCP, the police claimed that Interpol had issued a red corner notice against the petitioner’s husband who was wanted in Sri Lanka in a bank fraud case. It also objected to shifting him from Tiruchi to Mandapam on the ground that he might escape easily. (The Hindu 12/7/16)

 

Germany records historic levels of migration (13)

Berlin, July 14 : Migration to Germany attained record levels in 2015, as the number of migrants grew 46 per cent year-on-year, reaching a total of 2.1 million people, according to a report released on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. Meanwhile, 998,000 left the country, nine per cent more than in 2014, Efe news reported. Net immigration to the country was 1.1 million people, making the balance of arrivals and departures the highest in history. The high number of immigrants, according to the Federal Statistical Office, was not only due to the wave of refugees, but also to citizens coming from other European Union (EU) countries in search of work. Syrians made up the largest migrant group, with 326,000 arrivals, followed by Romanians, with 212,000, and Poles, with 190,000. Some 45 per cent of immigrants were citizens of other EU countries, 13 per cent from non-EU European countries, 30 per cent from Asia and five per cent from Africa. (New Kerala 15/7/16)

World’s wealthiest countries host less than 9% refugees: Report (13)

LONDON: The world’s six wealthiest countries host less than 9 per cent of the world’s refugees, a new report issued on Monday said. While the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and UK make up more than half the global economy, in 2015, they only hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers — just 8.88 per cent of the world’s total, international aid organisation, Oxfam said in its report. Germany took the largest share of refugees among the world’s richest countries (around 700,000), with the remaining 1.4 million split between the other five nations, CNN reported citing the report. In sharp contrast, the nations that host more than half of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers account for less than 2 per cent of the world’s GDP, the report noted. Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa and Palestine collectively host almost 12 million people. “It is shameful so many governments are turning their backs on the suffering of millions of vulnerable people who have fled their homes and are often risking their lives to reach safety,” CNN quoted Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, as saying. “Poorer countries are shouldering the duty of protecting refugees when it should be a shared responsibility,” she added.According to the UN, the number of displaced people is currently at the highest ever recorded, surpassing even post-Second World War numbers. More than 65 million people — one out of every 113 people on the planet — have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence or persecution, a 5.8-million increase on the year before, CNN quoted the UNHCR as saying. (Times of India 18/7/16)

Citizenship plea should mention persecution: BJP (13)

The state BJP said on Wednesday that while applying for Indian citizenship, minorities in neighbouring countries should mention the religious persecution they faced before fleeing to India. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, placed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday allows a person to apply for citizenship if they fulfill certain conditions. These include whether the applicant’s parents were earlier citizens of India and if they resided in India for a year before applying for registration. Similarly, a person may apply for a certificate of naturalisation if they have resided in India or served a government in India for 12 months. The bill allows the central government to relax the requirement of 12 months’ stay or service if special circumstances exist. “We will request home minister Rajnath Singh to make provisions in the law where applicants should provide a statement describing the religious persecution faced by him/her. This will generate historical documents about the religious intolerance in these neighbouring countries,” state refugee cell convener Mohit Ray said, adding that millions of refugees in Bengal would benefit if the bill were enacted. “Owing to lack of legal rights, they had so far not been considered for rehabilitation facilities,” Ray said, adding that nearly 10 million Bangladeshi infiltrators would be sent back. According to a BJP leader, the Liaquat-Nehru Pact should be immediately enforced in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where minorities are being persecuted. Signed on April 2, 1950, the agreement was made to safeguard minority rights. Some of its objectives were to lessen the fear of minorities, end communal riots and create an atmosphere of peace. The BJP leader argued that since the bilateral pact precedes the formation of Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan, the former should be brought under its ambit. The pact ensures complete and equal rights of citizenship and security of life and property to minorities. (Times of India 21/7/16)

Rights group happy with citizenship bill (13)

Guwahati: A civil society organization in the state, Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), has welcomed the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to minority refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19, proposes to make persecuted members of minority communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the three countries eligible to apply for Indian citizenship. In a statement, CRPC general secretary Bidhayak Das Purkayastha said the decision was a humanitarian one but added that certain modifications were needed in the bill.The bill states that a migrant has to stay in India for at least seven years before claiming citizenship. CRPC said this should be reduced to six months or less. CRPC chief adviser Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury condemned the serial killings and rapes, destruction of religious institutions and property, and forceful eviction of Hindus in Bangladesh over the last few weeks. Stay updated on the go with Times of India News App. Click here to download it for your device.(Times of India 23/7/16)

Some 4,000 South Sudanese fleeing into Uganda daily UN warns (13)

New York, July 26 : Recent fighting in South Sudan has forced 37,491 people to flee to Uganda in the past three weeks, averaging more than 4,000 a day in the past week, the United Nations refugee agency warned on Tuesday. To put this in context, more refugees have arrived in Uganda in the past three weeks than during the entire first six months of 2016, when 33,838 came there in search of safety, Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva. Yesterday, an estimated 2,442 refugees were received in Uganda from South Sudan. More than 90 per cent of arrivals are women and children. The new arrivals in Uganda are reporting ongoing fighting as well as looting by armed militias, burning down of homes and murders of civilians, Edwards said. Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands or fathers by armed groups, who are reportedly forcibly recruiting men into their ranks and preventing them from crossing the border. He noted that daily arrivals were averaging around 1,500 just 10 days ago, but have risen to over 4,000 in the past week. People are coming from South Sudans Eastern Equatoria region, as well as Juba and other areas of the country, he said. The intensity of the recent fighting between rival factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar in Juba has subsided, but the security situation remains volatile. Further surges in arrivals are a real possibility, he said. The influx is straining the capacity of collection points, and transit and reception centres. Over the weekend, humanitarian organizations worked to decongest the collection points and installed temporary shelters to increase capacities. UNHCR has deployed additional staff, trucks and buses to assist. At its peak, more than 11,000 refugees were staying in Elegu, in northern Uganda, in a compound equipped to shelter only 1,000 people. By the end of this past weekend, the centre had been significantly decongested, and just 300 people slept there on Monday night. Many of the refugees have been moved to the Nyumanzi transit centre, where they are receiving hot meals, water, shelter and other life-saving assistance; others have been taken to expanded reception centres in Pagirinya. The management and expansion of reception facilities as well as the opening of a new settlement area remain key priorities. A new settlement area has been identified in Yumbe district, with the capacity to potentially host up to 100,000 people. Temporary communal shelters are also being built to accommodate the continuing arrivals. The humanitarian response to the influx of South Sudanese refugees is sorely lacking due to severe underfunding. The inter-agency appeal is only funded at 17 per cent, which is constraining UNHCR and its partners to provide emergency and life-saving activities only and causing limitations to the full breadth of humanitarian assistance that can be offered, Edwards said. South Sudans conflict, which erupted in December 2013, has produced one of the worlds worst displacement situations with immense suffering. Some 1.69 million people are displaced inside the country, while there are now 831,582 South Sudanese refugees abroad, mainly in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. (New Kerala 26/7/16)

AASU protests Centres’s move on Hindu migrants (13)

DIBRUGARH, July 26 – The district unit of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) today staged a sit-in demonstration in their office campus near Deputy Commissioner’s residence here to protest against Centre’s bid to grant citizenship to the Hindu Bangladeshi refugees who sneaked into Assam after March 25, 1971. The students’ union which staged three hours of demonstration reiterated that it will not tolerate citizenship to foreign nationals in Assam. “All those foreigners irrespective of the religion they profess, who have come to Assam from Bangladesh and other nations after March 25, 1971, must leave the soil. We do not want division among the Assamese people in the name of religion,” said Anil Gogoi, Organizing Secretary, AASU. The demonstration is part of the state- wide protest launched by AASU today to express its annoyance over Centre’s effort to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi refugees. The AASU leaders here said that Assam is already overburdened with the huge influx from the neighbouring nations and cannot accept more. Tezpur: As part of the Statewide protest programme declared by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), it’s Tezpur unit also staged a protest programme today at the heart of the town in against the Central government’s decision to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindu Bengalis who migrated to Assam after 1971. In the protest programme, assistant general secretary of the students’ body Duldul Barkataki, president and secretary of AASU Tezpur unit Abhijit Nath and Nitul Bora respectively were present and addressed the gathering. In his speech, Duldul Barkataki said that under no circumstances Assam will bear the burden of any Bangladeshi or any foreigner. (The Assam Tribune 27/7/16)

MP requests citizenship for refugees (13)

KOPPAL: Karadi Sanganna, MP, has urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh to extend citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh residing at RH camp in Sindhanoor taluk of Raichur district. Mr. Sanganna metMr. Singh and submitted a memorandum stating that the refugees have been residing at the camp for 50 years, a release from the MP’s office said. The camp has been chosen byMr. Sanganna under the ‘Adarsh Gram’ scheme of the Union government. (The Hindu 28/7/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Centre asks depts to publish most sought-after RTI info (1)

New Delhi, Jun 30 () Seeking to reduce Right to Information applications, all central government departments have been asked to put in public domain information that is frequently sought by citizens under the RTI Act. They have also been asked to set up ‘Information and Facilitation Centres’ (IFCs) to provide printed publications to citizens mentioning the categories of information that are frequently being sought under the RTI. The latest directive is based on the recommendations of a committee formed by the government to look into the scope of suo motu disclosure of governance-related information by the central government departments. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has asked each public authority to set up a committee comprising officials with rich experience of dealing with RTI applications and appeals to identify the categories of such information. “Such information must be disclosed in the public domain to make it more user-friendly and should also be reviewed at regular intervals,” it said in an order to all ministries. The DoPT has said the task of undertaking transparency audits may be given to the respective training institutes under each ministry or department and across the states and union territories. The public authorities shall constitute consultative committees consisting of office-bearers of key stakeholder, association on rotational basis to have a systematic and regular interaction between the officials of the public authorities to advice what information to be uploaded as suo motu, it said.The IFCs may be set up in each public authority, where public dealing is involved to educate the citizens about the information or documents available on the website of the department concerned and to provide printed publications to them the categories of information that are frequently being sought under the RTI Act and provide copies of information as per RTI rules, the order said. (Times of India 2/7/16)

Display names of officials as per RTI Act: Forum (1)

SRIKAKULAM: Srikakulam Intellectuals Forum president Pappala Jagannadha Rao on Sunday asked all the government offices to display names of officials and staff prominently as per the Right to Information Act. He said that the displaying of their names was mandatory as per the RTI Act since people would name their nature of work and responsibilities. The Forum organised an awareness programme on the RTI Act. Speaking on the occasion, he said every person in the government offices should respect the Act which was enacted to ensure transparency in the government offices. Former Minister Gunda Appala Suryanarayana hailed the Act saying that it had curtailed corruption and lethargy in government offices. He urged people not to misuse the Act and use it properly in the larger interests of the public. (The Hindu 4/7/16)

Government spent nearly D40cr on investors’ meet: RTI (1)

BENGALURU: THE state government had spent Rs 2.31 crore on food during the three-day Global Investors Meet (GIM) held in the city from February 3, an RTI application has revealed. This means the government had spent an average of Rs 77 lakh a day for the delegates and officials during the event. In response to an RTI application filed by Shruti P of Onlinerti.com, the Karnataka Udyog Mitra said it spent Rs 39.88 crore on organising the meet. “Spending a whopping Rs 40 crore, including Rs 2.31 crore on food expenses, for a three-day event is very high. The money, which was lavished, could have been used for other purposes,” said Shruti. She said the government is answerable to the tax payers on how much of the promised investments they were able to attract so far after spending crores of rupees for a three-day event. Of the total amount, Rs 18.47 crore was spent on infrastructure, Rs 12.27 crore on event management and cultural programmes followed by advertisements and Rs 1.12 crore as ground rent. According to the reply, the government also spent Rs 2.26 crore on roadshows, which includes international roadshow (Rs 93.26 lakh), national roadshow (Rs 90.07 lakh) and state roadshow (Rs 42.66 lakh).However, an official of the Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation (KSIIDC) said the amount spent by the state for the meet is not as high compared to investment meets conducted by other states. “This expenditure is necessary as we have to attract investments and job opportunities to the state. The food and accommodation costs will be more since most delegates are VIPs and VVIPs. The expenditure for GIM is meager compared to the total investments received after the GIM,” said the official. He added that nearly 5,000 delegates from across the world participated in the event. According to Invest Karnataka website, the meet concluded with 1,201 approved projects and MoUs valued at Rs 3,08,810 crore and is expected to generate a total employment of 6,70,931 across the state. However, there is no mention on the actual investment received and the number of new industries set up because of the GIM. (New Indian Express 7/7/16)

RTI Act comes to the rescue of Dalit student (1)

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Information Commission has come to the rescue of a Dalit student who was not paid scholarship for two years by the Directorate of Adi-Dravidar Welfare. The case pertains to M. Jayaraj of Chikkanna Arts College, Tirupur, whose scholarship was not disbursed for two academic years.Taking note of dereliction on the part of the scholarship disbursing authorities, State Chief Information Commissioner K. Ramanujam ordered the directorate to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000 to Jayaraj and take steps for disbursing the scholarship at the earliest. The student had petitioned the Tirupur Collector in December 2015 seeking to know why his scholarship was not granted for the academic years 2013-14 and 2014-15. (The Hindu 9/7/16)

RTI: SBI declines info on Mallya’s loan, says matter sub-judice (1)

Mumbai: Mumbai-based RTI activist Anil Galgali had asked SBI about the total amount of loans given to the beleaguered businessman and his airlines and also the minutes of the meeting in which the loan proposals were sanctioned. “You have sought certain information pertaining to the loan facilities granted to M/s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and Vijay Mallya. Please note that the matter is sub-judice and the matter is pending for the investigation before certain investigation authorities. Hence deriving exemption from disclosure under Section 8(1)(h) of RTI act, information sought by you cannot be provided,” the bank’s deputy general manager and public information officer (stressed assets management branch, Bengaluru) said in reply. Beleaguered liquor baron Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines owe over Rs 9,000 crore, including interest, to a consortium of 17 lenders led by SBI. He has been facing investigation from various agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the investigative agency for white collar crimes. Last month, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai had declared Mallya a proclaimed offender in a loan default case. On June 11, ED had attached properties worth Rs 1,411 crore of Mallya and UB Ltd in connection with its money laundering probe in the IDBI Bank loan default case. Mallya flew to Britain on March 2 using his diplomatic passport which was later revoked. (Deccan Herald 11/7/16)

Nuclear weapons details shifted out of RTI purview? (1)

NEW DELHI: Information on the country’s nuclear weapons stock-pile and any details on their testing has now been put out of the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Strategic Forces Command has been added to the list of 25 organizations excluded from the purview of the RTI Act except for information pertaining to corruption or human right allegations. This is the first addition made to the list by the Narendra Modi Government after the UPA in 2011 had last added the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) to the list of the intelligence and security organisations which are exempt from RTI Act. The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) administers control over the tactical and strategic nuclear stockpile of the country, which includes the land-based and sea-based nucleararmed ballistic missiles. SFC operationalises the directives of the Nuclear Command Authority which works under the command of the Prime Minister and SCF has the responsibility of the process of delivering nuclear weapons and warheads in the event of a planned strike.SCF also does testing of the nuclear missiles, like Agni-4 and Agni-5. The Union Government on the other hand has been actively trying to broaden the access to RTI by adding a host of public authorities to the Online RTI Portal like public sector financial institutions and banks, all the zones under railways ministry and its PSUs, Maharatnas and Navratnas PSUs, central universities and educational institutions. From a list of about 500 public authorities to which RTI’s can be filed online at present, nearly 300 more public authorities are to be added to the portal by the end of this year. Times of India 14/7/2016)

 

Examine if BCCI can be brought under RTI: SC to law panel (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked the Law Commission of India to examine the issue of bringing BCCI under the ambit of Right to Information Act (RTI) saying that since the board is discharging public functions, public has a right to know and demand information regarding its activities. It said since those public functions are in nature of a monopoly in the hands of BCCI with tacit state government and central government approvals and the beneficiary being the citizens, there was a need for bringing its functioning under the transparency law. A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice F M I Kalifulla, which accepted majority of the recommendations of Justice R M Lodha panel on reforms in BCCI, observed that “as a possible first step” it expected that Law Commission would deal with it and make a suitable recommendation to the government. While reading out the operative portion of the judgement, the CJI said the bench was leaving it to Parliament to decide whether functioning of BCCI can be brought under RTI. “All that we need (to) say is that since BCCI discharges public functions and since those functions are in the nature of a monopoly in the hands of BCCI with tacit State Government and Central Government approvals, the public at large has a right to know and demand information as to the activities and functions of the BCCI especially when it deals with funds collected in relation to those activities as a trustee of wherein the beneficiary happens to be the people of this country,” the bench said in its 143-page verdict. “As a possible first step in the direction in bringing BCCI under purview of Right to Information Act, we expect the Law Commission of India to examine the issue and make a suitable recommendation to the Government. Beyond that we do not consider it necessary to say anything at this stage,” it said. The Justice Lodha panel had recommended that BCCI should be brought under the purview of the RTI Act and to carry out a suitable amendment to this effect. The panel had said that people of the country have a right to know the details about the BCCI’s functions and activities and had recommended that legislature must seriously consider bringing the cricket body within the purview of the RTI Act. (New Indian Express 18/7/16)

 

Kerala government to seek high court’s view on RTI query (1)

Thiruvananthapuram, July 19 (IANS) The Kerala government will approach the high court to understand the implications of the RTI Act vis-a-vis the Cabinet’s decisions, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday. The Chief Minister informed the assembly that his government had no intention to hide Cabinet decisions and will seek the court’s opinion on the issue. The move comes in the wake of the CIC seeking details of Cabinet decisions as asked for through an RTI query. Since assuming office, the Vijayan government has not held the customary media briefings after the weekly Cabinet meetings. While the Congress charged the Vijayan government with keeping the public in the dark about Cabinet decisions, the Chief Minister refuted the allegation saying that it was not his business to carry out a public relations exercise unlike his predecessors. Reacting to the Chief Minister’s statement, Congress legislator V.D. Satheesan on Tuesday said it was surprising that the Chief Minister considers media briefings as a public relations exercise. “It was surprising to hear that a Chief Minister need not carry out public relations and hence the customary media briefing after the Cabinet meetings has been done away with,” said Satheesan. “The government takes major decisions but the people are kept in the dark,” he charged. “While in Opposition, you (Vijayan) had advised the previous Oommen Chandy government on transparency, but as Chief Minister you are not adhering to the same principle,” Satheesan said. Responding to Satheesan, the Chief Ministger said: “We have no intention to keep things under wraps. A Cabinet sub-committee is looking into the decisions taken by the Chandy government from January 1 to March 31, and once it is over, we will be putting everything in the public domain. We also wish to get some clarification on the RTI Act. Once we get it, everything will be available for the public.” …  (Times of India 19/7/16)

 

Punjab Cricket Association put under RTI (1)

Chandigarh: Punjab’s Information Commission has held that the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) would be considered as ‘public authority’ under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Chief Information Commissioner S.S. Channy said on Wednesday that a full bench of the commission had decided that the PCA, a powerful cricketing body that controls the game in the state, was a public authority under the RTI Act. “After going through all the relevant papers put on record, the commission has unanimously held that the PCA would have struggled had it not been in possession of the land in Mohali, which has been leased on a nominal amount coupled with a substantial grant of the government to convert it into a cricket stadium,” Channy said. The commission took note of the statement of I.S. Bindra, the then president of the PCA, made before the CBI saying: “Punjab Cricket Association is not a private organisation. It is a public body solely responsible for promotion, development and administration of the game of cricket, within the state of Punjab.” The commission had, in August 2008, held the PCA to be a public authority under the RTI Act. The order of the commission was challenged by the PCA before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The high court had dismissed the petition in May 2011. However, following another petition before the same court by the PCA, the high court, in December 2013, set aside the orders of the State Information Commission. The court referred the matter back to the commission for a fresh decision following which a full bench gave its ruling. (Business Standard 21/7/16)

Khar college fined Rs 2 lakh for refusing to give information sought under RTI (1)

Mumbai: The State Information Commission has fined Hansraj Jivandas College of Education in Khar Rs 2.25 lakh for not furnishing information sought under the Right to Information (RTI). The fine amount is the total sum charged for denying information for nine separate queries filed under RTI. The institute, however, claimed that the applicant and his sister, who is an employee of the college, has bombarded them with over 100 RTI applications in a period of one year, and they have replied to almost all. The college is now planning to challenge the SIC order in court. The applicant, Krishnan Kutty, an advocate and an activist, after knowing about the alleged misappropriation of funds in the institute, decided to seek information on several issues including grants received by the college from the government and its utilisation, details on the faculty who were eligible for career advancement scheme, details on leaves available for BEd college staff, details of the fees charged by the college, utilisation of the academic development fund granted to the institute, etc. “The college management had initiated a disciplinary probe against the teacher. The probe is underway since July 2015. Since then, she and her brother have bombarded us with multiple applications/complaints by misusing RTI. The SIC has passed the order, which will be challenged in the high court. The orders were also quite confusing,” said the principal of the college, Anita Swami. (Times of India 22/7/16)

Cabinet notes too to become public (1)

Thrissur: The LDF government, which had appeared reluctant to include cabinet decisions within the purview of RTI Act, seems to have undertaken a major course correction. Chief Secretary S M Vijayanand confirmed to TOI on Saturday that cabinet decisions as well as cabinet notes will be uploaded on the government website along with the government order (GO) issued by the respective department. The chief secretary pointed out that with cabinet decisions available in the public domain, there won’t be any need to file RTI queries to know these decisions. Vijayanand, who was here to deliver a talk organised by Thrissur Management Association, told TOI that respective departments issue GOs usually within 48 hours of cabinet decisions. The orders and related documents will be published mostly on that day itself, he said. The chief secretary clarified that decisions of the cabinet would become public documents once the respective department issues the GO. The objective of approaching the court was to seek clarifications on these points, he said. Vijayanand revealed that the government has also taken a decision not to take up ‘out-of-agenda items’ in the cabinet unless in special situations like announcing relief for disaster victims. Out-of-agenda items delay issuing of GOs because they often need to be referred to various departments like law for legal validity and feedback. (Times of India 24/7/16)

Centre stonewalling RTI pleas: Perarivalan (1)

CHENNAI: A.G. Perarivalan, the life convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, has accused the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of tossing his plea under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking copies of the remission rules framed by the Centre based on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Union of India versus V. Sriharan alias Murugan & others case. Pointing out that the information sought by him pertained to his life and liberty, the convict alleged that three Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) in the MHA had “shunted” his petition from one department to another instead of collecting and providing the information. When he went in appeal aggrieved over the delay in getting the details sought, the first appellate authority, the Joint Secretary, MHA, also failed to respond even after 100 days. The petitioner appealed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) to take a serious view of the issue and impose cost on the information officers besides taking steps to provide the information sought by him. Perarivalan, currently lodged in Vellore central prison, said he was facing the 26th year of incarceration since he was arrested at the age of 19. The Supreme Court commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment along with others facing capital punishment in the case. While disposing of a writ petition seeking premature release from prison, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in December last that the State Government had no suo motu power to remit sentences of persons who were convicted under a Central law and cases investigated by a central agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The apex court also clarified that decisions on remission in such cases had to be taken in concurrence with the Centre. Perarivalan petitioned the MHA asking for copies of the remission rules framed on the basis of the judgment. He also sought a copy of the order/circular sent by the MHA to the States on the issue. He alleged that neither the CPIOs nor the first appellate authority responded to his query. Representing that his second appeal be admitted for inquiry, the convict urged the CIC to direct three CPIOs and the first appellate authority (Joint Secretary, MHA) to be present at the time of hearing and file an affidavit on why the information was not shared. He also appealed to the CIC to seek a compliance report from the MHA on the action taken to proactively disclose detailed information under Section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act as regards the rules framed as per the Constitutional Bench judgment. (The Hindu 28/7/16)

                

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

School charges Rs 35K per year for food, activities from RTE kids (11)

BENGALURU: More and more complaints are spilling out against private schools in the city on alleged harassment of parents, who admitted their kids under the Right To Education (RTE) quota. There are complaints that 27 parents have been asked to pay Rs 35,000 towards food by the Jain Heritage School in Hebbal. The parents have approached the Block Education Officer and also the Right to Education Students Parents Association (RTESTUPA) with a complaint against the school. B N Yogananda, general secretary of RTESTUPA, said, “Parents approached the authorities with the complaints, but they have already paid the amount. We will now file complaints with the Commissioner, Public Instructions, Principal Secretary and also the Chief Minister.” RTESTUPA has decided to support the parents by staging a protest in front of the school till they refund the amount collected. “The school has to repay the money collected. All the parents, who admitted their kids, are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The school is harassing them saying that if they refuse to pay, the admission will be cancelled,” Yogananda said. The Block Education Officer of the jurisdiction has issued two show-cause notices to the school management.However, the authorities from the school defended their act saying that what they are charging is nominal. “The amount was charged for three meals a day and also other activities such as sports, training and other performing art classes. Lunch is part of the package as the Rs 11,848 reimbursement that the government gives us is not enough,” an official of the school said.Over 60 parents, who have admitted their kids at various private schools in the city under the RTE quota, demonstrated in front of the office of the Commissioner of Public Instruction on Friday. They came to meet the new Commissioner and to complain about the problems they are facing. At that time, the students staged a demonstration, requesting the commissioner to take action against the schools and the officials of the Education Department, who are involved with private schools. (New Indian Express 2/7/16)

Smriti Irani shunted out as govt wants faster saffronisation of education: Congress (11)

New Delhi: A DAY after Smriti Irani was removed as HRD Minister, the Congress said on Wednesday that she may have been shunted out because the “pace of saffronisation” in the education sector was “not to the satisfaction” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party also accused the BJP government of indulging in “fascisisation” of education. “In the past two years, the NDA government has systematically attempted to subvert and dismantle the public education system of this country which has been assiduously built over the last 67 years. The greatest indicator of this is the budgetary allocation. The UPA government, during its 10 years, raised the budgetary allocation of the HRD ministry from Rs 11,000 crore to Rs 82,000 crore… Between 2014 and 2016, the education budget of India has actually come down by Rs 10,000 crore,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari. He said the budgetary allocation of the UGC too was slashed by 55 per cent, bringing it down to Rs 4,286 crore from Rs 9,315 crore.“What is even more startling is the frontal assault mounted by the HRD ministry on the autonomy of our public universities. The UGC, in fact, tried to take away from the public universities the right to even decide their own syllabus… Besides, there is blatant interference by the RSS in the education sector of the country,” he said. “Six vice-chancellors were summoned by RSS functionaries for a review of the education system in Chhattisgarh…What locus standi does the RSS have to call VCs of public universities and review the functioning of the education system in Chhattisgarh. This is not saffronisation of education. This is far more sinister. It is the ‘fascisisation’ of education,” he added. Asked why Irani was shunted out if, Tewari said, “Maybe the pace of saffronisation was not to the satisfaction of the PM. And therefore, you have an incumbent who will possibly accelerate that pace.” (Indian Express 7/7/16)

Gujarat ranks 20th among 21 states in girl child education (11)

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government may be making tall claims about its “Kanya Kelavani” and school enrolment drive, but a report shows the state has performed much poorly than other states in championing girls’ education. The Sample Registration System-Baseline Survey 2014 reveals that Gujarat (with 73.4 per cent of girls in school) is at the 20th position among 21 major states, just a notch above Rajasthan (72.1 per cent). According to the survey, around 26.6 per cent of girls in the age group of 15-17 years in Gujarat have either dropped out or have never been to school. That means 26.6 per cent of girls in the state have not reached the class IX or X level. It reveals the all-India average of girls attending school, which is 83.8 per cent, is higher than Gujarat’s by about 10 per cent. According to officials, when data was gathered, the programme to improve girl child enrolment in Gujarat schools had been in operation for more than a decade. As part of the annual “Kanya Kelavni” program and “Shala Praveshotsav”, ministers and government officials fan out in rural areas to ensure children’s enrolment. Despite the high-level push, however, even states termed backward have performed better than Gujarat. In Bihar, 83.3 per cent of girls in the age group 15-17 years attend school; in Assam the figure is 84.8 per cent; in Jharkhand it is 84.1 per cent; in Chhattisgarh it is 90.1 per cent; in Madhya Pradesh it is 79.2 per cent; in UP it is 79.4 per cent; and in Odisha it is 75.3 per cent. In fact, Gujarat is ranked among the bottom five states even when it comes to education of girls in the age group of 10-14 years. Data reveals that overall 73.5 per cent of girls in the state are literate. But of these, around 59 per cent have not studied beyond class X, and only 14.8 per cent have completed class XII.Of the 14.8 per cent who study beyond class X, only 7.3 per cent complete graduation. Gujarat education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma said, “We are aware that the drop out rate among girls is high and hence we launched the enrolment drive even in class IX.” He said this would ensure that girls don’t drop out after class VIII. He said the drop out ratio was not more than 20 per cent. “We are taking measures to ensure that girls study and the government is dedicated to achieving 100 per cent literacy among the girls,” he said. (Times of India 7/7/16)

Mixed response to move for limiting no-detention to class V (11)

Bengaluru: The draft of the new education policy released by the Ministry of Human Resources Development last month has hinted at limiting the no-detention policy in schools to class 5, from class 8.The implications of such a measure in Karnataka are bound to be far-reaching as it has ardently supported the no-detention policy ensured by the provisions of the RTE Act. Ajay Seth, principal secretary, Department of Primary and Secondary Education, has said that the new measure, once implemented, may not be very different from the previous one, in that it talks about the need for “remedial instruction” for weak students. “A child who is weak in class should be identified and brought on a par with others. The recommendations in the draft have their own aims. However, a right approach will make sure that quality education remains available,” he said.Seth said that instead of concentrating on limiting the no-detention policy, emphasis should be on the quality of education. The draft says that the present provisions of no-detention policy will be amended, as it has seriously affected the academic performance of students. This is a sentiment that has been commonly echoed by many. Among them is a primary school teacher from a government school in Koppal. “Students do not concentrate on their studies as they know they will pass. We see the results after class 8. Many of my own students are not able to even read properly. It is a pathetic condition. Teachers, instead of being able to concentrate on teaching, are given responsibilities like mid-day meals and what not,” he said.The new recommendations have, however, rattled supporters of the present policy. V P Niranjan Aradhya, Fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, is of the opinion that the entire debate has shifted from quality of education to ability of the students. “Why are children not learning and performing well? There are numerous problems, lack of good teachers and infrastructure to name a few. One cannot make students the scapegoat for such systemic failures,” he said. (Deccan Herald 10/7/16)

Child rights panel concerned over junk food sale in private schools (11)

LUDHIANA: Taking serious note of serving of junk food, which is easy to cook but harmful for health, in some private schools, Punjab State Child Rights Protection Commission chairman Sukesh Kalia has directed Secretary, Punjab School Education Board and DPI (Primary and Secondary) to take a self-declaration certificate from all schools mentioning that they would not allow serving or sale of junk food in their premises. While mentioning a letter received from National Child Rights Protection Commission, New Delhi, Sukesh Kalia stated that as per the letter, the secretary of Punjab School Education Board and DPI (primary and secondary) would get self-declaration certificates from all schools of the state (from all education boards) mentioning that they would not allow serving as well as sale of junk food (which has salt, sugar and fat in large quantity) in their premises. Kalia said that consumption of junk food amongst children leads to serious implications towards the child’s health. That is why there is an increasing need to check this trend amongst children. He said that the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India has already issued some guidelines to the schools, which should be followed by all schools. Sukesh Kalia has also written a separate letter to Food Safety Commissioner, Punjab, mentioning that the Commission would carry surprise checks in different schools on regular basis. And that is why, the commissioner should send names of technical experts and food inspectors so that their services can be taken during surprise checks. Kalia said that the commission would take strong notice of any news that comes to their notice regarding serving or sale of junk food in private schools. (Times of India 13/7/16)

Many holes in education policy draft: Experts (11)

Chennai: The inputs for the draft National Education Policy (NEP) released by the HRD Ministry last month came under criticism by educationists on Thursday during a national convention on evolving education policy. Organised by the State Platform for Common Schooling System, the convention discussed key features of the draft. President of the state platform, P Ratnasabapathy said the TSR Subramaniam committee had already released a ‘report’ and questioned the need for the MHRD to release another draft. He points out several ‘threats’ to the education system listed in the document. These include evading reservation, intrusion of foreign agencies into Indian education system, and privatization of education.Member of the All India Forum for Right To Education (AIFRTE), Madhu Prasad pointed out several problems with the draft including the input on steeping up interventions currently being practiced in the RTE system. “The draft recognizes that the RTE has not traditionally benefitted the vulnerable sections. When they are recognizing that the methods so far practiced have failed for so many years, how can the stepping up of the same measures correct the failures now?” she questioned. R Ramanujam from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, pointed out that the tone of the document in formulating ‘solutions’ is such that education is being reduced to a managerial or administrative issue. (Times of India 15/7/16)

Govt frames new rules for opening private schools (11)

Bhubaneswar: All private schools in the state have to take permission from district education officer (DEO) before opening the education facilities, according to a recent guideline issued by the state government. The school authorities would have to ensure registration of their school in Unified District Information System for Education. “We have asked the director of elementary education to form a detailed guideline on this, which would streamline the opening and running of new private schools in the state,” said additional secretary, school and mass education department, B N Pradhan. The new schools would have to fulfil all criteria under the Right To Education (RTE) Act prior to opening the school followed by a clearance from director elementary education of the state. This year only 14 private schools have been given no objection certificate by the state government to open their institutes so far. As many as 255 applications are pending with different district project coordinators (DPCs) of Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan and 356 applications pending with different block education officers (BEOs). All DPCs and BEOs have been asked to verify and give recommendations to eligible schools by July 20. A separate portal has also been opened for the purpose, official sources said. The schools, who have applied for recognition but have not fulfilled the criteria according to the RTE Act, will be given showcause notice for one month within which the school will have to fulfil the criteria. (Times of India 17/7/16)

RTE students sent out of class for not paying ‘extra fees’ (11)

BENGALURU: Some children, admitted under the RTE quota, had to go through embarrassing moments before they were allowed to sit for the unit test at the SVES English High School, Rajajinagar, Bengaluru. The alleged reason: their parents had not paid “extra fees”. A parent of a class 5 student admitted under the RTE quota said her child was sent out of class and not allowed to take the unit test that began on Friday. “While all the other students wrote the test, my child along with a few others, who had not paid the fees, was made to sit in another classroom and was allowed to take the test after three periods,” the parent said. She explained that the school collects excess fees under various sub heads, such as smart class and computer class every year. “This year, we paid Rs. 6,242 for books, uniforms and common-items fee. But, they also insisted on us paying Rs. 7,600 as computer, smart class and maintenance fee. This is beyond our means,” she said. She also said that the school was pressurising them and using all kinds of “tactics” to pay the fee, and this was affecting the morale of the child. RTE Students and Parents’ Association chief secretary B.N. Yogananda has lodged a complaint with the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) and has urged it to initiate action in this regard. Kripa Alva, chairperson of the commission, said the commission will summon the school management and initiate strict action against the management if they are found guilty of discrimination. Meanwhile, a member of the school management claimed that the test was conducted batch-wise, which is why some students were made to take the test later. He also said that if the school had illegally collected fees from students admitted under the quota, they would return it. (The Hindu 19/7/16)

Lok Sabha passes NIT Bill, Javadekar pledges quality education for all (11)

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (Amendment) Bill, 2016 with the new HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar asserting that the NDA government is committed to ensure “quality education” for all. “The Narendra Modi government is committed to ensure Sabko Shiksha aur Acchi Shiksha (Education for all and Quality Education),” Javadekar said in Lok Sabha after members from various parties participated in the discussions on the bill. He said the BJP government is committed to ensure quality education especially at higher levels like the NITs where the role of faculty and teaching community should be understood. “Teachers can make a difference to story of India. There will be in-service training and pre-service training. All vacant slots will be fulfilled,” he said. Javadekar said the government is trying to ensure safe guard of teaching community’s “dignity” withA”compassion” and also added that the teachers will be given “freedom”. And along with these there will be emphasis on accountability. Stressing on the role of research, he said several schemes are being evolved to promote research especially among technological institutes. A separate funding of Rs 1,000 crore will be made for this, he said adding under this, “customized research” of industries will be encouraged wherein academicians from NITs and IITs and other such technological institutes will be involved.”We will encourage more incubation centres and under which even after graduation NIT and IIT pass outs and graduates can also be allowed to visit their institutes and take part in research,” Javadekar said.The bill, later passed by voice vote, seeks to establish the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Andhra Pradesh as an institute of national importance under the National Institutes of Technology, Science Education and Research (NITSER) Act, 2007. Among others Congress member Shashi Tharoor, (Congress), Kambhampati Haribabu (BJP) and RSP member N.K. Premachandran also spoke. (Times of India 21/7/16)

Experts hold meet to discuss suggestions for new edu policy (11)

Mumbai: From no-detention to asking minority institutions to reserve 25% seats for students from the economically weaker sections, experts from the city are meeting up to discuss the suggestions they are going to make for the new National Education Policy. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has uploaded on its website a 43-page report which highlights key points of the draft NEP and has called for suggestions before August 15. While the education experts have welcomed a change, they have also raised concerns over various changes suggested in the draft. At one such discussion organised by Shikshan Katta, a group of experts, principals and educationists all agreed that the Right to Education Act must be amended to include children between the age of 3 and 6 years as well. Currently, the Act covers students from 6-14 years of age. “The draft has accepted to extend the RTE to students from 14-16 years as well but not for those aged 3-6 years. This is probably because it is resource intensive. Early childhood education must be attached to schools and must be made a right,” said Kishor Darag, a researcher in education. Educationists in the city have also risen in one voice against the government’s plan of doing away with the no-detention policy for students after class V. “There has arisen a need to have a discussion on the no-detention policy because we have misunderstood it. The policy requires schools to conduct re-tests for five times. Whenever we start doing that, students will not take exams lightly,” said Sucheta Bhawalkar, principal, Raja Shivaji Vidyalaya, Dadar. Changing this could also be conflicting with the RTE act. The group is planning to suggest that as the Centre has said it would examine the exemption given to minority (linguistic and religious). A similar discussion was conducted by the RTE forum on Friday. (Times of India 23/7/16)

 ‘Vietnam ahead of India in school education’ (11)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Vietnam was torn apart by two major conflicts in the last century, and it is only after the 1980s did the country start its rebuilding process, and in about four decades they are ahead of us in school education, especially when it comes to the best practices. This was the opinion of R. S. S. Nehru, faculty, Department of Teacher Education, Central University of Odisha, Koraput. He was here for a seminar at the Andhra University and spoke to The Hindu , on his comparative observations. The teacher who had recently completed his post-doctoral fellow on the topic ‘comparative study of education and teacher education in India and Vietnam’, from the National University of Vietnam and University of Education, said it was only now that we have designed and implemented the Right to Education (RTE) in India, whereas it has been implemented in Vietnam in 1991. He went ahead to add that the RTE has been implemented in its true essence and spirit in Vietnam, whereas it is yet to take off as desired in India. “School education over there is completely government owned and controlled and it is free from LKG to Std XII,” he said. According to him, though the education is government controlled, total autonomy and financial freedom is given to the schools and every student, be it from any section of society, will have to study in government-run schools.“The government schools are not like the ones that we have here. The schools are on par with any international school and each class is an e-classroom. They follow the blended learning system, which includes use of technology and face-to-face teaching,” said Dr. Nehru. Apart from the best of facilities, each school has a fully-equipped dispensary with at least two beds and free safe drinking water is provided by the government, he added. According to him, regular faculty-development-programme and training is embedded in the teaching system and everything is made transparent in the website of school or government website. (The Hindu 25/7/16)

 ‘Draft education policy against minorities’ (11)

CHENNAI: Claiming that the draft National Education Policy unveiled by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry was against the interests of the minority educational institutions, Congress legislator S. Vijayadharani urged the Tamil Nadu government to oppose the policy. During the debate on the Budget 2016-17 in the State Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Ms. Vijayadharani referred to one of the features of the draft policy which did not exempt minority institutions from the Right to Education Act (RTE) and claimed this was against the interests of the minorities. As ‘Education’ was presently in the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, she said that the State government should take efforts to bring ‘Education’ in the State List. She also urged the State government to exempt school teachers of minority institutions from the mandatory requirement of clearing Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) and to further conduct the exams regularly every year.  School Education Minister P. Benjamin said the State G.O. reducing the pass percentage from 60 to 55 for OBC, SC and ST candidates was quashed by the Madras High Court. The appeal preferred the State government against it was pending before the Supreme Court. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

NHRC seeks ATR on starvation deaths, kidney ailments (21)

BHUBANESWAR: THE National Human Rights  Commission (NHRC) has soughtan Action Taken report (ATR)  from the State Government over starvation deaths linked with food supply and corrupt practice in ensuring ration cards underNational Food Security Act (NFSA). Acting on a petition filed by rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy,  who raised corruption in selection of NFSA beneficiaries in undivided KBK (Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput) districts, the Commission has asked the Chief  Secretary to submit a detailed reply within four weeks. On May 16, a destitute woman Lalita Sahu allegedly died of starvation while her son Pancha Sahu is suffering hunger pangs as the family was denied of a ration  card under NFSA at Graduatepada Square in Balangir district. Tripathy said Lalita and Pancha had taken shelter on the verandah of a co-villager as they did not have one. With no livelihood means, they were spending most of their days in hunger. Lalita died of hunger, he said. Earlier, Pancha used to earn his  livelihood by engraving names of persons on brass and copper utensils. However, he could no longer pursue it after he had a physical infirmity. Their condition  aggravated after Lalita stopped receiving rice under Antodaya scheme as the authorities removed her name during ration card distribution last December,  the petition mentioned. Alleging that no strong step has been taken to curb illegalities and corruption in selecting the  NFSA beneficiaries, Tripathy requested to investigate the case through the Special Rapporteur  and direct the Government to curb the phenomenon of starvation death besides paying adequate compensation and benefits of social welfare schemes including house under IAY, food  and free medical care to the surviving family members. He also urged the Commission to recommend the  Government for setting up of State Food Commission and appoint a district grievance redressal officer to monitor and look into the complaints of NFSA beneficiaries.    (New Indian Express 3/7/16)

Ensure effective implementation of schemes, Khattar tells officers (21)

Chandigarh: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday exhorted administrative secretaries to ensure effective implementation of schemes pertaining to their departments so as to achieve 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets identified by United Nations on critical issues. Mr. Khattar was addressing the inaugural session of Briefing Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals-Implementing Sustainable Development Goals in Haryana: 2030 Action Plan here, an official release said. UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in India Yuri Afanasiev was present at the workshop. The Chief Minister said the objective of SDGs was to produce a set of universally applicable goals that balances the three dimensions of sustainable development—environmental, social and economic—through proper planning and integration of schemes. He said the State aims to align its existing schemes and programmes with the SDGs target and prepare a vision 2030 document as well as an action plan for achieving the goals. Appreciating that the UN agencies have agreed to provide technological assistance to Haryana in this regard, he said the State government was actively working towards the 17 SDGs and hoped that the goals would be achieved before the scheduled time. These SDGs would eliminate poverty in all its forms, end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. These would also ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities, achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. These would also ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.Mr. Khattar directed the Additional Chief Secretaries to create a mechanism so that every beneficiary receives the benefit of various welfare schemes being implemented. He said the 25 Good Governance Associates have been appointed with the objective to ensure good governance and transparency in the working of the government. Earlier, Finance Minister Abhimanyu assured that Haryana would not only be able to achieve SDGs, but would also go beyond that by improving the overall quality of life of people in the State.-PTI (The Hindu 6/7/16)

Nagaland rolls out food law; only TN, Kerala left (21)

New Delhi, Jul 6 () Nagaland has rolled out National Food Security Act from this month across all districts, taking the total number of implementing states and union territories to 34. Only two states — Tamil Nadu and Kerala — are left where the food law is yet to be implemented. Under the law, passed by Parliament in September 2013 during the previous UPA regime, the government provides legal entitlement to 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person every month at Rs 1-3 per kg to two-third of India’s population. “Nagaland government is implementing Food law in all districts from this month. Only two states are left now. Kerala has committed to implement, but we have not yet got positive response from Tamil Nadu,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters. The Supreme Court has given a direction that this law has to be implemented and no state is above the law, he added. Speaking about direct benefit transfer of food subsidy, Paswan said this is being implement fully on a pilot basis in Chandigarh, Puducherry as well as Dadar and Nagar Haveli.”Though some states are keen to implement DBT, but we want to do it carefully. There are 3-4 problems that we are trying to sort out,” he said. The minister said the beneficiaries might face problems in withdrawing money from banks for purchase of grains in the open market. Both the state and banks should take proactive measures to address these hurdles, he added. On allocation of PDS foodgrains to states, Paswan said the Centre has decided to be flexible in allocating wheat or rice in a ratio that is required by those states which procure more than their PDS requirement.

For instance, the Centre had recently allocated 85 per cent of rice and 15 per cent of wheat for PDS distribution to the Odisha. Earlier, the state was getting rice and wheat in 60:40 ratio. On cane arrears, Paswan said it has come down to Rs 3,838 crore so far in 2015-16 marketing year that will end in September. Out of which, Rs 1,963 crore pertains to Uttar Pradesh. (Times of India 6/7/16)

Guj 4th worst in allotting JNNURM houses to poor (21)

Ahmedabad: In what seems to be indifference in allotment of housing to the urban poor, Gujarat has the fourth highest number of unoccupied houses, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and the second highest number of vacant houses under Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). According to the data from the Union ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, 19,986 JNNURM houses and 3,138 RAY houses are unoccupied in Gujarat, because the government has not allotted them. According to the figures on houses sanctioned and constructed under Pradhanmantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), which was introduced by the Narendra Modi-led Union government, 66,983 houses have been sanctioned, but none have been constructed. According to the government’s figures, 1.32 lakh houses have been sanctioned under JNNURM projects in the state, of which 1.20 lakh houses have been constructed. The state got sanction for 30,494 houses under RAY, but constructed just 3,138 homes under this scheme. This means just 10% of the houses sanctioned under RAY were constructed. These housing schemes are meant for the urban poor, but activists believe the government has not taken appropriate steps to implement them. Bharatsinh Jhala, a rights activists, said around 14 lakh people classified as urban poor in Ahmedabad are eligible for houses under various government schemes, but the state government has neither given them a proper dwelling place nor made any other arrangements. Jhabu Parmar, a 36-year-old resident of Ganeshnagar which is next to the city’s landfill site in Pirana and a BPL card holder, said that during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections she was verbally assured that she would get a pucca house, but it turned out to be a false promise. “As we were living near the dumping site, we went to live near Shankar Bhuvan na chhapra, beneath a plastic roof. It flew away in the last monsoon and we became homeless. After that we returned to Ganeshnagar, to live in that horrid place,” said Parmar. Shankar Chaudhary, minister of state for urban housing, was not available for comment on this issue. (Times of India 9/7/16)

Three quarters of South Sudanese need humanitarian aid: United Nation (21)

“We had over 2,000 people taking shelter inside our compound with our staff,” UN’s World Food Programme director Etharin Cousin said. Three-quarters of the population of South Sudan needs humanitarian aid after four days of deadly fighting, the UN’s World Food Programme director Etharin Cousin said on Monday. Between Friday and yesterday, the capital Juba was rocked by clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his longtime opponent Vice President Riek Machar. The two men finally announced a ceasefire late yesterday. “Three quarters of the population of South Sudan is in need of humanitarian assistance,” Cousin told AFP in the Jordanian capital Amman. “This latest conflict is going to push even more people into hunger and despair,” she warned. Cousin said heavy fighting over two days had forced humanitarian staff into underground bunkers “because the shelling was in Juba and so close to our places of operation. “We had over 2,000 people taking shelter inside our compound with our staff.” The fragile ceasefire appeared to be holding in Juba today. The fighting left hundreds of people dead and sent nearly 40,000 fleeing. The violence has raised fears of a return to civil war that broke out in December 2013. On June 29 — before the latest violence erupted — both the United Nations and the Juba government said that more than a third of South Sudanese face starvation as the nation runs the risk of a full-blown famine. (DNA 13/7/16)

Beef eating: HC seeks govt reply (21)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court on Wednesday sought Aam Aadmi Party government’s response on a PIL challenging criminalisation of possession and consumption of beef in the national capital. A bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal issued a notice to the Delhi government and gave it time till September 14 to respond to a petition seeking to set aside a provisions of Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act criminalising possession and consumption of beef in Delhi.Petitioner Gaurav Jain, a law student, along with an NGO in their petition claimed that similar provisions in a legislation of the Maharashtra government was struck down by the Bombay HC. The NGO working for welfare of Scheduled Castes and Tribes claimed that the Cattle Preservation Act (CPA) was ‘a case of legislative over-reach.’ “The right to eat food of one’s choice is an integral part of the right to life and liberty,” the PIL stated. (Times of India 14/7/16)

Centre approves changes in DAY-NULM guidelines (21)

New Delhi, Jul 19 () To reach out to more people, the Centre today approved changes in the guidelines of the urban livelihoods mission DAY-NULM, including allowing those in vulnerable vocations to form groups for availing loans at subsidised interest rates. As per the new guidelines, banks can directly accept applications from beneficiaries for extending loans at subsidised interest rates for setting up enterprises under the self-employment component, dispensing with the need for sponsorship by urban local bodies concerned, an official statement said. One bank will be designated as the nodal agency for each state to coordinate with all other banks to increase banking linkages for loan support under this component. “Men involved in vulnerable occupations like sanitation workers, rag-pickers and rickshaw-pullers are now allowed to form groups who would be eligible for bank loans,” the release said. Norms for formation of self-help groups (SHGs) of urban poor have also been relaxed, allowing up to 10 members to form a group in hilly tracts and tribal areas as against the earlier norm of 20 members. The Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) seeks to reduce poverty and vulnerability of urban poor with providing loan and skill training, among others. The changes in operation guidelines of the mission were approved at a meeting of the National Governing Council of the mission, an inter-ministerial body chaired by Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation M Venkaiah Naidu. Minister of State for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Rao Inderjit Singh also attended the meeting. The Governing Council also allowed construction of shelters for the urban homeless with CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds and other donations allowing display of names of such donors. Construction of multi-storeyed shelters for urban homeless keeping in view land constraints has also been permitted, the release said. The Council has also permitted convergence of DAY-NULM with other schemes like Prime Minister’s Kaushal Vikas Yojana, Skill Development, Jan Dhan Yojana and various social security schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jivan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana. After reviewing progress of the scheme in the past two years, Naidu said that the performance against the targets has been “satisfactory” but expressed the “need for states to do more”. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Tribals dying of hunger (6)

Bhubaneswar: The infant deaths (18 in three months), at Nagada village is a case of chronic hunger of primitive Juang tribals leading to acute malnutrition of their children and subsequent death due to lack of medical treatment. “ It reflects a bizarre case of how malnourished children are dying unattended in the chromite ore rich area where mining giants and big companies are minting money and claiming to have undertaken a lot of social activities as part of their corporate social responsibility,” observed a team of civil rights activists who returned from Nagada on Tuesday. Claims of ‘”inclusive growth’, innumerable anti-poverty schemes , nutrition programme, free food etc fall flat at Nagada as no officer ever visits the village which remains inaccessible calling for a hardous trek – climb the hill, they remarked . The village still suffers from hunger, malnutrition, drinking water crisis etc. the tribals area leading subhuman life without drinking water, electricity, food and lack of road connectivity. The government is squarely responsible for failing to provide basic amenities to the tribals. Many families have not been provided ration card under National Food Security Act due to irregularities in survey conducted to identify eligible households. Secondly, as per guideline of Antodaya Anna Yojana, all Juang families deserve to get each 35 kg rice per month.” Most of Juang families have not been covered till date,” said the rights activists led by Mr Pradip Pradhan, member of the advisory group of NHRC on right to food, Sudhir Mohanty, advocate, Odisha High Court, Mr Kalandi Mallik, Mr Sanjay Sahu, Mr Debenbdra Kumar Rout, who formed the fact finding team. The tribals walk for over 10 km to get any service or benefit under any scheme, they are unable to carry their sick children to hospital for treatment. They spend one day ( Rs.200 labour wage per day) to get Rs.300 pension amount under Old Age Pension Scheme. Almost all development programme and food security programme like ICDS, MDM, PDS, NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana, Biju Pucca Ghara Yojana, forest development programme, agricultural and horticultural programme etc. are not implemented in the area. (The Statewsman 20/7/16)

Capital’s date with food convention (21)

The state chapter of Right to Food Campaign – a national network of professionals working towards ensuring food security – will organise a national convention in Ranchi, the first such convention in Jharkhand, in September. This was announced at a meeting of the preparatory committee of the convention held at HRDC hall within GEL Church Complex in Ranchi on Wednesday. “The 6th national convention will be organised here between September 23 and 25. We are expecting about 3,000 delegates from across the country and also from other countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” ? said Gurjeet Singh, one of the members of the national steering committee of the network. Singh said that Right to Food Campaign is being supported by over 100 other organisations, which would raise around Rs 20 lakh from people, mostly in rural areas of the state, to organise the convention that would discuss plans on how to free people from hunger. Singh said there would be other donors too. At Wednesday’s meeting, Singh said that even though Jharkhand had implemented National Food Security Act, 2013, there were certain problems that needed immediate attention. “The government is planning for direct cash transfer through the public distribution system (PDS) instead of subsidised food grains. This is wrong because if people are given cash, then they will have to buy food grains from the market at higher rates,” he said. Singh also opposed the government’s plan to supply packaged food under mid-day meal scheme in schools. “Fresh food cooked by women’s self-help groups (SHGs) is better than packaged food,” he said. Singh suggested that eggs, which were being offered to anganwadi children aged 3-6 years in only three districts – Dumka, Ranchi, East Singhbhum – should be extended to all the districts. “The quantity of food grains supplied through PDS shops is less than the prescribed amount,” said Bahamani Kumari, a member of a SHG at Arki in Khunti district. Mamta Lakra, a member of a SHG working at Kisko in Lohardaga, opined that SHGs active in a particular area should be entrusted with the job of distributing food grains through PDS by rotation. (The Telegraph 21/7/16)

‘Poverty’ forced woman to kill children in Odisha (21)

NUAPADA: Poverty and not mental illness led Lochani Majhi (28) to drown her three children to death, hinted cops and neighbours of the woman. Lochani, who is mentally ill, had pushed her children __  Sashibhusan (4), Kundi (3) and 19-month old Laxman into a well at her farm land near Banyapada of Keshrajpur village under Boden police limits on Tuesday. Though it was initially believed that she was not in a right frame of mind when she killed her children, police on Friday revealed that Lochani and her husband Kalyan Singh were facing abject poverty. Kalyan (32) worked as a daily labourer and it was difficult for him to maintain a family of five. This led to frequent quarrels between the couple  and they had also approached the Boden Police over family feud. Villagers said financial condition of the couple was not good even as Kalyan had inherited 1.5 acres of land and was a BPL card holder. They said even on the fateful day, Kalyan had gone to a nearby village Salapada to work on farm land as labourer. Sarpanch of Sunapur gram panchayat, Amar Singh Majhi, who also happens to be a neighbour of the couple, said the couple had marital discord. He said that there have been numerous instances when Lochani had left her husband and gone to her paternal house only to return. Majhi also admitted to mental illness of Lochani but was unsure if the murders were committed over mental state or out of desperation. After the incident, she admitted to have pushed her children into the well. This drew the attention of the villagers nearby. Later, they informed Narahari, brother of Kalyan, who reached the farm land and retrieved the bodies. He also informed the police about the incident. (New Indian Express 22/7/16)

‘Banjara infant girl trade dodges vigil; desire for son and poverty key reasons’ (21)

HYDERABAD: The Banjara community in Devarakonda of Nalgonda district continues to dodge the law and sell girl children for Rs 40,000-Rs 50,000, according to Nalgonda district Child Welfare Committee chairperson K Nimmaiah. Speaking to Express, Nimmaiah expressed concern over lack of knowledge about family planning, the desire for a male child, coupled with chronic poverty among the Banjaras that forces them to sell their girl children to brokers. “The brokers, who make Rs 10,000 out of each transaction put the children up for illegal adoption or sell them again for sex trade. However, government monitoring over adoption has increased and now many Banjara girls, who are known for their beauty, are adopted legally by infertile couples,” the Nalgonda CWC chairperson said. “However, the brokers also sell the children to people who bring up the Banjara girls till they become majors, sell them to brothels in Yadagirigutta in Nalgonda district and in Mumbai and Pune,” he added. To avoid suspicion, the girl children change hands while being brought up. “The Banjara women work as sex workers till the age of 35 and when their youth is gone, they are left alone with a lot of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and nowhere to go,” Nimmaiah added. However, Devarakonda officials say reported cases have come down due to vigilance. But, some agree that Banjaras manage to slip their vigil and sell infant girls. “In some cases we have seen that mothers are also willing to sell their infant girls. We have conducted gram sabhas and counselling is given to mothers. We also recommend setting up of residential hostels and some have already been established,” said Devarakonda RDO K Gangadhar. “Though the cases of selling girl children has reduced since the past 7-8 months, still some incidents happen secretly. But cases were booked against brokers and sellers,” he added. However, Devarakonda Child Development Protection Officer (CDPO), ICDS, Sakku Bai claimed that strict monitoring is in place. “Our Anganwadi workers keep a fortnightly and monthly tab on pregnant women,” she said. Devarakonda DSP G Chandra Mohan said that the Banjaras know that if they sell children they will be booked. (New Indian Express 26/7/16)

 ‘Feed the future’ programme launched (21)

NEW DELHI: The Union Agriculture Ministry and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Monday launched the second phase of the “Feed the Future” India triangular training programme here, in a bid to bring specialised agriculture training to 1,500 agricultural professionals across Africa and Asia. U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Verma and Agriculture Secretary S.K. Pattanayak launched the programme together at the national agriculture science complex. The programme builds upon five decades of joint work utilising science and technology to bring innovative solutions to the challenges facing farmers.“By harnessing the expertise and innovation of our two great countries, we are unlocking new opportunities to address global development challenges, bringing us closer to our shared objective of eliminating global poverty and hunger,” said Mr. Verma. The programme is expected to enable India and the U.S. to share these farming techniques worldwide, helping countries in Africa and Asia revolutionise their agriculture practices and ultimately, improve global nutrition levels. Notably, led by the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management- MANAGE, the programme will train agricultural professionals from 17 countries in Africa and Asia on specialised farming practices such as agricultural marketing, dairy management, food processing and ways to prevent post-harvest losses. The first phase trained more than 200 professionals from Kenya, Liberia and Malawi, and they are now implementing the new farming methods to increase farm productivity and income. India and the U.S. are expanding the programme with the second phase launch to reach hundreds of professionals and in turn thousands of smallholder farmers. (The Hindu 27/7/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Centre moves to raise minimum wage for workers, labour unions unimpressed (14)

New Delhi: The NDA government is in the process of revising the minimum wages of millions of workers in several sectors, including agriculture, construction and mining. The daily wages of a sweeper or an unskilled construction worker in Delhi, for instance, is proposed to be increased by Rs 81 to Rs 449. Likewise, the position of an unarmed security guard could be upgraded from the semi-skilled to skilled category with a Rs 139 hike in his existing daily wage of Rs 407. These revisions form part of the labour ministry’s proposal to revise the minimum wages for 45 economic activities in the central sphere, including agriculture, construction, stone mining, sweeping, and loading-unloading. Despite being in the central sphere, they serve as a benchmark for minimum wages in the states too. “Increasing the minimum wages is a continuous process, and in a country that has a large informal sector, this move will bring cheer to many while boosting the overall economy,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic advisor, State Bank of India. Delhi and other major metropolitan cities have been clubbed under one category for the purpose of wages, while the rest of the country is divided into two other categories with lower income structures. A sweeper in Gwalior or Jaipur, for instance, would get Rs 374 per day – up by Rs 67 – if and when the wages are revised. On the other hand, a skilled construction worker in Delhi might see a hike of Rs 98. The minimum wages are applicable to both the formal and informal sectors “theoretically”, but it’s difficult to implement in the unorganised sector.Under the Minimum Wages Act-1948, wages have to be reviewed every five years. However, the agriculture sector saw its last wage review in 2005, sweeping and cleaning in 2008, and construction sector in 2009. “Minimum wages must be revised periodically to factor in inflation,” said DK Joshi, chief economist, CRISIL. Sources said the proposed changes in the wage structure have been brought before the Minimum Wages Advisory Board, and these will be notified soon after being cleared. …  (Hindustan Times 3/7/16)

20 booked for vandalising assistant labour chief’s office (14)

Kolhapur: Workers of the Republican Party of India (RPI-Athawale group) allegedly vandalised the office of the assistant labour commissioner in Shahupuri on Monday causing losses to the tune of Rs 3 lakh. The Shahupuri police have booked 20 workers of the party for their alleged involvement in the act. According to the police, the Republican Party of India (A) members organised a morcha at the assistant labour commissioner’s office on Monday afternoon for their series of demands. However, things took a violent turn when they allegedly vandalised the office breaking chairs, windows and glasses and also damaged furnitures. The police present at the spot stormed into the office and managed to bring the situation under control. Later, the police held 20 people responsible for the act. They were booked under sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 143 (punishment), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon). They were also booked under the IPC sections 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 353 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person, otherwise than on grave provocation) and 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) as well as section 135 of the Maharashtra Police Act. The RPI activists were agitating to press for their demands that included starting of insurance scheme for construction workers, allotting service books to construction workers within 15 days and enrolling new construction workers at the earliest. (Times of India 5/7/16)

MGNREGA is most innovative Indian programme: Joseph Stiglitz (14)

Bengaluru, July 6 (IANS) The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the single most innovative programme from India and a lesson to the whole world, said Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on Wednesday. “The single most innovative programme from India, lesson for the whole world, it was that programme (MGNREGA),” said Stiglitz in response to a question on how India can minimise or eradicate inequality. He was speaking on the topic ‘Global Inequlity — Causes and Consequences’ at an interaction organised by Azim Premji University here. Enacted in 2005, the job guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA aims to enhance the livelihood security of rural people by guaranteeing 100 days of wages in a financial year for adults willing to take up unskilled manual work. Elaborating on how to curb inequality, the 2001 Economic Sciences Nobel laureate said it is pivotal to generate full employment. “One of the things most important is employment. And when there are high levels of unemployment, there is inequality,” said Stiglitz, also a professor in the the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York city. Generating full employment can be facilitated by ensuring rapid overall economy growth, he said. “Making sure that your overall economy grows at rapid rate is important. That means, not getting overly obsessed about inflation,” he stressed. “Excessive focus on inflation always inevitably leads to higher levels of unemployment levels and lower growth, and therefore more inequality,” added Stiglitz. Born in 1943 in Indiana, US, Stiglitz created a new branch in the discipline of Economics called ‘The Economics of Information’, which explores the consequences of asymmetries in information. (Times of India 6/7/16)

Sharp rise in timely wage payment to MGNREGA workers (14)

New Delhi: More workers are getting paid on time under the MGNREGA rural job scheme after the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cracked the whip, as late payment threatened to derail India’s biggest anti-poverty project. Delayed wages had been a major reason for beneficiaries opting out of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which brings work to millions of poor people in the countryside. It defeated the purpose of generating employment during distress in rural areas. But the payment schedule has improved substantially, of late. According to government figures, 62.21% of MGNREGA workers have been paid their dues within 15 days of completion of their work during April-June this year — the best performance since the scheme was introduced a decade ago. That’s a 65% jump, compared to 37.65% of workers getting their money on time in 2015. The sharp rise in timely payment came after the Supreme Court pulled up the government over unpaid wages two months ago. “It’s meaningless to have welfare schemes if affected persons do not receive assured benefits on time,” said a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur, hearing a petition on drought. There are 27.76 crore registered MGNREGA workers and payment punctuality is imperative because successive droughts had shriveled farm income. “It’s not sufficient to say so much has been allotted under a scheme. Those who worked under MNREGA are waiting for money. Why should people work without being paid? You can’t tell somebody to work today without money, which will be given after three months,” the court said. The top court’s rap forced the government to improve the payment schedule and cut delays. Prime Minister Modi stepped in too, hauling up officials at review meetings with the rural development ministry, sources said. He asked them to ensure timely payment and create assets under the MGNREGA. “Instead of waiting for the states to disburse money, we sent money directly to banks for disbursal of wages into the accounts of beneficiaries. We started an internet-based master roll of workers and monitored the system rigorously,” a rural development official said. (Hindustan Times 9/7/16)

Promote labour-intensive industries: NITI Aayog (14)

NEW DELHI: NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya stressed upon the need to promote labour-intensive industries in the country in a bid to create jobs. In a meeting with central trade unions and industry bodies, Mr. Panagariya gave a presentation on employment generation drawing a comparison with other countries such as China, Korea and Japan, said Virjesh Upadhyay, general secretary, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, who attended the meeting. “The presentation talked about the need to promote big and capital-intensive industries,” Mr. Upadhyay said. The meeting comes ahead of the labour ministry’s meet on July 18 with central trade unions to revive talks on their 12-point charter of demands. “He also said that legislative reforms in the area of tax, land and reforms are a must to generate jobs,” Mr. Upadhyay said, adding that this was the first time that the government think-tank held a meeting with the trade unions. CII and FICCI representatives also attended the meeting. (The Hindu 12/7/16)

33 bonded labours rescued of Bastar rescued from Bangalore (14)

Raipur: A day after opposition Congress legislators expressed serious concern over rising incidents of human trafficking in Chhattisgarh, 33 tribal people, including three minors of Bastar district, were rescued from a factory in Bangalore who were kept in confinement and were forced to work as bonded labours. With the initiative taken by Aam Aadmi Party at Jagdalpur, the members approached district collector demanding return of 15 people identified who were stuck in Karnataka. A team was then sent to rescue them, who returned with 33 people of Bastanar and Darbha region while thousands were still languishing in parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. District convener of AAP Rohit Arya told TOI, “Two local women had lured these people for jobs in railway department and took them to Bangalore via Vizag in December last year. The people working in a factory were kept in confinement and were measly paid irregularly amid dearth of food and sleep and regular beatings.” When they tried contacting families and local sarpanch, they didn’t get much support and the families contacted AAP members. Arya said that we made a list of 15 people and submitted before district collector Amit Kataria following which a team of five members from labour department were sent to Karnataka to rescue. A case was also lodged against the women agents against whom police have launched a manhunt. In their statement they said that there were thousands of people more from Chhattisgarh in clutches of contractors who don’t allow them to return home. Meanwhile, district administration would now get strict with maintaining of registers at gram panchayat level to record movements and migration of people from one place to another. (Times of India 13/7/16)

No anti-labour legislation planned: Labour minister (14)

NEW DELHI: Labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya on Monday sought to allay fears of trade unions and said the Centre had neither implemented any anti-labour law nor did it intend to do so in the future. The minister’s meeting with labour unions came amid apprehension that the government was looking to amend the laws to make them more business-friendly and could impact the interests of labour. The unions, which went on a day’s strike last September, have presented their demands to the Centre and Dattatreya sought to address the concerns. Sources said during the meeting that lasted nearly four hours, the minister “committed to labour welfare and to promote employment generation” but at the same time argued that labour reforms were necessary to enable setting up of more enterprises and to create jobs. He further said the government was looking to protect the interests of contract and construction workers. Some of the demands of unions include steps to contain price rise, opposition to foreign direct investment in railways, insurance and defence in addition to putting a halt to amendment to labour laws. (Times of India 19/7/16)

Four rescued from bonded labour in Hoskote, owner and sons charged (14)

BENGALURU: Suffering through bonded labour for over 10 years, three minors and an adult were rescued from a vegetable farm in Hoskote on Saturday, July 16. The four victims, hailing from Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu and Ramanagara in Karnataka were trafficked by the farm owner and his five sons who had paid the parents of the four an advance at the time of trafficking, ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 60,000. The oldest, 25 years of age, was bought by the farmer ten years ago and the rest of them, aged 16, 15 and 14 were trafficked, seven, four and five years ago, respectively. Once brought to the farm, the four youngsters were forced to work as per the weightage of advance paid to the parents. On Saturday, the victims were rescued by the Bangalore Rural District Administration and local police, along with the International Justice Mission (IJM). A case has been registered against the farm owner and his sons at the Hoskote Police Station under IPC 370 (Trafficking of Persons), bonded labour act and child labour act. “It is a serious crime that the youngsters were used as bonded labourers at this vegetable farm in Hoskote,” said, GB Chandrashekara, Tahsildhar of Hoskote who was in charge of the rescue. “The government of Karnataka takes these cases very seriously and we will conduct raids on any farm or factory that we suspect uses bonded labour. In this case, the owner of the farm faces serious human trafficking charges which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years. The labourers have been given release certificates by the Assistant Commissioner of Bangalore Rural District, MK Jagadesh and they will be rehabilitated.” “Giving advances to labourers or their families and restricting the freedom of the labourer based on the advance is also illegal according to the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act which attracts a maximum sentence of three years,” said Sashmeeta Mulmi, Director of Government Engagement, IJM. … (Times of India 20/7/16)

89 cr person-days generated under MGNREGA in first quarter (14)

New Delhi, Jul 20 () With change in implementation mode, the MGNREGA performance has improved substantially, as employment generated under it jumped by 60 per cent to record 89 crore person-days in the first quarter of this year. Under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme, the employment is demand-driven. Those who turn up for work are hired and paid on notified wage rate. In the April-June period of last year about 54 crore person-days of employment was generated under the MGNREGA which has jumped to 89 crore this year, Joint Secretary in Rural Development Ministry Aprajita Sarangi told . “So far Rs 30,000 crore has been allocated to the states under this scheme which is almost 78 per cent of the total budget. While in the last year at the same time about Rs 20,000 crore was allocated,” she said. The government has tweaked its implementation strategy of MGNREGA and now the focus is more on asset creation, she added. To ensure that there are no ghost assets being created, the geo-tagging of all the assets is being done. At the same time there was sharp rise in the number of field visits to assess the implementation of the scheme on ground level, Sarangi said. The official also mentioned that at the central level the rural development ministry is very minutely monitoring the scheme. “I think rural distress due to drought has also played a big role in the rise in working days under MGNREGA,” she said. The Centre has also announced the additional employment over and above 100 days per household to up to 150 days in notified drought affected districts in various states of the country. (Times of India 21/7/16)

CPI(M) seeks revision of minimum wages (14)

MANGALURU: Workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) staged a protest outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Monday accusing the Union government of failing to control inflation. It was part of a nationwide protest. They also demanded that the government fix the minimum daily wage at Rs. 600. K.R. Shreyan, a senior leader of the party, said that the prices of essential commodities had not come down in the last two years as promised by the Union government. The government had also failed to provide jobs to two crore persons a year, he alleged. Mr. Shreyan said that ahead of last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP promised to bring back black money stashed abroad. But it had remained only a promise. The government had also failed to end corruption in government departments, he said. Vasantha Achari, secretary, Dakshina Kannda district committee, said that atrocities against Dalits and minorities were increasing in BJP-ruled States in the country. Hindutva activists were behind the murder of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga in Mangaluru, he alleged. (The Hindu 26/7/16)

Since 2005, fewer jobs for women in India (14)

Female labour force participation in India is among the lowest in the world. What’s worse, the share of working women in India is declining. This is a cause for concern since higher labour earnings are the primary driver of poverty reduction. It is often argued that declining female participation is due to rising incomes that allow more women to stay at home. The evidence, however, shows that after farming jobs collapsed post 2005, alternative jobs considered suitable for women failed to replace them. Rising labour earnings have been the main force behind India’s remarkable decline in poverty. The gains arise partly from the demographic transition, which increases the share of working members in the average family. But trends in female labour force participation veer in the opposite direction. Today, India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the world, ranking 120th among the 131 countries for which data are available. Even among countries with similar income levels, India is at the bottom, together with Yemen, Pakistan and Egypt (Figure 1). Worse still, the rate has been declining since 2005. This is a matter of concern as women’s paid employment is known to increase their ability to influence decision-making within the household, and empower them more broadly in society as a whole. This declining trend has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, where female labour force participation among women aged 15 years and above fell from 49% in 2005 to 36% in 2012. This is the most recent period for which data are available. The numbers are based on the National Sample Survey’s (NSS) definition of ‘usual status’ of work, but the trend remains similar with other definitions too. In a recent paper, we argue that the explanation for this disturbing trend is the lack of suitable job opportunities for women. In a traditional society like India, where women bear the bulk of the responsibility for domestic chores and child care, their work outside the home is acceptable if it takes place in an environment that is perceived as safe, and allows the flexibility of multi-tasking. Indeed, three-quarters of women who were willing to work, if work was made available, favoured part-time salaried jobs. From this perspective, female labour force participation can be expected to depend on the availability of ‘suitable jobs’ such as farming, which are both flexible and close to home. However, the number of farming jobs has been shrinking, without a commensurate increase in other employment opportunities. Our research suggests that more than half of the decline in female labour force participation is due to the scarcity of suitable jobs at the local level. … (Indian Express 26/7/16)

RSS opposes Centre’s labour laws, wants govt to focus on job creation (14)

New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated trade unions and farmer groups have opposed the government’s attempts to amend labour laws at a time when the BJP-led NDA is pushing big-ticket programmes such as skill development and Make in India. They want the government to focus on job creation, saying its initiatives were not creating employment opportunities and better wages. The message was relayed to the government at a meeting on Tuesday between several Union ministers and representatives of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. These organisations are not content with minimum wages and contractual jobs or with the government limiting its intervention to skilling alone. “There is no wage-led growth; people appointed at junior levels continue to earn a meagre salary till their retirement,” a BMS functionary said. The affiliates have called for reassessing benefits accrued in the past through foreign direct investment (FDI). PM Narendra Modi’s views that FDI reforms will boost employment and benefit the economy has failed to impress the Sangh. An SJM functionary said: “From what we have seen, the rich have become richer and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened.” The Sangh’s farmer wing said allowing FDI in the food processing industry would affect local businesses, small operations and start-ups. These Sangh affiliates will deliberate on FDI and other economic policies at a meeting in September. Their opposition may force the government to rethink its strategy. RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor and often accused of influencing policy decisions, has become more assertive of late, unlike its blanket endorsement of government policies last September at a coordination meeting in New Delhi. Besides trade, labour and economy, education is where the Sangh wants its imprint to be conspicuous. It wants its inputs incorporated in a new education policy and a curriculum steeped in Indian culture. Reverting to the traditional teaching forms such as the Gurukul system, popularising Sanskrit and culling out information from Vedas is a priority for the Sangh, which it asserted in meetings with HRD ministers — first Smriti Irani and now Prakash Javadekar. (Hindustan Times 29/7/16)

RESERVATION

Jats suspend quota stir after talks with Rajasthan govt.(25)

JAIPUR: The Jat community of Bharatpur and Dholpur districts in Rajasthan has suspended its agitation for reservation under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, which was slated to begin on Saturday, after its representatives reached an understanding with the State government over some of the demands. Three State ministers, who met a 21-member delegation of the Bharatpur-Dholpur Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti in Jaipur, assured that the State OBC Commission would be apprised of the demand for early collection of quantifiable data to support the claim of Jats for quota in jobs and education. The demand for drinking water supply from Guragaon Canal to 205 villages will also be considered. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Arun Chaturvedi said though the State government agreed in principle with the reservation demand, the matter was sub judice after both the Supreme Court and the Rajasthan High Court struck down the notifications for inclusion of Jats in the Central and State OBC lists. (The Hindu 3/7/16)

Govt issues notification on reservation in promotions (25)

Jaipur: People from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Class, Special Backward Class and economically weaker sections placed in notified areas of the state will get reservation in promotions. The state government on Monday issued notification approving 5% of reservation for Scheduled Caste and 45% of reservation for Scheduled Tribe in scheduled areas for government jobs other than state services. Apart from this, 5% seats will be reserved for SC and 45% for ST’s in scheduled areas for the direct recruitment in government jobs other state services. On rest 50% seats, applicants from other communities will be selected based on their qualification. However, even these seats will be open for the SC and ST candidates. (Times of India 5/7/16)

OBC quota opening doors but policies need better implementation: Transgenders (25)

BENGALURU: Manju, 41, is a postgraduate but is forced to beg for a living. The transgender harboured the dream of being a teacher but was shown the door by many colleges. “What good is my education? Despite being a degree holder, I have to resort to begging. I have been pushed into sex work too. Had society been a little empathetic towards me, I would be living with dignity,” said Manju.Discrimination and stigma have bulldozed the dreams of many like Manju, who are competent enough to hold respectable positions. But coming to the rescue of the community, the Supreme Court last week passed a ruling reiterating that transgenders have to be included in the OBC category. Though the judgment was delivered on April 15, 2014, the NDA government moved an application in July 2014 seeking clarification on whether the term ‘transgender’ included lesbians, gays and bisexuals. The apex court’s latest verdict has clarified that the transgender community does not include lesbians, gays and bisexuals but only eunuchs. The judgement has come as a ray of hope for transgenders who can now identify themselves as the third gender, reap the benefits enjoyed by OBCs and get more employment opportunities. However, implementation of policies is still a far cry, say activists. “Though we are witnessing a change, it is visible only in a few institutions and organizations working for the uplift of transgenders. The policies are still pending with the government and there is a lack of implementation. We are yet to be accepted by society. Commissions should be set up to look into policies related to the transgender community,” said Akkai Padmashali, an activist inspiring transgender community across the world. When asked about transgenders being given the recognition of the third gender, Akkai said, “If I am the third gender, then who is the first? Why should anyone decide what my gender is? Rakshita, 19, who is all set to pursue B Com, said the SC order will help only if the government and society gives them employment opportunities. “Even though the verdict brings us under the OBC umbrella, transgenders hardly any chance to grow. How many colleges are willing to offer admission to transgenders except St Joseph’s,” she asked.The SC order should be accepted and implemented at the state level. I have been pursuing modelling and have worked in the national award-winning and critically acclaimed Kannada movie Naanu Avanalla Avalu, which which narrates the story of a transgender. But I am still struggling. I am mostly offered petty roles, which portray transgenders in a bad light. I dropped out of school after class 7 because I was bullied. If we have to struggle for something like a ration card despite the OBC status, there is a serious lack of policy implementation. (Times of India 5/7/16)

Arvind Kejriwal calls DU admission system ‘bizarre’ (25)

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday termed the admission process of Delhi University “bizarre”, saying it doesn’t have a quota for the local students or entrance tests. “Delhi University admission system is most bizarre. They don’t have either quota for locals or normalisation of marks or entrance tests”, tweeted the Chief Minister. His comment comes close on the heels of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s letter to the then Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, demanding changes in the admission process of the varsity. In a letter written to Irani on July 2, Sisodia had suggested allotment of five percentage points for local students in those Delhi University colleges which are funded completely by the Delhi government. He also asked for a separate entrance test for admission in DU colleges. Former Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel, who has been raising the issue of reservation for local students in DU, also suggested an eligibility test for admission into the varsity. “I met DU Vice-Chancellor and requested him to bring quota for local students and conduct eligibility test for admissions. I also called on Manish Sisodia and the HRD minister and I am confident that the talk would go in the right direction”, Goel, who was recently inducted into the Union council of ministers, told IANS. DU admissions for various courses are currently going on with the university scheduled to release the third cut-off list on Sunday. (Business Standard 7/7/16)

Rajasthan rectifies notification to allow 100% quota for locals in TSP areas (25)

Jaipur: The Rajasthan government has reissued a notification for Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) areas, reserving 45% jobs for Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 5% for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates in all direct recruitment, except the State Services. In addition to the ST/SC candidates, the general category candidates too would get quota benefit in the TSP areas. As per the notification, the remaining 50% vacancies in all direct recruitment in the TSP areas will be filled only with local candidates from the OBC, SBC and general categories. The special quota is only for candidates who are natives of the TSP areas and is applicable in direct recruitment at the lower levels only in TSP areas. The TSP areas include the entire southern districts of Dungarpur, Banswara and Pratapgarh and some parts of Udaipur and Sirohi. The tribal people, supported by the Samanta Manch, had been agitating for the fresh notification since the earlier one was stayed by the Rajasthan high court on the ground that the state government failed to clarify under which law the special quota was granted. The new notification gives references to sub-para (1) of para-5 in the Fifth Schedule under Article 244(1) and the Government of India notification F19(2)80-L-1 dated February 12, 1981 in allowing special quota to tribal people in TSP areas. The local people from the TSP areas held a massive “Dhikkar” rally in Sagwara tehsil of Dungarpur to demand correction in the earlier notification so that the special quota could be implemented. The state government subsequently held a couple of meetings with the TSP leaders on the issue. The region has the largest number of assembly constituencies reserved for ST candidates in Rajasthan. The past election-patterns show that the locals here vote en masse and the party that takes lead here generally comes to power. In 2013, the BJP won 15 of the 17 seats reserved for the ST in the region. (Times of India 9/7/16)