Posted by admin at 1 November 2016

Category: Uncategorized

DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Dalits drop rail blockade after invitation for talks (2)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Dalits under the banner of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) and Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti (UDALS) called off their rail blockade planned in Ahmedabad on Saturday after the State government invited agitation leader Jignesh Mevani and others for talks to discuss their demands including granting of agriculture land to Dalits. A few representatives from the government also impressed upon the protesters to not go ahead with the agitation in the wake of the high alert sounded in the State after the ‘surgical strikes’ in PoK by the security forces. “We will first talk to the government functionaries and put our demands on the table,” said a member of RDAM. He said “Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja had asked Mevani to put off the agitation.” On Friday, senior police officials also urged the protesters to call off the agitation, citing the security situation. (The Hindu 1/10/16)

Dalit bodies observe ‘National Protest Day’ (2)

ONGOLE: Dalit and Leftist organisations have condemned the increasing attacks on Dalits and minorities in different parts of the country and called for a strong deterrent action against ‘gau rakshaks’ and vigilante groups. Observing the ”National Protest Day” on a call given by the Dalit Swabhiman Sangharsh, activists of these organisations, including the Kula Vivaksha Porata Sangam (KVPS), Dalit Hakkula Porata Sangham (DHPS) and Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights(OPDR) raised slogans against continuing caste oppression and cultural nationalism agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Referring to a series of attacks, including Dadri lynching to thrashing of Dalits of Amalapuram, KVPS district secretary K. Raghuram said atrocities on Dalits and minorities had increased ever since the BJP-led government assumed office. The BJP-ruled States witnessed the highest number of incidents of rape of Dalit women, claimed DHPS State secretary Karavadi Subba Rao. Attacks by self-styled “Gau Rakshaks” on Muslims and Dalits should be stopped forthwith by those in power, he added. They also demanded distribution of land for the landless Dalits to uphold their self-esteem and vowed to step up their fight against caste oppression of all kinds. (The Hindu 4/10/16)

Expelled Dalits to hold students’ parliament, Rohith’s mother to be chief guest (2)

LUCKNOW: Supporting reservation, Dalit students of Babasheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, in first-of-its-kind, holding a national students’ parliament on October 8. The parliament will see Dalit students from different institutions across the country including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Banaras Hindu University, Wardha University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Lucknow University, Kashi Vidyapeeth and others. On the occasion, Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula will be the chief guest. The Parliament will debate on the expulsions of eight Dalit students for allegedly attacking a teacher on September 7. The Parliament held by the students under the aegis of Ambedkar University Dalit Students’ primarily aims at reinstating the eight expelled students by BBAU authorities. Demanding justice, students alleged that the university first rusticated them, without any probe and then constitutes an eight-member committee, a week after expulsions. The committee submits its report and finds that none of the expelled students had any direct relation with the September 7 incident. They (university) then hands over the probe to the proctorial board who interact with us twice. And then it is announced that expulsions of three students have been revoked. Since a month, we have been out of our hostels,” said Shreyat Bouddh, one of the expelled student. On September 7, BBAU faculty Kamal Jaiswal lodged an FIR against six Dalit students for allegedly attacking him, tearing his shirt and vandalizing his vehicle. Following the incident, university administration on September 8 expelled eight students citing indiscipline and their alleged involvement in violent activities on campus. Their entry in campus was banned. The students were further removed from the hostel and their rooms were seized. Following this, Dalit student organisations, including BAPSA from JNU, TISS’s Ambedkarite Student Association launched a series of protests on social media as well as in their campuses in the last few days. Pro quota organisation such as Aarakshan Bachao Sangarsh Samiti too, relentlessly staged protests. The expelled students even out up their case before the Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Ramdas Athawale and also BSP MLA Gaya Charan Dinkar. (Times of India 7/10/16)

Uttarakhand: Dalit man killed for entering flour mill (2)

NAINITAL: Large parts of Uttarakhand erupted in protests by Dalits after an upper caste teacher of a government school in Bageshwar, Kumaon hills, allegedly slit the throat of a Dalit man who entered a flour mill and was accused of “defiling” it. Police sources said that a verbal spat ensued between the teacher, Lalit Karnatak, and Sohan Ram soon after the latter entered the flour mill. Enraged that Ram, a Dalit, protested the slur, Karnatak, police said, whipped out a blade a ran it through the poor man’s throat. Sukhveer Singh, Bageshwar superintendent of police, said, “The main accused, his father and brother were arrested on Thursday and produced before the chief judicial magistrate’s court on Friday. They have been sent to Almora jail and will be in judicial custody for 14 days.” The three accused have been booked under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 506 (criminal intimidation), and also charged under relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.According to Kundan Singh Bhandari, the owner of the flour mill who is also an eyewitness in the case, Ram, 35, a resident of Karadiya village in Bageshwar district, had visited the mill to collect a sack of wheat that he had given to be ground. Karnatak, an assistant teacher in a government school in the same village, reached the shop at the same time and started hurling abuses at Ram for “touching the flour and thereby rendering it impure”.Bhandari said he tried to pacify the accused but the “enraged” teacher attacked the Dalit man with a sickle pushing it deep into his neck. According to cops, the victim fell on the ground and died on the spot. The flour mill owner also told police that the father and the brother of the accused threatened the deceased’s wailing family members if they went to the cops with their complaint. Keshav Ram, the victim’s uncle who later lodged the FIR, told TOI , “Both Dalits and upper caste people in the village have been using the mill. However, in view of the ongoing Navratri festival, upper caste members had issued a diktat to Dalit families threatening them not to use the mill, and if necessary, only after flour had been prepared as offering for the deities.” (Times of India 9/10/16)

Upper caste families boycotted for aiding Dalits (2)

SHIMLA: Around a dozen upper caste families in Murah panchayat of remote Seraj assembly constituency of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh have been boycotted by their own community for integrating with dalits. Aggrieved families have approached the district administration but action is yet to be taken against the practitioners of untouchability. Sources said families facing social boycott were the members of a religious sect that preach equality and during weekly congregation all the followers of sect share community meal together by sitting in a row without any discrimination, much to the dislike of panchayat members who have asked others not to have any communication link with the families.The practice of untouchability is followed by villages Duju, Narwagi, Murah, Panu and Guran under Murah panchayat of Balichowki tehsil where around a dozen families are no longer considered a part of their own community for defying the social norms practiced in the area. On Thursday, victims who are also facing threat to their lives had written to sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Gohar, Raghav Sharma, narrating their ordeal. After receiving the complaint, SDM had directed the SHO of Aut police station to investigate the matter and submit a written report. Sharma said around 10 people have submitted a complaint and have named around a dozen families practicing untouchability in the panchayat. He said that report of SHO, who visited the panchayat on Saturday is awaited after which further action would be initiated on the issue. Sources said that on Monday, panchayat would be meeting to discuss the issue. This is not the first time when a case of discrimination has been reported from Murah panchayat. In June 2014, Aut police had registered a case under section 3 of SC/ST Act on the discrimination faced by dalit students at a primary school in Murah while community feast was served to celebrate the 50 years of school on June 23 and an FIR was registered later. (Times of India 10/10/16)

Over 300 Dalits convert to Buddhism in Gujarat (2)

Ahmedabad: Over 200 people from the Dalit community from Gujarat converted to Buddhism in three separate events organised by Buddhist organisations here on the occasion of Vijaya Dashmi, organisers said Wednesday. Another 90 from the state converted to Buddhism in Nagpur, taking the total to over 300 Dalits. According to organisers, though conversions are carried out every year on Vijaya Dashmi, this year the numbers were high on account of the Una Dalit flogging incident. “As many as 140 Dalits converted to Buddhism at an event organised by Gujarat Buddhist Society in Dani Limda locality of Ahmedabad yesterday to mark Vijaya Dashmi,” Ramesh Banker, a member of Gujarat Buddhist Academy, which organised the event here, said.Sixty-five people from the community converted to Buddhism at a separate event organised in Kalol in Gandhinagar district, while 11 more converted in Wadhwan in Surendranagar district. Some of them also embraced Buddhism at an event organised at Kalol. A total of 65 persons converted at this event, P G Jyotikar of Buddhist Society of India, said. He said while conversion is an ongoing event, the Dalits prefer to embrace Buddhism on Vijaya Dashmi because on this day in 1956, Babasaheb B R Ambedkar took to Buddhism alongwith other Dalits at an event in Nagpur. “Most Dalits prefer this day for conversion, as Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism on this day in 1956. The reaction to the Una Dalit atrocity incident was evident in response we received from the converts,” Jyotikar said. While a total 216 Dalits converted to Buddhism at events organised in the state, around 90 more from the state converted to the religion at Nagpur, where Dalits from all over the country gather for conversion, Banker claimed. “With this, more than 300 Dalits in the state converted to Buddhism,” he claimed. …. (The Indian Express 12/10/16)

Dalit youth’s leg chopped off, murdered in Punjab; three held (2)

CHANDIGARH/MANSA: A 20-year-old Dalit youth, allegedly involved in illicit liquor trade, was tortured to death and his leg chopped off by his rivals in Punjab’s Mansa district, following which three persons have been arrested. Mansa SSP Mukhwinder Singh said police have arrested three accused Balbir Singh, Hardeep Singh, and Sadhu Singh from the district on a tip-off. He said efforts are on to nab three other accused — Amandeep Singh, Babrik Singh and Sita Singh. A case of murder had been registered against the six, one of whom is a Dalit, in connection with the incident. Police said the incident was a fallout of inter-gang rivalry and that the two groups had been involved in clashes in the past too. The victim Sukhchain Singh and his friends were called by the other group on the pretext of settling a dispute on Monday. “Then they attacked Sukhchain and his friends with sharp-edged weapons on Monday night. Though Sukhchain’s friends managed to flee, the other group brutally killed Sukhchain with sharp-edged weapon,” the SSP said. His body was recovered from the house of Balbir, one of the accused, police said. There were injury marks on the body and leg was also found chopped off, police said, adding the missing limb has been found in the fields, nearly 400 meter from the crime scene. The family of the victim had refused to cremate the body until the chopped off limb is found. “We shall now request the family of victim to cremate the body,” the SSP said. He said two persons of the rival group, who are not named in the FIR, have been rounded up for questioning. The incident drew condemnation from the opposition Congress, which alleged the perpetrators had links to the ruling Akali Dal. … (The Hindu 13/10/2016)

 ‘Govt. diverted funds meant for Dalits to other castes’ (2)

Hassan: Karnataka Dalit Sangharsha Samiti State convener Venkatagiriyaiah has alleged that the State government had diverted benefits meant for the Dalit community to other castes. Of the Rs.16,000 crore earmarked for the communities from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes , as much as Rs. 6,000 crore had been diverted to upper castes, he said, after inaugurating a State-level two-day study camp organised by the Samiti at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan here on Sunday. Mr. Ventatagiriyaiah said the funds meant for Dalits had not been utilised properly. While Rs. 6,000 crore had been diverted to other castes, only Rs. 4,000 crore of the remaining amount had been utilised for the needs of Dalits. “Chief Minister Siddaramiah keeps calling himself ‘a champion of Dalits’ causes’. However, he has been forcing Dalit leaders to retire from active politics,” he criticised. He also took the government to task for not granting land to the bagair-hukum cultivators. Commenting on the Narendra Modi-led Union government, Venkatagiriyaiah said the Prime Minister was in the control of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders. “The RSS activists are engaged in spreading violence in the country,” he contended. (The Hindu 17/10/16)

Protest over land in Ahmedabad: Dalits block roads, 100 detained (2)

Gandhinagar: Around 100 Dalits were detained by Ahmedabad City police Tuesday after they blocked the road outside Ahmedabad Collector’s office, protesting to press for their demand to get actual possession of land allocated to them. Hundreds of acres of land have been allocated to Dalits of Saroda village in Dholka region under the provisions of Agriculture Land Ceiling (ALC) Act, which has remained on paper so far. Ahmedabad Collector Avantika Singh Aulakh said, “It is not true that the land measurement has been discontinued. It is almost over and now some table work is required, following which a committee headed by Additional Collector will make its recommendations. The matter is also sub judice. So, we have to take all that into consideration. We have conveyed all this to them (Dalits) and are in constant dialogue with them. There was a protest today. But it’s a long procedure and the matter does not get resolved immediately.” Last month, the Dalits had blocked the road with the demand, following which the district revenue authorities had started measuring the plots in Saroda village. However, after some days, the measuring procedure was allegedly stopped by them which has not resumed till date. Raman Maheriya, a resident of Saroda and a member of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, which is organising the protest, said, “They measured the land for giving us physical possession for some days last month. But then, they stopped it with a promise to resume the same after Dussehra due to staff crunch. However, it has not restarted yet. We protested today and the police detained us.” He added: “We are not going to stop our protest till we physically get the land allocated to us.” Around 40 women also participated in the protest and were among those detained. (Indian Express 19/10/16)

Gujarat: Dalit man in Junagadh kills self as campaign for land rights widens (2)

Mumbai: A Dalit man in Gujarat has killed himself in a fresh protest over land, as a campaign for land rights for the community widened across the country. Three Dalit men who had been protesting over a lack of land titles in Junagadh, had consumed poison earlier this week, a district official said. Parbat Parmar died in hospital, while the other two are in a stable condition. In the months since four Dalit youths were stripped and flogged by upper-caste Hindu men in Una, Gujarat, for allegedly skinning a dead cow, protests by Dalits for their rights including land have spread across the country. Parmar and other Dalits had been forced out of their village more than two decades ago for trying to cultivate grazing land, a move that was opposed by higher-caste villagers. They have since been demanding alternative land, local media reported. “What happened is atrocious,” said Paul Divaker, a founder of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights in New Delhi. “It is unconscionable that the state has delayed allotting land to them for so many years, land that is legally due to them, and failing to protect them from harassment,” he said. At least half of India’s lower-caste population is landless. Landless Dalits are at the bottom of an age-old social hierarchy, making them vulnerable to discrimination and attacks by upper-caste Hindus, including recent ones by hardline “gau rakshak” vigilantes who regard cows as sacred. Some Dalits in Junagadh district were allocated land in 1988, said RG Jadeja, another district official. Others had ancestral land that they cultivated, he said, adding that no allocations had been made since. The protest ended after officials said they would look into the demands for land, he said. “We will find out who is eligible to receive land as per government rules, and allot at least 2 acres (0.81 hectare) per family by March 2017,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Dalit protests that began in Gujarat after the Una incident have since spread elsewhere, with rights activist Jignesh Mevani kicking off a nationwide campaign earlier this month, calling for 5 acres of land for every landless Dalit family in India. (Hindustan Times 21/10/16)

Dalit man dies of hunger in UP village, wife fights for life (2)

Allahabad: A 28-year-old jobless Dalit man, identified as Dharmendra, allegedly died of hunger in a village of Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad district on Sunday morning, while his wife too was found fighting for life without a morsel of food in their home. The district administration instructed action against local officials and the owner of the fair price shop, which provides government subsidised food to the poor. Sub-divisional magistrate Brajendra Dwivedi said Dharmendra died of jaundice that he was suffering for some time. But tehsildar Ramkumar Verma, who inspected the couple’s home at Dharauta village under Soraon tehsil, after the news of the death, reported that he couldn’t find any food in the decrepit house in which the man and his differently-abled wife, Usha Devi, lived.Dharmendra, a local dancer at rural functions, did not possess an Aadhaar card, which is required to get another card for free and subsidized ration to people living below the poverty line. In the absence of BPL and ration cards, he was not able to get food grain from the fair price shop. Dharmendra and Usha Devi were married for eight years, but the couple was childless. He had some agricultural land registered in his name, Dwivedi said. It is reported that the family survived on the food provided by villagers. But of late, people have stopped giving them alms, plunging the couple into hunger. Dharmendra succumbed on Sunday morning.Hunger deaths are rife in the Indian countryside despite the government running several schemes, especially a food subsidy programme that guarantees cut-price rice and wheat to 63.5% of the population. But shoddy management of food stocks and corrupt practices have choked the flow of food to those who need it the most. (The Hindustan Times 24/10/16)

After years of oppression, dalits set foot inside temple (2)

TIRUVANNAMALAI: After years of being denied entry to the Arulmigu Thulukanathamman temple, just a few yards from their dwelling place, 60 dalits of Nammandi Colony entered the temple with revenue officials. The vanniyars of Hariharapakkam, where the temple is located, had been preventing the dalits from entering the place of worship for decades. As the temple doors opened, it was an occasion of joy for the dalits and one of fury for the vanniyars. Sudhakar stood in rapt attention, as he felt he was seeing something that had been forbidden for his father and grandfather. “I have no words to explain how I feel. It is a divine experience,” he said. For Dass, an autorickshaw driver, this was like the festival of harvest. “Pongal is months away but today is Pongal for me. We have not been allowed to enter the temple for several decades. Why, even my grandfather has not stepped inside this temple, and I never thought I would,” he said. But the momentous occasion did not come easy. It was the result of seeds sown by a group of youngsters – Sudhakar, Aruldass, Pandiyaraj, Prakash, Karthick and Parthiban – of the colony. Unable to withstand the ostracism, the youngsters appealed to the district administration to take steps to put an end to the practice three months ago. After a series of peace talks, the administration closed the temple two months ago.T Prabhu Shankar, sub-collector of Cheyyar, then made arrangements to take the dalits inside the temple. The officials broke open the lock. A few days ago, the revenue officials brought the vanniyars under a bond to prevent them from obstructing the entry of dalits.”We gave them a chance to settle the issue amicably but the vanniyars failed to give in. So, we decided to take the dalits inside the temple,” the sub-collector said. For people like 62-year-old K Shanmugam, this was possible only because of the efforts of the youngsters. A police team will stay put in the village for nearly a week to ensure that law and order is maintained, the sub-collector added. (Times of India 26/10/16)

Dalits enter temple near Cheyyar with police protection (2)

Tiruvannamalai: Officials upheld the doctrine of equality that is enshrined in the Constitution when they escorted about 60 Dalit people of Namandi village in Cheyyar taluk on Tuesday night to Thulukkanathamman temple located nearby that was all along been forbidden for them. Though the temple is technically located in Hariharpakkam village, it is in the vicinity of the Dalit neighbourhood of Namandi. But the Dalits have never been able to go to the century-old temple as they were denied entry into the temple by the Vanniyars in the Hariharappakkam. A handful of Dalit youths led by B. Sudhakar petitioned the District Collector by July this year to help them enter the temple and worship. T. Prabu Shankar, Sub Collector of Cheyyar, convened a series of peace meetings in an attempt to make the Vanniyars’ understand that one section of people could not be denied their right to enter the temple based on caste. Though the temple is managed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department of the Tami lNadu government since 1988, Vanniyars claimed that the temple belonged to them and they could not alter the social order of not allowing Dalits into the temple, official sources said. As the talks failed to fructify, the officials decided to give protection to the Dalits willing to enter the temple. Amid a posse of police personnel, revenue and HR&CE officials, the Dalits entered the temple. Earlier, officials had to break open the illegally locked gates of the temple.Sudhakar, a mechanic, said that they experienced extreme agony when they had to stop outside the temple in their neighbourhood when their classmates from the caste Hindu families entered the temple for worship. He said that during temple festivals, there would be some 10,000 devotees from faraway places who wished to visit the temple but could not step into the premises. “When we entered the temple on Tuesday, tears trickled from my eyes. We felt as if we got freedom just then. I cannot express our feeling of the moment in words. Government officials have been fair to us and gave protection and support to enter the temple. We thank them. However, from midday on Wednesday, Vanniyars have been active in mobilising themselves against this temple entry that is somewhat terrifying. At present, the police is here and we feel safe,” he added. Sub Collector Prabu Shankar who dealt with the issue on the ground told The Hindu : “When the Dalits of Namandi petitioned seeking to help them enter the temple, initially we wanted to sort it out amicably in order to protect social harmony. Hence, we called for peace meetings and asked the people from Hariharapakkam to give up their objection to the entry of Dalits. But since they were not willing to budge, we fulfilled our duty to ensure equal right for Dalits to enter temple . The petitioners waited patiently, keeping faith in law until we made arrangements”. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

RSS holds ‘cleansing’ drive at Udupi temple, Dalits object (2)

Bengaluru: A “purification” drive organised at the Udupi Krishna Temple by a senior RSS leader and head seer of Pejawer Mutt on Sunday has sparked objections, with Dalit groups claiming that the drive was directed against them. The call for the purification drive, called Kanaka Nadige, was given by Chakravarthy Sulibele, RSS leader and head of Yuva Brigade in Karnataka, after an Udupi Chalo rally was organised by Dalit groups on October 9 to demand justice and equality in the Udupi temple. Jignesh Mevani, a leader from Gujarat, was among several Dalit speakers at the event who called for an end to restrictive practices against Dalits and curbs on gau rakshaks. Following the October 9 event, the Yuva Brigade initially called for cleaning of streets in the whole of Udupi. This prompted pro-Dalit groups to call for a rally in the town on October 23, called Swabhiman Nadige, and approach the Udupi administration for a ban on the Yuva Brigade’s Kanaka Nadige. Udupi SP K T Balakrishna denied permission to both Kanaka Nadige and Swabhiman Nadige. Subsequently, the Dalit groups postponed their rally, while the Yuva Brigade conducted a cleansing ritual on the premises of the Udupi Krishna Temple. Around 500 Yuva Brigade volunteers cleaned the toilets, parking lots, kitchens and other areas in the compound on Sunday. “This is not an anti-Dalit purification. Dalits participated in the cleaning, and we had food together. The purification exercise was carried out because of wrong messages spread about the Udupi Mutt during the Chalo Udupi rally, where it was alleged that there was discrimination at the mutt. If they think it is against Chalo Udupi, let them,’’ RSS leader Sulibele said during the programme. Pejawer Mutt seer Vishweshwara Thirtha, who told state government officials that he was opposed to the cleansing ritual but could not pull out as the Yuva Brigade had made arrangements, said the ritual was meant for holistic cleaning. “We need internal and external purification. It is not against any community,’’ he said. Dalit groups, meanwhile, objected to the cleansing ritual and demanded action against those who participated in it. “The Kanaka Nadige was held in places that are not exactly in the mutt premises. Strict action should be taken for violating the order of the administration. Despite their claims, the cleaning drive was directed against Dalits,” said Shyamraj Birthi, an organiser of the proposed Swabhimana Nadige event. The Chalo Udupi rally was declared a Dalit “self-respect convention”, organised as part of efforts to build a nationwide coalition of Dalits, women, minority and oppressed communities. One of the demands that Mevani made at the rally was for a ban on caste-based seating (pankti bheda) for meals at the Udupi temple. He had said that the Karnataka government should direct the temple authorities to change the system or face protests. (Indian Express 28/10/16)

TRIBALS

Promises don’t make bridges: Kandhamal tribals continue on foot (6)

Residents of several villages in Orissa’s Kandhamal district continue to wait for the bridges and roads that their state government had promised them six years ago. People in several parts of the district, but mostly those living in hilly tracts, are still dependent on dangerous self-made ropes and cable bridges that they use to cross rivers and rivulets to reach places of importance in their daily lives. Their troubles rise with the levels of water in the rivers and streams when the rainy season arrives every year. The number of under-construction bridges, on the other hand, barely goes up. The state government’s Biju Setu Yojana, a special drive launched in 2011 to undertake construction of bridges across the state in a bid to connect the missing links on road of rural development department by 2015, still remains unaccomplished. Of the 863 bridges scheduled for construction during the period from 2010-11 to 2015-16, only 402 have been completed. Almost half of over two dozens of these in Kandhamal district are reportedly awaiting completion. “Due to lack of bridges and all-weather roads, many students are unable to take classes in the rainy season. Besides, a large section of people, mostly the Kandh tribals living in the forest areas, do not have access to gram panchayat, block and tehsil offices and district headquarters. As a result, most of their grievances are not addressed,” said Ashok Kumar Mohanty, a social activist. Mr Mohanty added that had there been good roads connecting villages with block and tehsil offices, the July incident of “mistaken” firing in Gumudumaha village under Baliguda block would not have taken place. As many as five tribals, including a two-year-old, were killed in firing on the night of July 8 while they were returning from Baliguda tehsil office after receiving their MGNREGA wages. Since the villagers were returning home – some on foot and a few others in an auto-rickshaw – in a muddy road late in the night, the security personnel mistook them to be Maoists and opened fire. Biswamohan Mohanty, a development activist working in the district for over two decades, said improvement of roads and introduction of regular bus services to at least all the gram panchayats would contribute to the economic development of the district. “Due to lack of adequate bus service, people in the district have to heavily rely on auto-rickshaws and small four-wheelers that often fail to carry the increasing load of passengers. The bus owners are shying away from providing transport services in the districts due to poor road conditions,” he said. (Asian Age 1/10/16)

Farmers, tribals protest in Palghar, Maharashtra (6)

Mumbai: Thousands of farmers and tribals have started an indefinite agitation in front of the residence of Vishnu Sawara, Guardian Minister for Palghar district and Minister for Tribal Development, at Wada in Palghar. Farmers and tribals from across Maharashtra gathered in Palghar to protest against what they called was the state government’s negligence towards the tribals and the state’s slow response to malnutrition deaths in tribal districts of Maharashtra including Palghar. The protest was held at Khandeshwari Naka of Wada taluka where reportedly around 10,000-12,000 farmers and tribals blocked the road. The statewide indefinite demonstration was called by CPI(M) affiliated state council of the All India Kisan Sabha which is demanding immediate steps to reduce malnutrition deaths along with implementation of Forests Rights Act 2005 and of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme. Ashok Dhawale, National Joint Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, said, “The issue of malnutrition deaths is really serious, but the government is taking it lightly. Earlier, we agitated in Nashik when Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis assured us to meet our demands but nothing has been implemented on ground. Now we will not recall the agitation unless the minister comes here and gives us a promise in writing.” Kisan Gujar, the State unit president of the Kisan Sabha, said, “We are demanding the government to give the tribal and forest lands to tribal people if tribals are cultivating that land, to release payment of work under Padkai scheme, to give priority to providing water from dams in tribal areas to tribal population and to improve tribal ashram schools and hostels which are in a bad condition.” “This are all basic facilities, but the government is neglecting the tribal population,” he added. Ajit Navale, secretary of Kisan Sabha, says, “The farmers themselves have taken the stand that they will not leave unless the minister meets us. Additional tribal commissioner met us but issues have to be discussed by the minister and not a local officer of the government.” Police took precautionary measures and increased security. Shivshankar More, spokesperson for Palghar police, said, “We have taken all necessary security measures to avoid any untoward incident as most of the protesters are not locals. As of now, there are around 10-12 thousand protesters. We have increased security in the area and at the residence of the minister.” (Indian Express 4/10.16)

Steps to ensure Rs. 3,000 income to tribal people (6)

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: East Godavari Collector H. Arun Kumar said on Thursday that the objective of the government was to enhance the purchasing power of each tribal family in the Agency area by providing them with Rs 3,000 income every month by giving them at least 15 working days through job cards. He observed that the employment guarantee scheme was a jewel in the crown among all the programmes with regard to the development of villages by lending a hand to the poor during natural calamities and drought. Stating that the district was in the second place in implementing the employment guarantee scheme, he suggested to the officials to take necessary steps to bring the district into the first place. He reviewed with officials the employment guarantee scheme, panchayati raj, tribal welfare, R&B department and ICDS average working days, ISLs, CC roads, land development and anganwadi buildings.Mr. Arun Kumar said at the meeting that two expert medical teams had studied the health condition of tribals in V.R Puram mandal where pedal edema (swelling of legs and/or hands) surfaced and added that the teams made it clear that the diseases had erupted due to lack of nutritious food. He directed the officials to take integrated steps to enhance the purchasing power by providing them with at least 15 working days through job cards to enable them get nutritious food. He put the onus on the officials for rectifying the nutritious food problems in the Agency area. He also mentioned that the district had stood first in horticulture cultivation. He directed officials to take steps to make the district open defecation free by the year 2018. He suggested that everyone should make efforts to eliminate the cultivation of eucalyptus in the Agency area to preserve ground water and soil health. When the field level staff told the Collector that the Forest Department was obstructing land development activities though ROFR pattas had been sanctioned, he assured them that he would take up the issue with the Forest Department. He said he would review these issues in November and warned that he would suspend the officials from duties if their performance had not improved. He suggested the officials to take up pre-fabricated buildings for anganadi centres. Project Officer, ITDA, K.V.N Chakradhar Babu; Sub-Collector Ravi Pattan Setty; and PD, Dwama A. Nageswara Rao were present on the occasion. (The Hindu 7/10/16)

Congress to take out Adivasi Adhikar Yatra from November 19 (6)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) will be taking out “Adivasi Adhikar Yatra” to demand empowering of communities located in eastern belt of the state. The yatra, to be taken out from November 19 to December 2, will cover 1,200 kilometres distance in 13 districts and 38 assembly constituencies. While 27 of these assembly seats are reserved for tribals, 11 others are those where tribal vote is decisive in the outcome of elections. The districts to be covered are Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Mahisagar, the Panchmahals, Dahod, Chhota Udepur, Bharuch, Narmada, Vadodara, Tapi, Navsari, the Dangs and Surat. Prominent tribal leader and former Union minister Dr Tushar Chaudhary said that tribals in the state confined to eastern part of the state had not benefitted from the developmental activities in the state.“While they are living in areas just 30-40 kms away from industrial complexes and big towns and cities in the state, benefits of the development are unfortunately not reaching them, with the result that gap between tribals and non-tribals is continuously increasing,” he regretted. “While almost all big dams – whether it be Narmada or Tapi – are all in tribal belt and these were built by displacing tribals only, its benefits are not reaching them because no infrastructure has been created to take the water of these dams to the fields of tribals,” said Dr Chaudhary, and added “there can be no bigger irony that this.” “If water from Narmada can be taken to Kutch through lift canal system, the same technology can be used to supply Narmada and Tapi water to tribal regions of the state to improve their agriculture and increase their income,” he suggested. He said that Forest Rights Act that was brought by the previous government at the Centre with a view to empowering the tribal communities economically by making them owners of the forest land they had been cultivating for generations. But the state government in Gujarat, he said, had not implemented it properly. … (Indian Express 9/10/16)

Govt may set aside Rs 110cr for tribal students (6)

MUMBAI: The state government is planning to keep aside Rs 110 crore to help tribal students pay for accommodation during their studies. There are 492 hostels for the tribal students in the state, with a capacity of 60,000 students. This year over 20,000 students could not get accommodation in the hostels. A bureaucrat said the department plans to give ‘direct cash benefit’ to students as per the city. For cities like Mumbai, Pune and Thane, students would get Rs 6,000 per month, Rs 5,000 for small town and Rs 4,000 for taluka. (Times of India 12/10/16)

Malekudiya tribals invited back to old jobs (6)

MANGALURU: A year ago, 32-year-old Suresh G. from Puttur was shattered when he was relieved of his duties. He had been serving as a Home Guard attached to the Puttur police station when the disaster struck. Suresh was among 18 Malekudiyas — an indigenous tribe of the region — who were discharged from service as there was no scheme to continue paying their wages. The tribals were left with no choice but to do menial jobs for a livelihood. But the smiles are back on their faces. Suresh has returned to policing, as one of the 150 Home Guards appointed by the Dakshina Kannada police against 191constable vacancies. Suresh and 17 others were among the beneficiaries of the Rs. 23-crore Naxal aid package announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2012 to provide employment and address other needs of the Malekudiyas. All 18 had earlier worked in different police stations with an honorarium of Rs. 170 per day, which was subsequently increased to Rs. 250 per day, before they were discharged in August 2015. The setback was overcome in the first week of September, when Superintendent of Police Bhushan Gulabrao Borase got a notification permitting the Dakshina Kannada police to use the services of 150 Home Guards. “I prefer having the 18 Malekudiyas among the 150,” he said. Suresh and seven other Malekudiyas have readily chosen policing duties. They have started working at various police stations since October 1, receiving the current daily honorarium of Rs. 350. Deputy Home Guards Commandant Ramesh Poojary said three Malekudiyas had expressed their inability to join the police as they were now employed elsewhere. Efforts were being made to contact the remaining seven, he added. (The Hindu 13/10/16)

Opposition plans stir over tribal rights (6)

RANCHI: Political parties including Congress, JVM(P), JD (U) and social organisations are preparing for a major protest against the Raghubar Das government in the coming week over alleged police atrocities in Barkagaon in Hazaribag where four people were killed in police firing. Former Union minister and Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay, JVM-P chief Babulal Marandi, JD (U) state president Jaleshwar Mahto and Left leaders met in Ranchi on Thursday to discuss the protest and have also called for a statewide bandh on October 24. Accusing the government of being dictatorial and non-democratic, the leaders criticised the Hazaribag administration for preventing political representatives from visiting Barkagaon where the police firing occurred. “It is nothing but highhandedness of the state government that they are trying to repress the people’s voices and subverting the democratic rights,” Sahay said. Adivasi Aakrosh Maharally also appears to be the cards. A former minister in the state government, Bandhu Tirkey said, “Das government has been playing with the sentiments of the tribals by tampering with age old Acts that were made to protect their rights”. Tirkey, who is now politically connected to JVM-P, however, denied the protest is being organised under any political banner. “If political banners are restraining tribals from coming forward we would like them to do so without any banner,” he said. Aakrosh Maharally aims at portraying the anger of the tribals against the government for its efforts to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, besides diluting the rights of the tribals, Tirkey said. (Times of India 14/10/16)

No tribal darbar during Kumram Bheem’s martyrdom anniversary  (6)

ODEGHAT (KUMRAM BHEEM DIST.): This year’s martyrdom anniversary of the Gond leader Kumram Bheem will stand out for the absence of tribal darbar which served as a platform for Adivasis to air their grievances in front of the district administration. This is perhaps for the first time that darbar will not be conducted since the martyrdom anniversary began to be observed at Jodeghat in Kerameri mandal, now in Kumram Bheem (Asifabad) district, in 1983. Both officials and Adivasis let the event slip from the scheme of things. The usual practice was that the Utnoor Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) used to come out with a report on the action taken on the petitions received during the previous year’s event. Also, Adivasi leaders used to be given a chance to speak at the public meeting organised in connection The officials, however, accepted petitions from tribal people during the event which was marked by speeches highlighting the State government’s achievements by public representatives including Tribal Welfare Minister A. Chandulal, Forest Minister Jogu Ramanna, Housing Minister A. Indrakaran Reddy, Adilabad MP G. Nagesh, MLAs Kova Laxmi (Asifabad) and Koneru Konappa (Sirpur). These petitions will be looked into by the ITDA. But Adivasi leaders weren’t given a chance to speak this time. Earlier, Mr. Chandulal and others inaugurated the memorial for Kumram Bheem, his statue, a museum and the amphitheatre. The construction was taken up at a cost of Rs. 25 crore. Others who participated were Telangana Toursim Corporation Chairman Pervaram Ramulu, Tourism MD Christina Z. Chongthu, Kumram Bheem Collector M. Champa Lal, Mancherial Collector and in-charge ITDA Project Officer R.V. Karnan. (The Hindu 17/10/16)

Tribals of Northeast should get their rights: panel (6)

Shillong: A Parliamentary panel on welfare of SC/ST on Monday directed the organisations to ensure that the constitutional rights of the people of the Northeast, a region where ST population is predominant, are given importance. “SC/ST employees should get justice because it is their constitutional right and they should not be discriminated. Their reservation policy should be implemented in toto,” Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of SC/ST Dr Kirit P Solanki said at a meeting of panel members with Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) officials. The Committee members, led by Dr Solanki, arrived here on a study tour and held meetings with the officials of the North-Eastern Council (NEC) and North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO), besides IDBI. – PTI (The Hindu 18/10/16)

Submit report on 740 tribal student deaths in 10 years, says NHRC (6)

Mumbai: The National Human Rights Commissi-on (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of news reports that 740 students of residential schools (ashramshalas) in tribal areas have died of various health issues over last 10 years. The NHRC has asked the state, through the chief secretary, to submit a report within four weeks.The figures are reportedly based on an internal report of the state tribal development department. A government official said students have died of dengue, malaria, food poisoning, suicides, drownings and even snake bites. The issue of came to fore after a 12-year-old girl from a Palghar residential school died on October 7. The NHRC said ashramshalas lacked health services and basic amenities. According to the norms, students in tribal areas should be screened at least twice a year, but government agencies are not following it, said the notice to the state. “The commission has observed that the contents of the news reports are shocking and painful. The students coming from tribal communities generally belong to poor families. The school authorities, as their lawful guardians, are responsible for their welfare, safety and healthcare needs. The negligence on part of the department of tribal development and school authorities is a violation of Right to Life, Dignity and Equality of students,” noted NHRC. Several posts are lying vacant in the 552 ashramshalas run by the state tribal development department. Sources claimed the budgetary provisions are not being utilized properly.  (Times of India 19/10/16)

Problems galore for tribal people (6)

DINDIGUL: Tribal people living in remote areas such as Thalakadai and Velampannai villages on Sirumalai hills are languishing without basic amenities. While power supply is available till Pazhaiyur, Forest Department’s permission is needed to lay underground cables to provide power supply to these villages. The TANGEDCO could not get clearance from the Forest Department to lay power lines to these villages through reserve forest area. The work is estimated to cost around Rs.1 crore. These villages have neither hospitals nor transport facility. Ever since a telephone cable was damaged, phone connectivity has also been snapped. With no hospital, those in need of urgent medical care and pregnant women are the worst affected. Since mobile phones do not function properly owing to lack of network coverage, the villagers appealed to Collector T.G. Vinay, who inspected the village on Friday, to provide a telephone facility to enable them to call the village health nurse during emergency. Their only solace is that Thalakadai has an asphalt road. The condition of tribal people at Velanpannai is still worse. They do not even have proper houses. The people live in dilapidated thatched shelters and suffer in summer and more so in winter due to the high altitude. Old people and children also live in these makeshift dwellings in the severe cold. There are about 35 families in this village. Brushing aside these hardships, they have made only one appeal: community certificate for their children to go to school. With no community certificate, schools do not allow children to continue their studies, they said. Collector T.G. Vinay advised revenue officials to prepare a list of tribal people who needed community certificates. He also inspected a site near Velanpannai to offer patta land to them. Since the tribal people at Thenmalai also did not have health care facilities, they appealed for ‘108’ ambulance service for Sirumalai as the Dindigul Government Hospital, the nearest hospital, is 30 km away. They also requested the authorities to send the medical team that visits Pazhaiyur regularly to Thenmalai also so that they could get medicines. (The Hindu 22/10/16)

600 tribals head to Delhi for carnival (6)

Jamshedpur: Arrangements are in place to transport over 600 tribals from three districts of Kolhan division to the three-day National Tribal Carnival (NTC) beginning October 25 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Over 300 participants from the East Singhbhum, 210 from West Singhbhum and about 100 from the adjoining Seraikela-Kharswan are going to attend the first-of-its-kind carnival. “The NTC, which is aimed at preserving and promoting various facets of tribal life relating to culture, tradition, customs and their skills, is likely to witness a large participation,” said Durga Charan Murmu, functionary of Majhi Pargana Mahal, an outfit of the ST community. The 13-coach special train designated to carry the participants on Sunday night has received good response from all districts. Besides, the DC has deputed magistrate for each of the coach to ear berth hassles. “Tribal artists, cultural troupes, gram pradhans, Manki Mundu self rule representatives and Majhi Pargana functionaries among other are participating in NTC,” said S K Biruli, functionary of Adivasi Ho Samaj Yuva Mahasabha. The commuters are travelling to Delhi free of cost as the Tribal Affairs’ ministry, has paid the tariff to the railways. “The NTC is an effective platform to raise contemporary issues confronting the ST community,” said tribal activist and BJP leader Ramesh Hansdah. The carnival involving activities like displaying documented traditional socio-cultural aspects, collection of art and artifacts, demonstration of skills such as traditional forms of wall painting and panel discussion related to the holistic development of ST community will form the basis of NTC. The train will halt at Bokaro, Koderma and Gomo stations to facilitate participants from these areas. (Times of India 24/10/16)

Life of the tribal communities was a struggle: Modi (6)

This is the first time that tribal groups from across the country would be in Delhi at the time of the festive occasion of Diwali. The tribal carnival would showcase the capabilities of the tribal communities, in the national capital,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating First National Tribal Carnival-2016 in New Delhi. Speaking on the occasion he also said, “The life of the tribal communities was marked by intense struggle. Yet, the tribal communities had imbibed the ideals of community living, and of living cheerfully despite troubles.” The Prime Minister also said the Government was committed to using modern technology such as underground mining and coal gasification, which would minimise disturbance to tribal settlements. He also spoke of the Rurban Mission, which would focus on development of rural growth centres. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, in his welcome address said “The ministry is committed for the all round development of tribals in the country. We are also concentrating on the education of tribals through Eklavya School and scholarships for the tribal youth.” He also added, “Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana is another important scheme of the ministry which has proved beneficial for the tribals.” Also present at the event were Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave, Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and Union Minister of State for Steel Vishnu Deo Sai. About 1200 tribal artists from the various states and UTs performed carnival parade in their traditional attire during the inaugural ceremony. The four day long carnival organised by Ministry of Tribal Affairs to promote a sense of inclusiveness amongst the tribals. The carnival showcase and promote various facets of tribal culture on a large scale. The underlying idea is to preserve and promote various facets of the tribal life relating to culture, tradition, customs and their skills and to expose it to the general public with a view to utilizing the potential for overall holistic development of the scheduled tribes. Activities like displaying documents on traditional socio-culture aspects, exhibition of art/artifacts, cultural performances, demonstration of skills like sports, paintings, traditional healing practices etc. will be part of the four day event. This carnival will provide the stage for deliberations on important subjects affecting tribal development. It will also give an exposure of marketability of tribal products like textiles, paintings, artefacts so that it has a catalytic effect on income-generating activities and tribal livelihood. (The Pioneer 27/10/16)

An initiative for empowerment of tribal women (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: A project has been launched to improve livelihood, capacity building and popularise thrift among 1,000 tribal women in Anantagiri mandal. The initiative is aimed at facilitation of collaboration through promotion and strengthening of Mutually Aided Cooperative Thrift and Credit Societies. The women will be trained on how to market better and collect more non-timber forest produce like tamarind, turmeric, amla and ginger. Value-addition and inculcating entrepreneurship will be the focus area. Microcredit for Mothers, a Netherlands-based public charity organisation, has come forward to fund the project. It has chosen Nature, a local NGO, as the partner for implementation of the project with specific deadlines. The Anantagiri project will mostly benefit Kotia, Konda Dora, Valmiki, Bhagata and Pydi tribals. The amount will be used as revolving fund through the Self-Help Groups. While the public charity organisation will give it at zero interest, the SHGs will collect an interest of 10 to 16 per cent per year for three years from the beneficiaries. Bank linkages will be worked. Initially, they will be given Rs.50 lakh to Rs.80 lakh which may go up to Rs.2 crore depending on recovery and revolving. Each SHG will be given Rs.1 lakh to Rs.3 lakh. They have to meet their operational cost from the interest recovered by them and in turn circulate the collections among new loanees. “Our aim is to enhance the skills of tribal women and help them get rid of money-lenders who fleece them a lot. Our training will lead to women empowerment in the tribal areas,” Programme Manager of Microcredit for Mothers Neils Bortej told The Hindu . He is in-charge of activities in India and Nepal. Mr. Bortej said Microcredit for Mothers helps women in Asia to set up their own business through small loans, the opportunity to save, and professional, entrepreneurial and leadership trainings. He said they had already launched promotion of SHGs and capacity building initiatives in Pullivendula in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh and in parts of Nepal and West Bengal and some parts of Nepal. The charity organisation has released Euros 200,000 in India in the past three to four years. “We will also work on establishment of linkages with social development for agriculture, education, health and child welfare in the villages covered by the project,” said Nature Director S. Balaraju said. The Anantagiri project will be implemented in Bhimpole, Gagurubilli, Gumakota, Kotturu, Kasipatnam, Kondiva and Valasi panchayats. (The Hindu 29/10/16)

WOMEN

‘Need to create awareness about domestic violence’ (8)

Kalaburagi: Incidents of domestic violence against women and children in rural areas go undetected owing to lack of awareness about the provisions in the law, Superintendent of Police N. Shashikumar has said. He was speaking after inaugurating the one-day training programme for the members and volunteers of the Childline centre and sub-centres jointly organised by the Childline Nodal Centre and Seth Shankarlal Lahoti Law College here on Saturday. There is a common view in rural areas that family problems, such as domestic and family violence, should not be exposed … this results in women not disclosing violence and abuse against them, he said. Mr. Kumar opined that women in rural areas are hardly aware of their rights. The Department of Women and Child Welfare along with the Child Welfare Committee and NGOs should organise awareness programme and educate the women in this regard. Srikant Kulkarni, Deputy Director for Women and Child Welfare Department, stressing on the importance of education, said that the need of the hour is to spread awareness about the benefits of the Right to Education Act among the rural students. Mr. Kulkarni said that lack of transportation was one of the reasons for the increase in dropout rate among girl students. (The Hindu 4/10/16)

HC calls for safe working environment for women (8)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said that given the rapidly increasing number of working women, companies must provide a safe work environment for them, and organise awareness programmes and workshops. A division bench of Justices V. M. Kanade and Swapna Joshi was hearing a petition filed by a female employee of a semi-government body, seeking stricter punishment against her senior for sexually harassing her in the workplace between 2011 and 2013. The court, however, refused to interfere with the decision of the company’s internal committee, and went on to say that all employers should provide a safe work environment for women. The bench added that organisations should come up with do’s and don’ts, which should be followed by male employees. It went on to say companies should organise workshops and awareness programmes, where women should be informed of their rights, while men should be made aware of the consequences of sexual harassment. Referred to a judgement of a U.S. court, the court said sexual misconduct cannot be viewed in isolation, and that all employers must understand the underlying threat of violence in such conduct against women. The court urged organisations to change with the times and deal with any misconduct against women employees sternly. (The Hindu 5/10/16)

Unsafe Delhi: Six women raped daily, says police (8)

New Delhi: Each day six women are raped, 13 molested, 27 others are targeted by the snatchers in the national capital, according to the Delhi police. The police records also show that 37 burglaries were reported everyday from January to September this year. The number of rapes in Delhi registered a rise in 2016, with data suggesting an average of six cases every day. As many as 1,685 cases of rape were reported in 2016 till September 30, compared to1675 cases during the same period in 2015. Data also revealed that 3,305 cases of molestation and 753 cases of insult to the modesty of the women, 2,653 cases of kidnapping of the women, 379 cases of abduction of women were reported till the end of September this year. Senior police official said that in maximum numbers rape cases belonged to the age group of 21-35 years. The official added that 60 to 65 per cent of women victims are between 15-30 years old. Almost 39 per cent of the rapes were committed by friends and family members’ friends, something which cannot be prevented by the police. The Delhi police has registered 1,54,366 FIRs till the end of September, while last year for the same period 1,40,590 FIRs filed last year. The data also shows that four people lost their lives in road accidents each day, a total 1,143 people died on road accidents till September end. The police, however, claims these figures indicate that every case is getting registered. “These figures clearly show that Delhi police is doing truthful registration and we are registering every case which needs to be registered,” said a official. According to a senior Delhi police official, various steps have been taken to curb crimes against women. Also most of the cases of rape, molestations and murder have been solved by the Delhi police. “There are various reasons of increase in crime but most cases of rape, murder, etc have been solved by the Delhi police,” said a senior official. (Asian Age 7/10/16)

Women can also be prosecuted under domestic violence law: SC (8)

New Delhi: Not only men, but women can also be prosecuted under the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence (DV) Act. The Supreme Court has struck down the words “adult male” from the pertinent provision in the DV Act to lay down that a woman can also file a complaint against another woman, accusing her of domestic violence. Under Section 2(q) of the 2005 Act, a complaint can be made only against an “adult male person”, thereby insulating women from being accused of offences mentioned under the law. But a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman ruled Thursday that this provision frustrated the objective of the legislation since “perpetrators and abettors of domestic violence” can be women too.It noted that the legislative intent of providing effective protection to rights of women could “easily be defeated by an adult male person not standing in the forefront, but putting forward female persons” who could forcibly evict a woman or defeat any other order passed under the Act without fear of inviting prosecution. “The microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non-adult, regard being had to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act, is neither real or substantial nor does it have any rational relation to the object of the legislation. In fact, the words ‘adult male person’ are contrary to the object of affording protection to women who have suffered from domestic violence of any kind,” held the bench. It underlined that the classification of “adult male person” subverted the doctrine of equality by restricting the reach of a social beneficial statute meant to protect women against all forms of domestic violence. “We, therefore, strike down the words ‘adult male’ before the word ‘person’ in Section 2(q), as these words discriminate between persons similarly situated, and far from being in tune with, are contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act,” ruled the court. The bench resorted to the “doctrine of severability” and struck down only that part of Section 2(q) that created a distinction based on gender relating to offenders under the Act. “Application of the aforesaid severability principle would make it clear that having struck down the expression ‘adult male’ in Section 2(q), the rest of the Act is left intact and can be enforced to achieve the object of the legislation without the offending words,” it held.The ruling came on an appeal filed against a judgment of the Bombay High Court in 2014 that had read down the Act to hold that complaints could be filed against the women too. The top court, however, set aside this judgment on the ground that the provision could not be read down. “We declare that the words ‘adult male’ in Section 2(q) will stand deleted since these words do not square with Article 14 (equality) of the Constitution of India,” it said. (Indian Express 8/10/16)

Tough to be a girl in India than Pak, Nepal: Report (8)

New Delhi: India ranks 90 among 144 countries as the hardest place to be a girl, a report by an international NGO shows, underlining the challenges faced by women in a highly patriarchal society. The ranking, based on schooling, child marriage, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and women in parliament, placed India lower than all its neighbours — Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The report by the non-profit Save the Children — Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm – also said girls as young as 10 are forced to marry in many countries including India, which has enacted stringent laws that make marriage of underage girls a punishable offence. The findings highlight the challenges faced by the BJP-led government’s efforts to lift the status of women in the country by ensuring gender equality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched the ‘Beti padhao, beti bachao’ (Educate girls to save the girl child) campaign after assuming power, on Tuesday cited the legend of Sita to exhort people to kill the evil of gender bias. Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children in India, said the age-old challenge cannot be addressed only through government policies. “We have to change mindsets in the rural as well as urban areas…Discrimination in India against girls begins even before birth and the cycle of inequality continues to play out throughout their lives,” Chandy told HT. The report said a young girl under the age of 15 is married every seven seconds worldwide, and 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday each year. “The good news is that data from 18 states shows that child marriage is down across India, including in states where it was rampant, like in Bihar, where it is down from 60% a decade ago to 39 %,” Chandy added. India’s 2011 census data substantiates this fact. Close to one in three (30%) married women in India were wed before they turned 18, the legal age of marriage, down from 43% in 2001. Of them, 2.3% were married before the age of 10. …  (Hndustan Times 12/10/16)

India rejects Pakistan’s reference to women’s condition in Kashmir (8)

United Nations: Innocent Indian women have suffered for long due to the persistent terrorist acts perpetrated by ‘proxies of Pakistan’, India has said as it strongly rejecting references by Islamabad to conditions of women in Kashmir.  Counsellor Mayank Joshi in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN ‘completely’ rejected the ‘baseless allegations’ made by Pakistan about women in Jammu and Kashmir, saying ‘in fact’ it is the innocent Indian women who have for “long suffered due to the persistent terrorist acts perpetrated by proxies of Pakistan.” Joshi exercised India’s Right of Reply after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Envoy on Kashmir Shezra Mansab Ali Khan referred to the conditions of women in Kashmir during an October 11 session on ‘Advancement of Women’ in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on social and humanitarian issues.Khan said armed conflict and illegal occupation accentuates the plight of women. Citing the situation in Kashmir, she said “thousands of women have fallen victims to brutal oppression and occupation. Countless others have suffered rape and sexual abuse, the worst and most traumatic form of violence.” Joshi said it is ‘ironical’ that a country that has ‘institutionalised the oppression’ of women in its society including through “medieval draconian laws is making claims about the rights of women in a pluralistic democracy such as India.” He said Pakistan will be well served to ‘seriously examine’ what ails its women and hampers their advancement. Pakistan has been constantly raising the Kashmir issue at various platforms in the UN, including in the General Assembly and its various committees that deal with diverse issues such as disarmament and decolonisation. Joshi asserted that India will not respond to the ‘lies and deceit’ Pakistan has been resorting to at the world body to pursue a diplomacy of ‘hate’. “We are aware of Pakistan’s cynical attempts to pursue diplomacy of hate through lies and deceit. We do not intend to further respond to such misguided and futile efforts,” he said. A Pakistani official however again took the floor to exercise the Right of Reply to Joshi’s remarks, saying no amount of “obfuscation” could hide the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. He said Jammu and Kashmir was an “internationally recognised” dispute and Pakistan rejected “any insinuations to equate the legitimate struggles of the Kashmiri people with acts of terrorism.” (Indian Express 13/10/16)

Centre’s stand on triple talaq based on gender justice: Ravi Shankar Prasad (8)

New Delhi: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the Centre’s affidavit on the triple talaq issue, which is being heard in the Supreme Court, was based on the principles of assuring gender justice, gender equality and dignity. The Minister stressed that the right to freedom of religion did not enjoin “every pernicious practice” as being integral to it. In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, the Minister, who has been deeply involved in the framing of the government’s response to the Supreme Court on the matter, said the Law Commission’s wider consultation on the question of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) was separate from the triple talaq issue. “You have to understand that certain victims of triple talaq from the Muslim community had gone to the Supreme Court challenging its validity. The Court had asked for a response from the government. Ours is a well thought-out response. It is fundamentally based upon gender justice, gender equality and gender dignity. All these three flow directly from the fundamental values of our Constitution,” Mr. Prasad said. The Minister said the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s assertion, that the Modi government was intent on interfering with Islam rather than any other minority community, including the Jains, in terms of religious practice, was “baseless.”Mr. Prasad denied that uniform civil code was part of the ideological core of the BJP. The Minister stressed that the government had taken this stand. “We don’t see it (UCC) just as part of the manifesto. Article 44 is part of our Constitution enjoining UCC. The framers of our Constitution were big leaders like Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar; 99 per cent of the founding fathers were of the Congress school of thought and they were clear that we must steadily progress towards a UCC,” he said. …  (The Hindu 17/10/16)

Haryana women commission claims govt. apathy (8)

GURGAON: Haryana State Commission for Women chairperson Kamlesh Panchal has accused the Manohar Lal Khattar government of being indifferent towards the needs of the commission and not providing it even basic facilities despite the directions of the Supreme Court. “Even a month after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Punjab and Haryana High Court order allowing us to join (back the commission), we have not got any perks or salary from the government. We received a government letter dated September 29, 2016, allowing us to join and receive salary and perks, but we have not got anything from the government so far except empty promises,” said Ms. Panchal, accusing the government of targeting her. Ms. Panchal and her deputy Suman Dahiya were appointed by the previous Congress government in May 2014, but were removed by the present BJP government in August last year. The Khattar government had termed their appointments “illegal”. However, the two got a favourable order from the Punjab and Haryana High Court and joined again in May this year.“I have travelled more than 25,000 km across the State over the past five months, but not got any reimbursement from the government. I am using my own car. We have a staff of just four people against the sanctioned strength of over a dozen. Despite all this, I and the other staff are pulling on as complainants come to us with high hopes and we cannot let them suffer,” Ms. Panchal told The Hindu . She said that the commission received 20-30 complaints every week and it was getting increasingly difficult for her to run the show on her own. (The Hindu 17/10/16)

Triple talaq anti-women, says Modi (8)

Mahoba (UP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke out strongly against triple talaq, arguing that in the 21 century the “lives of Muslim women cannot be allowed to be ruined” by the contentious custom. Addressing a Bundelkhand Parivartan rally in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Modi raised the issue of triple talaq among Muslims while condemning the practice of female foeticide among Hindus, stressing that “sisters, mothers and daughters should be protected irrespective of community or religion.” “My government has taken strong steps (against foeticide),” he said. He appealed the media to not give the debate on triple talaq a “Hindu-Muslim” colour, while calling for an informed discussion on the issue with the engagement of the experts and intellectuals from the Muslim community. Hitting out at opposition parties, he said he was “shocked,” they were “hell-bent upon committing injustice to women in the 21st century,” in their “lust for vote bank.” “Politics and elections have their own place. Getting Muslim women their rights as per the Constitution is the responsibility of the government and the society,” the PM said in Mahoba in Bundelkhand. Though he made veiled references to the issue of triple talaq during his Dassara speech in Lucknow recently, it was the first time the premier directly expressed his opinion on rights of Muslim women in the ongoing debate. “If a Hindu commits female foeticide he will have to go to jail. Similarly, what is the crime of my Muslim sisters that somebody (their husbands) utters talaq thrice over the phone and their lives are destroyed,” Mr. Modi said. The PM said that in the government’s submission in the Supreme Court, after a petition against triple talaq by some Muslim women, the Central government had clearly stated that there should be no discrimination against women on the basis of religion. “Democracy wants discussion. But there are people who want to digress from triple talaq and instigating people. Lives of Muslim women in the country cannot be allowed to be ruined by triple talaq,” Mr. Modi said.Raising the pitch, he asked the crowd if the rights of Muslim women should be protected, if “Muslim mothers and sisters” be protected and they get equal rights. In an appeal to media, especially television channels debating triple talaq, Mr. Modi urged them to not turn the discussion into a government versus opposition, BJP versus others or “Hindu-Muslim issue.” He said the debate on triple talaq must engage the intellectuals and experts from the Muslim community. “The debate should be between knowledgeable persons from the Muslim community, who know their sastras, the Quran. There are progressive, educated and scientific people in the community. The discussion should be between those who want change in Muslim society and those who do not want the country to know what the issue is.” (The Hindu 24/10/16)

Haji Ali Dargah to grant access to women (8)

New Delhi,: Women will be granted access to the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai on par with men, the Dargah Trust told the Supreme Court today and sought four weeks to make the requisite infrastructural changes. A bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao granted time to the trust and disposed off its appeal against the Bombay High Court order asking it to give equal access to women also. Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the trust, said an additional affidavit has been filed on behalf of the Dargah trust saying it is willing to allow women inside the shrine. The apex court, on October 17, had extended the stay granted by Bombay High Court to facilitate an appeal against its decision to lift the ban on entry of women near the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah in Mumbai. Earlier, the Supreme Court had expressed hope that the Trust, which had challenged the high court judgement, “will take a stand which is progressive”.Subramanium, had also assured the bench that he was on a “progressive mission” and said all holy books and scriptures promoted equality and nothing which is regressive in character should be suggested. The bench had also remarked that “if you are not allowing both men and women to go beyond a point, there is no problem. But if you are allowing some to go beyond a point while others are not, it is a problem.” The counsel, appearing for a women’s group which has challenged the practice of the Trust not to allow women near the sanctum sanctorum, had submitted that the position was different before 2011 than what it is today. The Trust moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order lifting the ban on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the renowned Muslim shrine in South Mumbai. The High Court on August 26 had held that the ban imposed by the Trust on women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah, contravened Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution and said women should be permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum like men. The High Court had allowed a PIL filed by two women, Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Niaz, from NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, challenging the ban on women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah from 2012. …  (Deccan Herald 24/10/16)

Women employees can now file harassment complaints online: Govt (8)

NEW DELHI: The women employees of the Central government will soon be able to file sexual harassment complaints online. The decision was taken at a meeting called by Women and Child Development (WCD) minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday after she received complaints from aggrieved women employees from various ministries. Officials from Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Railway Ministry, Sports Ministry and Department of Financial Services were present at the meeting. The e-platform for posting complaints will be hosted on the Women and Child Development ministry’s website, a senior official said, adding the complaints will then be taken up with the respective ministries/departments. An inter-ministerial committee headed by a senior WCD official will be constituted to review the status of the complaints. The forum will also ensure that all Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) heads are imparted training on how to resolve such complaints, he said. It has also been decided that the DoPT will issue instructions to ensure that training programmes for all services include a module on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 to sensitise the government staff. Additionally, the WCD ministry will issue guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment complaints. These will include a monthly as well as an annual report, to be prepared by the Internal Complaints Committee of each ministry, on the status of complaints received. The cadre controlling authority of a victim will be required to monitor her progress for 5 years, in order to ensure that she is not further tormented for complaining against a colleague, the official said.The move comes after several women employees wrote to the WCD ministry about delay in getting their complaints about sexual harassment resolved. (Times of India 26/10/16)

Women have the highest status in Islam: Former Chief Election Commissioner of India (8)

New Delhi: Women have the highest status in Islam and the Muslim community must see things with a liberal interpretation now, former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi said on Thursday. Speaking in the backdrop of the ongoing debate about Triple Talaq, Quraishi said: “Muslim women have the highest status in Islam and no other religion has such concept of equality.” Giving examples of property rights of women in Islam and right to education he said: “There is a perception that women are suppressed. The government must think that the laws are sacred within a community as they are seen with liberal interpretations now.” “We all (Muslims) should also unite together and not give anyone a chance to interfere with our religious laws,” Quraishi said. Speaking at a function on the 96th foundation day of Jamia Milia Islamia, Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmad said there is a need to focus on education of minority communities in the country, especially the Muslims, for them to progress in society. “The community will progress only when everyone receives education.” “Given the circumstances, we do not have to let any community remain backward in any aspect,” he added. University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Ved Prakash said the country needs to place its education system right. “We need to sit together and interpret in terms of curricular and ensure diversity there in,” Prakash said. The function was held to inaugurate a “Talimi Mela” (educational fair) in the campus. Various other programmes, including Art and photography exhibitions, lectures by academicians, film screenings and cultural shows were also held at the campus in the ongoing three-day celebrations. (Zee News 27/10/16)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

Nearly one-fifth of children in developing countries living in extreme poverty: Report (14)

Nearly one fifth of children in the world’s developing countries are living in extreme poverty, according to a new report by the World Bank Group and UNICEF. The report entitled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children,” released Monday, found that in 2013, 19.5 percent of children in developing countries lived in households making an average of $1.90 a day or less, compared with just 9.2 percent of adults. Around the world, nearly 385 million children were living in extreme poverty, the report said. “Children are not only more likely to be living in extreme poverty; the effects of poverty are most damaging to children. They are the worst off of the worst off, and the youngest children are the worst off of all, because the deprivations they suffer affect the development of their bodies and their minds,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. The report found that the highest share of children living in extreme poverty were in Sub-Saharan Africa, with just over 50 percent. The next highest share was in South Asia with 36 percent, with over 30 percent of those living in India. To remedy the problem UNICEF and the World Bank Group called on governments to focus on children in their national poverty reduction plans, strengthen programs that aid children and prioritize investment in programs that benefit the poorest children. The global estimate of extreme child poverty is based on data from 89 countries, representing 83 per cent of the developing world’s population. (Indian Express 4/10/16)

State Child Rights panel seeks to empower Edamalakudy, human sacrifice report dubious (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wake of recent unconfirmed reports about three girls offered as human sacrifice at Edamalakuddy Village panchayat in Idukki district, a team from Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) had visited the tribal hamlets in the village panchayat and had sought the state for action to improve the condition of the tribal children. “A team from KeSCPCR had visited Edamalakudy after reports of children offered as human sacrifice. It was also brought to the notice here by an NGO based on some information they received. Though our team with the child protection officer visited the tribal hamlets at Edamalakudy, there was nothing that indicated such a sacrifice and it sounds dicey. Now, the police investigation is on,” KeSCPCR chairperson Shobha Koshy told TOI. The Commission team had also made a visit earlier in July and had come up with a set of recommendations to improve the condition of tribal hamlets in Edamalakudy, she said. KeSCPCR members K Nazeer and Meena CU had visited the panchayat to ascertain the veracity of the reports on human sacrifice, but could not find anything. “The tribal community in Edamalakudy has a high moral ground, they are morally equipped and advanced in terms of their thinking. Not a single rape had been reported from the area. Yet, the report of child sacrificed as part of human sacrifice to propitiate religious deities seems fake. Now, investigations are on by the police led by state police chief,” Commission member K Nazeer said. Till now, the police investigation has found that such a report on human sacrifice is fake and baseless.While members of National Human Rights and Social Justice Commission (NHRSJC), an NGO with its offices across the country indicate that they submitted a report to National and State Child Rights Commission based on information received from individuals in Munnar that three children, all girls below 10 years were offered as human sacrifice about eight months back. “We had submitted a report based on some information received and sought for further enquiry. In case it is found, then awareness needs to be created to check superstitious beliefs. It was not intended to defame any community. The tribal settlements in Edamalakudy are in forest area amidst wild life, so on hearing about such an incident, we had thought to bring it to the notice of the authorities,” NHRSJC member told TOI. ….  (Times of India 5/10/16)

44 child labourers rescued, four booked, nine vehicles seized (14)

RAICHUR: Acting on a tip off, officials of different departments headed by Mr. Manjunath Reddy, district officer for child labour project, seized nine light goods carriers and rescued 44 child labourers at Sirwar town, Raichur district, on Thursday morning. Official sources said the children were being transported to be employed as agricultural labourers. The rescued children were handed over to officials of the Child Welfare Committee later. A case has been registered against four people in Sirwar police station. (The Hindu 7/10/16)

Underprivileged hill children to judge Kolkata’s Puja pandals (14)

DARJEELING (WB) Ten underprivileged boys and girls selected from various tea gardens of the hills have been chosen to judge the Durga puja festival in Kolkata under an initiative being undertaken by the Ramakrishna Mission of Darjeeling. The initiative has been christened ‘Paharer Chokhe Samataler Pujo’, or ‘Puja of the plains seen through the eyes of the hills’ by the Mission. Four boys and six girls between the ages of six and 12 years have been selected to be part of the puja ‘parikrama’ (tour) and they left for Kolkata today. Talking about the initiative, Amlan Biswas, secretary of the Kolkata-based Concern for Human Welfare (CHW), said it was a puja gift to the 10 children from the tea gardens and an opportunity to learn new culture. CHW is one of the organisers along Darjeeling’s Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre (RMECC) and others. “Normally, celebrities and prominent personalities of Kolkata judge the puja pandals, which is a huge event. However, we feel that children and their parents from the various tea gardens of Darjeeling are no less celebrities themselves. They work really hard for the cup of Darjeeling tea that we savour and relish each morning,” said Biswas. Secondly, the purpose of the unique enterprise is also to foster brotherhood and acquaint the hills with the plains, and what better catalysts than children, the organisers said. “These children will represent Darjeeling in Kolkata. So the idea is to provide the children from the hills with the opportunity to be part of a culture which is different from the ones they are accustomed to. We want them to learn and interact and pass on the experience to others in the hills,” Biswas said. (Times of India 10/10/16)

Tough to be a girl in India than Pak, Nepal: Report (14)

New Delhi: India ranks 90 among 144 countries as the hardest place to be a girl, a report by an international NGO shows, underlining the challenges faced by women in a highly patriarchal society. The ranking, based on schooling, child marriage, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and women in parliament, placed India lower than all its neighbours — Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The report by the non-profit Save the Children — Every Last Girl: Free to live, free to learn, free from harm – also said girls as young as 10 are forced to marry in many countries including India, which has enacted stringent laws that make marriage of underage girls a punishable offence. The findings highlight the challenges faced by the BJP-led government’s efforts to lift the status of women in the country by ensuring gender equality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched the ‘Beti padhao, beti bachao’ (Educate girls to save the girl child) campaign after assuming power, on Tuesday cited the legend of Sita to exhort people to kill the evil of gender bias. Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children in India, said the age-old challenge cannot be addressed only through government policies. “We have to change mindsets in the rural as well as urban areas…Discrimination in India against girls begins even before birth and the cycle of inequality continues to play out throughout their lives,” Chandy told HT. The report said a young girl under the age of 15 is married every seven seconds worldwide, and 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday each year. “The good news is that data from 18 states shows that child marriage is down across India, including in states where it was rampant, like in Bihar, where it is down from 60% a decade ago to 39 %,” Chandy added. India’s 2011 census data substantiates this fact. Close to one in three (30%) married women in India were wed before they turned 18, the legal age of marriage, down from 43% in 2001. Of them, 2.3% were married before the age of 10. …  (Hndustan Times 12/10/16)

Child rights agency plans to educate slum children (14)

Guwahati: UTSAH, a leading city-based child rights agency, launched its ambitious Child Protection and Education Programme on Sunday. It aims at better child protection and providing basic education to children living in the city’s slums. Starting out at the busy Fancy Bazar in collaboration with a coaching institute, the project plans to build a community-based non-formal education and protection centre at Fancy Bazar Gate No. 3 and 4. “The initiative will focus on out-of-school children and bring them to the mainstream to government schools. To be led by teachers Jaya Das Chowdhury and Roheema Begum, this initiative will use innovative methods to motivate children to continue their education,” said child rights activist Miguel Das Queah (Times of India 17/10/16)

RPF rescues 62 missing children in nine months (14)

HUBBALLI: Despite a staff crunch, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) in Hubballi division of the South Western Railway has rescued 62 missing children in the past nine months. Dr Mallikarjun, senior divisional security commissioner, said that RPF personnel have rescued 151 children in the past three years. He said that cases of missing children have been higher this year. “As parents will be devastated, we try to reconnect them with their missing children,” he said. Mallikarjun said that RPF personnel spring into action when they find children travelling alone by train and wandering in railway stations in a suspicious manner. “They enquire about their name, address, destination and intention,” he said. The commissioner said that if parents of the rescued children are not traced, then the kids are handed over to private organization working for their welfare. Documents of such cases are kept so that when the parents are traced, missing children can be united with their family.The rescued children generally go missing due to various reasons like child labour, harassment by parents and missing during travel. Mallikarjun said that there are many children who flee their homes, irked by parental pressure. He said that the RPF is also creating awareness on missing children by displaying information boards at railway stations. “People can call 1098 or helpline number of railway security, if they find suspicious children,” he appealed. Anand Barki, a parent, said that his son went missing recently in Hubballi railway station, but was rescued by the RPF. “I’m thankful to them,” he said. Vani Kodada, a regular traveller, commended the RPF for rescuing missing children and said the railways should provide advanced facilities to the force. (Times of India 17/10/16)

Out-of-school kids get NGOs’ support (14)

PUNE: System Correcting Movement (Syscom) with 15 other NGOs and activists submitted a letter to education minister Vinod Tawde on October 12 outlining an action plan to help out-of-school children. The letter stated that according to the 2011 census, eight crore children are out of school. “Since there were flaws in the previous surveys conducted by state, there is a need to find out the exact number of such children through an authentic survey.” The state surveys had found that that 74,000 children were out of school and the government has taken initiatives to enrol them. But many organizations complained that many children have discontinued their studies despite their names still being in the schools’ rolls. “We want education extension officers to conduct surprise visits to schools not under their jurisdiction for a more authentic survey,” Syscom president Rajendra Dharankar said. There is also a demand to check how many of the 74,000 students have appeared for baseline tests conducted by the government. At a meeting of NGOs on October 12, it was found that the number of out-of-school students in Vimukta Jati Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) is the highest. “The government can send such children to the nearest ashramshala and their families can be made aware of the importance of education,” Dharankar said. Many dropped out of school due to child marriage, especially among VJNT, organizations working for education said. They have sought an intensive awareness programme against child marriage. The letter also stated that seasonal migrants’ children are among the worst hit. More than 20 lakh seasonal workers are involved in sugarcane cutting or brick kiln activities. The children of such workers need better educational and residential facilities. As far as children in cities are concerned, transport is the biggest hurdle children face and experts say that this isssue needs to be addressed as soon as possible.Pune: System Correcting Movement (Syscom) along with some 15 other NGOs and activists working in the field of education and human rights have come up with a 10 point agenda that will help government address the issue of out-of-school children. From special attention to children of brick kiln workers to surprise visits to schools to check attendance, the letter submitted to government is an outcome of a meeting that was held on October 12 between all NGOs working in the field. …  (Times of India 19/10/16)

11% of child workers are from Bihar, say experts (14)

PATNA: A workshop on ‘Behaviour change and strategy for elimination of child labour in Bihar’ was organized here by labour resources department and UNICEF on Saturday. “The state has made great strides to combat child labour problem. However, the issue is deeply rooted and has to be dealt with strict laws and awareness. There are many people who send their children to work as labourers. They must be made aware against it. The experience shared at the workshop by different stakeholders will go a long way in controlling child labour in the state,” said state labour resources minister Vijay Prakash, who inaugurated the workshop. The Unicef experts claimed that one among every 11 children below 14 is working as a child labourer in the country. As per 2011 census, 6.5 million children in 5-14 age group work in unorganized sector. Out of them, 11% of the child workers are from Bihar which is at second position in terms of child labourers. Unicef chief in Bihar, Yameen Mazumder said, “Child labour thrives on various structural factors such as adverse social norms, unregulated informal sectors, lack of quality education and poor implementation of law. In order to address child labour problem in a comprehensive manner, there is a need to engage with primary stakeholders (children and parents).” He said the experience shared by institutions of local governance, frontline workers, administrative and non-governmental organization will help plug in the deficiencies and design a better framework to control child labour in Bihar. Unicef has also devised a three-step workshop to create awareness among the stakeholders. These are state-level inception workshop, workshops with children and community members and finally a culmination workshop to bring together key insights gathered from various workshops for identifying a behaviour change strategy for elimination and prevention of child labour. (Times of India 22/10/16)

The plight of child labourers in South 24 Parganas’ fireworks factories (14)

KOLKATA: At least 5,000 children aged between ten and 14 years of age make fireworks for a living in factories in South 24 Parganas, sources said. The conditions in these factories – in Chinar More in Champahati, Nungi, Chingripota and Barkantala – are deplorable. Many of them are not licensed, and don’t take basic fire safety measures. The children, most of whom are hired by brokers, barely earn enough to eat twice a day. They protect their faces from the chemical dust with half-torn clothes. If they die in an accident, their families – who depend on them for sustenance – aren’t informed. No one claims their bodies. “Making firework(s) is a family business for most people in our area. Those who have big business, mostly hire labourers from outside,’ says businessman Sumit Ghosh. And child labourers are cheap to hire. “For preparing 100 chocolate crackers, I get paid Rs. 50. The money is less for other traditional fire crackers. But it takes less time to make them,” says 12-year old Sirajul, who works in a factory in Champahati. Some children even make banned crackers. And since the businessmen they work for are allegedly backed by political parties, the police normally have their hands tied. However, police are questioning two businessmen who were arrested on Monday for selling banned fireworks, in raids conducted by Baraipur’s Sub-Divisional Police Officer Arka Banerjee. (Times of India 25/10/16)

Family buries girl alive to ward off evil (14)

MEERUT: A family in UP’s Kandhla region of Shamli district buried their 12-year-old girl in mud leaving only her face out for breathing after she suffered an electric shock. The family members claimed that they did this because they believed that the evil effect of a shock would be absorbed by the earth. When her condition worsened, locals took the girl to a nearby health centre, where the doctor found that her right hand and leg suffered 90% burns. Twelve-year-old Muskan was playing on the roof when she came in contact with a 33K volt high tension wire passing over the house.There was a loud explosion and the girl collapsed on the ground unconscious. “We buried her because we thought that the evil effect in her body will be absorbed by the earth and she will be alright,” the girl’s mother Farida Begum said. Later, agitated locals surrounded the power corporation’s office and demanded the removal of low-hanging electric wires from residential areas. Kayyum Rana, junior engineer, said, “We had sent a proposal for relocation of these power cables long back, but the approval is still pending.”Incidents like these remind us how the insane practices of superstitions have seeped deep in the minds of rural populace. Only good education can eradicate all evils in the society.El Diario Mensaje In UP, 18-year-old kidnapped, raped An 18-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped by a youth of her village in Udaypur police station area of Pratapgarh district on Wednesday. In her complaint to police, the girl said that she was forcibly taken to a secluded spot in the village on Tuesday night by one Ajay and was raped. A case has been lodged against Ajay and investigation is underway. (Times of India 27/10/16)

 ‘300 million children breathe toxic air’ (14)

New York: Two-hundred and twenty million children in South Asia region including India, among nearly 300 million globally, currently live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times, according to a new report released by UNICEF on Monday. The study — Clear the Air for Children — based on satellite imagery, in the first analysis of its kind, has categorised the affected areas based on the quantum of particulate matter, ranging from 10 to 60 µg/m3 (the amount of micrograms of ultra-=fine particulate matter per cubic metre of air that constitutes a long term hazard). “Around 300 million children currently live in areas where the air is toxic — exceeding international limits by at least six times. In total, around 2 billion children live in areas that exceed the World Health Organisation annual limit of 10 µg/m3,” the report says. Of the 300 million global figure for PM 2.5 annual mean exceeding 60 µg/m3, 220 million children belong to South Asia region, which includes India and neighbouring countries. For the 2 billion figure which corresponds to the ultra-fine particulate matter exceeding 10 µg/m3, 620 million children are affected by it in South Asia, the report said. 450 million children breathing toxic air in East Asia and the Pacific region, 200 million in Eastern and Southern Africa and 240 million in West and Central Africa for the 10 µg/m3 category, it added. “The sheer numbers of children affected are staggering… Many of these children are already disadvantaged by poverty and deprivation. Some are already at heightened risk from conflicts, crises and the intensifying effects of climate change,” UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake says in the report. The findings come a week ahead of the COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries. “The impact is commensurately shocking. Every year, nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die from diseases caused or exacerbated by the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution.“Millions more suffer from respiratory diseases that diminish their resilience and affect their physical and cognitive development,” Lake says. Globally, air pollution affects children in low-income and middle-income countries more. According to a recent WHO report, Delhi was ranked among the top 20 cities worst-affected by pollution globally. “The effects of indoor air pollution kill more children globally than outdoor air pollution, especially in Africa and Asia. Eighteen of the nineteen countries where 95 per cent or more of the population use solid fuels for cooking are in sub-Saharan Africa.“More than 60 per cent of the population in India continue to use solid fuels in household cooking — contributing to over 100,000 child deaths associated with indoor air pollution in 2012,” the reports says. (The Hindu 31/10/16)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

PFI takes up ‘stop politics of hate’ campaign in Madurai (7)

MADURAI: Condemning the Union government for its “anti-attitude” against minorities and “victimisation”of Muslims, the outfit had been conducting a nation-wide campaign — “Stop politics of hate” for the last 30 days from September 1. Leading the agitation, PFI State president M. Mohammed Ismail, SDPI State vice-president Nellai M. Mubarak and others participated. The police arrested the agitators which included 200 women. They were released later. (The Hindu 2/10/16)

Minority Affairs Ministry takes charge of Haj pilgrimage (7)

NEW DELHI: Following President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to amendments to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, the Centre on Saturday made public the gazette notification on the transfer of management of Haj Pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act, 1959, to the Minorities Affairs Ministry. The Ministry of External Affairs has dealt with the Haj pilgrimage and other aspects of the Act so far. Under the amended business rules in the Second Schedule, the Ministry would however, continue to oversee other pilgrimages to places outside India under the Indian Pilgrimships Rules, 1933, and pilgrim parties from India to shrines in Pakistan and vice versa. The decision to transfer the management to the Ministry of Minority Affairs was taken earlier this year. Every year, Haj Committee of India organises the All India Annual Conference for Haj Chairmen & Secretaries of State Haj Committees. Senior Officers of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India attend the conference which reviews the arrangements and suggests improvements. The Haj Quota is fixed by the Centre and the State-wise quota of seats is distributed among the States and Union Territories on the basis of their Muslim populations. The MEA continues to be in charge of coordinating pilgrimages to shrines in Pakistan, Nepal and China and vice versa, travel for traders and pilgrims from India to the Tibet region of China. (The Hindu 3/10/2016)

‘India can teach world on minority rights’ (7)

New Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) On the issue of minority rights in a democracy, India can be the teacher of the world, said an academic on Wednesday. Professor Peter Ronald DeSouza of Delhi University said this while delivering the 9th Annual Lecture on ‘Minority Rights and Democracy in India’ organised by the National Minorities Commission here. “As the world struggles with working out the moral, legal, and social terms of the majority-minority relationship India’s engagement with this question, since the last 70 years, constitutes a valuable global intellectual resource,” DeSouza said.DeSouza said that three key ideas emerge from this debate on minority rights. The first that cultural and religious plurality is an asset to a nation and not a threat, a bold argument to be made after partition when the sense of the house was overwhelmingly for strong integration. The second is that cultural autonomy must be allowed, the protective argument, so that individuals can develop their personalities to the fullest using their cultural resources.”In the mixed picture about the position of minorities (primarily religious minorities) India stands out as a shining path to follow. I am not saying that things are wonderful in India, since much more needs to be done, but that we compare favourably with our neighbours. “We have the architecture in place from which a robust practice of protecting minority rights can be built. For this we need the imagination and we need the will. India can indeed be the teacher of the world,” he said. (Times of India 5/10/16)

Minorities Commission calls for ‘re-drafting’ of new education policy to make it more ‘secular and inclusive’ (7)

HYDERABAD: The State Minorities Commission expressed apprehensions over the draft new education policy (DNEP) and called for its “re-drafting” claiming that the document should be “secular and inclusive in nature”.In a letter sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) recently, the minorities panel expressed alarm at Article 29,which provides for the protection of minorities, and Article 30, which gives minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions — of the Constitution being threatened in the document. “The constitutional guarantee given to minorities under Article 29 and 30 are at stake as the DNEP suggests inclusion of aided institutions into the purview of RTE Act 2009, whereas the full bench of the Supreme Court already delivered its judgement barring the government from doing so (sic)”, an excerpt from the letter reads. The commission urged the Centre to “honour” these constitutional provisions. The minorities panel raised concerns over the evolution of education as detailed in the DNEP even as it pointed out that the contribution of the Christian community found no mention in the document for establishing Serampore College in West Bengal. The establishing of the Serampore College, the commission claimed, was followed by setting up of a large number of English medium educational institutions.The letter accused the TSR Subramanian Committee of failing to include the contribution of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his efforts to establish the Aligarh Muslim University. “The contribution of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister, who served over a decade soon after the independence and laid a strong foundation to the Indian education system is missing,” it added.The minorities panel, which had earlier this week differed with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s stand on oral triple talaq, found itself sharing the views of the Muslim organisation. Fearing exclusion of minorities, the commission pointed out that yoga and Sanskrit could give rise to Vedic culture. This, it said, would not “acknowledge” the culture and faiths of minority communities, “So, if this policy is implemented forcibly, it will further marginalise and result in exclusion of the minorities, particularly Muslims,” it wrote. (Times of India 6/10/16)

Not in favour of uniform civil code, want codification of Muslim Personal Law: Noor Jahan (7)

New Delhi: A day after the Law Commission asked the public seeking response on abolishing the practice of triple talaq or implementation of a uniform civil code, the petitioner in triple talaq case, Noor Jahan, has said that she is not in favour of the uniform civil code. “Not in favour of Uniform civil code, seeking codification of Muslim Personal Law,” Noor Jahan told ANI. Keeping in view the debate on uniform civil code, the law body had sought public opinion on the revision of family laws to avoid social injustice. The Law Commission on Friday had issued an appeal, saying that the objective behind the same was to address “discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise the various cultural practices,” assuring that “norms of no one class, group or community will dominate the tone and tenor of family law reform”. “The Commission hopes to begin a healthy conversation about the viability of a uniform civil code and will focus on family laws of all religions and the diversity of customary practices, to address social injustice rather than plurality of laws,” law panel chairman Justice B S Chauhan (retd) had said on Friday. The petitioner Noor Jahan had sought an order from the Supreme Court stating that Section 2 of 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. In her petition, Jahan has questioned whether an unilateral and arbitrary divorce through triple talaq should deprive the wife of her rights in her matrimonial home as also her right to have the custody of her children. (Indian Express 8/10/16)

Critics slam govt’s move to transfer Haj affairs to Minority Affairs Ministry (7)

The government’s recent move to transfer Haj affairs from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to the Minority Affairs Ministry has found few takers. Stakeholders feel that such a move will only create confusion and increase red tapism. Some also claim that it is an attempt by the BJP government to harass minorities. A proposal of creating an autonomous Haj Council of India, to deal exclusively with Haj affairs, had been doing the rounds since the UPA government. The council was to function as any other council under the MEA and would have the Minority Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Civil Aviation as partners. “The Minority Affairs Ministry cannot handle its own affairs. They do not have enough people to run their own schemes and foundations. How will they handle something as massive as Haj,” said Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of the Milli Gazette. Khan even alleged that the move was yet another attempt of the BJP government to harass Muslims. The Ministry of Minority Affairs was created during UPA-I, to handle the domestic affairs of the minority community. On October 1 this year, the responsibility of Haj was transferred from the MEA to the Minority Affairs Ministry though a Gazette notification. Experts however feel that the role of the MEA cannot be ignored and that the Minority Affairs Ministry cannot handle the matter independently. Talmiz Ahmad, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who handled 15 Haj trips during his career, explained, “The coordination between the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia and the foreign office of the host country has to be managed through the MEA. There are people positioned in Saudi Arabia to handle the job. The transition has to be smooth, the new officers should be trained to handle the work load.” About 160 lakh Indians go for Haj every year. Ahmad, who had initially mooted the idea of creating a Haj Council said, “The scale of operation is so huge, that a bureaucrat sitting in the MEA cannot handle it. The need is to have a dedicated team, dealing exclusively with matters of Haj.” On average, financial transactions to the tune of Rs 300 to 400 crore has been used to coordinate Haj affairs each year. However, some allege that the money is being misused, “Over the years, Haj has become a den of corruption. Those involved in organising and hosting the visit have been amassing huge sums of money over the years. The transfer from one ministry to another only ensures the money will change hands. Things will remain the same on the ground,” said Anees Durrani, former Chairman of the Delhi Haj Committee. Even some within the government do not completely support the transfer. Member of Parliament, Mehboob Ali Kaiser, who is also the chairman of the Haj Committee said, “Haj cannot happen without the involvement of the MEA. Shifting ministries will only create more layers of bureaucracy to deal with. It will make the system more complex.” (DNA 12/10/2016)

Minority panel team to visit Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Kairana (7)

MEERUT: A National Commission for Minorities (NCM) team will visit the communally sensitive Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts on Monday. The team will meet representatives of minority communities affected by violence and also visit Kairana, which was in the news recently for an alleged “Hindu exodus”.Speaking to TOI, NCM’s member-in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Farida Abdullah Khan said, “Our team will visit both districts on Monday. Our main aim is to meet minority families from Muzaffarnagar who were displaced after the 2013 riots. We want to see how they are doing more than three years after the Muzaffarnagar riots. We want to see whether their condition has improved.” She added, “The team will also visit Kairana in Shamli district. There is tension in the town after reports of an alleged Hindu exodus started doing the rounds. The NHRC had also come out with a report but we would like to see the situation for ourselves. We want to see how community relations have been affected by claims of a Hindu exodus.” BJP MP Hukum Singh had in June alleged that Kairana in Shamli district has become a “new Kashmir”, with the exodus of 250 Hindu families over the past two years, after being allegedly targeted and persecuted by another community. More than a week after making the claim, the leader produced a list of 346 families that had fled leaving their properties behind. (Times of India 15/10/16)

Congress to host ‘minority conventions’ across UP in month-long campaign (7)

Lucknow: After focusing on Brahmins, farmers and then promising reservation within reservation for most backward castes, the Congress is now planning to organise minority conventions across the state, which is headed for Assembly polls next year. At a meeting held by Khurshid Ahmed Saiyed, AICC chairman of the minority department, in Lucknow on Sunday, it was decided that Congress would hold as many as 25 minority conventions and 12 public meetings to share and discuss the party’s agenda regarding issues faced by minorities.Khurshid said that the venues and dates for these conventions will be finalised after discussions with the party’s top rung. He said it would be a month-long campaign. Sources said November 15 had been decided as a tentative date. Among promises like better educational opportunities in minority-dominated areas, some leaders also suggested demanding a “special court” to expedite hearings for those arrested for alleged involvement in terror cases. Speaking to The Indian Express, Siraj Mehndi, chairman of the Congress’ state minority department, said, “While BJP is trying to develop a fear in the mind of minorities, political parties like Samajwadi Party (SP) are giving false promises. We would expose both during our month-long campaign.” He further said, “There was also a suggestion to demand for special court for hearing of those young boys, who are arrested on charges of involvement in terror cases. Some of these boys are released after 10-12 years and are found not guilty, but by then they have lost precious time of their life. Those guilty should be convicted fast and those not found guilty should be released fast, this would be our demand.” Congress leaders also said that they would also counter SP on each of its promises made to minorities in its 2012 election manifesto, like opening of schools in minority-dominate areas and reservation. Pamphlets containing information on minority issues will be distributed during the public meetings. (Indian Express 17/10/16)

Minority panel junks NHRC’s Kairana report on Hindu exodus (7)

MEERUT: A team from the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) that visited Kairana on Monday trashed the recent National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report which said there had been an “exodus” of Hindu families from the restive western UP town due to fear of members of a particular community in the area. The NCM team, led by member-in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Farida Abdullah Khan, told TOI that certain findings in the NHRC report “seemed baseless”. She said, “We met some local families and spoke to the local administration. We found that there was no evidence to suggest there had been an exodus of any kind. I don’t wish to comment on the NHRC report too much, but some of the findings seem baseless.” NHRC in its report on the alleged exodus of 250 Hindu families from Kairana, in Shamli district, had all but validated what BJP MP Hukum Singh had initially said. “At least 24 witnesses stated that the youths of the specific majority community (Muslims in this case) in Kairana pass lewd/taunting remarks against the females of the specific minority community in the town. Due to this, females of the specific minority community (Hindus) in Kairana town avoid going outside. However, they could not gather courage to report the matter to the police,” the report said. Khan said the NCM team didn’t find much evidence to back the NHRC claim. “For instance, the (NHRC) report claims that the rise in crime in Kairana was linked to the resettlement of refugees. There is no paperwork that can verify this. It also said that the riot-displaced persons changed the demographics of the town since about 30,000 people came and settled here. However, local NGOs said the figure in Kairana is not more than 200 people.”  Slamming what she called a “blatant attempt at polarisation”, Khan said, “The local MP’s comments are a clear attempt at politicising a sensitive matter.” Singh had alleged that Kairana had become a “new Kashmir”, with the exodus of 250 Hindu families after being allegedly targeted and persecuted by another community. (Times of India 18/10/16)

Supreme Court to hear plea seeking action on cow vigilantism (7)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a writ petition filed by Congress leader, columnist and model Tahseen Poonawala to take immediate and appropriate actions against the vigilantes in the garb of “Gau Rakshak Dals” (Cow Protection Groups). These are vigilantes are allegedly spreading violence and committing atrocities against dalits and minorities in the name of protection of cow and other bovine species. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitav Roy, after hearing senior counsel Sanjay Hegde and counsel Shezad Poonawala, sought the response of the Centre and six states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Haryana and Karnataka. In his petition, Mr Poonawala has sought a ban on such groups on the ground that they are operating illegally in several parts of the country, allegedly indulging and killing people in the name of protecting the cow. He likened the “gau rakshaks” to the now disbanded “salwa judum”, a similar vigilant groups, formed by the Chattisgarh government by arming civilians to kill Maoists. The petitioner alleged that some states like Gujarat, Haryana, MP and Maharashtra have given licences to these groups to check passing trucks for carrying any illegal cow meat. Gau rakshaks dals are in the news for the past few months, following a series of incidents across the country where beef-eaters and those purportedly indulging in cow meat have been targeted. Starting from Mohammad Akhlaque’s lynching in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly eating beef to the bashing up of a dalit family in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, the country has been witnessing a spurt in such incidents. The petitioner submitted that the menace caused by the so called “Cow Protection Groups” is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes. The violence committed by them have reached to such proportions that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared them as people who are destroying the society. The atrocities committed by these vigilantes are punishable under various provisions of the IPC. … (Asian Age 22/10/16)

BJP allays fears on citizenship for minorities (7)

Guwahati: Blaming the protests in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, on ‘Congress-Communist’ intellectuals and activists, BJP on Monday said it is an attempt to create divisions within the ‘greater Assamese society’. “The BJP-led government in the state is four months old. These intellectuals and activists are bent on destabilizing the Sarbananda Sonowal government. Granting citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been BJP’s stand. In the assembly elections, BJP came to power with a huge mandate. These intellectuals and activists want to create an impression that BJP is going to make Assam a state like Tripura. This is false propaganda,” BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami said here. Goswami added that besides Bengali Hindus, there are also Koch Rajbongshis, Hajongs and Chakmas in Bangladesh. “If members of these communities want to come to India because of persecution in their country, will we not accept them? The people of Assam voted BJP to power despite knowing our stand on citizenship for religious minorities,” he said. The amendment bill seeks to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is being examined by a parliamentary joint committee. Several organizations, including the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, are up in arms against the bill. The organizations have been saying that the identity of indigenous people will be under threat if those belonging to religious minorities from Bangladesh are granted citizenship. BJP, however, has been silent on whether the ‘Congress-Communist’ influence was behind opposition by Aasu and its partner AGP. Both Aasu and AGP are opposing the bill on the grounds that it is against the spirit of the Assam Accord. The Accord, signed in 1985 after a six-year-long anti-foreigner movement, had set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of ‘foreigners’ irrespective of their religious affiliation. Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi recently accused the BJP government at the Centre of not taking the people of the state into confidence about the amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Goswami countered Gogoi’s allegation and said it was Gogoi instead who had in the 2011 assembly polls promised to protect Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. “Congress’s double-speak on the issue has been exposed. BJP is committed to the fulfilment of its promises. Our chief minister has already written to the chairman of the parliamentary joint committee about holding a public hearing on the bill in Assam,” Goswami added. (Times of India 25/10/16)

No evidence of exodus of any community from Kairana: NCM (7)

New Delhi: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has virtually rejected claims that there was large-scale migration of communities from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, saying there seems to be “no evidence” suggesting exodus of any community from the town of the poll-bound state. In its spot report filed last week, the NCM has also stated that both the local administration and representatives of communities were “categorical” in assuring the Commission that there was “no unusual exodus” of Hindus. The locals, it said, claimed that some Hindus and Muslims left the town in search of “better opportunities”.”There seems to be no evidence of large-scale migration and we were assured that there was absolutely no unusual tension among local Muslim and Hindu populations,” the NCM said in its report. It added, “We were also told that Kairana town has always had a majority Muslim population and that in the aftermath of the 2013 communal violence and the displacement of Muslims caused by it, around 280 Muslim households have settled here and that there is no unusual shift in the town’s demography.” The two-member Commission team comprising Praveen Davar and Farida Abdullah Khan, who made the field visit to the town in Shamli district on October 17, spoke to local administration and representatives of different communities before compiling its observations. According to locals, the two said, people shifting out of Kairana is part of “usual migratory” pattern and that both Hindus and Muslims leave it “time-to-time” in search of better opportunities. “This is not surprising that given the poor economic conditions in Kairana and the growing affluence and industrialisation and therefore, the attraction (among Kairana locals) of neighbouring towns and cities like Panipat, Dehradun and even Delhi,” the duo said. The Commission noted that there is “organised” criminal activity, especially around drug trade, that is affecting all communities and that “not enough” had been done to curb these activities. Meanwhile, the NCM said it was “disheartening” to see that the displaced of 2013 Muzaffarnagar violence are living in difficult conditions in Palada village as there is no electricity supply being made to them and the initial infrastructure like sewage network is not yet created. Calling attention of the Akhilesh Yadav dispensation towards their plight, the Commission has recommended the state government to undertake survey to assess present status of the displaced in terms of their physical living conditions, employment, health and education of children. Among other, the NCM has suggested Union Ministry of Minority Affairs to explore setting up of additional inter-colleges for women under its multi-sectoral development programme in Kairana after locals made a demand in this regard. (Business Standard 26/10/16)

Over 55 per cent of undertrials Muslim, Dalit or tribal: NCRB (7)

New Delhi: OVER 55 per cent of undertrials across the country are either Muslims, Dalits or tribals, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s prison data for 2015. According to the NCRB, over two-thirds of all jail inmates are undertrials. The data also shows that more than 70 per cent of undertrials have not passed Class 10.Muslims, Dalits and tribals together account for 39 per cent of India’s population, thus their share among undertrials is disproportionate to their population. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims make up 14.2 per cent, Scheduled Castes (SC) 16.6 per cent and Scheduled Tribes (ST) 8.6 per cent of India’s population. Besides, the three communities have a lower representation among convicts as compared to undertrials. Together, they account for 50.4 per cent of all convicts. Among Muslims, the community’s share of convicts is 15.8 per cent, slightly above their representation in population, but their share among undertrials — at 20.9 per cent — is far higher. SCs account for 21.6 per cent of undertrials and 20.9 per cent of convicts, while STs make up 12.4 per cent of undertrials and 13.7 per cent of convicts. Out of 2,82,076 undertrials lodged in various jails in the country, a total of 80,528 undertrials are illiterate (28.5 per cent) and 1,19,082 have education levels below Class 10 (42.2 per cent).The data also shows that most of the undertrials have to spend over three months in jail before they can secure bail — close to 65 per cent spend between three months and five years. While comparing the data to 2014, the NCRB report says the most significant increase in convictions was in rape cases — a jump of 11.6 per cent as against 1.5 per cent in murder cases and 2 per cent in overall convictions. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of rape convicts at 19.6 per cent. The number of undertrial prisoners also saw a marginal dip of 0.3 per cent when compared to 2014. According to the data, while capacity has increased over the years, jails continue to remain overcrowded with an occupancy rate of over 114 (as against a capacity of 100). The maximum overcrowding was observed in jails in Dadra & Nagar Haveli (276.7 per cent), followed by Chhattisgarh (233.9 per cent), Delhi (226.9 per cent), Meghalaya (177.9 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (168.8 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (139.8 per cent). According to the data, those convicted in murder cases accounted for 59.6 per cent of the total convicts. Similarly, 26.5 per cent of undertrials were charged with murder. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh topped the list of murder convicts at 21.9 per cent and 15.8 per cent respectively. They also accounted for the highest number of undertrials facing murder charges at 19.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively. (Indian Express 31/10/16)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Muslims hold rally in support of Army, burn Sharif’s effigy (7)

NOIDA: A group of Muslims held a rally in support of India and the Army after Friday prayers in Dankaur village of Greater Noida. Holding placards and banners, they marched in the village and expressed their support to the country. The local people also raised pro-India and anti-Pak slogans and burnt Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s effigy. Nasir Hussain, a local resident, said that usually people suspect the loyalty of Muslims in a situation like war with Pakistan. “We want to tell people that nation stands first for us. We are Indians first and Muslims later. We are very happy that the India conducted a surgical strike against the terror launch pads in Pakistan. India should always respond in the same manner to the enemy,” Hussain said. Mohammad Adil, another resident, said that India is a peace-loving country. “We do not want any bloodshed. But if our soldiers are provoked to fire, India should retaliate,” he said. Adil said that Indian Muslims are united and they are with the country. “We are ready to fight for the country, whenever the country needs us,” he said. The local Muslims offered prayer and then conducted a rally from Tauliyan Masjid to the village. Around 200 people joined the rally and visited different spots and market areas and returned to the same spot. The people also burnt the effigy of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the end of the programme. (Times of India 1/10/16)

Graveyard land leased, Muslims stage protest in Ludhiana (7)

Ludhiana: Muslims protested against the WAKF board that allegedly leased their graveyard land to a private coloniser at Haibowal Kalan. The protesters alleged that a land mafia was trying to grab the land for private use. Asrar Tareen, president of Kafan Dafan Muslim Welfare Society said, “The WAKF board members in collusion with administration have leased out around 4.418 acres on Balloke Road. There is a nexus in place to please a few officials in the government department and members of land mafia.” “WAKF act states that graveyard land cannot be leased out for any other purpose, but violating the act guidelines, authorities are leasing the land. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued stay orders on September 27, against construction on said land. But we want that the land be freed completely,” Tareen added. (Hindustan Times 4/10/16)

Muslims protest TRS government’s failure to keep quota promise   (7)

HYDERABAD: Scores of people gathered on Wednesday to protest against what they said was the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s failure to keep its pre-poll promises which include 12 percent reservation for Muslims in education and employment. The protesters, which included former AP State Minorities Commission member Taraq Quadri, took to Dharna Chowk at Indira Park and demanded that the Telangana government make the minorities sub-plan a reality . The list of demands also included the withdrawing of cases foisted upon Muslim youth, appointment of officers to fill vacant posts of the Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation and giving the State Wakf Board more powers.Several carried placards even as they voiced their demands. “Give the financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh to to unemployed youth and poor traders”, a placard read.Another demanded, “Fill vacants posts at the Minorities Welfare Department”. (Times of India 6/10/16)

We feel safe here, say Muslims of Bisada as police keep watch (7)

Bisada (Greater Noida):Two companies of provincial armed constabulary, 200 constables and over 50 police officers have been deployed in the village as a preventive measure. A sense of unease prevailed in Bisada village, around 50km from Delhi, on Thursday as villagers refused to cremate the body of lynching suspect Ravin alias Robin. The Muslim families living in the village, however, said there was no ‘communal’ discord, as a huge police force kept guard to prevent any untoward incidents. “Our neighbours have a tussle with the government. They will not harm us. It has been a year since (Mohd) Ikhlaq died and nobody has intimidated us over our religion,” said Bano Begum, 54, who lives near the mosque. The police said there was no communal tension and two companies of provincial armed constabulary, 200 constables and over 50 police officers have been deployed in the village as a preventive measure. Around one-fourth of the force, an officer said, had been deployed near the mosque and areas where Muslims lived. “The force has been deployed as a precautionary measure. No untoward incident has been reported. People are protesting, but peacefully,” said Abhishek Yadav, superintendent of police (rural), Gautam Budh Nagar. Bisada village, about 50 km from Delhi, has a population of over 10,000 people. Most of the residents are Hindu Rajputs. Only 50 Muslim families live in the village. “This is our home. We trust our neighbours. Whatever happened last year was unfortunate. There is no threat to us here. The atmosphere is tense as expected. A young man has died without trial. But none of our Hindu neighbours have caused any trouble for us,” said a resident requesting anonymity. There are more than half a dozen barber shops in the village, mostly owned by Muslims. One such barber, who lives near the mosque, said he felt uncomfortable only when saffron leaders visited the village and delivered hate speeches against Muslims. “We don’t think about communal tension until we hear a saffron leader spewing venom against Muslims. We think there won’t be any problems if leaders avoid making such statements,” he said. He said the Muslim community of the village discusses about the threats of such leaders behind closed doors. However, they know that a majority of villagers refrain from attending such speeches. (Hindustan Times 7/10/16)

Muslim body against triple talaq (7)

PUNE: Welcoming the Union government’s stand to support abolition of `triple talaq’ and polygamy , the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal – a prominent Muslim reformist organisation in Maharashtra – has appealed to PM Narendra Modi to take steps to implement the Uniform Civil Code. “It has been more than 50 years we are fighting for the rights of Muslim women. Finally, there is some hope. The government’s stand on triple talaq and polygamy is a progressive step and now the government must bring a Uniform Civil Code which will prove an elixir for Muslim women who have been oppressed by the orthodox and fundamentalists,” said Shamsuddin Tamboli, president of the Mandal. Tamboli recalled that Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal founder late Hamid Dalwai had organized the first march of Muslim women to the Council Hall in Mumbai on April 18, 1966, demanding modification in laws. Since then the Mandal has been campaigning for the rights of Muslim women. “During the Shah Bano case, we had appealed to the then Congress government to protect the rights of Muslim women and not to succumb to vote bank politics. Recently, we submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis asking him to facilitate the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code. Muslim women will get the right to property, right to adopt a child and other rights only if the Code is implemented,” said Tamboli. The Centre, on Friday, told the SC to abolish `triple talaq’ and polygamy , terming them “unconstitutional customs hurting gender equality and women’s dignity”.The Mandal officials said that `triple talaq’ has been abolished in many Islamic countries and has no support in Islam. (Times of India 10/10/16)

Muslim groups slam Centre’s move on oral triple talaq (7)

HYDERABAD: Days after the Centre urged Supreme Court to do away with the practice of oral triple talaq pronouncing in one sitting, Muslim religious organisations slammed the move and called it an interference in Muslim personal laws. Describing October 7, the day the Centre filed the affidavit, as a ‘black day for secularism and democracy’, a panel of religious figures which include All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) secretary Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani and chancellor of Islamic seminary Jamia Nizamia, Syed Akber Nizamuddin Hussaini, also a board member, among others, said in a statement: “Those who are adherents of all schools of Islamic thought in India unanimously say that Muslim personal laws are binding on them. Despite this, the Government of India’s issuing a statement against Muslim personal laws in the Supreme Court certainly means that it is conspiring to take away from the community its religious rights.” The panel urged Muslims to protest against the Centre’s move in a “constitutional fashion” and support the AIMPLB even as it maintained that Muslim personal laws are derived from the Quran and the Sunnah. “They (Muslims) should not get entangled in the oral triple talaq issue. This is because communal forces have used this issue to divide the community on the lines of sects and schools of thought,” an excerpt from the statement read. These laws can neither be be changed by Parliament nor can they be interpreted by courts, the panel claimed.Another Muslim group Jamiat-e-Ulama Telangana and Andhra Pradesh said, “Only about 10 or 15 per cent of the Muslim community treats pronouncement of talaq thrice in one sitting as one pronouncement. More than 85 per cent of Muslims consider oral triple talaq in one sitting as a valid provision.” The Jamiat, a socio-religious organisation comprising Islamic scholars, said that it has earmarked Rs 75 lakh to engage top lawyers to argue the oral triple talaq case. Taking the issue of oral triple talaq and the safeguarding of Muslim personal laws into cyberspace, an online petition ‘Hindustan Mey Muslim Personal Law ke Tahaffuz ke Liye’ (To Retain Muslim Personal Law in India) was filed on a popular petitioning website. Several Muslims from the city urged one another to “sign” the petition and forward the message to like-minded people on the community. The petition, which was filed by one Mufti Taufeeq Mansoor Mazahiri, received around 8,700 “signatures” and several comments till Tuesday night. (Times of India 11/10/2016)

Hindu Mahasabha leader’s visit called off after stir by Muslims (7)

UDAIPUR: Tension gripped the city as Muslim organizations opposed to the proposed visit of All India Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari on Thursday here.Tiwari, whose “objectionable” remarks on Prophet Muhammad had provoked countrywide protests by conservative Muslims last year, was reportedly to participate in a ‘Shastra poojan’ programme to be held at the Bekani Puliya in the city on Thursday afternoon. Later, sensing tension, organizers called off his visit and Tiwari was reportedly asked to halt at Chittorgarh. Meanwhile, ADM city OP Bunkar said the administration wasn’t informed of any such programme or Tiwari’s visit and no permission had been sought by the organizers. Hindu activists and workers had allegedly placed some banners, posters and flags at various places near Ayad to greet the leader a day ago. On Thursday morning, as some of the muslim organizations came to know of his visit, community men started collecting at Hathipole, one of the busiest cloth and handicrafts markets.They opposed Tiwari’s participation in any public programme and planned to give a memorandum to the collector demanding prohibition of such events. Sensing tension, police teams from Hathipole, Am bamata and Bhupalpura stations were called in. Most of the shopkeepers pulled down the shutters of their shops in anticipation. Later police officers held peace talks and pacified the community men. DySP Bhagwat Singh Hingar informed people that the administration had not given any such permission and Tiwari’s visit had been called off by the organizers. The posters and banners having his name were also removed. After assurances from the police, the situation was restored to normalcy and the crowd dispersed. Hindu leader Kamlesh Tiwari had last year, in a written statement claimed that Prophet Mohammed was the first homo sexual, his statement had come after Samajwadi Party minister Azam Khan said that RSS leaders were homosexuals and that why they didn’t get married. (Times of India 14/10/16)

‘Muslims won’t tolerate interference in personal law’ (7)

VADODARA: Amid the heated debate over “triple talaq”, Mufti Shabbir Alamkhan Sahab, imam of Ahmedabad’s Jama Masjid has said that Muslims will not tolerate any interference in their personal law. The mufti along with Ahmedabad-based advocate Tahir Hakim, who is also on the legal panel of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, was in Vadodara on Sunday evening to attend a meeting of community leaders on Muslim Personal Law and Uniform Civil Code called by 10 Muslim bodies. “The stand taken by Modi ‘hukumat’ is an interference in Muslim Personal Law and against the spirit of democracy. Everybody has the right to lead his life according to their religion. It is a democratic right. No government or party can interfere into this right,” he said. He argued that the Sharia permits triple talaq in the interest of both the man and woman as a means to keep their dignity and privacy intact.”The intention is to save the family from delayed justice in conventional courts and to avoid mud-slinging in public. Even courts cannot take away this right,” he said. He also opposed Uniform Civil Code on the grounds that Muslim women already have special rights as they can inherit property from both maternal as well as in-laws side. “Do other religions provide same kind of treatment to its women?” he said. While the community has already started signature campaign against the central government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court, the organizers of Sunday’s meet have now decided to intensify the drive. “We will put up camps in different areas of the city to take signatures of women. Also, women from the community will stage a mute protest with placards against the government’s move of interfering in Muslim sharia at Gandhi Nagar Gruh,” said Zuber Gopalani, member of the United Forum and national executive of All India Muslim Majlis e Mushavirat. (Times of India 17/10/16)

Panel seeks regiment for Muslims in Army (7)

BAREILLY: Muslim Rashtravadi Sewak Sangh, a social organisation whose main work so far is to hoist the Tricolour in madrassas, mosques and other religious functions, has demanded the establishment of a Muslim regiment in the Indian Army. The members of the organisation claimed on Monday that a few organisations in India still look at Muslims as terrorists, and hence it wants that a child from each Muslim family should serve the Indian Army. During their first interaction with the media, Mohammed Khalid, president of the organisation, said, “There are a few organisations who consider Indian Muslims as terrorists, but we are creating awareness among people that Muslims are patriotic. We carry the national flag during Muharram processions, and we have been hoisting the Tricolour at madrassas, mosques and religious functions. We had even hit the streets to celebrate the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army across the LoC.” “We demand the setting up of a Muslim regiment so that members from the minority community can serve the Indian Army. A member from each Muslim family will be more than willing to sacrifice his/her life for the protection of the country,” he added. When asked about the difference between the Muslim Rashtravadi Sewak Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Khalid, who is also former deputy mayor, said, “RSS do not believe in hoisting the national flag while it is our primary work. Our name may sound similar but we are two different organisations. We have no connection with any political outfit and we are not going to endorse any political party.” Formed nearly one-and-a-half-years back, Muslim Rashtravadi Sewak Sangh today has nearly 5,000 members. (Times of India 18/10/16)

Triple talaq: BJP to cash in for UP vote (7)

New Delhi: The BJP is confident the Centre’s move on triple talaq will benefit the party in the coming Uttar Pradesh polls. Saffron strategists feel it will consolidate the Hindu votebank, including liberals and hardcore loyalists. They hope Hindu liberals, who are traditionally against the BJP, will see the move as a “progressive” one, while it will “energise” the Hindutva cadre. The party also feels the move to challenge triple talaq will “confuse” the Muslim votebank. The BJP seems to be confident that blending triple talaq with nationalism will push it ahead in UP, though “the nation’s economy remains an area of concern”. It is a do-or-die battle for the BJP in UP. Speaking to this newspaper, a senior UP BJP leader said with the country’s economy remaining an area of concern, the BJP had decided blend nationalism with triple talaq. With this, it has also tacitly brought in the issue of the Uniform Civil Code to centrestage. While nationalism will trigger “jingoistic feelings” in voters, it hopes, the triple talaq move may send a signal to Hindu liberals and intelligensia about the “progressive” credentials of this government. It was pointed out that Hindu liberals who saw the BJP pursuing a sectarian roadmap may change their views and find outfits opposing the move “were actually following the politics of sectarianism”. BJP leaders feel the move will also get support from Muslim women voters and “confuse” the minority votebank. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will lead the campaign in UP, has already reached out to Muslims. Speaking at Kozhikode recently, he had said: “Muslims are neither a commodity in the vote market, nor an object of hatred, and should be considered as our own.” As the political infighting rages in UP, the BJP hopes that Muslim votes will get split three ways between the BSP, SP and Congress. Earlier, the major chunk of the Muslim vote was with the SP. The BJP has already set in motion its gameplan to woo dalits in a big way by launching a series of dalits sammelans. “If there is a split in the Muslim votebank, and if we can eat into Ms Mayawati’s core votebank and consolidate the Hindu votebank, we will be forming the next government,” a senior BJP leader observed. (Asian Age 22/10/16)

‘Rate of divorce among Muslims less than other religions’ (7)

LUCKNOW: Opposing any reform in the Muslim personal law, a group of women today said the ratio of divorce among Muslims vis-à-vis its population is less than any other religious community. Speaking during a conference organised by Darul Uloom Farangi Mahal, they also backed the stand taken by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in this regard. “Some women are trying to suggest through media that all Muslim women want changes in personal laws but it is not so. Majority of women in the community don’t want any reform in the laws,” Gazala Afroz, principal of Convent School, Gonda, said. According to a statement, another teacher Asia Bano, said, “The rate of divorce among Muslims is also on the lower side as per the 2011 census. So, it is obvious that they (government) are trying to attack personal laws (by) stoking a non-issue.” The women also urged community members to raise a voice against the Centre’s affidavit which said the practice of triple talaq, ‘nikah halala’ and polygamy among Muslims needed a relook on grounds like gender equality and secularism. (New Indian Express 25/10/16)

‘NDA govt. trying to infringe upon rights of Muslims’ (7)

Vijayapura: S.M. Patil Ganihar, Ahinda leader, has alleged that the National Democratic Alliance government is trying to infringe upon the religious rights of Muslims under the pretext of bringing in a uniform civil code. He told presspersons here on Monday that the Modi government was trying to create communal divide in the country by sparking off a controversy on the issue. Mr. Ganihar said that by raising the controversial issue, the government was trying to implement one of its promises in the election manifesto. “The party had made other promises too such as increasing employment opportunities. Why is it not doing anything on such pro-people promises,” he asked.Asserting that the Constitution guarantees religious freedom, Mr. Ganihar asked the government and the Supreme Court to clarify what was the definition of a uniform civil code. “Every religion in the country has its own practices. In fact, the practices within a religion vary as different sects follow different practices. In such a tricky situation, how is it possible to have a uniform code in the country like India,” he asked.Mr. Ganihar said that by asking the Union government to file a reply on the demand for a common civil code, the Supreme Court had stepped out of its jurisdiction.He said that on several occasions in the past, the Supreme Court had upheld religious freedom. “How can the same court now seek the government’s suggestion on a uniform civil code? This nothing but a direct attack on religious freedom, which is one of the fundamental rights of citizens,” Mr. Ganihar said. On the issue of triple talaq, he said that most people who participate in discussions in TV channels had not read about the concept. “Islam does not favour divorce when a man pronounces talaq thrice in a single breath. This is a false notion many people have about it. Many so called resources persons, mainly people from the Sangh Parivar, talk on the issue only to mislead the people by projecting a wrong picture of Islam. Muslims need not have to learn about Islam at least from people of the Sangh Parivar,” he said. (The Hindu 25/10/16)

UP Muslim outfits join signature campaign against UCC (7)

AGRA: Accusing the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government of interfering in their religious matters, various Muslim organizations and clerics from UP on Thursday joined the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) signature campaign against the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and triple talaq. Muslim scholars slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for attempting to politicize the issue of triple talaq by raising it in his recent public rally ahead of UP elections. In Agra, All India Tanzeem-ulema-e-Ahle-Sunnat, an umbrella organisation of Sufi Sunni, which claims to represent 80% of total Indian Muslim population, announced the support on Thursday, while urging PM Modi and his party to refrain from playing politics on this “sensitive” issue. “While the matter of triple talaq is still with the Supreme Court, why is Modiji debating it in his rallies?” questioned member Mufti Anwar Ahmad, alleging that this has to do more with politics than any genuine concern for the community. AIMPLB recently launched a nationwide campaign to collect signatures to “save and protect Shariat Laws” by opposing the proposed UCC. Sunni Barelvi clerics on October 21 started, “Shariat Bachao Andolan”, again for “protection of Muslim Personal Law as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and to protest UCC”. Various Muslim organisations, including Bareilly-based, All India Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa, Tanzeem-Ulma-e-Islam from Delhi and Mumbai-based, Raza Academy have joined the campaign. Talking to TOI, Maulana Riyasat Ali said, “Being the prime minister of the entire country, Modiji should not be biased with one religion. The signature campaign would continue for a few days and would be submitted to the All India Muslim Personal Law board.” Sounding a word of caution, another scholar, Irfan Ullah Khan Nijami, said, “We, Muslims, can tolerate anything but would not accept interference in Shariyat. Muslims are being defamed by such campaigns.” Maulana Mohammad Arshad-ur-Rehman Qadri said, “The government should not interfere in Muslim Personal Law Board on issue of triple talaq and should withdraw the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court. Muslim men and women would follow only Allah’s word,” he said. Aligarh’s Mufti, Mohd Khalid Hameed, said, “The entire Muslim community does not want a change in triple talaq. This is a matter of our religion and we know it better than anyone else,” he said, adding that leaders should refrain from making political statements on this issue.Clerics associated with this campaign are distributing forms in many states and also launched a website to make people register their objection to UCC. They claim to have already got over eight lakh signatures on their petition, including two lakhs online. The signature war comes against the backdrop of the Law Commission’s move to get feedback on the contentious Uniform Civil Code, a set of identical civil laws, and a government affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing ‘triple talaq’ and polygamy among Muslims on the ground that they discriminate against women. (Times of India 28/10/16)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Pope Francis most likely to visit India, Bangladesh in 2017 (7)

Aboard the papal plane: Pope Francis will visit Portugal next year and is “almost sure” he’ll go to India and Bangladesh. Still to be determined is where in Africa he’ll visit and whether Colombia’s peace accord is “certain, certain, certain” enough to enable a papal visit. Francis outlined his 2017 travel plans while flying home from Azerbaijan yesterday. Complicating his travel schedule is that next year is already full of appointments with visiting bishops whose 2016 visits were put off due to Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy, which ends in November. But Francis confirmed that as of now, he planned a May 13 trip to the famed Marian shrine at Fatima in Portugal. India and Bangladesh were planned as well and an Africa trip was under study. The destination depends on weather conditions, time of year and regional political and conflict situations, he said. Francis had said previously he would visit Colombia if the government and rebels reached a peace accord. Colombians voted yesterday in a referendum to enshrine the accord ending Latin America’s longest-running conflict. Francis said he would go to Colombia “when everything is certain, certain, certain, when they can’t go back, when the international community has agreed that no one can make a (legal) recourse, that it’s finished. If it’s like that, I could go. If it’s unstable? It all depends on what the people say. The people are sovereign.” Relations are “good,” the Vatican Museums just had an exhibit in China and the Chinese were due to open one on the Vatican, he said. China’s president just sent him a gift with a visiting delegation who attended a Vatican conference and there are working groups that are “slowly” discussing relations that were severed under communism. “They’re talking slowly, but slow things are good. Things that move fast aren’t good,” Francis said, adding: “The Chinese people have my highest esteem.”  (Zee News 3/10/16)

Mumbai: Priest found dead in Church (7)

Mumbai: A 29-year-old priest was found dead early on Sunday in a church in Khopoli. The police suspect suicide, the motive for which is still unknown. According to the Khopoli police, Reverend Father John Koovakunnel was found hanging from the ceiling fan of his room at St. Anthony Church around 8 am by parishioners who went to check on him after he missed the Mass service. No suicide note was found in the room, which was locked from inside. Police said Father Koovakunnel’s parents say they have no idea as to what could have prompted him to take the extreme step. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Kalyan said, “We have requested the authorities concerned for a detailed inquiry to find out the cause of death.” Koovakunnel, a Kerala native, had been at the church for the past-year-and-half and will be buried in  Pune on Tuesday. (Indian Express 3/10/16)

Christian Man Hacked To Death In Church In India (7)

A Pentecostal Christian who was involved in politics has been hacked to death in a church, according to reports from India. “G” Dhanasekharan, aged 34, was murdered by a group of men wielding knives and sickles in Chennai in Tamil Nadu, southern India. He had been praying at his Devasabha Church when he apparently received a phone call and stepped out of the service. When he was surrounded by the gang of aggressive men he fled into another church, where they caught up with him and murdered him before making a get-away on three motorcycles. The victim had been involved in local politics and was a councillor for the DMK or Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party, representing the local youth, The Times of India reports.”We are also trying to find out whether there was any business rivalry which could have resulted in the murder,” police told The Times of India. Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told Agenzia Fides: “This killing is yet another proof that Christian minorities are particularly vulnerable. The trail of aggression carried out by Hindu militants to the detriment of the Pentecostal faithful is known. Police are investigating but we believe Dhanasekharan was also killed because of his faith.” Chrisatian Today 5/10/16)

Bengaluru archbishop laid foundation stone to church construction in Belagavi (7)

BELAGAVI: Foundation stone to the new building of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church near Union Gymkhana here, also identified as Goa Church was laid Saturday morning by archbishop of Bengaluru Rev Dr Bernard Moras in presence of Rev Dr Peter Machado, bishop of Belgaum. The Immaculate Conception Church is one of the oldest churches in the Diocese of Belgaum. Frei Clemente da Mae Dolorosa founded it as a chapel in 1826. A bigger structure was built by Fr. Fulgencio Perozy in1851 and erected as a church. Speaking on the occasion, Belagavi bishop Peter Machado urged people of Belagavi and other places to support erection of new building of the church.Fr Nelson Pinto, Fr Philip Kutty, Fr Stanely D’souza, vice president of Belagavi Cantonment Board Alladin Killedar and former deputy mayor Meena Vaz were present. After the programme, archbishop Dr Bernard Moras received felicitation by St Joseph Convent and Uzwaad Konkani magazine headed by Louis Rodrigues. (Times of India 8/10/16)

Churches across Goa to hold prayers for peace between India and Pakistan on October 16 (7)

Amid tension between India and Pakistan, churches across Goa will on October 16 hold prayers for peace in the region. “The recent escalation of tension along our borders has been causing serious concern to our respective populations and has prompted the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to issue a circular asking that a day — October 16 — be set aside as a day of prayer for India,” Archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Ferrao said on Tuesday.“I too would like to call upon the members of the Church in this Archdiocese and other people of good will to join us in praying for one another and for peace in our land,” said the Archbishop.Ferrao said peace has always figured amongst humanity’s highest values, whether it is seen as absence of conflict or as an abiding state of harmony and tranquillity. “Ironically, it is one of the most eluding goods in today’s society. The fragile peace along the Indian border with neighbouring Pakistan is regularly disturbed by exchange of fire and other forms of violence, revealing a simmering state of hostility and suspicion between two countries that otherwise share linguistic, cultural, geographical and even economic links”, he added. The Archbishop has requested the parish priests, religious and lay leaders, to conduct special prayers for the nation on October 16. “I call upon members of other religious communities in our Archdiocese to join us in praying for our mother India,” he added. (Indian Express 9/10/16)

Caritas India to recruit transgender people (7)

Caritas India, an official agency of the Catholic Church, has decided to fight against an openly discriminatory mentality, announcing the launch of a programme for the assistance and social promotion of transgender people. The Catholic Church’s social service wing has confirmed the decision in a statement on Monday, Oct. 10 after holding internal talks on its inclusive development policy. “Caritas is open to work with transgender people. I am even open to recruiting them,” said Fr Frederick D’Souza, executive director of Caritas India, during the meeting. Referring to the initiative as the “beginning of a new school of thought,” and explaining: “People who are suffering for no fault of their own because of sexual confusion in their body require our attention and support.” With this programme, Caritas hopes to eradicate “traditional biases against them,” in the awareness that this “decision will definitely have implications on other institutions. Others will also begin to reflect on this”. Hopefully this attention will set an example for society. Fr D’Souza however clarified that by transgender he means “biological transgenders” and not those who undergo gender change. “We don’t want to confuse the two. We have an opinion on those who undergo sex change, we are not in favour of that. We believe that the natural gender one is born with is what he/she is supposed to cherish and contribute to creation.” Father Paul Moonjely, deputy director of Caritas India, said that the decision to include transgender people in Caritas is not sudden. “We have been reaching out to transgender people in our development programs but have largely failed to recognize them and show data on how many of them we have supported,” he said. This programme is very likely to have a “ripple effect”: Founded in 1962, Caritas India is recognised and appreciated as a leader in the social field, actively working with programmes that focus on humanitarian aid, social development, reconstruction, poverty reduction, sustainable development, education and the social promotion of women and poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups. India has nearly 500,000 transgender people, according to the 2011 government census. They have been excluded from participating in social and cultural life, economy and politics, according to a 2012 United Nations Development Program report….  (Vatican Radio 13/10/2016)

Nagaland Congress lashes out at BJP for being ‘unsecular’ (7)

Kohima: Launching an attack on the state BJP, the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) said the saffron party is in a denial mode about being ‘against freedom of religion’. “Anything against Christians has happened in BJP-ruled states and by BJP frontal organizations. It has escalated since BJP came to power in 2014,” NPCC president K Therie said in a statement. The NPCC cited the declaration of Christmas as Good Governance Day and Good Friday as Judges’ Conference Day as insidious ways the BJP government has taken over ‘sanctified days’. NPCC also said BJP’s proposal to shift the financial year end from March to December is because the party wants to ‘disturb the sacred festivities of Christians’. Lashing out at the attempted saffronisation of education, NPCC said the change in syllabus of schools and universities by the BJP-led central government intends to ‘brainwash’ the new generation. “Hindi and Sanskrit are compulsory in schools and they intend to enforce it in universities too,” the statement said. It further accused the ruling Naga People’s Front of ‘surrendering’ to BJP. “They do not behave like a regional party anymore. They believe in money and power. They have lost faith. They talk of regionalism but have lost all regional character,” the NPCC said. The statement dismissed the idea that joining BJP in the state is a smart political move because it is in power at the Centre and will remain so for the following two terms at least. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will be a paper tiger after losing the Uttar Pradesh election. BJP will be rooted out by May 2019,” the statement added. (Times of India 14/10/2016)

Religious persecution will never be allowed: Rajnath Singh (7)

New Delhi: Describing India as a “university of tolerance”, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday asserted that religious persecution will never be allowed in the country. “Tolerance is essential for peaceful existence. People from all religions live peacefully in India and practise their religion without any fear of discrimination. That is why India is a university of tolerance,” Singh said at a meeting of Christian leaders organised by India Christian Council. Singh said Christianity came to India almost 2,000 years ago and Kerala is home to St Thomas church which is one of the world’s oldest churches. He said India cannot forget the contribution of Christians — from Saint Thomas to Mother Teresa — who tried to eradicate evils from our society. “There were incidents of attacks on churches in Delhi which came up in the run up to elections (to Delhi Assembly). But I would like to say that religious persecution will never be allowed in India whether it is before or after election,” he said. Targeting Pakistan, Singh said while India chose to be a secular country, Pakistan declared itself a theocratic state and was now pursuing terrorism as state policy. “In 1947, India was divided on the basis of religion and despite that, it chose to be a secular state. “The nation (Pakistan) separated from it declared itself a theocratic state. That country uses terrorism as a state policy.” It is very unfortunate that some countries make terrorism a state policy. There can be differences between people that can be resolved through dialogue but not by taking up guns, he said. Singh said a terrorist does not belong to any cast, creed on religion. “Not only India, but many countries in the world have been affected by terrorism. A terrorist is a terrorist who does not belong to any caste, creed or religion. Although, some people link terrorism with religion but it is wrong,” he said. The Home Minister said in India, people from all religions get respect and it is the only country where all sects of Islam are found. “All important religions find place in India,” he said. The meeting was attended by BJP MP and National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations Udit Raj and Joseph D’Souza, Moderator Bishop, Good Shepherd Church, India and President of All Indian Christian Council. D’Souza asked the Christian community to stand with the government and support it in the fight against terrorism. The Council requested Singh to send a circular to state governments and police to ensure protection of Christians and places of their worships. Pointing to India’s liberal ethos, the Home Minister said, “We do not impose our point of view on others. Such is the limit of tolerance in India. God is one, his definitions can be multiple.” Singh said from Saint Thomas, Bhagini Nivedita, Bhikaiji Cama to Mother Teresa, all got respect in India. “If India were not a university of tolerance, these people would not have got so much respect,” he said. The Home Minister said there are many challenges in India which can be resolved with the support of all. “Education is one example. Indian constitution allows religion minorities to run its own educational institutions,” he said. Singh said India believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (World in one family). “People not only from India but all over the world are part of one family. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is the term that India gave to the world.” he said. (Indian Express 15/10/16)

Catholic Church bats for sustainable lifestyle (7)

KOCHI: The Catholic Church in Kerala has called on its members to adopt sustainable measures to conserve water and also protect the water bodies from contamination and pollution. In a circular issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) commission on social justice and development, the church has asked its bishops, clergy and the laity to observe the ongoing `Year of Mercy’ by respecting and refraining from abusing earth and nature. Man as the protector of environment has to treat mother earth and nature as God’s gifts to mankind, it said. “Aga inst the backdrop of rising issues of drought, drinking water shortage and contamination of water bodies, it has become necessary to launch a water conservation aware ness programme for the society.” It called upon on all social service organisations related to the church to take up the activities to conserve water in wells. Calling for tapping rainwater and diverting it to the traditional wells which would recharge the groundwater, it asked the laity to ensure that every drop of rain water is conserved. “Though the state gets 3,000 mm of rains in a year, more than 70% is drained off. This flow must be prevented.”The circular said that most houses had either tiled or tarred the roads and the paths as a result of which the water flows on. Rain collection drains or rain holes should be made so that the water flows down into the mud and thus goes into the groundwater system. The waste water from the house should be reused for gardening or washing. People have to undergo a self-realisation that fall in rains could lead to severe water shortage in many areas. “We have been doing a lot of work in spreading the message of sustainable living.The Year of Mercy comes to an end of next month but we don’t want people to forget it.So we have issued the circular to tell people to make it a way of life,” said KCBC deputy secretary general Fr Varghese Vallikkat. He said that each diocese would work to ensure that it become a practice in the society. These were some practical guidelines for people to implement in their life, he added. (Times of India 19/10/16)

Jharkhand CM under fire from christians for his conversion remarks (7)

RANCHI: Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das on Sunday came under fire from the tribal Christians of the state for his recent remarks on conversion of tribals. The Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh (RIM), a socio-religious body of the Christian community spread across several states, on Sunday accused Das on demeaning the Christian missionaries and their ongoing social service going on in the state for decades. “Do they (the government) want us to stop serving the society? Relating social service that we do to conversion of religion is not only shameful, but also an effort to polarize the tribals in the name of Christians and Sarna,” said Prabhakar Tirkey, national general secretary of RIM at a congregation in Ranchi’s Xavier’s Institute of Social Service. Tirkey also accused Das of trying to create rift between tribal following Sarna code and those who follow Christianity. Over the past week Das became vocal on the religious conversion of tribals. Approximately 4.5% of the state’s 27% tribal population follows Christianity.The RIM on Sunday appealed to the tribal Christian community to remain united against the divisive forces and urged them to maintain harmony. “We stand united against all divisive forces. We hope that all of you will support us and stand united against such forces,” said Deepak Tirkey, a senior office bearer of RIM. Das’s comment has drawn sharp criticism from politicians from opposition. Vandana Dadel, panchayati raj secretary and a 1996 batch IAS officer of Christian faith in Jharkhand government, also indirectly objected to the CM’s statement in her social media account. The meeting was also attended by former Union minister and Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay. (Times of India 23/10/16)

Diocese, students, lecturers condemn student’s assault on principal (7)

MANGALURU: The Diocese of Mangalore on Monday condemned the assault on the principal of Milagres Degree College by a student on Thursday and demanded strict action at the earliest. The accused, Mohammed Shahnavaz, was arrested on Monday. In a memorandum submitted to Police Commissioner M. Chandra Sekhar, Mangalore Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza said the fraternity was pained over the way the final year BBA student Mohammed Shahnavaz treated principal Michael Santhumayor on October 20. The principal, a priest of the diocese, has been in the field of education for over a decade. The college management, staff, students and others were anguished over the unfortunate incident, he said in the memorandum. Mohammed Shahnavaz, who had been barred from writing a semester examination owing to shortage of attendance, assaulted the principal and fled from the place with his friends immediately. The principal was admitted to a private hospital in Valencia. The act was captured on closed circuit television cameras. Many lecturers have accused Shahnavaz of having a history of misconduct, including tearing an attendance register at one time.A delegation of Catholics, led by the Vicar General of Mangalore Diocese Denis Prabhu, submitted a memorandum to Mr. Sekhar. Three police teams had been formed to catch the accused. Mr. Sekhar also asked school and colleges managements to be watchful of students and curtail incidents of misconduct in the first or second instance. “It is better not to delay action in such cases,” he advised.Vicar General Denis Prabhu told The Hindu that disciplinary action against Mohammed Shahnavaz for his grave misconduct would be taken after his arrest.Earlier in the day, lecturers of Milagres College had staged a protest at the college premises demanding protection from assaults by students. A number of lecturers also joined former college students and members of the college’s Parent-Teachers’ Association to stage a demonstration near the office of Deputy Commissioner later in the day. A delegation of Catholics and MLC Ganesh Karnik met Deputy Commissioner K.G. Jagadeesha expressing concern over the incident. (The Hindu 25/10/16)

Closing borders boosts human trafficking, says Pope (7)

Vatican City: Fences are being erected in some countries to keep out migrants and refugees, but this only aids the criminal organisations who traffic human beings, Pope Francis said Wednesday. “Today, the current economic crisis unfortunately fosters attitudes of closure instead of welcome,” Francis told pilgrims at his weekly general audience in St Peter`s Square. “In some parts of the world walls and barriers are being built. But this actually ends up favouring criminal trafficking,” he stated. The only solution to the phenomenon of migration is solidarity, Francis said. “Solidarity with the migrant, solidarity with the `foreigner`. It appears that the silent work of men and women who, in different ways, do what they can to help and assist refugees and migrants, is being drowned out by the noise made by those who give voice to an instinctive egoism.” The growing influx of refugees fleeing war, famine and dire poverty requires Christians to welcome and care for them, as they have done through the ages, said Francis. “Dioceses, parishes, religious institutes, organisations and individual Christians: we are all called to welcome our brothers and sisters who are fleeing war, hunger, violence and cruel conditions of life. “As followers of Christ, may we never close our hearts to those in need.” (Zee News 27/10/16)

Jesus Christ’s burial slab uncovered for the first time (7)

“The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and a partner in the restoration project, told the magazine. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.” The rock surface, or “burial bed” was hewn from the side of a limestone cave following Christ’s crucifixion, according to Christian tradition. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a core tenet of Christian belief – the gospels say that the tomb was found to be empty by those who visited it a few days after the crucifixion, Fox News reported. The “burial bed” is now part of a small structure called the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the National Geographic said. The Edicule, rebuilt between 1808 and 1810 following its destruction by fire, is being restored by scientists from the National Technical University of Athens. The restoration, which includes the Edicule’s interior tomb, is being overseen by the National Technical University’s Chief Scientific Supervisor Antonia Moropoulu.”We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” Moropoulou told National Geographic, adding “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.” National Geographic added that after the marble slab was removed, a grey-beige stone surface was exposed. Scientists will use monitoring tools to study the surface. (New Kerala 28/10/16)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Hungary votes on government’s rejection of European Union refugee quotas (13)

Budapest: Hungarians were voting Sunday in a referendum called by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to seek support for its opposition to any future, mandatory European Union quotas for accepting relocated asylum seekers. The government’s position is expected to find wide support among voters, though there was uncertainty whether turnout would exceed the 50 percent plus-one-vote threshold needed for the referendum to be valid.The referendum asks: “Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?” Orban has argued that “No” votes favor Hungary’s sovereignty and independence. If that position secures a majority of ballots, Hungary’s parliament would pass legislation to bolster the referendum’s goal whether or not turnout was sufficient for a valid election, he said. Orban also said he would resign if the “Yes” votes won, but the vow was seen mostly as a ploy to boost turnout by drawing his critics to the polls. “The most important issue next week is for me to go to Brussels, hold negotiations and try with the help of this result, if the result if appropriate, achieve for it not to be mandatory to take in the kind of people in Hungary we don’t want to,” Orban said after casting his vote in an elementary school in the Buda hills. Orban, who wants individual EU member nations to have more power in the bloc’s decision-making process, said he hopes the anti-quota referendums would be held in other countries. “We are proud that we are the first” he said. “Unfortunately, we are the only ones in the European Union who managed to have a (referendum) on the migrant issue. I would be happy to see other countries to follow.” Nearly 8.3 million citizens were eligible to cast ballots between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. (0400-1700 GMT) on Sunday. Polls show that the relentless campaign urging citizens to “send a message to Brussels” while associating migrants with terrorism has increased xenophobia in Hungary. Several opposition and civic groups have called on citizens to stay home and boycott the vote. Others urged casting invalid ballots that would not count in the final tally, but still could be interpreted as rejecting the government’s “zero migrants” policies. Nearly 400,000 migrants passed through Hungary last year while making their way toward Western Europe. Razor-wire fences erected on the border with Serbia and Croatia, along with new expulsion policies, have reduced the numbers significantly this year. Last month, police reported either zero or just one migrant breaching Hungary’s border area on 13 different days. Hungary last year rejected over 80 percent of the asylum claims made in the country, one of the highest rates in the EU, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. The country granted asylum to 508 refugees, rejected 2,917 applications and had nearly 37,000 claims still being processed. (Indian Express 2/10/16)

More than 200,000 Afghan refugees return in exodus from Pakistan: UNHCR (13)

More than 200,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Pakistan this year, nearly half of them in September alone, UNHCR said Tuesday, the highest number since the US toppled the Taliban in 2002. The tsunami of refugees returning to the war-torn country comes after Pakistan tightened its border controls in June and began cracking down on undocumented Afghans. The vast majority – more than 185,000 – returned after July, with nearly 98,000 crossing the border in September alone, UNHCR spokesman Qaisar Khan Afridi told AFP. “From January until today, the number of refugees voluntarily repatriating to Afghanistan has crossed the figure of 200,000,” Afridi said. More and more appear to be going every day, with officials saying that the first four days of October saw up to 5,000 returnees daily. An Amnesty International report today said Pakistan hosted 1.6 million refugees, making it the third largest refugee hosting nation in the world. But UNHCR said the figure, based on its own data, was already out of date and should be revised to 1.4 million after the movement since July. The agency also estimates that a further one million undocumented refugees are in Pakistan.Since 2009, Islamabad has repeatedly pushed back a deadline for them to return, but fears are growing that the latest cutoff date in March 2017 will be final. Pakistani officials said the increase came after they vowed to tighten border controls, particularly at the porous Torkham Gate crossing. However UNHCR cited an array of other reasons that could be helping drive the rush back into Afghanistan, including increasing anxiety and insecurity for refugees about life in Pakistan. Other factors include the UNHCR decision to double its cash grant for voluntary returnees from USD 200 to USD 400 per individual in June, and a campaign by the Afghan government to lure its citizens back with the slogan “My country, my beautiful country”. In Afghanistan, however, torn apart by more than three decades of conflict, authorities warn the number of displaced people has outpaced the capacity of the government and aid agencies to cope. (The Indian Express 4/10/16)

Pakistan-Afghan officials agree on dignified return of refugees (13)

Islamabad: Top Pakistani and Afghan officials on Friday discussed the safe and honourable repatriation of about 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Pakistan’s minister for the frontier regions Abdul Quadir Baloch met with Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah in Geneva. “They discussed the return of Afghan refugees, both registered and unregistered, in dignity and honour to Afghanistan,” Foreign office (FO) said in a statement. Abdullah appreciated Pakistan’s generous hosting of Afghan refugees for the past four decades. He added that there was a clear decision by Afghanistan, that the Afghan refugees should return to their country and all efforts were being made for their sustainable resettlement in Afghanistan. He also appreciated Pakistan’s announcement of USD 500 million for Afghanistan at the recently concluded Brussels Conference. Minister Abdul Quadir Baloch, while referring to the decisions taken by the last Tripartite meeting on Refugees held in Pakistan, pointed out that Pakistan was faithfully implementing these decisions. “The Afghan refugees were our brothers and sisters and therefore we had a particular interest in their return to Afghanistan with dignity. We shall follow this principle in the return of Afghan refugees currently taking place,” he said. Both leaders stressed the importance of close coordination between the two governments regarding the return of Afghan refugees. There are 1.5 million registered and a same number of unregistered refugees from Afghanistan in Pakistan. They have been living for years since fleeing the country in 1980 during Afghan war. Pakistan in coordination with the UNHCR and Afghan government is pushing refuges to go back and has set March 31, 2017 as the deadline for their return. (Indian Express 7/10/16)

MHA calls meeting on Monday to discuss Bru refugee repatriation (13)

Agartala: Union Government has convened a meeting in New Delhi on Monday to discuss repatriation of over 30,000 Mizoram tribal refugees housed in makeshift camps in north Tripura. Leaders of Bru tribe refugees, Mizo community representatives, government officials of Tripura and Mizoram, and senior officials of Ministry of Home Affairs will be attending the meeting. Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) has ushered hope that the dialogue at Central Monitoring Group (CMG), constituted to review refugee repatriation, would help resolve the 19-year-old imbroglio. Exodus of Brus, also known as Reangs, from three Mizoram districts – Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei occurred in September 1997 amid ethnic tension. The evacuees are living in seven camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions in north Tripura. The MHA has been providing relief and amenities to camp inmates through Tripura government agencies. “In CMG meeting we would reiterate demand for spot verification of places where Mizoram government plans to rehabilitate us after return. We want to make sure that the places are conducive for our settlement,” MBDPF vice president Laldawngliana Molsoi told The Hindu on Sunday. The MHA, in a letter on September 26 last year requested Mizoram government to allow MBDPF delegations to visit Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts to oversee rehabilitation arrangements. Mizoram has not yet responded to the request. MBDPF president A. Sawibunga and General Secretary Bruno Msha have left for New Delhi on Sunday. Mizoram government is sending two senior officials, a leader of Young Mizo Association (YMA) and a local Bru leader Elvis Chorky, who is collaborating with Mizoram government. Tripura government has deputed Principal Resident Commissioner at New Delhi to represent the State in the meeting to be chaired by MHA Special Secretary (Internal Security) M.K. Singla. The first meeting of CMG was held early this year, which brought all stakeholders to negotiation table. The MHA has announced to take entire burden of expenditure towards rehabilitation of over 30,000 refugees alongwith free ration to each repatriated refugee family for a period of two years. (The Hindu 9/10/16)

30 refugees to return from India, says Sri Lanka (13)

COLOMBO The Sri Lankan government on Wednesday said 30 Sri Lankan refugees in south India will return home next week. The Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs said the refugees will return as part of a voluntary repatriation programme assisted by the UN refugees agency, UNHCR, Xinhua news agency reported. V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary of the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will provide free air tickets, reintegration allowance of $75 per person, transport allowance $19 and monitory non-food grant of $75 per family. Since 2011, the ministry said, 5,110 refugees (1,863 families) have returned to Sri Lanka. Over 100,000 refugees are currently in India. Minister Swaminathan initiated a Cabinet paper based on which livelihood assistance to refugee returnees is provided to support the livelihood activities. The provision of dry ration to them has already been approved for six months. The ministry has instructed officials to provide compensation for those who have lost their houses and suffered loss of family members and injuries. Sivagnanasothy said the refugees who lost their houses will be provided with houses under the ministry programme. The Sri Lankan government of under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena has initiated action to encourage the voluntary refugee returnee programme on a phase-out basis and the government said the current trend of increased refugee returnees is a sign of reconciliation and moving towards permanent peace. (New Indian Express 12/10/16)

 ‘Burma Colony facing fresh threat’ (13)

VIJAYAWADA : The Burma Colony, which was allotted for the Burma refugees who settled in the city decades ago, has now become a target for land sharks backed by local politicians. The tiny colony, spread in more than one acre of area is located alongside the Nunna Road in Payakapuram. With the completion of most sought Inner Ring Road which meets Nunna Road near the colony, the cost of the land in the areas near by shot up attracting land grabbers. With a majority of the plots changing hands over the years, very few refugees are still residing in their houses. Recently, land grabbers occupied some plots and raised structures. Following resistance from locals, VMC officials pulled down the structures built by activists of the ruling party and some local journalists in the encroached lands of the colony near Kandrika, said CPI (M) city secretary Donepudi Kasinath. Fresh attempts are being made to grab the plots in the other half of the colony opposite Chikista Hospitals. “Only after political parties mounted pressure, the town planning wing demolished the houses built illegally in the area allotted for park. While existing residential plots are untouched, vacant lands have become the target for grabbers,” alleged another leader of CPI (M).A cent of land is being sold at more than Rs. 10 lakh which was not the case till recently. (The Hindu 14/10/16)

A communal bill: Don’t grant citizenship on religious lines, it goes against the idea of India (13)

Government is considering amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. A joint committee of parliamentarians is already examining the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from neighbouring countries who have been residing in India for at least six years. This is problematic on several levels. In fact the basic premise of the Bill violates the fundamental constitutional principle of secularism, as it appears to equate citizenship with specific religions only. While government may argue that the religious denominations mentioned in the Bill correspond to minorities in neighbouring countries who have faced religious persecution, the message that goes out is that India is willing to provide shelter to all except Muslims. If this isn’t the case, then why shouldn’t Rohingya Muslim refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar be added to the list? Besides, how would government determine religious persecution in foreign countries? Does it really have the wherewithal to discriminate between those facing genuine religious persecution and economic refugees pretending to be persecuted for their religion? And what if Pakistan announces a similar citizenship proposal for Indian Muslims who may feel discriminated in this country? The proposed citizenship amendments are therefore both impractical and suffering from a warped perception of the Indian identity. They disregard the fact that unlike say Israel, which offers a home to all the Jews of the world, India is a secular state which doesn’t discriminate between religious denominations. A rational and sophisticated citizenship programme for refugees needs to be egalitarian and operate on a case-by-case basis. A policy that favours specific religious denominations reeks of the discredited two-nation theory. (Times of India 17/10/16)

Minority panel criticises NHRC report on Kairana migration (13)

Muzafarnagar: Members of the National Commission for Minorities have criticised the report of National Human Rights Commission on the alleged migration of several families from Kairana in Shamli district, saying people had left the town for their businesses. Talking reporters here last evening, two members of the minorities panel Praveen Davar and Farida Abdulla Khan said the report of National Human Rights Commission is not based on facts but on “communal flavour”. The members, who had visited Kairana and Muzaffarnagar, said the migration of Kairana was not of communal nature. They said people of both Hindu and Muslim communities had left Kairana to pursue better business opportunities in other places. They said the people had not migrated due to fear from a particular community. The NHRC probe team had found that many families “migrated” from Kairana due to threats pertaining to “increase in crime” and “deterioration” of law and order there. It found that in 2013, after resettlement of about 25,000-30,000 members of Muslims community in Kairana town from Muzaffarnagar, the demography of Kairana town changed in favour of the Muslim community”, it becoming the “more dominating and majority community”. “Most of the witnesses examined and victims feel that the rehabilitation in 2013 has permanently changed the social situation in Kairana town and has led to further deterioration of law-and-order situation,” said the team’s findings. At least 24 witnesses said the youths of a “specific majority community” in Kairana “pass lewd/taunting remarks” against the females of a “specific minority community” as per the NHRC findings. Due to this, females of the specific minority community in Kairana avoided going outside frequently. “Some of the displaced persons also verified that it was one of the reasons for their migration from Kairana town,” the NHRC said quoting the team’s findings. (Indian Express 19/10/16)

400 border residents evacuated after Pakistani firing (13)

Hiranagar Border (Kathua) Border dwellers in Bobiya and adjoining hamlets in Hiranagar sector in Kathua district have been experiencing sleepless nights due to the intensified shelling and firing by Pakistani Rangers on October 20 and 21. Police armed with bullet proof vehicles criss crossed the shell-hit hamlets particularly Bobiya last night carrying loads of scared villagers. They were ferried to the camps setup by the district administration at government higher secondary school in Hiranagar and another school at Chhan Khatrian. “Due to heavy firing and shelling for the last two days and the fear psychosis among the border residents, we pressed into service bullet proof vehicles to evacuate them”, Deputy Commissioner Kathua, Ramesh Kumar said . Over 400 people from IB hamlets were evacuated and shifted to the safer areas in camps set up by the government, the DC said. “We have asked the authorities to ensure safety of the people as firing and shelling exchanges have increased. We don’t want the civilians to suffer”, IG BSF Jammu Frontier, D K Uphadayaya said. Deputy Commissioner, Kathua Ramesh Kumar and SSP Kathua Pawan Parihar village and joined the evacuation operation of 232 people. They were accommodated in Government Higher Secondary school, Hiranagar while 145 people of Londi and Rajgrain Brahamana were lodged in Government Middle School, Chhan Khatrian. Some families had left for the houses of their relatives, DC said. “We were very terrorised this time due to heavy shelling and firing by Pakistan”, Manak Chand of Bobiya said at camp here. “The windows of our houses were shaking with the sound of mortar bombs and firing of heavy weapons. It as unbearable to stay in home after being witness to the two days of firing, Chand Said Like him, Sukho Devi migrated from the hamlet several times and this is another exodus from her border home. “We have fled homes several times in the past few decades and before that in wars.It is now a routine for us as border people live in the jaws of deaths.You never know what is going to happen next moment,” she adds. Some people returned to their villages this morning leaving behind the elderly, women and children in migrant camps in Hiranagar because they have to take care of the harvest season. “We were engaged in harvesting when Pakistani firing forced us to abandoned it.Even moving outside in open is now dangerous as Pakistani snipers and troops are awaiting to hit us”, Sham Singh said. The administration has once again put the Contingency Plan in place for the border migrants as shelling and firing also extended to Samba and Jammu. The shelling and firing from Pakistan also took place in adjoining areas of Bobiya in Samba sector, Abdullian-Karotana-Bidipur in R S Pura and Nikowal in Pargwal sector of Akhnoor tehsil in Jammu district since Friday…. (The Hindu 22/10/16)

Assam: AASU launch mass stir against Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016  (13)

New Delhi: The Central government’s decision to revise the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 to grant citizenship to the persecuted Hindu migrants from Bangladesh is facing stiff opposition in the BJP-ruled state of Assam. As many as 26 ethnic organisations, along with influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), have launched a statewide stir to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 which they say directly contradicts the historic Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 between AASU, Centre and state. These groups say the Bill of 2016 is directly conflicting the 1985 Assam Accord, which prohibits citizenship to any person whether Hindu or Muslim if found having entered the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.The bill is likely to be presented for debate in the winter session of Parliament next month. It gives the right of citizenship to Hindus who claim they are fleeing persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Even the BJP’s alliance partner, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), said, it will not allow the dilution of clauses of Assam Accord and wants every illegal migrants irrespective of caste and religion to leave Assam.”There cannot be a selective approach. We are committed to protecting the Assam Accord, which stipulates that anyone illegally entering Assam has to be deported to the countries of origin,” Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, senior leader Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and one of the signatories of Assam Accord told reporters in Guwahati. Many MPs at the parliamentary select committee now examining the clauses of the new bill have also voiced opposition. If passed, the bill would give the right of Indian citizenship to over 150,000 Bangladeshi Hindus who are currently residing in Assam and many more that would enter without any valid documents. The state Congress, has also threatened to join the statewide stir. The move is sowing dissensions between Hindu Bengali and Assamese leaders. The BJP, however, defended its move, saying the bill would ensure that Assam does not become a Muslim-majority state.”India is a natural home for persecuted Hindus. Where will they go? And granting citizenship to Hindu Bengalis will benefit Assam as it would stop Muslims from becoming [a] majority,” Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP’s senior cabinet minister said. (DNA 25/10/16)

UNHCR distances itself from ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Gula (13)

Islamabad/United Nations: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Thursday distanced itself from Sharbat Gula, Nat Geo’s famed ‘Afghan Girl’ who has been detained by authorities in Pakistan for alleged forgery. The United Nation’s refugee agency in Pakistan claimed that Sharbat Gula – known as Afghanistan’s green-eyed Mona Lisa – is not a registered refugee. “We cannot extend any assistance to the detained Afghan woman as she is not registered refugee with UNHCR,” Senior External Relations Officer UNHCR Pakistan Dan McNorton told Dawn.com. Sharbat Gula, who fled Afghanistan during Soviet occupation shot to fame after her photograph as a young refugee was published on the cover of National Geographic back in 1985 on her arrival to Peshawar.Gula was arrested a day earlier from her Peshawar residence by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for alleged forgery of a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC). She faces seven to 14 years prison time and fine between $3,000 to $5,000 if convicted by court over fraud, a National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) official said Wednesday. Nadra’s vigilance department and an official of the FIA rejected information provided on the Nadra form as fake, and the FIA official ordered cancellation of CNICs of Gula and her alleged sons. Details of the form had claimed that Sharbat Gula had two sons. The FIA official maintained that she has two daughters and a two-year-old son. According to the UN refugee agency, the first census of Afghan refugees in Pakistan started in 2006 and the refugees that turned out at registration offices got Proof of Registration (PoR) cards thus getting permission of their legitimate stay in Pakistan. “I think Sharbat Bibi missed that opportunity and could not register herself as refugee,” Duniya Aslam Khan explained when asked as to why the refugee agency could not register her. The UNHCR was contacted by Afghan diplomats in Islamabad anticipating that she will be rescued by the refugee agency for being refugee. Expressing concern over the arrest of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan government has decided to take up the issue with Pakistani government, sources said Thursday. An official at the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar told DawnNews the Afghan government will pursue the case in a Pakistani court and provide a lawyer and legal assistance to Gula, who is an Afghan national… (New Kerala 27/10/16)

Mizoram Govt will not concede MBDPF demands: Lalzirliana (13)

AIZAWL, Oct 29 – Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana on Friday reiterated that the State Government will not concede the demands of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) as a pre-condition for their repatriation. Addressing the ruling Congress party workers here, Lalzirliana said it would be impossible for the State Government to allot at least five hectares of land to each repatriated Bru family. He said the power to allot land was not vested in the State Government, but to the village councils and the repatriated Bru families also would have to wait for allocation of land for construction of houses and for jhumming in accordance with the guidelines of their respective village councils. “The Brus left Mizoram and migrated to Tripura on their will after committing grievous crimes including murders against the Mizo community,” he said adding, the Mizo people continued to welcome them with open arms even after such incidents. The MBDPF, during the meetings of the Joint Monitoring Group held in Agartala and Delhi recently, made 14 demands including allotment of at least five hectares of land to each Bru family. Meanwhile, the MBDPF leaders led by its Vice President R Laldawngliana today visited Mizoram-Assam border Kolasib district for an on the spot visit of the villages where the repatriated Brus were proposed to be repatriated. Of the 3,445 Bru families proposed to the repatriated, 628 families would be resettled in eight villages of Kolasib district – Bairabi, North Thinglian, Dilzau, Zodin, Meidum, Bukvannei, Pangbalkawn and South Chhimluang. According to Road Map-V for Bru Repatriation prepared by the State Government, the identification of bona fide residents of Mizoram in the six Bru relief camps in Tripura would commence from November 2, while the physical repatriation was scheduled to begin from November 30. The State Government, however, might not be ready to begin the physical repatriation as per schedule as the Ministry of Home Affairs was yet to officially announce the rate of enhancement of the financial package to be given to the Bru families. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 30/10/16)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

MHA seeks details of bureaucrats’ foreign trips (1)

New Delhi: While lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung is busy scanning the foreign tour details of city ministers, their personal staff, and other officers, the Union home ministry has directed all the Union Territories, including national capital territory of Delhi, to furnish details of such visits undertaken by officers of the rank of deputy secretaries and above since 2013. The home ministry said that administrative heads of all the Union Territories should immediately upload the details of the foreign visits undertaken by their officers. A note issued by the MHA said that at the time of forwarding any new proposal of tour, it should be certified that the previous tour details and outcome of post visit of individual officers is already uploaded. It said that the department of expenditure was pressing hard to submit outcome of the visits undertaken by the officers. The MHA has also made it clear that the details of the foreign tours should be submitted in a specified format giving details whether officers had got their respective issues resolved, new ideas they had generated, diplomatic and economic benefits, training exposure, and self evaluation of their tour. Earlier, Mr Jung had directed the Delhi government’s general administration department (GAD) to furnish details about the number of foreign visits undertaken by city ministers, their personal staff, and other officials during the last 18 months… (Asian Age 1/10/16)

Notes taken by judges’ steno not public record under RTI: HC (1)

NEW DELHI: Shorthand note book in which a court stenographer takes dictation from the judge is not a “record” held by a public authority and therefore cannot be sought under the Right to Information Act, the Delhi High Court has held. A bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said that the shorthand notebooks are not retained and they cannot be treated as part of judicial record but only memos, at best. The bench said this while upholding the March 2016 order of Central Information Commission (CIC) by which the petitioner was denied copies of shorthand notes taken in the HC on May 27, 2013. The petitioner was denied information by the Public Information Officer of the High Court, who said that the shorthand notes are not retained. The first appellate authority also held that “since no such record is being maintained the information is not available and thus the same cannot be furnished”. The petitioner in the instant case had sought shorthand notes of the stenographer taken on May 27, 2013 as he said that on the said date there was a strike and no party appeared before the court but a bench went on to pass an order of ex-parte injunction against them in a suit initiated by a American multinational technology company. Relying on a full bench judgement of the HC, which held that even draft judgments signed and exchanged are not to be considered as final judgment but only a tentative view liable to be changed, Justice Sachdeva said, “The full bench held, that the apprehension of the learned Attorney General, that notes or jottings by the Judges or their draft judgments would fall within the purview of Right to Information Act, is misplaced. Notes taken by Judges while hearing a case, it was held, cannot be treated as final views expressed by them on the case and are meant only for the use of the Judges and cannot be held to be a part of a record ‘held’ by the public authority.” “Shorthand notebook can at best be treated as a memo of what is dictated to a steno to be later transcribed into a draft judgment or an order. When draft judgments and order do not form part of a ‘record’ held by a public authority, a shorthand note book which is memo of what is dictated and which would later be typed to become a draft judgment or an order can certainly not be held to be ‘record’ held by a public authority,” he observed. (The Hindu 5/10/16)

BMC got 84,000, not just 12,000 objections to development plan (1)

Mumbai:Contrary to the civic body’s claims of 12,000 responses, citizens submitted 84,767 suggestions and objections to the city’s revised development plan (DP) 2034, revealed a reply to an right to information (RTI) query filed by the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), a body of town-planners. The DP was released on May 27, with a 60-day window for citizens to file their objections. In July, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said it received 9,616 objections to the DP, along with 3,300 objections filed online. The objections submitted multiple times were counted as one, officials said. Pankaj Joshi, executive director, UDRI, said, “The BMC has artificially reduced the number to undermine public outcry over the DP. Considering the huge number of objections submitted, it is necessary for the planning committee to give a hearing to all citizens.” There was a public outcry over the earlier draft which was released in February 2015. The civic body had received more than 50,000 objections to the 2015 draft. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had then asked the BMC to revise the draft. According to the RTI filed by UDRI, the BMC does not have a record of the decision made to club together the objections. According to the data assessed by the institute, the BMC received 81,467 objections plus 3,300 online objections. “A Dadar resident submitted 5,000 objections on one issue. That does not mean we should call him for a hearing 5,000 times. Similarly, NGOs submitted objections with 500 signatures, but only a few people will attend the hearing,” said a senior DP official. “We cannot confirm the numbers revealed by the UDRI. It is true they had filed an RTI and got information from the register. We have, however, not counted the applications individually.” The objections filed by citizens on the city’s infrastructure blueprint for the next two decades are to be heard by a planning committee consisting of seven members, four appointed by the state and three political representatives of the BMC. The planning committee, however, has not been formed yet. While the state government has named three experts, the ruling parties, Sena-BJP, in the BMC are yet to announce the names of the three political representatives in the committee. The proposal to declare the names was deferred in Thursday’s general body meeting. (Hindustan Times 7/10/16)

PMO received 10 lakh RTI queries in 20 months (1)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office has received over 1,500 petitions a day for the last 20 months. In response to a RTI query PMO revealed that it had received 10 lakh petitions — that is RTI applications, grievances, complaints — between June 1, 2014 to January 31, 2016. Gurgaon based Aseem Takyar had sought to know how many complaints and grievances were received in the PM’s office since PM Narendra Modi took charge. The PMO in its response said, “Information sought is too vague and wide. It may however be informed that during June 1, 2014 to Jan 31, 2016 approximately 10,00,000 petitions were processed.” Many of the questions that have been put out by the PMO as frequently asked appear to be frivolous ones. These include seeking to know the number of gas cylinders used by the PMO, spending on spices and vegetables used by the PM, what was the speed of the internet at the PMO (which is 34 mpbs), his daily schedule, the details of visitors, list of phone calls made to and by the PM and his staff, who manages the twitter, picasa, facebook account of the PM (who manages it himself according to the PMO reply), which company manufactures the teleprompter that the PM uses and who pays for the expense, even questions like if the PM has read the Indian Constitution. Some of the questions that the PMO has been asked which created a political controversy were marks that Modi got in Delhi University where he is reported to have completed his graduation. The office also received queries on if the PM had been given a phone by the PMO and if the prinicipal secretary to PM Nripendra Mishra had ever taken the PMO staff on a picnic. Applicants had also asked questions on the security provided to the PM, his salary and perks, whether he worked in a Ramlila party before becoming PM. (Times of India 9/10/16)

Unclog the RTI process by making basic information public (1)

The first decadal study conducted after the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that over 1.75 crore applications have been filed with one-fourth being requests to the Centre. The study, conducted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, reveals that 27.2% (47.66 lakh) of the total RTIs filed between 2005 and 2015 were to the different ministries and departments under the Centre. This is a conservative estimate because many departments don’t file their compliance report: Earlier this year, the Lok Sabha was informed that over 350 government departments defaulted in following norms for mandatory public disclosure of information. The data is important since there is no official record of the number of RTI applications received in India even though the law was passed 12 years ago. Allowing people to seek and receive public documents serves as a tool for fighting corruption, enabling citizens to participate in public life, making governments more efficient, encouraging investment, and helping persons exercise their fundamental human rights. For the government, an access to information law helps them establish record keeping and archiving systems. This is turn makes them more efficient, reduces their discretionary powers and allows them to make more constructive decisions based on information. More important, greater transparency can help re-establish trust between the government and its citizens.The study correctly points out that the number of RTIs also needs to come down. In fact, annoyed with the non-stop flow of applications under the law, the Prime Minister’s Office recently put out a primer on what it is obliged to do and not to do under the law. A national daily quoted a senior PMO official saying that the provocation for the primer was the realisation that all kinds of applications seeking information on everything “under the Sun and on the earth” were being made. The PMO has shown the way: Along with fixing the processes, government departments must identify frequently asked questions that usually come from citizens and proactively disclose that basic information. (Hindustan times 11/10/16)

 ‘Govt. staff not disclosing information sought under RTI’ (1)

KARIMNAGAR: Speakers at a round table conference on the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act found fault with the government employees for not disclosing information sought as per the Act. The Act mandates that any information sought by people should be provided within 120 days under Section 4 (1) (b). But the officials were failing to provide the same, they alleged. Lok Satta district president N. Srinivas and general secretary Prakash Holla said the RTI Act was implemented 11 years ago to ensure transparency and accountability in administration and see that the welfare schemes reach the needy. They said that the government has failed to educate people about the importance of using the RTI Act and demanded that it should fill up all the vacant posts in the office of State Information Commissioner for speedy disposal of cases. RTI Rakshana Vedika district president R. Chandraprabhakar demanded that the government register criminal cases against those who were misusing the Act. (The Hindu 13/10/16)

Defying RTI, 25 public authorities fail to submit annual returns to Maharashtra SIC (1)

Pune: AS MANY as 25 public authorities have failed to submit their annual returns with the State Information Commission (SIC) for the year 2015, in defiance of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This omission assumes significance as there was no such dereliction of duty by public authorities last year.The RTI law mandates that every public authority i.e. government offices has to send its annual report to the SIC to help the latter in preparing the Annual Report of the state. The report is supposed to contain the number of applications received by the public authority, the number of applications which went for first appeal and the number of applications challenged by the Information Commission. These figures help in deciding the state of awareness and implementation of the RTI Act in the state.The 10th Annual Report of the SIC reveals that in 2015, as many as 8,68,818 RTI applications were received — the highest ever since the implementation of the RTI Act. Though this indicates renewed interest in the Act by the general public, the response from public authorities leaves much to be desired. Of the 25 authorities which have not filed their annual returns, eight are various departments and commissionerates while 17 are corporations. The Transport Department under the Home Department, the Employment Guarantee Scheme Department, Drinking Water and Sanitation Department and the Minorities Welfare Department have failed to provide their annual reports to the SIC. Among the state-run corporations, CIDCO, the Punyasholk Ahilyadevi Sheli Mendi Development Corporation (corporation for the development of goat and sheep rearing), the Fisheries Development Corporation and all seven corporations run by the social justice and equality department have failed to file their annual reports. RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said the failure of the public authorities to submit their annual reports is a clear violation of the privilege of the state legislature. “However, the Commission, other than taking note of the non-submission, has not taken any action against them. The report is an eyewash and it does not show the real sorry state of affairs about RTI in the state,” he said. (Indian Express 17/10/16)

 ‘Parents have right to question institutions under RTI’ (1)

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: RTI Commissioner Lam Thanthiya Kumari has stated that the RTI Act provides every citizen with a right to question the authorities on various public welfare activities and it is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to provide the information to show the transparent functioning of their departments. Participating in a seminar on the implementation of the RTI Act and the Right to Education Act at the SKVT College here on Tuesday, she said it was the responsibility of the parents to question the managements of private educational institutions on fee structure and student amenities. The Right to Education Act made certain provisions to ensure education to the common man and it was the responsibility of the managements to adhere to these provisions, she said. With regard to the RTI Act, the Commissioner said a stage had come for the strict implementation of the Act and every official should respond and provide information within the stipulated time. (The Hndu 19/10/16)

Constitution Club public authority under RTI: CIC (1)

New Delhi: Observing that the Constitution Club of India was “indirectly funded” by the Centre and was “absolutely dependent” on “state property” for its functioning, the Central Information Commission has held that it is a “public authority under the RTI Act”. The two-member CIC bench also pulled up the Ministry of Urban Development and CPWD for “pathetic maintenance” of records relating to the transfer of buildings to the CCI and the ownership records relating to the club and its assets. The CCI had claimed it is an autonomous body and is “self-funded”. (Indian Express 19/10/16)

Death toll of RTI activists goes up to 56 (1)

NEW DELHI: With the recent murder of RTI activist Bhupendra Vira’s, the death toll of those using the transparency law to target corruption and malpractices has gone up to 56. In fact, there has been more than 311 instances of harassment of citizens including murder, attacks and intimidation from the time the law came into force in 2005, according to an analysis by Delhi-based advocacy group CHRI. Reports indicate at least 51 murders and five suicides have taken place between October 2005 to 2016. Maharashtra tops this list with 10 alleged murders and at least two suicides (12 deaths) followed by Gujarat with eight alleged murders and one suicide (nine deaths) and Uttar Pradesh with six alleged murders and one suicide (seven deaths). In addition there have been at least 130 instances of attacks or assaults including attempts to murder RTI users during this period. The total number of persons attacked or assaulted could be more because more than one person was attacked in some incidents. Again Maharashtra tops this list with 29 incidents, followed by Gujarat (15 incidents), Delhi (12 incidents), Karnataka (10 incidents), Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (9 incidents each). Meanwhile, the whistleblowers protection law which was passed by Parliament in February 2014 has not been enacted till date. The BJP government had told Parliament that it planned to amend the law. “The current status of the WBP Amendment Bill is not clear. On April 28, MoS to PMO Jitendra Singh in Parliament said that the Whistle Blowers Protection Amendment Bill had been sent to a committee. However, in response to an RTI application, the Rajya Sabha secretariat has stated on August 16, 2016, that the bill is not pending with any parliamentary committee,” Anjali Bharadwaj of NCPRI said. National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has demanded an inqu iry in to the murder of Vira. In a letter written to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the NGO has asked for Vira’s RTI applications and the replies placed in the public domain. According to reports, he had filed several RTI applications and was leading a campaign against the land mafia for unauthorised structures and encroachments in and around Kalina, Mumbai. “The NCPRI strongly condemns the attack. We urge the Maharashtra government to ensure a thorough investigation into the murder of Bhupendra Vira. The state government must ensure that all the information sought by Mr. Vira is put in the public domain and widely publicized, which would act as a deterrent against such attacks in the future. Further, the state must look into the various cases of wrongdoing exposed by him and take stringent action against the guilty,” the letter said. (Times of India 20/10/16)

Finance Ministry declines to share black money assessment reports (1)

New Delhi: The Finance Ministry has declined to share reports submitted to it nearly three years ago on the quantum of black money held by Indians inside the country and abroad, saying it will cause breach of privilege of Parliament. The reports are related to studies commissioned by the previous UPA government five years ago. These were conducted by Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), Faridabad. Replying to an RTI query, the Ministry said study reports of NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM were received by the government on December 30, 2013, July 18, 2014 and August 21, 2014 respectively. When asked about the copies of the reports and action taken on them, it said they are under examination by the government.“Information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (c) of the RTI Act, 2005, as the study reports received from the three institutes are under examination of the government and the same along with the government’s response on these reports are yet to be taken to the Parliament through the Standing Committee on Finance,” the Ministry said in reply to the RTI query filed by PTI. The Section bars disclosure of information “which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the state Legislature”. There is at present no official assessment on the quantum of black money within the country and abroad. The NDA government at the Centre has been taking steps to unearth black money. About Rs 65,250 crore of undeclared income has been declared under the recently-concluded income Declaration Scheme– which provided an opportunity to people, who had not paid full taxes in the past, to come forward and declare their domestic undisclosed income and assets. (The Indian Express 23/10/16)

RTI activists hold protest, seek appointment of Lokayukta (1)

Bengaluru: Right to Information (RTI) activists on Tuesday held a protest in front of the Lokayukta office demanding immediate appointment of Lokayukta. The protestors said the government was deliberately delaying the appointment to weaken the Lokayukta. The protesters said the government was wasting taxpayers’ money by not appointing a Lokayukta, a post that has been lying vacant since December 2015. “We staged a silent protest to draw the attention of the state government to appoint a Lokayukta immediately or close the Lokayukta institution so that taxpayers’ money does not go down the drain,” former wing commander and social activist G B Atri said. The activists, who had filed several complaints with the Lokayukta jurisdiction, said the institution has not been providing information under the RTI. The information officer has been rejecting applications filed under the RTI by quoting Section 8 of the RTI Act. They said new complaints could not be registered with the Lokayukta because of the creation of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). (Deccan Herald 26/10/16)

CIC demands files on Prime Minister’s foreign travel bills (1)

New Delh: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has sought files related to foreign travels of the Prime Minister from the External Affairs Ministry which had refused an RTI applicant access to these documents citing security concerns. Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra had sought these details to assess the expenditure incurred on foreign travels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had denied citing sections of the RTI related to security and personal safety. Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur directed the MEA to peruse the files to ascertain whether there was any security concerns in the records on the basis of which information can be denied. “The Commission observed that without perusal of the file, it cannot be decided that whether the sought for information contains security related information,” Mathur said, directing the Ministry to produce one representative file before it. Batra stated before the Commission that the case involves substantive public interest as the bailout amount, reported to be in thousands of crores of rupees, being given to Air India is the money of tax payers. He referred to his RTI application and stated that he was seeking information on four points regarding details of expenses incurred on air travel in respect of foreign visits of the incumbent Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers, the laid down instructions, process/procedure/steps involved in charting flights for PM’s foreign visits and later filing ‘flight returns’ and raising bills/invoices and clearing bills on completion of the visit, copy of bills, etc. Batra told the Commission that the PMO website as on September 13, 2016 was showing that the bills are under process for payment or have not been received for journeys undertaken by the PM during the period between June 15, 2014 and September 8, 2016. He said there is a need for reforms by understanding the causes of long delays in payments to Air India. In its response, the Ministry had told Batra that the record pertaining to flights of the PM contain information which has security issues and hence it is exempted from disclosure under section 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. The Ministry said the matter falls under the category where the disclosure of information would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and security interests of the State and hence, attract the provision of section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act. It said in view of security reasons, the file inspection by the appellant cannot be allowed. (Deccan Herald 28/10/16)

 

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Kerala opposition to intensify protest against medical colleges fee hike (11)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led opposition on Monday continued to interrupt proceedings in the Kerala assembly for the sixth consecutive day and decided to intensify its protest against the “indiscriminate” fee hike in private self-financing medical colleges. The opposition asserted that it would not call off the protest until the government rolled back the fee hike.  The opposition disruption forced adjournment of the House during Question Hour. And when it reassembled, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan said conciliation talks were held between Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and opposition leaders — but without the desired breakthrough. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said: “Our protest will continue as we want the government to do justice regarding the fee hike. Since two of our legislators are sitting on a fast, we are in no position to take part in the assembly proceedings and hence we are walking out.” Since Wednesday, three legislators of the Congress-led opposition have been on an indefinite fast in the foyer of the Kerala Assembly protesting the fee hike.One of the legislators was shifted to hospital last week following deterioration in his health condition while on Monday the condition of the other two legislators took a turn for the worse. Later the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership met and decided to intensify the protest and conduct a protest meet across the state on Tuesday, UDF Convenor P.P. Thankachen told reporters after the meeting. Reacting to Chennithala, Vijayan said that since the day the session has started, the opposition has been on a protest mode. “The James Committee (appellate authority) which looks into the complaints in admission procedures has already cancelled the admission done by two colleges … such a thing is happening for the first time. We have already made clear that we will not allow anyone to break rules,” Vijayan declared. “We have also agreed to the demand of the opposition to conduct a Crime Branch probe to find out if any of these colleges had collected capitation fees,” the Chief Minister said. Meanwhile, following the opposition protest, several privately managed medical colleges have expressed their willingness to reduce fees. Even though the Vijayan government has claimed that they have been able to end capitation fee being charged by private managements, the opposition has termed it as a “bluff”, and pointed out that capitation fee for a medical seat still ranged between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 35 lakh. While the fee in the sector went up by Rs 47,000 (during the five-year tenure of the previous Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy), the Vijayan government has increased it by Rs 65,000 since the new government took office in May this year. (Zee News 3/10/16)

Schools cannot selectively apply RTE provisions: Bombay High Court (11)

Mumbai: Responding to the petition, advocate Deepa Chavan, who represents the school, pointed out that under provisions of the RTE Act, a child can seek admission to a school in his neighbourhood that falls within a distance of one kilometre from his residence. Schools cannot selectively apply provisions of the RTE (Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education) Act, 2009, said the Bombay high court (HC) on Monday. The HC’s observation comes after a prestigious Dadar school had refused to admit a child selected for admission under the RTE quota only on the ground that the child stays beyond one kilometre from the school. It then asked the school to furnish the list of students admitted by it in this academic year. The division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak was hearing a petition filed by Dharavi resident Riyaz Siddhiqui complaining that even though his child had been selected for admission to Balmohan Vidyamandir at Shivaji Park in Dadar for admission to junior kindergarten on the basis of online lottery drawn by state, the school refused to admit his child. His lawyer, advocate Pushpalata Kamble, said that the petitioner had filled an online admission form in March 2016 based on which his child was selected for admission. The petitioner was then asked to submit all the original documents by July 19. Siddhiqui said he submitted all the requisite documents before the deadline, but failed to get any response. His petition states that he visited the school several times, but the management did not respond to his pleas, nor did his complaints lodged with the education inspector and deputy director of education bear any fruits, thus compelling him to approach the HC. Responding to the petition, advocate Deepa Chavan, who represents the school, pointed out that under provisions of the RTE Act, a child can seek admission to a school in his neighbourhood that falls within a distance of one kilometre from his residence. In this case, the child resides at Dharavi and the school is located at Dadar, which is more than four kilometres away from his residence, said Chavan The submission evoked sharp reaction from the judges. “Do you mean that none of the children admitted by the school this year stay beyond the distance of one kilometre from the school?” the chief justice sought to know from the school’s lawyer.The bench then directed the school to file an affidavit stating that it has not admitted any student residing beyond the distance of one kilometre from the school. Besides, the school has been directed to tender the list of all the students admitted by it to junior kindergarten this year along with the distance of their respective residences from the schools. The bench has now posted the petition for further hearing on October 10. (Hindustan Times 4/10/16)

Universities should focus on research work: Javadekar (11)

Motihari (Bihar): Stating that universities are not “machines to produce degrees”, Union Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday stressed the need for encouraging research work in varsities. The quality of education in a university is determined by the research undertaken there, he said after launching the first academic session of the new Mahatama Gandhi Central University in Motihari. “Universities are not machine to produce degrees, but should encourage research on various topics,” Javadekar said addressing the function. He said the Union government was promoting education as a means to eradicate poverty, pointing out the new slogan of the Centre — ‘Sabko Siksha, Achhi Siksha’ (good education to everybody). Javadekar said to ensure success of the ‘Make In India’ programme, the government is trying to bring back meritorious Indian students doing research abroad. Read more: Is plan to equate research time with teaching experience justified? Union Agriculture Minister and local MP Radha Mohan Singh and Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha were present on the occasion. Neither Bihar education minister nor any other state representative was present at the function. The Narendra Modi government had given approval for establishment of Mahatma Gandhi Central University at Motihari in 2014. As a result of the efforts of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to provide two new universities to the state instead of one, the Centre had given its nod for setting up one central university at Motihari and another at Bodh Gaya. A total of 395 students have taken admission in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the new university. Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said by establishing a University at Motihari, the Prime Minister has realised the dream of the Father of the Nation who wanted the place to become a seat of learning. The new university would start its academic session from Zilla School premises till it shifts to its building on the 300 acres of land allocated to it in the town. (Hindustan Times 5/10/16)

Prakash Javadekar pledges to ‘improve’ quality of higher education (11)

VARANASI: Pledging to “improve” the quality of higher education in the country during a review meeting with 41 Vice Chancellors of Central Universities, Union Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar today said only nations with great universities will prosper. Javadekar was speaking, while holding a review meeting of Central Universities in the country here at Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The Union Minister said that education is not only about the subject knowledge, but it’s aim is to groom good human beings with qualities like values and character attached to them. Giving example of great universities like Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila, Javadekar said: “Only those nations that have great universities will prosper.” “We also want to give message that we are trying to improve the quality of higher education in this meeting,” he said. He appreciated BHU founder Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’s vision for establishing the university and said that freedom fighters started educational institutions as a tool for movement and renaissance. Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Mahendra Nath Pandey, who was present at the meeting, emphasised the need for developing modern as well old education system in the universities. Pandey highlighted the skill development programmes related to students, giving examples of BRICS countries where emphasis is given on skill development through vocational training programmes. He said, student centric initiatives should be started, keeping in mind their problems such as scholarship, hostels and admissions that should be dealt with sensitivity. Presenting the highlights of review meeting, Ved Prakash, Chairman University Grants Commission gave the status of Central Universities accreditation, students enrollment, choice based credit system, universities with potential for excellence and special assistance program started by UGC to improve quality, research and innovation in institute of higher education across the country. The Vice Chancellors of central universities presented the status of accreditation, choice based credit system, curriculum development, new innovative programmes, research improvement programme and infrastructure development in the review meeting.They also gave presentation of agenda items, best practices and success stories of their universities. Javadekar also inaugurated the new Shatabdi Krishi Bhawan and Green Building under the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of BHU after holding the review meeting. (Times of India 6/10/16)

RTE does not apply to minority schools, says HC (11)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court (HC) has reiterated that Right To Education (RTE) Act does not apply to religious and linguistic minority schools. Hearing a petition filed by Federation of Linguistic & Religious Minority Education Institutions, a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Mahesh Sonak quashed orders of the state government rejecting proposals by 10 school managements to open unaided minority English-medium primary schools on the grounds that they did not comply with RTE norms. The HC asked the state to reconsider the applications as per law. “We are of the opinion that the rejection to the proposals submitted… was not proper, particularly since such rejections failed to take into consideration the law as declared by the Supreme Court,” said the judges. The HC referred to the 2014 apex court order that held that provisions of RTE do not apply to aided or unaided minority institutions. The apex court had said that if RTE law were made applicable to such institutions, it would violate their rights and destroy the minority character of the schools. The RTE, enacted in 2009, says that all private schools that receive government aid and grants have to reserve at least 25% of seats for the poor and other categories of children who will be provided free, compulsory education. The government reimburses expenses to schools. In 2010, the state invited applications for opening new schools in the state. The state education department received over 7,475 applications. In 2013, it rejected the applications as they did not comply with the RTE Act. The Federation and the 10 schools approached the HC, challenging the rejection orders. The Federation claimed that the 2014 law made it clear that RTE does not apply to aided or unaided minority educational institutions. (Times of India 8/10/16)

Poor children to get 5,000 aid (11)

ALLAHABAD: Children from weaker sections of the society studying in private schools under Right to Education Act (RTE)-2009 would be given Rs 5,000 for purchasing books and uniforms for the ongoing academic session. The education department claims that around 16,000 students are receiving education in un-aided or private schools across the state under the Act. The order for issuing books and uniforms was given at a time when half-yearly examinations have already been held from class 1 to 8 and over half of the course curriculum has been finished. The money would be distributed to students who are studying from 2013 to 2016. Sources said that the delay was due to tussle between the state and Central governments over allocation of funds. After the Central government failed to gave funds, the state government has decided to allocate Rs 8 crore for distribution of books and uniforms. The directorate (basic) education has come into action after receiving a letter of special secretary, CMO, Ajay Kumar Singh through a circular dated October 3.Singh’s letter stated that there is a provision of providing free education to children of weaker and marginalised sections of the society under RTE Act-2009. In this context, all parents who are sending their kids to schools regularly will be distributed Rs 5,000 so that they can purchase uniforms and books. The letter further states that Rs 8 crore would be released for the purpose and the amount would be generated by the state government’s sources. (Times of India 11/10/2016)

Centre seeks consensus on new education policy (11)

New Delhi: Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar is likely to have a detailed discussion on the proposed National Education Policy with education ministers at the Central Advisory Board of Education meeting on October 25. Mr Javadekar hopes to evolve a consensus on various issues, including the no-detention policy, during discussions of the highest advisory body on education. Sources close to the minister said Mr Javadekar will discuss and seek the opinion of state education ministers on no detention policy till Class 8 and provisional Class 10 Board examinations.Several states have expressed reservation on the present ‘no detention policy’ and want to bring in an examination system from Class 5. The opinion seeking exercise is also being viewed to avoid further controversies and allegations of high-handedness in the education sector. Other issues to be taken up are ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning and skill development opportunities for all. The meet could also discuss development of educational infrastructure and enhancement of teachers training facilities in the country. Mr Javadekar is keen on continuing his own consultation process on the National Education Policy, and the much touted T. S. R. Subramanian report — appointed during the tenure of the then HRD minister Smriti Irani for making suggestions for the new policy — is understood to be on a backburner. It is believed that the implementation of a new national education policy is one of the major issues being pushed by Prime Minister Narendar Modi as the NDA government tries to leave its imprint on the education sector. The last policy was made almost three decades ago in 1986. However, the finalsation of the new national education policy could be delayed by several months as Mr Javadekar is expected to hold further consultations with several other stakeholders. Thereafter, the government will prepare a draft education policy with additional inputs and put in the public domain for feedback.No detention policy till Class 8 and provisional Class 10 board examinations were introduced during the UPA-2 tenure as part of educational reform initiated. (Asian Age 13/10/16)

Half of the world’s disabled children are out of school: Report (11)

At least half of the world’s 65 million school-age children with disabilities are kept out of the classroom because little to no money is budgeted for their needs, disability rights groups said in a report on Monday. Light for the World, a charity which supported the research, said stigma and misinformation surrounding disability as well as a lack of data on the numbers of disabled children contributed to the problem. “People don’t see them (children with disabilities) as a worthy investment,” said Nafisa Baboo, adviser for inclusive education at Light for the World. “Many think for example that there’s no point investing in their education as people with disabilities can’t work.” The rights groups said billions of dollars of potential income from the world’s poorest countries are being lost through lack of schooling and employment for people who have disabilities. “Children with disabilities are constantly left at the very back of the queue, and the impact on both individuals and economies can be disastrous,” Julia McGeown of Handicap International said in a statement. The report by the International Disability and Development Consortium said the exclusion of children with disabilities was a major obstacle to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. In September, a report by the UN education and cultural agency UNESCO found that the education sector globally has been substantially underfunded, and international aid to education is declining. “The SDGs give governments an opportunity to up their game,” said Baboo, adding that donors should prioritise efforts to reverse the decline in aid for education. The new report urges governments to provide facilities for the education of disabled children within a mainstream system. “Inclusive education can drastically reduce out-of-school populations, it can tackle discrimination in society, and it is considerably cheaper than segregated education,” said Baboo. “It’s not just morally right, it’s also a smart investment.” (DNA 17/10/2016)

Education department vows to make 15Lakh literate by next year (11)

RANCHI: School education and literacy department aims to make at least 15 lakh people from 2,000 villages under 500 panchayats of the state literate till March next year. The panchayats have already been identified and literacy centres are being established here by the department. Department secretary Aradhana Patnaik said, “Villagers will be taught in these literacy centres. We are also establishing libraries at these panchayats, which will be completed by November end following which classes will begin.” She added, “The tender for books to be given to the villagers and their deliveries have also started.” Under this project, every panchayat will have two Prerak to work as motivators and explain people the importance of being literate and encourage them to attend regular classes.Villagers will be educated by voluntary training providers (VTP), the literate section in villages willing to educate others. There will be one Master VTP in each village who would provide training at the department level. The training work is expected to complete by November end. Patnaik said, “We aim to educate all adults in selected villages and also assure 100% enrolment and retention in schools.” The department is also planning an experiment in which school going children would teach their illiterate parents to read and write. The literacy centres will not just be a centre for education but will also make villagers aware of various government schemes. “The VTPs will inform villagers about various schemes and how to avail them. Also, awareness programmes on various issues like health, education, malnutrition and others will be organised at these centres,” Patnaik said. (Times of India 19/10/16)

Education minister calls for scrapping of no-detention policy (11)

DEHRADUN: In a meeting with the officials of the human resource development ministry, education minister Mantri Prasad Naithani has laid several proposals that could lead to an overhaul of the education scenario in the state.Under the chairmanship of Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey, minister of state for human resource development (MHRD), a Central Advisory Board of Education’s (CABE) sub-committee meeting was held in New Delhi on Wednesday. The meeting was attended by education ministers from Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Naithani suggested a review of the Right To Education Act 2009 and also scrapping of the ‘no-detention policy’ till class 8 in schools. The policy under the RTE Act prescribes that students will be automatically promoted to the next class. Under the RTE Act, 25% seats in private schools are reserved for children from economically weaker sections of society thereby increasing the expenditure of the state government. Naithani has asked the Centre to reimburse Rs 91 crore for such admissions to the state government. He has also suggested that a separate commission be set up for the selection of teachers in schools. “A lot of efforts are being done to improve the quality of education in Uttarakhand. Model schools have been set up across the state. For the assessment of the students, DEEKSHA-(Dedication to enhance education through knowledge, skill and habit assessment) is going on and to gauge the standard of schools Shaala Siddhi programme is being conducted besides which to improve standard of English, Unnati programme is being run in schools. We are endeavouring to improve the standard of education by all means possible,” said Naithani. The other suggestions by Naithani include that physical education and yoga sessions should be held in primary schools and the admission age to pre-primary classes be kept as 3 years. He also requested that under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan the salary for the hired lab assistants should be released on priority basis by Centre. The 64th Meeting of CABE – which is the most important policy making advisory body of the government on education and has representatives of the central organization, universities, state and bodies including planning commission, NGOs and civic society as its members – is expected to be held on October 25 in New Delhi. (Times of India 20/10/16)

Activists question haste in discussing plan to amend ‘no detention’ policy (11)

Chennai: Ahead of the 64th meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) in New Delhi on Tuesday, activists fighting for uniform and equitable education have questioned the haste with which the proposal for limiting the ‘no detention’ policy in schools to class V from the current class VIII has been listed for discussion at the meeting. The proposal to amend the existing policy, rolled out as part of the Right to Education Act regime, was first made public in the document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy, 2016’ hosted online by the Union Ministry for Human Resource Development. The Ministry had given time till September 30 to stakeholders for registering their responses to the proposal. Several stakeholders had sent in their responses, both opposing and welcoming the proposal. While the Ministry has not made public the responses received or its decision on them, it has chosen to discuss it at the CABE meeting. “This is inappropriate,” says Prince Gajendra Babu, convener of the Tamil Nadu State Platform for Common School System (TNSPCSS), who is opposed to limiting the ‘no detention policy’ up to class V. According to him, those opposed to the proposed policy feel that detention would in no way help to improve the learning outcomes and instead only help to filter and certify some students as “academically weak”. “This in turn would eliminate the children from disadvantaged sections, more particularly the girl child, from the mainstream school education,” he cautions. In separate representations sent to the Union HRD Ministry and the Tamil Nadu School Education Ministry, he has pointed out that there were hardly 14 working days between the deadline for sending suggestions on the Draft New Education Policy and the CABE meeting. “Given the short period of time, is it possible to consolidate all suggestions received and document the same? Without fully understanding the suggestions given by the people, how will the report be tabled in the CABE, which is the highest advisory body to advise the Central and State Government on Education, for its consideration,” he asks. Having placed a document in the public domain and invited suggestions, it would only be just to study them before taking a decision, he says, calling for constitution of a committee comprising educationists from all States (The Hindu 24/10/16)

Exams may be back in Classes V and VIII (11)

NEW DELHI: The process has been set in motion for the return of examinations in Classes V and VIII to arrest the “decline” in educational levels because of the current no-detention policy till Class 8.  The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) — the apex body on educational issues — at its 64th meeting on Tuesday advised the government to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to empower States to decide whether they want to do away with the no-detention policy in schools, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said. He said re-examinations would be immediately conducted for students who failed in Classes V and VIII so as to facilitate their passage to the next stage even while ensuring that standards improved. He further added that the National Education Policy would like to focus on access to education, equity, quality, accountability and affordability. (The Hindu 26/10/16)

First implement ’95 and ’99 rules: Parents tell gov (11)

Bengaluru: A day after school managements expressed their objections to the amendments in the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Regulation of Certain Fees and Donations) Rules, 1999 made under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, parents’ associations raised their voice against ‘unscientific’ amendments to the rules. BN Yogananda, general secretary, RTE Students and Parents’ Association convened a session here on Thursday, criticizing the new rules added to the existing document by the education department. The objection read, “Originally, Rule 4 of the 1999 rules were very clear, simple and easy to implement as well. The current amendment made to this particular rule has complicated the calculation to favour private lobbies and renders it almost incapable of implementation.”  Rule 4 of the latest amendment seeks charging of a term fee, not exceeding 5% of the tuition fee which would cover all co-curricular activities apart from the regular teaching. The document alleged the Karnataka government sabotaged the high court’s June 28, 2016 judgment, directing the government to implement the rules of 1995 and 1999 of the Education Act in letter and spirit. “Without implementing the rules of previous years, how can the government, without any consultation with parents, make an all-new amendment this year?” Yogananda said. Claiming that there are quite a few illegal turns taken during the drafting of the new rules, the association said: “The proposed amendment introduces a new category of geographical location as the basis for providing differential calculations for enhancing the additional amount in absolute terms of 50% to 100% of the salary expenditure. This not only reflects but also enhances discrimination and inequality among equals.” (Times of India 28/10/16)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Poverty has declined but challenges remain to be addressed: VP (21)

Kolkata, Oct 3 () Vice President Hamid Ansari today said though poverty rates in the country have declined substantially, still there are challenges that remained to be addressed. “It was assessed a few years back that poverty rates in the country have declined substantially from 54.9 per cent in 1973-04 to 27.5 per cent in 2004-05 as measured by the National Sample Survey (NSS). This has improved further in the past decade. Despite it, three challenges remain,” Ansari said, delivering the 2015 Indira Gandhi Memorial Lecture of the Asiatic Society on national integration here. Elaborating on the challenges, he said historical fault lines along gender, caste and religious boundaries remain persistent besides, global forces widening the disparities between big cities and villages and between more advanced states and those mired in economic doldrums. “Despite some noteworthy achievements, public institutions in most parts of the country have failed in delivering basic services,” he stated. Stating that it is a rare honour to deliver the speech titled “Cohesion, fragility and the challenge of our times”, Ansari further said the ingredients that would help promote equality remain undelivered in many cases and unevenly distributed in others. Referring to Bhimrao Ambedkar’s speech on “Conditions Precedent for the Successful Working of Democracy”, Ansari said some of the conditions in his list of requirements might be in “short supply” today. “These fissures raise questions. While democratic mobilisation has produced an intense struggle for power, it has not delivered millions of citizens from abject dictates of poverty,” he said. “Our quest today is to assess the balance between factors of cohesion and fragility in the polity and in the process to gauge the achievements and shortcomings on each of these counts – particularly on institutions, integration, empowerment and identity – and gauge their impact on social cohesion in whose absence inclusive development would be impeded, even distorted. We would overlook at our own peril Ambedkar’s caution about ‘a life of contradictions’,” he said. (Times of India 3/10/16)

Nearly one-fifth of children in developing countries living in extreme poverty: Report (14)

Nearly one fifth of children in the world’s developing countries are living in extreme poverty, according to a new report by the World Bank Group and UNICEF. The report entitled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children,” released Monday, found that in 2013, 19.5 percent of children in developing countries lived in households making an average of $1.90 a day or less, compared with just 9.2 percent of adults. Around the world, nearly 385 million children were living in extreme poverty, the report said. “Children are not only more likely to be living in extreme poverty; the effects of poverty are most damaging to children. They are the worst off of the worst off, and the youngest children are the worst off of all, because the deprivations they suffer affect the development of their bodies and their minds,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. The report found that the highest share of children living in extreme poverty were in Sub-Saharan Africa, with just over 50 percent. The next highest share was in South Asia with 36 percent, with over 30 percent of those living in India. To remedy the problem UNICEF and the World Bank Group called on governments to focus on children in their national poverty reduction plans, strengthen programs that aid children and prioritize investment in programs that benefit the poorest children. The global estimate of extreme child poverty is based on data from 89 countries, representing 83 per cent of the developing world’s population. (Indian Express 4/10/16)

Implementation of Food Security Act is state responsibility: Centre (21)

New Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) On a day the Supreme Court rapped the Centre on non-compliance of the National Food Security Act by certain drought-hit states, the Food Ministry on Wednesday said its implementation essentially is a “state subject”.”It is well defined in the Public Distribution System laws. The onus of implementing the Food Security Act and helping citizens is with the states,” a Food Ministry spokesman told IANS here. The spokesman said: “If the Supreme Court has said something, has expressed displeasure on implementation issues, it is for the states to take cognisance of the court order and act.” He said the Centre’s role vis-a-vis the Act is framing of the law in 2013 and later on ensuring its implementation by all states. “But the central government cannot be blamed for lapses in the implementation in some states,” the spokesman said. Moreover, he pointed out, whenever the states are faced with difficult situation like natural calamities, as was faced in states like Jammu and Kashmir, additional supply of food grain was ensured.The official said that contrary to the claims by several states that they are giving subsidised food grain to its people, in reality, it is the central government which provides food grain at low price. “If the price of rice is Rs 30 a kg, the Centre gives a subsidy of Rs 28 while the consumers pay Rs 2 only. But the credit is stolen by the states,” Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told IANS in May. The Food Ministry’s stand came on a day when the Supreme Court slammed the Centre for doing nothing to tell the states to comply with the top court’s directions to supply food grain to the poor in drought-affected states under the National Food Security Act. (Times of India 5/10/16)

Bihar asked to speed up Aadhaar linkage with ration cards (21)

PATNA: Expressing concern over poor linkage of Aadhaar cards with ration cards in Bihar, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday asked the State government to complete the process by December-January in order to check corruption in the public distribution system. The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, also asked the Nitish government to install Point of Sale (POS) machines in all the PDS centres in the state by December. “There is no doubt that we (Bihar) are lagging behind other states vis-a-vis linking of Aadhaar to ration cards and installation of POS machines. But Deepak ji (Bihar government Food and Consumer Protection Department Principal Secretary) has given assurance that both work would be completed at the earliest. The efforts would help in checking corruption in PDS,” Mr Paswan said. Mr Paswan was talking to mediapersons after reviewing FCI Bihar region with the State government officials here. The minister was accompanied by his ministry’s Joint Secretary Prashant Trivedi, Bihar’s Food and Consumer Protection Department Principal Secretary Deepak Prasad, FCI, Bihar GM Lokendra Singh and others. “The principal secretary must set a target of linking 70 to 80 per cent of Aadhaar to ration cards by December besides installing POS machines at the PDS centres within the same time limit. If we are able to link Aadhaar to ration cards, at least 25 per cent of ration cards would be detected as fake ones,” he told reporters.Out of 1.54 crore ration cards in Bihar, only 20,000 cards have been linked with Aadhaar so far which constitutes 0.13 per cent, Mr Paswan said, adding that the national percentage of Aadhaar linkage with ration cards stands at 66. There are States like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and union territory Chandigarh, which have achieved cent per cent linking of Aadhaar to ration cards, he added. Stating that all the 5.35 lakh PDS shops across the country would have POS facility by the end of next year, the minister said that Bihar does not have a single PDS shop equipped with POS machine. Bihar’s Food and Consumer Protection Department’s Principal Secretary, however, exuded confidence that the State government would be able to achieve cent per cent linking of Aadhaar to ration cards by the end of January as the process for both enrolment under Aadhaar and distribution of Aadhaar cards have been expedited for which a meeting with UIDAI Director General was held last month for the purpose. “In Bihar, there is 66 per cent enrollment under Aadhaar while 40 per cent of people have been given Aaadhar cards. We need to expedite both enrollment under Aadhaar and distribution of cards so that we can link Aadhaar number with ration cards. We need a photo copy of Aadhaar card for linking in order to avoid any discrepancies,” Mr Prasad said. Talking about enhancing the storage capacity of godowns in Bihar, the Union Minister said that FCI has set a target of creating a storage capacity of 7.12 lakh tonnes and out of this, godowns with capacity of 1.35 lakh tonnes have been completed while 1.82 lakh tonnes are under construction. – PTI (The Hindu 8/10/16)

India hunger levels ranked as “Serious” in 2016: Global Hunger Index (21)

New Delhi: Hunger levels in developing countries may have fallen 29% since 2000, but India was still rated as a country with ‘serious’ hunger levels in the 2016, shows Global Hunger Index that was released on Tuesday. Despite improvements in hunger and nutrition over the years, India still has a long way to go before it is able to achieve the United Nations goal to end hunger by 2030If hunger declines at the same rate as the report finds it has since 1992, more than 45 countries—including India, Pakistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Afghanistan—will still have “moderate” to “alarming” hunger scores in the year 2030. India was rated as “alarming” in 2013 and has experienced an improvement in its GHI score over recent years. Since 2000, the country has reduced its GHI score by a quarter and has a score in 2016 of 28.5 (rank 97 of 118 countries). Recent data show that almost 40% of Indian children under five years of age are stunted compared to over 60% in the early 1990s. Stunting is an indicator for chronic under-nutrition and means the affected children are too short for their age. India currently has the fifth highest GHI score in Asia— better than only Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, Pakistan, and North Korea. “India is slated to become the world’s most populous nation in just six years, and it’s crucial that we meet this milestone with a record of ensuring that the expected 1.4 billion Indians have enough nutritious food to lead healthy and successful lives,” said PK Joshi, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Director for South Asia. “India is making tremendous progress—but we have significant challenges ahead.” Director General, IFPRI, Shenggen Fan, says, “Simply put, countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger or we will fail to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal.” “Ending global hunger is certainly possible, but it’s up to all of us that we set the priorities right to ensure that governments, the private sector and civil society devote the time and resources necessary to meet this important goal.” Globally, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia had the highest levels of hunger in the report. The GHI score for the developing world as a whole is 21.3, which is in the low end of the “serious” category. …  (Hindustan Times 11/10/2016)

224 million Indians live below poverty line: WB (21)

CHENNAI: According to a World Bank report, India has the most number of people who live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. The report, titled ‘Taking on inequality’ points out while taking about the distribution of the world’s poor that while India is not the leader when it comes to the percentage of its citizens living in poverty, it leads in sheer volume due to the size of its population. “While half the world’s poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa, four of the top 10 countries by the number of the poor are not in this region, namely, Bangladesh, China, India, and Indonesia,” pointed out the report. But unlike its Asian neighbours, India leads the pack in the sheer number of people living below the international poverty line. “Despite the relatively low headcount ratios, these four countries have large populations. India is by far the country with the largest number of people living under the international US$1.90-aday poverty line, 224 million, more than 2.5 times as many as the 86 million in Nigeria, which has the second-largest population of the poor worldwide,” pointed out the report. According to the report, Sub- Saharan Africa has one in two of the poor worldwide, while India accounts for one in three. “Overall, 243.5 million people live in countries with poverty headcount ratios above 50%, while around 356. million live in economies where the ratio ranges from 30% to 50%,” it said. (New Indian Express 11/10/16)

2,021 ration shops linked online to strengthen PDS (21)

Raipur: A total of 12,021 ration shops have been computerized in Chhattisgarh and connected using Andorid-based Tablets, officials informed. The move had been taken to further strengthen the Public Distribution System (PDS) and make its functioning more transparent, officials informed. Considerable progress has also been achieved in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan with 17,000 (99%), 11,965 (97%) and 24,649 (96%) automated Fair Price Shops (FPSs) respectively, the Central government has informed. As a result, these States have been able to reduce ghost lifting, achieve better targeting of food subsidies by authentication of eligible beneficiaries, improvement in service delivery, weeding out bad FPSs, etc. Notably, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan has requested States to expedite the reforms so as to bring transparency in the functioning of Public Distribution System (PDS), which is a key feature of National Food Security Act (NFSA). Highlighting the significant role played by Central and State Governments in ensuring food security to more than 80 crore eligible beneficiaries under the NFSA, which is presently being implemented in 34 States/UTs, Paswan requested Kerala and Tamil Nadu also to implement the Act as early as possible. The Minister was addressing the inaugural session of the National Conference on Reforms in PDS and Computerization in New Delhi recently. He appreciated the significant efforts made by the various State/UT Governments in achieving 100% digitization of ration cards and automating 1.5 Lakh Fair Price Shops across the country. Officers from the State Governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra shared the Best Practices in Aadhaar Seeding, FPS automation and Supply Chain Management for the benefit of others States/UTs. The Minister also requested the concerned States/UTs, lagging behind in PDS Computerization in general, and in Aadhaar seeding and FPS automation in particular. Paswan said due to Aadhaar seeding a total of 2.33 crore ghost/fraudulent/duplicate ration cards have been deleted across 27 States and UTs which has led to estimated ‘Rightful Targeting of Food Subsidies’ of Rs. 14,000 crore….  (Pioneer 16/10/16)

Residents, NGOs take to streets to feed the hungry on World Food Day (21)

Coimbatore: For 60-year-old G Bala Mohan, a retired TNSTC employee, every Sunday is special. On this day, he cooks and distributes 50 packets of food among people living on the streets. He has been doing this for the past 2 years. “My entire family is contributing to this effort. I was moved by a sermon on hunger and feeding the poor two years ago. Since then, we have been donating home-cooked food every Sunday,” he said. “Every Sunday my family wakes up at 5am and we purchase 6kgs of 14 varieties of vegetables. These vegetables are cooked with dal and rice which is later packed. I go around the city and donate it to at least 50 people,” said Bala Mohan. Several NGOs also contributed to helping the hungry on World Food Day by donating food packets, releasing songs and short films and inaugurating side-walk fridges. No Food Waste, an NGO, released a song sung by a corporation engineer’s daughter titled ‘Vanam Engel Ellaye’ that touches upon the importance of sharing food and eradicating hunger. Padmanabhan Gopalan of No Food Waste said that while he was holding a discussion with engineer C S Rajesh Venugopal on the various Smart City initiatives, the topic of hunger came up. “We decided to write a song and his daughter, a Class 8 student, R Shruthi sang it,” he said. Another group, Food Bank India, Coimbatore chapter, released a short film on the importance of sharing fresh food with the needy. “Most often, people eat their fill and donate the leftovers. But the hungry deserve fresh, healthy food. So we donate freshly packed food made especially for the homeless, twice a week. Every Thursday and Sunday we donate food packets to more than 500 people. On World Food Day we donated 1089 food packets, 530 vadais, 547 biscuit packets, 50 bread loafs, 50 kgs of sweets, 12 kgs of fruits and 300 water bottles across more than 12 orphanages and the homeless on the roads,” said Vaishnavi who founded the Food Bank in the city. Over 50 volunteers gathered at VOC park and sorted the food and began the drive at 11am. The No Food Waste team also inaugurated a facility and a training centre at Ukkadam. “Close to 500kg of Dhal was donated by various women entrepreneurs and organizations run by women,” said Padmanabhan. The team also donated food between 12.30pm and 1.30pm to over 4000 people across 10 cities in the country. A crowd-funded side walk fridge, the second in the city, was also inaugurated in Town Hall near Pothys. “We plan to set up five more such fridges across the city,” said Padmanabhan. (Times of India 17/10/16)

’15% of country’s population undernourished’ (21)

AURANGABAD: Highlighting the grim picture of farmers’ suicide placed by the NCRB data – stating that so far about 3,08,826 farmers committed suicide from 1995-2014 – representatives of FIAN India, Land and Livelihood Knowledge Activists Hub and Peoples Forum on BRICS said it’s high time that BRICS nations focus on impending crisis in agriculture. On the occasion of World Bioethics Day – marked on October 19 with the theme Human Rights and Human Dignity – the forum said that despite number of food entitlement programmes, India tops world hunger list with over 15% of the country’s population is still undernourished. Nonetheless, more clear human rights approach is still missing when people should have the right to safe and adequate food in dignity to satisfy the basic nutritional needs. “India also has the world’s highest number of malnourished and hungry children, 44% of children under the age of five are underweight and malnourished, and have a higher risk of death from common childhood illness such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. About 59% of women are anaemic. Hunger in India is a complex issue as it is widespread and the root causes are different across various sections of the society,” said Renuka Kad of FIAN Maharashtra representative. She was speaking at the Food Sovereignty and Agriculture in BRICS Summit, held in Goa on Sunday. “India has improved its ranking 80 out of 104 in Global Hunger Index in 2015, but fighting hunger remains a challenge as undernourishment and mortality among children and women remain alarmingly high. This means that we are miserably failing and falling short with right to food and nutrition only successfully avoiding hunger deaths but not able to realize the right to food and nutrition in a reality,” said Suman Singh, FIAN India convener. Meanwhile, FIAN India representatives also highlighted the grim picture of farmers’ suicides placed by the NCRB data, around 1.7 suicides take place every hour that comes to 42 suicides per day. “It is high time that BRICS nations focuses impending crisis in agriculture which is indeed sounding death knell on small and marginal farmers and lead to a road of no return,” said the forum. The forum also highlighted that about 52% of the agricultural households in the country are estimated to be indebted. Only 10 per cent of poor and small farmers have got the benefit from farming related schemes. “Suicides by farmers touched a grim high in 2015. The year 2015 recorded 2,590 suicides until October – the higher ever since 2001. It went on to register 610 more deaths in just two months of January and February 2016,” said Kad. (Times of India 20/10/16)

Man dies of hunger in UP, while wife fights for her life (21)

Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Oct 24 (ANI): A 28-year-old jobless Dalit man allegedly died of hunger in a village of Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad district on Sunday morning. Identified as Dharmendra, his wife, Usha Devi too was found fighting for life without a morsel of food in their home. The district administration, however, instructed action against the local officials and the owner of the fair price shop, which provides government subsidised food to the poor. Tehsildar Ramkumar Verma, who inspected the couple’s home at Dharauta village under Soraon tehsil, after the news of the death, reported that he couldn’t find any food in the decrepit house in which the man and his differently-abled wife lived. He also gave Rs. 1,000 to the family as an immediate relief. Dharmendra, a local dancer at rural functions did not possess an Aadhar Card which is required to get another card for free and subsidized ration to people living below the poverty line. In the absence of below poverty line (BPL) and ration cards, he was not able to get food grain from the fair price shop. It is reported that the family survived on the food provided by the villagers. But of late, the people have stopped giving them alms, plunging the couple into hunger. (ANI) (New Kerala 24/10/16)

Govt to provide subsidised dal to poor from Jan onwards (21)

Bengaluru: The list of subsidised household items distributed under the state government’s Anna Bhagya scheme is set to grow longer beginning next year. The government has decided to distribute dal (pulse) at a subsidised rate to families below poverty line (BPL) from January. All the 1.03 crore BPL families will get one kg dal each per month, which will cost the government an estimated Rs 360 crore per annum. A kg of dal carries a subsidy of Rs 30 and the government will give any of the dal variety such as tur and moong, depending on their availability in the market and the cost, Food and Civil Supplies Department Secretary Harsh Gupta said. The government is already spending Rs 2,000 crore per annum on the Anna Bhagya scheme. The beneficiaries get free foodgrains (rice, wheat, ragi, jowar), palm oil at subsidised rates and salt every month under the scheme. Dal distribution has been planned in such a way that it will not be a burden on the government for at least a year. For, Karnataka was entitled for reimbursement of local transportation cost on foodgrains and 50% commission to be given to fair price shop owners from the Union government under the Food Security Act with effect from 2014. The Food and Civil Supplies Department recently received Rs 330 crore from the Centre. The entire money is being utilised for dal distribution, sources in the government said. The finance department had initially objected to the proposal as there was no budgetary provision. But it finally agreed when Chief Minister Siddaramaiah directed it to clear the proposal, the sources said. (Deccan Herald 26/10/16)

Still seriously hungry and poor (21)

India is the fastest growing large economy in the world today. Despite this, one in every five Indians is poor. Multilateral agencies as well as governments are playing an active role in understanding problems relating to poverty and hunger and finding solutions to them. But these challenges are pervasive and weeding them out will require clear evidence-based data-driven solutions. Goal 1 and 2 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envision eradicating poverty and ending hunger by 2030. A brief look at the statistics tells us the extent of the problem. An astounding 767 million people in the world are poor while the those who do not have enough to eat are estimated to be close to 800 million. Poverty is a multidimensional concept, which involves reduction in choices to pursue freedom. So is hunger. Two recent reports try to clear the haze on measurement and yield some pertinent insights on poverty and hunger. These are the the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Pathways to Reducing Poverty and Sharing Prosperity in India (PRPSPI) of the World Bank.The GHI tries to capture the hunger level across countries. The index is constructed using four component indicators: percentage of undernourished in the population, percentage of wasting in children under five years old, percentage of stunting in children under five years, and under-five mortality rates. The index has been calculated since 2006 and the oldest back calculations on the index go back to 1992. The overall methodology is similar to development of other composite indices like the Human Development Index. The overall scale of the index is from zero to 100 where 100 represents ‘absolute hunger’ and zero represents ‘zero hunger’. Countries and regions are also classified in terms of the level of hunger. Those falling in the <= 9.9 category are classified as having a ‘low’ level of hunger, those in the 10.0-19.9 category are ‘moderate’, those in the 20-34.9 bracket are ‘serious’, those between 35 and 49.9 are classified as ‘alarming’, and those <50 are ‘extremely alarming’. There are some pertinent points in this year’s global hunger report. First, developing countries have a major stake in reducing hunger levels. Overall hunger has come down by 29 per cent since 2000 in these countries. Second, there are distinct regions, the ones with the highest GHI scores, which can help in fulfilling the SDGs. On the 2016 index, Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia have the highest GHI scores (30.1 and 29.0, respectively). Thus they are placed in the ‘alarming’ category on the GHI. Third, India is placed at a dismal 97th rank among the 118 countries considered for the index. The country has improved its score from 46.4 in 1992 to 28.5 at present, which is considerable, but its overall level continues to be ‘serious’ on the index. .. (The Hindu 31/10/16)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

Joblessness at 5-year high, reveals survey (14)

NEW DELHI: Joblessness in India is running at a five-year high of 5% of the 15-plus-years work force. Over a third of working people are employed for less than a year and 68% of households are earning up to only Rs 10,000 per month, according to a new employment-unemployment (EU) survey report conducted by the Labour Bureau. Over 7.8 lakh persons in 1.6 lakh households were surveyed across the country between April and December 2015. Expectedly, urban areas continue to provide more and better paying jobs compared with the rural areas. While 82% of job seekers get year-round jobs in urban areas, just 53% of rural job seekers manage to get such security. About 42% of workers in rural areas work for less than 12 months in a year, a result of dependence on seasonal agriculture work. Unsurprisingly, this means that 77% of the rural households end up with an average monthly income of less than Rs 10,000. In urban areas, about half the households earn between Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000 per month. These findings of the first large sample survey after the Modi government took power in June 2014 show that even after more than a year of seeing the new government’s policies in action, the situation on the ground continues to be dire and effectively the same as in the preceding UPA’s rule. It shows a continuation of a distressing job situation — and hence economic status — that was reflected in earlier surveys like the 68th round of NSSO and the Socio-Economic & Caste Census (SECC) in 2011-12. What does 5% unemployment and 35% underemployment mean in hard numbers? Projecting from Census 2011 figures, India had a 15-years-and-older labour force of about 45 crore. So, 5% of that is a whopping 2.3 crore persons. In addition, there are those who work but not for the whole year, signifying hidden unemployment. This works out to nearly 16 crore persons. Women’s employment continues to stagnate with 8.7% of women in the labour force without jobs. Comparison to previous surveys done by the labour bureau show that the unemployment rate rose from about 3.8% in 2011 to 4.9% in 2013. This was a period of relative economic slowdown compared to earlier in the decade. But growth has been recorded at 7.3% in 2015-16 — yet the jobs situation has worsened. The Modi government’s pronouncements for job creation, like Make in India, Start-Up India and Digital India do not seem to have had the desired impact.This would be mostly farmers, shopkeepers, and enterprise owners. But the low economic level of this section is revealed by the fact that 85% of such households had a monthly income of less than Rs 10,000.Another 33% of households earn their living through casual employment. Regular wage or salary earning households make up just 17% of all, although this is the kind of work that pays more with 43% of people earning more than Rs 10,000. (Times of India 1/10/16)

Government reconstitutes committee on wages (14)

New Delhi: Despite the Delhi government’s announcement for a major hike in minimum wages, the capital’s workforce will have to remain content with just the dearness allowance of a few hundred rupees. According to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the government has reconstituted the committee on minimum wages after lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung turned down its proposal to increase minimum wages by steep 46 per cent. Earlier in September, terming the 13-member wage fixation committee set up by the Aam Aadmi Party dispensation without his prior approval as “illegal”, the L-G had asked the AAP government for a relook at the proposal. As per the government’s September 30 order, workers in the unskilled category will get Rs 156 extra as dearness allowance every month, while those under semi-skilled category and skilled category will get extra monthly allowance of Rs 182 and Rs 208, respectively. From October 1, the minimum rates of wages are Rs 9,724 per month for unskilled workers, Rs 10,764 per month for semi-skilled workers and Rs 11,830 per month for skilled workers, according to the government. In the past, the labour department has been notifying increase in dearness allowance (DA) twice in a year i.e. April and October, to mitigate the impact of inflation on the labourers. “First time in India, the minimum wages were increased from Rs 9,000 to Rs 14,000. But the file was rejected by the L-G. He asked for reconstitution of the committee. “He declared the committee null and void. I asked (labour minister) Gopal Rai to reconstitute the committee. The committee will give a similar proposal and I hope that in Delhi, minimum wages will be Rs 14,000,” Mr Kejriwal had said at an event to commemorate the 109th birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh on September 27. (Asian Age 3/10/16)

623 labour-related complaints resolved (14)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As many as 623 complaints have been resolved through the call centre at the Labour Bhavan here. A press note issued here on Thursday by Labour Commissioner K. Biju said the call centre was able to answer 3,725 queries relating to the labour sector. These complaints and queries were received between August 26, 2015 and September 30, 2016. The call centre received a total of 837 queries. Of these, 80 related to denial of jobs, 202 related to denial of minimum wages, 74 about loading and unloading, 17 about denial of gratuity, and 23 complaints were about denial of work experience certificate. Complaints can be raised at the toll-free numbers 180042555214 or 155214. Enquires about the services rendered by the Labour Department can also be directed to these numbers, the press said. (The Hindu 8/10/16)

MGNREGA wages: Labourers plan fast (14)

RAICHUR: Rural labourers who are not paid for the work they have completed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), are planning to launch an indefinite fast from October 13. Addressing presspersons at Tipu Sultan Garden where the labourers were protesting for the last two days demanding wages, Abhay Kumar, leader of the Grameena Coolie Karmikara Sanghatan alleged that Raichur Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer M. Kurma Rao and panchayat development officers for their “mismanagement” and “negligence” in handling MGNREGA works. “The officers have not prepared Management Information System report on the work done under the job scheme in 62 gram panchayats. As a result, thousands of rural labourers have not been paid for the work they have completed four months ago. Even after repeated requests and protests , the officers have done nothing. They have been pointing their fingers at Union government and alleging that the government had not released funds for the scheme,” he said. (The Hindu 9/10/16)

Seven million jobs to be lost: Study (14)

Mumbai: The jobs of small people like farmers, petty retail vendors, contract labourers and construction workers have been disappearing at the rate of 550 jobs a day in the last four years and if this trend continues, employment would shrink by 7 million by 2050 in the country, said Delhi-based civil society group Prahar. The World Bank has also said “India needs to go back to the basics and protect sectors like farming, unorganised retail, micro and small enterprises which contribute to 99 per cent of current livelihoods in the country.” Pointing out that the labour intensity of SMEs is four times higher than that of large firms it further observed that the multinationals are particularly capitalistic and their investment commitments for the next five years of $225 million would translate into creation of only 6 million jobs, it said. It suggested that these sectors need support from the government not regulation, adding “India needs smart villages and not smart cities in the 21st century.” Quoting data released by the Labour Bureau, the Prahar study said India created only 1.35 lakh jobs in 2015. (Asian Age 17/10/16)

NRIs in Saudi Arabia over 60 years may have to return home (14)

JEDDAH (Saudi Arabia): Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia over 60 years of age may have to return home with the Saudi government contemplating an age bar for foreign workers in private sector companies. If the decision is implemented, returning back home may be the only viable option for the thousands of NRIs who have settled in Saudi Arabia. This plan comes as a part of the Saudi labour ministry’s long-term strategy, designed in 2015, to prepare Saudi youth to dominate country’s job market. As per the strategy, the government’s objective is to create a situation where the number of expatriates is reduced to a possible minimum, and then encourage private sector companies to hire more native workers. However, the ministry of Labour has discarded the contention that it is forcing expatriates aged above 60 to retire from private sector companies, but the fact remains that the recent changes in Saudi job market are impacting the lives of many foreigners in the country. The laws are being made harsher and stricter on all fronts. The total workforce in the private sector in Saudi Arabia consists of approximately 90% expatriates among whom Indians constitute the largest community.At present, there are no restrictions on the maximum age of foreign employees to be permitted to work in Saudi Arabia. Although there will be some exceptions including investors, college professors, doctors etc, the new move would still be a blow for the foreigners hoping to earn big tax-free salaries beyond their 60s.If the decision on age bar is implemented, it will pose a great challenge for many companies who are in need of qualified and experienced workers. There is a widespread feeling that although youth have the energy and enthusiasm, seniors have qualification and experience.  The unemployment rate has dropped since the implementation of the labour ministry’s long-term strategy. There are approximately 500,000 foreign workers over 60 years of age working for private firms in Saudi Arabia. The officials have made it clear that expatriates who retire cannot get their sons to become their sponsors. Private companies too cannot sponsor retired men, which means that elderly NRIs will have practically no other option but to return home. (Times of India 16/10/16)

Seven million jobs to be lost: Study (14)

Mumbai: The jobs of small people like farmers, petty retail vendors, contract labourers and construction workers have been disappearing at the rate of 550 jobs a day in the last four years and if this trend continues, employment would shrink by 7 million by 2050 in the country, said Delhi-based civil society group Prahar. The World Bank has also said “India needs to go back to the basics and protect sectors like farming, unorganised retail, micro and small enterprises which contribute to 99 per cent of current livelihoods in the country.” Pointing out that the labour intensity of SMEs is four times higher than that of large firms it further observed that the multinationals are particularly capitalistic and their investment commitments for the next five years of $225 million would translate into creation of only 6 million jobs, it said. It suggested that these sectors need support from the government not regulation, adding “India needs smart villages and not smart cities in the 21st century.” Quoting data released by the Labour Bureau, the Prahar study said India created only 1.35 lakh jobs in 2015. (Asian Age 17/10/16)

Fair on rural job scheme (14)

Imphal, Oct. 20: For the first time a fair to showcase successful implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was held today at the State Institute of Rural Development Complex (SIRD), Imphal, which was simultaneously inaugurated today. The events were organised by the department of rural development and panchayati raj. The job scheme was introduced in Manipur in 2006. Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh said: “The NREG scheme has covered the entire state. The unemployed people in the remote areas in the hills and valley are guaranteed various self-employment jobs which contribute to local development works. The priority is given to the family members who are below the poverty line. The scheme has become popular.” “The SIRD complex here is the property of the people of the state. It could have been constructed in any other district. But the state government chose this location with the view that everyone from all the districts can reach the centre easily. I thank Francis Ngajokpa who hails from Senapati district for choosing the site in Imphal East during his tenure as minister for rural development and panchayati raj,” Ibobi Singh said. The fair includes a photo exhibition on “successful implementation” of the job scheme, exhibition of model of works undertaken and screening of a film which highlights the success story. “I am satisfied after seeing the wonderful achievements of the people in remote areas where government development machineries could not reach. The grand exhibition has revealed how the rural people utilise the scheme,” said Md Amin Shah, parliamentary secretary of minorities, OBC and Scheduled Caste and science and technology. Minister of rural development and panchayati raj Moirangthem Okendro said: “The presence of rural people, specially the brothers and sisters from the hill areas, is of immense pleasure to me. The fair is organised to encourage high flyers and support unsuccessful ones.”? SIRD was once called Manipur Panchayati Raj Training Institute. The construction of the complex costs Rs 16.5 crore. It has an administrative block, academic block with training halls, a central laboratory besides a gymnasium. “For the implementation of the NREG scheme, this year we have got Rs 277 crore as first instalment and got 70 working days. Please be prepared for the year 2016-17 instalments for which Rs 772 crore is expected. For this year we are targeting to get at least 70 to 80 working days, but we will try to get 100 working days as instructed by our chief minister,” Okendro said. He urged officials to submit utilisation certificates on time so that the funds flow is not disturbed and thanked the officials of the department for the successful implementation of the scheme. In the fair, the block committee members exchanged ideas on the scheme. Awards were given to block leaders from the districts. The Manipur State Panchayat Parishad submitted a memorandum to Ibobi Singh which appealed for an upward revision of honorarium of panchayat functionaries, devolution of 16 departments and government support for the regional summit of local self-governments to be held in Imphal in November. Ibobi Singh announced that he would revise the honorarium and consider the appeals of the Parishad. (The Telegraph 21/10/16)

Daily wages hiked for unskilled workers (14)

HYDERABAD: Hereafter, unskilled daily wage labour would have to be paid Rs. 192 a day, while full time contingent worker would have to be paid Rs. 5,000 a month and part-time workers would be paid Rs. 4,000 a month, with the government having issued orders reviewing the prevailing wages here on Thursday. The part-time worker would have to put in four hours of work per working day to get wages as prescribed by the government. The earlier wages for the daily wager was Rs. 100 a day, the full time contingent worker or consolidated pay worker was being paid Rs. 2,600 per month, while a part-time worker was being paid Rs. 1,623 a month. (The Hindu 21/10/16)

7th Pay Commission: Committee on Allowances proposes hike in HRA for central govt employees

The Allowances Committee has finalized a proposal on the House Rent Allowances( HRA) for central government employees. According to the blog of central government employees Govtstaffnews.in, the committee met on September 1 and proposed increasing HRA by 1 Stage to reach 30% , 20% and 10% . Attributing to sources, the blog adds that the committee proposed to start the HRA rates initially from 27%, 18% and 9% and after DA reaches 50% the House Rent Allowance will be revised to 30%, 20% and 10% for X,Y and Z cities respectively. The proposal is expected to be finalised in the meeting on Allowance to be held on Tuesday i.e October 25. Allowance Committee and National Concil (Staff Side) Joint Consultative Machinery(  NCJCM)​ Standing Committee is meeting to firm up the view on various allowances given to central government employees pertaining to Department of Personnel & Training. The pay Commission recommended HRA at the rates initially from 24%, 16%, and 8 % and whenever DA reaches 50% it will be increased to 27%, 18% and 9% and Finally after DA reaches 100% the HRA will be revised to 30% , 20% and 10% for X,Y and Z cities respectively.The NCJCM has demanded in its Memorandum submitted to the 7th Pay Commission that 60%, 40% and 20% HRA to be recommended for X,Y and Z cities. (Zee News 24/10/16)

Government must be sensitive to labourers’ needs: Modi (14)

New Delhi: Expressing concern at the large number of grievances of labourers and Employees Provident Fund beneficiaries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the government must be sensitive to their needs. The Prime Minister’s observation came during the the 16th interaction of PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation), which he chaired. The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Central as well as state governments. Modi said that in a democracy, the labourers should not have to struggle to receive their legitimate dues. He also called for introduction of a system so that the process of finalisation of retirement benefits for all employees can begin a year in advance before their retirement. In case of an untimely death, he said the papers should be completed within a specified time, and officers should be made accountable for this purpose, he added (Business Standard 26/10/16)

 ‘Job scheme will cover 60 p.c. village families’ (14)

HYDERABAD: Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s objective behind reorganisation of districts is to ensure that the benefits of welfare programme reach every deserving person and employees should work with dedication to achieve the goal, said Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Minister Jupally Krishna Rao. Addressing the three-day training programme for those brought under the District Rural Development Officers set up by merging DWAMA and DRDA, Mr. Krishna Rao said even seven decades after independence, the welfare measures were not reaching people in rural areas. He said steps should be taken to provide 100 days’ work to at least 60 per cent of families in villages under the National Employment Guarantee Scheme. Awareness on MGNREGA works be created through distribution of pamphlets and every day field assistants and village secretaries be accessible to the workers at a fixed timeThe State government was committed to strengthen the women’s groups and programmes should be formulated to bring out their potential in addition to giving them financial independence, he said. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

RESERVATION

Muslims join Marathas to push for reservations (7)

KOLHAPUR: Members of the Muslim community are coming out in large numbers to support of the demands of the Maratha community not just to show their solidarity but also to pitch for their reservation demand. The Maratha community has been holding massive rallies across the state since last month to push for their demand for reservation in the jobs and education, changes in the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and punishment for the accused in the Kopari rape case. Their other demands loan waiver for farmers, pensions to farmers.In several rallies taken out in western Maharashtra, members of the Muslim community have been coming out in large numbers to support the Maratha demands as they too are struggling to get 5% reservation. Political expert Prakash Pawar said, “All the commissions and experts have agreed that Muslims need reservation. However, the demand is pending since many years. The community is trying to pitch its demand by openly supporting the rallies of Maratha community. Also, the relations between both communities have remained cordial as both have cultural and economic exchanges taking places since many years.” The Muslim leaders in political parties are claiming that the support to Maratha community is to ensure that both communities get reservation. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “The incumbent government will never give reservation and therefore both communities have decided to change it. The BJP is trying to divide the society, however, the demand of reservation has created the sense of unity among both communities. My party is going to initiate signature campaign in support of reservation.” (Times of India 3/10/16)

OBCs back Bhujbal, resist move to dilute their quota (25)

The stage is set for a major political upheaval in the state politics with other backward class (OBC) leaders across party lines joining hands to oppose Marathas demanding reservation within their quota. In their first show of strength, OBC leaders organized a silent march in support of prominent community leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who is in judicial custody in the Rs 800 crore money laundering case. The state has about 27-30% OBC population, which includes Mali, Dhangar, Wanjari, Teli, Leva-Patil, Sutar, Lohar, Sonar, Shimpi, Kumbhar. Currently, the OBCs have 27% reservation. The Marathas are insisting on being accommodated into this category. “Marathas cannot ask reservation in our quota. We will strongly oppose it. We are firm on our stand and OBCs will come out more strongly in future,” said Krishnakant Kudale, an associate of Bhujbal. Bhujbal was arrested on March 14 in the Maharashtra Sadan case for allegedly receiving Rs 800 crore kickbacks, which according to the Enforcement Directorate was subsequently laundered by his nephew. The OBC march in Nashik will have ramifications. The Maratha community has decided to take an aggressive stand. “We are not seeking reservation from the OBC quota. We want the OBC quota to be increased. Our marches are not against any community. We only seek justice for our community,” said Pravin Gaikwad, one of the organizers of the Maratha marches. Chava Sanghatana, a Maratha outfit, said that the OBC rally in support Bhujbal is tantamount to questioning the judicial process. Maratha leaders from the NCP have shied away from supporting Bhujbal, who was a key associate of Sharad Pawar. “BJP, Congress and NCP have used OBCs as vote bank, but they have not strengthened the OBC leadership. BJP used Gopinath Munde to build the party in the state and neglected him in his last days,” said one of the Bhujbal supporters. (Times of India 4/10/16)

Delegation to urge CM to extend reservation benefits to STs (25)

BALLARI: Legislators, MPs and other leaders of the Valmiki community will take a delegation to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah during November to urge upon him to extend the enhanced reservation benefits to Scheduled Tribes, B. Sriramulu, MP and leader of Valmiki community said. Speaking to presspersons on Friday to give details about a Valmiki community convention scheduled at Lingasugur in Raichur district on October 23, Mr. Sriramulu said that though the Central government had enhanced the reservation benefits from 3.5 percent to 7.5 percent, the State government was dilly-dallying over extending it even after orders from Supreme Court and High Court, which was unfortunate. Criticising the State government for delaying extending the additional benefits, he said he was pained over it. The community leaders, cutting across party lines, were in support of the demand and were of the unanimous view that the State government was not spending adequately for the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes. He said that demand for enhancing the reservation benefits was among other things, including inadequate spending of funds allotted to STs would be discussed at length at the ensuing convention and chalk out a further course of action to get them conceded. “Apart from taking a delegation to Chief Minister, we are also contemplating to launch a movement, with our religious head of Valmiki Gurupeetha in the lead, to ensure that our demands are fulfilled,” he said. To a question, he said that if BJP came to power in the next Assembly election, it would definitely extend the enhanced reservation benefits. (The Hindu 8/10/16)

Ramdas Athawale moots raising caste-based reservation cap to 75% (25)

NAGPUR: Ramdas Athawale, on his first visit to the city after becoming minister of state for social justice and empowerment in the Narendra Modi government, said he would move a proposal to raise the cap to 75% for caste-based reservations in the country. His assertion here on Saturday at the start of his four-day Vidarbha tour assumes significance in the light of the massive Maratha marches across the state for last two months to demand, among other things, a reservation for the community. Bowing further before the Maratha might, Athawale said his party had no objections to the demand to amend the Prevention of Atrocities (against SC/ST) Act 1989 as sought by the Marathas to check misuse, if any, of the law. In his trademark colourful attire (rust-coloured shirt and bright yellow jacket), Athavale arrived a couple of hours behind schedule because of flight delay. “There is a massive unrest among communities like Marathas, Jats, Gujjars as they claim to be socially backward and losing out in education and other fields. The time has come for our Parliament to consider amendment to the relevant laws and increase the quota up to 75% across the country,” said the RPI leader. (The Supreme Court has put a cap at 50% for such caste-based reservations, though Tamil Nadu is believed to be implementing 74%). Any move for reservations on the basis of economic criteria, instead of caste, would not be accepted, he warned. Athawale said the Maratha agitation was led by people and was apolitical as established leaders were kept aside and people were joining the protests voluntarily after the Kopardi rape incident. He said Dalits had nothing to fear as Marathas’ demand for review of the Atrocities Act would not dilute the law but only check its misuse. “In any case, the law’s repeal is out of the question as it is needed to stop discrimination and continuing attacks on Dalits,” said the minister. He said Dalits and Marathas needed to stay united in the state and to achieve this, he was organizing a Dalit-Maratha unity rally at Shirdi on October 19 to end the misgivings since the prime accused in the Kopardi case were Dalit youths. The minister said 68 lakh students from SC, ST and OBCs get scholarships ranging from Rs230 to Rs1200 a month. A strong supporter of Vidarbha state demand, Athawale hoped the Modi government would emulate the first NDA government-led by A B Vajpayee and create new smaller states. (Times of India 9/10/16)

Haryana Jats to campaign against BJP in UP (25)

CHANDIGARH: Jat leaders, who have been demanding reservation for the community in Haryana, will be camping in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh over the next two months to build pressure on both the Centre and state governments to meet their demands. The All India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) has announced four big rallies in Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh. Its president Yashpal Malik has announced that they will oppose the BJP if it fails to “ensure justice to the Jats of Haryana”.AIJASS, which is one of the strongest Jat organiza tions in the country , is demanding that cases registered against agitators during the riots in Haryana in February be withdrawn and their quota in central government jobs be restored. “In the rallies, we will discuss how to oppose BJP in the elections if it fails to give us quota,” Malik told TOI on Wednesday. Jats had backed BJP in fairly large numbers in Uttar Pra desh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after the Muzaffarnagar riots 12 months earlier.Many Jat leaders had even joined the BJP then. Malik, who has played a significant role in spreading reservation protests in Haryana, said the state government failed to fulfil its promises to the community . “It has been about eight months since the violence and fake cases lodged against the Jats have not been withdrawn despite a promise,” he added. More than 2,000 cases were registered in Haryana in connection with the rioting. “The state government is not even representing the case of reservation in courts properly ,” he alleged. Jats play a significant role in about 125 seats in Uttar Pradesh. According to Malik, the community plays a deciding role in about 100 seats in western Uttar Pradesh. “Even if 50% Jats don’t vote BJP , the party won’t be able to open its account in Jat-dominated seats,” claimed Malik. Muslims and dalits also have sizeable population in these constituencies with whom the community leaders want to have an alliance. In June, Jat agitators had raised slogans in favour of BSP chief Mayawati in Haryana. Congress and INLD leaders had rushed to their protest venues in Kaithal. The leaders had also offered support to Mayawati in the “time of need”. Haryana’s Jats have traditionally backed INLD and Congress. (Times of India 13/10/16)

Maratha protests: OBCs, Dalits plan silent morchas to defend quotas (25)

Mumbai: A consolidation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Dalits to counter the growing show of strength by Marathas, 10 splinter groups have forged an alliance and decided to organise silent morchas across 358 talukas of Maharashtra’s 36 districts with the broader aim of defending their reservation quota. Under the banner of OBC Janjagruti Mahamorcha, leaders from both OBC and Dalit communities plan to reach out to each village to guard their rights. According to Anil Mahajan, president of Maharashtra Malli (OBC) Mahasangh and one of the organisers, their main demand president is that there should be no compromise on existing quota limits due to the demand put forward by Marathas on reservation for jobs and education. “The OBCs and Dalits are not against reservation for Marathas, but it should be over and above the existing (limit),” he said. Beginning with a morcha in Beed district of Marathwada region on October 20, the Dalit-OBC groups will take their rallies to Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, Nagpur, Mumbai (after Diwali) and other districts later. The decision was taken soon after the first experimental OBC-Dalit rally in Newasa taluka of Ahmednagar district on October 10. Anil Mahajan said, “All groups representing OBCs and Dalits have decided to unite under Jangatruti Mahamorcha. We have decided to take silent morchas that will be disciplined, non-violent.” He indicated that Kunbhi-Marathas, classified under OBCs in Vidarbha region, are supporting their plan for silent rallies. Dalit activist Ramrao Gawli said, “Unlike Maratha morchas, Dalits-OBC rallies will not be a show of strength due to financial constrains. But we are working to reach the message at the grassroots level.” The OBC-Dalit show of unity has the Congress and the NCP worried, as the parties fear that the ruling BJP would take political advantage. Of 288 Assembly constituencies in Maharashtra, voters from OBC and Dalit communities are influential in nearly 180 seats across Marathwada, Vidarbha, north Maharashtra, parts of western Maharashtra and Konkan regions. Maratha voters are a dominant force in approximately 70 to 75 seats in Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions. “Through these morchas, the OBCs and Dalits want to warn the established Maratha leaders who have set the process of dividing the society on caste lines. The majority of the Maratha stalwarts belong to the Congress and the NCP,” a senior Dalit leader said on conditions of anonymity. Prakash Ambedkar, leader of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, said: “The assertion of Marathas has set the process of OBC-Dalit unification. It is a natural phenomenon. Marathas are known for their political and economic might, and the fact that they have taken to streets have instilled fear in vulnerable sections of the societies such as Dalits and OBCs.” (Indian Express 15/10/16)

SC to state, HC: Complete process of quota in judicial services (25)

Patna: The Supreme Court has asked the Bihar Government and Patna high court to complete the exercise for providing reservation to backward classes in the state judicial services by January 1, 2017. The apex court has also asked them to complete the process for filling up vacancies in the judicial services by June 30, 2017. In a recent order in State of Bihar Vs Dayanand Singh case, Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said, “As on today, 406 posts of junior civil judges are vacant and appropriate steps are required to be taken to fill up such posts … In view of the huge number of vacancies in the judicial services, it is desirable that the whole exercise must be completed expeditiously, preferably by January 1, 2017. Thereafter, the process for filling up the vacancies shall be taken up by all concerned and completed by June 30, 2017.” The apex court also ordered for appointment of those backward classes candidates whose appointments were withheld after the Patna high court quashed the state government’s decision to provide reservation in judicial services. “Having regard to the facts that (I) a large number of vacancies exist in judicial services (II) the question of reservation is lingering for a quarter century, (III) the remoteness of possibility of the state government completely failing to establish the need to provide for reservation in judicial services, we deem it appropriate to direct that these candidates be appointed to the service against the vacancies which arose subsequent to the 2012 notification,” the court said. It further opined that there was a need for providing appropriate reservations in favour of the specified backward classes even in the judicial services. “However, under the scheme of things, the executive is not the only authority to formulate such policy or to give effect to. The executive is under a constitutional obligation to consult the high court, both for framing and giving effect to such policy of providing reservation.”The court permitted the Bihar government to initiate the process of consultation by furnishing necessary information on its own assessment regarding the need to provide reservation in favour of specified backward classes in the judicial services. “If there is a consensus of opinion between the state and the high court, the state would be at liberty to make the appropriate rules providing for reservation. In the event of any differences of opinion, the government must record reasons for its inability to accept the conclusions communicated by the high court and proceed to amend the Rules in accordance with law keeping in mind the various constitutional principles governing the exercise of such power. Such an exercise is required to be undertaken … ‘not to determine who between them is entitled to greater importance or is to take the winners prize at the end of the debate. The task (before us) has to be performed with this perception’,” the bench said. (Times of India 17/10/16)

Now, Dalits react by staging more rallies, raise concerns in government (25)

MUMBAI: Even as processions by Marathas to demand reservation and halt misuse of the SC/ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act have drawn huge crowds, counter rallies seeking implementation of the Act in letter and spirit too are getting massive support. Alarmed by the Maratha morchas, prominent dalit organisations under the banner of the Atrocity Samarthan Samiti have begun taking out processions across the state. The first procession was taken out in Latur, followed by another in Beed. While Dalit activists marched to the collector’s office in Nanded on Sunday, a procession is on the cards in Parbhani in a day or two. “We will not tolerate dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in any manner as demanded by the Maratha leaders. In fact, we have demanded that the law be implemented in letter and spirit and all the cases registered under the Act be fast-tracked,” a leader of the movement said. The increasing mobilisation along community lines are now posing a huge challenge to the government and raising concerns about a risein social tensions. “People are agitating over issues that could be resolved amicably. No doubt the Kopardi episode (gang rape and murder of a minor) was serious, but some vested interests are blowing it out of proportion and giving it a completely different look,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said recently.A convener of the Maratha agitation,however, countered that “every organisation or individual has a right to take out a procession. We took out processions for our cause, they too have a right, we will not interfere in their agitation”.The demands raised at the Dalit rallies however are at odds with those highlighted at the Maratha morchas. It includes strict implementation of the SC/ST Act, disposal of all pending cases under the Act in a time-bound manner, status quo on reservations. In addition, the Dalit groups have sought to build an axis with the Muslim community by championing their cause for reservation in jobs and education. (Times of India 19/10/16)

HC dissolves Rajasthan OBC Commission (25)

JAIPUR: In a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party government, the Rajasthan High Court has ordered dissolution of the State Other Backward Classes (OBC) Commission, saying it was constituted without the State Assembly enacting any legislation for it. The court has directed the government to appoint a new commission backed by a statute. Causing a huge embarrassment to the State government, a Division Bench of the court directed in its order on Wednesday that no salary or allowance would henceforth be disbursed to the Commission’s members. The court gave time till January 15, 2017 for appointment of a new OBC commission. The Bench, comprising Justice K.S. Jhaveri and Justice Mahendra Maheshwari, passed the order while hearing a writ petition moved by Samata Andolan, which had challenged the OBC Commission’s establishment through an executive order. When Additional Advocate-General G.S. Gill submitted that a draft Bill to replace the executive order had been tabled in the State Assembly and it would be passed in the coming winter session, the court observed that the Commission was “sitting idle” as it knew that it was going to be replaced. The court order has put cold waters on the ruling BJP’s promises to Jats of Bhartpur and Dholpur districts for their inclusion in the OBC category for reservation in jobs and education. A survey report on the condition of Jats in the two districts was to be submitted to the Commission shortly. Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot said here on Thursday that it was for the first time in the country that a court had dissolved an OBC Commission on the ground of its illegal constitution. “This clearly shows that the BJP government is not serious about the sections of society struggling for their legitimate rights,” he said. Congress MLA from Deeg-Kumher Vishvendra Singh, spearheading the quota agitation for Jats of Bharatpur and Dholpur, said the State government’s failure to appoint a permanent OBC Commission not only amounted to breach of promise, but was also part of a conspiracy to deny the benefit of OBC status to the Jat community. (The Hindu 21/10/16)

Jat quota agitators to campaign against BJP in 2017 (25)

AMROHA: The Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti has accused the BJP of allegedly betraying the community by ignoring its demand for reservation. Addressing a public meeting here, its national president Yashpal Malik said that the organization would openly campaign against the BJP in the upcoming state assembly elections and ensure that that party loses all the seats dominated by the community in UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab. Malik was flagging off the first Jat Sankalp rally here. “BJP has abandoned the Jat community. We are highly disappointed as the central government did not give us reservation. “Reservation for Jats was cancelled on March 17, 2015, by order of the court, as the Centre did not plead the case. After this, a delegation had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 26, 2015. He had assured us that we would be given reservation. But so far, no step has been taken by the central government,” he said. “The Haryana government also did not fulfil all the promises which were made to us during the agitation there. No compensation was given to the people who were injured during the agitation and the people who were arrested were not freed either. We have been demanding reservation from Punjab government also for a long time. But we were disappointed,” Malik added. “We have demanded that reservation be given in central jobs to our community and BJP MP Rajkumar Saini be sacked from his post for insulting the Jat community. In addition to this, the Haryana government should fulfil all its promises,” the Jat leader said. Threatening the BJP, Malik said, “If the central government does not meet our demands by December 2016, we will protest against BJP candidates in the UP, Uttrakhand and Punjab elections.” The Jat leaders said that after the Amroha rally, other rallies will be held in Meerut and other districts of UP on November 6. The community is dominant in 125 assembly seats in UP, 20 seats in Uttarakhand and most seats in Punjab, they added. “In the first phase of our campaign against BJP, we will form committees in 125 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh. These committees will campaign against the party,” Malik said. (Times of India 21/10/16)

Kerala for law to ensure funds reach tribes (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The government is for a legislation to ensure that the funds allotted to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) are utilised and reservation benefits reach them, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes A. K. Balan has said. Replying to demands for grants for the Welfare of SCs/STs and OBCs in the revised budget for 2016-17 in the Assembly on Tuesday, the Minister said the legislation was being considered, as bureaucratic lapse was resulting in non-utilisation of funds. The Minister said 244 Adivasis who had passed BA and B.Ed. and other courses would be posted as teachers in schools in Wayanad under the Gothra Bandu project. It would be a pilot project and extended, if found, successful. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who intervened, said the existing recruitment norms could not be bypassed. Following this, Mr. Balan told the House that the appointment would be on contract basis. The Minister said community kitchens would be set up in Wayanad and the hostels under the SC/ST Department would be made livable.Replying to demand for grants for Minorities, Minister for Local Self-Governments and Welfare of Minorities K.T. Jaleel said a survey would be carried out on the Wakf properties in the State. The Finance Minister had promised the needed funds for the survey. Dr. Jaleel said the government was in receipt of the report of the commission that looked into the Wakf properties. The Minister announced more coaching centres, minority institutes in Malappuram and scholarships. (The Hindu 26/10/16)

Muslim institutions to take up reservation demand (25)

AURANGABAD: The heat over reservation and other community specific issues continues to build up with Muslim educational institutions from the district, now have convened a special meet to take up the demand, on Sunday. To be held at Roshan Gate, the meeting will be chaired under the aegis of umbrella organisation Muslim Arakshan Andolan Samiti. “Members of management and other higher-ups from Muslim educational institutions from Aurangabad district are expected to attend special meeting. The main agenda will be the demand for reservation for the community,” organisers said.Organisers said the meeting would chart out measures for pushing the demand for reservations in a democratic way. “The issue of reservation is going to have far-reaching impact on the lives of Muslim youth and the community at large. We are also seeking participation of parents and students during agitations taking place in near future,” organisers said. In the wake of different communities, including Marathas, OBCs and Dalits taking out silent rallies to press for different demands, including reservation, the Muslim community too has been witnessing such peaceful protests with the rallies already held in Mumbai and Nashik among a few other places. (Times of India 29/10/16)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

NHRC slaps notice on Chhatisgarh govt (1)

RAIPUR: Taking cognizance of recent escape of 46 boys from a juvenile custodial home in Durg district, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to Chhattisgarh government on September 29, asking the authorities to submit a detailed report in the matter. They have been given four-week time. The incident took place on July 11 this year. Raising serious concern, Jansunwai Foundation in its petition informed the NHRC that a group of 46 inmates of Juvenile Custodial Home, Durg, clashed with the officials and staff of the custodial home. When the superintendent of police, district collector and police force reached the spot, the inmates pelted stones on them and attacked cops with sharp weapons. Three police personnel suffered severe injuries.The children also carried out protest on the terrace of the building, demanding better accommodation. They even threatened of destroying the custodial home. The petition stated that the kids in the custody of the state should be handled sensibly, so that they do not become criminals in future. “The state is duty-bound to ensure proper facilities in the government-run homes and safety of the inmates. Durg incident has put a big question mark on the concept of juvenile custodial homes in the country,” the NGO said. The Foundation informed the NHRC that the juveniles also possessed sharp-edged weapons, intoxicants and other highly objectionable items.Meanwhile, it was also found that such incidents at juvenile homes has been reported in other parts of the country as well. Incidents reported this year includes 30 juveniles escaping from Nagpur home in April, six fled from Agra, six others ran off from Muzaffarnagar juvenile home, 33 kids escaped from Chennai, 12 from Merut. Of all, Chhattisgarh’s Durg records highest with 46 children escaping from juvenile home. (Times of India 2/10/16)

 “J&K govt indulging in human rights violation” (1)

JAMMU: Accusing the State government of indulging in the “human rights violation” of employees from the Kashmiri Pandit community who have been protesting in Jammu for the past 81 days, the Kashmiri Pandit leadership on Monday extended their support to the protesting employees. The community leadership came out in support of the agitating Kashmiri migrant employees of Kashmir and urged the government to immediately redress their grievances. “The government is indulged in violation of their human rights and we demand justice for them with immediate appointment of a nodal officer in Jammu. We want the government to release their salaries as well,” Chairman of All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee Vinod Pandit said. This was for the second time that the Kashmiri Pandit leadership from various political ideologies came together in support of the agitating employees who have refused to return and join their duties in Kashmir after their transit camps were allegedly attacked by stone-pelting mobs.“The salaries of these Hindu employees working in Kashmir Valley under PM Package and Non-PM Package category have been withheld and their demand for appointment of a nodal officer in Jammu is not being heard,” he said. Seeking immediate appointment of a nodal officer and creation of a cell for them in Jammu, Pandit said the services of these employees should have been used in Jammu in such a cell so that more than 2,000 employees were not forced to sit on protest. Taking a dig at the government’s effort at holding talks with separatists in Kashmir, Pandit said the ‘nationalist people’ are being ignored in the process. “These nationalist people who braved all odds to work in Kashmir Valley have been left high and dry by the government while it is busy in placating and appeasing separatist elements responsible for unrest in Kashmir,” said Mr Pandit. The leaders said the employees will be willing to return to Kashmir only when government creates such a “conducive atmosphere” so that they are able to move freely about the Valley. (The Hindu 4/10/16)

Rights groups seek action against cow vigilantes in state (1)

JAIPUR: Human rights groups have demanded strict action against self-proclaimed gau rakshaks who injured members of Banjara community in Rajsamand on October 3. The incident happened when Banjara community members were taking six oxes on way to their village. “They were stopped at Garacia Banjaro Ka Kheda by the Shivsena and Bajrang Dal activits who demanded Rs 5,000. When they refused to give money, these gau rakshaks armed with sharp edged weapons and batons beat them up and damaged their truck in which they were ferrying oxes,” said a press statement. Mukesh Goswami, a MKSS activist, told that in the merciless beating one Goru Banjana sustained fractures.”These gau rakshaks were identified as Bajrang Dal unit president Jagdish and Ratanlal along with 15 others. We have also identified that these gau rakshaks were involved in collecting money from the locals for saving cow from slaughtering,” said Goswami. The human rights groups demanded that all those involved in the crime should be punished. The Banjara community members should be given safety by the police as they are scared of these unruly activists. “Banjara Community has been involved in the trading of cattle. Police and government should safeguard their economic interest,” said Goswami. (Times of India 6/10/16)

Stung, transgenders approach Karnataka’s human rights panel (1)

Bengaluru: Angered by an “insensitive” sting operation by a TV news channel over a week ago, the transgender community has lodged a complaint against the media house with the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC). Ostensibly tracking the story of the alleged castration of an 18-year-old youth in Bengaluru, the channel beamed programmes on September 25 that have only reinforced stereotypes about transgenders and negated all gains made as an acceptable community, the Karnataka Transgender Samiti and other community organizations told reporters on Wednesday.Rishika (name changed), 21, a transgender mangalamukhi studying cosmetology in a reputable city college, said all she had managed to salvage for herself after her struggle to assert her identity, came crashing down as the TV channel forced her parents into a panel discussion where they were allegedly “told to speak what the channel wanted”.”They (TV crew) kept me out of the recording room although I kept protesting that my parents should not be a part of it. My parents are very supportive of me and have kept me with them after everything,” Rishika said, adding: “My identity is my choice and nobody has the right to use my name in public and talk about me without my consent. The media channel should have been more careful about this.”"After the broadcast, policemen are frequently visiting our homes to check if we are harbouring kidnapped kids, and landlords who rented houses to us are asking us to move out. It has become difficult to even walk on the roads freely, with people calling us kidnappers,” Soumya, a transgender said. “We as a community are not involved in forcible gender changes. When I had undergone the sex change operation, my parents and police forced me to revert to being a man. They used the skin of my forearm to graft the genitals without my consent. But I was firm and the community stood by me, giving me a reason to live,” said Shaila, another member of the community. (Times of India 6/10/16)

Case against NGO over human sacrifice claim (1)

IDUKKI: Police has registered a case against the Delhi-based NGO that alleged incidents of human sacrifice among tribal settlements at Edamalakudy here, based on a complaint filed by Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha (KPMS) members. Munnar police has registered the case against V P Roney , Vijayan, Daisy Daniel, Sheeja, Jobish Therani and Jomcy Thomas of the NGO, National Human Rights and Social Justice Commission for propagating the false allegation. The NGO representatives, in a petition to state police chief Loknath Behera, had claimed that they had visited the region in May and were convinced that three girl children below 10 years of age were offered in sacrifice. Following the petition, Behera had ordered an inquiry . But the probe by the special branch revealed that the claim was false. Meanwhile, the NGO members alleged that Devikulam MLA S Rajendran and some forest officials were behind the complaint. “We exposed many irregularities in the area. We have no qualms in facing the probe,” said Jobish Therani, public relations officer of the NGO. (Times of India 9/10/16)

Trump would be ‘dangerous’ if elected: UN human rights chief (1)

GENEVA: US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would be “dangerous from an international point of view” if he is elected, the UN human rights chief said on Wednesday, defiantly doubling down on his recent expression of concerns about “populist demagogues” that prompted a rebuke from Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations. In a broad-ranging news conference touching on issues like violence in Yemen, Syria and sub-Saharan Africa, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said some remarks by Trump are “deeply unsettling and disturbing to me,” particularly on torture and about “vulnerable communities.” “If Donald Trump is elected, on the basis of what he has said already and unless that changes, I think it’s without any doubt that he would be dangerous from an international point of view,” Zeid told reporters in Geneva. The comments from Zeid, a Jordanian prince, are likely to fan a debate in UN circles about whether he has been overstepping his mandate as the High Commissioner for Human Rights with comments on the US presidential nominee and nationalist, xenophobic leaders in parts of Europe. Only a day earlier, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Vitaly Churkin, said Zeid shouldn’t criticize foreign heads of state and government “for their policies. This is not his business. He should be more focused on his specific responsibilities.” Zeid alluded to a report Friday by The Associated Press indicating that Churkin had last month formally complained directly to the UN secretary-general about Zeid’s comments, saying: “I was not there, of course, and there was no demarche (formal report) made to me.”The rights chief also advanced the debate publicly. While he acknowledged UN rules that instruct the world body to avoid intervening in issues that are the “domestic jurisdiction of states,” Zeid alluded to similar complaints about interference once made by apartheid South Africa that the UN General Assembly dismissed “time and again.” As for the run-up to the November 8 US presidential election, Zeid said: “Clearly I am not keen or intent on interfering in any political campaign within any particular country.” Still, he added that he felt he should speak out in the wake of Trump’s calls that suggested he favored a “potential” for an increase in “the use of torture.” (Times of India 12/10/2016)

NHRC orders probe into patient death in ambulance in Bijnor (1)

Agra: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued notice to the state government over the death of a patient in Bijnor district, due to the “unavailability” of oxygen in the ambulance. The notice was issued after taking suo motu cognizance of media reports regarding the death of asthma patient in Chandpur area because the oxygen cylinder in the ambulance was empty. Relatives of the patient had reportedly protested, and the Chief Medical Officer had promised a probe into the matter. “Taking a serious view of the alleged medical negligence, the Commission has issued a notice to the government of Uttar Pradesh through its secretary, Department of Medical Health & Family Welfare, calling for a report within four weeks,” said an NHRC spokesperson. The Commission said it is shocked that a human life could not be saved even after the timely arrival of an ambulance because the oxygen cylinder – the most crucial and important life-saving apparatus – was not functional. (Indian Express 14/10/2016)

Pak army continues to rain misery on Baloch civilians, several abducted in Naseerabad (1)

Geneva: Continuing to commit atrocities on Baloch civilians, Pakistani forces burnt down several houses, abducted many locals and also killed an innocent Baloch civilian during an operation in Naseerabad area. According to Baloch Republican Students Organisation based in Germany, another Baloch civilian was killed and several women were taken away by the Pakistan Army during an operation in Dilband and Nagahi areas. Meanwhile, Baloch Republican Party spokesman Sher Mohammad Bugti, in a statement condemned Pakistani aggression against Baloch civilian. He said that Pakistani forces conducted a heavy military operation Goburd area of Mand and abducted several Baloch people. Relatives of the victims protested in front of an army camp installed on a hospital but attracted the attention of no media or so-called human rights organizations. “State aggression has grown to limits. An innocent Baloch civilian was killed due to indiscriminate firing by Pakistani armed forces,” he said. On the other hand, military operations are taking place in Dilband and Nagahi areas of Kalat from past three days. Pakistani forces sieged the area and abducted, hanged an innocent Baloch civilian identified as Mubarak Bugti s/o Jana Bugti upside down to a tree for an entire night and then took him along with his family. He further said that Pakistani forces also launched military operations in Chattar, Sherani, Hoti and adjacent areas of Naseerabad. Helicopters have indiscriminately bombarded the area killing an innocent Baloch civilian, Lalu Bugti. He urged the human rights groups to take all practical measures to ensure put an end to state atrocities on Balochistan people. (Asian Age 18/10/16)

Submit report on 740 tribal student deaths in 10 years, says NHRC (1)

Mumbai: The National Human Rights Commissi-on (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of news reports that 740 students of residential schools (ashramshalas) in tribal areas have died of various health issues over last 10 years. The NHRC has asked the state, through the chief secretary, to submit a report within four weeks. The figures are reportedly based on an internal report of the state tribal development department. A government official said students have died of dengue, malaria, food poisoning, suicides, drownings and even snake bites. The issue of came to fore after a 12-year-old girl from a Palghar residential school died on October 7. The NHRC said ashramshalas lacked health services and basic amenities. According to the norms, students in tribal areas should be screened at least twice a year, but government agencies are not following it, said the notice to the state. “The commission has observed that the contents of the news reports are shocking and painful. The students coming from tribal communities generally belong to poor families. The school authorities, as their lawful guardians, are responsible for their welfare, safety and healthcare needs. The negligence on part of the department of tribal development and school authorities is a violation of Right to Life, Dignity and Equality of students,” noted NHRC. Several posts are lying vacant in the 552 ashramshalas run by the state tribal development department. Sources claimed the budgetary provisions are not being utilized properly. (Times of India 19/10/16)

‘Doctors must protect human rights of their patients’ (1)

Nagpur: The gist of a panel discussion organized by NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences (NKPSIMS) on the occasion of World Bioethics Day on Wednesday suggested that any doctor or hospital cannot take for granted patient’s consent while giving treatment or doing any procedure. Doctors have to ensure that the patient is well informed about the treatment being given, its pros and cons, and that there is no violation of his human rights, dignity, privacy and confidentiality. The panellists included Dr Devashish Barik, professor of orthopaedics, Dr Sushil Gawande, associate professor of psychiatry, Dr Prachi Dixit, lecturer (obstetrics and gynaecology), Dr Anagha Sahasrabuddhe, lecturer (physiology) and Sujo Jose, assistant medical superintendent, Lata Mangeshkar Hospital (LMH). The discussion was moderated by Dr Shubhada Gade, associate professor of physiology and head of UNESCO bioethics unit of NKPSIMS. The panellists said that doctors must follow ethics while circulating information about the patient on social media. Debating on the issue of roping in any mentally challenged person in a clinical trial if needed, they said that here the consent of the parents was a must. No persons from any vulnerable population like prisoners, especially abled persons like those suffering from cerebral palsy or mentally challenged, should be included in clinical trials. And if they are included, they or their relatives should be informed about it with all the consequences. Involving patients or general public in any research related to human genetics, genetic diseases, stem cell research and in-vitro-fertilization should also be done with informed consent by explaining details in common man’s language so that he/she is aware of the results. The panellists stressed that doctors should not even discuss among themselves about their patients at any public place. The panel suggested that documentation of consent could even be videographed. Earlier, Dr Sudhir Bhave, professor of psychiatry, gave a talk on bioethics. He stressed on human rights of every patient, his right to access to health, no discrimination on any grounds, accountability of every person involved in treatment, maintaining confidentiality and not disclosing any information to anyone else (even to police or court, if needed). In clinical trials, Dr Bhave said, every participant should be told about possible benefits and drawbacks with transparency. (Times of India 20/10/16)

NHRC full panel to study Kairana exodus report (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission has decided to place before the full commission the findings of the Uttar Pradesh government and police on the exodus of 250 Hindu families from Kairana for alleged “atrocities” and “deteriorating” law and order situation. Interacting with reporters on the Foundation Day of NHRC on Friday, its chairperson and former Chief Justice of India HL Dattu said, “The Commission received the reports this week.We have not gone through it. It will be examined by the full commission.” Last month, NHRC report on Kairana exodus had stated that many families had migrated from there out of fear after facing constant threats. It had stated that the families had indeed left the town following threats from the members of a particular community , who constitute the “majority in the area”.”At least 24 witnesses stated that the youths of the majority community (Muslims in this case) in Kairana town pass lewd taunting remarks against the females of the specific minority community in town. Due to this, females of the specific minority community (Hindus) in Kairana town avoid going outside frequently . However, they could not gather courage to report the matter to police for legal action,” NHRC had stated in its report. The report said resettlement of over 25,000 members of the minority community in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots had led to a major change in the demography of many towns in the region, including Kairana. NHRC’s findings were in line with allegations by BJP MP Hukum Singh earlier this year. The National Commission for Minorities had, however, slammed NHRC findings. A NCM team, led by member-in-charge for Uttar Pradesh Farida Abdullah Khan, had said that certain findings in the NHRC report “seemed baseless”. “We met some local families and spoke to the local administration.We found that there was no evidence to suggest there had been an exodus of any kind. ” she had said.HL Dattu said on Friday that the National Human Rights Commission investigation division had visited Kairana and conducted a detailed investigation and its report was accepted by the Commission. (Times of India 22/10/16)

CBI to submit Bansal report to NHRC soon (1)

New Delhi: The CBI will soon submit report of its internal inquiry, initiated to probe the allegations of harassment levelled by former DG corporate affairs B.K. Bansal against the agency officials, to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Bansal, who was facing graft charges, had ended his life on September 27, nearly two months after his wife and daughter had taken a similar tragic step. The CBI has also sought clarification from the Centre whether Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has authority to summon its official which the women panel did in the matter relating to suicide of wife and daughter of Bansal. The DCW had asked the assistant inspector general of the agency to present himself before it in connection with the suicide committed by wife and daughter of Bansal in July this year. Sources said while they had responded to the summons issued by the DCW, whether the panel can summon officials of a Central government investigation agency needs to be clarified. Sources said they are conducting an internal probe under a joint director who is not in a chain of command and its report will soon be submitted to the NHRC. The agency is ready to respond to questions raised by statutory bodies, but needs clarification on sending its officials on the summons issued by a body created by the state government. Bansal was arrested by the CBI on July 16 for allegedly accepting bribe from a prominent pharma company. Three days later, his wife and daughter committed suicide. Bansal allegedly hanged himself along with his son at their residence in East Delhi on September 27, with a purported suicide note claiming “harassment” by the CBI, barely two months after his wife and daughter ended their lives following his arrest in the alleged corruption case. (Asian Age 26/10/16)

Pakistan’s top court blocks execution of mentally-ill murder convict (1)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday blocked the execution of a paranoid schizophrenic murder convict pending a review of an earlier ruling that his condition was not a permanent mental disorder and therefore not legally relevant, his lawyers said. Rights groups have denounced the possible execution of Imdad Ali (50), who government doctors certified as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2012, following his conviction for the 2001 murder of a cleric. He was due to be executed on Wednesday, according to execution orders issued last week. But the Supreme Court agreed to review an October 21 ruling on Ali’s final appeal, when the court ruled that schizophrenia did not fall within Pakistan’s legal definition of mental disorders.“We welcome the decision … which will be integral in showing Pakistan’s commitment to its international human rights obligations,” said Zainab Malik, head of advocacy at Justice Project Pakistan, a legal aid group representing Ali. The court scheduled a hearing for the second week of November. Pakistan ended a virtual moratorium on capital punishment in 2014 after Pakistani Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at a school. Since then, 425 people have been hanged.Rights groups, lawyers and medical professionals condemned the October ruling clearing the way for Ali’s execution as running contrary to established medical knowledge and setting a dangerous precedent in cases involving the mentally ill. His lawyers and rights activists argue that he should not be executed as he is unable to understand his crime and punishment, and doing so would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory. Ali’s lawyers challenged the October 21 verdict on the grounds that it violates Pakistan’s international human rights obligations, runs counter to established medical jurisprudence and that it relied on an outdated Indian Supreme Court precedent that has since been overturned. (The Hindu 31/10/16)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Supreme Court raps Karnataka, directs release of 6,000 cusecs water to TN (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court pulled up the Karnataka government on Friday for its defiant stand on the Cauvery water sharing issue, directing it to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from October 1 to 6. “Karnataka shall not be bent upon to take an obstinate stand of defiance as one does not know when wrath of the law will fall upon them,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit said. “Karnataka is flouting order and creating situation in which majesty of law is dented,” the SC said, and directed the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB) by October 4. Senior officials in the water resources ministry said that they have already started the process to constitute the Board. “The process is on. Once the board is constituted, it will decide on the quantum of water to be released. The order of the board will be binding on the two states,” an official said. The court ordered all the stakeholders – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pudduchery – to name, by Saturday 4 pm, their representatives to the board which would be chaired by the Union Water Minister Uma Bharti. The bench reminded Karnataka that it is bound by Article 144 of the Constitution and “aid in compliance” of the order of the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court had asked Karnataka to release Cauvery water in the next three days despite the unanimous assembly resolution to use the water only for drinking. Karnataka decided on Wednesday to defer the release of 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu till Thursday. In its Tuesday order, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to constitute within four weeks the CWMB as directed by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).The court had earlier asked the Union water ministry to facilitate a meeting between representatives of the two states after Karnataka refused to release the water following the apex court’s direction. However, after chairing a three-hour meeting, water minister Uma Bharti said she was “disappointed” as a “solution outside court could not be achieved”. “Tamil Nadu did not agree to Karnataka’s proposal that a central team of experts visits the Cauvery river basin to assess ground realities, including the quantum of water stored in reservoirs, drinking water available and crop situation, before a decision is taken to release water,” Bharti had said. (Hindustan Times 1/10/16)

New prohibition Act to be challenged in court (19)

PATNA: Individuals and associations are set to to challenge even the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 in the Patna high court. The government on Sunday notified the amended Act though the Patna high court on Friday had declared the April 5 notification of a similar Act ultra vires. Ashish Giri, who, along with senior advocate YV Giri, had challenged the April 5 notification, said the petitioners in the previous case were preparing to challenge the new law in the court and approached him for that. “A multinational liquor manufacturing firm has approached me to challenge the newly enforced law, but talks are in early stages,” said Ashish who had represented seven petitioners before the court against the previous prohibition notification and punishments provided in Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016. Total 15 petitions had challenged the previous Act which was similar to the present one with provisions of more stringent punishments. Giri said the high court order was being studied by all the parties who had challenged the previous Act. They would soon decide about the new law enforced on Sunday. Another high court lawyer Harsh Singh, who represented three prominent bars of the city and an individual Dr Priyaranjan Kumar, said they were expecting the Bihar government to amend the penal sections of the laws. “When the high court declared the punishments under the earlier Act unconstitutional, how could the new prohibition law with more stringent punishments stand before the court,” asked Singh, adding that once appealed, the court, on the basis of its decision on September 30, is likely to declare even the new Act unconstitutional. He, however, said it would take some time to study the 142-page judgement and file fresh petitions because of the Durga Puja holidays in the high court from October 7 to 16. “We are studying the judgement minutely and our association would soon decide the next course of action. Most likely we would move the court again,” said a member of Hotel Restaurant Federation of India, who owned a bar in the city before prohibition. He said the high court has already pulled down the pillars on which the earlier prohibition law was formed, but the Nitish government is pushing hard to resurrect the same pillars by enforcing the new Act. “Nitish would continue to rake up prohibition issue till assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh as he has no other issue to drum up electoral support in the neighbouring state,” he added. (Times of India 3/10/16)

Supreme Court stays Patna high court order quashing liquor ban in Bihar (19)

NEW DELHI: In a relief for the Nitish government, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the Patna high court order quashing the notification+ banning consumption and sale of liquor in the state. “Ban on liquor and fundamental rights do not go together,” the SC bench said. The Bihar government had moved the SC on October 3 challenging the Patna high court order. The Patna high court had on September 30 quashed April 5 notification of the state government banning consumption and sale of alcohol in the state, saying it was ultra vires to the Constitution. However, two days after the high court quashed the order on prohibition, Bihar government on Gandhi Jayanti came out with a new law banning liquor with harsher provisions+ like arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of the contraband in their house. In its notification, the government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and domestic liquor, continued in the state. While assailing September 30 high court verdict, Bihar government urged the court to decide whether state can impose absolute prohibition+ on distribution and consumption of liquor and whether an individual can claim right to consume liquor as his or her fundamental right under the Constitution. It claimed that as a consequence of the high court order, the state government’s efforts to bring complete prohibition on liquor, in performance of its constitutional obligations, has been frustrated. The Grand Secular Alliance government had first banned manufacture, trade, sale and consumption of country-made liquor since April 1, but later imposed a blanket ban on all types of liquor, including foreign liquor, in the state. (Times of India 7/10/16)

Triple talaq not integral part of the religion: Centre in Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: triple talaq, triple talaq in india, SC triple talaq, Islam Triple talaq, islamic divorce, muslim divorce, what is triple talaq, invalid talaq, muslim women in india, divorce in islam, BJP, supreme court, Central government, SC, apex court, SC, Centre on triple talaq, India news, indian express news The Centre said these practices “cannot be regarded as essential or integral part of the religion”. Stating that absence of reforms in the community in the last 65 years have left Muslim women “extremely vulnerable, both socially as well as financially”, the Centre on Friday impressed upon the Supreme Court to do away with the practice of polygamy and triple talaq. The Centre also said these practices “cannot be regarded as essential or integral part of the religion”. The affidavit, submitted by the Union Law Ministry in response to a clutch of petitions challenging polygamy and triple talaq, said that the validity of these practices required a “reconsideration” by the top court “in light of the principle of gender justice and overriding principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality” as well as “evolution of women”. The government maintained that triple talaq and polygamy impacted a woman’s status and her right to live with confidence and dignity, and added that they were not protected under Article 25 of the Constitution, which guaranteed immunity to practices essential or integral to the religion. “Even theocratic states have undergone reform in this area of law and, therefore, in a secular republic like India, there is no reason to deny the rights available under the Constitution. The fact that Muslim countries where Islam is the State Religion have undergone extensive reforms goes to establish that the practices in question cannot be regarded as integral to practices of Islam,” it said. The affidavit gave a list of 10 countries with sizeable Muslim population to argue that laws on polygamy and divorce there had been codified and were regulated accordingly. Pointing out that personal laws were meant to preserve plurality and diversity, the ministry questioned whether preservation of diverse identities could be “a pretext for denying to women the status and gender equality”. … (Indian Express 8/10/16)

SC verdict on divorce: In India, tradition beats freedom to choose (19)

The judgment said that it is the pious duty of the son to take care of his parents and he can’t be expected to leave them. In India, tradition rules supreme. It doesn’t matter even if a tradition is draconian or violates an individual’s right to choose. Tradition is supposed to be the ‘right thing’, no questions asked. All those who raise a different opinion are branded immoral or ‘western’. Indian society is by and large driven by a supremacist thought that our culture is the best in the world. The Supreme Court recently ruled that if the wife of a Hindu man forces him to separate from his aged parents and live away so that his income is enjoyed entirely by her, then that is ground for him to divorce his wife. The judgment said it is the pious duty of the son to take care of his parents and he can’t be expected to leave them. While it is noble to take care of one’s parents, why does the same cultured society forget that the girl’s parents are also left behind at the time of the marriage. That is fair in the eyes of our society. While judiciary is not known to take decisions based on traditions and the apex court has taken commendable decisions on matters like live-in relationships and abortion rights, this incident is just another case of patriarchal culture given preference over individual liberty in a married relationship. While it is right to be proud of one’s culture and good traditions, it is the responsibility of every empowered individual to raise a question against traditions that we are forced to follow. In some place women are not allowed to enter temples. Disbalanced right of inheritance, mistreatment between kin with regard to gender, parents taking the decisions for their children even after they attain adulthood. Taking away the freedom to think, act and choose reduces the person’s existence to only following decisions someone else is taking for them. Our tradition brands a host of things, acts, professions, relations, hobbies etc as inappropriate because the ancestors were not that clear headed to let these things exist in society. Indeed, embracing one’s cultures protects the identity of a society. However, traditions also need to evolve with times. Instead of taking from other cultures, we should focus on rights being impinged by these traditions. If we just make sure that we don’t take away someone’s rights or don’t cause emotional anguish to anyone in the name of tradition, then the furtherance of traditions is more meaningful. (Indian Express 9/10/16)

Sex worker can’t cry rape if denied money: Supreme Court (19)

NEW DELHI: Acquitting three persons of rape charges, the Supreme Court has ruled that a sex worker cannot lodge a sexual assault complaint against her customers if they refuse to pay. A bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Amitava Roy said that though the evidence given by a woman alleging rape must get importance from the trial court, but it could not be taken as “gospel truth”.”The evidence of prosecutrix must be examined as that of an injured witness whose presence at the spot is probable but it can never be presumed that her statement should always, without exception, be taken as gospel truth,” the bench said. The ruling came in a 20-year-old case from Bengaluru. A woman, working as a maid, had alleged that three persons abducted her in an auto, took her to a garage and repeatedly raped her. The three accused had challenged a Karnataka high court order directing their prosecution. The SC bench examined the witness all over again and said, “Her conduct during the alleged ordeal is also unlike a victim of rape and betrays somewhat submissive and consensual disposition.” In her statement to the trial court, the woman had said that after the three accused dumped her, she went back to locate the garage where she was raped before lodging the complaint so as to enable her to give proper evidence about the crime. The woman’s roommate, however, spilled the beans while deposing as a witness. She said the woman used to take financial help from the accused persons and, after completing her household work, used to indulge in prostitution at night. The roommate further told the court that the woman had approached the accused persons for Rs 1,000 which they declined to give. When asked why she had lodged the complaint against the accused persons, the woman had said that it would have compelled them to pay the money she wanted.The bench said, “This witness’s version is plausible, and thus, fits in with the defence plea to demolish the prosecution case.” Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Roy said, “Her vengeful attitude in the facts and circumstances, as disclosed by her, if true, demonstrably evinces a conduct manifested by a feeling of frustration stoked by an intense feeling of deprivation of something expected, desired or promised.” Acquitting the three accused, Justices Ghose and Roy drew the conclusion, “We are of the unhesitant opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove the charge against the appellants to the hilt as obligated in law and thus, they are entitled to benefit of doubt.” (Times of India 12/10/16)

Consumer courts can try cases despite arbitration clause (19)

CHENNAI: Merely because there is an arbitration clause in the terms of agreement between a consumer and service provider, it does not prohibit a consumer forum from trying the case, said the district consumer forum, Chengalpet in Chennai, underling a legal precedent. It then fined a private Tamil TV channel provider of 15,000 for deficiency in services.According to M Shakkira Banu of Ayanavaram, she had subscribed the services of Sun Direct TV in May 2009 after paying 2,250, including installation charges and basic plan, for one year. From July 2010, she was not able to watch all the channels she had subscribed to, and her complaint was not rectified after she paid the monthly subscription charge. Shakkira issued a legal notice to the service provider in December 2010, which, also was not replied to. She then moved the district consumer disputes redressal forum claiming compensation for deficiency in services. In its counter, Sun Direct said according to the terms of the agreement, any dispute could be resolved only through arbitration. So it was beyond the ambit of the forum to try the case. The disruption in services was because of satellite failure-an unforeseen fault-which had disrupted connection of more than six million customers. The fault was attended to, but Shakkira was also not able to watch various channels as she did not renew the subscription, it said. A bench said according to the relevant section of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 1986, the provisions of the CPA, was to be “in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law…” According to the Supreme Court’s precedent, the case was well within the jurisdiction of the forum. Despite paying the subscription charges, the service to Shakkira was disconnected on the pretext that she had not paid the charges. The service provider had failed to “verify diligently and properly” the payment made. It then directed Sun TV Direct to refund the installation charges along with a compensation of 10,000 for causing mental agony and 5,000 as case costs. (Times of India 13/10/2016)

Judges cannot be blamed for pendency of cases, says CJI (19)

CHENNAI: Asserting that the increasing pendency was not because of the delay caused by judges in disposing of cases, Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said a single bench of the Supreme Court hears 89 cases per day, when the Supreme Court of the United States hears the same number of cases in a year. Referring to a 1997 report of the Law Commission which states that the overall judges strength in the country should be 40,000, the CJI said, “Even now the total judges’ strength in the country is just 18000.” Justice Thakur made the observations while delivering a special address in a Mediation Awareness Programme to Judicial Officers from Chennai, Kancheepuram, and Tiruvallur districts organised by the Tamil Nadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre (TNMCC), High Court of Madras in association with the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy (TNSJA). Stressing the need for frequent interactions between the judges of the lower judiciary and the judges of the high courts, the Chief Justice stated that the gap between the two levels must be reduced. He encouraged judicial officers present to refer litigations to mediation centres. Earlier, speaking at the 50th year celebration of the C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation here, Justice Thakur said there was an urgent need to address the problem of militancy in Kashmir, the Maoist insurgency in the central and eastern states and separatist groups operating in Northeast with the required political consensus in the larger interests of the country. “These threats in their diverse forms could, unless resolved, be antithetical to the progress India has made so far in the economic sphere,” he added. “The credit for my being here must entirely go to the distinguished lawyer Aryama Sundram (grandson of CPR). I have seen him persuade the judges in the court to think on the lines that he does. I was just wondering if the grandson was so persuasive and has touched so much eminent height in legal profession, how much more persuasive and how great C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar would have been.” In his presidential address, former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi recalled how C.P. Ramaswami had given up the honorific prefix ‘Sir’ in protest against the incarceration of Mahatma Gandhi. “But the title still stuck to him because of the affection and respect people had for him,” he said and added that C.P. Ramaswami served as an exemplary balance between the best of the Western systems of education, Governance, and the richness of Indian culture, knowledge and the Indian Renaissance. (The Hindu 16/10/16)

SC seven-judge bench to start hearing on Hindutva judgement (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is all set to revisit its two-decade-old Hindutva judgement for an authoritative pronouncement on electoral law categorising misuse of religion for electoral gains as “corrupt practice”. The seven-judge bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and justices M B Lokur, S A Bobde, A K Goel, U U Lalit, D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao is likely to begin on Tuesday its crucial hearing in the matter. The apex court in February 2014 had decided to refer the matter to a seven judges bench. The issue assumes importance as questions were raised on its 1995 verdict which held that vote in name of “Hindutva/ Hinduism” did not prejudicially affect any candidate and since then three election petitions are pending on the subject in the apex court. The apex court’s three-judge bench in 1995 had held that “Hindutva/Hinduism is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind”.The judgement was delivered in the case of Manohar Joshi versus N B Patil which was authored by Justice J S Verma who found that statement by Joshi that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra did not amount to appeal on ground of religion”.The observation was made while dealing with the question regarding the scope of corrupt practices mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Representation of People Act. The issue for interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act once again had come on January 30, 2014 (Friday) before a five-judge which referred it for examination before a larger bench of seven judges. The seven judges would be dealing with the appeal filed in 1992 by BJP leader Abhiram Singh, whose election to 1990 Maharashtra Assembly was set aside in 1991 by the Bombay high court. A three-judge bench on April 16, 1992 had referred Singh’s appeal in which the same question and interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the Act was raised to a five-judge Constitution Bench. While the five-judge bench was hearing this matter on January 30, 2014 it was informed that an identical issue was raised in the election petition filed by one Narayan Singh against BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa and the apex court’s another Constitution Bench of five Judges has referred it to a larger bench of seven Judges. Thereafter, the five-judge bench had referred Singh’s matter also to the Chief Justice for placing it before a seven-judge bench. The January 30, 2014, order said, “Be that as it may, since one of the questions involved in the present appeal is already referred to a larger bench of seven judges, we think it appropriate to refer this appeal to a limited extent regarding interpretation of sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger bench of seven judges. “The Registry will place the matter before the Chief Justice for constitution of a bench of seven judges. The matter may be listed subject to the order of the Chief Justice.”The apex court had also noted, “In the course of arguments, our attention has been invited to the order of this court dated August 20, 2002 in Narayan Singh vs Sunderlal Patwa. By this order, a Constitution Bench of five judges has referred the question regarding the scope of corrupt practice mentioned in sub-section (3) of Section 123 of the 1951 Act to a larger bench of seven judges. (Times of India 16/10/16)

HC dismisses PIL seeking release of sick prisoners (19)

Allahabad: The Allahabad high court on Monday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking release of prisoners undergoing life term and are seriously ill. Dismissing the PIL, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma said that if any prisoner is ill, he can make a claim for his treatment on government expenses. The release of a prisoner cannot be in public interest, the court added. The court further said that if a person has committed murder, then he has to remain behind bars for the period of the sentence awarded by the court concerned.  (Times of India 18/10/16)

Dad who pays maintenance entitled to meet child: HC (19)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted permission to a petitioner to visit his 12-year-old daughter at her school, responding to his objection that he had not been allowed to see her for the last three years. The petitioner, a resident of Delhi, challenged an order directing him to pay a monthly alimony of Rs 25,000 to his estranged wife and another monthly Rs 25,000 for the education and maintenance of his daughter. While not objecting to paying the expenses towards his daughter, the petitioner also told the court that he should be allowed to meet her. Further, he claimed that his wife belongs to a wealthy family which owns properties in Mumbai, including a flat in Bandra and a bungalow in Lokhandwala. On her part, the woman had claimed she has no share in the flat in Bandra, as it is registered in the name of her mother, and that she owns no other property in her name. Responding on the matter of finances, a bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani said in their verdict that, considering the luxurious lifestyle of the petitioner, evidenced by his family’s four luxury cars, the order directing him to pay monthly payment to his wife needed “no interference”. The bench stated that a spouse unable to support oneself is entitled to receive maintenance funds from their spouse in order to maintain the respect and status they would have enjoyed if they had lived together. The bench stated that although the petition did not pertain to visitation rights of the parties, a father ready and willing to pay the maintenance for his daughter is also entitled to see his daughter at least at regular intervals. On this basis, the court declared that the petitioner should be allowed to visit his daughter at her school in Lonavala on her birthday, on festivals, or once in three months. “We, therefore, permit the appellant (man) to visit his daughter at Lonavala and meet her in her school. Necessary instructions in this regard shall be given by the respondent (wife) to the principal of the school to enable the appellant to meet his daughter on her birthday, festivals or once in three months,” the court said in its order. — PTI (The Hindu 21/10/16)

Judiciary only hope for transgenders: Activist (19)

KOLHAPUR: Politicians have failed in their duty to protect the interests of transgenders, and judiciary is the only hope for the community, an activist said here on Sunday. “Democracy is alive at judiciary only. It is judiciary which has passed orders for the betterment of our community. We are following up on that with the government but politicians have not taken our issue seriously by passing laws in our favour,” said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi. She was addressing a congregation of transgender community and sex workers at a seminar organised by the Kolhapur District Legal Service Authority and the Faith Foundation NGO. Narrating her past struggle, Laxmi said, “The day I learnt to say ‘No’, it was the turning point of my life. I have experienced sexual assault in childhood and my attitude towards society changed.” The activist said that she has toured a number of countries and represented the community. “Everywhere, I was asked one common question: When did you come to know you are different? My answer was: I am not different; it is society that told me that I am different. I am naturally what I am but the attitude of society is unnatural and there is need to change this attitude.” Laxmi said it is not her responsibility alone to fight for the rights of the transgender community but the onus is on the whole society. However, society does not take this issue seriously as for them “we are born to some others and not to them”, she said. About the attitude of the government toward the issue, Laxmi said everyone says Achche din aa gaye. “However, our plight is the same. We hope the government takes steps for the betterment of our life.” The activist said the earlier state government led by Prithviraj Chavan had allotted a fund of Rs 5.50 crore for the community. Two years have passed and the fund is pending with the Women and Child Welfare Ministry. Every year, it is sanctioned and the money is returned without use, she said. “I attended more than 50 meetings with minister Pankaja Munde, but she did not take a single step to form a committee to look into our issues, nor has she spent a single rupee from the fund allocated for us. This is the government’s attitude towards us,” said Laxmi. U V More, secretary of the Kolhapur District Legal Services Authority, said the Supreme Court on April 15, 2014 passed a judgment to consider transgender as third gender. “We are educating the community about the facilities and schemes available for them. We are also including their names in the voter lists and providing them with Aadhar and ration cards,” added More. (Times of India 24/10/16)

Supreme Court refuses to redefine ‘Hindutva’, sticks to its 1995 judgement (19)

New Delhi: In a significant development, the seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to re-examine its 1995 verdict on ‘Hindutva’, saying it’s not in the reference for hearing issues related to electoral malpractices. While setting aside a number of pleas in this regard, the apex court bench stated that there is no mention of word ‘Hindutva’ in the reference for which the 7-member bench has been set up. We will not go into larger debate at this stage on what ‘Hindutva’ means, the bench said. ”If anybody will show that there is a reference to the word ‘Hindutva’, we will hear him. We will not go into ‘Hindutva’ at this stage, it clarified. The apex court bench made these observations while hearing pleas urging it to clear  whether seeking votes in the name of religion will amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People`s Act warranting disqualification or not. Last week, the court raised a range of queries on before interpreting the provision (Section 123) of the Representation of People Act (RPA) pertaining to “corrupt practice.” Referring to the terms “national symbols” and “national emblem” in Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, the apex court had said that nobody can be allowed to use them to get votes in the elections. The seven-judge bench included Justices Madan B Lokur, SA Bobde, Adarsh Kumar Goel, UU Lalit, DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao. “Can a person belonging to one community seek votes from members of his community for a candidate belonging to another community? Like a Hindu candidate may use a Muslim religious leader to solicit votes of his community for Hindu candidates by hinting that they would invite `divine displeasure` if they do not vote for a particular candidate,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said. The seven-judge bench was hearing three cases which question the current practice of seeking votes in the name of religion is not a corrupt practice and ask whether candidates who win this way should not be disqualified. (Zee News 25/10/16)

High Court quashes Act prohibiting private law colleges (19)

CHENNAI : The Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the Tamil Nadu Establishment of Private Law Colleges (Prohibition) Act, 2014, which imposed a blanket ban against the establishment of new private law colleges in the State declaring it as ultra vires the Constitution. Justifying the judicial intervention, the First bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice R. Mahadevan said, “The nature and application of the ban sought to be imposed by the legislation seemingly storms the boundaries of reasonable restrictions; we are of the considered view that this legislation deserves judicial scrutiny.”Referring to various Supreme Court judgments, the Bench made it clear that it is beyond any cavil that the right to impart education (including legal education) is a fundamental right protected under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution. Passing the landmark judgement, the Bench noted that in a modern democracy like India, both the State and the private stakeholders play a big role in the field of education. “The problems are myriad. The educational institutions run by the government often face a challenge of quality education, while private educational institutions, run on a commercial basis, seek to create financial burden on those desirous of education. Thus, a balance has to be maintained between providing quality education at affordable cost,” the Bench said.Refusing to accept the justification of the State government that the ban was imposed in view of past experience that private persons were not able to provide legal education at affordable cost to the economically and socially weaker sections, the Madras High Court has made it clear that the restriction is against the fundamental right to impart education provided by the Constitution. “This is not a case where the majoritarian concept of “will of the people” would apply, as it infringes the valuable rights conferred under Part III (fundamental rights) the Constitution.” The issue pertains to the enactment of the Tamil Nadu Establishment of Private Law Colleges (Prohibition) Act, 2014 prohibiting establishment of private law colleges in the State perpetually. Assailing the validity of the Act, the Advocates Forum for Social Justice, S.M.M. Educational Foundation and Vanniar Educational Trust approached the high court seeking to declare the statute as illegal and unconstitutional. During the arguments, the government justified the ban relying on a circular issued by the Bar Council of India (BCI) dated September 3, 2015, to all the State governments asking them to restrict the number of ‘no-objection certificates’ granted for a period of three years to check the mushrooming of law colleges in the country. But refusing to concur with the contentions, the Bench said, “The circular issued by the BCI has nothing to do with this legislation, which is a subsequent development, and it is only a ‘request’ to all State governments – the objective being to have some kind of a study for the requirement of law colleges for each State.” Pointing to the information provided by the BCI, the judges said that there was a great imbalance in the availability of colleges across the country. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

Jharkhand government forms panel to probe Hazaribagh police firing deaths (1)

RANCHI/HAZARIBAGH: The Jharkhand government rushed top administrators to Hazaribagh on Sunday to contain the damage following Saturday’s police firing on land agitators in Barkagaon block that killed four people and injured more than a dozen. Chief secretary Rajbala Verma, additional chief secretary (home) NN Pandey and DGP DK Pandey flew to Hazaribag in the morning in a bid to prevent major backlash from the opposition and local residents even as ruling party members were conspicuous by their absence. Among the dead were three minors while a number of women were injured. They were protesting against land acquisition and low compensation by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). It has prompted the Raghubar Das government to immediately constitute a highlevel committee under additional chief secretary (home) to probe the matter. In the aftermath of the firing, the surrounding areas of Barkagaon block have turned into a fortress. More than two companies of armed police have been deployed in Tilaitanr — the site of firing — and Dari villages, which witnessed protests and clashes with the police when they had come to take away Congress MLA Nirmala Devi, who was leading the agitation. (Times of India 3/10/16)

SC ‘distressed’ on inhuman conditions in jails (1)

New Delhi, Oct 3 () The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to ensure compliance of its order regarding reducing the prison population and improving the living conditions of prisoners saying it is “distressed” to note that no attention is being paid to fundamental and human rights of undertrial and convicted prisoners. “We are a little distressed to note that even though this court has held on several occasions that prisoners both under trials and convicts have certain fundamental rights and human rights, little or no attention is being paid in this regard by the states and some Union territories including the National Capital Territory of Delhi. “Certainly fundamental rights and human rights of people, however they may be placed, cannot be ignored only because of their adverse circumstances,” a bench of justices M B Lokur and R K Agarwal said. It asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to obtain the status report from the states regarding compliance of apex court orders of February 5, May 6 and September 30. “The information should be collated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and shared with the Additional Solicitor General and the Amicus so that even the rights of prisoners, whether convicts or undertrials are given due importance. The needful be done before the next hearing, that is October 18, 2016,” the bench said. Referring to various verdicts passed by apex court including Charles Sobraj case on fundamental rights and human rights of convicts and undertrial prisoners, the bench said, “Unfortunately, it seems that the views of this court over the 50 years (since Prabhakar Pandurang Sangzgiri in 1966) have continuously fallen on deaf ears and the situation does not seem to be changing even now.” “Unless due importance is given to the fundamental rights and human rights of the people, the right to life and the right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution will have no meaning,” the court said. It also directed Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to expedite preparation of manual for juveniles in custody and is ready on or before November 30. (Times of India 3/10/16)

Convict moves top brass over rights violation (1)

BILASPUR: A convict serving life sentence after being found guilty of as many as 40 bank robberies, murder and a jail break, is giving jitters to jail management by shooting off letters to important people alleging violation of human rights of the inmates. Well versed in Hindi and English Pushpendra Chauhan (35), the convict, is a resident of Dabra in Raigarh district and is housed in Central jail here for the last five years. He raised the issue of physical, mental and economic exploitation of jail inmates by citing various provisions of the constitution. He has written letters to the President, CJI, other important people and the UNO including Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh high court, UN Human Rights Commission, district judge Bilaspur, special judge Pragya Pachauri, chief secretary, principal secretary and DGP.He also appealed a PIL should be filed before a court in this connection on the basis of letters written by him.According to jail superintendent SS Tigga, Chauhan is a big conman. Jail records suggest he is only 10th standard pass. However, his drafting awes even highly educated people, including lawyers.Apart from citing human right violations of jail inmates, Chuahan has also written about human rights violations of police personnel. He has appealed that a PIL should be filed on the basis of his letters. Tigga denies Chauhan has written the letters while being in jail premises. He said he is taken to court for hearing for various cases pending against him and might have written the letter while being out from jail for hearing. (Times of India 9/10/16)

‘Custodial death’ of TN man in Kerala sparks protests (1)

KANNUR: A 45-year-old man hailing from Tamil Nadu, who was in police custody, was brought dead to a hospital in Thalassery on Sunday. The custodial death in Thalassery police station caused commotion, with BJP and Congress workers staging a protest against police brutality and demanding a probe. According to the police, the deceased was identified as Kalimuthu of Salem in Tamil Nadu. He, along with one Raju, 42, was handed over to the police by the people. The police claimed that people had earlier manhandled and beaten them up for suspected robbery. However, the police, who, without producing them before the court and kept them in custody, found Kalimuthu unconscious inside the jail cell. Even though he was rushed to Thalassery Government Hospital, the doctor declared him brought dead. The body was later shifted to Kozhikode Medical College Hospital and the post-mortem would be conducted later. Meanwhile, the other accused Raju was admitted to Thalassery General Hospital. The custodial death created huge uproar, with political parties demanding an inquiry against the police. However, the police claimed innocence and said that they had taken the deceased into custody only on Saturday. But there reports that he was taken into custody on Friday and was kept under illegal custody. Thalassery MLA A N Shamseer also demanded that an investigation should be conducted case and if any malpractice was found, action should be taken against the police personnel involved. (New Indian Express 10/10/16)

Held for WhatsApp message on beef, youth dies in custody (1)

Ranchi: Less than a week after he was arrested for allegedly sharing an objectionable comment about beef on WhatsApp, Minhaj Ansari, a 22-year-old from Jamtara district in Jharkhand, died at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) here on Sunday. While his family claimed that Ansari was beaten up and tortured in police custody, police officers cited medical records that showed Ansari was suffering from encephalitis.Police officers, however, admitted that there were prima facie lapses on the part of the officer-in-charge of Narayanpura police station, Sub-Inspector Harish Pathak. He has been suspended and an FIR of murder has been registered against him. According to police, a WhatsApp message that purportedly made an objectionable comment about beef started doing the rounds in Dighari village of Narayanpura, in Jamtara district, on October 2. A few people were detained as suspects. While the others were later released, Ansari was placed under arrest on October 3. Two days later, Ansari’s father, Umar Sheikh, and the rest of his family came to know that Ansari had been shifted to Dhanbad for treatment after he reportedly sustained injuries in police custody. “They went to the police station along with other villagers. There was a scuffle at the police station between Ansari’s parents and the officer-in-charge, Harish Pathak. Ansari’s family filed a written complaint against Pathak, following which an FIR of attempt to murder and outraging the modesty of a woman was registered against him. The officer was suspended immediately. After Ansari’s death, the attempt to murder charge has been changed to a murder charge,” said Jamtara Deputy Commissioner Ramesh Kumar Dubey. … (Indian Express 12/10/16)

Family to claim damages from police (1)

KOCHI: There are many cases in which the police intervene at the last minute to stop child marriages or end dowry disputes. But what about a normal marriage? Recently in Kannur, a groom’s family backed off from a marriage proposal after witnessing a police search at the bride’s house. The State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA), in a recent order, allowed the bride’s family to claim damages from the police department and the State for the incident. The order, based on a petition filed by a person called Kabeer, pertains to a search operation conducted by the Koothuparamba police on August 5 this year. Kabeer is currently serving a jail term at the Central Prison in Kannur for theft. As per the petition, the police conducted a surprise check at his wife’s house when the family members were busy finalising a marriage alliance for his sister-in-law. Frightened by the police action, the groom’s party backed off from the proposal. SPCA Chairman K. Narayana Kurup conducted a hearing on the case and sought a report from the Superintendent of Police in Kannur. Pronouncing its verdict, the authority decided to dispose of the petition in the absence of evidence including details of the officers who participated in the search. It, however, strongly criticised the officers for their ‘despicable role’ in the incident and said the police should have refrained from cordoning off the house as the petitioner had been undergoing a jail term. (The Hindu 13/10/16)

Alleged custodial torture: HC orders autopsy of paan masala vendor (1)

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Dean of the Royapettah Government Hospital to constitute a team of two doctors to conduct an autopsy on the body of a paan masala vendor, who allegedly suffered custodial harassment at the hands of Manali police. Vacation Judge Justice B. Rajendran passed the direction on a plea moved by Tamil Nadu Pan Beeda and Zarda Traders Association, seeking a Magistrate enquiry on the alleged custodial harassment meted out to Srikanth alias Balaji. The judge also directed the RGH to submit the post-mortem examination report to the court on October 18. According to the petitioner, paan beeda shop owners were being brutally attacked by the police who were conducting searches in connection with the sale of paan masala and zarda. (The Hindu 16/10/16)

Children in custody allege torture by cops (1)

RANCHI: Taking suo moto cognizance, members of Jharkhand State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (JSCPCR) on Tuesday visited the boys’ observation home in Dumardagga to record statements of juveniles, who were accused of mobile theft, allegedly kept in police custody in Khunti for over 48 hours. In their statement, the children alleged not only were they kept in police custody but were also denied food and brutally thrashed by the policemen. Member of commission Manoj Kumar said, “The children said they were made to lie down on their stomach and while one policeman placed his foot on the hand of one of the boys, another policeman held their legs and beat them up using fibre sticks.” Kumar further said while the children only stole 25 phones, which they even returned later, police has accused them of stealing 70 phones. The robbery occurred in June this year and the children were only taken into custody on Saturday. They were kept in custody till Monday and were presented at CJM court, following which they were sent to an observation home in Dumardagga. Kumar said the commission has written a letter to Khunti SP, demanding an explanation on the matter. “We wrote the letter on Tuesday, asking the SP to submit an enquiry report to the commission within three days, following which commission will take further action,” he said. Meanwhile, parents of the accused visited child welfare committee on Tuesday, requesting release of their children.Manoj Kumar Rai, CWC Khunti chairman, said, “They gave a written request to get the children out on bail. I have forwarded the letter to Juvenile Justice Board for rehabilitation and betterment of the children.” “The report will hopefully be submitted on Wednesday,” Khunti SP Anish Gupta said. (Times of India 19/10/16)

2 Dalit youths allege custodial torture (1)

KOLLAM: Two Dalit youths on Saturday alleged that they were subjected to third-degree methods at the Anchalumoodu police station for four days after being taken into custody. The youths, identified as Shibu and Rajeev, have been admitted to the district hospital here. They were taken into custody in connection with a series of robberies in areas under the jurisdiction of the police station. The youths were released on Saturday. Their relatives claimed that the youths were in poor health. Tension gripped the Anchalumoodu town after the youths were hospitalised. DCC president Kodikunnil Suresh, MP, demanded firm action against the policemen responsible for the incident. Mr. Suresh held a dharna for sometime outside the police station demanding action against the policemen. The police, when contacted, said the youths were allegedly involved in many theft cases. The police failed to give a clear answer as to when the two were taken into custody. (The Hindu 23/10/16)

Hindu activists begin signature campaign against police (1)

NAGERCOIL: Members of various Hindu outfits began a signature campaign against the district police on Sunday. They were protesting against the alleged collection of fees for bandobust duty during ‘Ayudha puja’ festival across the district. Hindu outfits, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, alleged that the district police prevented many Hindus from celebrating traditional Hindu festivals, thus denying them their rights. The outfits were demanding the immediate transfer of the Superintendent of Police. Rajan, BJP town president, presided over the signature campaign that began in front of Nagaraja Temple in Nagercoil. BJP State vice- president M.R. Gandhi inaugurated the signature campaigning. Raja, secretary of Hindu Temple Federation, Nagercoil Municipal Chairperson M. Meena Dev and other leaders were present. Misa Soman, district president of the Hindu Munnani, presided and inaugurated the movement at Eraniel. The protesters claimed that they had obtained over one lakh signatures across the district on Sunday. Earlier on Saturday, the BJP executive committee meeting held in Kanniyakumari also condemned the “anti-Hindu attitude of the district police”. (The Hindu 24/10/16)

Custodial torture: Protesters demand action against cops (1)

KARWAR: Various organizations took out a huge rally from Mitra Samaj Ground to the deputy commissioner’s office in Karwar on Wednesday to protest the alleged custodial torture of four youths by police on the night of October 17. It is alleged that sub-inspector Kusumadhar tortured four youths who had were at the beach. Police claim that the youths were taken into custody as they had assaulted the cops. However, the youths – Sandesh, Santosh, Balakrishna and Manjunath – allege that police mistook them for tourists and demanded Rs 5,000 citing rash driving as the reason. When they refused to pay the amount, police tried to snatch the purse of one of them and when he resisted, Kusumadhar and his staff members beat them up. Nagaraj Joshi, Rajesh Nayak, Deepak Wainganakar, Nagaraj Nayak, Madhav Nayak and others, who addressed the gathering, said that torturing any person in police custody is violation of human rights. One of the victims suffered multiple fractures in the leg. All of them are still unable to come out of the trauma, they said. The protesters submitted a memorandum to deputy commissioner S S Nakul. The deputy commissioner said that he was not in town for the past few days and asked the protesters to provide newspaper reports on the issue. The DC objected to the behaviour of the protest organizers, who had used the public address system without permission. A verbal duel ensued between the organizers and police officials who tried to seize the autorickshaw which was used to carry the public address system. The organizers argued that they had submitted the application with the prescribed fee. Police neither granted, nor denied permission to trap us, claimed the organizers. They alleged that the autorickshaw was taken to the police station after the protest and its driver was beaten up by the circle inspector. However, police denied it. The protesters warned that they would intensify their protest in the coming days. (Times of India 27/10/16)

Stop cross-border firings, work towards peace: Human rights group to India, Pak (1)

Mumbai: A human rights group has urged India and Pakistan to stop cross-border firing along the LoC and open communication channels. South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) on Monday condemned using ‘any country’s territory for terrorist activity’. The group reached out to the Directors-General of Military Operations of both armies to respect ceasefire and the two governments to work towards peace in the region. It expressed ‘great concern’ at the alarming deterioration of relations between India and Pakistan. SAHR said cross-border firing has now become routine activity with soldiers and civilians of both sides getting killed. “Unfortunately, even if the villagers want to escape this volatile atmosphere they are unable to do so as the paddy harvesting season is nearing. The only source of livelihood for majority of the people here is growing basmati rice,” said SAHR’s Chairperson Hina Jilani (Pakistan) and Co-Chairperson Nimalka Fernando (Sri Lanka). In SAHR’s perspective, “the situation has degenerated so much that common people in the two countries are turning against each other when they see deaths of soldiers and villagers in the bordering villages,” said its India spokesperson Jatin Desai. In such a scenario, Desai said it is the need of the hour for the civil societies of both India and Pakistan to jointly intervene for maintaining peace and harmony among communities. SAHR appealed to the two governments “to respect the sanctity of LoC and IB, and immediately implement the Ceasefire Agreement of 2003, in letter and spirit”. (Hindustan Times 31/10/16)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Media access to court: Contempt action sought against ex-MP for questioning ‘ban’ (1)

KOCHI: A petition for initiating contempt of court proceedings has been filed against former Parliament member and advocate Sebastian Paul for his newspaper article that said a court where media does not have entry cannot be termed transparent. The petition was filed by a high court lawyer seeking sanction from the advocate general for filing a contempt of court petition against Sebastian Paul for the article titled ‘Kodathiyilekku Pokanam’ (Media Must Go to The Court) that appeared in opinion page of Mathrubhumi daily on September 19th. The article was written in the backdrop of denial of media’s access to courts in Kerala by lawyers since July 19th. It was stated in the article that a court where the media doesn’t have an entry cannot be said to be transparent and that in the absence of transparency, truthfulness will be suspected. Such a situation would increase the possibility of settlements that are against public interest to take place. A court that functions in such shadow of doubt cannot be termed as a court that functions within a democracy, the article had stated. Further, Sebastian Paul had urged the media to come forward to resume reporting and had stated in the article that the chief justice of the high court should intervene and lead the talks to ensure media presence in courts. Merely granting access to the media to attend court proceedings is not enough and they should be allowed to access judgments, orders, and case files so as to report news with accuracy, Sebastian Paul had demanded in the newspaper article. If news is to appear without any distortion, all bans and restrictions in place at present need to be removed, the article had said. In the application seeking sanction for filing contempt of court petition against Sebastian Paul, the lawyer has claimed that the article was intended to lower the dignity of the court. (Times of India 2/10/16)

Media can’t be obstructed from covering court proceedings: CM (1)

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 4 () The Kerala government today said any “hindrance” to free and fearless media activities will not be allowed, days after media personnel were prevented by a section of lawyers from covering the High Court proceedings. Taking a tough stand on the continued action by a section of lawyers preventing legal reporters from covering courts, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “Media personnel have the freedom to go to courts for covering legal proceedings and this cannot be obstructed. It will not be accepted.” “Any action that creates obstruction for free and fearless media activities cannot be allowed,” he said in a statement after a meeting with editors of various media organisations here. The meeting was called against the background of a section of lawyers preventing media persons from covering the High Court in Kochi recently. The lawyers should understand that their behaviour was “inappropriate” and they should stop indulging in such actions, Vijayan said. The continuing media-lawyers standoff was affecting the state’s reputation and will catch the attention of the national and international communities, he said. “It will not be good for the state to be known as a place where there is no freedom of expression,” he said. Representatives of media organisations led by Mathrubhumi Managing Editor P V Chandran, Malayala Manorama Editorial Director Thomas Jacob and Asianet News channel chief editor M G Radhakrishnan were among those who met the Chief Minister. Since July, media personnel are not being allowed to cover courts in the state after they were attacked by advocates outside the High Court complex and threatened.

Governor P Sathasivam, former Chief Justice of India, had also appealed to the two fraternities to settle their differences amicably through dialogue. (Times of India 4/10/16)

Intolerance is sanctioned and sanctified here, says Karat (1)

KOCHI: At a seminar organized by Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) here on Wednesday, former general secretary of CPM, Prakash Karat said intolerance is getting sanctioned and sanctified by the Union government. He was talking on the role of media in fighting intolerance. “When the media comments on the intolerance in the country, they are ridiculed and addressed as `presstitutes’.This stems from the aim to impose a sectarian ideology and set cultural ideological barriers,” Karat said. Karat also noted that the ongoing intolerance leads to religion-based ideological propagation in the country.”Media plays both negative and positive roles in such instances. In a state like Kerala, the issue of communalism is brought out with the positive intention of enlightening people, which is not the case in many other parts of the coun try,” Karat remarked. Those who criticized the killings of the scholar M M Kalburgi and social activist Govind Pansare and violence unleashed by anti-cow slaughter activists were branded as anti-nationals, Karat noted. “The effort to impose majoritarian communal values on an entire nation, with the state itself being an abettor, is seen as fascist propaganda by some and authoritarianism by some others. However, some claims it to be genuine nationalism,” he said. Karat exhorted the media to take up the battle against intolerance. “Not just against the intolerance perpetuated by fundamental elements, but also against forces that attempt to impede freedom of speech and expression,” Karat said. (Times of India 6/10/16)

IPI urges Chief Justice to ensure media freedom (1)

KOCHI: The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of publishers, editors, and leading journalists for media freedom, has expressed its disappointment that journalists in Kerala are still being denied their right to cover court proceedings.In a letter to High Court Chief Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of the IPI, said that the Chief Justice had taken an important and welcome step of convening two meetings of media managers, journalists, and representatives of attorneys in order to discuss this urgent issue. However, since these meetings, “the situation for journalists in Kerala with respect to courts has not improved. Reports indicate that journalists who attempted to cover the court on September 30 were forced out by attorneys and that police action was necessary to protect the journalists’ safety.” The letter urged the Chief Justice to make sure that journalists could get back to doing their jobs as soon as possible. (The Hindu 7/10/16)

Kashmir: Editors Guild of India urges Mehbooba Mufti to reconsider ban on Kashmir Reader

Srinagar: The Editors Guild of India has urged J-K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to “reconsider the order to ban the publication” of Kashmir Reader, a Srinagar-based English daily. The J-K government banned the publication of the newspaper on October 2, accusing it of publishing “content that incites violence”.“The Editors Guild of India has always championed the cause of the freedom of the press and believes that any move to obstruct, infringe or impose a ban on the press is an assault on democracy itself,” a statement issued by the President of Guild Raj Chengappa said. “The Editors Guild of India requests the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to go into the complaint that the ban was ‘arbitrary’ and that ‘no notice was served to him before publication”. While asking Chief Minister Mufti to reconsider the “order to ban the publication”, the Guild has also put the onus on editors to uphold the best journalistic standards of fairness and balance while publishing news. On October 2, the J-K government ordered ban on the publication of Kashmir Reader. The ban order issued by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Lone read that the newspaper contains “material and content which tends to incite acts of violence and disturb public peace and tranquility”. “It has been observed that the contents published in the above newspaper is of such nature that can easily cause incitement of acts of violence and disturbance of public tranquility in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Srinagar district in particular,” the order reads. “It has become expedient in the interest of prevention of this anticipated breach of public tranquility to forthwith take necessary precautionary measures”. Valley journalists and editors have been protesting against the ban on the publication of the newspaper terming it “arbitrary” and as “against the spirit of democracy and freedom of press”. In fact, the Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) had sought the intervention of the Press Council of India and warned of “direct action” if the government failed to revoke the ban immediately. “The ban, without any prior notice to the printer, publisher and owner of Kashmir Reader is against the basic spirit of democracy as well as the freedom of press,” the Kashmir Editors Guild said. “The government order, banning the newspaper, is vague and unclear about the charges for which such a harsh step has been taken”. (Indian Express 11/10/16)

US expresses concern over journalist situation in Pakistan (1)

Washington: The US has expressed concern over the difficulties and dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan but refrained from commenting on the travel restrictions imposed on a Pakistani scribe for reporting a rift between the civilian and military leaderships. “I’m aware of the reports of restrictions on Mr. (Cyril) Almeida’s travel. I would refer you to the government of Pakistan for information on that,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday. “On press freedom, it’s obviously an issue that we continue to raise regularly with the government of Pakistan, including our concerns about the difficulties and the dangers that journalists face there,” he said. “We are concerned about any efforts to limit press freedom or the ability of journalists to conduct their very, very important work,” Kirby said. Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged Pakistan to “immediately lift the travel ban” on Almeida. “Pakistan can be a dangerous place for journalists, but the nation has a proud tradition of a fiercely independent press,” said CPJ Asia Programme Coordinator Steven Butler. “Unhappiness with a press report should never be used as an excuse to restrict the freedom of a journalist,” he added. Under Secretary, State for Political Affairs, Tom Shannon held a working lunch with the Pakistan Ambassador to the US, Jalil Abbas Jilani. There was no readout of the meeting. Almeida, a prominent Pakistani journalist, has been barred from leaving the country after he reported a rift between the civilian and military leaderships over the powerful ISI shielding terror groups like the Haqqani network and LeT that led to Pakistan’s international isolation. (Asian Age 12/10/2016)

Preventing media covering court proceedings not acceptable: Kerala CM Vijayan (1)

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said there is no bar on journalists to report court proceedings and called the action of a section of lawyers obstructing reporting unacceptable. Inaugurating the state meeting of Kerala Union of Working Journalist in Kochi, Vijayan said government would take action against those violating law in this regard. “There was no bar for journalists to report court proceedings and action of some lawyers putting obstruction in reporting cannot be accepted,” Vijayan said. His statement comes a day after some lawyers dragged out media persons who went at the Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram to cover the hearing of a petition against former Industries Minister E P Jayarajan on an appointment row. “Advocates have no right to decide who should enter courts and who should not. The court complex belongs to the country. It is part of judiciary and advocates have no right over it”, he said. “It is also a misunderstanding that advocates have a small power that of judge”, he said. Preventing journalists amounted to causing hindrance to freedom of the press, he said, adding, the advocates should understand that it was violation of law. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to take steps to protect law of the land, he added. Vijayan also explained the initiatives taken by him in ending the standoff between media and a section of lawyers by holding discussion with High Court Chief Justice recently. A group of lawyers, angered over a media report about a government pleader allegedly misbehaving with a woman, had chased some media persons away and media have not been able to go to the High Court to report its proceedings since July 19. ‘A media delegation of Editors from Kerala had recently met President Pranab Mukherjee and brought to his notice the issues faced by journalists with regard to court reporting. The delegation had informed the President about the closure of media room inside the High Court in Kochi and at other courts in the state and the efforts by the Chief Justice to find an amicable solution to the problem. He said after the discussion he had with the Chief Justice, the High Court Registrar General had informed that there was no bar for media to cover court proceedings. Despite the assurance, the attack on journalist at the Vigilance Court on Friday is not acceptable, he said. Vijayan said that efforts should be made to isolate those trying to create problems. Meanwhile, police have registered a case in connection with Friday’s attack on journalists at the Vigilance Court. (Indian Express 16/10/16)

Defamation, sedition laws under panel’s scrutiny (1)

NEW DELHI: If ending anomalies in civil law has prompted the Law Commission of India (LCI) to look at uniform civil code, reform in criminal justice system has led it to zero in on sedition and defamation laws. In the backdrop of the “intolerance” debate, the LCI has begun examining all laws affecting freedom of speech and expression. These include laws relating to sedition, defamation and absence of safeguards in the realm of online trolling, right to privacy etc. For the first time, LCI has decided to organise a conference on this topic where it hopes to gather leading jurists, sitting Supreme Court and high court judges, lawyers, academicians and media professionals to brain storm on the issue. TOI has learnt that the outcome of the conference may be compiled and submitted to the central government as the LCI’s view on further course of action on sedition and related laws. “Object of the conference is to provide an excellent opportunity for sharing of every possible understanding, ideas and views relating to freedom of speech and expression: to receive wisdom from all possible source and fuse them into our administration of justice,” a person associated with the conference said. Organised in association with Commonwealth Legal Education Association the conference will be hosted in Greater Noida at Lloyd Law College where BJP leader Subramaniam Swami, former union minister Salman Khurshid and civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan are some of the invitees. The conference, slated to be held on November 5 and 6 is being held to help LCI “clarify, consolidate and codify particular branches of law,” the proposal says. It further explains that current Chairman of LCI, Justice B S Chauhan, is considering criminal justice reform in the country, “of which freedom of speech and expression and sedition forms a part.” (Times of India 18/10/16)

SC convicts 4 CPM cadres for ‘vilifying’ judiciary (1)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has convicted four CPM members for “vilifying” the Rajasthan high court over allegedly letting off the suspects in a trade union leader’s murder. The apex court said no one could be allowed to “hurl baseless charges against the judiciary” in the garb of freedom of speech and expression. The CPM members had questioned the high court’s proceedings in 2001, alleging a bias towards the rich and influential. One of them had even claimed that money played a role in the grant of anticipatory bail to the accused. Though the SC did not award a jail term to the CPM members, it asked them to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 each. A two-month jail term awarded to the four by the high court was commuted by the SC even as it held that they had “transgressed all limits of decency and fairness”.A bench of justices A R Dave and L Nageswara Rao said such comments against judges and the judiciary must not be tolerated. “Vilification of judges would lead to the destruction of the system of administration of justice,” the bench said. The court added that “the statements made by the appellants are not only derogatory but also have the propensity to lower the authority of the court. Accusing judges of corruption results in denigration of the institution, which has an effect of lowering the confidence of the public in the system”.”They (the CPM members) indulged in an assault on the integrity of the judges of the high court by making baseless and unsubstantiated allegations. They are not entitled to seek shelter under Section 5 of the (Contempt of Courts) Act (which says that fair criticism of judicial act is not contempt),” the court said. The bench said the power granted by the Act should be exercised sparingly by courts, but a calculated effort to undermine the judiciary requires courts to exercise their jurisdiction to punish the offender. The bench refused to accept an apology . “The caustic comments made by them (the appellants) cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be termed as fair criticism. The statements made by them… lower the authority of the court,” the bench added. (Time of India 23/10/16)

Punjab journalist murder: SAD councillor surrenders, calls victim ‘best friend’ (1)

Ludhiana: Akali councillor Paramjeet Singh Pammi, accused of killing Hindi journalist Kewal Krishan Jindal on Thursday, surrendered before Ludhiana police on Saturday morning. The accused told police that he had no memory of the incident. He added that Dhuri resident Jindal was his “best friend” and at the time of the incident, both were sharing a drink.“Pammi said they were enjoying a few drinks on Thursday evening in his vehicle. They were examining his 0.32 bore licenced revolver when the gun went off,” said SSP Pritpal Singh, adding the weapon too was recovered. Pammi told police he didn’t remember, being in an inebriated state, he couldn’t recall how the shot was fired. He also claimed that he took Jindal to a hospital soon after the incident where he was declared dead. He claimed to have panicked and ran away from there after hearing the news. Jindal’s son Neeraj, however, claimed that Pammi owed his father Rs 10 lakh. He claimed that the SAD councillor shot his father when he asked him to return the money. On the basis of Neeraj’s statement, an FIR was lodged against Pammi, who will be produced before a court on Sunday. Jindal was cremated on Saturday in Dhuri. Except AAP, no representative from the major parties attended the ceremony. AAP, meanwhile, has announced that its chief Arvind Kejriwal will visit Jindal’s family on October 24, during his three-day visit to the state. Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann condemned the incident and said, “It is high time that journalists came together and boycotted the Akali Dal.” (Indian Express 23/10/160

Social Media ‘Going Haywire’, No Regulation Of News Media: Venkaiah Naidu (1)

New Delhi:  There can be no regulation of the media in a democracy, feels Information and Broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who says self-regulation is good. However, he said, there is a feeling that social media is “going haywire”.”In a democracy, in a free society where freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution, you cannot have regulation of the media, this is my conviction,” Mr Naidu told news agency PTI in an interview. He said self-regulation is good and what is required is not a new bill but political will and administrative skill. “That is lacking at some places,” he added. The minister, however, added that if at the end of the day, there are violations, there are laws of the land which are available already. Freedom of expression is best utilised only when the value of such freedom is fully appreciated, he added. “When this freedom is not exercised judiciously, our existing laws provide for necessary interventions. We are not thinking of any new restrictions on any media. But the government expects all stakeholders to be responsible in using different platforms.” the Information and Broadcasting Minister said. He said for the media, there are some regulations like it should not preach something which is anti-national, not propagate against the interest of the country aspects like obscenity, vulgarity, encouraging violence etc. “There are already broad guidelines and stipulations under the law also and they will take care of these aspects,” he said.”For the mainstream journalists, there is some regulation by their organisations and management. But for social media there is no censorship, things go directly, he said. “There is slowly a growing feeling of social media going haywire. And we have to find ways and means to go about it. But at the same time if you start regulating media, the effect will not be positive. Keeping that in mind, regrading social media also there are enough laws to take care of social media also and those laws should be effectively and properly used,” Mr Naidu said. The minister said that politicians may at times not have the will to apply these laws as they do not want to quarrel with the media which is quite powerful. …  (NDTV 27/10/16)

No total bar on religion in speeches: Supreme Court (1)

NEW DELHI: A seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday said it cannot be expected to give an “exhaustive list” of dos and don’ts of political speeches. The court expressed its restraint even as three BJP-ruled States — Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan — submitted that “religion can never be separated from society”. The Constitution Bench, which is examining the 1995 ‘Hindutva’ judgement of the apex court, said it’s mandate does not include going into the “permissibility of using religion in political speeches”. Rather than a blanket bar on religion in political speeches, Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, who is heading the Bench, said political speeches should be judged in the context they are made. The Bench was replying to arguments made by senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing social activist Teesta Setalvad, who sought a complete divorce of politics from religion. “I know it is difficult to draw a line… I am also for political freedom… but a line must be drawn on the basis of secularism,” Ms. Jaising submitted. Justice Thakur said the Constitution Bench is not looking into whether religion should be barred from political speeches. Instead, the Bench is only determining whether the bar on invoking religion under Article 123 (3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 in political speeches was limited to only the religion of the candidate and his agent or to the religion of the voters in general. The Bench reserved the question for judgement. “We are only looking into whether it is permissible to make an appeal in the name of religion of the candidate or his agent or voters in general… your argument is that religion generally should be kept out of political speeches. We are not going into the permissibility of religion in political speeches. We cannot give an exhaustive listing of ‘you can say this and you cannot say that’ in political speeches,” Justice Thakur clarified. Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat, said the Supreme Court should leave it to political parties to set their own agendas for election manifestos. “Agendas and manifestos are better left to political parties unless there is something startling in them, in which case the courts may intervene,” Mr. Mehta submitted. (The Hindu 28/10/16)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Gujarat: Communal clashes in Vadodara, tear gas shells hurled at mob (7)

Vadodara: The communally sensitive old city area of Vadodara witnessed a breach of peace, late on Sunday after two communities reportedly clashed during the coinciding Navratri celebrations and Muharram rituals. According to eye witnesses, stone pelting ensued after a brick was hurled at a Tazia procession undertaken by local Muslims near Koyali Faliya area of Fatehpura in the walled city. Soon, groups from both communities came face to face and attacked each other. Several units of the city police also rushed to the site to calm the situation. A senior officer said, “The incident occurred after 10:30 pm when a Tazia procession was passing close to a Hindu neighbourhood. Locals claim that a miscreant hurled a brick at the procession and the misunderstanding led to a clash. However, due to prompt police action and heavy rains simultaneously, the crowds dispersed and the situation was brought under control.”Commissioner of Police, E Radhakrishana, said, “We have learnt that the spontaneous stone pelting began when a Tazia procession was passing through the area. We are examining if this procession had sought police permission. If not, they will be booked for violating notifications. The city is peaceful as the police has brought the situation under control. It was not an adverse incident but a minor clash. We are analyzing the CCTV footage to identify the miscreants.”According to officers, close to a dozen tear gas shells were lobbed near Adania Pul to disperse warring mobs. Later, an incident of stone pelting was also reported from Yakutpura. Senior police officials said that while the whole area has been cordoned off to prevent any escalation of tension, investigation has been started about the cause of the first clash on Sunday. (Indian Express 3/10/16)

Dadri lynching accused dies, villagers’ claim he was beaten up in custody (7)

New Delhi: One of the accused in the in famous Dadri lynching case died on Tuesday of kidney and respiratory failure at a hospital here. Ravi, 22, was rushed to Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Hospital from district hospital in Noida in Uttar Pradesh today after suffering “kidney failure”.”He was brought here in a very bad condition, with kidney failure and high blood sugar level, around 12 noon. He died around 7 pm of kidney and respiratory failure,” Medical Superintendent of LNJP Hospital, Dr J C Passey said. He was lodged in a jail in Gautam Buddh Nagar district. “Ravi was first brought to the district hospital in Noida this morning from the jail. He was then rushed to a Delhi hospital after his condition worsened,” Station House Officer of Jarcha Police Station, Pradeep Kumar Singh said. It is also suspected that Ravi was suffering from dengue, though hospital authorities said, “medical report is still awaited.” “We had done his dengue and chikungunya tests. But, it is only by tomorrow that we can say whether he was suffering from dengue or not, as the medical reports are not out yet,” Passey said. Meanwhile, villagers alleged that Ravi, along with three other accused in the case, was beaten up in jail. Following which, Ravi was hospitalised. In Dadri’s Bishada village, Mohammed Akhlaq (51) was dragged out of his house and killed by a mob in September last year on suspicion of eating beef, triggering communal tension in the region. (Asian Age 5/10/16)

Teasing a girl triggers clashes in Sayajigunj slum (7)

VADODARA: Five days after communal rioting broke out in Fatehpura, tension was brewing in the slum area of Parshuram Bhatta early Thursday morning after a girl was teased by a group of men. The mobs resorted to stone pelting but police reached the spot and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the rioters. In all, 18 persons were booked and eight were arrested later in the day. Police said that the girl, who had gone for garba in Akota, was stalked by a local Shoaib alias Magar Ibrahim and his friends on Tuesday night and then harassed. Some people in Akota confronted Ibrahim, which led to heated arguments. However, the matter was settled after sometime. Ibrahim and his group again met the locals near Parshuram Bhatta again during the early hours of Thursday which resuted in some altercation. Soon, hundreds of people from both communities gathered there with sticks and metal pipes and started pelting stones at each other. “We have booked 18 persons and have arrested eight persons. We will interrogate them and nab the other accused too,” said Sayajigunj police sub-inspector S G Rathod. On September 26, persons from different communities pelted stones at each other in Navayard after a two-wheeler commuter was pushed by an unidentified person from a wedding procession, leading to a heated argument that snowballed into rioting. On Sunday, police had to lob 18 tear gas shells to disperse mobs of two communities that clashed after a fight broke out during a Tazia procession in Fatehpura. (Times of India 7/10/16)

Trilokpuri tense as two groups clash (7)

NEW DELHI: Tension prevailed in east Delhi’s Trilokpuri on Saturday evening after two groups clashed over a monetary dispute. Miscreants started pelting stones and tried to give a communal colour to the tension. The situation, however, was controlled by the police through the Aman Committee formed after the riots that erupted in the area in October 2014. Paramilitary forces have been stationed in the area and the local police have been asked to maintain a strict vigil for the next few days. Sleuths of the special branch are gathering intelligence about possible bids by miscreants to disturb peace in the area. The incident took place in Block 32, which had witnessed violence two years ago. Two groups of gamblers got into an argument over change of Rs 500 in the afternoon. The elderly men of the area intervened and stopped the scuffle. However, in the evening, a group thrashed the man who had gone to ask for change while he was buying vegetables in the market. Soon two groups formed and they began hurling abuses at each other with religious overtones. Six people were injured in the subsequent clash and were taken to a hospital for treatment.Saturday’s clash reminded local residents of the 2014 riots. Residents shut themselves inside their houses as the police began a march in the area. “Both the groups started pelting stones at each other, leaving many injured. We were afraid that this would escalate into communal tension and vulnerable people like us would have to pay the price for someone else’s quarrel again,” said Meena, a shopkeeper. “We were left with no option but to confine ourselves in our houses till the police assured us that there was nothing to fear,” said Uttam Singh, a resident. Senior police officers said that many teams were rushed to Trilokpuri as soon as they got a call about the clash. “The mob not only pelted stones but also threw glass bottles at each other. Though the fight lasted for about 30 minutes, we did not come out on the streets for hours,” said Kasif, another shopkeeper. Even the Aman Committee members were not spared by the miscreants and were attacked when they tried to stop the brawl. “We are trying to make more youngsters a part of the committee as they are the ones who can connect with the youth,” said Babu Ali, a member of the committee. “A rioting case has been registered and we are questioning a few suspects to identify the miscreants,” said a senior police officer. (Times of India 10/10/16)

Maharashtra: Bhiwandi tense after communal clash in Muharram procession (7)

Thane: Members of two communities clashed in powerloom town of Bhiwandi in the district today during the Muharram procession, causing injuries to at least six persons, including policemen, in the stone-pelting. The situation in this communally-sensitive town is tense but under control now, police said. Bhiwandi MP Kapil Patil said the incident was not a serious one and that an urgent meeting of peace committee has been convened to defuse tension. The incident occurred when some of arches put up for just-concluded Navratri festival got damaged in a lane during the procession in the evening and members of both communities came face-to-face and hurled stones at each other. They also attacked police personnel, injuring a sub-inspector and some constables Unconfirmed reports stated that some members of public also sustained injuries in stone pelting. Police dispersed the mob and brought the situation under control. Thane Commissioner of Police, Paramveer Singh and Joint Commissioner of Police Ashutosh Dhumbre rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation. In late night, a two-wheeler was set on fire in front of Gayatri Nagar police chowkie in the town after videos of the damage caused to the arches were shared on social media. (The Indian Express 13/10/16)

Communal tension in Bihar town, prohibitory orders in place (7)

Patna: FOLLOWING COMMUNAL tension during immersion of Durga idols on Tuesday and the Muharram procession on Wednesday, prohibitory orders have been imposed in Bihariganj town of Madhepura since last evening. According to reports, the tension began on Monday evening, during a Durga Puja programme. “While the orchestra was playing, some Muslim youths tried to disrupt the function. The organisers forced them to leave the stage, but they later came back with more people and disrupted the function,” alleged Mukesh Kumar, a resident. On Tuesday, during the immersion of idols, some routes that passed through Muslim-dominated areas were reportedly blocked. The idols were finally immersed on Wednesday morning, with the administration deploying security forces and engaging community leaders.On Wednesday afternoon, two government vehicles were damaged when some people reportedly pelted stones during a Muharram procession. “We have imposed prohibitory orders to help avoid communal clashes. There are no reports of any clashes or injuries, and prohibitory orders will continue till further orders,” said Madhepura SP Vikas Kumar. The district administration officials said prohibitory orders have been imposed under CrPC 144 as a “precautionary measure”. “It is the handiwork of just a small group of anti-social elements,” said Bihar Disaster Management Minister Professor Chandrashekhar. Meanwhile, prohibitory orders were imposed in Piro town of Bhojpur on Thursday, following stone pelting between two groups on Wednesday evening. At least, five government vehicles were reported to have been torched. While 38 people have been detained in Madhepura, 18 have been detained in Bhojpur. (Indian Express 14/10/16)

Homes ransacked in communal violence in Bengal, people flee (7)

Hazinagar: Communal clashes at Hazinagar and Halisahar in North 24 Parganas district since Wednesday have left several people injured while an estimated 30 homes and several shops, apart from four vehicles, have been ransacked or set on fire. Police said the situation is under control now but many people have fled their homes. “We are ascertaining how many people were injured in the violence,” an official said. “But it is spread over a large area, which is very densely populated. The figure will not be less than 20. At least 30 homes and shops have been damaged, while at least four vehicles have been gutted.” The trigger was a low-intensity bomb allegedly thrown at a Muharram procession Wednesday, police said. While no one was injured then, it resulted in violence with a number of Hindu homes being allegedly attacked by mobs, and Muslim mobs allegedly retaliating. The initial violence was localised around Hazinagar’s Naihati Jute Mill area where the Jama Masjid is situated, and the neighbourhood around Nelson Road that has homes of both Muslims and Hindus. By Thursday, the violence had spread to nearby Patterson Road, a Hindu-majority area adjoining the Muslim-dominated colony around Hazinagar Chhoti Masjid. Hazinagar has been particularly tense for the past few months. “There has always been an issue with the Jama Masjid. Durga idol processions have traditionally avoided a route that directly crosses the mosque but since last year they have been insistent on using that route,” said Anwar Ali, 72, a tailor who lives in the area. Four days later, Muslim homes stood empty in Hindu-majority areas, as did Hindu homes in Muslim-dominated areas. Many of these houses bore signs of having been ransacked. With shops shut, food and medicine were beginning to become scarce. Anwar Ali’s shop, now gutted, was surrounded by shops owned by Hindus; these were left untouched. In contrast, BJP councilor of ward 23 at Halishahar Ravishankar Singh alleged, “I was conducting the tazia along with Muslim elders to ensure there was no violence. It was at this point that the mob turned up and started loot and arson. Even my office was not spared and they burnt everything but all Muslim homes and shops in the area were spared.”… (Indian xpress 17/10/16)

“Sinister efforts” to create fresh communal tension in Bijnore (7)

MEERUT: The Uttar Pradesh police on Wednesday said that “fresh attempt were being made to create tension” in Peda village in Bijnore. This came over a month after three people were killed and two dozens injured in communal clashes in Peda village. Twenty two people including a BJP leader were arrested in case of murder of three individuals and rioting in the village. Police has deployed a company of PAC in the village. Few families whose members were arrested last month in cases of rioting in Peda village on Tuesday alleged that stones were pelted on their homes and because of that they want to sell their homes and leave. Some of them also put up put up “house for sale” boards on their doors. The police officials, however rejected the claims of the families and said there was no stone pelting in the village as a police chowki with a sub-inspector and several constables was set up in the affected area. ASP city Captain M.M. Beg told The Hindu that, “The situation is under control and there was no fresh clash or stone pelting. We are not taking any chance with this because there is a recent history of clash. But there was no fresh clash. However, there are sinister attempts to create fresh communal tension as somebody tried to mess up with the situation there on Monday. We met the families who have put up the posters. We are investigating the matter and find out actual facts.” Sarita Devi, one of the resident of the village who claimed stone pelting, told the media that there was stone pelting on her house on Monday. “On Monday there was stone pelting on my house as well as the house of four others in the area. We want to see our house and leave. That is why we put up the posters. We need security. Some policemen came here and assured us saftey,”she said.Mr. Beg emphasised that local vigil would be increased in the area and the police would also made efforts to bring about peace meetings between the two communities. (The Hindu 20/10/16)

Post-Godhra riots: HC acquits 14, upholds life sentence of 17 in Sardarpura case (7)

Ahmedabad : The Gujarat high court on Thursday acquitted 14 persons out of 31 convicted by a lower court in the 2002 post-Godhra Sardarpura massacre case in which 33 people were burnt alive. A division bench of justices Harsha Devani and Biren Vaishnav, however, confirmed the life imprisonment of 17 others. The high court acquitted the 14 due to lack of evidence and contradiction in witnesses account. The HC also dismissed appeals of the Supreme Court–appointed Special Investigation Team and Gujarat government against the acquittal of 31 persons by the trial court. The high court acquitted 14 persons convicted by the trial court, citing ‘two-witness test’ prescribed by the Supreme Court, which says that at least two witnesses should have testified against an accused in a riot case for the court to convict him or her. Police had arrested 76 persons in the case, of whom two died during the trial, while one was a minor at the time. Charges were framed against 73 accused in June 2009. Special judge for SIT cases SC Srivastava sentenced 31 persons to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on each of them, while acquitting the rest on November 9, 2011. The HC on Thursday also upheld the trial court’s decision to reject the prosecution’s contention that the attack was result of a conspiracy hatched after the Godhra train burning incident. Circumstantial evidence did not corroborate this, it said. Thirty-three members of the minority community were burnt alive at Sardarpura village in Vijapur tehsil of Mehsana district on the night of February 28, 2002, following the Godhra train carnage the previous day in which 59 people, mainly ‘karsevaks’ returning from Ayodhya, were killed. This was one of the nine post-Godhra riot cases probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. A mob of hundreds of people surrounded Sheikh Vaas lane in the village where people of the minority community lived. The community members took shelter in the ‘pucca’ house of Ibrahim Sheikh, which the mob set on fire using petrol. A total of 33 people, including 22 women, were charred to death. “The SIT will take a call on whether to challenge the order in the Supreme Court after we get a certified copy of the order,” said SIT lawyer K B Anandjiwala. Victims’ lawyer Yusuf Sheikh said there was scope for appeal from victims’ side. “We believe there are several legal points which can be challenged. We are awaiting copy of the order to take further action,” he said. (Hindustan Times 21/10/16)

2 held for inciting communal tension (7)

MHOW : Two accused were on Tuesday arrested in connection with the clash between two communities in Gandhwani town of Dhar district, police said. Dhar SP Rajesh Hingankar said that acting on a tip off police have arrested the two accused Hammu alias Amjad Shah and Golu Pathan while they were on the way to Ratlam. They were on the run for past many days and search for another accused Aslam is on. Police have also announced a reward of Rs 5,000 each on them to know about their whereabouts. Police said, while investigating they came to know that Amjad Shah participated in one of the akharas during Muharram procession and he was the one who instigated the violence when the akhara and Durga procession passed on the same time. Hingankar said that Dussehra and Moharram coincided this year and thus it was a big challenge for the police and the administration to maintain law and order during the same. But some miscreants pelted stones on the procession which led to fierce violence on the streets of Gandhwani wherein several shops were damaged. On October 18, a special police team was formed and cases were registered against the accused involved in clash. The names of three main accused Amjad, Golu and Aslam surfaced but before the police could take them into custody, they fled from Gandhwani. Raids were carried out at possible hideouts in Barwani, Sendhwa, Indore, and Depalpur. As their locations were continuously being tracked, when they were a few kilometers away from Dhar, they were arrested. It is to be noted that certain towns of Dhar district including Dharampuri, Dhamnod and Gandhwani have become communal sensitive in the past few years and communal clashes have been reported frequently. (Times of India 26/10/16)

 

COMMUNALISM

‘Citizenship amendment bill communally motivated’: Activists (26)

New Delhi: Civil society groups held a protest rally in New Delhi on Thursday opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, terming it “communally motivated humanitarianism.” By seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination, it is blatantly in violation of the constitution,” said Shalim Hussein of the Delhi Action Committee for Assam, one of the organisers of the protest. The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Muslim majority countries, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. “This would mean, for instance, that the sizeable population of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh living in Assam would become citizens while Muslims who migrated to Assam from East Bengal a century ago would continue to be harassed as ‘illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” said Bonojit Hussein, one of the protesters at the rally. “This amendment makes plain the BJP’s communal agenda in Assam. It aims to consolidate the Hindu vote through this amendment,” he said. The proposed amendment also seeks to reduce from 11 years to six years the aggregate period of residence required in India to be eligible for Indian citizenship. Speaking at the protest, social activist Kavita Krishnan said, “India is not like Israel, which is a Jewish state, offering the “right to return” to Jews anywhere in the world. Since India is constitutionally secular, this amendment tries to bring Hindu Rashtra into the legal framework through the backdoor. By inviting Hindus specifically to come back to Indian citizenship, it is a ghar wapsi bill of sorts.” Bonojit added, “If this was truly a humanitarian move, why not offer citizenship to climate refugees? Or to atheists facing persecution? What’s special about only these six religious communities?” Since Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution, said activists. (The Hindu 1/10/16)

Goa: RSS rebel announces new party, vows to defeat BJP (26)

Panaji: Rebel RSS leader Subhash Velingkar on Sunday floated a new party in Goa and vowed to defeat the BJP in the coming Assembly polls but an unfazed BJP claimed it would be helped electorally. Announcing the formation of Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), Velingkar, who was removed as Goa RSS chief on August 31 after his public tirade against the BJP leaders over the regional language issue, said they are in talks with parties like Shiv Sena and Goa Praja Party for alliance during Goa polls. However, Velingkar’s name did not figure in the first list of office-bearers released on Sunday. The Goa Suraksha Manch would be headed by Anand Shirodkar, a senior leader of Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) headed by Velingkar who was angered by BJP government’s refusal to withdraw grants to English medium schools. The rebel RSS leader claimed the newly formed party has its presence across 35 (out of 40) constituencies of Goa and “is determined to defeat BJP in the state polls” due next year.BBSM has been agitating against the state government while demanding that mother tongue be made medium of instruction (MOI) and withdrawal of grants to English medium schools. Hours after Velingkar’s announcement, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, however, claimed that the new party will help BJP win the state Assembly polls due next year. “I am in the ruling party. And it is natural that more the smaller parties, the better for the ruling party as it would help it win the election. I welcome all such new political parties,” Parsekar told reporters. Responding to a question, Parsekar said, “Goa is not my father’s land. Anyone can come here and contest the election. I can’t stop anyone”. “This is democracy. The election results will show who is accepted by people and who are not,” he said when asked about BBSM’s statements against him and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar accusing them of “mishandling” the Medium of Instruction (MOI) issue. The chief minister said the “dwindling” response to the public meetings called by BBSM is an answer to those leaders who have been criticising the BJP. .. The Indian Express 2/10/16)

VHP to hold 50,000 camps to prevent religious conversions (26)

TIRUPATI: VHP international joint general secretary Y. Raghavulu, who is here to conduct a six-day training camp for women and girls drawn from the six southern districts of Andhra Pradesh, spoke to the media on Monday about the Parishad’s strategies. He said 50,000 camps were being held across the country to sensitise people, especially the dwellers of hilly terrains, fishermen living in coastal areas and the tribal communities in forest areas, who are vulnerable to conversion, terrorist or anti-social activities. “The Hindutva practitioners should understand that they are the sons of the same mother, Bharat Mata, and hence should desist from dividing themselves in the name of caste, language or State such as Bihari, Punjabi, Assamese and Telugus.”The Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader appealed to the State and Central governments to keep at bay the ‘evil practices’ like religious conversion and cow slaughter in places of religious significance such as Tirupati. “We are not demanding a ban on cow slaughter in Mecca, but only in Tirupati, which holds a lot of sentiment to the Hindus and hence a sensitive place. The civic administration should take pre-emptive steps before the issue blows up into a full-fledged law and order problem in future,” he cautioned. The girls are trained in yoga and martial arts and other forms of self-defence. (The Hindu 4/10/16)

Cow urine shower at garbas raises stink (26)

GANDHINAGAR: The Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have raised a stink in Gandhinagar by unleashing a disgusting campaign to sprinkle cow urine on visitors at garba venues to “keep Muslims at bay”.Not surprisingly, it is Hindus who are recoiling at this unpleasant shower. Devduttsinh Raol, a Gandhinagar-based IT professional, lodged a police complaint against this campaign. Raol had gone to Thanganat ground in Sector-11 on Wednesday with his wife and brother-in-law to participate in Navratri festivities. He was taken aback when he found a group of youths wearing saffron scarves sprinkling gau mutra on all visitors at the main gate and putting tilaks on their foreheads. “The group misbehaved with my wife when I protested,” he said in his written complaint. When police expressed their reluctance to take his complaint, he approached Gandhinagar SP Virendra Singh Yadav who took cognizance. “We have assured garba organizers of quick police intervention if we are alerted on time,” said Yadav. However, police appear inertial in acting against the miscreants. While police have been asked to increase vigil around garba venues, this hasn’t deterred the saffron outfits. The right-wingers had threatened to ‘purify’ the Gandhinagar Cultural Forum Association garba when Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela was the chief guest on Friday but they dropped their plans and went to garba venues in Dehgam instead. This venue is popular with politicians and bureaucrats. Shaktisinh Zala, president of the Bajrang Dal’s Gandhinagar unit, said the sprinkling of cow urine was meant to prevent Hindu girls from falling victim to ‘love jihad’. Jay Shah, VHP-Gujarat spokesperson said, “We target venues where non-Hindus tend to go.” (Times of India 8/10/16)

Allahabad: Burqa clad VHP leader caught molesting women during Muharram majlis (26)

New Delhi: Abhishek Yadav, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader in Allahabad, was on Saturday night caught wearing a burqa and molesting women at a Muharram Majlis at an Imambara in Mani Umarpur village. As per a Hindustan Times report, Yadav – who is the district secretary of VHP – was beaten up by the crowd before they handed him over to the police. The incident came to light after women suspected two burqa-clad persons and accused them of harassment after which they were forced to remove their veil. Reportedly, Yadav’s accomplice managed to flee from the scene. The Times of India reports that the village elders pacified the furious mob and convinced them to call the police. Yadav’s family has however said that he was attacked and looted while on his way to the village.Yadav, who is the husband of BJP zilla panchayat member Shipra Yadav has been booked under sections 296 and 354A. An FIR was registered against Yadav by the police and he was admitted to a hospital. (Indian Express 10/10/16)

RSS chief says all of Kashmir, ‘including Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit-Baltistan, is India’s’

NEW DELHI: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today used a Dussehra speech to rein in the cow brigade+ and to also assert that “all of Kashmir, including Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit-Baltistan, is India’s.”"Any unrest in Kashmir is fuelled by elements across the border, and (with the surgical strikes+ ) our government gave those elements a fitting reply,” Bhagwat said, adding that the country’s Army showed incredible bravery thanks to the Centre’s leadership. “They (Pakistan) have got the message that there is a limit to tolerance,” he added. As for cows, the RSS chief also warned the ‘cow brigade’+ to work within the law and to not break it, in its efforts to work towards the Centre’s goal of protecting cows.He added that, “you can’t compare cow protectors to those trying to spread religious hatred.” “Cow protection is good for the country…a lot of farmers are dependent on the cow,” said Bhagwat.”Due to discrimination based on caste, creed, language a few incidents take place in our society which are shameful,” the RSS chief said (Times of India 11/10/16)

RSS chief lauds Army for surgical strikes (26)

Nagpur:  RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today lauded the army for carrying out surgical strikes, saying it has enhanced India’s prestige in the world and given the message to trouble-makers that there is a limit to its patience. The ongoing unrest in Kashmir, tension on the border and the issue of cow protection, which has brought BJP much flak, was the focus of the annual Dussehra address of the RSS chief, who vowed to root out social discrimination. Referring to Jammu and Kashmir, he said the situation there is of concern and said the commitment of our leaders that the whole of the state, including PoK, belongs to India is good. “What is needed is that this strength of statement is reflected in action as well,” he said. “Under our government, the army has recently given a befitting reply. The army’s and India’s prestige in the world have gone up. The trouble-makers have been given this message that there is a limit to patience… The one (Pakistan) which has been inimical to us is getting isolated. We are delighted with the valour shown by the army,” he said. The whole world is aware that the subversive activities constantly promoted from the across the border are mainly responsible for disturbances in the Kashmir valley, he said. With thousands of RSS functionaries in their new uniform of dark brown trousers instead of khaki shorts in attendance, he said the “firmness and efficiency shown in the matter of diplomacy and defence should permanently reflect in our policies”.”A level of perpetual co-ordination and co-operation is needed among in the defence forces and intelligence agencies as we have to pay a heavy price for a moment’s distraction,” he said. Bhagwat also stressed on the need for maintaining a strict vigil on maritime boundaries as well as frontier areas and said the government and administration should engage the locals to stop infiltration from across the border. (Deccan Herald 11/10/16)

Hindutva activists attack, force cancellation of private meeting of atheists in Mathura (26)

Meerut: A private meeting of atheists in Mathura was attacked by Hindutva activists on Friday morning before the meeting could start in the afternoon. Spiritual guru-turned-atheist Swami Balendu, who had invited like-minded atheists, friends and acquaintances from different parts of the country, to his ashram in Mathura, said immediately after the attack senior police officials came with the Hindutva activists and threatened and pressurised him to cancel the meeting. Swami Balendu cancelled the meeting after police officials said they cannot guarantee security to him and his guests because of the tension in the city due to the proposed private meet. Under pressure from Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Prishad and other Hindutva groups, the Mathura administration which had earlier given permission for the private meeting, also withdrew the official permission in the last minute. Senior administrative officials of Mathura, however, denied the charge of harassment and said they had to request the organisers to cancel the meeting as it could pose a “law and order problem”. “Over 50 activists of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and local Hindutva groups reached the Bindu Seva Sansathan Ashram at about 10 in the morning and started shouting slogans and attacking the ashram property. Armed with sticks, the Hindutva activists broke the glass panels of the ashram belongings,” Swami Balendu told The Hindu on phone from Mathura. “Immediately after the attack, the Hindutva activists accompanied senior police officials and talked to us in a tone which can be termed as threatening. The Hindutva guys told us that the protest was a mere start and if we go ahead with the meeting then much bigger things could happen in the city,” added Swami Balendu. “Even though it was a private event we took all the permission. The Constitution permits us to be non-believers. But this seems like an all out attack on the freedom of expression and the freedom to be a non believer,” added Swami Balendu. “The police officials said that there was tension in the city and they can not guarantee us our safety and security. We were forced to cancel the meet because I can not jeopardise the safety and security of our guests,” he added. Swami Balendu alleged that the administration was harassing the guests who were on their way to Mathura for the event. “We were told by the administration that the guests who have reached the Ashram should be asked to leave as their presence could create law and order problem. Even the guests who are not aware of the cancellation of the event and who have reached Mathura, are not being allowed to come to the Ashram,” he alleged. Several participants of the meet told The Hindu that they were threatened by by the Hindutva activists not to write anything on social media platforms. All of the participants The Hindu talked to on phone wondered how could a private meeting of like minded people in a private property could create law and order problem. “The administration has been trying to harass us and shut the Ashram some how. They sent a food inspector to the restaurant so that they could seize the place. We did not want disturb any body. Neither was our intention to create a law and order problem. But what I fail to understand is that how and why few guests of mine, visiting my home, could create a law and order problem,” said Swami Balendu, who was born and brought up in Mathura, and comes from a “family of Hindu spiritualists”. (The Hindu 14/10/16)

VHP plea to CP over cow slaughter (26)

AHMEDABAD: A group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists met the new city police chief A K Singh on Monday afternoon with a plea for police to pay more attention to cow slaughterers and cow rustlers rather than going after cow protectors who are out to `save gau mata’. A few cow protectors who had come with the VHP leaders said their representation was in response to the CP’s statement with regard to moral policing and his promise of action against violent vigilantes. VHP activist from Ahmedabad Raju Patel said cow stealing and slaughter is rampant in big cities. “We read reports in newspapers about recovery of beef. Footage of cow stealing is shown on local TV channels,” added Patel. North Gujarat VHP leader, Jethanand Harvani, said police should implement the anti-cow slaughter laws of Gujarat. The VHP leaders in their representation to the city police chief stated that cow protectors ( gau rakshaks) remain adamant on protecting cow progeny at any cost. Police sources said A K Singh heard the representations made by the VHP leaders and assured them that strict action will be taken against those who break the law. (Times of India 18/10/16)

VHP sants ‘concerned’ over declining Hindu numbers, urge to ‘produce more children’ (26)

Agra: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s two-day ‘Yuva Sant Chintan Sammelan’ in Kanpur ended on Tuesday with sants discussing the “decreasing population of Hindus and saffronisation of politics”. The sants expressed concern over the ‘one child’ concept being widely implemented among Hindu families and claimed that India will only thrive if it had “Hindu politics” and “politicians with morals”. The Sammelan was attended by around 175 young saints. Speaking to The Indian Express, VHP national secretary Ashok Tiwari said, “The decreasing population of Hindus had always been an issue of concern. The sants have decided to create awareness among Hindus to produce more children.” He added, “India has always been a Hindu country, hence all those who speak of saffronisation should remember that the country will thrive only if it has Hindu politics and politicians with morals.” Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, president of VHP’s Yuva Sant Varg, said that morals and traditions among Hindus were decreasing with each passing year, adding that the only way to save Hinduism was “to create awareness among people to produce more children and make them morally and traditionally rich”. Tiwari said cow protection was another talking point at the Sammelan. “People should not let loose cows on the roads after getting milk. This should be banned,” he said, adding that the sants will be creating awareness among masses about taming cows. Violence in the name of cow protection is causing anger among people, he said. (Indian Express 19/10/16)

Supreme Court starts hearing in ‘Hindutva’ case (26)

New Delhi: Hearing began on Tuesday before a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court to consider whether seeking of votes in the name of religion will amount to a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act warranting disqualification. Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, who led the bench, will discuss the following broad issues: will the act of a candidate belonging to a particular community going around the constituency with a predominant population of his/her own community seek votes in the name of his community amounts to corrupt practice? Can a person belonging to one community seek votes from members of his community for a candidate belonging to another community? Will a candidate be held liable for corrupt practice if he even uses the inflammatory speeches of a religious leader to further his own electoral practices? Justice Verma, heading a three-judge bench of the apex court, had in 1995 overturned the Bombay high court verdict setting aside the election of Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi in Maharashtra. Soon after the 1992-92 Mumbai communal riots, Mr. Joshi had appealed to the voters to turn Maharashtra into India’s first Hindu state. Justice Verma, who authored the judgment in that verdict, had held, “In our opinion, a mere statement that the first Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra is by itself not an appeal for votes on the grounds of his religion but the expression, at best, of such a hope. “The words Hindutva or Hinduism cannot be held to be within the ‘narrow limits of religion alone’ and could also refer to ‘Indian culture and heritage’,” the court had then held. Hindutva, the court had held, was related to the “way of life of the people in the sub-continent”. Arguments will continue on Wednesday. (Asian Age 19/10/16)

RSS and its affiliates should not influence the education policy (26)

Getting the education system to conform to its ideology has been a goal of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for much of its existence. So it comes as no surprise that with the ministry of human resource development all set to formulate the new education policy, the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas is trying to influence its content. It wants the medium of instruction from elementary to higher levels in schools to be in the mother tongue and not English, in fact it says English should not be mandatory at any level. All research work, according to it, should be linked to national requirements and those which are not should not get UGC scholarships. And of course, there is the usual demand that references that insult Indian culture, traditions, sects, thoughts, eminent persons and offer wrong explanations should be removed from textbooks. The ministry should firmly resist this.Knowledge of English is India’s strength especially vis-à-vis countries like China. Indian students and workers across the world have benefited from their ability to speak, read and write English. The mother tongue should be taught in schools but this does not have to be at the cost of English. The demand for English in schools can be seen from the number of English-medium schools that has been set up. But not just the RSS, even successive governments have not been responsive enough to the people’s aspirations when it comes to English education. India’s outsourcing business, its thriving IT sector have all been made possible because of the English advantage. This should not be frittered away because an RSS affiliate feels differently. The call to link research to national requirements is another ill-thought-out demand. Research if anything should be linked to industry. The definition of national requirement is vague and any proposal to withhold scholarships unless this criterion is met would be counterproductive. As for removing insults to culture and tradition from textbooks, the RSS has no business dictating what this constitutes. The reference to “wrong” explanations again suggests that the RSS yardstick is the one which the ministry should follow. The only parameter a textbook should follow should be to stick to the facts and not try and promote some misplaced nationalism. If research was aimed only at national requirements, we would not have had the sort of cutting edge discoveries which have benefited all of mankind.The education policy must be aimed at getting children the best education that can enable them to compete in a globalising world. Our netas certainly understand the benefits of English, their children study in English medium schools and invariably attend college abroad. The education policy is too important for it to be tinkered with by those with little knowledge of the subject. The RSS should leave well alone. (Hindustan Times 21/10/16)

SC declines to go into Hindutva verdict (26)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court declined a plea of social activist Teesta Setalvad to check the “devastating consequences” of its 1995 judgment defining Hindutva or Hinduism as a “way of life” and nothing to do with “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”.A seven-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, clarified that the Supreme Court is presently only examining what constitutes corrupt electoral practices under Section 123 (3) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951. The court said it would not be going into the larger issue of whether ‘Hindutva’ means the Hindu religion. Specifically, the Constitution Bench is hearing arguments on whether it amounts to a corrupt electoral practice if a candidate ropes in the services of religious leaders to use their mass appeal to swing votes in his favour. Ms. Setalvad, theatre activist and author Shamsul Islam and senior journalist Dilip Mandal appealed to the Constitution Bench that the interpretation given in the December 11, 1995 judgment by Justice J.S. Verma has led to “Hindutva becoming a mark of nationalism and citizenship.” They noted that India has reached the crossroads where “narrow and supremacist” interpretations of history, culture, social studies and law threaten the fundamentals of nationhood, and urged the Supreme Court to undo the “devastating consequences” of the Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo versus Prabhakar K. Kunte judgment. Justice Verma had concluded in 1995 that “no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms `Hindu’, `Hindutva’ and `Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage”.Classifying Hindutva as a way of life of the people in the sub- continent, he dismissed the idea of equating the abstract terms Hindutva or Hinduism with the “narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry”.However, Ms. Setalvad and her two co-applicants said the apex court’s interpretation of Hindutva/Hinduism has today led to “demands of homogenisation and assimilation of minority communities and SC/ST in the Hindutva way of life.” They contended that the judgment’s interpretation of Hindutva has curtailed faith in secularism and stifled India’s academic pursuit and scientific temper through narrow interpretations of faith and mythology. (The Hindu 25/10/16)

West Bengal VHP hits the streets, makes bonfire out of China-made products (26)

Kolkata: After carrying out an online campaign against the use of Chinese products for several weeks, members of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) hit the streets on Tuesday and made a bonfire out of China-made tablets, mobile phones and decorative LED lights. Around 200 members of VHP and its youth wing Bajrang Dal gathered at Shyambazar Five Point crossing in north Kolkata for the protest. VHP leaders said they were boycotting China-made goods because the country had lent its support to Pakistan after the Uri terror attacks and has also vetoed India’s move to get Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar listed as a global terrorist by the United Nations (UN). “China has, in support of Pakistan, blocked a tributary of river Brahmaputra besides blocking the move on Azhar at the UN. We Indians should abandon the use of Chinese products and instead promote our manufacturing industries here. Let us take a pledge during this Diwali, the festival of lights,” said Chandranath Das, VHP vice-president (South Bengal). The movement was initiated in Malda district, where posters and placards urging people to boycott Chinese products had been set up by the Bajrang Dal. “The movement, which had begun online through Twitter and Facebook, would be spread across the state with Kolkata playing a pivotal role,” said Sourish Mukherjee, media in-charge, VHP, Kolkata. He added that the VHP, which had over 20,000 members, alongwith wing organisations such as Bajrang Dal, Durga Bahini, Go Seva Dal and Dharma Jagran Manch, would be part of the movement. “They will be going to places where Chinese products are sold, meet businessmen who deal with such products and try to dissuade them from doing so. We will ask them to get indigenously-made alternatives so that not only does our country earn more revenue, our youths will get employment opportunities as well,” Mukherjee said. Recently, BJP activists too had burnt Chinese products in Kharagpore. BJP MLA from Kharagpore and state party president Dilip Ghosh said he supported the movement. (Indian Express 26/10/16)

Ram temple construction’s onus on saints: RSS (26)

LUCKNOW: Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah began their address with “Jai Shri Ram” chant in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, RSS treaded a cautious path and put the onus of decision on Ram temple construction on sant samaj. Speaking after returning from RSS’s all-India meet at Hyderabad, Awadh Prant Sanghchalak Prabhu Narayan Srivastava said while the Ram temple is undoubtedly an issue of faith for the people and the RSS, it has never taken initiative in this regard. To a question on Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) movement, Srivastava said that even the VHP has followed the directives of sant samaj (seers and saints) through its dharm sansad. To a question on if it means that the RSS is skirting the Ram temple issue, Sah-prant Karyavaah Narendra said that it has never skirted the issue but a decision is always taken by the seers and saints. Interestingly, RSS statement comes at a time when the Modi-led NDA government at the Centre and Akhilesh-led state government have announced sops for the infrastructure developement of Ayodhya.The announcement was, however, ridiculed by Ram temple movement face and firebrand leader Vinay Katiyar as “lollypop”.With UP going to assembly polls in a few months from now, the RSS’s stand, it looks, is more to ensure comfort to the BJP, which has been now claiming that the Ram temple movement had never been an election issue for the party but an issue of faith. Modi beginnning his speech on Dussehra with “Jai Shriram” chant and Shah following his footsteps in Etawah on Thursday were seen as party’s bid to polarise the votebank in the run-up to the assembly polls. Not in a mood to court further controversy over the issue, Srivastava and Narendra also said that the RSS wants that a grand temple be built in Ayodhya. However, both the RSS office-bearers refused to give any timeframe for the temple construction. Interestingly, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramaniam Swamy has been claiming that construction of Ram temple would begin by December this year. On the issue of triple talaq, Srivastava said that the RSS was against gender discrimination irrespective of caste and religion. Interestingly, Modi, at a rally at Mahoba, had said that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure justice to the Muslim women in the country. (Times of India 28/10/16)

TERRORISM

Petition to condemn Pakistan over terrorism hits record signs in United Kingdom (12)

London: A new petition filed on the official UK Parliament website calling on Britain to “strongly condemn” Pakistan for providing a safe haven for terrorists on Sunday crossed the threshold of 10,000 signatures, making it incumbent upon the UK government to respond to it. The petition titled ‘UK Govt to strongly condemn Pakistan or providing safe haven for terrorists’ has now crossed the number of signatures required to make it incumbent upon the UK government to respond to it.But the aim is to gather as many as 100,000 signatures by the March 29, 2017 deadline so that the issue has to be considered for a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons. “Pakistan continues to double speak on issue of terrorism. It has aided & abetted enemies of the international coalition (of which Britain is a leading partner with the US) against terrorism. Osama Bin Laden’s hideout was in Pakistan. Pakistan continues to harbour UN sanctioned terror networks,” reads the petition, authored by an Indian-origin professional Naman Paropkari. It goes on: “The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has often been accused of playing a role in major terrorist attacks across the world including the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, terrorism in Kashmir, Indian Parliament Attack and Mumbai terror attacks.” “It has been noted by many that several militant & criminal groups are backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army & the country’s ISI intelligence establishment. Daniel Byman says Pakistan is probably today’s most active sponsor of terrorism,” the petition said. Byman is a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in the Security Studies Programme and Department of Government. Tensions between India and Pakistan are growing after militants stormed an Indian Army base in Uri on September 18, killing 19 soldiers. The terror launch pads across the border were targeted by the Indian Army last week, inflicting “significant casualties” on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. (Indian Express 2/10/16)

India wants firm anti-terror steps, unwilling to give Pak any leeway (12)

NEW DELHI: Despite signals from Pakistan exploring the possibility of “de-escalation” of current tensions, the Modi government is likely to insist on clear and verifiable action on terrorism, particularly in the context of the Mumbai, Pathankot and Uri+ terror attacks. The government seems to be clear on its stand that the situation post-surgical strike cannot move towards any sort of normalcy without the dialogue focusing on specific anti-terrorism measures that Pakistan needs to take. The leeway that the government was prepared to offer by way of its previous engagement with the Pakistan government and the civilian leadership of PM Nawaz Sharif seems to be over. The way forward for bilateral ties, as seen by India, are concrete steps to contain terrorism. The Modi government did look to invest in Sharif ‘s leadership and the civilian government, but the moves have clearly not paid any dividends. Already under strain after the Pathankot attack+ , the ties came apart after Sharif upped the ante over Kashmir+ , and India returned the compliment by accusing Pakistan of stoking the unrest. India reads the posturing from Pakistan as typical of its tactics when cornered. Apart from the fact that public opinion will not settle for an indeterminate result, the governments seem keen on quantifiable results in any engagement. If a dialogue process does not yield gains on the anti-terrorism front, risks involved in a surgical strike that could have resulted in an escalation as well as accidents like Indian soldiers being trapped in enemy-controlled territory would not be worth the while.Having crossed a line that his predecessors did not, PM Narendra Modi would look for concrete gains rather than accept a return to business as usual, sources said. The government’s focus will be on capitalising on Pakistan’s current isolation within Saarc and further afield and the lack of sympathy for its Kashmir campaign.In internal discussions, the government is also prepared for a possible escalation in tensions, recognising that bilateral ties with Pakistan are going to be rocky. Despite Pakistan’s vehement dismissal of the surgical strike, contesting it even happened, the government is aware that there is considerable unease in the Pakistani political and military establishment. While Pakistan might be keen to buy time, its attempt to keep the Kashmir dispute in focus is not cutting any ice with India. (Times of India 5/10/16)

NIA team searches for evidence against Subahani at Kadayanallur (12)

Suspected Islamic State recruit H. Subahani of Kadayanallur, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers from Kadayanallur last Monday, was brought to the town in western Tirunelveli again on Friday for conducting a search at his house and the jewellery shop in which he was working. The NIA team led by Superintendent of Police Shaukath Ali that brought Subahani to Kadayanallur in the early hours of Friday kept him at the Courtallam police station and then brought him to Kadayanallur around 10 a.m. After checking the rented house on Khaja Mohideen Mosque Street where he was living, the NIA team also searched for evidence in the nearby jewellery showroom where the suspected IS recruit was working. The team questioned the owner and other workers of the showroom in the presence of revenue officials. “The NIA officers took a mobile phone, four SIM cards and a hard disk from the house of Subahani,” a close relative of the detenue said. When asked about the purpose of the check, Mr. Shaukath Ali declined to answer. As the search and questioning came to an end, the NIA team took Subahani to the Kadayanallur police station for interrogation and left for Kochi in the evening. (The Hindu 8/10/16)

Terrorists attack government building in Pampore (12)

SRINAGAR: A soldier was on Monday injured in the exchange of fire between security forces and militants holed up inside a government building in Pampore area of Kashmir which had witnessed a suicide attack in February this year. Two to three militants are believed to have entered into the building of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in the wee hours on Monday. “One soldier has been injured in the exchange of fire with militants holed up inside the building at Pampore,” a defence spokesman said here. He said further details were awaiting as the operation was in progress to flush out the militants. A building within the premises had caught fire on Monday morning, a police official said.Fire tenders were rushed to the spot, but they were not allowed to enter the building due to security reasons, the official said. (Times of India 10/10/16)

U.S. backs Indian position on cross-border terrorism (12)

Washington: The U.S. empathises with India’s position that it needs to militarily respond to cross-border terrorism. But given the history of wars between Indian and Pakistan and the heavily militarised character of the region, both sides must show restraint and caution, a senior White House official said on Wednesday. In the clearest indication till date of the Obama administration’s support for India’s pre-emptive military operation targeting terrorist positions across the LoC recently, Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council said: “It [Uri] was a clear case of cross-border terrorism. We condemn this act of terrorism. It was a horrific attack. Every country has a right to self-defence. But in a heavily militarised relationship that has also experienced three wars, there is indeed a need for caution and restraint. We share with India, the concern…. for preventing any future attack. We empathise with the Indian position that it needs to respond militarily to cross border threat of terrorism. But we also advise caution.” Mr. Lavoy said the Obama administration was making all efforts to ensure that India joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before the end of the year. The U.S and India had “significantly increased” mutual interaction on Afghanistan, the official said. “Our commander in Afghanistan travels to New Delhi regularly for consultations. India and the U.S have reconvened the trilateral meeting along with Afghanistan recently in New York,” he said. Mr. Lavoy was interacting with the audience at the Centre of Strategic and Interaction Studies after the release of a report on the agenda for India-U.S. relations for the next U.S. President. Richard M. Rossow, Senior Fellow and Wadhwani Chair at the CSIS, moderated the interaction. The personal leadership of the next U.S. President would have an impact on the India-U.S relationship, Mr. Lavoy said. “We have created the foundation… for the partnership. That is reliable and will serve the administration very well. But every significant global relationship needs leadership. It will be critically important that the next President provides the same kind of leadership that President Obama provided for India-U.S relations,” Mr. Lavoy said. (The Hindu 11/10/2016)

Soldier Killed, 8 Injured In Terror Attack In Zakura Near Srinagar (12)

One jawan of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) was killed and eight others injured in a “hit-and-run” attack in Zakura on the outskirts of Jammu and Kashmir capital Srinagar on Friday evening. The gunmen escaped after firing at a convoy of the paramilitary force. The area has been cordoned off and additional troops have been sent to the spot. A search operation has been launched. Three of the injured, including a local policeman, are critical, sources said. Zakura, an industrial area that houses many offices and factories of small businesses, is around 12 km away from Srinagar’s city centre Lal Chowk. “At around 7:30 pm, three of our companies were returning after their duty. It was a convoy of six vehicles. Two to three men came out of an alley and fired on one of the vehicles and ran away,” Deepak Kumar, a senior SSB official, said. After India carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control on September 29, security forces in the Kashmir Valley have confronted large attacks by Pakistani terrorists. Earlier this week, two members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT were killed, three days after they attacked a government compound in Pampore, 15 km from Srinagar. The Lashkar operatives hid in the institute and threw grenades in the lengthy assault. Attacks on security forces have increased since the killing of 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a terrorist with a large following, in July this year. In the unrest that followed, more than 90 people have been killed and over 10,000 injured in clashes with security forces. Schools and businesses have been closed across Kashmir for the last three months amid a curfew ordered by the administration and shutdown called by separatists, crippling everyday life. (NDTV 14/10/16)

BRICS meet declaration pledges to fight terror (12)

BENAULIM (GOA): The 8th BRICS summit ended here on Sunday with the adoption of the Goa Declaration which pledged opposition to terrorism, even as India failed to get a consensus on references to “cross-border terror” and Pakistan-based terror groups in the final statement. However, in a strongly worded statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “the most serious direct threat to our economic prosperity is terrorism. Tragically, its mother-ship is a country in India’s neighbourhood.” The text of the declaration did not name any country specifically as the source of cross-border terrorism but officials maintained that India did get the diplomatic edge it wanted from the summit. “I guess it does not concern them mainly, BRICS. It affects us. Because Pakistan-based outfits are also focused on India in terms of activities… so since… (it does not affect them), I guess we could not get a consensus on actually including both. But if you see, it says ISIS and various other affiliated organisations and I think there is a reference of terrorist organisations which are designated by the U.N.” said Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations), explaining that the statement covered India’s ongoing campaign to bring a comprehensive international legal framework against terrorism under the UN. Introducing the Goa Declaration, Prime Minister Modi said, “We also agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor such forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as the terrorists themselves.” Reflecting international concern, the Goa Declaration of the BRICS summit, which concluded here on Sunday, pointed out the need for countering the Islamic State which has occupied territories in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Specifically mentioning the Arabic acronym of IS, Daesh, it said the threat posed by the group is “unprecedented” and called for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the U.N. General Assembly. … (The Hindu 17/10/16)

Chinese flags recovered from terror hideouts in J&K’s Baramulla; 44 people arrested (12)

SRINAGAR: Possibly for the first time in Kashmir, security forces have recovered Chinese flags along with incriminating material during raids at suspected hideouts of militants in Baramulla and arrested 44 people for their alleged involvement in “terror-related activities”.”Over 700 houses were searched in a span of 12 hours on October 17 in an extensive search operation in old town in Baramulla, during which 44 people involved with terror related activities have been apprehended,” an Army spokesman said here on Tuesday. The security forces sanitised the area and a number of hideouts were busted during the operation, the spokesman said. “A large quantity of incriminating material such as petrol bombs, Chinese and Pakistani flags, Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) letter head pads, unauthorized mobile phones and seditious anti-national publicity material were seized,” he added. He said the operation was jointly carried out by teams of Army, police, BSF and CRPF in 10 sensitive localities including Qazi Hamam, Ganai Hamam, Taweed Gunj, Jamia and other mohallas reportedly being used as “safe havens by the terrorists”. Meanwhile, police, in a major crackdown, has arrested 122 more people allegedly involved in disrupting the public order in the valley. I am sure about Chinese are the brain and strength of Pakistan to disturb our country. Chinese Dragon support towards not banning terrorists organization is only trailer but the real issue is very much grave.Manoj Kumar Panda”Continuing its action against the persons involved in disrupting the public order in different parts of the valley, police arrested 122 such individuals during past 24 hours,” a police spokesman said. (Times of India 18/10/16)

J&K terror crackdown: Two local JeM militants arrested in Baramulla (12)

JAMMU: In a massive crackdown on terrorism in the valley, two Jaish-e-Mohammad militants have been arrested in Kanispora area of Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir. The militants were nabbed in a joint search operation launched last night by the 52 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operation Group (SOG) Baramulla. Ammunition besides an AK 47, a pistol and grenades were recovered from them, including Jaish and Hizbul Mujahideen stamps. Meanwhile, in a major breakthrough regarding national security, a Pakistani spy was arrested in Samba sector of Jammu and Kashmir as he was making attempts to escape. The spy named Bodh Raj was held along with two Pakistani SIM cards and a map showing deployment of forces was also seized from him. The Samba District Police said that based on the information received from Military Intelligence with regard to the involvement of Bodh Raj for his espionage activities and passing on vital information regarding deployment and movement of security forces to Pakistan, a special operation was conducted to nab him in the border area of Ramgarh. “This is a major breakthrough so far as national security is concerned and the arrest of some more persons is also likely in the days to come,” the Samba Police said in a statement. Earlier, a massive house-to-house search operation was launched in Baramulla after security forces received intelligence of active terror hideouts. One such operation was held earlier as well in which Chinese and Pakistan flags were recovered besides some arms and ammunition. the Army and the J&K Police are sweeping through the area to locate after receiving wind of untoward elements as the entire city of Baramulla is on lockdown. Earlier, terror group Laskar-e-Taiba had warned the Baramulla SHO for carrying out an operation in which at least 44 were arrested for terror-related activities. The crackdown was part of a joint operation by the Army, the BSF, the CRPF and police in several localities, including Qazi Hamam, Ganai Hamam, Taweed Gunj and Jamia, considered safe havens for terrorists. (Times of India 22/10/16)

At least 60 killed, over 100 injured in Pak police academy attack (12)

KARACHI: The overnight attack on a police training academy in Pakistan’s restive Quetta city has left over 60 cadets besides three militants dead, with 118 injured, making it one of the deadliest strikes in the country this year. The attack on the Police Training College on Saryab Road in the Balochistan province capital began at around 11.10pm last night, triggering an operation by Pakistani security forces who rescued hundreds of cadets from the academy. “More than 60 police cadets were killed in the attack while about 115 were injured,” a security source said. Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of Balochistan province tweeted that 118 people were injured. Bugti had earlier told reporters that the attack had been carried out by three terrorists, cycling back on an earlier estimate by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) of “five to six terrorists”. Bugti said there were around 700 police cadets and recruits in the college hostel when the attack took place While two of the militants had blown themselves up after being cornered, one was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces. All three were wearing suicide vests, Frontier Corps IG, Major General Sher Afghan said. The three terrorists were believed to be from the Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, he added. He told reporters that the militants were communicating with handlers in Afghanistan and taking instructions from them. Security forces had “cleared the college in four hours”, he said. Police, meanhwile, said the compound had been cleared but search operations were still on. Local media footage showed some security vehicles leaving the college. Bugti said the injured people, mostly police cadets and security personnel, had been shifted to the Civil hospital, Bolan Medical College hospital and Military hospital in Quetta. “The condition of some is critical,” he said. …  (Times of India 25/10/16)

Zakir Naik foundation to be banned soon by Home Ministry (12)

New Delhi: An NGO promoted by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik will soon be banned under the anti-terror law, with the Home Ministry preparing a draft cabinet note for it. Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will be declared an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act after investigations by the Home Ministry found it to be allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism, an official source said. According to the draft note, which is also based on the inputs from Maharashtra Police, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalisation of youths and luring them into terror activities, a source said. Naik also transferred IRF’s foreign funds to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes. Most of the programmes, which were made in India, contained alleged hate speeches of Naik, who had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists” through Peace TV, sources claimed. Two educational trusts run by Naik have also come under the scanner of the Home Ministry and agencies are looking into their activities. The draft note will soon be placed before the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for its approval, sources said. Naik is accused of radicalising youths into terror and receiving foreign funds and spending those to lure young people into terrorism. He came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik. Naik in a lecture, aired on Peace TV, had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”. The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light. (Business Standard 27/10/16)

Terror is a weapon of cowards: Rajnath tells Pakistan (12)

GREATER NOIDA: Making a veiled reference, Home Minister on Friday said Pakistan was indulging in a proxy war and has been trying to harm India by taking “cowardly” aid of terrorism. “The neighbouring country has been carrying out proxy war. But terrorism is not a weapon of the brave but of cowards. Those who fight from behind are called cowards…they take the help of terrorism,” he said.Speaking at the 55th raising day event of border guarding force Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) at its camp here, he said strict vigil by the force has resulted in 60 per cent less transgressions into the Indian territory by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army this year. Referring to the current tensions+ between the two countries, he said the neighbour has been trying to harm India and was attempting to break and “destabilise” it by resorting to terrorism. Singh said an “evil eye” is being cast on India to thwart its progress as it is marching on as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. Situation along the Indo-Pak border continues to remain tense after terrorists attacked an Army camp in Uri killing 19 soldiers on September 17. In a retaliatory action, Indian Army carried out surgical strikes+ on terror launch pads in PoK on September 27. Firing by both Indian and Pakistani forces towards each other’s positions have been continuing leading to several deaths on both sides.Singh had earlier instructed border guarding forces not to fire towards the enemy first, but not to count bullets if they are fired upon. Later, while taking questions on the ceasefire violations+ by Pakistan, he said, “Our soldiers are responding to them befittingly.” To a question on the espionage case involving a diplomat of the Pakistani High Commission in India, he said the government is taking necessary action. (Times of India 28/10/16)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

25 Maoists give up gun in insurgency-hit Bijapur (12)

RAIPUR: Fed up with the harsh forest life and empty Maoist ideology, 25 Naxals, including six women, on Sunday surrendered in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district. The cadres turned themselves in before state’s forest minister Mahesh Gagda at a programme held at Farsegarh village, located around 40 kms from the district headquarters deep inside the forest, said Bijapur additional superintendent of police, Mohit Garg. Bijapur collector Ayyaz Tamboli and superintendent of police KL Dhruv were also present. The surrendered cadres belong to Chintanpally, Sagmetta and other villages of Farsegarh police station area, the ASP said.Of them, two were identified as Simmo Dodi alias Sunita and Kudiam Somaru alias Vajja, who were active as local organisation squad (LOS) members under National Park Area Committee of Maoists, he said. A prominent Maoist member of the region, Sunita was allegedly involved in the attack on police in Mandem valley of the region in 2009 in which two special police officers were killed and as many weapons were looted. Besides, she was also wanted in cases of murder of villagers in Kerpe and Loded village in Bijapur, he added. Likewise, Vajja has been instrumental in carrying out attacks on security forces in the region, the ASP said. Rest of the surrendered rebels was allegedly involved in multiple incidents of road cutting and destroying government property in the area. “In their statement, they said they decided to quit the movement due to growing pressure on Naxals from security personnel, harsh forest life and empty ideology of naxals,” the ASP said. An encouragement amount of Rs 10,000 was given to each of the surrendered. They will also be ensured facilities as per the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the state government, he added. Meanwhile, minister Gagda, who is an MLA from Bijapur constituency, also gave cash prize to the meritorious students from Farsegarh area and distributed sports kits to the inmates of boys and girls hostels on the occasion. Agencies (Times of India 3/10/16)

354 Chhattisgarh Naxals lay down arms (12)

Bhopal: In the biggest-ever Naxal surrender in Chhattisgarh, 354 Maoists laid down arms before the police in south Bastar district of Sukma, considered a rebel stronghold. Significantly, majority of the surrendered ultras hailed from the region declared liberated zone by Maoists. “The development has dealt a severe blow to the Left-wing extremism, particularly in south Bastar, since the Naxals who surrendered at Sukma hailed from areas considered a Maoist stronghold. This would provide a trigger for desertion of other rebels, weakening the Naxal base in Bastar,” sources in state intelligence bureau told this newspaper. Naxals who surrendered hailed from panchayats of Kerlapal Majhipara, Patelpara Kerlapal, Potampara, Borguda, Gondpalli Masalpara, Jirampala, Jaimer, Polem, Ghuras, Bade Setti, Ghurguda, and Pandupara. All the panchayats fall under the liberated zone declared by Maoists. Incidentally, Maoists’ first battalion headed by dreaded Naxal commander Hidma has been deployed in the zone to ensure interstate movement of Maoists from southern India to Central India via Bastar. “The mass surrender of Naxals from southern part of Sukma district will help us in building our intelligence network, hitherto remained weak, in the Maoist stronghold”, a senior police officer of Sukma district told this newspaper. (Asian Age 5/10/16)

3 naxals hurt in gunfight with police, arrested (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM :Three Maoists were injured in an exchange of fire at GK Veedhi mandal in the Visakha agency in the early hours of Thursday .Of the three injured, the condition of two is said to be critical.All the three naxalites, identified as Gemmela Narsing, 25, Muvvala Ambri, 22, and Sobhan, 26, were arrested and shifted to Visakhapatnam for treatment. According to sources, the incident took place around 5.30 am at a coffee plantation located between Pedapadu and Cheepurugondi areas, considered stronghold areas of the banned CPI (Maoists) in Visakha Agency . A squad of active militia led by Jambri was moving towards Cheepurugondi when they encountered a special party of Visakha Rural cops who were carrying out combing operations in the area. The exchange of fire between the two groups lasted for about 20 minutes. While sources said 100 rounds of ammunition were fired by cops, the latter said only 50 rounds were fired. “The exchange of fire took place when a group of ultras fired on police personnel who re taliated. After the incident, we found three Maoists with injuries, of which the condition of two of them is serious. All of them were arrested and a medical team was sent to the spot to shift the injured naxals to Vizag for medical treatment,” Visakha Rural SP Rahuldev Sharma told TOI. No policeman was injured in the encounter, he added. One landmine, two rifles and Maoist literature was seized from the outlaws. If the arrested naxals surrender, no cases will be slapped against them and they will be rehabilitated, said the SP.Narsing hails from Saguku village in GK Veedhi mandal and is a former member member of the Galikonda Area Committee and carries a re ward of Rs one lakh on his head. He had quit the movement about a year ago and was staying in his village. Since, he did not surrender, he remained an active member in the police records. According to the sources, the militia members were taking Narsing to their stronghold for some purpose when the encounter took place early Thursday . Narsing sustained bullet injuries in his right shoulder and is in a serious condition. Ambri is from Pandirai village in GK Veedi mandal and a militia member. He sustained injuries in his right hand and left leg and is also serious. The third naxal, Sobhan, received minor injuries and is out of danger, police said. (Times of India 7/10/16)

Jharkhand: Hardcore Naxal commander arrested in Dumka (12)

Dumka: Jharkhand Police has confirmed the arrest of a Naxal zonal commander and two of his associates from Basmata village under Masalia Police Station in the state’s Dumka district and seized detonators, transistors and Rs. 35,000 cash from their possession. Dumka Police has identified the commander as Kanchan Da, alias, Awadh Kishore, who is carrying a bounty of Rs 10 lakhs on his head. His associates were identified as Gopal Rai and Okil Murmu. They were arrested on Saturday in a joint operation of the district police and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). Kanchan, a member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was allegedly involved in many dreadful incidents. In the 1980s, according to the police, Kanchan was working with the Home Guards, and joined the Naxals after the death of his father in 1997. At present, he was looking after his organisation’s affairs in Dumka, Godda, Jamtara and Pakur districts, and had been recruiting youth in the Santhal Pargana division into his organisation. Dumka Superintendent of Police (SP) Prabhat Kumar told ANI, “The district police and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) carried out a joint operation and arrested hardcore Naxal rebel Awadh Kishore Yadav, alias, Awadh Chandra Yadav, alias, Kanchan Da, alias, Mota, alias, Suresh Da, and his two accomplices Gopal Rai and Okil Murmur”?He said the Naxal zonal commander was involved in many dreadful incidents, including the murder of Shamshad Ansari, the then Station House Officer of the Shikaripara Police Station at Pokharia in 2008; in the murder of the then Pakur SP Amarjeet Balihar, and five police personnel in Jamuni village under Kathikund police range in 2013 and in the killing of eight polling officers, along with a policemen, during the 2014 general elections at Sarsajol village under Shikaripara Police Station among others. He was also involved in the encounter between police and Naxals on September 10, 2010 in Kathikund’s Taldanga Hills, in which the then Station House Officer of the Jama Police Station Satanand Singh and three other policemen were killed; while his role is being probed into the murder case of Sister Valsa John in Pakur district?s Amrapara block in 2015, said the SP. Prabhat Kumar said, Kanchan is expert in operating arms and has taken training in Giridih, while his two associates were also involved in many Naxal incidents. (DNA 9/10/16)

Policeman hacked to death by Naxals in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh (12)

Raipur: A police jawan was on Tuesday hacked to death by Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bijapur district, a top official said. According to preliminary information, a group of four-five unidentified ultras attacked assistant constable Lakhmu Telam (35), killing him on the spot, Bijapur Additional Superintendent of Police Mohit Garg told PTI. The incident took place at Nemed village market under Jangla police station limits around 3.30 pm, he said. After getting the news, a police team was rushed to the spot. A native of Vijay Nagar in Bijapur district, Telam was posted with the District Reserve Group of police. He was on leave since October 7, the ASP said. A combing operation was launched in the region to nab the assailants, he said. (Indian Express 12/10/16)

Naxal leader, arms recovered in UP’s Chandauli (12)

VARANASI: Following the arrest of nine suspected naxals in Noida on Saturday night, the Varanasi unit of UP Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) succeeded in nabbing a Maoist leader with an INSAS rifle and cartridge in Sayyadraja area in Chandauli district on Sunday. Sensing ATS raid, another naxal managed to flee, but the team recovered two rifles and cartridges in large number from his house. Besides three rifles, the ATS team recovered 434 cartridges during the raid. According to reports, the arrested naxal was identified as Sunil Ravidas, former area commander of People’s War Group (PWG). Acting on a tip-off, the ATS team, led by SP Santosh Kumar Singh, raided his house in Laxmanpur Gorai village in Sayyadraja police station area of Chandauli district and arrested him with an Insas rifle and 115 cartridges. According to Singh, the house of another naxal and Sunil’s aide Ramapati was also raided, but he managed to flee from the scene. The police recovered two rifles and cartridges from his house. Singh said that during interrogation of naxals arrested in Noida, they revealed that some members had gone to Bihar and Chandauli to procure arms and ammunitions. A team was also sent to Bihar in search of other members of the group. They have formed a new group -Tritiya Sammelan Prastutikaran Samiti to execute their plans. The interrogation was on to get more information from them. (Times of India 16/10/16)

10 Naxals in UP custody, Delhi attack plans foiled (12)

New Delhi: In 12-hour-long operation that began on Saturday evening and ended Sunday morning, the Uttar Pradesh police’s anti-terrorism squad arrested 10 Naxalites along with 125 detonators, explosives and automatic weapons from New Delhi’s satellite township of Noida. The ATS claimed that the arrested persons were planning a major strike in the Delhi and National Capital Region in the coming days. The police is now also investigating their possible links with terrorist organisations.Members of the Delhi police special cell rushed to Noida to take part in the interrogation of the arrested persons. In the night-long operation, the ATS carried out several raids across Uttar Pradesh and arrested a total of 10 left-wing extremists, including Sunil Ravidas from Chaundauli in Uttar Pradesh, a former self-styled area commander of the erstwhile People’s War Group (PWG), who was once active in Naxal-hit Sasaram district of Bihar. Addressing reporters, UP ATS IG Asim Arun said that the Naxals were identified as Ranjit Paswan aka Santosh, 35, from Chandauli; Sachin Kumar, 28, from Greater Noida; Ashish Saraswat, 18, from Aligarh; Brij Kishore. 22, from Aligarh; and Suraj, 22, from Bulandsher in Uttar Pradesh; as well as Pawan Kumar Jha, 25, from Madhubani; Krishna Kumar, 42, and Sunil Kumar Yadav, 25,from Sasaram; and Shailendra Kumar, 41, from Buxar in Bihar. The police said the accused suspects were operational in Bihar and Jharkhand. He said that a watchful alert citizen had alerted the police about suspicious activities in his neighborhood, after which the police had started tracking their activities. They were staying at a second-floor flat in Sector 49 of Hindon Vihar (Flat 102, B23) for the past six months, pretending to work as property dealers, and had even opened two shops in the locality. The police said the arrested persons were planning to commit crimes such as looting, robbery, ATM theft, kidnapping, extortion and contract killings to raise funds for their planned operation in Delhi-NCR during Diwali. “We conducted the operation on Saturday night and arrested five persons from the flat in Hindon Vihar with a huge cache of arms and detonators. Based on the details of interrogation, the police conducted a raid on Sunday morning in the Sadarpur area and arrested four more Maoist suspects. In addition, one person was arrested from Chaundauli,” the ATS IG said. An Insas assault rifle, pistols and huge quantity of explosives and detonators were recovered in the raid. “It is suspected the Insas rifle was looted from a securityman as the weapon is used by them against terrorists,” the IG Insas (Indian Small Arms System) is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine-gun. The police found three 32 bore pistols, one 09 mm pistol, three country-made revolvers, 60 cartridges (32 bore), 10 cartridges (09 bore), 18 cartridges (315) bore, two laptops, 13 mobile phones, four cars, one motorcycle and Rs 75,000 in cash from their possession. (Asian Age 17/10/16)

Odisha rights panel seeks report on Maoist threat (12)

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Monday sought an action taken report from district authorities in Malkangiri over a petition seeking protection for people living in the area under Maoist threat. The OHRC has sought within six weeks the response from the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police of Malkangiri over the matter, which was transferred to it by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Some months ago, the affected villagers, mostly tribals, had visited the Collector’s office in Malakangiri, seeking administration’s help and adequate security in their villages. The local administration had provided them with basic amenities and settled them in temporary shelters in the district headquarters, even as incidents of villagers being killed allegedly by Maoists continued to be reported from the region. Human rights activist Sangita Swain had moved the NHRC, “seeking justice” for the people of Andrapalli and Panaspat in Malkangiri district. Ms Swain had alleged that the Maoists tortured and killed tribal people suspecting them to be police informers and set houses on fire and their human rights were violated by the inaction/ unlawful action by the police or public authority in Malkangiri. She had sought protection of the tribals from the Maoists and a compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the kin of those killed and Rs 5 lakh to other victims. She had claimed that the tribal people were leaving their villages “out of fear”. The OHRC order said the Collector and the SP of Malkangiri district be provided the copy of the petition filed by Ms Swain, as it posted the next hearing in the case to November 25. – PTI (The Hindu 18/10/16)

2 more Naxals nabbed from Bihar after Noida crackdown (12)

Lucknow: Two Naxals active in Noida were today arrested from Bihar by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad, taking the total number of ultras nabbed to 12 after Sunday’s crackdown on their gang planning a major pre-Diwali attack in the national capital and NCR area. An ATS official said here that Dharamveer Singh Yadav and Sipahi Ram were arrested from Darigaon area in Bihar’s Rohtas district close to the border with Uttar Pradesh.Rohtas, one of the Naxal-hit districts of Bihar, is close to Chandauli district in Uttar Pradesh from where one arrest was made on Sunday. Nine others were picked up from Noida. Today’s arrest of two Naxals was made on a tip off from four ultras — Ranjit Paswan, Krishan Kumar, Pawan Kumar Jha and Ashish Saraswat — taken on seven-day custody of the UP ATS which got their remand till October 26. Averting a major Naxal attack in the national capital and its neighbourhood, the UP ATS had on October 16 smashed a gang of ultras arresting 10 of them, including a self-styled area commander, and recovering a huge cache of arms and ammunition. The left-wing extremists were adept at making bombs and were planning some incidents in the Delhi-NCR region, IG (UP-ATS) Aseem Arun had said. Nine Naxals were arrested from Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, while one from Chandauli near Varanasi. The arrested Naxals were active in eastern UP and adjoining parts of Bihar and had made Noida their base. (Business Standard 20/10/16)

Andhra Pradesh: Top Naxal leaders among 21 killed in encounter (12)

Vijaywada: 21 Maoists, including two top commanders Gajarla Ravi and Chalapati, were Monday killed in an exchange of fire with security forces on the Andhra-Odisha border, dealing a severe blow to the Naxalites in the region. Two senior commandos of Greyhounds, AP’s elite anti-Naxal force, were also injured in the exchange of fire and airlifted to Visakhapatnam for treatment. Sources said Ravi alias Uday and Chalapati, two high-ranking Maoists leaders, were suspected to be among those killed in the encounter that occurred during a routine combing operation being jointly carried out by police of both the states at Ramgurha in Malkangiri district of Odisha. The two were carrying a reward of Rs 20 lakh each on their heads. One Munna, son of Maoist top leader Ramakrishna, was also said to be among the casualties. Besides 15 men, some women Maoists were also said to be among those killed in the face-off which lasted for almost an hour early this morning. When asked about this, a top-ranking police official said “it could be” but did not wish to comment further. Police recovered four AK-47 rifles from the scene of the encounter, where a Maoist den was also found. “A large haul of weapons like AK47s and self-loading rifles (SLRs) indicates clearly that it is a case where state level leaders could be present. Unless we identify them, we can’t exactly tell who is there,” Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police (in charge) Nanduri Sambasiva Rao said. “It was a joint operation by AP and Odisha security forces. Police special parties were attacked with AK-47 rifles, SLRs and other weapons and this is what happened when they acted in self-defence,” Sambasiva Rao said. “If there is any injured Naxal, we will airlift them as well. We are more interested in evacuating the police force and special parties and also Naxals if anybody is injured,” the DGP (in charge) added. “We are in touch with the Odisha state police and we will take their cooperation (in the evacuation).We think the operation is over,” he said. (Indian Express 24/10/16)

Naxal couple gives up gun over ‘empty’ Maoist ideology (12)

RAIPUR: A Naxal couple, disappointed with the ‘empty’ Maoist ideology, surrendered before intelligence wing of Chhattisgarh Police on Monday, police said. The duo were identified as Berta Bheema alias Bhimaal and his wife Sito alias Jamli, natives of Bijapur district. They turned themselves in at Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) headquarters, additional superintendent of police (SIB) Lal Umed Singh told PTI. While Bheema was active as deputy commander of military platoon 2 in the National Park Area committee of Maoists, Sito was working as section deputy commander in the same wing, he said. After getting associated with the outlawed CPI (Maoist) in 2005 as a member of Bhairamgarh (Bijapur) local organisation squad, Bheema worked in different capacities with the banned outfit. He was instrumental in executing several deadly attacks on security forces in the region, the ASP said. According to the officer, he was allegedly involved in the 2010 attack in Dhaudai area of Narayanpur district in wherein 26 police personnel were killed. He also admitted to his involvement in the 2008 Maoist ambush in Badgaon area of Kanker district that claimed the life of a policeman. Similarly, Sito was an important cadre of the wing as she was providing medical treatment to injured Maoist cadres, Singh said. “In their statements, they said they decided to quit the movement due to harsh forest life and ‘empty’ ideology of Naxals,” the ASP said. Moreover, they have disclosed crucial details regarding the Maoist outfits active in the National Park Area and Bijapur, which would certainly help in counter-insurgency operations in the region, he said. (Times of India 25/10/16)

Maoist leaders in police custody, claim activists (12)

Hyderabad: Civil liberty leaders and emissaries of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Thursday claimed that top Maoists leaders are still in police custody, and demanded their immediate release.Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna and Gajarla Ravi alias Ganesh alias Uday of the outlawed group vanished without a trace following a prolonged joint operation of the Andhra Pradesh and the Odisha Police. As many as 30 Maoists have lost their lives since Monday in the Bejjangi forest in Odisha’s Malkangiri district. While all the Maoists and one Greyhound commando, Abu Bakr, were identified, Ramakrishna (RK) and Ganesh are said to have slipped into the vast forest area amid the gun battle with the anti-Maoist forces. However, Maoist emissary and revolutionary writer Varavara Rao charged that the police captured the insurgents when they had gathered for a plenary meeting, and tortured them to death. “We have information that RK and Ganesh are in police custody since Monday. We demand the police present them before the court, we are concerned about their safety,” Varavara said. In a separate statement, the Telangana Democratic Forum also demanded the Andhra Pradesh government release the two leaders. “If anything happens to them, it will be the responsibility of the state government,” read the statement, signed by Prof Haragopal and Justice (Retd) Chandrakumar, among others. (Deccan Herald 28/10/16)

TRAFFICKING

Placement agency dir, another get RI for trafficking (1)

BILASPUR: A fast track court of Raigarh has sentenced two persons, including a woman, to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment on charges of human trafficking. The woman is director of a placement agency in Delhi. The other accused had sold a Raigarh-based girl to her on a false promise of getting her a job.According to police, accused Jaiprakash Triki approached a family of daily wagers in village Chalha under Kapu police station of the district three years ago. He assured better wages to the said family and thereafter, took the ten-year-old girl along with her without informing her parents. Mularobai and Jainath, residents of the village, had seen Jaiprakash taking the minor along with him. The worried parents came to know about it when they searched for their daughter. The minor’s father then contacted Jaiprakash and enquired about his daughter.Jaiprakash promised him that he would get his daughter back, but did not do so.On January 14, 2014, minor’s parents lodged a report against Jaiprakash at Kapu police station. Investigating the complaint, police found that Jaiprakash had sold off the minor to Gayatri Mahto, 42, director of Gayatri Enterprises, a placement agency in Delhi. Thereafter, Gayatri sold off the minor to work as a labourer. Police also found that Gayatri Enterprises had been selling off minors and others as labourers for quite sometime. Police arrested Jaaiprakash and Gayatri on charges of human trafficking and brought them to Raigarh. Their case was heard by the fast track court presided over by judge Mamta Shukla.Hearing of the case was completed recently in which the court foound both the accused guilty as charged and sentenced them both to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. A fine of Rs 5,000 each was also imposed on them. The accused will have to undergo additional imprisonment of six months if they fail to pay the fine. (Times of India 2/10/16)

Trafficking in tribal girls rampant in Adilabad (1)

Adilabad: Trafficking in tribal girls from Utnoor, Kerimori, Boath, Gudihathnur and Indravelli mandals in Adilabad district into Rajasthan and Maharashtra continues unabated. As many as 28 girls are reported missing during the last eight months. The anxious parents are making desperate bid to ensure that the police investigate into the disappearance of these young girls. Even as the reports of tribal girls falling prey to guiles of the pimps or girls being kidnapped are doing rounds, a few instances of parents themselves selling their girls to traders from Rajasthan have surfaced. Take the case of Dasarath, a labourer of KRK Colony in the town. He has two daughters. The eldest, Kajal (13), is in fifth class, while the younger one, Payal, is studying third class. The couple allegedly struck a deal with brokers to sell their daughters for Rs.50,000 to Latif and Bajrangi, who hailed from Rajasthan. They had reportedly paid Rs.20,000 as advance to the couple. The balance was to be paid at the time of moving them to Rajasthan. The clandestine operation was exposed as a row broke out between the parents of the girls and two persons who intended to buy the lasses. The dispute arose as the two men insisted on paying Rs 20,000 only by arguing that the parent had agreed to sell their girls for Rs 40,000 only. Local residents lodged a complaint with the police and the two men were arrested along with the couple. The police shifted the girls to the Balasadan protection centre. Dasarath, while speaking to ‘The Hans India’, denied that he had struck a deal with pimps to sell his daughters. He also claimed having no links with the pimps. Attempts to weaken the case have begun, it is alleged. But, Circle Inspector Venkataswamy promised to ensure investigation into all aspects of the case. A girl from Indravelli mandal, who was trafficked into a neighbouring State, managed to escape from the clutches of the tormentors and returned home. The police at present are investigating into the five cases of sale of girls.  Girijan Sangham leader Bhaskar, while speaking to ‘The Hans India’ expressed anguish over some girls being trapped in the red-light area of Mumbai. There are reports of girls being transported to Rajasthan where the sex ratio is skewed. Police are blamed for failing to check trafficking in girls. The parents of the girls, who are reportedly missing, have been making representation to the government to order an inquiry into the trafficking of girls. Are the voices of these poor tribal people heard? (Hans India 3/10/16)

Child trafficking racket: Jolt to Jalandhar police as court dismisses clean chit to doctor (1)

Jalandhar: In a major setback to the city police, a local court on Wednesday dismissed the discharge application of Dr Vishal Bhanot (45) of Urban Estate, Phase-2, who was arrested on charges of child trafficking by city police after a sting operation conducted with the help of an NGO on July 15. The city police in its re-investigation had given clean chit to Bhanot and had submitted an application to discharge him from the case two days ago but on Wednesday, the court refused to accept the report. Hence, Dr Bhanot will have to remain in jail till relief from the high court. After Bhanot’s arrest on July 15, a panel of National Integrated Medical Association (NIMA) and his wife had submitted separate applications of re-inquiry into the case after the city police declared him innocent. As per the reinvestigation, the police had conceded that Dr Bhanot has no role in the racket and was reportedly going to meet Dr Ramandeep Kaur (29) of Banga’s Patti Matt Wali village when the sting was conducted. Kaur had also recorded the same revelations during the reinvestigation before the police team. As per the police, Bhanot and Kaur were well-known to each other but he did not know about any wrongdoing. In mid-September, the police had filed a chargesheet against Bhanot, Kaur and Dr Reena including 10 persons. Apart from them, Seema alias Seeta of Vazir Bhular village in Beas, Harjinder Kaur alias Pooja of Sangat Singh Nagar Kapurthala, Asha alias Sheela of Madhuban Colony and her husband Brij Mohan Jyoti of Chuheki village in Nurmahal, Manpreet of Brahmana Majra village in Fatehgarh Sahib and Kuldeep Kaur Pradhan of Arjun Nagar were also reportedly involved in the case. Now the next hearing of this case is pending on October 16 this year. (Hindustan Times 6/10/16)

Activists say single anti-trafficking law not possible in Indian context (1)

New Delhi: The Draft Anti-Trafficking Bill may have been dubbed as a ‘comprehensive’ legislation when it was launched earlier this year but activists say an umbrella law for this offence is not possible in the Indian context. Final touches are being given to the draft bill before it is sent to the Cabinet. The government is holding discussions with NGOs on the proposed bill aimed at addressing various aspects of human trafficking. At the unveiling of the draft bill on May 30, the then Secretary of Women and Child Development V Somasundaran had said, “Trafficking is the third largest organised crime and time has now come to deal with it through a single comprehensive act.” However, the proposed legislation to curb trafficking is not a “single comprehensive act” as it was initially tipped to be. Activists say it will apply alongside at least 12 other laws which have provisions to deal with different kinds of trafficking. These include Immoral Trafficking of Persons Act, IPC Section 176(a) and 363 374, CRPC, Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labour Act, Bonded Labour Abolition Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, Prevention of Child Sexual Offences, IT Act, Transplantation of Human Organs Act,Inter-state Migrant’s Workmen Act, among others. The activists say subsequent drafts have in fact corrected what was a flawed approach of having a composite law, which would address different kinds of trafficking within its ambit. “The previous drafts have brought out one prominent failure in the entire exercise, namely carving out a single, comprehensive law seeking to address the essence of human trafficking with or without addressing each of the destination crimes of human trafficking,” according to Pravin Patkar of Prerana. He also says several laws that currently deal with different aspects of human trafficking are adequate and, therefore, what is needed is to merely fill the gaps that exist. “Most of the existing separate laws dealing with the known destination crimes of human trafficking (e.g., sex trade, sweatshops, beggary rackets, human organ trade, exploitation of children in the labour sector, bonded labour) are, by and large, adequate. “… Bringing all of the laws together under one law will only be possible by physically pinning the pages of the distinct laws together with a single cover page. It will not be a new organic identity,” says Patkar. NGO Prajwala’s Sunitha Krishnan, who is part of a committee formed to frame a new law on trafficking, too says it is not possible to have an umbrella law for this offence. “You can’t have a comprehensive law because there are existing legislations. The idea is to have provisions in the new law that are missing in other existing laws. At the same time the new law should be read along with existing laws.” (Indian Express 9/10/16)

Nagpur one of biggest hubs of women trafficking: Maneka (1)

Nagpur: Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday dropped a bombshell by stating that Nagpur had become one of the biggest human trafficking centres of the country. The rescue of a minor from a brothel in Ganga Jamuna redlight area in July this year had was a pointer to this reality. The girl, who had lost her father early, was brought to city from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh when she was a child. Along with flesh trade racketeers, also on the prowl are ones who traffic girls for marriage to states where sex ratio is skewed. The Rana Pratap Nagar police’s action against one such racket underlined the fact that marriageable girls from poor families were the prime targets for the racket. The 15-year-old year old girl was sold to a family in Kota in Rajathan for Rs 1.5 lakh for marriage. The minor was later rescued. It is believed many such rackets are operating in the slums of the city but most cases go unreported. Senior police officials however said city was merely a transit point being in the centre. “We came across many cases in which girls were being taken north from south. They passed through the city as it falls on the train route,” they said. While addressing a gathering of over 5,000 women in Deoli, Gandhi said her ministry was continuously taking steps to control such activities. “Over the years, the Congress government did nothing. No stringent law was made against trafficking. We are now coming up with an anti-trafficking bill that would prevent women caught in brothel raids from being arrested. In most of the cases, victims get punished rather than traffickers,” she added….  (Times of India 13/10/2016)

Anti-trafficking bill may not be tabled in Parliament in Winter Session (1)

New Delhi: The anti-trafficking bill being prepared by women and child development ministry is may not be tabled during the Winter Session before the Parliament. Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Saturday said the Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 was sent for inter-ministerial consultations on Friday. “We were ready to bring the bill to Parliament in December. But with the Winter Session scheduled to start in November, we may not be able to introduce it this year,” she told PTI. The Winter Session, which usually begins in the third or fourth week of November, has been advanced this year, as it starts November 16. This is the second time different ministries are being consulted over the draft bill. An inter-ministerial committee had also met last month to deliberate on it. The draft of the proposed legislation has been circulated among various other stakeholders for their feedback. Once the draft bill is finalised a cabinet note will be prepared and it will be sent to the cabinet. After the cabinet nod, the draft bill will be introduced in Parliament for its passage. The draft bill proposes different forms of trafficking under the category of “aggravated trafficking”, with punishment of up to life imprisonment. This category includes bonded labour, trafficking for the purpose of bearing a child, trafficking for the purpose of marriage, trafficking for begging, trafficking of a pregnant woman or resulting into pregnancy, among others. The draft also seeks to create a National Anti- Trafficking Bureau for preventing, investigating and protecting cases or victims of trafficking. (Hindustan Times 15/10/16)

Move to transfer trafficking victims to Apna Ghar opposed (1)

PANAJI: Ms. Nishtha Desai of the PNC told The Hindu that the organisation has urged the State government to immediately revoke any order given by the State Directorate of Women and Child Development to shift the women from the Protective Home to Apna Ghar, stating the move was ill-conceived and detrimental for everyone involved. The PNC, comprising of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and individuals concerned about children’s issues, has time and again highlighted the need to improve the situation of children in Apna Ghar by ensuring separate premises for children in need of care and protection, for children in conflict with the law, and for girls and boys in accordance with the recommendations of a State-conducted Inquiry Report prepared by Levinson Martins. The PNC has opposed the move through a petition submitted to the Chief Secretary, the Secretary and Director of Women and Child Development, the Superintendent of the Protective Home, the Registrar of the Goa State Legal Services Authority, the Juvenile Justice High Court Committee, the National and State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights, and the State Human Rights Commission. (The Hindu 18/10/16)

6 rescued from trafficking net (1)

NEW DELHI: Six teenage girls, trafficked from Assam and West Bengal and forced into prostitution, were rescued during two separate raids launched in Delhi and Panipat, police said on Friday. In the first incident, a joint team of the Delhi Police, West Bengal Police and members of NGO Shakti Vahini rescued three girls from a house in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar on Thursday morning. The victims said that a youth had befriended them on a social networking site and promised to offer them jobs in Delhi. The girls were found to be locked in secret rooms of the house in Vinod Nagar. In the second operation, three more girls were rescued while being taken to Panipat in Haryana on Thursday night. According to Rishi Kanth from Shakti Vahini, the three girls rescued from Laxmi Nagar were brought to Delhi four months ago from a village in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. A trafficker bought them for Rs 2 lakh. They were allegedly raped by the trafficker and later, forced into prostitution. The other girls are from Assam. The NGO officials said that one of the victims was brought to Delhi by a youth named, Rakesh Kumar, on the pretext of marrying her. She was confined to a house in Azadpur Subzi Mandi and raped for days before being taken to Panipat. Another victim had managed to call her family members using the mobile phone of a customer after which they had informed the local police, the NGO officials said. The victims were taken for a medical examination after they were rescued. They have been provided temporary shelter at a women’s home. “We have asked the authorities in Delhi, Assam and West Bengal to investigate the trafficking racket being run by Rakesh and to arrest all the members of the gang,” said Kanth. A case under sections 370 (trafficking) and 376 D (gang-rape) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered. (Times of India 22/10/16)

Ministry sends a cabinet note on Human Trafficking Bill with new definitions (1)

New Delhi: A new definition of trafficking, rehabilitation as a right for trafficked survivors and streamlining of cross-border issues are some of the key highlights of the draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill (2016) sent to the cabinet. The women and child development ministry had sent the cabinet note on the human trafficking bill in the first week of October, said a senior ministry official, following an inter-ministerial consultation with the ministries of home, labour and employment, external affairs, overseas Indian affairs, health ministry and the department of legal affairs held on September 20. Some of the highlights of the bill, as per the cabinet note, are the closure of places used for exploitation and time-bound trials of trafficking cases in exclusive trafficking courts. Under the new bill, placement agencies will need to register themselves with the government, to ensure a regulation of such agencies. The bill also widened the definition of trafficking after the first draft invited a lot of flak for not having a functional definition. Under the new definition, trafficking for any purpose, trafficking that results in pregnancy and grievous hurt of the survivor, buying and selling of people, trafficking a person for forced or bonded labour as well as the administration of narcotic drugs, alcohol, psychotropic substances, chemical substances, or hormones for the purpose of attaining sexual maturity and exploitation are punishable up to life imprisonment. The new draft, which is the tenth one, also includes provisions for a structural institutional framework at national, state, and district level for the prevention of trafficking, and the protection and rehabilitation of the survivors of trafficking. There are also provisions of a national anti-trafficking body with contemporaries in every state. The draft bill also has provisions to ensure cross border issues for economic sanctions and overall monitoring and coordination between various states and neighbouring countries. Other provisions include the creation of district bodies to ensure rehabilitation and to create access to support and follow-up for survivors of trafficking. As per NCRB data, in 2015 there were a total of 6,877 cases of human trafficking in India. Of these, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Haryana made up 85% of all the cases. Out of these, and 3,490 cases (51%) involved children. And out of all the cases of child trafficking, 3,087 (88.5%) cases were registered in the Indian Penal Code under Section 366A for the procuration of girl to force her into sex. PM Nair, chairperson at TISS, who was part of the drafting committee says that the step is crucial. “We have been pursuing the government to come up with a comprehensive law since May 2011, when India ratified to the UN’s convention against transnational organized crime,” said Nair. (DNA 24/10/16)

CBI takes over probe into alleged trafficking of children to orphanage (1)

KOCHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday registered two cases to take over investigations into the alleged trafficking of 38 children from north Indian states to an orphanage run by Khadeejathul Kubra Islamic Complexn at Nettoor in Kochi. Delhi unit of CBI will probe the cases. The alleged trafficking relates to rescue of 29 children from Bihar, Haryana, New Delhi, Rajasthan and Jharkhand by railway authorities at Ernakulam North station and nine children from Jharkhand at Kayamkulam Railway station in May, 2015. Muhammad Faizulla and Muhammad Munavar who had brought the children are accused in the cases as per the FIR submitted by CBI before Ernakulam chief judicial magistrate court. District Child Welfare Committee had found that the orphanage was functioning with a permit that had lapsed. The committee had also found that the rescued children hailed from financially poor families. Earlier, CBI Delhi unit had registered two cases related to the alleged trafficking of 400 children to northern Kerala in 2014. (Times of India 26/10/16)

Ten minors ‘trafficked’ from Bihar rescued (1)

Bengaluru: Ten boys, including nine minors, were rescued from a shoe soles factory at Govindapura near K.G. Halli. The boys — aged between 14 and 18 — were trafficked from Sitamarhi district in Bihar and had been working under exploitative conditions in ‘Universal Products SS Footwear’ factory. K.G. Halli police rescued the children along with the Labour Department and NGO APSA after an anonymous call to the helpline 1098. The boys were forced to work for 12 hours a day without a holiday, and a watchman had been posted to keep an eye on them so that they did not leave the premises, the police said. Though the boys were promised a monthly wage of Rs. 7,000, many had not received payment for months. K.G. Halli police have filed cases against the owner of the factory and two traffickers under IPC 370 (Trafficking of Persons), the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act 1976, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. (The Hindu 29/10/16)

CORRUPTION

Rs 65,000 crore revealed in black money disclosure scheme (5)

NEW DELHI: Surpassing expectations, the Centre’s move to unearth black money received a robust response with the total amount declared under the Income Declaration Scheme totalling Rs 65,250 crore. Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that 64,275 declarations had been made under the scheme, which was open for four months and closed on September 30. He said the number is expected to go up once all the declarations are verified. Based on the current declarations, the Centre is likely to get tax revenues of Rs 29,362 crore, of which Rs 14,700 crore will flow into its coffers by March and the rest in the next fiscal year. Those who have availed of the Income Disclosure Scheme can pay the amount in two instalments up to September 30, 2017. “It is an important step towards more and more becoming tax compliant,” Jaitley said. The declarations are seen as a major success for the government which had faced criticism from opponents who cited the muted response to a scheme for those with undisclosed wealth overseas last year, to claim that IDS is not going to fare better. “I compliment all those who chose to be tax compliant in IDS-2016. This is a great contribution towards transparency and growth of the economy,” Modi tweeted. He complimented Jaitley, revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia and CBDT chairperson Rani Singh Nair for putting in a tremendous effort.The IDS came into effect from June 1, 2016. The total levy is 45% with tax, penalty and surcharge. Jaitley said IDS cannot be compared with the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme of 1997, which yielded tax worth Rs9,760 crore. He said the effective tax rate for the scheme was in single digit as valuation was based on 1987 prices. … (Times of India 2/10/16)

Cabinet decision- Solar scam probe panel gets six months’ extension (5)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state cabinet on Tuesday decided to extent the tenure of Justice Sivarajan commission which is probing the solar scam for six more months. The commission, which was appointed by the Oommen Chandy government, is currently in the process of recording statements of all the accused and the final report is yet to be submitted to the government. The cabinet has also decided to extend the tenure of Kochi Metro Rail Corporation (KMRL) managing director Elias George by two years. Elias George, a 1982-batch IAS officer, will retire from the service on October 31 this year. The cabinet appointed K D Babu, advocate based in Kochi, as the additional director of prosecution of the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau and also to include P V Surendranath in the panel of advocates representing the state government in the Supreme Court. In order to intensify the awareness campaign against the use of drugs and alcohol, the government decided to launch a programme titled “Vimukthi” that will work in cooperation with the National Service Scheme, students police cadets, anti-drug clubs in schools and colleges and Kudumbashree. The cabinet also revised the rules by which the government can take suo motu action against the revision powers of the land revenue commissioner. At present, any decision against the decisions of land revenue commissioner is taken by the government on the basis of an appeal from the aggrieved. A governing body will be constituted with the chief minister as the chairman and excise minister as the vice-chairman of the body . Additional chief secretary (taxes) will be the convener of the body . The body will also include health, local self-government, finance, education, industries, SCST welfare and fisheries ministers, chief secretary , sports council president, advocate general, Kerala panchayat association president and others from various non-governmental bodies as its members. (Times of India 5/10/16)

Chennithala urges vigilance to register case against minister Jayarajan (5)

ALAPPUZHA: Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has said that the industries minister E P Jayarajan has violated Constitution by appointing his well-wishers and relatives as managing directors in the state owned public sector undertakings. Speaking to newsmen here on Saturday, Chennithala said the nepotism is a serious crime under the Prevention of Corruption Act 13/1 B. “The vigilance should register a case against him and I have submitted a letter to the vigilance director in this regard and demanded to register FIR against Jayarajan. I am waiting for the response from the vigilance director, who is keeping ‘yellow and red cards’ in his pocket. The opposition will stage agitation against the minister after the vigilance director’s action over the letter,” Chennithala said. He said that Jayarajan committed grave corruption and he will get an imprisonment up to three years under Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 . He deployed the heads of state owned PSUs in tune with his personal interest violating all norms, he alleged. Chennithala said that the spot admission for MBBS in the self-financing colleges is only for the children of wealthy people. No poor students got admission through the spot admission. “The students, who were ready to pay Rs 7.5 to 10 lakh as fees were admitted in the collages. The government dilly-dallied in all the cases related to self-financing colleges in courts. The government did not get any judgment favorable to them. Earlier, the government spurned the allegation of opposition about exorbitant fees structure, sabotage of merit seats, corruption in admission and capitation fees in admissions. Now they accepted everything. It showed that the stand of opposition is absolutely right,” Chennithala. (Times of India 8/10/16)

‘My country is everything’: Anna Hazare (5)

One man, who in recent times, has spurred and galvanised the young and old alike to voice their opinion and concern against corruption is Kisan Baburao Hazare aka Anna Hazare. The 79-year-old well known social activistfrequently undertakes hunger strikes bringing social issues of concern to limelight forcing the Government and political parties to take action. Inspired by his life, writer-director-actor Shashank Udapurkar has made a biographical film Anna, documenting the uncommon journey of a common man with all its difficulties with a view to inspire the people to follow his path. In a media interaction in Delhi, Hazare says, “The film is not fictitious. It is not a script made out of imagination. It is a true story of a fakir who doesn’t have any aim except making his country a better place. The film will show main parts of my life and everyone should get inspired through this film and start doing something for this country in their respective fields.” On being asked if hunger strikes has lead to any changes, Hazare says, “Yes, there are changes that is why many people are seen on roads now if their genuine and rightful demands are not fulfilled. Earlier no one used to do it. So people do get inspired by me. My dream is to see many more Annas in this country who get inspired by each other to turn into Anna.” Even at his age Hazare is willing to fight and stave off any attack against the country. “If required, I will even go to the border to fight for my country. Though my body is getting old but my heart is young. I will not be able to run there but I know how to use weapons and I will do anything to save my country and its people. My country is everything. Nothing is bigger than my country for me.” (The Hindu 9/10/16)

Amarinder corners Badal govt over foodgrain scam(5)

Chandigarh: Hitting out at the Badals over the alleged multi-crore foodgrains scam, Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh on Tuesday vowed to recover every penny of the public money from the “corrupt Badal and company” once the party came back to power in the State. “We will make sure that the money stolen by the Badals is brought back into the state’s coffers once we are back in reign. We shall not hesitate to initiate legal action against the Badals,” he said here. The senior Congress leader alleged that the Badals have been looting the State ever since they formed the government in 2007 and the scam was their “crowning glory” in corruption, while condemning the SAD government’s attempts to cover up the scandal by converting it into a loan. He said when he took over the reins of theSstate from the Akalis in 2002, Punjab’s outstanding Central debt amounted to Rs 4,500 crore. It is only since the Badals came back to power that the State has again been plunged into an intense debt trap, Capt. Singh said. The PCC chief claimed that with the latest Rs 30,000 crore loan from RBI restructured, the State will reel under a debt burden of Rs 50,000 crore for the next 20 years. “I will not allow the Badals to get away with it. Nobody involved in the scam will be spared at any cost. The people of Punjab cannot be made to pay for the ill-doings of Badals,” Capt. Singh said. In its complaint to the Vigilance Bureau in April this year, the State Congress had pointed out that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had prima facie concluded that the disappearance of stocks worth Rs 32,000 crore was a case of misappropriation of Central funds and diversion of food grain. Of the 3,319 trucks that were claimed to have been used by the state procurement agencies for transporting the grains, CAG had, in a random check of their registration numbers, found that 87 vehicles were actually two-wheelers and cars, he said. The remaining could not be traced, clearly indicating that the grain never reached the stores but in fact disappeared from the market itself, party spokesman Sunil Jhakar had said. The Punjab Congress has already demanded a probe into the matter by either the Central Bureau of Investigation or a High Court judge. PTI (The Hindu 12/10/16)

Kerala Industries Minister EP Jayarajan resigns over nepotism charges (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: In a big blow to the five-month old CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, Industries minister E P Jayarajan resigned from the Cabinet on Friday in the wake of the raging appointment row. His resignation from the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet came after a CPI(M) state secretariat meeting, which permitted him to take the decision. Coming out of the meeting, Jayarajan told reporters, “Now you people are happy. Isn’t it?” State party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Jayarajan had wanted to be allowed to put in his papers to “uphold the image of the party and set an exemplary model in contrast to the previous Congress-led UDF government”.The Kannur strongman and the number two in the Cabinet, Jayarajan had admitted before the secretariat that he had committed a ‘mistake’ by appointing a close relative in a PSU in the industries department and sought permission to resign. Jayarajan, considered close to Chief Minister Vijayan, was in the eye of a storm over appointment of his nephew, P K Sudheer Nambiar and son of Kannur MP P K Sreemathi as the Managing Director of Kerala Industrial Enterprises Ltd. His appointment was later quashed by the government. Another appointment of Deepthi Nishad, Jayarajan’s brother’s daughter-in-law, had also become controversial. She had resigned two days ago. Jayarajan, who had successfully contested from Mattannur in northern Kannur district, was a member of the legislative assembly from 1991-96. From 2011 onwards he was an MLA. To a question if CPI-M would take any action against Jayarajan, Kodiyeri said he was a member of party Central Committee and any party action would be decided by the central leadership”CPI(M) is against any illegal appointments. However party does not think that being a relative of a leader is a disqualification to get a job in government service.” In Jayarajan’s case, this decision was taken due to the seriousness of the issue, he said. Kodiyeri also attacked both Congress-led UDF and BJP government at the Centre, alleging that their ministers were involved in controversies, but none of them had resigned. Indicating that things were not rosy for Jayarajan, party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had indicated two days ago that action would follow and that the process of correction had already been initiated. Meanwhile, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau today informed a Special Court here that a preliminary probe into the appointment row against Jayarjan had been initiated. (Asian Age 14/10/16)

BRICS nation pitch for stronger commitment for combating corruption (5)

Benaulim: BRICS nations on Sunday pitched for a stronger global commitment for combating corruption and repatriation of blackmoney in overseas jurisdictions, saying these along with aggressive tax practices hurt equitable development and economic growth. “We will strive to coordinate our approach… and encourage a stronger global commitment to prevent and combat corruption on the basis of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and other relevant international legal instruments,” said the Goa declaration issued at the end of the two-day summit of the BRICS leaders Benaulim. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations acknowledged that corruption, including illicit money and financial flows, and ill-gotten wealth stashed in foreign jurisdictions is a global challenge which may impact negatively on economic growth and sustainable development. The BRICS nations stated in the declaration that they support the strengthening of international cooperation against corruption, including through the BRICS Anti-Corruption Working Group, as well as on matters related to asset recovery and persons sought for corruption. The five nations group reaffirmed their commitment towards a globally fair and modern tax system and welcome the progress made on effective and widespread implementation of the internationally agreed standards. They supported the implementation of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project (BEPS) with due regard to the national realities of the countries. They also resolved to encourage countries and International Organisations to assist developing economies in building their tax capacity. Noting that aggressive tax planning and tax practices hurt equitable development and economic growth, they stated that the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting must be effectively tackled. They said that the profit should be taxed in the jurisdiction where the economic activity is performed and the value is created. They reaffirmed their commitment to support international cooperation in this regard, including in the Common Reporting Standard for Automatic Exchange of Tax Information (AEOI). “We note the ongoing discussions on international taxation matters. In this regard, we recall the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development including its emphasis on inclusive cooperation and dialogue among national tax authorities on international tax matters with increased participation of developing countries and reflecting adequate, equitable, geographical distribution, representing different tax systems,” it added. (Indian xpress 16/10/16)

Mumbai IRS Scam: Accused had arranged quarters for call centre staff, say police (5)

Mumbai: JAGDISH KANANI, the latest arrest in the call centre scam, had allegedly set up ‘quarters’ for employees working at his two “bogus” call centres located in Malad and Borivli, according to the Thane police. While the police raided the two call centres and found them to be empty, they were surprised to find that Kanani had arranged for all the employees at the two call centres to stay in a colony in Malad West. The police are finding out the rationale behind the arrangement. “Normally, it is only in government jobs that one is allotted quarters. However, in the case of Kanani, he had arranged for rented accommodation for the nearly 30-35 employees working at the two call centres owned by him operating out of eights units in Prestige Industrial Estate at Orlem and three shops from Western Edge II unit in Borivli. We are trying to find out who was paying the rent for these flats and where the employees currently are,” said a senior officer. The police suspect Kanani wanted to keep his call centre business low key and hence got the employees to stay near their offices. Investigators claimed that Kanani’s interrogation had helped them piece together a profile of him as an MBA who saw a meteoric rise — from a monthly earning of around Rs 20,000 helping his father in his saree business to over Rs 25 lakh per month from the call centres, as per a rough estimate. Born and brought up in Chennai, Kanani did his Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) from there before moving to Pune where he did his MBA from a prestigious institution, said a senior police officer. After finishing his studies, Kanani joined his father’s saree business, before moving to Ahmedabad to work for a call centre for nearly three years, said an officer. Thereafter, he allegedly started a call centre in Ahmedabad along with a friend and they would make fraudulent calls. “They would pretend to be calling from a bank and tell US citizens that the latter were defaulting on their loan amount and would need to settle the default amount in order to avoid being prosecuted. This was his first such experience with fraudulent calls. Nearly a year back, he shifted base to Mumbai and started the two call centres in Borivli and Malad,” added the officer. … (Indian Express 19/10/16)

Corruption has ended at the top: Venkaiah Naidu (5)

INDORE: Union urban development Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday claimed that prime minister Narendra Modi’s style of functioning has ensured that corruption is eradicated at the top, thus shifting the focus on reforms and development. Modi’s strenuous working hours had generated criticism from various quarters. Naidu claimed some say ‘woh sote nahin hai na sone dete hain (Modi doesn’t sleep and doesn’t let us sleep)’. “This is understandable. But some also say ‘woh khate nahin hai aur khane bhi nahin dete (he does not eat, and does not allow anyone to eat). Here I don’t mean eat food.., not Maggie, baggie (bribes),” said the union minister, referring to the clampdown on corruption by Modi.Naidu was addressing a gathering of prospective investors at the valedictory session of Global Investors Summit (GIS) here. People of the country are lucky that there is no corruption at the top level, he said adding “The water in the overhead tank is clean. If the water is dirty, changing the taps will not get god water.” US president Barack Obama had called Modi ‘reformer-in-chief’. “Any chief needs good commander. And chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the commander who has transformed Madhya Pradesh,” Naidu said. Shedding its Bimaru status, Madhya Pradesh has emerged strong today and will become healthier tomorrow, he said. “Madhya Pradesh has become mukhya (chief) pradesh with surplus water, electricity and good roads,” the union minister said. He lauded the agriculture growth in the state and claimed that it had helped in alleviating the status of Bimaru state and enhance to disposable income in rural areas. The urban development minister claimed that he was surprised when seven cities of Madhya Pradesh featured in the list of Smart Cities brought to him by his officers. But, later he understood the nature of development that took place in the state. (Times of India 23/10/16)

Mumbai IRS Scam: Cops on the lookout for suspects who provided tech support to call centres (5)

Mumbai: The Thane Police are on the lookout for suspects who provided technical support to the call centres in Mira Road-Bhayandar area that were allegedly making fraudulent calls to American taxpayers. While 72 people — including those who invested in and operated these call centres — have been arrested in connection with the scam, police believe someone with a “strong information technology” background enabled the call centres to function, given the highly sophisticated technology used in maintaining the centres.An officer assisting the Thane Police in probing the technical aspects of the case told The Indian Express that technical support of “high quality” was provided to the call centres. He said the call centres did not use a single number for more than eight to 10 days. After several people would mark the number as ‘spam’, the call centre would change it so that other recipients would not get suspicious. The phone numbers kept changing and all calls were routed through an internet telephonic service provider that made calls from India appear to be originating from the United States. Apart from these calls, the call centres did not have physical servers, the officer said. The servers used by the call centres in Mira Road, and their counterparts in Ahmedabad, were hosted on the internet using services like cloud computing. As a result, call centres in both Maharashtra and Gujarat could use the same set of data and it was also easier for them to delete information in case of an emergency, the officer explained. “These are not processes that can be learnt overnight. There has to be someone well-versed with IT to be able to come up with such systems,” said the officer. A senior officer with Thane police said so far they are not certain about who was providing the IT support to these call centres. “Several people are still on the run and some or one of them could be providing IT support,” said the officer. The Thane police on October 5 raided 12 call centres in the Mira Road-Bhayandar area. The employees of the call centres would threaten US citizens to settle tax defaults by making a payment. Police suspect that Ahmedabad was the hub and those who were successfully operating these call centres there had then moved to the Mira-Bhayandar stretch.Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy, suspected to be the mastermind in the scam, left the country with his sister for Dubai the morning the police raided the call centres.  “We are investigating if someone leaked the information about the raids,” said a cop. (Indian Express 24/10/16)

Govt. decides to fast-track anti-corruption inquiries (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: The State government has decided to fast-track important anti-corruption inquiries. S. M. Vijayanand, Chief Secretary, on Tuesday chaired a meeting attended by Nalini Netto, Additional Chief Secretary, Home, and Jacob Thomas, Director, Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), presumably to thrash out the modalities. The closed-door meeting assumed political significance against the backdrop of the ongoing high-profile criminal investigations against former Ministers K.M. Mani and Excise Minister K. Babu. V.A. Arun Kumar, son of Administrative Reforms Committee chairman V. S. Achuthanandan, was also facing investigation in at least 10 cases registered during the period of the previous United Democratic F government. The VACB had interrogated Mr. Babu and his alleged nominees in a disproportionate assets (DA) case twice this month. The court has set a deadline for the VACB to file its further inquiry report in the bar licence renewal bribery case against Mr. Mani. It was also investigating the former Finance Minister on the suspicion of having accorded Rs.68 crore as tax reprieve to industrial-scale poultry breeders. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

Anti-Corruption Bureau to carry out a week long awareness drive (5)

PUNE: The State Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Pune unit will commence its week long awareness drive, to spread awareness on corruption and abuse of powers by the government officers, starting from Monday. Superintendent of police (ACB, Pune) Shirish Sardeshpande said that the awareness week is being conducted by the ACB across the state. The awareness week is celebrated on every birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.”The week is known as Dakshata Janajagruti Saptah,” Sardeshpande said adding that the motive behind to conduct the awareness drive is to reduce corruption and corrupt practices of the government officers. During the awareness drive, ACB will inform work of the ACB, laws of anti-corruption and what power does the common man wields to book the corrupt government officers. “Sometimes people develop an attitude that the work at the government offices is executed only if bribe is paid. There is a need to change this attitude,” he said.A section of officers generally abuse their powers and demand money either by not processing the work of the common man (by keeping it pending) or by rejecting it directly without providing proper reasons of pendency or for rejecting it. “Every citizen can contribute to reduce corruption at the government offices,” he said. (Times of India 30/10/16)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Paris deal: India committed, says PM Modi as Obama tweets praise.. (9)

NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama on Sunday joined the world leaders to praise India as New Delhi joined the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin on Sunday handed over the Instrument of Ratification+ signed by President Pranab Mukherjee, to Santiago Villalpando, the head of the Treaties Division at the UN, at a special ceremony here attended by top UN officials and senior diplomats to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. “Gandhiji believed in a world worthy of our children. In joining the Paris Agreement, PM Narendra Modi and the Indian people carry on that legacy,” Obama tweeted praising India. PM Modi responded to Obama’s tweet saying “Care and concern towards nature is integral to the Indian ethos. India is committed to doing everything possible to mitigate climate change.”"Sabhi Bharatiyon ko dhanyawad (I thank all Indians), UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said lauding India for ratifying the historic climate deal on Gandhi Jayanti. Ban said that this “historic” step will further India’s sustainable path to growth and development and the step moves the world an important step closer towards achieving the climate goal. “Sabhi bharatiyo ko dhanyawad (I thank all the Indians),” Moon said in a video message on the United Nations news centre. “Today, the government of India has demonstrated global leadership and vision by joining the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This historic step will further India’s sustainable path to growth and development,” he added. France also welcomed India’s ratification of the climate change agreement and said the decision “brings us closer” to the coming into force of the pact before the end of the year. India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ratified the landmark Paris climate deal, giving a significant push for the deal to enter into force by the end of this year. “The President of the Republic (Francois Hollande) welcomes the ratification of the Paris Agreement by India, on this symbolic day commemorating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday,” a Communique issued by the French Presidency said.”This decision, coming after the decision of the Environment Ministers of the European Union+ , brings us closer to the entry into force of the Paris agreement before the end of the year,” it said. French President Hollande recalled that India played a key role in the adoption of this agreement in December 2015.US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said, “We look forward to continuing our close friendship with India & furthering our work together on climate change and clean energy. We commend Prime Minister Modi for his leadership and thank all those who have worked on the Agreement over many years.” (Times of India 2/10/16)

With 11,000 toilets in slums, Pune ranks 2nd in Swachh Bharat race (9)

Pune: IN A hurry to meet the Swachh Bharat deadline (Clean India Mission) to end open defecation by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is speeding up the process of construction of toilets. Already meeting the target of 11,000, it has become the second city in the country to provide toilets to people after Jabalpur. In the initial phase, according to the Urban Development Department, Jabalpur led with the construction of 16,000 toilets followed by Pune and Bhavnagar. In Pune, the civic body joined hands with the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) to reach its present target within a span of four months. It was after Pune Municipal Commissioner Kunal Kumar was shown the slum mapping survey by Shelter Associates — a civil society organisation of architects and planners that provides sustainable sanitation solutions and works across five cities in Maharashtra – that he decided there was a need to take immediate action. The Shelter Associates model for delivering individual sanitation since 2005 also helped in creating a database about existing infrastructure in slums. “Our rapid survey involving 313 slums identified 86 slums without toilets. We found that over 60,000 households required individual toilets,” Pratima Joshi, Executive Director of Shelter Associates told The Indian Express.The PMC too validated the survey with their random checks and the Municipal Commissioner decided to upscale the Shelter Associates sanitation model that gave materials for constructing the toilet at the doorstep of the families. This proved to be a huge incentive for families to build toilets using their own money- thereby also promoting a cost-sharing model. “Under the ODF scheme, an amount of Rs 18,000 is utilised to construct a toilet out of which Rs 4,000 is provided by the Centre, Rs 8,000 by the state and Rs 6,000 by the municipal corporation. The family has to sign an agreement with the PMC allowing them to construct the toilet. Now even as small a room of 100 sq ft would have an in built toilet with efficient sewerage network,” Kumar said. Dr V K Abhyankar, Director General of CREDAI, Pune told The Indian Express that 15 of its members have got involved in the project across 15 wards in the city. “We undertake the construction work and a third party quality audit is also maintained,” he said. With Kumar set on completing the target of 19,400 individual toilets by October and another 800 community toilets by December end, it is the slum dwellers who are a relieved lot. According to 40-year-old Vanita Vhalekar from Ambedkar nagar slum, “We put in a bit of our money and not just constructed the toilet but also have a decent looking kitchen in our one-room house.” (Indian Express 5/10/16)

NGT issues notices to Odisha, Chhatisgarh, Centre on Mahanadi pollution (9)

CUTTACK: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday sought response from state governments of Odisha and Chhatisgarh, and the Centre on a plea demanding immediate halt on all construction activities on river Mahanadi to protect it. The NGT’s direction came in response to a petition filed by a social organization, Nature Care Initiative (NCI), alleging that Mahanadi is dying a slow death due to rampant constructions and unchecked pollution. The petitioner has alleged that both the states- Odisha and Chhatisgarh have been constructing major and medium projects on Mahanadi without assessing its impact on water flow, ecology and bio diversity. Many sanctuaries and lakes like Chilika and Ansupa are located in Mahanadi river system and if mindless construction is not stopped, then its rich ecological diversity will be badly affected. The petition contends that Chhatisgarh government has constructed atleast 8 major and 34 medium irrigation projects on the upper catchment area of Mahanadi while atleast four more projects are under construction. Due to the constructions of barrages and dams by the Chhattisgarh on the upper catchments of Mahanadi, water flow in the river has been seriously affected. The petitioner has also highlighted that even Odisha had also lined up over a dozen projects on Mahanadi. Besides, Odisha has allowed atleast 44 industries to take water from Mahanadi and its tributaries. “The industries are not only drawing water illegally from the river but also discharging their untreated waste into the Mahanadi. Even local civic bodies located near Mahanadi also have been dumping their garbage into the river, due to which Mahanadi has been badly polluted,” said the petitioner and president of NCI, Shakti Prasad Nayak. The petitioner has urged NGT to pass necessary directions to ensure free flow of water in Mahanadi river system to maintain ecology and bio-diversity in sanctuaries and lakes located in Odisha.Besides, the petitioner has prayed NGT to take stringent action against the industries, which are drawing water illegally from Mahanadi and polluting the river by dumping untreated garbage into it. (Times of India 6/10/16)

Centre finalising guidelines on Paris Pact (9)

HYDERABAD: The Union Government is right now finalising various guidelines and modalities in order adhere to the various specifications as mandated under the Paris Declaration now that the country has signed the climate pact, said Joint Secretary in the Union Environment Ministry Ravi Prasad here on Thursday. Interacting with mediapersons after inaugurating a two-day capacity building workshop for Southern States and Union Territories on ‘Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Development Planning for Prioritizing and Operationalising Climate Change Activities’ at the EPTRI campus in Gachibowli, he said the climate pact will be coming into force from 2021-2030. Hence, there is sufficient space for the Centre and States to come up with action plans. The Centre is looking for support from the States to gear up for the climate change and has already initiated several projects with eight missions underway in different ministries to study the impact of climate change in areas of agriculture, urban development, eco-systems, solar power, water and air pollutions and so on. (The Hindu 7/10/16)

Untreated garbage piling up at waste management centres (9)

Mysuru: Mr. Jagadeesha, who carried out an inspection of all the nine zero waste management centres set up across the city recently, was aghast at finding mounds of untreated garbage piling up on their premises. The centres were letting out an unbearable stench and creating an unhygienic atmosphere. The zero waste management centres had been set up across Mysuru to reduce the pressure on the garbage treatment plant at Vidyaranyapuram in the city by treating and processing the waste generated locally. The functioning of the zero waste management centres in Mysuru was crucial to keep the city clean. Of the 400 tonnes of waste generated in Mysuru every day, the plant at Vidyaranyapuram can treat only 200 tonnes per day, while the nine zero waste management centres were together treating about 40 to 50 tonnes. Solid waste management in Mysuru had played a significant role in the city securing the cleanest city tag for two successive years. Except for the centres in Kumbarakoppal and Old Kesare, the remaining seven zero waste management centres had become defunct, Mr. Jagdeesha said in a statement here on Saturday. The organisations vested with the task of ensuring the functioning of the centres had abdicated their responsibility, leading to such a sorry state of affairs, the Commissioner said. As the waste remained untreated and unprocessed, the accumulating mounds of garbage were not only creating an unhygienic atmosphere, but also letting out an unbearable stench, he said. He also regretted that the officials of the Health Department of the civic body had completely ignored the lapses and failed to take any action in the regard.Mr. Jagadeesha has set one- month deadline for health and environmental officials concerned of MCC to ensure that the the zero waste management centres become functional again. He has instructed them to hold discussions with NGOs and Stree Shakti organisations in the City, who can be roped into the managing the zero waste management centres. In the event of the centres failing to become functional within the deadline, the officials concerned will be made responsible and a report in the regard will be sent to the government, Mr. Jagadeesha warned. (The Hindu 9/10/16)

5 lakh shrubs planted this year, but pollution fight lags (9)

NEW DELHI: With numerous initiatives to make the capital greener, the Delhi government has already crossed another target — planting 5 lakh shrubs this year to combat air pollution naturally. On World Environment day, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced a target of planting 10 lakh trees and 5 lakh shrubs this year in a bid to improve the green cover in the capital. Greening agencies have already planted 8 lakh shrubs and over 6 lakh trees in different divisions and zones, falling under agencies like NDMC, DJB, North Corporation, environment department and others. Forest officials attributed good monsoon to the high plantation numbers. “We have carried out a majority of these plantations during the monsoon where the survival rate is the highest,” said a senior forest official.Earlier in the year, the Delhi government had launched a ‘greening Delhi’ drive to address the problem of dust and air pollution. However, experts feel dust pollution has still not come under control, as a lot of stretches are not maintained. “Vacuum drives were carried out to control dust, but very little of it has been done effectively,” said Polash Mukerjee, Research Associate, Centre for Science and Environment. While the air quality index during monsoon was ‘good’ for a couple of months, it has once again slid to the ‘poor’ in air quality index of CPCB. “The government needs to look at which species are actually beneficial in combatting dust and air pollution,” said Pradip Krishen, Environmentalist and author of the book, Trees of Delhi. (Times of India 11/10/2016)

Idol immersion a concern for environmental experts (9)

AGRA: As devotees bid farewelll to their Gods on Vijaydashmi, water bodies in Agra were left in a mess. Experts have expressed concern of the impact of such idols that were immersed in the water bodies. Speaking to TOI, Surekha Yadav, a social worker and environment enthusiast said, “Idols in earlier times were made of mud and painted with natural colours such as gerru and even ‘turmeric’. But now people use materials like plaster of Paris (PoP) which is further coated with harmful paints that contains chemicals and toxicants.” There were a few residents who were circulating messages on social media to spread the word on using envrionment-friendly idols. “I used WhatsApp to spread the message. People should know that respecting the environmental balance is just as important as paying your homeage to God. The administration must take action against those using harmful colours,” said Bunty Grover, a resident.He further added that authorities must put a cap on the size of the idols that can be made. Debris of the idols of various siezes were left on the banks of various water bodies. The Agra Municipal Corporation, however, took out a massive cleaning drive to rid the ponds, lakes and other water bodies of these idol debris. Deputy municipal commissioner, Anil Kumar said proper arrangements were made and pits created at Balkeshwar ghat, Hathi ghat and at Dussehra ghat for the devotees to carry out their procession and rituals. “There were enough people to clean the pits at any point of time. There was a designated fleet of around 10-12 vehicles of the AMC for this job. It seems to have not helped. We will look into the matter and see what more can be done to avoid such dirty fallouts of any religious procession,” he added. (Times of India 13/10/16)

Greens demand ban on bursting loud crackers (9)

KOLHAPUR: Environmentalists in the city have raised concern over the use of loud firecrackers during the festive season. Health concerns and the hazard that comes with bursting crackers in narrow lanes of the old city are reasons why greens have spoken out against their use. Uday Gaikwad, a city-based environmentalist told TOI, “On Thursday, the police department in association with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had conducted noise-level tests. We had asked the police department about action they will take against those using firecrackers and violating sound norms. We have been promised that the department will maintain strict vigil on the use of dangerous firecrackers across the city.” Gaikwad said that the bursting of firecrackers not only creates noise pollution, but is also the main concern for some incidents of fire in crowded areas of the city. He added that even though an individual firecracker might not violate the noise test when it is burst, they do generate a cumulative effect when they are burst together. According to Gaikwad, firecrackers such as ‘sutali bomb’ and ‘lad’ can exceed 120db and 140db of noise respectively, even if their given permissible norms set by the MPCB are 100db and 120db respectively. “The number of accidents that took place due to fire is higher during Diwali and elders should be aware of this, while buying firecrackers for their children. If people want to celebrate Diwali with firecrackers then they should burst them in open spaces to avoid problems for others,” he added. The city’s health experts have also warned against the ill effects of cracker fumes especially for those with weak lungs during the festival. A city-based general physician, said, “Inhaling fumes generated from firecrackers may worsen the medical condition of the pre-existing asthma and bronchitis patients. Children and the elderly with lung diseases are most vulnerable to such smoke, which contains sulphur dioxide. This causes throat irritation and breathlessness.” Explaining the hazardous nature of firecrackers, the physician said, “Firecrackers contain chemicals such as sulphur dioxide which is mainly responsible for the respiratory problems such as cough, breathlessness and irritation in the throat.” “When thousands of firecrackers burst at the same time, very high levels of air pollutants can remain suspended in the air for several hours and travel long distances. Firecrackers such as lad, that has a long string of crackers, are the most dangerous,” the physician said. (Times of India 15/10/16)

Deluge threat worsening in Brahamputra valley (9)

GUWAHATI: An assessment by the biodiversity organization Aaranyak has found that the Brahmaputra valley is one of the most hazard-prone regions in the country. With an estimated 3.2 million hectare area in the state already being prone to floods, experts have warned that climate change can only aggravate flood hazards further. Experts said increase in rainfall and accelerated summer flows due to climate change may give rise to more intense flooding. However, the consequent retreat of glaciers could also reduce the flow in the Brahmaputra river system in the long run. Nearly 40% of Assam’s 78,439 sq km area is already susceptible to flood damages while the damage incurred due to floods has escalated since the 8.6 magnitude earthquake that struck in 1950. The Brahmaputra, one of the world’s largest rivers, originates from the glacier of Chema-Yung-Dung. The glacier lies to the southeast of the Mansarovar Lake in the Kailash range of the Himalayas in Tibet. The river traverses 1,625 km in China and 918 km in India before meandering across 337 km in Bangladesh, before emptying into the Bay of Bengal through a joint channel with the Ganga. In its 2,880-km-long course, the Brahmaputra has as many 22 major tributaries in Tibet, 33 in India (in the northeast) and three in Bangladesh, Aaranyak reported. As it is a trans-boundary river managed differently in different countries, experts said the Brahmaputra is one of the most challenging rivers in terms of water resource management. “The lack of adequate knowledge is a factor that constrains technologically appropriate interventions, long-term planning for mitigating water-induced hazards and environmentally sustainable development of the water resources. This is true in general for all the basin countries but is applicable especially to the Indian part of the basin,” Aaranyak’s head of water, climate and hazard division, Partha J Das said. Das added that lack of availability of and limited access to hydrological data is a common problem that hinders studies on the behaviour of the river, including flood forecasting and climate modelling, in India. With a view to reveal different hydrological facets of the Brahmaputra to young researchers, professions, government officials and other stakeholders, Aaranyak has planned a training programme on sustainable management of the Brahmaputra river system in a changing climate for water security and disaster resilience here from November 15 to 18. “It is high time that we create a pool of people who have knowledge about water management. This will help them do research, take more appropriate and knowledge-based management decisions and sensitize people to the subject,” Das said. (Times of India 18/10/16)

Minimum carbon footprint is answer to climate change, says environment minister (9)

NEW DELHI: Asserting that environment and development have always gone hand-in-hand, Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave on Friday said that the answer to climate change is leading a life with minimum carbon footprint. “Right way of development is the right way of environment… Leading a life with minimum carbon footprint is the answer to climate change,” he said while underlining the steps taken by India to meet the commitment under Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and phasedown of HFCs. He was speaking after inaugurating the two-day conference of additional chief secretaries (Forests) and principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife wardens here. “Jungle is a living entity and it also communicates, provided we have the ability to listen to it. The three essential components – forests, tribal forest dwellers and life forms living in forests complement one another and are not rivals,” he said. “Agro-forestry, bamboo or grass can be possible alternatives to reduce this pressure…,” he said, adding that there is need to change the “colonial outlook” that has existed from the pre-Independence period towards forests, tribal forest dwellers and life forms. Dave also referred to new developments at the national level, such as passing of the CAMPA Bill, which paves the way for effective utilization of large sum of funds available under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund. “Environment and development have always gone hand-in-hand,” he said while highlighting the need to plant trees and importance of connecting the younger generation to forests. He said that India has agreed to take a number of actions on a voluntary basis to meet the commitment under Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals 2030, as well as the recently-concluded agreement on HFCs and also referred to the recent developments at the global as well as national level in the environment sector. (Times of India 21/10/16)

State puts up stiff resistance to GM crops (9)

Thiruvananthapuram: Expressing concern over the genetically modified (GM) crops and their impact on human health and biodiversity, an official delegation from Kerala has conveyed its strident objection to a proposal mooted by the Centre to remove impediments to research and field trials of GM crops. The three-member delegation led by Director of Agriculture Biju Prabhakar communicated the State’s opposition to GM crops at a high-level meeting convened by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in New Delhi on Friday. The consultative meeting with the State Agriculture Departments was organised as part of a capacity building project aimed at strengthening biosafety management systems in India. Only nine States, including Kerala, had participated in the discussions which centred on removing hurdles to research on GM crops, conduct of field trials, and selection of designated test sites. The meeting assumes significance in the light of the nation-wide protests following the move by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to allow commercial cultivation of GM mustard. The delegation from Kerala comprised P. Indira Devi, Professor, Agricultural Economics, KAU; and B. Harikumar, WTO Cell, Department of Agriculture; apart from Mr. Prabhakar. Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar told The Hindu that the delegation had conveyed the State’s unflinching opposition to GM crops in the face of hard lobbying by officials from the ministry. “They managed to drive home the message that enlightened society in Kerala would not put up with any attempts to promote GM technology.” The Minister, who was briefed by the delegation after the meeting, said States were offered funds for research and capacity building as inducement for permission to conduct field trials. Sources privy to the discussions said officials from Kerala had highlighted the threat posed by GM crops to agro-biodiversity and human and animal health. “The delegation from the State countered the claims about the productivity of Bt cotton in India. It pointed to the conflict of interest in the constitution of the sub committee by GEAC to look into biosafety of GM mustard.” An informed source said the Kerala team had cited the endosulfan tragedy in Kasaragod to justify the State’s strident stand against GM crops. (The Hindu 24/10/16)

India ranked fifth in terms of bio-capacity, says study (9)

New Delhi , Oct. 27 : The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 has ranked India fifth in terms of bio-capacity – an ecosystem’s capacity to produce resources such as food, fibre and renewable raw materials and absorb carbon dioxide. While Indians have a low personal carbon footprint at an individual level, it is a challenge when aggregated by population size. This equation will be further affected as wealth grows and consumption patterns change. India’s carbon footprint currently makes up 53 percent of the country’s overall ecological footprint. Speaking on the same, Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India said, “Our consumption patterns and the way we look at our natural world are constantly shaping the future of our planet. At WWF-India we believe that the power to build a resilient planet for future generations lies in our understanding of how we are moving into this new epoch that scientists are calling the Anthropocene and adopting sustainable practices that decrease humanity’s impacts on the planet. We need to come together as a global community and address the threats to biodiversity to protect our environment, as well as our economic and social structures.” The report also says that global wildlife populations could decline by an average of 67 percent between 1970-2020, as a result of human activities. It indicates that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. This places the world on a trajectory of a potential two-thirds decline within a span of the half-century ending in 2020. The report also highlights the magnitude of human impact on the planet and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled. “Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate,” said Dr. Marco Lambertini, International Director General, WWF. “This is not just about the wonderful species we all love; biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity.” According to the report, the top threats to species are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and over exploitation of wildlife. The report’s findings provide additional evidence that the planet is entering completely unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth, including a possible sixth mass extinction. Researchers are already calling this period the Anthropocene – an era in which human activities are influencing changes in the climate and the environment. The 2016 edition of the Living Planet Report states that food production to meet the complex demands of an expanding human population is the primary factor responsible for the destruction of habitats and over-exploitation of wildlife. At present, agriculture occupies about one-third of the Earth’s total land area and accounts for almost 70 per cent of water use. … (New Kerala 27/10/16)

UNICEF declares pollution a major factor in deaths of 600,000 children per year (9)

Oslo: The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines air pollution as, “a major environmental health problem affecting everyone. It occurs when the environment is contaminated by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.” The people of India just bid farewell to Diwali season and as expected, the pollution levels across the country, especially in the capital city of Delhi, have crossed the ‘hazardous’ mark. Last month, the WHO also declared that India accounts for 75% of air pollution casualties. But, talking about the damage caused by rising levels of pollution across the world, especially South Asia, the UN children’s agency UNICEF has said that almost one in seven children worldwide live in areas with high levels of outdoor air pollution, mostly in South Asia and their growing bodies are most vulnerable to damage. To address the issue, UNICEF has called upon approximately 200 governments for a meeting in Morocco, which will take place from November 7-18 and will also discuss global warming to restrict use of fossil fuels to give twin benefits of improved health and slower climate change. About 300 million children, or almost one in seven worldwide, lived in areas where outdoor pollution was highest, defined by UNICEF as at least six times international guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), it said. With the help of satellite imagery developed by NASA, the UN body identified that out of the 300 million children, 220 million lived in South Asia. UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said air pollution was a “major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year”, causing illnesses such as pneumonia. “Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures,” he said in a statement. “Air pollution affects poor children the most,” Nicholas Rees, a UNICEF specialist on climate and economic analysis who wrote the report, told Reuters. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that outdoor air pollution killed 3.7 million people in 2012, including 127,000 children aged under five. Factories, power plants and vehicles using fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste were among sources. (Zee News 31/10/16)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

Farmer suicides soar, few eligible for grants (20)

Nashik: The number of farmers suicides in Nashik division have been on a decline this year, but Jalgaon district continues to report high number cases. Farmers suicides peaked in the division comprising Nashik, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Dhule districts in May and June, there has been a steady decline over the past couple of months. “The situation in Jalgaon district is not very good. The number of cases have steadily increased. It is happening despite the normal rainfall (95%) this year as against 65% last year,” a senior official from Nashik revenue division said. Jalgaon has reported 127 farmers since January, but only 27% of these have been found eligible for government aid. “Only 27% of the cases have been proven eligible. This is worrisome,” Rajesh Barhate, a farmer from Faizpur taluka of Bhusawal district said. Saching Bhangale, another Jalgaon farmer, said, “Last year, the bad rainfall took the toll on agriculture. This year, the rainfall has taken a big break or poured heavily, which has led to crop failure. This is affecting farmers.” “None can predict about rainfall and that is what has affected agriculture here. We are, however, trying to reach out to the farmers to ensure they do not take extreme steps,” the official said. In Jalgaon, so far, the district committee has found only 20 of the 74 farmer suicide cases eligible for government aid. About 53 cases are still pending before the committe and few have been sent for re-verification. “The cases are considered on humanitarian grounds and hence, if the committee gets a hint that there are chances of revisiting the case to help the family of the deceased, it is sent for re-verification,” the officer said. (Times of India 2/10/16)

Farmers on indefinite strike demanding more compensation (20)

BAREILLY: Farmers’ demand for higher compensation for surrendering land for Bada Bypass project has spilled on to the streets and now entangled in legal wrangling. On Tuesday, residents of residents of more than 10 villages situated near Bada Bypass launched an agitation to press for their demand.

Bada Bypass is the outer bypass of National Highway-24 connecting Lucknow and New Delhi. It was inaugurated in September 2014. For constructing the bypass, the district administration had acquired land of nearly 3,500 farmers. “At the time of purchasing of land, a dispute took place on the amount of compensation. Nearly 3,000 farmers gave their land to us on the price quoted by us but around 500 farmers were not ready for it. As the project came under compulsory possession of land in the interest of public, we took their land and asked them to take compensation from us. We were earlier giving Rs 25 lakh per hectare but as they were not ready, we increased the amount to around 75 lakh,” said Kunwar Pankaj, special land acquisition officer (SLAO). A camp was set up to give the compensation money to the farmers but some 500 stayed away. Pankaj said, “Nearly 500 farmers did not come to us to take compensation but moved to the district court and the matter is now pending with the court. Though we have informed the court about our side of the deal, we told farmers that they can take compensation from us now and, if in future, the court directs us to give more money, we will follow its order. However, no farmer has approached us till now. After we learnt that they are going to stage an agitation for compensation even after moving to court, we constituted a camp at three villages to clear their dues. However, only one farmer took compensation of Rs 48,000 based on the size of his land.”Though district administration is ready to give compensation to these farmers, the residents, including women and children, of over 10 villages adjoining Bada Bypass sat on an indefinite dharna near the toll plaza. They have threatened that if their demands are not met by Wednesday, they will go on a hunger strike. “The district administration with the help of police forcefully took away our land from us for the project. When we had protested, a few farmers were sent to jail. We are suffering but the toll plaza constructed on our land is earning lakhs daily,” said Afroz Alam, state deputy secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha. Alam added, “Our demand is that the amount of compensation should be increased by four times and cases lodged against us should be taken back. We want that we should be given a share in the earnings of toll plaza till the compensation matter is not settled.” (Times of India 4/10/16)

Farmer attempts suicide after being ‘humiliated’ over loan due (20)

CUDDALORE: A farmer from Kattumannarkovil in Cuddalore district attempted suicide by consuming pesticide allegedly due to humiliation after recovery agents of a nationalised bank threatened to seize his tractor for defaulting on loan payment. The farmer was rushed to the Kattumannarkovil Government Hospital and referred to the Rajah Muthiah Medical College and Hospital. Sources said S. Muthuramalingam (52), a farmer of Aranthangi in Kattumannarkovil, had taken a loan of Rs.7 lakh from the State Bank of India (SBI) for purchasing a tractor. He is said to have paid Rs.4 lakh but had defaulted on four instalments. On Tuesday, a group of recovery agents from the bank had seized the tractors of two other farmers –Govindasamy of Agaraputhur and Maharajan of Sarvarajanpettai for defaulting on loan payment. The agents had visited the farmer’s residence and allegedly used foul language against the family members for defaulting on the loan payment. On learning about the incident, over 50 farmers led by K.V. Elangeeran, president of the Veeranam Vettuvaikkal, Naraikkal Eri Paasana Vivasayigal Sangam staged a protest in front of the bank premises on Wednesday. The protest took a serious turn when Muthuramalingam allegedly pulled out a bottle, suspected to be a pesticide, and consumed it. Tension prevailed and the agitated farmers hurriedly shifted Muthuramalingam to the Kattumannarkovil Government Hospital. However, after initial treatment, he was referred to the Rajah Muthiah Medical College and Hospital in Annamalai Nagar. Mr. Elangeeran said that unmindful of crop failure for two successive years due to the 2015 floods and seepage of water from the Veeranam into agricultural fields, the bank was insisting that farmers repay their loans on time. He claimed that though Mr. Muthuramalingam had paid about Rs.4 lakh out of the total loan amount of Rs.7 lakhs the bank insisted that he had to repay Rs.9 lakhs along with penal interest to avert action. Farmers’ representatives had recently met the bank manager and apprised him of the problems faced by the farmers ..  (The Hindu 6/10/16)

Only 33% Maha farmers covered under crop loan (20)

Nagpur: The state government may have set a target of covering at least 80% of farmers under crop loan net, but a recent note put up to assess the progress shows a dismal progress. As against 1.36 crore farmers in the state, only 46 lakh have got loans for the Kharif season, which begins in monsoon. This is less than 34% of the total number. Now its time for harvest. The note, which covers loans granted till September end, was prepared by the state’s department of cooperatives which also monitors farm lending in coordination with PSU banks. Farmers in Vidarbha mainly depend on the Kharif crop. Though a combined target for both Kharif and Rabi seasons are set, experts say not many in the region go for the second season crop. Ironically, the banks have achieved 83% of the target for the Kharif season loans. A target of Rs31,000 crore crop loan disbursal was set for the Kharif season of 2016. “At times, the funds set aside for farm lending are not sufficient to cover all farmers. As a result, it is easy to cover the target for loans to be granted, but still a large number of farmers will be left out,” said a source in the department of cooperatives. “The numbers may look impressive in terms of the amount, but actually less than half of the farmers have been covered,” said Kishore Tiwari of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, a state government task force on farmers. Tiwari, who shared the paper with TOI, says this means rest of the farmers have gone to private moneylenders or other non-banking sources for funding.There may be 10-12 lakh farmers in the state who go for Rabi crop. Even if all of them get loan, still the achievement will remain far from the targeted 80% of a total farmer population. Lending for Rabi season is still underway. Crop loans are needed by farmers each year to meet expenses for the season. Since last two years, there were attempts to bring maximum number of farmers into the banking net. Tiwari said banks were rather reluctant to grant loans to the farmers. In many cases, the old loans which were in default were restructured. This means if a farmer had dues of Rs50,000 and the bank granted a fresh loan of Rs60,000, the farmer in reality would be taking home Rs10,000 only. The rest Rs50,000 would be adjusted towards the pending dues. (Times of India 13/10/16)

700 farmers fight depression, counsellors reach out to curb suicides (20)

AURANGABAD: The shadows of drought still linger in the minds of over 700 farmers and their family members in parched Aurangabad district. State-appointed psychiatrists are counselling 728 farmers, who were identified after screening thousands of ryots, to help them fight depression. In October 2015, the state government started the Prakalp Prerna project to curb suicides by farmers in the 14 districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Since then, psychiatrists and experts have been conducting camps across the eight districts. Psychiatrist Amit Taak, project head for Aurangabad district, said they had conducted health check-up camps in the rural pockets of the district between October 2015 to April 2016. About 2,45,720 patients were screened for various ailments. As part of the project, ASHA workers conducted a detailed survey of the farmers. They sought information such as crop failure, loan details, alcohol consumption and health issues. Gauging by the number of questions answered in ‘yes’ and ‘no’, a scale of ‘severe’, ‘moderate’ and ‘mild mental’ conditions was mapped. About 56,881 persons from the farming community were screened and 728 were identified to be suffering from depression. Cases of tobacco and alcohol addictions, which psychologists said were mostly manifestation of depression, were also identified. Approximately 995 farmers were identified with tobacco or alcohol addiction and counselled for it. “Farmers showing symptoms of depression such as lack of energy, disturbed sleep, anxiety, lack of appetite, low mood and lack of interest in day-to-day activities were identified as patients suffering from mental distress. They have been prescribed medicines for a period of 15-30 days and are also being counselled by trained psychiatrists. The farmers displaying suicidal tendencies are under a close watch, with some being referred to the district hospital,” he said. …  (Times of India 13/10/16)

Farmer arrested in Phagwara for stubble burning, gets bail (2)

Phagwara: In first such case in two years in the district, Kapurthala police arrested a farmer for stubble burning on Saturday. Rawalpindi police have booked Surjeet Singh of Rampur Sunra under Section 188 (disobedience of public servant’s order) of the Indian Penal Code. If found guilty, the accused may get maximum jail term of one month or Rs 200 fine or both.Deputy commissioner Jaskiran Singh said to check the hazardous practice of stubble burning, the administration has decided to register cases against the offenders. The accused farmer, Surjit Singh, said burning stubble was the only viable option he was left with. “The methods agriculture department wants us to adopt to get rid of and manage the stubble are costly,” he said. Davinder Singh, a member of Doaba Sangharsh Committee, said majority of the farmers can’t afford the machines and the agriculture department is not offering any subsidy on them. Kapurthala chief agriculture officer Ravail Singh said, “The department is unable to offer subsidy on the machines. The machines available cost around Rs 2 lakh each. I agree that there is a need for subsidy so that even the marginal farmers can afford them.” Also, the agriculture department doesn’t have machines to give on rent either. (Hindustan Times 16/10/16)

No gunny bags to store paddy, farmers forced to sell crop at losses (20)

RUDRAPUR: In sheds and open spaces near the paddy purchase centres across Udham Singh Nagar district, several tiny mounds of golden husk crop up every day. Bringing the day’s harvest in trolleys, several farmers line up at the centres, calluses on their palms and creases on their foreheads after a hard day’s labour. Only a few fortunate ones will go home with the satisfaction of having sold their produce. The rest will return tomorrow, hoping for better luck. At the 86 paddy procurement centres run by the district cooperative department, only 1,710.8 metric tonnes of paddy has been purchased in the past 17 days. The US Nagar district, which has the largest paddy production in Uttarakhand and is called the rice bowl of the state, is facing an acute shortage of gunny bags which are arranged by district authorities for the farmers. The farmers can buy gunny bags at Rs 1.50 each from the paddy purchase centres. Each sack, which protects the crop from moisture and pests, can store 40kg of paddy. The district administration, however, has only 1.5 lakh gunny bags against the requirement of 12 lakh bags at present. The centres have stopped purchase of the paddy, citing lack of gunny bags and proper storage as the reason. Bulk of the paddy crop is thus being kept in open spaces or under sheds near the purchase centres mFarmers are fearing that even a little rain or increase in moisture can ruin the crop and have been petitioning authorities to arrange for the gunny bags soon. “I have been trying to sell my produce for the past two days. The paddy is dry and within prescribed moisture limits but if I don’t sell it soon, it can get damaged,” said Harbir Singh, a farmer at Rudrapur. Farmers at Bazpur grain market criticised the district authorities for failing to provide them with gunny bags. “We have been told that the gunny bags are expected to arrive from Kolkata in a few days,” said a farmer in Bazpur. Some of the farmers said that they have been forced to sell their crop to private dealers for a price ranging between Rs 900 and Rs 1,000 instead of the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,470 per quintal. Jawahar Bathla, a farmer from Jafarpur village in Rudrapur, said, “I thought that the state agencies will buy the paddy at a good price. But no gunny bags were available and a long process to check the moisture content of the paddy forced me to leave and sell the crop for Rs 966 per quintal to a private dealer.” Another farmer from the district, Dilbagh Singh, said that he too had to sell his paddy for Rs 990 per quintal as there was no government purchase due to shortage of gunny bags. The district authorities had begun procurement of paddy on October 1 and had announced an MSP of Rs 1,470 per quintal. When contacted, additional district cooperative officer (ADCO) D S Napalchyal, said, “Shortage of gunny bags is hampering the paddy procurement process. The department has informed the Uttarakhand Cooperative Federation (UCF) and Regional Food Controller (RFC), which are responsible for sending the gunny bags. We hope the matter is resolved soon.” The nodal officer for paddy procurement and additional district magistrate of US Nagar, Ravneet Cheema told TOI that she has held a meeting with the departments concerned and has asked for quick supply of gunny bags to all the centres. “I will visit the mandis and the centres to make sure that no farmer suffers financial losses,” she said. (Times of India 19/10/16)

Stir in Delhi to oppose GM mustard (20)

New Delhi: Representatives of over 120 organisations from 20 states will congregate at Jantar Mantar next week to demand a ban on the commercial release of GM mustard. Leaders from various political parties, major farmer unions, trade unions, honey industry, scientists and other civil society are expected to join the protest. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) alleged the regulatory body for gene technology in India, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), is moving ahead with the approval processes without publishing the full bio-safety data or giving adequate time for independent scrutiny of an expert committee report on GM mustard. They said the Supreme Court is also hearing two petitions that seek to stop GM mustard approval. Said Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), “Citizens from 20 states representing more than 25 large national organisations and more than 120 state-level bodies will congregate in Jantar Mantar on October 25 to press home their demand for an immediate ban on GM mustard and other such GMOs.” Some of the organisations which will take part in the protest include All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Azadi Bachao Andolan, Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch, Coalition for a GM-Free India, Confederation of Beekeeping Industry of India and Greenpeace India among others. Kuruganti said more than 10 organisations from Gujarat are also expected to take part in the protest. Some activists, including those from ASHA, have been opposing the approval for GM Mustard and have upped the ante against the “unscientific” appraisal process. GEAC had constituted a sub-committee to review the technical details and dossier related to the environmental release of Genetically Engineered Mustard. The report was uploaded on the Ministry’s website inviting comments from various stakeholders till October 5. After receiving hundreds of comments from various stakeholders, the Ministry had forwarded it to the sub- committee which after studying it will submit its final report to the biotech regulator, GEAC. (Business Standard 22/10/16)

Crop loss: Farmer couple attempts suicide, husband dies (20)

Shivamogga: A debt-ridden farmer from Kunchena-halli in Shivamogga taluk died in the district hospital, while his wife is battling for life after they consumed poison in an attempt to end their lives following crop loss, on Saturday. According to the police, Rama Naik (68) and his wife Lakshmi Bai (60) consumed poison after they found it difficult to repay loans due to crop loss. They had grown cotton, maize and paddy on seven acres of land after borrowing loans amounting to Rs 3 lakh from various sources, including nationalised bank and private money lenders. They could not repay the loans as they suffered crop loss due to deficient rainfall. A case has been registered. (Deccan Herald 23/10/16)

No commercial release of GM Mustard crop sans nod, Centre to SC (20)

New Delhi: The Centre, on Monday, told the Supreme Court that it would not commercially release Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard crop seeds without its permission. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said if there would be any decision to go ahead with the field trials of the GM crop and for its commercial release, then it would first seek the apex court’s permission. “If we are to proceed with field trials of the GM crops or have to release it commercially, we will like to come back to the court for the permission,” Rohatgi told the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao. The apex court has now posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks. It had earlier extended the stay on the commercial release of GM Mustard crop till further orders. The apex court had on October 7 restrained the commercial release of the crop for ten days, saying the stay would continue till the matter is heard next. The court, at the last hearing, had asked the Centre to seek public opinion on such seeds before releasing it for cultivation purpose, even as government approval is awaited. Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops which is sown between mid-October and late November. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Aruna Rodrigues, alleged that the government was sowing the seeds in various fields and said the bio-safety dossier has to be put on website, which has not been done yet. Alleging that field trials were being carried out without doing the relevant tests, he sought had a 10-year moratorium on them. Bhushan said a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report has also said that the entire regulatory system was in shambles and 10-year moratorium should be given. Rodrigues had filed the plea seeking a stay on the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard crop and prohibition of its open field trials. He had also urged the court to prohibit open field trials and commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants as recommended by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) report. It said the contamination caused by mustard HT DMH 11 and its HT parents would be “irremediable and irreversible”. “The contamination of our seed stock and germ plasm as will happen with mustard HT DMH 11 and its HT parents will be irremediable and irreversible making our food toxic at the molecular level without recourse,” it said. (Business Standard 25/10/16)

Opposition parties join protest by social forestry planters (20)

ONGOLE: Backed by the YSR Congress and other opposition parties, social forestry planters staged a demonstration here on Wednesday in protest against the paper mills allegedly not implementing the agreement reached at the behest of the State government last month. Taking up cudgels for the troubled ryots, YSR Congress Whip in Parliament Y.V. Subba Reddy said “I will raise the issue in the Lok Sabha during the winter session of Parliament and press for market intervention both by the Union and the State governments to ensure a remunerative price for subabul and eucalyptus logs.” The farmers in the State were on the verge of committing suicide incurring heavy losses as a result of “anti-farmer” policies of the State government, he added. Joining the protest, Congress State vice-president N. Tulasi Reddy said “it is not just the social forestry planters who are in dire straits. Growers of each and every crop including onions are in deep trouble as the ruling TDP reneges on its promise to create a Rs. 5,000 crore market intervention fund as promised during elections. But not even Rs. 5 crore has been allotted by the State government.” The farmers would be able to break even only if they were offered subabul at Rs. 4,400 per quintal and eucalyptus at Rs. 4,600 per quintal and get some decent returns only if the prices of logs ruled above Rs. 8,000 per quintal. Prakasam District Development Forum president Ch. Ranga Rao said farmers would incur heavy losses if eucalyptus logs were not purchased under unbarked condition. He urged the authorities to gather market intelligence and work out the cost of production before fixing the purchase price in a scientific manner. CPI State Assistant secretary Mupalla Nageswara Rao pressed for a uniform rate across the State for the logs. Prakasam district Rythu Sangam secretary D. Gopinath demanded scrapping of 143 G.O. which provided for fixation of price for logs in a decentralised manner. CPI(M) Prakasam district secretary P.Anjaneyulu contended that the ryots were not offered even the reduced price of Rs. 4,000 per quintal for subabul and Rs. 4,200 per quintal for eucalyptus fixed at the behest of the State government last month. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Jharkhand: 4 villagers killed in police firing over land row; 2 officers injured (4)

Ranchi: Four villagers were killed early Saturday when police opened fire on protesters whose land was acquired by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Chirudih area in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district. “The police had to resort to extreme measures since the protestors abducted our men on duty and started thrashing them. Few of our officials were severely injured. As many as four protestors died in the incident,” said police spokesperson, inspector general MS Bhatia. The police also issued a press statement saying MLA Barkagaon, Nirmala Devi and her husband Yogendra Sahu and their supporters had been on dharna outside Pakri-Barkagaon mining area from September 15 demanding the stoppage of mining in the area. On Saturday morning in order to diffuse the situation, the administration deputed magistrates and police force to the area. “Team successfully arrested MLA and was retreating. On the way back in village Dandikala, the vehicle was stopped by the crowd which snatched the detenue. Both magistrates and addl SP were in the next vehicle. Crowd made them deboard the vehicle and tried to take the officers with them,” the police statement said. According to the police, director DRDA was saved by the PSOs but the addl SP and circle officer, Barkagaon, were abducted and taken to the adjoining fields where they were so badly beaten that they lost consciousness. The SP and DDC who were monitoring the development from Barkagaon police station, rushed reinforcements including crowd control units after getting an emergency call. “Crowd was warned but did not budge despite of using tear gas shells and rubber bullets. Then as a last resort, director DRDA ordered opening fire as self defence and in view of the grave threat of losing lives. It is reported that 4 protesters have died in the police firing,” the statement said. Seven officials are among the injured including addl SP and CO who are said to be critical and have been aerially evacuated to Ranchi for treatment, police said. “Of the 15 injured, nine have been referred to RIMS while six are undergoing treatment in the hospital,” said Dr AK Singh of Sadar Hospital. Singh added that two bodies had been brought for postmortem. Police said that they had recovered one body while the other was still with the villagers. Authorities have clamped prohibitory orders in Barkagaon in a bid to avoid further violence. The deputy inspector general of police, Hazaribagh is camping at Barkagaon where aditional forces and officers have been sent….  (Hindustan Times 1/10/16)

HC upholds validity of Patwari land acquisition (4)

Allahabad: The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday upheld the validity of the land acquisition notification and also the award of compensation to farmers of Patwari village in Greater Noida, Gautam Budh Nagar. Hearing a slew of writ petitions filed by farmers against the land acquisition proceedings, a division bench comprising Justice Tarun Agarwala and Justice Vipin Sinha observed that there is no illegality in the award, nor can it be quashed on the grounds urged by the petitioners. The order was passed on writ petitions filed by Brahmpal and several other farmers of Patwari village who had questioned the validity and legality of the award dated July 10, 2015 passed by additional district magistrate (land acquisition) of Greater Noida. (Times of India 5/10/16)

 ‘We were the first to fight for rights of Polavaram-hit’ (4)

Vijayawada: Social activist Medha Patkar on Thursday faulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking one-sided decisions such as increasing the height of the Narmada dam by 17 metres, keeping his Cabinet colleagues, including the Social Justice Minister, in the dark. Referring to the Polavaram project, Ms. Patkar said that her organisation was the first one to fight for the rights of Adivasis and other people who would be affected by the project. Ponnala Lakshmaiah (the then Irrigation Minister in undivided AP) was ready for formulating a policy. The then Congress government was ready for a dialogue. But neither Mr. Modi nor Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu was ready to hold a dialogue with people’s organisations, she alleged. Asked whether the RTI Act was allowed to die on its own, Ms. Patkar said the NDA government was killing every enactment which was a result of sustained struggle of people, be it employment guarantee Act or labour Acts. But still the RTI was useful as many scams such as Adarsh could be busted with it. Ms. Patkar was in the city as part of Nasha Mukth Bharat Andolan Yatra’ (Addiction-free India), a nationwide tour urging implementation of prohibition across the country. (The Hikndu 7/10/16)

National Thermal Power Corporationland was acquired during UPA rule: Jayant Sinha (4)

RANCHI: Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha on Friday accused former UPA rule in Jharkhand of forceful land acquisition of private owned land (raiyati) for the NTPC project. Sinha, BJP MP from Hazaribag, backed Raghubar Das government, saying the latter did not acquire any land after coming to power but had instead worked out a compensation package in favor of the displaced families. “It was in 2013 when the land was last acquired and it happened under the UPA regime. We have not acquired land but tried to work out a favorable compensation for land-losers,” he said. He claimed a total of 8,056 acres land was acquired in total so far for the project. Of the total, approximately 4,839 acres were privately owned. As many as 8,745 families were affected, of which 2,430 have already been compensated, he claimed. Sinha also stressed on judicial enquiry into the October 1 police firing in Barkagaon that left four people dead. The NTPC project is facing protests from locals over forceful land acquistion and low compensation.Sinha also rejected claims that Jharkhand government reacted in haste in dismantling the protest led by Congress MLA Nirmala Devi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 28 directive, of quick disposition of compensation and completion of pending land acquisition, to the state. “Land givers were happy and were coming to terms with the compensation package,”he said. He also rejected opposition’s claim of police breaking its guidelines to arrest Nirmala Devi from her dharna at midnight, which eventually led to police firing. He claimed there was information about a group of protesters’ plans to resist the MLA’s arrest but demanded a probe into the whole episode. The MP released a document showing the revised compensation package components approved by Das government in August. The new rehabilitation and re-settlement package promises Rs 20 lakh per acre compensation, Rs 10 lakh for encroachers, Rs 1,500 monthly pension for the deprived and employment. “No land will be acquired forcibly,” he said. However, Congress state president Sukhdeo Bhagat refuted Sinha’s claims. “The land acquisition is handled by the state. In 2013, BJP was in power. Hence, he admits that they forcefully acquired the land,” Bhagat said. (Times of India 8/10/16)

Petro varsity: CPI(M) opposes ‘forcible’ land acquisition (4)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The attempt of the government to go for ‘forcible acquisition’ of 700 acres of assigned land for the proposed Petroleum University at Vangali village of Sabbavaram mandal, near here, came in for severe criticism from the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Bhu Hakkula Porata Committee. The government has allocated only 200 acres for the proposed Petroleum University. When that was the case, what was the point in acquiring 700 acres, wondered CPI(M) State executive member Ch. Narasinga Rao at a media conference here on Saturday. He said it was not proper to acquire more land than required and keep it vacant. Nearly half of the 10,000 acres, acquired at Atchutapuram in 2006 is lying vacant to this day. The 700 acres of land, proposed to be acquired, is under cultivation. The farmers had dug wells and fixed motors and were getting two crops a year but the government had notified that 246 acres of land was not under cultivation and he challenged any official to visit the village and prove that the land was not under cultivation. Farmers were cultivating in 500 acres for the past 30 years and they should be issued pattas, he demanded. Mr. Narasinga Rao said all the farmers in Vangali were either small or marginal farmers and their only source of livelihood was agricultural land in their possession. The Land Acquisition Act of 2013 notifies that acquisition could be done only with the approval of the farmers, who would lose their land, and after giving them all the rights and benefits. He alleged that the government was acquiring the land forcibly in violation of the Act. (The Hindu 9/10/16)

Land acquisition from January, villagers to protest on Thursday (4)

Pune: The district administration will start the process of land acquisition for the new Pune airport in Purandar from January 2017. Speaking to TOI on Monday, collector Saurabh Rao said the ground survey of the land, which spans over 2,400 acres, will begin soon and other formalities will be initiated later. The actual process, when it comes to acquiring land, is expected to start by January. The ground survey needs to be completed first, after which the reports and results will be closely analyzed. Once the analysis is complete, the area will be notified. The whole process is expected to take some months. However, in the meantime, the administration will discuss the matter with the locals regularly. The compensation package design also needs to be finalized based on the plots and the survey reports,” the official said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had formally announced the new Pune international airport at the Purandar taluka, located around 45km southeast of the city, on October 7. He had said the new airport, which will take three years to come up, shall be named after Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, as Purandar is his birthplace. The project is being opposed by farmers and landowners who have made it clear that they will not let go of their lands for the airport. When asked about the rehabilitation package which will be offered to the landowners, the district collector said they had not finalized anything as yet. “There is a rehabilitation and resettlement act of the Centre. But no decision has been taken by us so far. The district administration will study the acquisition and rehabilitation models of Navi Mumbai, Cochin (Kerala) and MIHAN (multi-modal international hub airport at Nagpur) to decide on the best one for the new airport of Pune,’ Rao informed. … (Times of India 11/10/16)

Land Acquisition Bill: Consensus eluded Centre, now four states relax their land laws (4)

New Delhi: Land Acquisition Bill, Land Acquisition law, state regulations, commercial use of land, Land Acquisition act, political consensus, India news Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya said that adopting a model land leasing law was one of the important initiatives taken by the Centre. The Centre’s inability to build a political consensus for its land acquisition law in 2015 notwithstanding, four major states — Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha — have taken decisive steps to free up regulations relating to commercial use of land. While Gujarat has already passed its own land acquisition law, which was accorded assent by the President in August, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have expressed intent in making business easier through the adoption of the Centre’s model land-leasing law. In August, the Gujarat assembly passed a Bill, allowing amendments to the Centre’s 2013 land acquisition Act, including relaxation of the clauses of social impact assessment and need for consent of landowners. Uttar Pradesh, which had earlier banned land-leasing with exceptions granted to landowners among widows, minors, disabled people and defence personnel, made further amendments to the exception clause, effectively allowing agricultural land parcels to be leased to people involved with businesses. Others such as Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have also evinced interest in amending their laws to allow land-leasing in their states, a senior official of the central government said. After the government’s efforts to amend the land acquisition Act faced stiff political and social opposition last year, the Centre decided not to re-promulgate the ordinance for the fourth time in August 2015 to amend the legislation. Following this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley advised states to frame their own Act with the Centre’s approval. In an interview with The Indian Express, Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya said that adopting a model land leasing law was one of the important initiatives taken by the Centre that would reflect in the country’s growth numbers in time to come. Panagariya, who has been a vocal proponent of land-leasing reforms, had earlier stated that “in the context of the difficulties in land acquisition under the 2013 land acquisition law”, states wanting to facilitate industrialisation could benefit from liberal leasing laws if they eased use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. The view to have separate land laws across different states was reinforced after a meeting of the governing council of the Niti Aayog with state chief ministers in July 2015. In June this year, the Niti Aayog also set up a special cell under the chairmanship of T Haque, former head of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, to build consensus with states on the Centre’s land-leasing policy. “I think the way in which the government is now approaching policy should make investors more optimistic that reforms are now being pushed through such as closure of sick units, strategic disinvestment, MCI reforms. We are also trying to make a push with states to expand the best practices, such as land leasing law,” Panagariya said. (Indian Express 14/10/16)

Land acquisition: learning a lesson or two from Rajasthan (4)

HYDERABAD: In Telangana, land acquisition met with strong opposition from farmers while in Rajasthan, it was a smooth affair as over 40,000 acres of land was acquired from farmersQuite contrary to the heat and dust raised by the exercise taken up for acquisition of land for public purposes in Telangana over the last six months, a similar activity carried out in Rajasthan around the same time was a smooth affair, as over 40,000 acres of land was acquired from farmers, even as there was some resistance initially. Moreover, the land was acquired under the provisions of the much-talked-about Land Acquisition Act, 2013, albeit with a novel approach in its implementation. The striking feature of the Rajasthan’s exercise has been payment of 75 per cent of the estimated compensation amount to farmers parting with their land for public purposes in advance — before undertaking the formal procedures. A recent visit to Jhalawar district in Rajasthan to study the impact of new watershed programme under its Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA) brought to the fore how an out-of-the-box thinking coupled with coordination between different agencies and village-level opinion groups could make convincing people easy. The remaining 25 per cent of the compensation was paid immediately after the completion of legal formalities. At the end of the day, it’s the satisfaction among farmers such as Bara Singh of Sarod village that matters most in acquisition of land from farmers for public purposes. “Our family got compensation of Rs. 8.6 lakh for foregoing 8.22 ‘bighas’ land (2.5 bighas is equal to an acre) taken for construction of a minor irrigation tank at little over Rs.1 lakh per bigha,” the farmer said who still has about 6 bighas land beyond the submergence area at the tank. In Telangana, the exercise for land acquisition for public purposes, particularly for Kaleshwaram and Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation and National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) and Pharma City projects, has met with strong opposition from a certain sections of farmers with all the Opposition parties rallying behind them. One major contention here has been non-implementation of the Land Acquisition Act for the purpose. “Unlike in Telangana, we did not have the problem of rehabilitation while acquiring land for construction of about 600 minor irrigation tanks under the first phase of MJSA since there has been no submergence of habitations and no displacement of people. Besides, we have conducted the processes under Sections 3, 4, 7 and 11 of the Land Acquisition Act simultaneously,” says Sriram Vedire, Chairperson of Rajasthan River and Water Resources Planning Authority that implements MJSA. Mr. Sriram stated that they were also planning to give exclusive fishing rights to farmers who give up their land for minor irrigation tanks under MJSA as added incentive or attraction for parting with their land for public purposes. (The Hindu 16/10/16)

Singur farmers to get land from Thursday (4)

Kolkata: The West Bengal government will start giving physical possession of land in Singur to farmers from Thursday. “I will visit Singur on October 20 and will personally kick-start the return of land from Singur project to their owners,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. On August 31, the Supreme Court declared acquisition of 997 acre in Singur by the former Left Front government for Tata Motors’ world’s cheapest car project illegal, and ordered the state government to return the land to their owners in 12 weeks. “We are trying to complete the process within 10 weeks,” Ms Banerjee said. She said the land made fit for cultivation cannot be handed over in a single day as there are about 4,000 owners. “Eighty per cent of the land has already been made fit for cultivation. We will return the land in parts. Not more than 40 acre can be handed over at one go,” she said. The agriculture department will give seeds to farmers, along with a grant of Rs 10,000, so that they can start cultivating their land. A fortnight ago, Ms Banerjee had set October 21 as the deadline to start giving back land in Singur to their owners. Education minister Partha Chatterjee was given the responsibility of supervising the work of making the land fit for cultivation. Mr Chatterjee, who visited Singur a number of times, submitted a status report of the land to the chief minister at Nabanna on Monday. A top government official said concrete structure—a road and sheds—of the defunct car plant still remains on 150 acre. “We still need to dismantle concrete structure on 36 acres which will take some time,” he added. The state government has already given compensation cheques and land “parchas” to farmers. The official said the state expects to complete the process of giving physical possession by November 10. At Monday’s meeting, Ms Banerjee said she will reward officials and workers of government departments and agencies who worked to make the Singur land fit for cultivation within a few weeks. An agriculture department official said a part of the land dug up to make a drainage system, water bodies and lay roads for the Tata project has suffered top soil loss. “Agriculture is not possible on land that has suffered top soil loss. We are already looking for places in the adjoining districts and coastal areas from where we can bring top soil and lay it there. But this may take some time,” he added. (Asian Age 18/10/16)

All Singur farmers to get back land by Nov. 10, says Mamata (4)

Resuming token agricultural activity at the erstwhile site of the Tata Motors small car plant at Singur after a decade, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced that all farmers would get physical possession of their lands by November 10. Addressing a gathering at Singur on Thursday after restoring land to some of the farmers in the first phase, Ms. Banerjee asked senior officials of the state government to ensure transfer of all land to the farmers before November 10. The Supreme Court, while directing the return of land to farmers in its August 30 order, had given 12 weeks time to the state government to complete the process. Ms. Banerjee expressed hope that it would be completed before the November-30 deadline. The Chief Minister said that 90 per cent of the 997 acres of land has been prepared for agricultural activities and only 65 acres of land — where concrete had been laid and artificial ponds had been dug — is to be made suitable for farming. Following the Supreme Court order, as many as 10,436 land paarcha (land papers) have been given and 1,915 unwilling farmers, who had refused to take compensation during the Left Front regime, have accepted compensation cheques. On Thursday, 103 acres of arable land was handed over to 298 farmers, with the Chief Minister personally handing over possession to 21 farmers.“Singur will become a model for saving agricultural land for the whole world,” Ms. Banerjee said at the gathering, adding that one had to assert and establish one’s rights through a sustained struggle. She announced that a memorial would be built at Singur to commemorate the decade-long struggle, with photographs of Tapasi Malik and Raj Kumar Hool, who were killed during the agitation against forcible land acquisition. (The Hindu 21/10/16)

Telangana farmers go on stir, demand Agriculture Policy, Income Guarantee (4)

Hyderabad: Farmers in Telangana have asked the State government to come out with a comprehensive Agriculture Policy to safeguard their livelihood. They have demanded income security for small, marginal and medium farmers and agricultural workers. Scores of farmers from across the State gathered at the Dharna Chowk at Indira Park here on Sunday, to protest against anti-farmer policies. Representatives of various political parties, farmers’ organisations and non-governmental organisations participated in the Dharna. It was organised by the Telangana Rythu Joint Action Committee (JAC) to express solidarity with farmers in distress. TJAC leader Kodandaram has asked the government to bring in the Farmers’ Income Guarantee Act to ensure minimum dignified living for all the farm households. He also sought establishment of a permanent Farmers’ Income Commission.“The government should stop forcible grabbing of farmers’ lands in the name of projects. It must follow the Land Acquisition Act 2013, while acquiring the land and it must withdraw the GO 123 introduced by the government to bypass the 2013 Act,” said a declaration made by the JAC during the Dharna. The JAC demanded that the government pay the crop loan waiver dues in one instalment and ensure timely crop loans for the farmers, who are hard pressed for money. “Compensation for crop loss should be given to all farmers affected by drought, floods, or heavy rains with at least ₹10,000 an acre. Input subsidy for drought-hit areas should be released immediately,” it said in the declaration. The farmers also wanted the government to bring in a Seed Act to ensure good quality seeds. “Genetically modified crops, which are being pushed without proper testing, should be opposed and their field trials should not be encouraged,” it said. (Business Line 23/10/16)

Compensation delay: woman attempts suicide at BDA office (4)

Bengaluru: A woman attempted suicide by consuming poison at the Bangalore Development Authority’s (BDA) head office on Monday to protest against the agency’s failure to pay her compensation for her land it acquired for an infrastructure project. Mangala, 38, a resident of Mahalakshmi Layout, was rushed to Bowring Hospital. She is out of danger and is responding to treatment, the police said. The BDA had acquired 6,750 sq ft belonging to Mangala for a grade separator project near Kanteerava Studios and promised her a compensation of Rs 3.76 crore. She lost her house and a shop in the acquisition. Mangala’s family started facing financial hardship as the BDA did not keep its promise.  She did not get any compensation despite several visits to the BDA.On Monday too, Mangala went to the BDA office to meet officials in this regard. BDA land acquisition officer Noorjan Khan told DH, “Mangala met me at 3.15 pm with a letter in her hand. She told me that she was in trouble as the BDA had failed to pay the compensation. She told me that committing suicide was the only way for her to come out of the financial crisis. Suddenly, she opened a bottle and consumed poison. We rushed her to a nearby hospital. Later, she was shifted to Bowring Hospital.”  note written by her was recovered from the place where she consumed poison. She has written that BDA officers were “responsible for her death”. She has also stated that former BDA deputy commissioner Vasanth Kumar had tortured her mentally and thus she decided to commit suicide. The BDA officers claimed that the BDA Chairman, Mahendra Jain, and BDA Commissioner Rajkumar Khatri had inspected certain projects recently and had planned to disburse the pending compensation to land losers at the earliest. …  (Deccan Herald 25/10/16)

Medha for white paper on Global investors’ summits (4)

BHOPAL: Blaming Madhya Pradesh government of double standards and usurping land of poor, social activist Medha Patkar demanded a white paper on the Global Investors’ Summits held in the state. Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, Medha said, “the white paper should mention the impact of these summits and how many people have benefitted from it? It should also specify the amount invested in organizing these lavish summits and state how many people got employments? “She alleged that during the recently concluded GIS summit chief minister said there is a land bank of 1.10 lakh acres available for investors of which 1,500 acres can be claimed on the spot. However, while promising land bank for industries, the state government have failed to rehabilitate those affected by the Sardar Sarovar project on Narmada river and were promised land, she alleged. “They should explain from where the large chunk of land is available for offer to the investors. We fear this land to be the one which was meant for affected people due to Sardar Sarovar project here,” added Patkar. According to her, about 6,000 families in Madhya Pradesh are still waiting for their promised land. Meanwhile, NGT had on Wednesday served notices to Narmada Valley Development Authority, Pollution Control Board and MPSEIAA (State Environment Impact Assessment Authority) after a new application filed by Medha Patkar for non-compliance with its order under section 26 of NGT Act. (Times of India 27/10/16)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Top health officials of 7 Rajasthan districts face penal action (3)

JAIPUR: Over four months after the health department sought information related to government’s free medicine distribution scheme, disciplinary action has been ordered against chief medical health officers (CMHOs) of seven districts in the state. The department had asked for the number of pharmacists and helpers working on contractual basis under the scheme in May. But despite several reminders sent by the department, the seven CMHOs failed to respond to the query. Disciplinary action has been ordered against CMHOs of Sawai Madhopur, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Dungarpur, Alwar, Kota and Jhalawar districts. The health department had written to joint directors to propose disciplinary action against CMHOs, alleging they had failed to provide information after repeated requests. According to health director Dr B R Meena, information was first sought on May 13. Reminders were later sent to them on June 2 and September 9. Finally, on September 29, the health director ordered disciplinary action against these CMHOs. The health director termed this as a case of grave indiscipline. The department had sought details about human resources employed under the scheme to improve the free medicine scheme. Now, the joint di rectors of Bharatpur, Udaipur, Kota and Jaipur zones have been asked to provide this information immediately. Under the scheme, pharmacists take care of drug counters set up for distributing free medicines to patients. (Times of India 3/10/16)

Japanese Encephalitis death toll reaches 30, NHRC sends notice to Odisha officials (3)

Bhubaneswar: THE NATIONAL Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday served notice to the Malkangiri district administration and the health secretary of Odisha as the death toll due to Japanese Encephalitis rose to 30 in just about a month. Asking the officials to submit a detailed report, including steps being taken by them, within four weeks, the NHRC said there was an urgent need to create awareness among villagers over the tradition of rearing pigs. Though officials are taking steps to contain the epidemic, two-year-old Priya Madkami of Badali under Korukonda block died on Monday night. Three-year-old Dinesh Padiami of Namkonda under Kalimela block and a two-year-old girl of Uskapali in Korukonda block died at the Malkangiri district headquarters hospital on Tuesday. The condition of four more children is said to be critical. The Japanese Encephalitis virus, which develops in pigs, is transmitted by mosquitoes to humans. Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Health Secretary Arati Ahuja and Animal Husbandry Secretary Bishnupada Sethi, who visited Malkangiri Monday, said a committee would be formed at the district level to tackle the disease. “The district administration has planned to isolate pigs infected by Japanese Encephalitis. We have held a meeting

with sarpanches, ward members, samiti members, block chairmen and block-level authorities for isolating the pigs in the affected villages,” said Nayak. Ahuja said that as the disease has no treatment, the emphasis is on stopping the disease from spreading. (The Indian Express 5/10/16)

Families of children suffering malnutrition to get Giriraj hens (3)

BELAGAVI: District administration has come out with unique plan to cope up with malnutrition among anganwadi kids belong to scheduled caste and scheduled tribes (SC/ST). It has decided to distribute Giriraj breed hens to the families of children suffering by malnutrition in the district. Several schemes are running on behalf of women and child welfare department to fight malnutrition among children but they are falling short somewhere. Maximum number of these children comes from SC/ST families. Keeping this in mind, DC N Jayaram has instructed the officials of the departments of animal husbandry and women and child welfare to coordinate with each other to distribute Giriraj hens under Pashubhagya scheme of the government. This programme is the brainchild of DC N Jayaram. When asked Jayaram said there is provision to make benefit SC/ST families under various schemes meant for these communities. Earlier it had planned to distribute Giriraj hens to SC/ST families in rural areas in order to improve their financial status. “Now, it is being targeted those families where children are suffering by malnutrition”, DC said.Nagaraj, deputy director of animal husbandry department said hens will be distributed in November. “We have already ordered chickens to Rayapur based poultry hatchery in Dharwad district, which will be distributed to the families after six weeks. Two Giriraj hens will be distributed to each family. Hens start giving eggs after 20 weeks. These eggs are highly nutritious and big in size. Parents can fight the malnutrition among their kids by feeding them these eggs”, said Nagaraj, deputy director of animal husbandry department, speaking to the TOI. Basavaraj Varevatte , deputy director of women and child welfare department said department has identified 2,227 children in the district suffering by high malnutrition and most of them are from SC/ST families. Families can increase the number of hens in course of time, which would help them financially, he said.Giriraj is a breed of chicken developed by Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fishery Sciences University, Bengaluru. It’s a hybrid variety of breed that grows faster and lays more eggs than the local breeds. Giriraj breed gives 130-150 eggs in a year and each egg weighs 52-55 grams. The eggs of this breed found with high nutritional contents. No special care is required to grow these birds. Moreover, they are resistant to many diseases. (Times of India 7/10/16)

268 million kids may be overweight by 2025: Study (3)

According to a global estimate, researchers indicate that around 268 million children aged 5 to 17 years may be overweight by 2025, assuming no policy interventions have proven effective at changing current trends.Timed to coincide with this year’s World Obesity Day, which is observed on October 11, investigators have also released data anticipating that obesity-related conditions will rise among children. In 2025, up to 12 million children will have impaired glucose tolerance, 4 million will have type 2 diabetes, 27 million will have hypertension and 38 million will have hepatic steatosis or buildup of fat in the liver.Tim Lobstein, co-author of study said, “These forecasts should sound an alarm bell for health service managers and health professionals, who will have to deal with this rising tide of ill health following the obesity epidemic.” “In a sense, we hope these forecasts are wrong: they assume current trends continue, but we are urging governments to take strong measures to reduce childhood obesity and meet their agreed target of getting the levels of childhood obesity down to 2010 levels before we get to 2025,” he added. (Times of India 9/10/16)

Unicef initiative to tackle malnutrition in children (3)

VIJAYAWADA: The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is planning to launch a pilot project of supplying nutritious food for children in the State. Unicef, with the help of government departments involved in child care, other stakeholders and NGOs, is proposing to launch Community Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) and supply Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) in the State. “We are planning to launch CMAM in the capital region and spread the project to the entire State. Unicef will submit a draft of the project to the government soon, and the food will be supplied through anganwadi centres and schools,” said a Unicef representative who is monitoring its projects in the region. “Acute malnutrition is one of the reasons for child deaths in the world, and some lakhs of children are dying due to malnutrition every year across the globe. RUTF contains therapeutic milk, sugar, oil and peanuts, which contain high vitamins, minerals and nutritious supplements, and the product saved some thousands of children suffering from severe malnutrition,” the Unicef representative said. In India, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) among every one lakh children is 126 (i.e. infants aged below six months), and the reason is malnourishment, according to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) records. “In Andhra Pradesh, IMR is 39, and the reasons for the deaths are poor diet, child marriages, and premature births. We are trying to bring down the IMR in the State by organising awareness programmes in villages,” said an ICDS officer. As many as 55,607 anganwadi centres are there in A.P., and 26.62 lakh children are enrolled in these centres. Besides, some lakhs of children are suffering from acute malnutrition in primary and upper primary schools in the State. Recently, Unicef, in association with Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) officials, held a meeting on CMAM in the city, and discussed about launching of the project. Department Secretary G. Jaya Lakshmi explained the implementation of ‘Gorumuddalu’ and Full Meals Schemes to the participants. Chief of Nutrition of Nepal, Stanley Chitekwe, shared his experiences in grounding CCAM in Nepal and Nigeria with WD&CW Special Commissioner K.R.B.H.N. Chakravarthi and Unicef Chief of Hyderabad Ruth Lieno. (The Hindu 12/10/2016)

Pregnant woman dies in hospital, family blames medical negligence (3)

BARIPADA: Tension ran high in the District Headquarters Hospital (DHH) at Baripada on Thursday following death of a pregnant woman allegedly due to medical negligence. Her family members and locals staged a dharna inside the hospital campus. They withdrew their agitation only after the Collector assured them to take action against the erring doctor. Jayanti Murmu (28) of Bholagadia village under Khunta police limits was admitted to the hospital for delivery on Wednesday. After a check up, gynaecologist Dr Anjan Sarangi informed her husband that it would be a normal delivery.Jayanti’s husband, Dasnath alleged that after the check-up the gynaecologist left for a private clinic. When his wife complained of labour pain, no doctor was present in the hospital and she died after three hours. As the news spread on Thursday morning, locals gathered at the hospital and staged an agitation demanding action against the doctor. They also demanded compensation of `10 lakh for family of the deceased woman. They, however, withdrew the agitation after Collector Rajesh Pravakar Patil asked the accused doctor to go on leave. He also directed ADM, Deben Kumar Pradhan to conduct an inquiry and submit report within a week. (New Indian Express 14/10/16)

Tuberculosis Cases Under-Reported In India: World Health Organization (3)

New Delhi:  The Global Tuberculosis Report – 2016 released by the World Health Organisation highlights the problem in India’s battle with the disease. The results show that the number of TB cases rose largely because researchers found that earlier estimates in India, from 2000-2015, were far too low. About 60% of global tuberculosis cases were reported from six countries – Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and India. The report also shows that India along with China and Russia account for the almost 50% of the global multi-drug resistant TB cases. WHO estimates that 480,000 people fell ill with MDR-TB in 2015. The report shows the major challenges in the form of gaps in TB testing, saying of the estimated 10.4 million new cases in 2015, only 6.1 million were detected and officially notified. WHO report blames the 4.3 million missing cases to under-reporting of TB cases, especially in countries with large unregulated private sector, and under-diagnosis in countries with poor access to healthcare. A recent study published in the ‘Lancet’ also showed that the ‘missing’ or ‘unreported’ cases are either not properly diagnosed or are not notified to the government by private sector doctors. Speaking to NDTV Sreenivas Nair, co-author of the study said, “A large section of the population is being treated in the private sector and these are not notified to the government. Absence of quality surveillance data on privately-treated patients and commercial sales of drugs add up to the disease’s burden estimates.” India accounts for 27% of the global TB burden. The report revised the estimated number of TB cases in India to 28 lakhs as against 22 lakhs reported last year. The revised estimates are based on data from various sources, including sub-national prevalence surveys and enhanced TB notification from the private sector. 24-year-old physiotherapist Saurabh Rane was first diagnosed with TB in October 2013 and his treatment was completed only in May 2016. It wasn’t an easy road to recovery for Mr Rane. “For 4 months, doctors kept saying it’s nothing. But I ended up back at the doctor’s with high fever and finally was diagnosed at a private hospital in Mumbai. During the recovery process, I ran a 10 km marathon. I was physically, emotionally and financially drained, but the only thing that kept me going was the support from family and friends.” Mr Rane, now works in the public health sector and is an avid marathoner and trekker. He also encourages other TB patients in their battle with the disease. (NDTV 15/10/16)

Odisha: Japanese Encephalitis toll climbs to 56 (3)

Bhubaneswar: With the death of two more children, the toll in Japanese Encephalitis outbreak today mounted to 56 in over a month in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Malkangiri district. Two children from Padia and Kalimela blocks died while undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of the district headquarters hospital here, taking the toll to 56, Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) Dr U S Mishra said. Unconfirmed reports, however, put the toll at 59 due to the vector-borne disease which has affected around 99 villages spread over six blocks in the district. At present, 12 children, afflicted with the disease were undergoing treatment at the district headquarters hospital and two of them were in the ICU in a serious condition, a senior district official said. So far, 119 out of the 184 children admitted to the district headquarters hospital here with JE have been discharged after being cured, he said. The deadly disease, which originates from pigs and spreads to humans, mostly children, through mosquitoes, had surfaced in the district around 39 days ago. A large number of pigs have been isolated and shifted to over 140 specially set-up enclosures away from human habitations, while fogging and spraying of mosquito repellents have been intensified in more than 100 villages, the official said. The state government has appointed a senior bureaucrat as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to monitor and oversee measures to check the spread of the deadly disease in Malkangiri,officials said. Deputy Secretary of Panhayati Raj Department Nruparaj Sahu, who was earlier Sub-Collector in Malkangiri, has been appointed as the OSD. He would camp in Malkangiri for two months for effective coordination among different departments to bring the situation under control, officials said. (Indian Express 17/10/16)

Over 40 Bird Flu Deaths In Delhi, Government Forms Panel To Keep Vigil (3)

New Delhi:  Bird flu deaths in the national capital on Saturday climbed to over 40 with 17 ducks being found dead at Hauz Khas deer park even as the Centre formed a three-member committee to keep a close monitor the situation. Authorities also sent seven bird carcasses collected from across the city for test after the control room received calls in this regard. The National Zoological Park, which did not report any fresh death, took reporters on a tour in its premises. After reports of fresh deaths, Development Minister Gopal Rai will visit the deer park today. The Union Environment Ministry said a constant vigil is kept around the National Zoological Parks to monitor and contain the H5 avian influenza along with the state agencies and a three-member panel has been set up to keep a watch over the developments. “There is no mortality reported in the National Zoological Park in Delhi. Seventeen ducks were found dead in the Central Park, Hauz Khas,” a Delhi government report said.The city government widened its scan ambit by collecting samples from the Ghazipur chicken market which has not yet been hit. While one one dead bird collected from the Hauz Khas park was sent to lab, eight samples were drawn from the Ghazipur poultry market from live birds. Seven carcasses of birds collected from across Delhi were sent separately. “The DDA authorities have been advised to bury deep the carcasses as per the guidelines and take necessary disinfection process in Central Park Hauz Khas as mortality still continues. Disinfection process as per the guidelines of action plan has been undertaken in zoo and Ghazipur mandi,” the report added. Gwalior District Collector Sanjay Goyal said analysis of samples collected from two of the around 15 painted storks that died in the zoological park in the district, revealed the birds were infected with a new bird flu virus subtype, H5N8. Yesterday, the Delhi government had ruled out any threat to human beings due to the bird flu saying the H5N8 strain found in three samples was “less infective”. Six deaths were reported at the deer park in the national capital and the toll of suspected flu stood at 24. Meanwhile, as a confidence-building measure, Delhi zoo opened its gates to the media and took reporters around the bird enclosures. “The chances of the resident birds contracting the influenza are meek. So we are assuming that the migratory birds may have carried the pathogenic strains. However, we can be clear only when we get a word from Jalandhar and Bhopal where we have sent the samples,” zoo curator Riyaz Khan said. On being asked about the Centre-appointed committee to monitor the situation, Mr Khan said the panel is at present looking at the guidelines and measures to be adopted in case of such deaths. Mr Khan said no fresh deaths were reported at the zoo since the past two days. Twelve water birds, including 6 pelicans, painted storks and ducks have died at the zoo in the past week. (NDTV 23/10/16)

Access to healthcare must for all: President Pranab Mukherjee (3)

ANKLESHWAR/BHARUCH: Robust GDP figures and other statistical data would look just numbers if Indians don’t have access to modern healthcare system, President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Sunday. “If we are sick, diseased, hungry and are not skilled, then even good GDP figures and other statistical data will only look like a satisfaction and won’t reflect the true picture,” Mukherjee said after inaugurating the Sardar Patel multi-specialty and heart hospital in this industrial town. “Without an able body, an able mind cannot work. This is absolutely necessary in order to ensure our rightful place in the comity of nations,” he said. To compete globally, the country must also ensure jobs and livelihood for all along with health and this will require ‘collective participation’, the president said.The hospital, which was built in the late eighties, has been refurbished with the help of donors led by senior Congress member Ahmed Patel and several corporates. This is the first cardiac care facility in this industrialised belt, which will help people save on huge expenditure incurred in going to Ahmedabad, Vadodara or Surat in times of emergencies. “Before coming to Ankleshwar, I didn’t know that this industrial area doesn’t have any hospital for cardiac treatment and other modern scientific healthcare facilities. It was an unfortunate incident in the family of Ahmed Patel that made him take up the mission of constructing this hospital which will benefit so many,” Mukherjee said. (Times of India 24/10/16)

1m Indian TB patients fall off radar every year (3)

MUMBAI: A close-up of India’s tuberculosis epidemic shows, for the first time, how a million of the now 2.8 million TB patients go ‘missing’ or never show up in the Revised National TB Control Programme. Almost 28% of the patients don’t have access a government TB centre and around half a million patients either never complete their long diagnostic process or medical treatment, found a joint study by Indian and US scientists published in PLOS Medicine on Tuesday. The ‘missing’ patients are important because each patient with active TB can infect 10-15 other people within a year. Experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research and Harvard University, among others, found that only 39% of all TB patients in India managed a one-year recurrence-free survival. Using the ‘cascade of care’ statistical model that helped health economists around the world fine-tune the HIV care programme, “We estimated that of about 2.7 million prevalent TB patients in India in 2013, only 72% managed to reach government TB health facilities,” said the study’s main author Dr Ramnath Subbaraman from Harvard Medical School told TOI. At every progressive step, the number of patients kept shrinking. At the stage of seeking successful diagnosis, the 72% had reduced to 60%. Finally, only 53% of the 2.7 million started TB treatment at these centres. Worse, only 45% of WHO’s estimated number of patients completed treatment. A part of the problem is due to inadequate diagnostic facilities. “Each patient has to be diagnosed with two sputum smears and is put on a course of antibiotics. Thereafter the patient undergoes a chest X-ray as well as further treatment before being identified as a TB patient. Many patients living in rural areas don’t complete this rigourous process,” said Dr Subbaraman. The study found that the two biggest gaps where patients slipped out of the system were in the diagnosis stage and then during the treatment phase. “Half a million who make it to the government sector are lost in these two stages,” he added. Worse, barely 14% of the drug-resistant TB patient completed treatment at government centres. Another of the study’s author, Dr Madhukar Pai, from McGill International TB Centre in Canada, said, “For the first time, this study provides us with an end-to-end view of what is happening to TB patients in India, as they try to navigate the health system. It is clear that there are many gaps, and RNTCP needs substantially greater funds to modernize its TB services and track each individual patient, to make sure all patients make it to the finish line.” ICMR director-general Dr Soumya Swaminathan, who is also an author of the study, said the government would now concentrate on “active case finding” in vulnerable populations as well as in spreading awareness among urban slums and tribal areas. “The cascade study shows that even after diagnosis, people don’t start treatment or drop out later. There clearly is a need for counseling services like the ones provided at anti-retroviral treatment centres for HIV,” she said. “The need of the hour is to reach all TB patients and avoid delays in diagnosis. We need to now more about how and where patients seek care,” Dr Swaminathan added. (Times of India 26/10/16)

13 persons die in Madhya Pradesh due to diarrhoea (3)

Badwani (Madhya Pradesh): At least 13 persons have died in the past 12 days due to diarrhoea in Madhya Pradesh’s Badwani district, police said on Thursday. The health department had written to experts about the outbreak but the reason behind the diarrhoea is not clear yet. The members of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan and Public Health Campaign on Thursday told reporters here that the deaths occurred between October 15 to 26. According to details, 13 persons lost their lives in the villages around Khetiya town. Adivasi Mukti Sangathan’s Gajanand Brahmane said after visiting the victims’ houses that they found that most had complaints of vomiting and diarrhoea and died in one or two days. According to Rakesh Kannauje of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, the District Magistrate Tejaswi Nayak also went to the areas affected by the disease and said that contaminated food and water was the reason behind the deaths. Nayak also gave Rs 10,000 to one of the families of the deceased. “The bodies have been sent for post-mortem. We are waiting for the results,” said Chief Medical Officer Dawar. Though he refused to say what led to the deaths, he said that two of the post-mortem reports came up with the cholera as the reason. (Business Standard 27/10/16)

HIV/AIDS

Bad blood: 2,234 get HIV after transfusion (3)

NEW DELHI: In the last 17 months alone, 2,234 persons across India have been infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusions. The maximum number of such cases — 361 — was reported from Uttar Pradesh due to unsafe blood transfusion practices in hospitals.Just last week, a three-year-old boy from Assam’s Kamrup district, admitted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital for treatment of burn injuries, is reported to have contracted HIV due to transfusion of contaminated blood. Gujarat with 292 cases, Maharashtra with 276 and Delhi with 264 cases are the other leading States where patients have been transfused unsafe blood. The data was revealed by National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in response to a Right to Information query by activist Chetan Kothari. “The government has been slackening on raising AIDS awareness due to budget cuts. Cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks. This is an extremely serious issue, and the government needs to address it urgently,” said Mr Kothari. In India, NACO has been primarily responsible for ensuring provision of safe blood. According to law, it is mandatory to screen donors/donated blood for transmissible infections of HIV, HBV and hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis. According to the latest annual report, till September 2014, NACO’s total blood collection was around 30 lakh units. Nearly 84 per cent of the donated blood units came from Voluntary Blood Donation, which seem to be the source of the problem, says Naresh Goyal, Deputy Director General, NACO. “These are unfortunate cases and we are working towards the goal of zero transmission. Having said that, these numbers must be looked in the context of the scale of our HIV programme. For example, 20 years ago, nearly 8-10 per cent of total HIV infections were coming to transfusions. Currently, that figure is below 1 per cent. We have conquered this route of infection. It is now legally mandatory for every blood bank to screening the units before giving it to a patient. “In some cases, the donor may be in a window period — before his HIV viral load can be detected — when he donates the blood. In such cases, when screened, the blood sample shows a false negative,” Mr. Goyal said. According to NACO’s 2015 annual report, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) in India was estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011. Nearly 86 per cent of these patients are in the 15-49 age-group. Children less than 15 years of age accounted for 7 per cent or 1.45 lakh of all infections in 2011 while 39 per cent (8.16 lakh) were among women. (The Hindu 1/10/16)

Cabinet to discuss amendement bill related to HIV/AIDS (3)

New Delhi, Oct 4 () A crucial amendment bill which seeks to prohibit discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS is likely to be taken up by the Union Cabinet tomorrow. The Cabinet is likely to take up the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention And Control) Bill which was introduced in 2014 in the Parliament. The bill has the provision for creating an enabling environment for people living with HIV (PLHIV) so that they can get better access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). The ART therapy comprises a combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs which are used to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease. “One of the significant provisions which the bill seeks to address is to prohibit discrimination of HIV positive persons,” a senior Health Ministry official told . The bill lists various grounds on which discrimination against HIV positive persons and those living with them is prohibited which include denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, healthcare services amongst others. The requirement for HIV testing as a prerequisite for obtaining employment or accessing healthcare or education is also prohibited. The bill also prohibits any individual from publishing information or advocating feelings of hatred against HIV positive persons and those living with them. According to the bill introduced in 2014, no HIV test, medical treatment or research will be conducted on a person without their informed consent. Headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, a Group of Ministers (GoM) met for the first time in July to discuss the bill, according to reports. The bill was also referred to the standing committee before the NDA government assumed office. The Union Cabinet is also likely to take up the issue of grant of permission to HLL Lifecare Limited to sublease the land at Chengalpattu in Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu leased to it in 2009 for setting up of a medical park. (Times of India 4/10/16)

People with HIV/AIDS hail cabinet nod for amendment in bill (3)

SURAT: Over 58,000 people suffering from HIV/AIDS and the organisations working for them in Surat and across the state are elated with the Union cabinet approving amendments to the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, on Wednesday in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The bill makes it obligatory for the central and state governments to provide for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and management of opportunistic infections. It prohibits discrimination by the state or any other person, against HIV infected people, or those living with such people. The Diamond City has the highest number of people living with HIV in Gujarat. Around 11,258 are registered with Gujarat State Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GSNP+) from the city, which includes 6,511 male and 4,216 female and 511 children below 15 years. Daxa Patel, associated with GSNP+ told TOI, “At every stage people infected with HIV are facing discrimination. It’s our network that protects their interests. Now, with the Cabinet approval of amendments in HIV and AIDS bill, the rights of the people with HIV will be protected.” Patel added, “India has 21 lakh people living with HIV and 10 lakh on treatment. But, till date there was no law for providing ART to the patients. The new amendment will allow the HIV infected people to get the treatment at the hospitals.” (Times of India 6/10/16)

HIV Bill: Discrimination ends, time to promote awareness (3)

Removing discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS is an exceedingly slow and painful process. In many cases, the best hope the affected have is the law. So the amendments to a Bill cleared by the cabinet on HIV prevention and control that make discrimination in employment against those with HIV/AIDS punishable with two years in jail and a fine of Rs 1 lakh come as a positive step. The amendments also bar unfair treatment in educational institutions, healthcare, residing or renting property and standing for office.The person affected also need not reveal his status unless required by the court. Confidentiality by employers will help the affected person’s chances at the workplace as it is here that he can be discriminated against the most in a manner which affects his livelihood. Remember Tom Hanks’ case in the iconic movie Philadelphia. At least Hanks was able to battle his case in court and win but here the affected are rarely able to do so for fear of further exposure or lack of support and money. Another enabling provision is that the states are expected to provide anti-retroviral therapy and infection management, facilitate access to welfare schemes and formulate HIV education programmes that are gender-sensitive, age-appropriate and non-stigmatising. This is good news but for many of the 2.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, it would make much more sense if the systems to deliver all this were in place. For medical care to be delivered in time, the public health system needs to function properly. This is not the case here. However, at least anyone denied this will now find the law on his side. The extent and depth of the stigma crosses all socio-economic strata. Education does not necessarily mean that attitudes towards the affected will improve. One of the most famous cases of discrimination against children took place in highly educated Kerala, which ranks the highest in awareness about the disease. In 2003, two HIV positive children Bency and Benson came into the news when their grandfather fought to have them admitted to a school. The children had been kicked out of three schools after their status was revealed. It took the intervention of the chief minister and a protracted battle to get them readmitted. The school had pleaded helplessness as other parents objected. There are many cases where the environment turns hostile when a person’s status is revealed. Not everyone will be able to counter this. It is important that state governments work to create awareness of these changes in the law. It is only when you know your rights that you can benefit from the law. That should be the next endeavour along with putting in place the mechanisms that will make these amendments really work for those with HIV/AIDS. (Hindustan Times 7/10/16)

Mumbai: 9th National Conference for AIDS conducted (3)

Pune: The AIDS Society of India (ASI) held the ninth National Conference of ASI from October 7-9 in Mumbai. While welcoming the HIV/AIDS Bill, 2014, that will help in reducing discrimination faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV), Dr Ishwar Gilada, president of AIDS Society of India and ASICON 2016, said that scientific evidence has proven effective strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and care for HIV, making it theoretically a chronic manageable disease. But a reality check will tell us a grim tale of AIDS prevention and control in India: We are surely not doing all what we can and we should, with full thrust to prevent, test and treat HIV, despite available knowledge and resources at our disposal.” India has an estimated 21.17 lakh PLHIV, among whom 6.54% are children less than 15 years of age and 40.5% are women. Only 43% of these (91,9,141) are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) despite strong scientific evidence to “test and treat” all without delay. Not providing ART after testing someone positive for HIV is clinical malpractice and counterproductive public health-wise. There is a large number of PLHIV who are not aware of their HIV status. 1,49,5,400 of 2,11,7,000 PLHIV in India are aware of their status. Even among high risk groups or key populations, HIV testing coverage is still not 100 per cent. HIV testing coverage for female sex workers is 72 per cent, for men who have sex with men it is 70 per cent and for people who use drugs it is 71 per cent.So, almost one-third of high risk groups are not being reached even today. Diagnosing and reaching out to each PLHIV in the country is not only important but is also a public health imperative if we want to prevent new HIV transmission and provide ART to each one of them. This will also reduce opportunistic infections like TB and have a broad spectrum public health impact too. If we fail to act now then it will be too late and for many PLHIV in reality HIV will not be a “chronic manageable” condition, but rather have public health consequences (Indian Express 12/10/16)

Amended HIV, AIDS Bill, a good augury (3)

Bengaluru: India has done well to take robust steps to safeguard the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. Last week, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, that could go some way in preventing discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS suffer immensely. Not only is the syndrome deadly and debilitating but its treatment is also expensive and often beyond the reach of the common woman and man. In addition, there are the many myths surrounding the virus and the syndrome, which have contributed to discrimination and even social ostracism of patients and their kin. People living with HIV/AIDS are denied education and employment. Their children are often subjected to isolation and denied admission to schools. Such isolation and ostracism is based on the misperception that the mere touch of a person with HIV/AIDS or breathing the same air can cause others to get infected. The amendments to the HIV and AIDS Bill, 2014, are aimed at preventing such discrimination. Denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, education, healthcare, residing or renting property, standing for public or private office and provision of insurance are forbidden under the amended bill. The bill seeks to bring in legal accountability and provides for the setting up of a formal mechanism to probe complaints against those who discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. A person found guilty of discrimination could be jailed for up to two years. The bill also frees people with HIV/AIDS from mandatory medical tests as a pre-requisite for jobs and education. Information regarding one’s HIV/AIDS status need not be disclosed unless the indivi-dual gives her informed consent for such a disclosure or the court orders such information to be revealed. The bill says that the Union and state governments shall take measures to provide anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and infection management for those with HIV or AIDS. This is welcome. However, the bill does not say whether this will be available to patients as a matter of right or only to the extent it will be possible for governments to extend such support. Treatment must be extended as a right to patients. At present, just around half of India’s estimated 2.1 million HIV-positive patients are receiving free treatment. The rest are unlikely to be able to afford such treatment. The text of the bill must be amended further to make it mandatory for the government to extend free treatment to all patients. The government must spread public awareness about the HIV and AIDS bill. That would bring real change in the lives of those with HIV/AIDS. (Deccan Herald 14/10/16)

HIV camps for migrants planned across state (3)

JAIPUR: Ahead of Diwali, the Rajasthan State Aids Control Society (RSACS) will organise HIV screenings for those who migrate to other states in districts that have high concentration of such people. These voluntary health camps will be held from October 21 to 27. According to RSACS, the migrating population – local residents working elsewhere and returning home for holidays – is one of the sections vulnerable to HIV. In such camps, organised last year during Diwali, RSACS found that the prevalence of HIV was almost double in villages with high concentration of migrants. The agency found that 0.59% of such population had HIV. All those who tested HIV positive during the screenings were advised to undergo second and third round of confirmatory tests. As per official estimates, 20,037 persons were screened for HIV at 10-day camps organised in 100 villages of 11 districts last year. The villages were identified on the basis of large number of people migrating to other states for work and returning during the festive season. District collector Pali Kumar Pal Gautam said that six places have been identified in Pali for voluntary health camps. These camps will also provide care for those suffering from other diseases. He said that during Diwali people who had gone to other states for work returned to the district for the festival. The camps will also offer other healthcare facilities. (Times of India 17/10/2016)

Tracking HIV caused by blood transfusions in Mumbai (3)

Mumbai: : In the first such exercise undertaken in Mumbai, health officials have tracked down 48 cases of HIV patients who had reported contracting the infection through blood transfusions. The exercise, which was aimed at identifying blood banks responsible for providing infected blood, and putting in place quality check measures, however, hit a roadblock as only 21 of the 48 patients confirmed that they had been infected by blood transfusions. Of these 21 cases, the blood banks could be identified in only four cases. In 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16, a total of 85 people in Mumbai had reported contracting the HIV infection through blood transfusions. For years, this information, which was obtained on the basis of self-reporting by patients, was simply documented. It was neither verified nor were the blood banks traced or questioned on the infected blood they had allegedly supplied. But in a first, patients who blamed blood transfusions were tracked down. “We tracked these HIV positive cases to the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) centres they were registered with and went back to their history. We asked them where they received [the infected blood] and in which hospital,” said Dr. Shrikala Acharya, Additional Project Director, Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS). She added that the key reason for tracking down the cases was to ensure patients had been linked to treatment services, and also to ensure that they did not spread the infection further. Officials say there is a possibility of people attributing the HIV infection to blood transfusions when they may have contracted it via unsafe sex. “Since we do not ask for evidence, and we take the information provided by the person the way it is, there is no way to verify,” said Dr. Acharya. So, in this exercise, 30 patients that had reported contracting the infection through blood transfusions in 2014-15, and all the 18 patients who had attributed their infection to blood transfusions in 2015-16, were tracked down….  (The Hindu 19/10/2016).

Teese wants people to be aware of HIV (3)

75 percent people not aware of connection between obesity, cancer Make people more aware of govt initiatives: PM tells ministers Over 21 lakh people living with HIV: Govt 182 people in Maha got HIV from blood transfusion: govt 2234 people reported to have got HIV after blood transfusion: Model-designer Dita Von Teese wants people to be aware of the staggering statistics of people suffering with HIV and AIDS. The 44-year-old has been working closely with amfAR — the Foundation for AIDS Research — for their “The Time Is Now” project, in which she lent her voice to the Boy George’s song “Do you really want to hurt me?” alongside singer Sebastian Tellier,” reports femalefirst.co.uk. Talking about her work with amfAR, Teese said: “During my two years of service with (amfAR), I learned a lot about the staggering statistics of young people becoming infected with HIV. “It’s an important cause to me because I think that there are more and more young people that aren’t concerned about this disease, while the facts show that we should be”.The project is a compilation album of 1980s hits, which was created to benefit the foundation and its research. The 14 track album includes performances from artists such as DNCE, Phantogram, and even actress Scarlett Johansson under her band Sugar for Sugar. (Business Standard 21/10/16)

Rally to create awareness on blood donation (3)

ERODE: A rally by about 200 nursing students marked the National Voluntary Blood Donation Day in Erode district recently. District Collector S. Prabakar flagged off the rally organised by District HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Unit with support from Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society. During the course of the rally from VOC Park Ground to Government Headquarters Hospital, students and representatives of non-government organisations raised slogans and distributed pamphlets urging people to show compassion to society through donating blood. Donating of blood will save others lives and cut down risks of heart ailment of donors. By donating blood once, 500 calories could be burnt, they explained. There are two government blood banks attached to hospitals in Erode and Gobichettipalayam in the district, which, together collected 3,327 units during 2015-16 through conduct of 75 blood donation camps. (The Hindu 24/10/16)

Amendment to HIV/AIDS Bill sought (3)

BENGALURU: The HIV-affected persons and civil society organisations have demanded that the Union government amend the HIV/AIDS Bill, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet on October 5. They sought amendment to the chapter of treatment in the Bill. “We have been demanding free and complete treatment in the Bill. “The Bill only states that government is to provide treatment ‘as far as possible’. This is not acceptable to us,” said Chandrika from Milana at a press conference here. Rekha Shetty from Bangalore HIV/AIDS Forum said that in 2015, written submissions from different parts of the country were sent to standing committee on health demanding deletion of the term ‘as far as possible’. “From media reports, it seems that government has not accepted our demands. This is disappointing,” she said. The activists urged political parties to come forward and ensure that the necessary amendments are made in the Bill, before it is passed in Parliament. (The Hindu 27/10/16)

People with HIV seek better disaster response (3)

CHENNAI: With the monsoon approaching, the Positive Women’s Network (PWN), and the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) sensitised their members on a list of ‘to do’ items in the event of a disaster like last year’s flood. The organisations also held discussions with the State Planning Commission, seeking a coordinated response to the problems faced by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). The representatives included PWN founder P. Kousalya and the members of CFAR. During the discussion, the members spoke of the difficulty in accessing drugs during the floods. Although the government had ensured that during the monsoon, PLHAs would have sufficient supply of medicines to last a couple of months, many had run out of medicines. Some of them gave more importance to their anti-retroviral therapy (ART) books and medicines than other possessions but were hesitant to access medication from the local health camps fearing stigma.The PLHAs have drawn up an elaborate set of guidelines that they want the government to adopt. They want the doctors, panchayat, anganwadi and ASHA workers to be sensitised about HIV/AIDS and be aware of the details of how and where to access medicines in case of an emergency. “It could be announced on TV too. It would help during floods if details of the availability of medicines for ailments such as diabetes, TB, and HIV/AIDS are announced together as this would reduce stigma,” Ms. Kousalya said. People like S. Bhuvaneshwari and S. Sujatha, who travelled several hours to reach Kilpauk Medical College from their home during the floods, despite living in the city, said hospitals have a database of patients on medication. Non-governmental organisations and health workers should be given the data about patients in their areas seeking medicines from government hospitals, they said. “The Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society says it has the data of all those on ART. In cases of emergencies, such as last year’s floods, it would have helped if the nearby health post had information about the patients in their jurisdiction and drugs had been stocked up,” said Daniel Vinod of CFAR. “We are asking for such actions so that people on ART do not discontinue medication. On our part we have also taught our members to memorise their ART number, the acronyms of their medicines and the phone number of their local counsellor, who they can approach in case of an emergency,” he added. (The Hindu 29/10/16)

 

Posted by admin at 3 October 2016

Category: Uncategorized

HR News: September 1-30, 2016

(News Collection From September 1 to 30, 2016)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

Massive dalit meet planned in Delhi on September 16 (2)

RAJKOT: Dalit rights activists led by Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar, launched a blistering attack at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP for promoting caste hegemony and sought answers from political parties on their intentions to reform lives of dalits. Thousands of dalits turned up for the ‘Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Sammelan’ that was attended by Sukhdeo Thorat, former chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC) , Baba Adhav, social activist from Maharashtra, Martin Mackwan, dalit rights activist, as well as dalit representatives from across the country. Evidently, large number of Muslims were also present at the rally and raised slogans of Dalit-Muslim Bhai-Bhai at the Chaudhary High School ground. Ambedkar announced that dalits from across India will congregate in New Delhi on September 16 for the national sammelan to raise their voice against atrocities. “Our fight is not against BJP but against RSS. The present government and RSS are trying to impose ‘Manusmriti’ on us. This fight is between RSS’s Manusmriti versus Dr B R Ambedkar’s Constitution,” Ambedkar said, addressing the rally. “RSS has sidelined Muslims and has now turned towards dalits. They don’t believe in democracy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said ‘shoot me instead of dalits’. I would like to ask him from where did he steal these words? Tell us before September 16 or we will reveal the source of these words,” Ambedkar said. Ambedkar also raised questions about the sources of Rs 40 crore that was spent to purchase Babasaheb’s house in London. “We would like to know from which budget (central or Maharashtra government) was the money allotted to purchase the London house. I learnt that Rs 40 crore was allotted from a social welfare scheme meant for dalits’ development. The money should have been used to construct schools and hostels,” he said. Thorat said, “No government has talked about social reforms and none have worked towards removing untouchability. Dalits have not benefited from land reforms. Whatever little the community has got is through reservation in education and in jobs.”Baba Adhav told the gathering, “I would like to ask our Prime Minister to tell us his thoughts on Manusmriti as they are worshiping the treatise that promotes caste-based discrimination.” Addressing the rally, Martin Mackwan said, “We seek answers from all political parties on 10 demands of dalits that include giving 5 acre land to rehabilitate skinners, regularizing sanitation workers in government jobs, filling up vacancy of SC/ST in government jobs and seeking special Parliament session to prepare a black paper on prevailing status of untouchability after 69 years of Independence.” (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Una Dalit leader demands land reforms, threatens rail rook (2)

MUMBAI: Members of Dalit and left wing parties in the city on Thursday said that they will stop the railways nationwide if their demands — the allotting five acres of land each to landless Dalits, and providing them alternate means of employment — are not met by September 16. Jignesh Mevani, leader of the Dalit agitation on August 15 in Gujarat, said that protest had resulted in “over 20,000 Dalits giving up their profession of skinning dead cows, and demanding land that belongs to them from the government.” He said that there is a need for land reform, and that the movement would spread across the country if its demands were not met. He accused the government of paying lip service to reforms, while acting as a broker for big industrial and corporate groups. “If [corporates] can receive land allotments, why can’t we?” he asked. Mr. Mevani called the protest that followed the Una incident, which eventually resulted in resignation of Gujarat’s then-Chief Minister, “an uprising of the youth who came out of the Hindutva laboratory that was being operated there to saffronise the Dalits” and “a slap to the authorities, the sound of which will echo for days to come.” Social activist Firoze Mithborewala, also present at the event, said that the movement has received public support in other states and abroad as well, and that Mr. Mevani’s rail roko call had gained momentum across the country, with several social organisations and celebrities coming out in support. Subhashani Ali, a trade unionist, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and leader of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said that the reality behind the so-called ‘Gujarat Model’ of then-CM and now India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had been exposed by the Dalit movement headed by Mr. Mevani, and that the movement would not stop till the land “three-fourths of which is being given to corporates and people belonging to the upper class, is acquired by landless Dalits.” (The Hindu 2/9/16)

Release report on killing of Dalits in 2012 police firing: GIC (2)

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Information Commission has asked the state government to release its inquiry report on the killing of three Dalit youths in police firing at Thangadh in Surendranagar district in 2012. The Commission rejected the government’s contention that the report cannot be released before it is submitted to the state Assembly. In its order, Information Commissioner V S Gadhvi said the release of the report, before its submission to the Assembly, does not breach the privilege of the House in any way. Gadhvi asked the government to take immediate steps on the release of the report and provide the same to the applicant. The application to this effect was moved by Dalit activist Kirit Rathod who is associated with city-based NGO Navsarjan Trust. Though the Commission passed this order on August 22, it was obtained by Rathod on September 3. The youths were allegedly killed on the intervening night of September 22-23, 2012 when police opened fire on a group of Dalits that had laid a siege to police station in Thangadh. They were protesting against the “police atrocity” following a clash between Dalits and Bharwad community members during the famed Tarnetar festival earlier that year. Then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had set up a one-man inquiry panel of then Principal Secretary (Social Justice and Empowerment) Sanjay Prasad to probe the killings. Meanwhile, Rathod alleged that the inquiry report, which was submitted to the state government in May 2013, was not made public because of indictment of some senior IPS officers whom the government wanted to shield. “We had filed an RTI application in June 2013 seeking a copy of the report. However, state Home Department refused it on the ground that its Special Branch which has the report is exempted from the purview of the RTI,” Rathod said today. He claimed that first appeal made to the Information Commission was not heard upon, prompting him to go in for the second appeal. “We argued before the Commission that the matter pertains to human rights violation, and therefore the report cannot be held back by government. The IC then passed an interim order on November 7 last year asking Home Department to share whatever was possible from the report,” Rathod said. However, Home Department did not share any part of the report on the grounds that it can cause a law and order problem and that releasing it is akin to the breach of privilege of Assembly since MLAs had sought tabling of the report in the House. The Department stated that it will share the report only after it is tabled in Assembly, prompting Rathod to move the Information Commission seeking final order on the matter. (Business Standard 6/8/16)

Centre to release Rs 8.60 crore to Gujarat for Dalit welfare (2)

New Delhi: The Social Justice Ministry has proposed release of 90 percent of the total allocated funds to Gujarat for various welfare schemes for Dalits, two months after seven youths of the community were flogged by cow vigilantes’ in the state leading to widespread protests there. “The Department of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed for sanction of Rs 8.60 crore under the centrally sponsored schemes for implementation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act during the current financial year,” it said. The state government can also use funds for awareness generation, special courts, incentives for inter-caste marriage and vigilance squads, according to a proposal prepared by the ministry. According to sources, the total budgetary allocation for the state is Rs 9.50 crore, and the move is aimed to ensure that there should not be any shortage of funds for the welfare of Dalits in the state.The move came nearly two months after seven Dalit youths were flogged allegedly by self-styled cow vigilantes at Una in Gujarat, which triggered outrage and protests across the state. The state police filed a charge sheet against 34 people for the Una incident, including four police personnel who were also arrested on charges of dereliction of duty. The state CID has also filed a separate charge sheet against three minors in the case before the Juvenile Justice Board at Junagadh. (Zee News 9/9/2016)

Victims of atrocities on Dalits threaten dharna in Ahmedabad (2)

Ahmedabad: The victims of “atrocities” on Dalits in parts of Saurashtra, especially around Una, have formed a group, Una Pratirodh Samiti, and threatened a dharna in Ahmedabad from September 24, if their demands are not addressed by the Gujarat government. Representatives of the newly formed group met BJP MP from Ahmedabad (West) Kirit Solanki and party MLA from from Asarva Rajnikant Patel in this regard on Sunday and submitted a memorandum of their demands. “Entire world knows about the flogging of Dalits in Una. But, it was culmination of a series of such cases of atrocities on Dalits in Saurashtra region, where the victims are still searching for justice. We have formed a group of such Dalits… If nothing concrete is done on our demands, the victims will sit on dharna in Ahmedabad from September 24,” said convener of the group Raju Solanki. The members of the group belong to various towns and villages in the region like Vadli, Ningala, Dedan, Mandan, Ankolali, Samter, Mothha, Nandrakh, and Amreli. They have raised issues of murder, rape, social boycott, ‘hijrat’ or forced migration, wrongful prosecution, and willful negligence by police in investigation of some of those cases. The group said that Una, Rajula, Kodinar, Gir-Gadhda, Savarkundla, Nava Bandar, Jafrabad and Khambha are some places which are “highly sensitive”, therefore, at least one police inspector of Scheduled Caste community should be appointed by the state government in police stations having jurisdiction over these areas. “If there is no such mechanism in the state for this, then the government should devise such a mechanism for protection of the human rights of Dalits there,”Solanki said. When contacted, Kirit Solanki said, “Yes, they have met me today and have submitted a memorandum. I will look into their demands and put it up before appropriate authorities in the Centre or the State.” Rajnikant Patel also expressed similar opinion on the memorandum. (Indian Express 12/9/2016)

Ban ritual of Dalits rolling over Brahmins’ leftover food, Centre tells SC (2)

New Delhi: The central government has approached the Supreme Court seeking ban on a temple ritual, practised in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, wherein Dalits roll over plantain leaves with the leftover foods eaten by Brahmins to ‘cure diseases’ and solve other problems. According to a report in Hindustan Times, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said the ritual, called ‘made snana,’ is “inhuman and superstitious.” But the defendants have contended that the practice is voluntary and claimed that it does not discriminate on the basis of caste. The government, however, has sought a ban on the ritual, saying it affects the dignity and health of those performing it. “These rituals may be voluntary but since human dignity and health of concerned persons is affected and are against constitutional value of justice, equality and human dignity, they ought not to be defended under Article 25 of the Constitution of India which relates to right to freedom of religion,” an affidavit by the Centre reads. In Karnataka, the ritual is performed during the three-day annual celebrations at Kukke Subrahmanya in South Canara district of Karnataka sometime between November and December. In Tamil Nadu, devotees carry out the ritual in April every year during the annual Aradhana festival of the Nerur Sadasiva Bharmendrai Temple in Karur district. The BJP-led NDA government’s move can be seen as an attempt to woo the Dailt community in the wake of the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa. Dalits have recently come under attack in parts of the country, including in Una in Gujarat where four Dalit youths were lashed by self-proclaimed cow vigilantes in July. More such incidents have been reported from other parts of the country. Last year, Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim man from UP was lynched for allegedly possessing beef in his home in Noida. (Deccan Chronicle 13/9/2016)

Caste Hindus, Dalits threaten to leave village (2)

Coimbatore: Caste Hindus and Dalits of Periya Thadagam threatened to surrender ration cards and other photo identity cards on Tuesday, if action was not taken on their complaints. The caste Hindus threatened to vacate the village if the police failed to act on their complaint. The village that comes under the No. 24 Veerapandi Panchayat in Periyanaickenpalayam Panchayat Union has been tense for a week now after trouble broke out between the two communities during the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. Following the clashes, the Dalits lodged a complaint with the Thudiyalur Police, who have registered a case against 17 caste Hindus invoking The SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The police went to their houses at midnight and threatened women. At a house, they asked the woman occupant to part with the car key, said R. Ramasamy, a villager. Marudathal, wife of Nanjukutty, said that when the police knocked on her door at midnight, she thought that elephants had entered the village. After the Dalits lodged a complaint, the caste Hindus too lodged a complaint. But the police are yet to register a case on the complaint. Chellathal, wife of Nanjukutty, who has a plaster on her lower lip and says she was injured in the stone pelting, wants the police to act against the Dalit youths as well. If the police continued to delay action against Dalits, they will have no choice but to surrender ration card, voters identity card, and vacate the village, which has become unsafe for them. Mr. Ramasamy said that following police search in houses on Sunday night, the women and men slept in the open, near the temple. The Dalits, who live on both sides of the road leading to the Periya Thadagam village, accuse the police of delaying the arrest of the 17 youth named in the first information report. The police delaying action in the case makes them doubt whether they will get justice at all, said S. Nagarajan, a resident. They told the revenue and police officials that if action was not taken against the caste Hindus who threw stones at them, they too would vacate the village. The officials met both the Dalits and caste Hidus promised to take action after the investigation was over. A meeting would be held involving elders in both the communities soon, the officials said. A Sub Inspector, and three Constables have been posted there now. (The Hindu 14/9/2016)

Dalit sarpanch, family attempt self-immolation in Ahmedabad (2)

Ahmedabad:  Distressed by the alleged police inaction against repeated attacks by an antisocial, the sarpanch of Jalila village, along with the deputy sarpanch and his wife attempted suicide outside Ranpur police station. Cops stopped the trio in the nick of time from setting themselves ablaze. Sarpanch Kaliben Solanki, Deputy Sarpanch Manji Solanki and his wife Geetaben had gone to the police station to file an FIR against Bhagirath Khachar on Sunday evening, but were told that an FIR would be registered only after the case was investigated. The hassled trio then tried to set themselves ablaze after pouring kerosene on themselves, but the cops stopped them just before they could strike a match. Manji has stated in the application submitted to the police that Bhagirath had tried to attack his 60-year-old mother who is also the sarpanch with a sword, but left after village folk intervened. The 45-year-old has alleged that the accused had attacked the family twice in the past as he does not want anyone from the family to contest in the sarpanch elections. More than a year ago the accused had attacked him with stick, leaving his hand fractured. Three years ago, he and his accomplices had attacked the family with sticks. The Dalit family had approached the police then too, but no action was taken against the accused, Manji alleged. Ranpur police said, “Kaliben Solanki has been the sarpanch of Jalila village for past four years. Her son Manji, his wife and grandson Tushar too stay with her. As per the application, Bhagirath Khachar, resident of Darbarwas in Jalila village, has been hostile to them for the past several years.”On Sunday afternoon, Manji was getting some cleaning work done near Bhagirath’s place when Bhagirath made derogatory comments about his caste. Manji threatened to report the matter to the police and left for home. Sometime later, Bhagirath arrived with two other persons with swords at Manji’s house and threatened Kaliben of dire consequences if she contested the sarpanch election. After village folks intervened, he left the place. Man-ji then approached Ranpura PSI R M Vaghela for action against the accused. (Times of India 19/9/16)

Dalit agitation for land rights intensifies (2)

AHMEDABAD: The agitation for handing over of surplus land to landless dalits in villages of Dholka taluka has grown more intense, as protesters of the community kept demonstrating even as city police detained them several times on Sunday. On Monday morning, hundreds of protesters of the dalit community along with Jignesh Mevani, convener of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, gathered at Ahmedabad district collectorate to protest against the non-allocation of land which ‘on paper’ belongs to the dalits since 2006. The protesters first began shouting slogans like ‘Gaay nu poochdu tame rakho, amne amari jameen aapo’ (you keep the cow’s tail, give us our land) and later started blocking traffic at RTO Circle. As the demonstrations intensified, police have started detaining members of the dalit community including Mevani, ostensibly to prevent law and order problems. Mevani was literally carried away by his hands and feet by police. Similarly, hundreds of women were forcibly pushed into police vans and sent to the city police headquarters in Shahibaug. Two women, Jyotsna Maheriya and Aruna Jhala, fell unconscious after they were taken to the police headquarters. Dalit activist Kaushik Parmar alleged that police did not make medical help available for more than 40 minutes after the two women fell unconscious.Another group of around 50 dalits again blocked the road in front of the Ahmedabad collectorate. Police once again swung into action and detained all of them. However, hundreds of protesters gathered at the same place in the evening and started blocking the road, and police again detained them all. Late in the evening, protesters led by Mevani held a meeting, under detention at police headquarters. As this public meeting began, the protesters were then moved them to an unknown location in a police van. Mevani said the community will keep protesting until their demands are accepted. “We have given them a 72-hour ultimatum, after which we will intensify our protests. We are ready to go to jail and face any charges.” He added, “Wherever the police releases us, we shall start blocking roads.” Late in the evening, some 400 dalit community members gathered near Bapunagar police station to protest the detention of Mevani and others. (Times of I ndia 20/9/2016)

Poor drainage system in Lubana, Thuhi; Dalits harassed (2)

In yet another aversion to the dalits, as many as 40 Dalit families are being forced to live in insanitary conditions in Lubana Teku village, leading to poor health of the colony residents. Three newly-wed daughters-in-law of the residents had to be convinced by the panchayat and senior villagers to come back after they had left due to the continuous stink and unhealthy conditions at the colony. The drain carrying sewage water from Dalit Colony passes through a small piece of land, which is being claimed by the neighbouring villages of Lubana Karmu and Lubana Teku, leading to a dispute over the right to dispose water there. The dispute of ownership remains unsolved as the administration claims that the measurements can be done only after the harvest of paddy crop. The Teku villagers have protested a number of times for a solution and the administration has asked the panchayat of Karmu not to block the drain. Meanwhile, water is being disposed off in a small pit, and the overflowing water is being accommodated by the neighbouring farmers to maintain peace. “How long will the farmers accommodate the water? There are times when they need their fields to remain dry,” said the residents, asking for a permanent solution to the issue. For the rest of the villagers, both the villages have a common water disposal pond in Karmu, but the Dalit Colony drains remain disconnected from these. “Both the villages stand against each other and a tensed environment prevails here, but no permanent solution is worked out by the administration,” says villager Krishan Kumar Lubana Teku panch Bharpoor Singh said that the technical problems, in connecting the affected colony drains with other drains in the village, is because the colony is situated on a 4-feet lower side. Also, Karmu residents are not allowing the drainage of the colony water to join the common puddle through their drains which are just 20 feet far, he added. “We are poor, so how will we lift our houses up by four feet?” said the colony residents. On the other side, Lubana Karmu sarpanch Amrinder Singh said, “We have not denied to dispose water in the common puddle, but if it has to pass through our village, it should go through underground sewage pipes only. And the cost has to be incurred by their panchayat. Unlike us, they have 120 acres of panchayat land and they received grant from the state government. But the administration is suppressing us only.” “Police were deployed after struggles, to allow the disposal of sewage water from Dalit houses of Lubana Karmu, to the common puddle. Here too, Dalits are the only sufferers,” said a dalit of Teku requesting anonymity.In Thuhi village as well, the Dalits are forced to live between two puddles. Former SDM Harpreet Singh Soodan had directed the block development and panchayat office, on August 16, to prepare the estimate for shifting the puddle to the village’s outer side within 15 days; but the villagers claim that nothing has moved ahead since then. Not even the estimate has come up. “The villagers stood against each other with weapons last week, when the affected dalits allegedly temporarily blocked the disposal in the newly-opened puddle around their colony. The whole village is a sufferer of the poor drainage system,” said Gurmeet Singh of Thuhi. The caste division is fuelled by a few politicians with the help of the administration, and the government is watching all this mutely, he added. The block development and panchayat office (BDPO) could not be reached for a comment despite repeated attempts. (Hindustan Times 23/9/2016)

Gujarat: Pregnant Dalit woman, family attacked for refusing to remove cow carcass, six arrested

Ahmedabad: Police in Banaskantha district’s Amirgadh on Saturday arrested six people for allegedly assaulting a Dalit family, including a pregnant woman, over their refusal to remove the carcass of a cow. Police said that the victims were abused and assaulted by the accused belonging to the dominant upper caste community in Mota Karja village. Banaskantha SP Niraj Badgujar, who visited the village, said the victims have been admitted to the civil hospital and provided police protection. According to the FIR registered by local police, the accused asked the family to take away the carcass on Friday night, but the victims said they would dispose it the next morning. Following the refusal, the accused entered the house of the Dalits and assaulted them, the FIR stated, adding that the pregnant woman was hit on the abdomen. Describing the incident, the FIR stated that “the accused… entered the home (of the victims) and while asking why they were not disposing of the dead cow, uttered casteist remarks, beat them with wooden sticks and assaulted them physically while threatening to kill them”. “We lodged the FIR immediately after the victims approached police and arrested the six accused. We have booked the accused under section 315 of the Indian Penal Code (act done with intent to prevent child being born alive) along with other sections and under the Atrocity Act,” said SP Badgujar. The FIR identified the accused as Natvarsinh Chauhan, Maknusinh Chauhan, Narendrasinh Chauhan, Yogisinh Chauhan, Babarsinh Chauhan and Dilgarsinh Chauhan. (Indian Express 26/9/2016)

Dalits to launch stir for White Paper on atrocity-related crimes (2)

For over a month now, Marathas in the State have been holding massive silent rallies to press for amendments to the The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, among other demands. In 2006, Khairlanji village came into the national spotlight when two male and female members each of the Bhotmange family were killed by a mob of upper caste Kunbis over a land dispute. The women, Surekha and Priyanka, were stripped, paraded and sexually abused. Following a CBI inquiry and fast track court proceedings, only eight of the 46 accused were held guilty, of which six were sentenced to death and two were handed life sentences. However, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court awarded life imprisonment to all accused. The case is in the Supreme Court. Subodh More, member, State Committee, Jati Ant Sangharsh Samiti (JASS), said, “The government is not following the case with integrity, which is why it is still pending. Dalits are extremely angry and, especially after the Maratha rallies, a sense of insecurity has entered their minds.” JASS, an umbrella body of Dalit and Left outfits, will be holding a one-day demonstration on September 29, the massacre’s anniversary, at Dadar and in Pune. This will be the beginning of State-wide campaign named ‘Khairlanji to Kharda’, ‘Rohith to Una’ and ‘Babri to Dadri’. Sanjay Dabhade, another JASS state committee member, said, “We are hearing that the atrocities Act has been misused against a particular community. We ask the government to come up with a White Paper on the implementation of this law and the so-called misuses by the SC and ST. ” Shailendra Kamble, Convener, JASS said the government must step in to clear the ambiguity created by allegations of misuse by the SCs and STs. “We have a number of cases in other places including Sonai, Kharda, Javkheda, Shirdi and Navi Mumbai, where no conclusive verdict has been given by the court in cases of murders of Dalits. We demand special courts to deal with such cases and all culprits must be sent to the gallows immediately,” he said. (The Hindu 29/9/2016)

TRIBALS

1,330 forest dwellers from 10 Tamil Nadu districts soon to get title deeds (6)

CHENNAI: As many as 1,330 forest dwellers in ten districts of Tamil Nadu are set to get to title deeds for the tracts of land under their possession. The distribution of title deeds is being processed under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006. “Necessary ground work has been carried out for the distribution of title deeds to the claimants and according to Geo-referencing, individual rights have been taken up and the distribution of title is under process,” says the policy note of the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department. It further informed that the distribution of titles was delayed due to litigation. A stay issued by Madras High Court was vacated by the Supreme Court following a petition filed by the state. Title deeds for a total of 2,305.39 acres of land would be given to 1,330 individuals in Villupuram, Theni, Erode, Kanniyakumari, Virudhnagar, Coimbatore, Dharmapuri, Thirunelveli, Thiruvannamalai and Namakkal. (New Indian Express 1/9/16)

Global platform to air tribal angst – - 3 RU students to speak at Thailand forum (6)

Around 1,000 tribals belonging to the Oraon community, who migrated from Jharkhand a century ago, are employed in tea estates of Assam at a meagre Rs 126 a day. They are deprived of the basic facilities like housing and pension. These are the issues that 26-year-old Banasmita, who is pursuing PhD in anthropology from Ranchi College, will speak about at the 3rd International Indigenous Youth Conference to be held in the city of Chiang Mai in Thailand from September 4 to 9. Banasmita’s subject of research in PhD is based on economic, social and political conditions of the tribe, who, she said, were living a life of bonded labourers. “In Assam, there are over 200 tea gardens. People from Oraon tribe are employed in three tea estates. They contribute to Assam’s economy but are bereft of all the basic amenities, be it pension or accommodation,” said Banasmita, a native of Guwahati. The young researcher added there was no one to fight for their rights. “They live in a slum popularly known as labour basti,” said Banasmita, who will give a power-point presentation at the conference. The PhD scholar said her research was based on nearly 200 Oraon families. Besides Banasmita, two final-year anthropology students of her college, Kamla Munda and younger sister Renu Munda, will also attend the conference. The Munda sisters, whose father works as a mechanic and earns Rs 4,000 a month, will present their research papers on various tribal issues. The siblings, who are residents of Morabadi, will also give a power-power presentation like Banasmita. “We are in the process of compiling reports on various tribal issues,” said Kamla, who along with her sister, will be flying out of the country for the first time. Notably, Abhay Sagar Minz, assistant professor in the department of anthropology had recommended the names of the three girls to Meenakshi Munda, president of Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, Philippines. All three of them were assessed and interviewed by Meenakshi on August 14 at Ranchi College, an autonomous and constituent unit of Ranchi University, following which they were selected for the conference. (The Telegraph 2/9/16)

Congress govt in Himachal challenges tribal rights in SC (6)

New Delhi: The Congress government in Himachal Pradesh has filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the consent powers of tribals under the Forest Rights Act. The move could take the sheen off the Congress central leadership’s recent attempts to burnish its pro-tribal credentials in and outside the Parliament. A petition by Himachal government’s power corporation is set to be heard on Monday in the apex court, challenging a National Green Tribunal (NGT) judgment, which requires the state government and the power corporation to seek consent of 19 tribal gram sabhas (village councils) before going ahead with the 130-Mw integrated Kashang hydropower project on their forestlands.For the state government, the state power corporation, with the chief secretary as chairman, have contended, besides other things, that the gram sabha (village council) consists of only unskilled persons and local residents and the state government cannot comply with the directions of the NGT. The power corporation has asked that the NGT judgment be set aside, as it is not practicable or enforceable and that the judgment was outside the domain and jurisdiction of the tribunal. It has cited the 2000 SC order in the Narmada case, that pre-dates the existence of the Forest Rights Act to plead gram sabha consent is not essential. It has questioned the ability of the tribals to take a decision on the impact of the projects on their lands, stating that the question of silt load in rivers being dammed involve technical issues which requires scientists and experts. It has said these issues are being looked after by the funder of the project, the Asian Development Bank. The need for a consent from impacted tribals’ and other forestdwellers’ village councils under the Forest Rights Act to use the traditional forest land for building any project was last reinforced in the SC order in the Vedanta Niyamgiri mining case. The petition by Himachal Pradesh government comes at a point when Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is slated to travel across several states focussing on the poor implementation of the Forest Rights Act by the BJP and other parties. Only recently the central Congress leaders made much out of it forcing the NDA government to address their concerns on keeping tribal consent powers at the heart of the Compensatory Afforestation Act. The Congress has also held press conference to condemn the BJP state government in Chhattisgarh for doing away with the rights of tribals to favour Adani group’s mining of a coal block in the state. It has repeatedly accused the central NDA government of often trying to dilute tribal rights provided under the Forest Rights Act. Congress leadership, particularly Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, has tried to claim the pro-tribal leadership ever since the UPA government cancelled Vedanta’s proposal to mine the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha for bauxite against the wish of the Dongria Kondh tribals and the apex court gave a stamp of approval to the same. But, the Himachal state government’s move could potentially take the wind out of Congress leadership’s future attacks against the government on this count. The case began when the the Lippa village in Kinnaur district filed a case against the Kashang Hydro Electric Project before the NGT. Besides other arguments, the village contended that the project was given a forest clearance despite the fact that the project developers – the state power corporation – had not sought the mandatory consent from the village council. It raised other issues of potential environmental damage from the project for their lands not being considered while giving the clearance. …  (Business Standard 4/9/2016)

Indian state pulls petition blocking tribal challenge to power project (6)

MUMBAI: The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has withdrawn a court petition challenging the right of indigenous people to oppose a power plant on forest land, ending a seven-year tussle that highlighted the fight for land in the country. Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation, a state enterprise, had appealed against an order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directing it to seek consent from four village councils for the hydroelectric project, in accordance with the Forest Rights Act. The case was due for hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday. The petition had said that the order was not practical, as indigenous people were unskilled and incapable of taking informed decisions on technical matters. India’s Forest Rights Act of 2006 gives indigenous people and forest dwellers the right to manage and govern their traditional forests and resources. Any infrastructure or development project that requires forest land to be cleared needs the consent of the gram sabha, or village council. “We have to move away from the idea of the gram sabha as illiterate people plotting to derail development,” environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta, representing community organisations against Himachal Pradesh, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Around the world, free and prior informed consent of communities is being seen as necessary for businesses,” he said. The village councils in Kinnaur in the northern Indian state had said they were concerned about environmental damage from the power project. Activists said the area, known for growing apples, was fragile and that the plant could ruin livelihoods. The state’s petition was seen as an embarrassment for the opposition Congress party, which controls the state government. The party, which had passed the Forest Rights Act when it was in power, has criticised the current federal government for its weak implementation of the law. “The Congress party has always recognised the rights of gram sabhas … for the protection of forest rights,” a spokesman said, explaining why Himachal Pradesh had decided to drop the case on Thursday. “Withdrawal of the petition by the state government is a testament to this commitment,” he said. Conflicts over land in India have increased as one of the world’s fastest growing major economies expands, and land is sought for industrial use and development projects. While several laws have been introduced in the past decade to protect the rights of farmers and indigenous people, some laws have been diluted in their implementation and not always helped the vulnerable, activists say. (The Hindu 9/9/16)

Orissa HC notice to government on tribal welfare (6)

CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Monday issued a notice to the State Government over a PIL which alleged gross negligence in providing benefits of welfare schemes to tribals in pockets like Jajpur district’s Nagada village. The PIL writ petition, seeking appropriate direction to the Government for implementation of various schemes effectively so that a Nagada-like situation does not recur, was filed by Nationalist Lawyers’ Forum through its joint secretary Tapas Kumar Dwibedy of Cuttack. Hearing the case, a division bench of the HC comprising Chief Justice Vineet Saran and Justice BR Sarangi asked the Government to file its response within three weeks. The petitioner alleged that news of gross negligence and failure of the Government as well as other agencies in providing benefits of welfare schemes floated by both the Centre and State Government for tribals has grabbed the headlines. Due to negligence, unnatural deaths of children and poor living in tribal areas have been reported. Citing Nagada as an example, the petitioner said it is clear that the State Government machinery has failed to discharge its duty in providing basic amenities to people for survival, thereby depriving them of their life as guaranteed in the Constitution. Children have been reported to have died without adequate food and malnutrition, absence of safe drinking water and electricity and road. People are suffering from diarrhoea, cholera and other water-borne diseases while education does not exist. Besides, there is no minimum housing and residential facilities. The PIL stated that there are more than 35 welfare schemes floated by the Centre and State but its benefits have not reached the tribals as well as poor people throughout the State. The petitioner appealed to the court to direct the authorities to inquire into the alleged negligence and take appropriate action. (New Indian Express 13/9/2016)

Tribals stage rally in Ranchi against land law amendments (6)

Ranchi: Thousands of tribals staged a massive rally in Ranchi on Thursday against amendments proposed to two tenancy laws, disrupting normal life in the state capital as authorities were caught off guard at the unannounced storming. The BJP government through the ordinances has sought to amend the Chottanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act to allow acquisition of tribal agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes in Jharkhand, drawing flak from opposition and social organisations. Carrying banners and placards with slogans “Gaun Gaun Mein Naara Hai Jharkhand Humara Hai (every villager knows Jharkhand is ours)” and “Adivasion Ko Unka Haq Do (give tribals their due rights)”, tribals from villages marched in hordes into the city choking every entry point. Ambulances, school buses, motorists, and even police vehicles were caught in a traffic jams that lasted for eight hours as the protesters, under the Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch, gathered at Morhabadi ground in the heart of the city. The police and the administration apparently had no information about such a huge gathering. Around 100 constables were put on duty to control traffic, but the huge strength of the protesters rendered them useless. “We had deployed all the police constables available on Thursday at Morhabadi to control the traffic. The police can do less when nearly a lakh people are out on the streets,” said Ranchi traffic superintendent of police Sanjeev Kumar Singh. The rally led to long traffic jams at Morhabadi, Kutchehri Road, Bariatu, parts of Lalpur and Circular Road, the busiest areas of the state capital. Barring a few incidents of minor vandalism, the rally remained largely peaceful. Agitators reportedly damaged some vehicles on MG Road. Premchand Murmu, member of Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch said the rally was not political and had no backing from political parties. “The indigenous people of Jharkhand have assembled here for their rights,” he said. Karam Munda, a daily wage labourer from Khunti, said he did not know “what changes the government has made to the tenancy laws, but I know they will take away our land”. He sacrificed his day’s earning of around Rs 200 and joined the rally along with his wife, three daughters and one son. The state government had made unprecedented security arrangements for the May 14 state-wide band called by main opposition parties including the JMM and Congress over the domicile policy. Several control rooms were set up in Ranchi and prohibitory orders were issued. All these measures were missing on Thursday. (Hindustan Times 15/9/2016)

Tribals protest raising height of Sardar Sarovar (6)

Barwani: Tribals of various districts of Madhya Pradesh and those from bordering states of Maharashtra and Gujarat organised a rally in Barwani on Friday protesting the move to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam 139 meters. Rally led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar had tribals dressed in traditional attire raising slogans against the three state governments alleging corruption in the relief and rehabilitation process and seeking adequate compensation to the project affected people. As they danced to the tune of drums and played flutes, the tribals claimed that closing the gates of the dam will render around 45,000 families homeless. Patkar told TOI that the rally aimed at highlighting the plight of the project affected people who feel cheated by the successive governments. “Over 192 villages and a township will come under submergence if the dam height is raised and gates are closed. Of these, 126 villages are densely populated,” she said.She accused Narendra Modi government at the Centre of ‘clandestinely’ raising the dam height from 122 meters to 139 meters. The NBA leader claimed that ministers from Madhya Pradesh in the Union government were unaware of the move to raise the dam height. The government had said there was zero balance as far as the relief and rehabilitation process was concerned and no family was left out for rehabilitation. The Justice Jha Commission had exposed large-scale corruption and found that 1,579 fake deeds have been prepared by the officials to support their claims, said Patkar. The NBA alleged that back waters levels have been reduced in official reports and land was yet to be allotted to thousands of people. The affected families have been camping on the banks of Narmada river in Barwani, at Rajghat, where a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi was situated, from July 1. The rally that started from the Barwani town ended at Rajghat. Tribals also carried messages against liquor abuse. The rally culminated in a public meeting where activists addressed the gathering on various social issues. (Times of India 17/9/2016)

Forest officials held hostage by tribals, Dalits (6)

THRISSUR: A group of people belonging to the SC/ST colony at Thamaravellachal near Peechi held eight forest officials including the DFO hostage for about four hours on Tuesday. The officials claimed they had gone to the colony as part of the investigation on the theft of wood from the forest areas. However, the agitating tribals and dalits alleged that the police officials were harassing them in the name of the theft of wood, though three of their colony members were arrested in the case. The colony members including women and children first blocked the vehicle of the forest officials in the mroning, and encircled the officials when they stepped out the of the vehicle. The forest officials said the colony members did not cause any hurt to them. The agitating group released the forest officials i n the afternoon after the police officials from Peechi station held talks with their leaders and the forest officials. According the DFO George Mathew, the forest officials had received complaints saying that some trees in the compounds of the residents in the colony, forming part of the forest areas were cut and removed. He said it was not clear how many trees were cut, but the visit was to collect such details. However the Vasu, leader of the agitating tribals and dalits clarified that they were not opposed to any investigations and booking of the accused involved in the wood theft. “We want those culpable must be punished. In fact we ourselves had spotted three people in our colony and the police had arrested them. We had cooperated with the forest officials when they came to the colony on seven occasions earlier for investigation. Now they are coming repeatedly to harass us, and want to lay the blame on us for all the illegal activities happening here” he said. “Everyone knows that transporting of wood from the forest areas cannot happen without the connivance of the forest officials. So we have told them further raids can be conducted by the forest officials only if the police are accompanying them,” Vasu said. The DFO denied the charges that the forest officials are harassing the residents in the colonies. “We are just searching in their compounds to locate whether any evidences like remains of wood trunks are there in the compounds. We are not even entering their houses,” he said. The DFO said the forest officials would go to the colonies along with the police. (Times of India 20/9/2016)

Tribals ignorant about Adilabad trifurcation (6)

JODEGHAT (ADILABAD DISTRICT): Not many Adivasis in Adilabad, including a majority of the descendants of Kumram Bheem, realise that this year’s anniversary of the Gond martyr would be the first to be observed in the proposed Kumram Bheem Mancherial (KBM) district as Jodeghat village is slated to be clubbed with the new entity. They are happy over the government’s move to name the new district after their hero but confess they are ignorant of the implications of the new development which will take place in their life five days ahead of the martyrdom anniversary. “I heard elders discuss that a district is being named after my grandfather but I do not know where Mancherial is,” said Kumram Sombai, granddaughter of Bheem, who works in the Ashram school at Jodeghat. Sombai sums up the situation for thousands of Gonds, Kolams and other aboriginal tribal people living in the far flung areas of Adilabad district, with regard to the current developments. Athram Dev Rao, a Kolam from the nearby Jodeghat Kolamguda was also unsure of what the new development would augur. “I have never been to Mancherial though I have been to Adilabad once,” he said when asked on the impending trifurcation of the district. The Adivasi population in Adilabad also gets split with reorganisation of the district and this is one aspect which has not gone down well with the tribals. They are demanding a separate district comprising of all Adivasi habitations. “Adivasis should be under one umbrella,” said Kumram Sone Rao, grandson of Bheem, who lives in Pedda Dhoba village of Sirpur (U) mandal which will remain with the residuary Adilabad post trifurcation. “It makes little sense to name a district after the martyr when a majority of the aboriginal population will be in the parent district,” he argued while supporting the demand for a tribal district. President of Kumram Bheem Poru Gramala Yuvajana Sangham Pendur Rajeshwar wondered if the formation of KBM will lead to development of Jodeghat. “The promise of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his son K Taraka Rama Rao to construct 50 two bedroom houses at Jodeghat remains unfulfilled,” he pointed out. (The Hindu 25/9/2016)

People from outside mislead tribals, turn them extremists: Jharkhand CRPF officer (6)

Simdega (jharkhand): Extremism takes its root in illiteracy and poverty-ridden areas where people from other states mislead tribal people and turned them to extremists, a senior CRPF officer said in Simdega, Jharkhand on Sunday. People coming from some other states sit in high position of extremist organisations, mislead people in tribal areas and turning innocent people into extremists, CRPF Inspector General of Police Sanjay Anand Latkar said. Extremism takes its root in illiteracy and poverty-ridden areas, an official release quoted Latkar. The CRPF officer was addressing a programme organised by Simdega district police to address problems of families that lost members in naxal violence. Extremists have strayed from their ideology and killings, kidnappings and extortion became their main profession, he said. Latkar appealed to the people to come forward in rooting out extremism and urged representatives of the people to cooperate with the police in doing so. Stating that it was necessary to villagers to get organised against extremism, Simdega Deputy Commissioner Vijay Kumar Singh said it was necessary to eliminate extremism, which was a hurdle in the path of development. The DC called upon representatives of the people to convince the misguided youth to come back to the mainstream so that they could participate in the development process. (Indian Express 25/9/2016)

Tribal body opposes ST status for six communities (6)

GUWAHATI: The Coordination Committtee of the Tribal Organisation of Assam (CCTOA), an umbrella body of different tribal groups, on Monday asked the Centre and the state government to stop the process of granting scheduled tribe status to six communities in the state. The communities demanding ST status – Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Motok, Chutia and Adivasi – are currently in the OBC category. Last Friday, leaders from the six communities met officials of the home ministry’s committee on recommending modalities for granting scheduled tribe status to expedite the process. The committee is expected to submit its report to the Centre by October 15. On Monday, CCTOA leaders met Assam chief secretary VK Pipersenia to put forth their assertion that granting ST status to the communities will be detrimental to the existing tribals of the state. Tribals constitute 12.5% of the state’s 3.12-crore population. “We placed our arguments before the chief secretary saying why ST status should not be granted to the six communities,” CCTOA chief coordinator Aditya Khaklary said. The six communities are relatively ‘more advanced’ than the existing tribals socio-economically, Khaklary said. “Once the six communities get the ST status, it will have deep implications on existing tribal in terms of reservations in education, job and other sectors,” Khaklary added. Granting ST status to the six communities was one of the poll planks of the BJP government both at the Centre and the state. “We are waiting for the report of the committee to be submitted on Oct 15. We will chalk out our next course of action based on the report,” Khaklary said. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Tribal youths on warpath seeking promised jobs (6)

KALPETTA: A group of tribal barefoot technicians in the district is gearing up to launch an indefinite agitation in front of the Collectorate here from Thursday demanding that the government honour its promise to provide them jobs. Talking to mediapersons here on Tuesday, P.M. Rakesh, a trainee, said as many as 32 tribal youths, including five B. Tech. graduates and seven graduates in Arts and Science streams, had completed a three-month training programme for barefoot technicians at the State Institute of Rural Development, Kottarakkara , under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Though the authorities had promised the youths that the trainees would be provided a stipend of Rs.150 a day and a job after completing the programme, the authorities are yet to provide the stipend or job, Mr. Rakesh, a B. Tech.graduate, said.The barefoot technicians’ training programme, a pilot project in the State, began on December 15 to attract educated youths from the marginalised sections to the MGNREGS. The Union government had launched the programme after it found that the participation of tribespeople in MGNREGS was poor.The project was envisaged to take the benefits of MGNREGS to the grassroots and ensure job opportunities to the educated among the section. The project was designed to provide three months’ training in preparing estimates, taking measurements of completed works and preparing bills for MGNREGS works. “Many of us are the breadwinners of our family and we had been engaged in odd jobs in our villages,” said Kannan, a Commerce graduate from Nenmeni. ‘Though we had raised our grievances with the Chief Minister, we are yet to get any answer,” he said. (The Hindu 28/9/2016)

WOMEN

6 plaints from women every hour in Haryana: Report (8)

CHANDIGARH: Even though Haryana’s Sakshi Malik is now the toast of the nation and the face of ‘save girl child’ campaign after her inspiring achievement at the Rio Olympics, women in her state are still an unsafe lot if the data submitted in the Assembly is any indication. Haryana police received at least six complaints from women every hour during the past 11 months. According to a report tabled in the House by Haryana parliamentary affairs minister Ram Bilas Sharma, 49,509 complaints of crimes against women were reported across the state from September 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016. Out of this, 28,839 were filed at all-women police stations. The report said 17,939 complaints were related to domestic violence and the rest of them included rape, attempt to rape, stalking, sexual harassment and kidnapping. The report was tabled on Tuesday in response to a question raised by independent MLA Jasbir Singh on safety and security of women in Haryana, infamous for its skewed sex ratio and diktats by khaps against same gotra marriages. The government also put the comparative figures of overall crime and general law and order situation in Haryana. The report suggests that Haryana witnessed nine crimes every hour between January 1 and July 31, 2016. A total of 50,243 cases were registered in the state from January to July this year as against 48,869 in the corresponding period last year. There has been an increase in cases of murders, abductions, rapes and molestations while the state saw decline in dowry deaths.The minister said the government was committed towards the safety of women in the state. “We have already taken several measures like ‘zero FIR’ for crime against women (for prompt registration of cases) and setting up of special help desk and women police stations,” he said. (Times of India 1/9/16)

UP tops the chart for crime committed against women: NCRB (8)

AGRA: The state of Uttar Pradesh which has being in the limelight for number of recent gruesome crime against women, has now topped the chart in the annual 2015 report published by National Crime Record Bureau. As per report, after state capital Lucknow, Agra has reported second highest number of cases of crime committed against women. The report which was published in public domain, state that UP filed 35,527 cases of crime committed against women in the year 2015 and contributed 10.9 per cent to all India total, followed by West Bengal 33,218 cases and Maharashtra 31,126. Crime such as cruelty by husband and his relatives, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, rape, dowry death, kidnapping and abduction for murder, voyeurism and stalking were the major contributors for cases of crime committed against women in UP. According to NCRB, there were 8,660 cases of cruelty by husband and his relatives followed by 7,885 of assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, 5,925 of sexual harassment, 3025 rape, 2,335 dowry deaths, 519 stalking a woman, 61 of voyeurism and 73 cases of kidnapping and abduction of murder of women. Of the total crime number, barring dowry deaths state capital Lucknow reported maximum cases in all categories followed by Agra and others. Lucknow reported 793 cases of cruelty by husband cases followed by Ghaziabad 474, Kanpur 377 and Agra 358. In assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, 286 cases were reported in Lucknow followed by 206 in Agra and 145 in Meerut.Similarly, for sexual harassment cases, Lucknow filed 211 cases and Agra saw 171 cases followed by Meerut 69. Yet again in rape, Lucknow reported 67 cases followed by 51 in Agra and Varanasi 43. But in cases of dowry death, Agra topped with 43 cases followed by Kanpur 25 and Ghaziabad 24. Yet again in voyeurism with five cases Agra and Lucknow were on top followed by Kanpur with four cases and Varanasi two.There were no cases of voyeurism in Allahabad, Ghaziabad and Meerut. In cases of stalking, Lucknow reported 37 cases followed by Kanpur 20, Ghaziabad 17, Allahabad 13, Meerut 12 and Agra 10. Lastly, Agra saw 70 cases of kidnapping and abduction of murder of women, followed by Ghaziabad 60 and Kanpur 5. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Sex CD case: Sacked AAP minister remanded in police custody (8)

New Delhi: Sacked Delhi Minister and AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar arrested on charges of rape on a complaint of a woman who figured in an objectionable video with him, was today produced in a Delhi court which remanded him in police custody for one day. Kumar, 36, was produced before a magisterial court in Rohini here, which sent him to police custody till tomorrow on a Delhi Police plea for remand to quiz him in the case. The former minister was arrested yesterday night after a woman approached Sultanpuri police station in north Delhi with a complaint of sexual harassment against the former social welfare and women and child development minister following which a case was filed. The police have booked him under section 376 (rape), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison with intent to commit an offence) of IPC, under section 67A of IT Act (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act) and Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration for an official act). In her complaint, the woman alleged that around 11 months ago she was raped by Kumar when she had gone to his office in Outer Delhi’s Sultanpuri seeking help to obtain a ration card. She alleged that Kumar had offered her a spiked drink and when she fell unconscious, she was taken to his house adjacent to the office and raped. The woman alleged that Kumar had told her that he will get a ration card for her and also ensure jobs for her children. Kumar was removed from the AAP government on August 31 by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after the CD purportedly showing him in a compromising position with the woman surfaced. The MLA from Sultanpur Majra had surrendered before the investigators at the office of DCP (Outer) in Pitampura where his statement was recorded, police officials had said. Soon after the controversy, the MLA had defended himself, saying he has been targeted. Kumar’s wife has also come out in support of her husband, claiming that he was “falsely implicated” in the scandal. (Zee News 4/9/2016)

 ‘Gender crimes in U.P. rising’ (8)

LUCKNOW: Crimes against women have been “rising consistently” in Uttar Pradesh in the last five recorded years displaying a steep rise under the Samajwadi Party government, in power since 2012. Crimes against women increased by a significant 61 per cent between 2010-11 and 2014-15, with a sharp climb during 2013-14, the Comptroller and Auditor General has noted in a new report, a performance audit on ‘women empowerment.’ The report was tabled in the U.P. Assembly recently. Though spread over the periods of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav rule, the report especially indicts the SP government. Between 2011 and 2015, the CAG notes, the number of crimes against women increased from 20,951 to 33,694. The figures were based on data submitted by the U.P. Home Department, which falls under Chief Minister Yadav. The 2015 NCRB report updates the latest figure of crimes against women at 35,527, retaining U.P. as the top State in crimes against women nationally with 10.9 per cent of the crimes.Rape cases doubledNinety-nine per cent of the crimes against women in the State were dominated by incidents of rape, homicide for dowry, dowry deaths or their attempts, torture — both mental and physical — assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping and abduction and cases under Dowry Prohibition Act. The number of rape cases almost doubled — 1,582 to 2,945 between 2011 and 2015. “The most worrying fact” the CAG said, “is that 59 per cent of rape victims were minors.” The most notorious districts in terms of rape were Meerut, Allahabad, Aligarh, Moradabad, Agra and Lucknow. Four of these top six are from west U.P. Dowry murders and attempt to murder for dowry also saw an increase of 11 per cent in the last five years. The cases registered under the Dowry Act 1961 also shot up by 17 per cent — 940 to 1,100. Kidnapping and abduction cases also saw a constant rise and here, too, most of the victims, 71 per cent, were minors. Cases of torture also increased from 7,302 to 9,476, while assault with intent of outraging modesty cases marked a big jump —2,989 to 7,972 — and once again, the most common victim, 55 per cent, were minors. Trafficking of girls and women also increased by 21 per cent between 2011 and 2015. The State, however, could not reveal the action it took against the guilty and details of the girls who were recovered, the CAG said. While the Akhilesh Yadav government has claimed to take steps to ensure women safety and promoted its ‘1090’ helpline number, the CAG opined that the State did not take concrete steps like overcoming the shortage of police personnel, both male and female, or paid timely compensation to victims. “Despite high incidence of crime, the State Government has not taken effective steps to significantly strengthen its police force as the actual police manpower per one lakh population in the State is amongst the lowest in the country. The Government schemes for providing financial and other support to the victims have not been implemented effectively,” the CAG said. In U.P., a population of more than 20 crore is policed by only 1,62,783 police personnel — 81 policemen for every lakh citizens even as the sanctioned strength should have been 178. The national average is 136.42, which is way below the global standards. (The Hindu 9/9/2016)

SC commutes death penalty of Soumya rapist (8)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday confirmed the life imprisonment awarded to a man for the brutal rape of a 23-year-old woman in Kerala. The court, however, commuted his death penalty, saying it was not proved that he had thrown the victim out of the running train or inflicted fatal injuries during the sexual assault. A three-judge bench presided over by Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the rape charge against accused Govindachamy but acquitted him of murder. The court noted that there were witnesses who testified that the victim escaped from him by jumping out of the Ernakulam-Shornur Passenger train. The bench also found that circumstantial evidences were not strong enough to attribute either intention or knowledge to Govindachamy that the woman could suffer fatal injuries to specific body parts during the assault. “In the totality of the facts, the accused cannot be held liable for injury. Similarly, in keeping the deceased in a supine position, intention to cause death or knowledge that such act may cause death, cannot be attributed to the accused. We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC (murder) cannot be held to be made out against the accused,” the bench, also comprising Justices Prafulla C Pant and U U Lalit, said. However, the court maintained the life term awarded to him by the trial court and confirmed by the HC for the offence of rape, saying it was committed in a “most brutal and grotesque manner”. In January 2014, the Kerala High Court upheld the death sentence granted to Govindachamy by a Thrissur Fast-track court. The victim, an employee of a shopping mall in Kochi, was travelling home on February 1, 2011 in an almost empty woman’s coach of the train. Govindachamy raped her and also snatched her mobile phone.The Kerala government will file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict, which set aside the death sentence handed to Soumya murder convict Govindachamy, DHNS reports from Thiruvananthapuram. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the trial court and high court had pronounced their verdicts after studying all aspects of the case. “This is a verdict that would leave anyone who values humanity concerned,” Vijayan said in a statement. He said counsel of renowned legal experts and lawyers would be sought to ensure justice to Soumya’s family, adding, “Technicalities in law should not be abused to allow more Govindachamys to continue posing threats to women.” Meanwhile, the apex court verdict is being seen as a serious failure of the prosecution in the case which, five years on, continues to dominate discussions on women’s safety in Kerala. On Thursday, protests were staged by groups affiliated to the Opposition Congress and BJP in various parts of the state. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said the verdict was a result of serious lapses in the legal options followed by the state. Sumathy, the victim’s mother, said the observations made by the apex court were heartbreaking and she would pursue all available legal options to ensure Govindachamy is awarded a death sentence. “An inefficient lawyer was assigned to argue the case,” a sobbing Sumathy told reporters. The family is expected to meet the chief minister and voice their concerns on the verdict. (Deccan Herald 16/9/2016)

Crime graph a case for concern (8)

KOLLAM: A total of 1,430 rape cases were registered by the police across the State during the first seven months of 2016. Among the victims 520 are minors. Thiruvananthapuram district topped the list with 123 rape cases against women while Malappuram followed with 109 cases, the crime statistics of the Kerala Police released on Friday says. Last year, 1,974 rape cases were registered in the State, of which 711 victims were minors. Seventeen children were murdered during the seven-month period, which includes a case of infanticide. Six cases under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act were also registered during this time. The police also registered eight dowry-related deaths in the State. Last year, seven such cases were registered. The police also registered 1,966 cases of cruelty to women by husband/ his relatives during the period. Molestation cases registered during the first seven months of the year touched 2,332, of this 22 were on trains. A total of 7,909 crimes against women were registered in the State during the period. While the State capital topped with 1,050 cases, Malappuram stood next with 861 cases, and Wayanad came last with 247 cases. The Railway Police registered 68 such cases. A total of 1,570 cases of crimes against children were also registered by the police during the same period. (The Hindu 17/9/2016)

Woman raped, pushed out of train in UP; loses leg (8)

Mau, U.P., September 19, 2016: In a shocking incident in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh, a 35-year-old woman was allegedly raped in a moving train and pushed out of it as a result of which she lost her right leg. Uttar Pradesh has earned the dubious distinction of recording the second highest number of crimes in railways after Maharashtra. A Government Railway Police (GRP) official did not confirm the rape but said the woman fell from the running train and lost her right leg in the mishap. “We are looking into the matter and the guilty will not be spared,” GRP official Sudhir Singh said on Sunday. The woman, who was screaming in pain, was noticed by villagers in the morning near Khazakhurd railway station under the Sarai Lakhansi police station. The villagers brought her to Khurhat railway station for treatment at the district hospital here, but since her condition was serious she was referred to Varanasi. The woman alleged that she was going home in Shahganj area in adjoining Jaunpur district by the Tamsa passenger train on Saturday night when two men raped her and pushed her out of the moving train. Afterwards, her photographs went viral on news channels and social media. Earlier this month, a college girl received serious head injuries after being pushed out of a moving train by a man attempting to snatch her purse in Bareilly. The incident occurred near Abhaypura railway station on the Lucknow-Lalkuan section when the girl was going to college with her sister. Another woman passenger was robbed and thrown off a Lucknow-bound express train by unidentified persons near Chitbaragaon railway station on Chappra-Varanasi section in Ballia district last month. As per National Crime Records Bureau data, there has been a 52 per cent rise in registered crimes on railways — from 25,737 in 2011 to 39,239 in 2015. (The Hindu 19/9/2016)

DCW helpline received 2.2 lakh distress calls in a year (8)

NEW DELHI: As far as women safety is concerned, little has changed in the capital since the infamous December 2012 gang-rape. This concern is reflected in the Delhi Commission for Women’s annual report released on Tuesday. The report cites delay in investigation by the police, inadequate facility for forensic testing and low conviction rate as the key reasons for an increase in crime against women. Speaking at the report release function, DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal said: “Today, no one is scared in Delhi…The law can be a deterrent only when the conviction rate is high.” Data lend credence to Maliwal’s assessment: between 2012 and 2015, Delhi cops registered as many as 31,446 FIRs; however, chargesheets were filed in just 13,050 cases, Worse, only 146 people were convicted during the period. The report was released by women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi and minister of state (home) Kiren Rijiju. Maliwal, who took over as DCW chief in July 2015, stressed on the need for more courts for speedy trial in such cases. “It takes a lot of courage for women to report cases…Justice must be delivered without delay,” she said.DCW claims it has addressed 11,268 cases in the last one year against 3,498 in the previous year. The women helpline number, 181, received 2.2 lakh calls between February and July 2016. Counsellors empanelled with DCW dealt with 2,250 cases in a year, said Maliwal. The rape crisis cell of DCW received 1,146 cases between February and July this year. Of these, 554 related to minors. Amid a spurt in acid-attack incidents, the report raises concern over unmonitored sale of the substance. DCW found that out of the 33 sub-divisions in Delhi, 20 didn’t maintain any record of sale of acid in the areas under their jurisdiction. “Out of the ones that did, five took no action against the illegal sale of acid…Only 15 sub-divisions were active in levying penalty against irregular acid sales,” the report stated. Gandhi promised DCW all possible help in making the city safe for women. The Centre will soon open 11 one-stop centres for them. “Each centre will have a police officer, lawyer, doctor, nurse and other supporting staff.” Such centres are already functional in Raipur and close to 200 women visited them daily, she said. “Mobile phones will soon have a panic button. We are working on an application that would allow a woman to inform at least 10 people near her in case of an emergency.” The government was also hopeful of passing the women trafficking Bill in the winter session of Parliament, she said. (Times of India 21/9/2016)

‘Ambedkar was the great champion of women’s rights, gender equality’ (8)

Hassan: Narendra Jadhav, Rajya Sabha member and economist, said B.R. Ambedkar was the great champion of women’s rights and gender equality, who even resigned as Minister for Law as a mark of protest when the government failed to pass the Hindu Code Bill that ensured property rights among other things to women. He was delivering a lecture here on Thursday on Dr.Ambedkar’s contributions to India as part of his Ambedkar Vichara Yatra. Ambedkar, as member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council before India gained Independence, fought for the welfare of labours. He was the one who reduced the working hours for employees from 12 hours to eight hours a day, besides introducing maternity leave. “No doubt he is the liberator of Dalits. But, he should not be restricted to the Dalits alone. He worked for the welfare of all weaker sections. He is a true national leader,” he said. Speaking about Ambedkar’s differences with Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Jadhav said Ambedkar fought for separate electorate for Dalits, while Gandhi opposed it. “In the second Round Table Conference, both had heated arguments on the issue. The British government favoured Ambedkar. But Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast and forced Ambedkar to withdraw his demand,” he said. Elaborating Ambedkar’s work as chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution, Jadhav said he worked hard to fulfil his task. He piloted the Constitution as well as amendments to it. “There is no other mass leader in the country who can match Dr.Ambedkar’s scholarship. He authored 22 books on various topics,” he said. Mr. Jadhav, who has been nominated to Rajya Sabha by the BJP government, said he has taken up a yatra to give lectures to students on Ambedkar. He started his yatra in Maharashtra and held six meetings in Karnataka, and has plans to cover all states. District BJP president Yoga Ramesh, District SC Morcha president Devappa Malligevalu and others were present. (The Hindu 22/9/2016)

42 pc women in State victim of violence: Min (8)

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government on Wednesday admitted that 42 per cent of women, between 15 and 49 years of age, are subjected to either physical or sexual violence in Odisha. Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Usha Devi informed this in the Assembly while replying to a question of BJP MLA Dilip Ray. The State Government’s reply is based on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report, Devi said and added that this was mentioned in the draft policy for girls and women. In its bid to mitigate such violence, 30 officers have been appointed in each district and 537 Mahila and Sishu desks have been opened in the State to address the issue of domestic violence and children in distress, she said. All Swadhar Homes, Ujjwala Homes, Short Stay Homes and family counselling centres are declared as service providers under Protection of Women Domestic Violence Act, 2005, she said. “As per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, local committees and internal complaints committees have been constituted,” she added. “Bell Bajao campaign and other awareness programmes are also being taken up periodically in the State,” she said. (New Indian Express 22/9/16)

Forced to wear garland of shoes, woman quits village (8)

CHANDIGARH: A woman from a village in Ambala, who was forced to wear a garland of shoes on August 26, has left her home along with her two children fearing a similar attack on her.The woman’s husband has been under treatment at a de-addiction centre for six months. In a reminder of how panchayats in rural Haryana end up playing the role of kangaroo courts, the woman and an unmarried youth were forced to wear a garland of shoes around their necks on August 26 because the villagers suspected the two of having an “illicit relationship.” After meeting the victim woman on Tuesday, Haryana State Women’s Commission chairperson Kamlesh Panchal told TOI that the woman had left the village. Panchal also visited the Panjokhra police station where an FIR has been registered in connection with the incident against the village sarpanch and others. According to Panchal, the woman has not disclosed her latest address, but hinted that she might have shifted to a town. The investigating officer of the case, Kuldeep Singh, said the woman might have left the village temporarily and would reqturn once things normalized. The incident took place in Barnala village on August 26, but the FIR was lodged on September17 after the youth filed a complaint. Police said three of the accused had been arrested, while raids were on to arrest the sarpanch and others.Panchal said the panel would summon police officers concerned as she was not satisfied with investigations into the matter. The commission chief, though, admitted that the victim had expressed satisfaction over the police action in the case. The woman reportedly told the woman commission chief that she was beaten up publicly before the garland of shoes was forced around her neck. Some women of the village have also been made accused in the case. They are also seen in a video clipping of the entire incident which was handed over to the police by the complainant. The video showed an elderly woman slapping the victim repeatedly and urging other villagers to take her to the centre of the village, so that others could ridicule her. (Times of India 28/9/2016)

`Dalit women’s voices muffled behind veils’ (8)

JAIPUR: The All India Dalit Mahila Manch on Wednesday concluded a12-day yatra across 11 districts of the state with a meeting at Shaheed Smarak in the state capital. The yatra, which began in 2012 in Haryana, is wending its way across the country . It has so far been through villages in Haryana, Odisha, Bihar and UP . “In the villages where we travelled, we found that girls from the Dalit community seldom study beyond class 8. The women often do not even take part in public meetings. And if they do, they expect the men to speak while they listen – they seldom speak. The women we met were all so heavily veiled. I know that if I return to those villages, I will probably not recognize the women I spoke to,” said Anju, coordinator of the Rajasthan leg of the yatra who uses only her first name. “Why does the statue of Manu, whose laws were so anti-women, occupy pride of place in front of the Rajasthan high court? The Ambedkar statue in Pokhran was vandalized five times but authorities have done little to punish the vandals,” Anju said, referring to the 200 BC lawmaker now reviled by social scientists for his misogyny and rigidity on caste. There is a PIL pending in the HC on the removal of the Manu statue, installed in 1989, from the court premises. In Rajasthan, this yatra began at Trimohi village of Baran district, from near the home of Delta Meghwal, the 17 year-old girl whose body was recovered in March this year from a water tank in the teacher training institute she was studying at in Bikaner. A teacher had allegedly raped and killed her. “Even the girl’s father, who is himself a teacher, has said that he will now restrict his three other daughters from further education so they do not meet this fate. That is how scared the Dalit communities have become,” Anju said. (Times of India 29/9/2016)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

More immigrant children found engaged in labour (14)

MALAPPURAM: The State police are yet to begin an investigation into the racket suspected to be behind pushing immigrant children into labour in the State. Many children from Assam and Bengal were found employed at different parts of the State by furnishing identity cards that testified them as adults. The identity cards produced by some children in the district were found to be fabricated. “Anyone can easily detect that the IDs, reportedly given by some panchayats, are fabricated,” said Jaffer Malik, Sub-Collector at Perinthalmanna who conducted joint raids on business establishments to detect child labour. Officials working for the welfare of children pointed out that no panchayat or village authority would issue identity cards to people as proof of their age. “At one glance, you will find that it’s a fake ID,” said Raju Krishnan, a Childline official. Attempts by the State’s child rights protection authorities to check the veracity of identity cards recovered from Assamese children yielded poor results. They were not only found to be fake, but the whereabouts of the children could not also be confirmed. What has surprised the child protection authorities in the State is the attitude of hoteliers and other business proprietors in employing immigrant children by accepting such fake identity cards. The owners of restaurants, hotels and other business establishments simply washed their hands of the responsibility by saying that they relied on the identity cards and the certificates. “This tendency is wrong. They should at least make an attempt to check if the identity card is genuine or not,” said District Child Protection Officer Sameer Machingal. (The Hindu 1/9/16)

Kerala stands second in unnatural offences against children (14)

KOCHI: Kerala is only second to Uttar Pradesh when it comes to cases registered under section 377 IPC (unnatural offences) against children.As per the latest data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Kerala recorded 142 such cases in 2015 next to Uttar Pradesh, a bigger state in terms of geography and population, which had 179 cases. Though Uttar Pradesh is in the first position with 179 cases, the rate of incidence (crime per one lakh of children) is 0.2 which is as same as the national average. Apart from surpassing the national average (0.2), Kerala is the only state that has a rate above 1 (1.5). The data is alarming as the state is witnessing a surge in the number of sexual atrocities against children in family circles, schools and public places. In one of the incidents reported in Kochi this year, a school bus driver was arrested for forcibly having unnatural sex with a minor boy. Last year, a 53-year-old man from Kothamangalam was held on charges of sodomising a 13-year-old school student after offering a lift on his motorcycle. “Both boys and girls are equally falling victims of such offences in the state. In majority of the cases involving boys, they were sodomised by elders. In the case of girls too, the offenders are mainly elder men who belong to close circles,” said an official from state crime records bureau. K Nazeer, member of Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights said the commission has observed more such cases being reported from Malappuram and Kasaragod.”While analysing the reports from the state police on offences against children under 377 IPC, the commission has noted that more such cases are being reported from northern districts. However, no indepth study has been conducted. The nature of cases has also changed. Now the offenders are also booked under POCSO Act apart from offence under 377 IPC to ensure grave punishment,” said Nazeer. The commission, the monitoring authority of POCSO cases, is of the opinion that the state is far ahead in reporting offences against children compared to other states. “The reporting of offences against children is high in Kerala as people are aware of special acts and laws ensuring safety of children.However, the fact remains that children are being abused at schools, neighbourhood and even at their own homes. Adolescent children are mostly falling victims,” said Meena C U, another member of the commission. (Times of India 2/9/2016)

Nearly 50 million children ‘uprooted’ worldwide: UNICEF (14)

United Nations: Almost 50 million children throughout the world are “uprooted,” forcibly displaced from their home countries by war, violence or persecution, the United Nations children’s program said on Wednesday. “Indelible images of individual children — Aylan Kurdi’s small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh’s stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed –- have shocked the world,” United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. “But each picture, each girl or boy, represents many millions of children in danger — and this demands that our compassion for the individual children we see be matched with action for all children.” In its analysis of global data, UNICEF found that 28 million of those children were displaced by violence and conflict, including 10 million child refugees. There were also one million asylum seekers whose refugee status is pending and approximately 17 million children displaced within their own countries lacking access to humanitarian aid and critical services. Some 20 million other children have left their homes for various reasons including gang violence or extreme poverty. “Many are at particular risk of abuse and detention because they have no documentation, have uncertain legal status, and there is no systematic tracking and monitoring of their well-being — children falling through the cracks,” UNICEF said. Children are also increasingly crossing borders on their own: more than 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries last year, tripling 2014′s numbers. UNICEF pointed to children accounting for a “disproportionate and growing proportion” of people seeking refuge outside their birth countries. Children make up about a third of the world’s population but about half of all refugees. In 2015, about 45 per cent of child refugees under the U.N. refugee agency’s care came from Syria and Afghanistan. UNICEF urged authorities to end the detention of children migrating or seeking refugee status, abstain from separating families, allow child refugees and migrants access to health services and to promote measure that combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization. The international body will take up the issue of migration in two late-September meetings on the sidelines of this year’s U.N. General Assembly. “We’d like to see some clear commitments and practical measures,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth told journalists in New York. “The burden sharing of this crisis is not fair: the greatest burden is supported by neighboring countries or the poorest countries.” Mr. Forsyth said the upcoming summits are “not enough to solve the problem”, but they remain “critical”. “It is a chance to get the world to look at this crisis,” he said. (The Hindu 7/9/2016)

Seven child labourers sent to Bal Bhavan by Vijayawada labour officials (14)

VIJAYAWADA: Labour Department in Vijayawada identified seven child labourers at Vijayawada railway station and shifted them to Navajeevan Bal Bhavan Shelter. According to D Anjaneya Reddy, assistant labour commissioner and NCLP director, on Wednesday night, they identified seven child workers. One Mithun from Bihar was taking four children – Rajan Kumar (15), Santhosh Kumar (15), Akhilesh Kumar (14) and Dileep Kumar (15) from Bihar to work in MK Solvent Company at Challakere in Bellary district of Karnataka. He said they would be produced before the Child Welfare Committee and the parents of the four children will be contacted and counselled before handing the children back to them. Reddy said they had also identified three more teenagers-Lakshman (16), Ganesh (14) and Srinivas (14) of Madhya Pradesh, who were brought to Krishna district by one Sarita Punam for working at brick kilns in Gudivada of Krishna district. The boys were counselled and after producing them before Child Welfare Committee, they will be handed over to their parents, who are being contacted. (New Indian Express 9/9/2016)

Child rights panel takes note of incident (14)

Ludhiana: Two days after a 13-year-old boy jumped off the fifth floor of the school building, the Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (PSCPCR) has taken a suo motu cognizance of the issue. Speaking to LTOI, chairman of Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Sukesh Kalia said that the commission has taken note of the media reports about the incident. “The commission has decided to take up the issue on priority. It will be discussed in detail during in the next meeting to be held on September 19. All parties concerned including school representatives may be called on or before the date of meeting,” said Kalia. Though Kalia did not elaborate further, it is likely that the commission may seek clarification from the school authorities about the incident and the role of teachers who have reportedly interacted with the student before he jumped off the building.Meanwhile relatives of the boy, mentioned that the family members were yet to get the school bag and the uniform of the student. According to them the authorities have remained evasive to their queries over the issue. Though school authorities refrained from giving any official statement on the issue, students said that a paath was held in the school on Saturday for speedy recovery of the boy. Local police officials maintained that they would proceed further only after taking boy’s statement. (Times of India 11/9/2016)

11 children rescued under ‘Operation Muskan’ (14)

MYSURU: The city police have rescued 11 children from various places under ‘Operation Muskan’, an initiative to rescue missing and abandoned children. Seven of the children were engaged in labour while four were being forced to beg. They were rescued from Siddharthnagar, Rajendra Nagar, Hale Kesare, Metagalli Circle, Mandi Mohalla, Lashkar Mohalla, near Manasagangotri campus, and Hinkal during a special drive. The anti-human trafficking squad of the Mysuru CCB, the Special Juvenile Protection Unit, Department of Labour, the Child Welfare Committee, the District Children’s Protection Unit, Child Helpline 1098 and members of various NGOs lent support to the police in the rescue operation.The seven children rescued from labour have been admitted to the boys’ home in Vijayanagar 4th Stage here, while the other four have been sent to the rehabilitation centre at Shakthidhama. Police Commissioner B. Dayananda has appealed to the people to inform the police if they come across child labourers and beggars. The main objective of ‘Operation Muskan’, being carried out across the country, is to stop child trafficking and protect children. (The Hindu 12/9/2016)

Over 3,000 tribal children in Attappady anaemic (14)

Palakkad: Hardly a week after R. Manikandan, 12, of Swarnapirivu tribal colony at Sholayur in Attappady died of anaemia, Health Department officials have confirmed that anaemia and malnutrition still exist in the tribal belt, especially among children aged above six years. Health workers have prepared a list of over 3,000 anaemic tribal children requiring immediate attention. Though pregnant women and children below the age of six are getting nutritious meal a day under the community kitchen programme, there was no effective mechanism to address the issue of anaemia among school-going tribal children. Death of Manikandan has prompted tribal organisations to demand a governmental intervention among school-going tribal children to avoid similar incidents. In the case of Manikandan, a Class 8 student of Government Tribal Higher Secondary School at Sholayur, the death occurred due to the lack of timely diagnosis and treatment. “Infant mortality has reduced considerably in the recent years because of targeted interventions. However, the prevailing frightening situation demands quick intervention on school-going children. They must be provided with nutritious meals and better medical facilities,” said tribal activist K.A. Ramu. In most of the tribal schools of the locality, the system of providing breakfast to needy children stopped in the recent months due to lack of sufficient funds. The Health Department is yet to take any steps to fill the existing vacancies of junior health volunteers in different schools. Earlier, these volunteers who work on meagre honorariums had contributed significantly in addressing poverty and malnutrition. Many vacancies of government-deputed scheduled tribe promoters also remaining vacant. “The recent death points to the collective failure of 26 government departments which coordinate tribal welfare measures in Attappady. Authorities must have to improve community outreach services to identify high-risk children and ensure them proper care,” said Rajendra Prasad of tribal welfare organisation Thambu. “As far as Attappady is concerned, long-term solutions like restoring the alienated agricultural lands of tribals and providing them with basic irrigation still remain on paper. Group farming projects focussing on pulses and millets are yet to be initiated. Short-term measures are a myth, mainly due to lack of coordination, corruption and indifference of the officials,” said Mr. Ramu. (The Hindu 16/9/2016)

Over 75% sex abuse cases pending trial (14)

Thiruvananthapuram: Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict on Soumya case, which has dropped the murder charge against the accused, has caused a lot of anguish in the society and Kerala government is all set to file a review petition. Yet the sad truth is that justice for rape survivors remains a far cry since more than 75% of Nirbhaya cases are awaiting trial. Eight years have gone by since a 15-year-old girl from Kozhikode was brought to Nirbhaya shelter home here. The case is pending trial and culprits remain scot-free, the official said. And this is not an isolated case. When contacted, Kerala Mahila Samkhya Society (KMSS) state project director P E Usha admitted that around 75% cases were pending trial since 2008. They also include cases of sexual abuse of children registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act. “Though a special court was set up in Ernakulam and two more in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram recently for speedy disposal of cases, more than 3,000 rape cases are still pending,” said an official of the department of social justice.Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) member Fr Phillip Parakkat said a large number of Pocso cases were pending trial and in many cases the accused were acquitted as the prosecution had no substantial evidence recorded in many cases. “Justice for the sexual abuse victim remains a far cry, because, in many Pocso cases, the accused get acquitted either because he is influential or the victims or the witness turn hostile due to coercion,” commission member Meena C U pointed out. According to police, of the 7,909 criminal cases registered till July 2016, 910 pertain to rape of women. In 2015, 12,383 cases of crime against women were registered including 1,263 rape cases. In addition, 1,156 cases of sexual abuse of children were registered from across Kerala under the Pocso Act till July this year. In 2015 as many as 1,569 cases of crime against children were registered by Pocso cell. The officials indicated that around 4,000 cases were pending prosecution….  (Times of India 17/9/2016)

366 children in Rajasthan ‘divorcees’, says census (14)

JAIPUR: At least 366 children between 10 and 14 years in Rajasthan are ‘divorcees’, according to a Census report on marital status. The report also points out that there are 3,506 ‘widowed’ and 2,855 ‘separated’ children within the same age group.The door-to-door survey identified the problems of separation, divorce and young widows in the state. It states that there are nearly 2.5 lakh and 13.62 lakh married persons in the age group of 10-14 and 15-19, respectively. As per the data, out of the 3.29 crore married persons across all age groups, around 4.95% of them are minors. “Divorce and separation are a direct fallout of atrocities by the family, demands of dowry , birth of a baby-girl, incompatibility and even extra-marital affairs. If the census enumerator were given the questions to find out instances of polygamy among minors, the results would have been shocking,” said Rajiv Gupta, former head of sociology department, Rajasthan University. The retired professor recalled his interviews with child bridesgrooms done for a research years ago. He said, “The life of a child who is divorced or widowed is worse than hell as she has to live with the stigma for years or forever.”A testimony to the prevalence of child marriage in India, the report sheds light on the failure of government schemes. Rajasthan sees mass child marriages on Akha Teej, and the government had started campaigns to discourage the practice. However, sociologists believe that the government needs a holistic campaign as child marriages are not restricted to Akha Teej. (Times of India 18/9/2016)

International meet in Delhi to discuss Child Rights (14)

New Delhi: A two-day international conference on Child Rights is being organised here which is likely see to see participation of 200 delegates from 14 countries. Union Minister of State, Women and Child Development, Krishna Raj is expected to inaugurate the two-day event which starts tomorrow.Being hosted by Caritas India, the event is themed ‘Change for Children, Children for Change’. The conference will have talks on malnourishment, mental health, trafficking, child labour, sexual abuse, access to education, among others. Film-maker Nagesh Kukunoor will also address the gathering on the role of media in building awareness on the issues of children. The event will also feature ‘Change Stories’, where children will narrate their personal journey as change-agents. (Business Standard 22/9/2016)

14 lakh children in Karnataka out of schools’ purview (14)

Bangalore Mirror Bureau: According to the 2011 Census report, these 14 lakh children included 1) those who had never been to school because they had to work; 2) children who dropped out of school and began to work; and 3) children who neither worked nor went to school. Children drop out of school for various reasons: financial difficulty, or because parents need an extra hand at work to add to the family income, medical reasons, or boredom, among other reasons. To address the complex problem of school dropouts, it is important to have a multipronged strategy, believe experts. It requires a variety of approaches and methods.Anitha Kurup, professor and dean of the School of Social Sciences, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru, says firstly, the state needs to come out of its denial, and acknowledge the issue. She takes the classic case of a rural school that has only a handful of students in various grades – say 30 altogether. Employing just one teacher to cater to all these students from different levels is wrong, because the educations needs of these students vary, and one teacher can’t possibly do justice to the diversity. “Handling children belonging to different standards requires different skills. Unfortunately, the current teacher training does not address this ground reality. That’s a fundamental flaw and the state has to address it,” she says.A sizable chunk of children who don’t or can’t go to school belong to migrant families who came to the city looking for work as labourers. The educational needs of the children of migrant labourers are often different from local students. For these children to stay in school, the educational institution needs to be ready to handle their needs, says Kurup. “In Karnataka, the assumption is that only children from neighbouring states come here. So there are Telugu, Urdu and Kannada-medium schools. But there are also a sizable number of children who come from the north and need Hindi-medium schools. Their needs must be taken into account too,” she says. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

Conduct special census of street kids, HC tells govt (14)

Mumbai: Expressing concern over the plight of street children, the Bombay high court on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra government to conduct a special census of such kids to secure their rights. Hearing a suo motu public interest litigation on children of women prisoners, a division bench of Justice Vidyasagar Kanade and Justice Swapna Joshi focussed its attention on street children. “How many children live on the streets across Maharashtra? (It is necessary) to carry out a census of such children,” said the judges, emphasising the need to ensure street children are take care of. “There is no record of their existence. A census will help them get a name and an identity. They will be able to vote. Their welfare can be monitored,” added the judges.Additional government pleader Hiten Venegaonkar informed the court there was another PIL pending before the HC on the issue of street children filed by K P Mustafa, municipal chairman of a town in Kerala. In that case, the court had last year had asked the principal secretary in the department of women and child development and the advocate general to convene a meeting of all concerned and suggest corrective steps and measures so that the problem of street children can be taken serious note of and dealt with, with their assistance. The court had also asked the police to create a special cell to take care of such children to ensure they are attended to in cases of ailments and if their parents are neglecting them. “If the children are used in activities like begging and drug peddling the children should be rehabilitated, but the parents have to be sternly and strictly dealt with,” the court had said. The HC has now directed that both the petitions be tagged together and scheduled the matter for hearing on October 17. “It is time to give a policy direction on the issue,” the HC said. Advocate Venegaonkar also informed the court that the state had decided to revise the assistance given to women convicts after their release from prison to Rs 25,000 from from Rs 5000. The court heard that hundreds of children were languishing in jails across the state with their mothers who were either under-trials or convicts. The judges asked the state to submit data on the children who were in jail with their mothers and those who had been abandoned as their parents were in prison. The judges asked, “How many children are in jails in Maharashtra? What facilities are provided are they provided to them? Are education facilities available for such children education. Is there a creche facility in prisons?” (Times of India 28/9/2016)

PMO seeks HRD reply on out-of-school kids (14)

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s office (PMO) has sought an explanation from the HRD ministry on a TOI report which cited census 2011 data to show that 8.4 crore children in the country do not go to school at all. Sources said the ministry may acknowledge gross under-reporting by government agencies which has resulted in the ministry having data on just a little over 60 lakh out-of-school children. “It is a fact that enrolment figures have gone up dramatically but variation in data raises serious credibility question,” an official said. At the same time, sources said, the HRD is also likely to point out the variation in definition of attendance in various surveys. While census surveys children in the age group of 5-17, under Right to Education, the age group of 6-14 is considered. The census looks at kindergarten/nursery/Montessori schools to senior secondary and open schools. NSSO looks at formal schools and Class I students. In both, no reference time period is given. If a child is not present on the day of survey, he is put in the out-of-school category. The ministry admits there are problems with data received from various states. A senior official gives the instance of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In 2013-14 in MP, when household survey began, it was found that enrolment figures had declined by nearly 20%. In Rajasthan, thousands of schools were found non-existent. (Times of India 29/9/2016)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

BJP MLC demands probe into attack on KP colony in Kupwara (7)

JAMMU: Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Surinder Ambardar on Thursday demanded a judicial probe into the stone-pelting incidents at the transit camp of Kashmiri Pandits in Kupwara on Wednesday. “The reports of a mob attack on the Nutnusa Kashmiri Pandit Migrant camp in Kupwara, Kashmir, are disturbing. I condemn it and demand a thorough judicial probe of the incident” BJP MLC Surinder Ambardar said. Earlier in July, Kashmiri pandit employees posted under the Prime Minister’s special employment package in Kashmir migrated to Jammu after their transit colonies in Vessu (Kulgam), Mattan (Anantnag), Nutnasu (Kupwara), Baramulla, Haal (Pulwama) and Sheikhpora (Budgam) were attacked as protests erupted in the Valley in the aftermath of militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing.Several Kashmiri Pandit organisations in Jammu came out in support of the community and condemned the incidents. Terming the incident of stone pelting a deep-rooted conspiracy to “halt” the rehabilitation of the community in the Valley, the All Parties Migrants Coordination Committee (APMCC) said the attack vindicates its stand that minorities were not safe in the Valley. “It’s a conspiracy of the separatists and others to halt the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandit community in the Valley, we want a proper probe a judicial enquiry into the incident,” APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit said.“The attack vindicates our stand that minorities are not safe in Kashmir, it also vindicates the stand of over 1600 employees from the community who have refused to return to the Valley to join their jobs after their transit camps were attacked,” he said. Another organisation of Pandits, Sampooran Kashmir, said the life and property of these community members working there were not safe. “We have extended our support to the protesting employees in Jammu and that nobody can force them to return to the Valley, where their life and property are not safe. We demand that the government of India and the State government immediately release the salaries of these protesting employees,” Anoop Kaul, chairman of the Sampooran Kashmir said. Reacting to the incident, King Bharti, president of the Citizens for Peace and Harmony, said minorities in Kashmir have become the major sufferers of the ongoing unrest that was triggered after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. Mr. Bharti demanded that the State government to immediately release a compensation of Rs.5 lakh to each employee whose residence was attacked and looted by the mob during the unrest. “Failure to put balm on the wounds of the Kashmiri Pandit community would force the entire community to come on roads.” (The Hindu 2/9/2016)

78 benefit from mortgage-free loan scheme (7)

New Delhi: Seventy-eight students have benefited from the Delhi government’s mortgage-free loans under the Higher Education and Skill Development Scheme since its launch last year. The scheme provides mortgage-free loans of Rs 10 lakh to students. To secure the loan, students do not have to put up any collateral or margin money. Students enrolled in a recognised diploma or degree programme after finishing a qualifying examination from any school or educational institution in Delhi are eligible under this scheme. According to the government, students have availed the loan for pursuing BTech, MTech, BA LLB, BA, diplomas and courses offered by the World Class Skill Centre, which has been started by the Delhi government in collaboration with the government of Singapore. Under the scheme, students are charged a maximum of 2 per cent more than the base interest rate and are given a window of 15 years to repay the loan. The scheme covers all government institutions/universities and constituent colleges of Delhi University, private/self-financed institutions with NAAC/NBA ratings of A/B, ITIs and polytechnics. The AAP government had announced the education loan scheme in June last year, fulfilling an election promise. In the Delhi Assembly last month, the government in reply to a question said at least 78 students benefited out of the loan scheme as per the Indian Bankers Association. Under the scheme for SC/ST/Other Backward Classes and Minorities, 14 students have been granted loans amounting to `60.91 lakh since the last fiscal year. (Asian Age 7/9/2016)

Biryani policing reaches national minorities panel (7)

CHANDIGARH: A civil rights activist from Delhi on Wednesday petitioned the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against the ‘biryani policing’ in Mewat ahead of Eid-ul-Zuha, or Bakri Eid. In his petition to the NCM, activist Shehzad Poonawala has questioned the intention of Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana and state cow commission chairman Bhani Ram Mangla to check beef in biryani being served by roadside vendors, terming the move to be communal and unconstitutional. On Tuesday, cow commission chief Mangla had directed Mewat superintendent of police (SP) and police officials of Palwal and Gurgaon to collect samples of biryani sold by roadside vendors in the Muslim-dominated areas of these three districts. “Isn’t the cow commission direction a move to put Muslims on the target of police under the garb of ‘biryani policing?’ Aren’t Muslims allowed to do business. Why have hotels and restaurants across Haryana been spared? Why at this particular time, when a particular community would be celebrating Eid, the government has decided to target them?” said Poonawala, while adding that such an initiative was totally against the secular character of India and a violation of the fundamental rights of the people living in Mewat. “Since NCM has its sitting every Tuesday, we are expecting the government and state cow commission to submit their reply next week,” he said.Poonawala also elaborated on the incidents wherein minorities had fallen prey to cow vigilantes and police in fake encounters. Meanwhile, undeterred cow, Mangla reiterated that Haryana had no place for those consuming or serving beef. “Though we have not received any notice so far, we are ready for any action, including criminal complaints to save the cow. We will submit our reply when asked by the NCM,” he said. “So far as our stand is concerned, we have collected samples and asked the laboratory in Hisar to submit its report as soon as possible. We will initiate criminal action in case beef is found to be in the samples collected so far,” Mangla said. (Times of India 8/9/2016)

SC and Minority outfits announce boycott of Azam Khan (7)

New Delhi, Sep 10 () A clutch of scheduled caste and minority outfits today announced the “boycott” of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan over his controversial remarks on B R Ambedkar while demanding an “unconditional apology” from him. The decision, taken by four organisations including the the South Asian Minorities Lawyer’s Association, was announced at a press conference here, where their representatives unequivocally condemned Khan’s remarks. “The Constitution of India, which acts as a safeguard for the rights of the oppressed, downtrodden and women, owes its origin to Ambedkar. Azam Khan is a politician who can go to any extent to remain in headlines,” Mehmood Pracha of South Asian Minorities Lawyer’s Association said. The other organisations, party to the decision to boycott Khan are Samata Sainik Dal, Anjuman-e-Hyderi and Bhagwan Valmiki Foundation. Khan, without naming Ambedkar, had recently said that “the statue (of Ambedkar) pointing its finger into the distance seems to say that not only does it own the plot of land on which it stands, but also the one towards which it points its finger.” Pracha said the statement reflects Khan’s mentality as it is he who “thinks about capturing plots and lands all the time”. Khan has crossed all lines of decency through such derogatory remarks, he said. So we have come together to punish and shame him. We will not let him enter the boundaries of Delhi. If he does, we will blacken his face. But we will not break any law and let it happen peacefully,” he said. (Times of India 10/9/2016)

Minorities top in divorce, Hindus below national average: Census (7)

JAIPUR: The divorce rate is high among Muslim and Christian communities in the state, and the lowest among Hindus, Jains and Buddhists as per the new Census report on Marital Status by Religious Community and Sex, 2011, released recently. While the Muslim community has seen a divorce rate of 2.5 persons per 1,000 married people, the same stands at 3.7 for the Christian community. Though Muslims have a high divorce rate, when it comes to separation, Hindus and Christians rank above them. For every 1,000 married Hindu persons, four have been identified as separated, while for Muslims, the separation rate is 3.6 persons. The separation rate is the highest among Christians, with 5.5 persons, which is well below its national average of 9.4. Notably, the divorce rate among Hindus in Rajasthan is lower than the community’s national average, which stands at 1.4 and 1.8 persons, respectively. While there are 2.92 crore married Hindus in the state, 23 lakh are widowed, 1.18 lakh separated and 31,196 divorced. In the Muslim community, there are 27 lakh married persons, 1.76 lakh widowers, 9,981 separated and 7,104 divorced persons. Expressing concern over the high rate of divorce, Mehrunissa Khan, a social activist, said, “The report has identified the problem. Soon, we will identify the reasons and work for a solution.”According to Mehrunissa, the main reason for the marital discord among Muslims is the disparity in the educational status, leading to compatibility issues. The low life expectancy among Muslims in the state also explains the lower number of widows, 63 for 1,000 married persons, compared to other communities. Hindus have 81 widows for every 1,000 married people, which is slightly less than the national average of 88. The Sikh community also has a high rate of divorce and separated persons with 2.2 and 4.9, respectively, for 1,000 married persons. In all the three parameters — divorce, separated and widowed — the state has scored less than the national average.Noted sociologist Rajiv Gupta attributed the low rate of divorce and separation in the state to the slow pace of industrialization and expansion of the service sector. “Regions which have industrialised quickly and seen a boom in the service sector have recorded high rates of divorce and separation. This happens as marital arrangements become difficulty when the two (industrialization and service sector) go in the upward direction. The low rates can also be associated with low literacy levels as we are living in a feudal culture where separation and divorce are still social taboos.” (Times of India 10/9/2016)

Draft National Edu Policy alarms minorities (7)

The draft National Education Policy (NEP), being framed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), seems to be ringing alarm bells among the minorities. The Committee for Evolution of NEP, constituted by MHRD under the chairmanship of T S R Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, has recommended that “the issue of extension of Clause 12 (1) ( C ) of the RTE Act to minority institutions needs a review. The Committee feels that the larger national obligations to meet the rights of economic weaker sections should extend to all institutions, including minority (religious and linguistic) institutions.” The MHRD, which came out with “some inputs for Draft National Education Policy,” has also echoed the high-powered panel’s view that “the issue of extension of Clause 12 (1) ( C ) of RTE Act to government-aided institutions (religious and linguistic) will be examined in view of larger national commitments towards the economically weaker sections.” Discussing the issue of 25 percent reservation for weaker sections and disadvantaged groups under the Right to Education Act, the Subramanian Panel suggests application of EWS Quota to religious and linguistic minority institutions. The panel notes that “minority (religious and linguistic) schools have been exempted from the RTE by the Supreme Court under Article 30 of the Constitution, as per the finding in Pramati Educational and Cultural Trust Vs Union of India. ” It goes on to add that “surprisingly, even aided minority schools have been given exemption; not surprisingly, there has been reportedly a marked increase in schools seeking minority status post this judgement!” This way, the panel virtually mocks at Supreme Court judgement pronounced by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising then Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F J I Kalifulla in May 2014. While upholding the RTE Act 2009, the bench, inter alia, had exempted minority schools, both aided and unaided, from the purview of the Act on the ground that minority schools could not be put under legal obligation to provide free and compulsory elementary education to children who were not members of the minority community which had established the school. “In our view, if the RTE Act is made applicable to minority schools, aided or unaided, the right of the minorities under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution will be abrogated. Therefore, the (provision of the) 2009 Act, which made it applicable to minority schools, is unconstitutional,” the bench observed. …  (Times of India 12/9/2016)

Bill amending Citizenship Act sent to parliamentary panel (7)

New Delhi, Sep 16 : A Bill amending the Citizenship Act has been sent to a joint parliamentary committee, an official statement said here on Friday. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in July, was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the Houses, under the chairmanship of BJP MP Satyapal Singh. The statement also invited views and suggestions from the public on the bill which has been uploaded on the Lok Sabha website for review. It asked people to indicate if they would want to appear before the committee. The Citizenship Act, 1955, provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired. The amendment would allow citizenship to undocumented Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. (New Kerala 16/9/2016)

Amarinder Singh calls Sidhu’s front ‘Tonga Party’ (7)

Chandigarh: Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Capt. Amarinder Singh on Saturday dismissed the proposed fourth front being floated by Navjot Singh Sidhu as inconsequential, saying that it seemed to have been propped up by the BJP itself. “It is like a tonga party of four people, two sitting in the front and two at the back — it will hardly have any impact,” he told reporters, while asserting that four people did not make a political party as it required much more than that. At the same time, he said, they were welcome to form a party as it was their democratic right. The PCC president promised to end the discrimination against the Christians and other minorities, saying that the Congress had always believed in equality of all religions and equal opportunities for everyone irrespective of the caste, creed or religion they belonged to. Addressing a Christian congregation, organised by ex-MLA Harpartap Singh Ajnala, he promised that once the Congress government came to power in Punjab, all the welfare schemes announced for the dalits and downtrodden, like the Shagun scheme or free power, will also be extended to the Christian community. Capt. Amarinder agreed that the Christian community in Punjab had been left behind and special measures were required to ensure that it got its due. He promised to end discrimination and ensure that they got everything to which they were entitled as citizens of the country. He also accepted a memorandum from the community which was read out from the stage by senior party leader and PCC general secretary Salamat Masih. He said each and every dema-nd would be included in the election manifesto, and aft-er the government’s formation, each and every commitment would be fulfilled. He added that the Congr-ess government would pass a law in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha that would enable nomination of a member of the community in the Vidhan Sabha on the pattern of Chhattisgarh state. He said that this would end to a large extent the discrimination being felt and faced by the Christian community in Punjab. (Asian Age 18/9/2016)

Plight of minorities in Pakistan discussed at UNHCR (7)

Geneva [Switzerland]: Martusciello highlighted Pakistan’s discriminatory laws against minorities and use of extremist groups as proxies to target minorities including the Christains, Hazaras, Ahmadiyas, Hindus and Balochs. He expressed deep concern regarding the growing intolerance in Pakistani society, a phenomenon aggravated by the actions of the Pakistan government. He added that the Pakistan government and the military establishment should realise that their policy to sustain and use extremist elements in its neighbourhood, with the intention of undermining these areas would, sooner or later, not only destabilise Pakistan internally but also spread to other parts of the world. Focusing on the issue of systematic persecution of the Baloch people in Pakistan, Mario Silva was of the view that Pakistan should be held responsible for the genocide against the Baloch people. He emphasised on the need for the international community to recognise and work towards resolving the crisis in Balochistan, adding that the matter had not been adequately addressed in the past. Referring to the wave of killings in the region, that included educators, journalists, lawyers and students, and the ‘Kill and Dump’ policy of the Pakistani security forces and intelligence, he stated that many of these people were killed for having spoken out against the on going persecution in the province. He concluded by saying that if the situation was not brought under control, it would result in the flight of minorities from Balochistan. This, he said, would be a stark failure of the international community to save the Baloch people. …  (New Kerala 22/9/2016)

Minorities panel writes to AIMPLB on oral triple talaq (7)

HYDERABAD: Alarmed at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s (AIMPLB) insistence on treating the controversial divorce provision of oral triple talaq in one sitting as valid, the State Minorities Commission (SMC) has shot off a letter to the Muslim panel urging it to change its opinion. The communication, which was addressed to AIMPLB president Moulana Syed Mohammed Rabe Hasani Nadvi, highlighted cases which the commission has registered of women who are victims of oral triple talaq and desertion even as it claimed that there are hundreds of other cases pending inquiry. “I request the Alarmed at the AIMPLB to declare unanimously, unilaterally and immediately before the Supreme Court passes any judgement that triple talaq will be considered as one in India and will not be considered as three and irrevocable (sic),” an excerpt from the letter reads. In the letter, SMC chairman Abid Rasool Khan cited interpretations of scriptures as recorded by Ibn Taimiyyah, a prominent 13th century Islamic scholar, ruled that three pronunciations of talaq in one sitting be treated as one pronouncement. The commission claimed that Muslim men have “misused” the provision of oral triple talaq. This, the minorities panel maintained, has led to a forfeiture of reconciliation between the husband and wife. “This (oral triple talaq) has resulted in a huge number of Muslim women being abandoned by their husbands who divorced them in a fit of anger or because of their ignorance about the way to divorce a woman (sic),” the letter reads.Another excerpt pointed out: “Today we have a huge social problem in the Muslim community where literally lakhs of women all over the country are suffering because their men have divorced them by pronouncing talaq thrice (sic).” The ulama (Muslim clergy) would be doing Muslim women injustice if they continue to bat for oral triple talaq, it claimed. The commission rued that instead of making marriages easy and divorces difficult, which it claimed is the spirit of Islam, Muslims in the country have done the opposite. When contacted, Khan said, “We have humbly clarified to the board that we are not asking it to do anything against the Sharia. We are only saying that Muslim men should give rights to women which are prescribed by Islam. We are afraid that this insistence of the AIMPLB could lead to the imposition of the Uniform Civil Code.” (Times of India 24/9/2016)

‘Progress Panchayat’ for minorities to be launched tomorrow (7)

New Delhi, Sep 28 () The Centre will tomorrow launch ‘Progress Panchayat’, an outreach campaign to create awareness about its programmes for the welfare of religious minorities and remove their “fear and misconceptions” about the NDA government. The campaign will be launched by Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (independent charge) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi from Haryana’s Mewat, which witnessed tension following the murder of a couple and gangrape of two members of the family allegedly by a cow protection group last month. The launch of the outreach programme comes a few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for empowerment of Muslims. “This is the first, unique and different kind of outreach programme launched by us, during which we will inform people about developmental activities in social, educational, health and infrastructural sectors and their employment,” he said. The ministry will also seek suggestions from locals on improving its programmes and functioning, the minister said. Naqvi attributed the “sense of fear and misconceptions” among minorities about the NDA government to “disinformation campaigns” launched by its political opponents and said the panchayat will help remove those too. “This (misconception) has been created by our political opponents who never talked about development of minorities,” the Union minister said. He asserted the outreach programme was not aimed at securing votes but implementing government’s developmental agenda. “Earlier, people from minority communities were cheated by merchants of votes. Now there will be no such business of votes, but an agenda of development to ensure welfare of the communities,” Naqvi claimed. Besides holding the panchayat, he will also inaugurate a 100-bed hostel building for girls at Hathni in Palwal and staff quarters at schools in Nuh and Nagina. He will also lay the founding stone for a model school in Chilwali. The Union minister will take part in a similar programme at Tijara in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on October 3 and is expected to attend a total of 100 such Panchayats in areas which have significant presence of minorities across the country. (Times of India 28/9/2016)

It is the duty of police to protect minorities: Lobo (7)

Vijayapura, Asserting that it is the primary responsibility of the police to protect minorities and prevent communal riots, J. R. Lobo, chairman of the Karnataka State Assembly’s Welfare Committee on Backward Classes and Minorities, has directed the police to book criminal cases against anyone who causes harm to minorities. He was speaking at a meeting here on Wednesday to review the status of the State government’s welfare schemes launched for minorities and backward classes in Vijayapura and Bagalkot districts. “The police must ensure that minorities feel safe and secure in the society…,” he said. On the occasion, Mr. Lobo directed the police officers to use preventive detention based on the situation in order to prevent untoward incidents. He also suggested to the police to obtain an undertaking from those who organise processions stating that they would be held responsible if any untoward incident occurs during the procession. Expressing anger over students residing in government hostels failing in their SSLC/PU exam, Mr. Lobo said that the government provides hostel facilities to poor students to create a better atmosphere to study so that they clear the exam. “What is the use of having the hostels if the students fail in the exam. It means the officials are not doing their job properly,” he said and warned of holding the officials responsible if the students residing in government hostels fail. Mr. Lobo also said that he was disappointed with the district administrations of both the districts for poor implementation of housing schemes in rural areas. On issuance of title deeds to the poor under the regularisation scheme, Mr. Lobo expressed unhappiness over the delay in issuing title deeds to the beneficiaries in both the districts. “The cases are pending before the authorities for the last two years in both the districts … this means that the deputy commissioners of both the districts are not doing their job effectively,” he said. He instructed them to clear the pending cases by the end of November and submit a compliance report to him. Mr. Lobo also expressed discontent over the delay in clearing land dispute cases pending before the tahsildars, assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners. “Most of the cases that come to the tahsildars are simple disputes which can be disposed off quickly … yet you are dragging the cases for years which makes the poor farmer suffer. Don’t keep the cases pending for long. Clear them within six months,” he said. (The Hindu 29/9/2016)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

At nearly 43%, Muslims have highest percentage of illiterates: Census (7)

New Delhi: Muslims have the highest number of illiterates at nearly 43 per cent, while Jains have the highest number of literates among India’s religious communities as over 86 per cent of them are educated. According to the Census 2011 data, Jains have just 13.57 per cent illiterate – aged seven years and above – among all the communities. The census has taken those between zero and six years as illiterate. The Muslims have the highest percentage of illiterates aged beyond seven years at 42.72. This number is 36.40 per cent for Hindus, 32.49 per cent for Sikhs, 28.17 per cent for Buddhists, and 25.66 per cent for Christians, according to the latest census figure on ‘education level by religious community’ for age seven years and above. As compared to 63.60 per cent of seven years-plus Hindus and 57.28 per cent Muslims in the ‘literate’ category, the percentage of literates among Christians is 74.34 per cent, among Buddhists 71.83 per cent and among Sikhs 67.51 per cent. Jains have the highest percentage of educated members who are graduates and above. At 25.65 per cent of Jains who have minimum graduation as qualification, they surpass by far the corresponding numbers for other communities, which are 8.85 per cent for Christians, 6.40 per cent for Sikhs, 6.18 per cent for Buddhists, 5.98 per cent for Hindus and 2.76 per cent for Muslims. The overall literacy rates among all communities have gone up since 2001. The percentage of those literate among Hindus is up from 54.92 per cent in 2001 to 63.60 per cent in 2011, while the corresponding rise for Muslims is 48.05 per cent to 57.28 per cent.For Christians, the number rose from 69.45 per cent to 74.34 per cent, for Sikhs from 60.56 per cent to 67.51 per cent, and for Buddhists from 62.16 per cent to 71.83 per cent. Among the Muslims, just 2.76 per cent are educated till graduation level or above, only 0.44 per cent have technical or non-technical diploma, 4.44 per cent are educated till higher secondary level and 6.33 per cent till matric level. The highest number of literates in the Muslim community are at the primary level (16.08 per cent), followed by 14.32 per cent at below primary level and 9.73 per cent at middle school. In comparison, Hindus have 11.83 per cent of their members educated below primary level, 15.11 per cent till primary level, 11.27 per cent till middle school level, nine per cent till matriculation and 6.62 per cent till higher secondary. (Business Standard 1/9/2016)

Kerala police probe Islamic preacher who advises ‘shun non-Muslims’ (7)

Chennai: POLICE AND intelligence officers in Kannur of North Kerala are probing an Islamic preacher after some his speeches, which have gone viral on social media, have shown him advising Muslims to shun non-Muslims. Shamsudheen Fareed, 42, runs a madrasa in Kannur where he teaches the Qur’an to some 20 students besides delivering speeches across the state. Fareed is also a UGC lecturer but has been suspended from an Arabic college in Malappuram after being arrested in 2012 on charges of sexually abusing one of his students. He dismisses the charges as false, “foisted on me for campaigning against Muslim extremist organisations like SIMI and Jamaat-e-Islami”. A senior police officer in Kannur said they have collected and are examining all of Fareed’s speeches. “His speeches are slightly provocative,” the officer said. “Even if the speeches do not advocate attacks on non-Muslims, they clearly warn believers that being part of a ‘pluralistic society’ is un-Islamic. In his speeches he advocates that Muslims should not participate in the religious festivals of non-Muslims, that they should not become close to non-Muslims, that they should not follow local calendars with a religious tradition, and that they should avoid living in areas populated by non-Muslims.” The officer said legal aspects of the case are being examined. “It is at a very preliminary stage. We have spoken to people who are close to him,” the officer said. Fareed follows neo-Salafism, a school of thought based on a puritanical idea of Islam of resisting western values because these allegedly “make people non-believers”. He said he had not made hate speeches but was stressing the importance of the Islamic way of life for believers. He also drew a line between his ideals and those of Islamic State. “Islam doesn’t agree with the Islamic State kind of attacks. Leading a Salafi life, I am against IS as well as SIMI elements, those who support Jamaat-e-Islami and Sufis who follow polytheism through dargahs,” Fareed told The Indian Express. Yet, he added, “We are also against the idea of Muslims living a secular life, forgetting the values of Islam, and merging with or adapting to the practices of kafirs. I spoke against Onam or Christmas celebrations because they have a religious and ritualistic context. Engaging in such festivals would be un-Islamic.” Like Zakir Naik, whose speeches too are being probed, Fareed calls on believers not to celebrate birthdays and Christmas or follow such “western” or religious practicices. …  (Indian Express 5/9/2016)

Muslim women’s group demands complete ban on Shariah courts (7)

New Delhi: A Muslim women’s group on Tuesday demanded a complete ban on Sharia (religious) courts, saying they can’t be allowed to function as a parallel judiciary in the name of mediation, conciliation, speedy and less expensive justice. In an affidavit, the Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality, which has petitioned the Supreme Court against arbitrary triple talaq, also demanded that organisations such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA)“should be abolished to save the country and Indian Muslims from the clamp of fundamentalists/ activists having the ideology similar to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and his organisation Jamat-ud-dawa (JuD).” “Some people and NGOs are misusing the freedom given by the constitution. They want to keep Muslim education in Muslim extremist’s hands, entirely free from the government control,” the affidavit said. The affidavit comes days after AIMPLB defended the practice of triple talaq, saying it’s better to divorce a woman than kill her. The government told the Supreme Court that it would file its response to the petitions against triple talaq in four weeks. The AIMPLB, a non-governmental institution that oversees Muslim personal law, also said the Muslim law gave husbands the power to divorce as they were emotionally more stable. “Shariah grants the right to divorce because men have greater power of decision making. They are more likely to control emotions and not take a hasty decision,” the board said in an affidavit. Triple talaq, under which a Muslim man can repeat the word talaq thrice to divorce his wife, violated women’s right to equality, several women have told the Supreme Court. The affidavit of Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality filed through advocate Farha Faiz said: “There should be a complete change in madarsas education system and a Muslim university under government supervision is the urgent need to impart religious as well as worldly education to the Muslims.” It accused Muslim clerics of creating a gulf between country and Muslims and brainwashing Muslims who always faced a dilemma “whether the country is above or the religion”. The affidavit blamed vote bank politics, especially by Congress governments, for the plight of Muslims. Accusing Congress governments of dumping people in favour of clerics or fundamentalists, it said they never encouraged Muslims to integrate. India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance. While Hindu law overhaul began in the 1950s and continues, activists have long argued that Muslim personal law, which has remained mostly unchanged, is tilted against women. To end the confusion over personal laws, the court has been advocating a uniform civil code, a political hot potato. The AIMPLB said constitutional provision on uniform civil code was not enforceable. (Hindustan Times 6/9/16)

India Muslim women ‘raped’ in fatal attack ‘over beef’ (7)

An Indian woman has said that she and her 14-year-old cousin were gang raped and two relatives murdered, after being accused of being Muslims who ate beef. The woman, 20, told the BBC that four men carried out the attack in northern Haryana state two weeks ago. She denied consuming beef. She said the men beat her uncle and aunt to death in their home in Mewat. Many Hindus consider cows sacred and the slaughter of the animal is banned in several states, including Haryana. The suspects have been arrested and charged with rape and murder. However police have told reporters that there is no evidence to suggest that cow protection groups were involved in the attack. Although the alleged rape took place two weeks ago, news of the incident has only just come out. “They [the accused men] said that we ate cow meat and that is why we were being disgraced [raped]. They even threatened to kill me and my family if we ever told anybody what happened to us,” the woman told BBC Urdu.Muslim-dominated Mewat district, 100km (62 miles) from the capital Delhi, recently made headlines after a senior official told reporters that police would check dishes of mutton biryani to ensure they did not contain beef. The latest attack has increased tensions. Rape and gender crimes have been in the spotlight in India in recent years after the brutal gang rape and murder of a student in 2012 in Delhi. In response, tough new anti-rape laws were introduced in the country. However, brutal sexual attacks against women and children continue to be reported across the country. (BBC News 12/9/2016)

Record Muslim students chase civil service dream (7)

Mumbai: Mohammed Saleh Munaf Batlawala, 23, wants to improve the representation of his community in civil services by becoming an IPS officer, a tough career choice that an increasing number of Muslim students are now zeroing in on. Their ambition is being fuelled by a promising effort by the city’s madrassas and Muslim educational institutions to create a learning ecosystem for the community’s youth. Just a year after the centres announced free coaching classes, the number of civil-service aspirants from the community has jumped drastically, in the city and state. The centres — which help students prepare for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam and its state equivalent, MPSC — have received hundreds of applications for the 2017 batch. Universal Education Centre in Mumbra, for instance, is reviewing over 300 applications for a batch that can accommodate 60 to 70 students. It will conduct an entrance test to select the candidates. “Last year, 68 students from Thane and adjoining areas studied at the centre. This time we have been overwhelmed by applications,” said the organisation’s chairman, Dr Mohammad Hanif Ansari. “The entrance test has been scheduled for September 18. It has been designed on the lines of the UPSC preliminary examinations. We will issue a cut-off list after the test and admit candidates to our programme.” Darul Uloom Faizane Raza madrassa in Goregaon, which also runs a free coaching programme, has also seen a surge of interest. The number of students there has gone up from just six to 36 this year. “The response is phenomenal. Most students from the community either lack awareness or have no access to coaching. We help them prepare for the prelims and the main exams and also work with them on personality development for interviews,” said the madrassa’s founder, Mufti Mohammad Manzur Ziyaee. The poor presence of Muslims in important government postings — Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service and state equivalents — has been a major concern for years now. Last year, over 1,000 candidates cleared the final UPSC exam, out of which, only 36 (about 3 per cent) were Muslims. According to the Mahmoodur Rahman Committee’s report on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Maharashtra, only 4.4 per cent of the community’s population holds government jobs. In 2012, there was not a single Muslim candidate in the entire IAS cadre from the state. But central and state governments and educational trusts have been making efforts for the past few years to improve minorities’ representation in civil services. “Very few people from the community are in civil services at this point, which needs to change. I am preparing for the coaching centre’s entrance exam scheduled for the next week. Once I get through, I will start my actual preparations for UPSC,” said Batlawala, a third-year BA student at Kalsekar College. He has applied at Universal Education Centre. Chembur resident Imran Ansari, 29, has been preparing for UPSC exams for over a year with the support from the Goregaon madrassa. He missed the UPSC cut last year by a slim margin.Sahare Alam, who teaches history and general studies at different coaching centres in the city, said the number of people applying for admission to the classes had shot up over the past two years. .. (Times of India 14/9/2016)

Maha housing society bars sale of flat to Muslim man (7)

MUMBAI: Eleven residents of a Vasai housing society with 16 flats have objected to the sale of one of the flats to a Muslim family. At a meeting on September 4, the residents also passed a resolution to keep Muslims out of the building inhabited mostly by Gujarati-speaking residents. Two Muslim families who live in the society were away when the meeting was held. The decision, supported by the majority of the members of Happy Jivan Co-operative Housing Society, was communicated through a letter to Kantaben Patel (55) and her son Jignesh Patel (32), who wished to sell their flat to Muslim glass merchant Vikarahmed Khan and his family. Signed by 11 members, the letter stated, “It is learnt that you intend to sell your flat to some Muslim guy. We feel that you should not do so…” The Patels were also advised to sell their flat to “any other person, preferably within our community”.The Patels have now shot off letters to the sub-registrar of housing societies, as well as police with complaints about the society’s “high-handedness”. The Patels had finalised the sale of their 710sqft first-floor flat to Khan (35), who has already paid a token sum of Rs 1 lakh. Khan had sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the society to apply for a loan. “We decided to sell our flat to Khan as he offered the price we quoted. Now the society is refusing to give an NOC,” Jignesh said.The society’s secretary, Jeetendra Jain, told TOI that the decision to not allow Muslims was supported by the majority of the members. “The residents of the first floor, where the Patels stay, have an issue with non-Hindus. We will sort out the issue.” The first floor of the society has five flats, all owned by vegetarian Gujarati families. A few residents said the families did not want non-vegetarians around. Khan, who owns a glass showroom in Vasai, said he had faced such rejections before as well. (Times of India 17/9/2016)

Gujarat: Muslims barred from garba events in Bharuch (7)

Surat: The organisers of two garba events in Gujarat’s Bharuch district have decided not to allow Muslims at the venue after protests from the VHP. The Bharuch unit of the VHP opposed two garba events which also have Muslims as their organisers. The VHP members handed over a memorandum to district collector, seeking to ban Muslims at the event over “security” and “law and order” issues. The organisers of the first event, a real estate group which also has a Muslim partner, Tuesday said it will check the identity of ticket seekers for the event which is scheduled to be held in October. The real estate group’s partners include: Jaydeepsinh Raj, Jasu Patel and Asif Patel. They are organising a mega garba event at Dudhara dairy ground in Bharuch. Among those invited to the nine-day event, “Raas-e-Bharuch”, include actors Jackie Shroff and Zarine Khan.The second event is being organised by Shehzada Shaikh, a social worker, in partnership with two others from the majority community whose names he did not disclose. This event is scheduled to be held at Sonal party plot on College Road. Jaydeepsinh Raj, organiser of “Raas-e-Bharuch”, said, “We partnered with Asif Patel because he has good relations with Bollywood celebrities. Because the VHP is opposing the event, we removed our original banners (for the event) and put up new ones which do not have Asif’s name on them. We have also contacted two private security agencies — one from Bharuch and another from Ahmedabad — for deployment of security personnel on the garba grounds. We will not issue or sell passes to Muslims and the tickets will be given to participants only after they show an identity card. We have also applied for police permission and it will come shortly.” Viral Desai, VHP joint secretary (south Gujarat), who is based in Bharuch, met Bharuch District Collector Sandip Sagale, along with other VHP members, and handed over a memorandum, demanding not to give permission to Muslim organisers of the garba event in the town. … (Indian Express 20/9/2016)

Court issues notice to govt on ‘kangaroo courts’ in TN (7)

CHENNAI: A PIL has brought to light the functioning of several hundred ‘courts’ run by advocates and religious heads at many mosques. Calling them kangaroo courts that follow neither sharia nor regular law, the PIL said hundreds of divorces are granted whimsically and they dabbled with property disputes as well. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan has issued notices to the Tamil Nadu home secretary, director-general of police and city commissioner of police on the matter. When the PIL, filed by Abdur Rahman, an MBA-holder from the UK, came up for admission on Wednesday, his senior counsel A Sirajudeen said it had been filed to safeguard the interests of a large number of innocent Muslims who were silently suffering because of the functioning of Makka Masjid Shariat Council and similar forum across the state. “Because of illegal functioning of the council, the family systems of a number of Muslim families have collapsed and hundreds of spouses suffer the ignominy of separation because of their poverty,” the PIL said. By its name and by various publicity methods, the council has created an impression in the minds of local Muslims that it had been functioning in accordance with Sharia and all its orders and judgements were religiously binding upon Muslims and they were also legal, the PIL said. The council has an elevated dais for the presiding officer just as in courts and the presiding officer wears robes like judges, but in different colour, it said.”Muslims facing family disputes are strongly and religiously encouraged to approach it by giving their complaints and on receiving them, the council would send ‘summons’ and also call the opposite party over phone. Under the name of religious injunction, the parties are forced to appear before it,” Rahman said in his petition. Narrating has own experience, Raman said though he too believed it was an authentic forum and approached it with a plea to reunite with his wife, the council forced him to sign a letter stating that he was willing for talaq and that talaq was pronounced.Though the Supreme Court has declared such entities as illegal, the number of disputes entertained by the council had exceeded a few hundreds every year, as was evident from the case number given to the Rahman’s petition, the PIL said. He has now approached the family court for an appropriate remedy, he said. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Housing society ‘sorry’ for denying flat to Muslim (7)

Mumbai: In a first, a housing society has apologised for its discriminatory behaviour. The Vasai-based society, which had prevented a woman from selling her flat to a Muslim family, issued an apology letter on Tuesday to both the buyer and seller. It also gave an NOC allowing the flat to be sold for Rs 48 lakh. Society secretary Jitendra Jain handed over a letter to Wiqar Hamid Khan, who wanted to purchase the flat, which had the signatures of all 11 members of the Happy Jivan Co-op Housing Society. “Hamare dwara yadi aapki bhawna ya anney kisi bhi vykati ko thes pahunchi ho to ham sab iske liye aapse aur sabse kshma prarthi hai. (If you or anyone felt offended because of us, we are sorry to you and everyone),” the letter reads. The society’s residents summoned Mr Khan and handed him the letter while the latter invited them to visit his home for Id.The society’s members told Mr Khan that they wouldn’t repeat their mistake, as they were ashamed of the incident. Presently, Mr Khan, his wife and three children reside at Sai Nagar in Vasai. He is engaged in the glass business. Kantaben Patel wanted to sell her 710-square-foot first-floor flat to Mr Khan for `48 lakh. Mr Khan had said that he had paid Ms Patel Rs 1 lakh as a token amount and he told her he would get a bank loan to purchase the house when he received the no-objection certificate. Mr Khan and Ms Patel then applied for the certificate, but the society failed to issue the document. When Ms Patel inquired, she received a resolution that was signed by 11 society members, which stated that Ms Patel could sell her flat only to someone from her own community, and not Mr Khan. Irked by this, the woman and her son lodged a police complaint on Friday. Acting up on the complaint, the Manikpur police arrested the society members on Monday morning. They were released on bail on the same day by the Vasai court. (Asian Age 21/9/2016)

Muslims no tool for votes, PM Modi says (7)

KOZHIKODE: Contending that the definition of secularism has been distorted, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invoked Jan Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay to say that Muslims should be treated as “your own” rather than seeing them as “items of vote market”.Addressing the BJP council meeting here, he said his government’s mission of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ is not a political slogan but a commitment to ensure welfare of the last man in the society. In his speech, Modi spoke at length about secularism, balanced and inclusive growth and need for electoral reforms while paying tributes to Upadhyay on his 100th birth anniversary. “These days, the definition has been distorted. Even nationalism is cursed these days,” he said. While talking about life and contribution of Upadhyay, Modi quoted him as saying, “don’t reward nor rebuke Muslims. Empower them. They are not items of vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own.” At the conclusion of the two-day BJP conclave here aimed at making inroads in Kerala, the Prime Minister traced the party’s journey from the days of Jan Sangh and asserted that “we never compromised with our ideology”.He said if the BJP had compromised with the ideology, it could have attained power long back. Underlining that nobody is a “pariah”, Modi said the whole society should feel pain if one person is hurt like a human whole body feels pain if any part is injured. “This is the direction of our politics. Nobody can be an outsider for us,” the Prime Minister said. He said his government’s efforts in developing the eastern part of country was driven by the party ideologue’s concept of integral humanism because if the western India develops and the eastern India lags, then “Mother India can never be healthy”.He stuck to his themes of development and uplift of the poor and marginalised sections, saying his government had been committed to “sabka saath sabka vikas” (With everybody, development for everybody) and that the man at the bottom of society should be at the centre of developmental schemes. ….  Times of India 25/9/2016)

Muslim clerics up against Uniform Civil Code (7)

HYDERABAD: Muslim clerics, religious and political figures late on Sunday night came down heavily against any attempt at introducing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). At a well attended public meeting “Against UCC and Protection of Sharia Conference” in Khilwat grounds, organised by the Seerat-un-Nabi Academy, a religious organisation, speakers said that the Muslim community will not accept an imposition of the UCC. Former member of Rajya Sabha Obaidullah Khan Azmi, who was active during the Shah Bano controversy, was invited to speak. Addressing the gathering, he accused the right wing organisations of dividing the country. “The British left. But they left behind the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh ,” he said adding that Muslims could expect little from the Narendra Modi government. He lashed out against the slogans of gharwapsi and love-jihad. Addressing the youth in particular, Azmi said that in 1986, he had warned the Rajiv Gandhi against the UCC. Describing the UCC as a dead issue, he said, “Dr B R Ambedkar was told that Muslims would never accept a common civil code. He [Ambedkar] knew that only a mad man would introduce UCC. He therefore clarified that it is not mandatory.” Those who are enemies of the country will impose a UCC, he claimed. Citing articles of the Constitution, Azmi said, “Nobody can interfere in the religion and religious practices of any person. This is a secular country. What is a secular state? And why is secularism being tarnished?”Maulana Fazlullah Qadri, prominent Muslim cleric from the Islamic seminary Jamia Nizamia, described oral triple talaq as a “bandooq ki goli” (bullet). He said that divorce is frowned upon in the scriptures. Asserting that Muslims will come to defend the “faith” if it is challenged, Mufti Ziauddin Naqshbandi, another cleric, said that any move to interfere in Muslim personal laws will not be tolerated. “When there are so many differences in cultures across the country, how will they impose UCC?” City president of the Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind, a pan-India socio-religious organisation, said that the move to impose UCC, is an “old trick”. This, he added, will be opposed. Also present were Jamia Nizamia chancellor and former AP State Wakf Board Member Syed Ali Akbar Nizamuddin Hussaini, Shiite cleric Raza Agha and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator Ahmed Pasha Quadri, among others. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to roll out govt’s Muslim outreach plan from Mewat (7)

New Delhi: Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is all set to travel to Mewat Thursday to hold his first “Progress Panchayat” in a Muslim area as part of the government’s plan to reach out to the minority community.  information about welfare schemes to the common people. The government will also, through these meetings, take suggestions from people for utilisation of funds meant for their development.“The first meeting is in Mewat, the second in Alwar on October 6. I plan to hold about 100 such panchayats — an initiative of the Ministry of Minority Affairs and respective state governments — in the coming days. I will initially go to Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam and West Bengal, states that are not poll-bound. This is similar to Mission Empowerment initiative that we had undertaken in 2015, when I had toured 22-23 states, but here there will be interaction with the masses and not just prominent people,” Naqvi told The Indian Express. (Indian Express 29/9/2016)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

Woman teacher hacked to death inside church (7)

Thoothukudi: N. Francina (24), a school teacher, was hacked to death inside St. Peter’s Church on Santhai Road here on Wednesday morning and she died of her injuries in the Thoothukudi Government Medical College Hospital. The incident occurred around 8.30 a.m. when Francina was praying in the church near the school where she was working, sources said. A man believed to be in late twenties, attacked her, reportedly with an aruval (a type of billhook), and fled the scene. The woman was severely wounded on her head and shoulders. A person sporting a red-coloured T-shirt ran out of the church after the incident, a parishioner told The Hindu. Police personnel attached to the Thoothukudi South station inspected the scene of crime. CCTV cameras installed at two places inside the church gave clues to the police and when the police zeroed in on the attacker, he was found hanging at his residence on Marakudi Street. The culprit, identified as J. Keegan (27), has been following the victim for the past six months. He is believed to have taken the extreme step as Francina rejected his proposal, say police sources. The victim, a resident of Indira Nagar on George Road, was about to get married in September first week. She was about to get relieved from the school on this day, sources said. (The Hindu 1/9/2016)

Hundreds head to Rome for Teresa’s canonization (7)

Kolkata: As many as 350 people from Kolkata will witness Mother Teresa’s canonisation at the Vatican on September 4. From the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, from singer Usha Uthup to laypersons, will be present at the ceremony, to be part of history. As part of the official team from Kolkata, superior general sister Prema of Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa started in Kolkata in 1950, and archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza will lead a delegation of 200 people. Another group of 150 Catholics from the city will also travel to Italy for the canonisation and later take on a pilgrimage tour of the holy shrines in Italy and the Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Mamata’s retinue is likely to include some well known faces from Bengal’s cultural world. A team of enthusiasts from Kolkata, led by photographer Kounteya Sinha, who have volunteered to hold photography exhibitions across the streets of Rome and the Vatican to showcase before the world the sights of Kolkata, has already reached Rome. Usha Uthup, who was among the brightest stars from the 1960s-1970s live music scene in Kolkata, recounted her 47-year-long association with Mother Teresa. She told reporters before leaving for Rome on Tuesday that her journey was an emotional one as she would sing two songs during the official ceremony at the Vatican. “I’ll sing The poorest of the poor, a song I wrote and sang after Mother Teresa passed away. The other song is Lakh, lakh, hazaar, hazaar which talks of how she inspired millions,” Usha said. (Deccan Herald 2/9/2016

CNI gets right to worship in historic Jaipur church (7)

JAIPUR: After a protracted legal battle lasting 14 years, the Church of North India (CNI) has obtained ownership rights and right to worship at the historic 137-year-old All Saints’ Church located at a prime location here. A district court has recognised the church as a CNI property, with its priest to be appointed by the Diocese of Rajasthan. Additional District Judge Neeraj Kumar has dismissed a suit filed by the self-styled All Saints’ Church Society claiming the right to conduct the affairs of the church. Thirteen parishioners had formed the society in 1989, while claiming ownership of the church building, the school run by the church and the graveyard situated opposite the Raj Mahal Palace. The CNI organised a take-over ceremony along with a Mass at the Church last Sunday, where Bishop Waris K. Masih from Ajmer performed the holy rituals and expressed happiness over the outcome of the litigation. He noted that all rights over the church and its allied institutions had been restored to the CNI. Diocese of Rajasthan secretary, Lt. Col. R.K. Sen, told The Hindu on Wednesday that the CNI had appointed Sandeep Hizikel as the new presbyter-in-charge of the church. Taking advantage of an interim order passed by the Rajasthan High Court, the All Saints’ Church Society had arrogated to itself the right to appoint the priest to conduct religious services and burials and occupied various properties. Lt. Col. Sen said the society did not even allow burials in the cemetery. The CNI contended in the court that the church and its entire properties belonged to it, as it was functioning as the largest body in North India, running churches, educational institutions, hospitals, orphanages, old people’s homes among others. The district court pronounced the judgment last week after the High Court passed an order for time-bound hearing and decision. Unpleasant scenes were witnessed during the Mass on Sunday, as some members of the society created disturbances and staged a dharna. “There was no physical brawl, but we gave a strict warning to the intruders. We have taken the church in our control and expect to conduct prayer services peacefully in future,” said Lt. Col. Sen. (The Hindu 8/9/2016)

City Catholics to celebrate Mother Teresa’s sainthood  (7)

Nagpur: A special prayer and programme is being organized by Catholic community of the city to celebrate canonization of Mother Teresa. Giving details of the event to be organized on September 11, archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur told media on Friday, 12 Catholic churches of the city have come together to celebrate this event which will begin at 3pm at Shanti Bhavan, Katol Road, at the institution run by Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa. “The sisters at Shanti Bhavan were keen on such a celebration,” the archbishop said. “A procession will be taken out from Katol Road to SFS church, Mohan Nagar, in which priests, nuns, members of the Catholic community and people who admired Mother will take part. This will be flagged off by Sudhakar Deshmukh, MLA from West Nagpur.” A special Holy Eucharist will be held at the church by the archbishop at the SFS church in which prayers will be offered for the development and well-being of Nagpur city and its people. Priests and religious heads of other communities are expected to be present at this event. A public function will be held at 6pm at the SFS Cathedral compound which will be attended by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union minister Nitin Gadkari. They will unveil a statue of Mother. This will be followed by a cultural programme, a film based on the works and life of Mother will be shown and a PowerPoint presentation will be given on her achievements and rewards. “Persons who are connected with Shanti Bhavan and regularly make contributions to it, and students of SFS School will be presenting these programmes,” he informed. Inviting people from all communities to participate in these events, the archbishop who was in Rome for the canonization on September 4 said, “Lakhs of people from different parts of the world who were her admirers had come for the ceremony. So I hope people come in large numbers on Sunday too, as Mother worked in India.” The parking arrangements for the event have been made at SFS School compound. (Times of India 10/9/2016)

3 attacked for distributing religious books (7)

Navi Mumbai: A pastor and two members of a church were attacked by a group of men who objected to their distributing printed pamphlets in Kharghar and in Taloja on Friday.One of those who were attacked is a woman who has claimed she was verbally and physically abused by the men. Another complainant identified only as Sachin has stated that he sustained severe injuries after he was kicked and punched. Sachin has been admitted to a hospital. The third person, pastor Prashant Bhatnagar (45), was allegedly abducted in a car and taken to an isolated place near Taloja prison where they allegedly pointed a firearm and threatened to kill by setting him ablaze if he distributed the literature.Former vice-chairman of Maharashtra Minorities Commission, Abraham Mathai, said there was a 24-hour delay in registering a criminal offence at Kharghar police station. The unidentified accused men have been booked for rioting and for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings . “This is a grave criminal act to assault a peaceful group so badly and to threaten them with a gun. The police must book and arrest all the culprits in this case,” said Mathai. Attempts to contact senior inspector Dilip Kale of Kharghar police station proved futile. (Times of India 19/9/2016)

Bombs, stones thrown at church in Lakhimpur Kheri (7)

Agra: Country-made bombs and stones were thrown into a church in Lakhimpur Kheri district Saturday night, police said. Some bike-borne men reportedly threw the “sutli” bombs and stones at Christ Church in Kotwali police station area. The bombs landed inside the church. One of them exploded, damaging window panes and furniture. According to the church authorities, Sunday mass was performed on the pavement as people were “afraid” to go inside. SP City (Lakhimpur Kheri) DM Chaudhary told The Indian Express that something that “looks like a bomb” was thrown inside the church. “It’s a mischievous act. We have sent the object for testing to verify its kind and intensity,” he added. “We have lodged an FIR against unidentified men under Section 295 of IPC (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion) and Explosives Act. Interrogation is being done to identify the accused,” said SHO Kotwali Ramveer Chaudhary. According to Sureel Loyal, the church’s property officer, two bombs were thrown inside the church around midnight. He alleged that the police did not respond to their calls, prompting them to call the local MP and MLA. “We mentioned in our complaint to the police that we made multiple calls to 100 and the SSP’s official mobile phone from 7 am to 9 am, but no one responded,” he added. Ajay Mishra alias Teni, BJP MP from Lakhimpur Kheri, said,“I called up the SSP and DM and ensured action. I will meet the Father tomorrow,” he added. (Indian Express 19.9.2016)

Church to hold Dalit Kalaivizha (7)

ERODE: The Church of South India will organise Dalit Kalaivizha (cultural festival) in all of its dioceses, said Sunilraj, director, Adivasi and Dalit Concerns, CSI Synod, here. Mr. Sunilraj said this amid the euphoria generated by display of cultural performances by Dalit troupes and adivasi communities at the CSI Ground here. The loud beat of drums to the accompaniment of synchronised movements by the performances on the stage had sections of responsive audience gyrating in excitement. Others alternated their attention between the stage and the performers among the audience. At a point when the beats of Paraiyisai Mulakkam on the stage reached the crescendo, a few priests, too, joined the excited sections of the audience in shaking legs. The audience had a visual feast of Oyilattam, Silambattam, Thudumbattam, Kaliyalattam, and Malayaga Kalaigal: performances by members of Paniya and Toda tribes. Addressing a large gathering, Mr. Sunilraj said the awareness created by such events will be channelised to strongly convey sentiments of oppressed communities to the policy-makers. Bishop of Coimbatore Diocese Timothy Ravinder, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavam, the chief guest for the event, and other speakers expressed concern over the lopsided system that denied Dalits their due in society. Though Dalits have begun to shine with their academic accomplishments, there was a large population that could not be brought to the forefront for emancipation, they said. The priests committed the continued support of the CSI for empowering Dalits. (The Hindu 20/9/2016)

Chief Minister has promised adequate funds for welfare of Christians, says MLA (7)

BALLARI: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has promised to allocate additional funds for the educational needs and social and economic welfare of Christians, according to Ivan D’Souza, MLA and Chairman of Christian Development Commission. Participating in “Arivu”, a programme organised to create awareness among Christians about government schemes and facilities made available to them to pursue their education and for social uplift, Mr. D’Souza said that he met the Chief Minister to underline the need to enhance allocation to the commission for social, economic and educational development of Christians. To this, the Chief Minister assured him of allocating an additional grant of Rs. 100 crore, if the allocated funds had been utilised within six months. He said that the Union and State governments had been extending financial assistance for the development of Christians and underlined the need for its proper utilisation. He also underlined the need for earmarking 40 per cent of the allocation for Christians in Hyderabad-Karnataka region. To help the unemployed undergo training to crack the Civil Services exams and also for skill development, he urged the State government to set aside Rs. 50 crore. He was all praise for the State government for positively responding to the welfare needs of the community by announcing various schemes, including scholarships for students to pursue higher education, housing loans, subsidy to drill borewells under the Ganga Kalyan scheme, among others, and exhorted the community to take full benefit of the schemes to develop socially, educationally and economically.He also wanted the officials concerned to distribute pamphlets to create awareness among Christians in the taluks and rural areas to know about and take advantage of the schemes, besides ensuring that the eligible were not deprived of the benefits. (The Hindu 22/9/2016)

India’s anti-Christian massacre carefully planned – activist (7)

The untold atrocities that Christians in eastern India’s Odisha state were subjected to in 2008, are the result of careful planning by Hindu nationalist groups of the “Sangh Parivar” network at the highest level, an Indian journalist and rights activist told the media on Thursday, alleging illiterate masses of militants were manipulated by propaganda and incited to kill.  Thanks to the investigation carried out by Anto Akkara, “one can rewrite the history of Kandhamal”, the district in Odisha where the atrocities were concentrated. Violence rained down on ‎Christians ‎with ‎untold savagery, with Hindu extremists ‎blaming the August 23, ‎‎2008 assassination of ‎Hindu leader ‎Swami Saraswati Laxmanananda on Christians, ‎despite Maoist rebels ‎claiming the murder. ‎ Seven innocent Christian men were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 over the murder. Presenting his latest investigative book entitled: “Who killed Swami Laxmanananda ?” at a press conference in Odisha capital, Bhubaneshwar on Sept. 22, Akkara said, “it is a disgrace for the nation and the judiciary that seven innocent Christians are in prison for a crime they did not commit”.   Akkara denounced the sentence “without any proof” as an authentic “travesty of justice”. The Supreme Court has yet to set a date for the appeal, “but the alleged Christian conspiracy against Hindus is totally unfounded”, noted the journalist. Akkara explained how the anti-Christian violence was orchestrated to pave the way for the victory of Hindu nationalist groups and the BJP in the 2009 elections, which was ultimately won by the Congress Party.  Akkara also lamented that the National Commission for Human Rights has not even issued a statement on Kandhamal in eight years.  He said that the “seven innocent Christians in prison are a stain on the judicial system of the country”, and “Kandhamal remains a blot on the face of Odisha and Indian secularism”. (Vatican Radio 23/9/2016)

 ‘Denial’ of priesthood to Dalit student takes a new turn (7)

Sivaganga: The prolonged agitation by Dalit Christians against ‘denial’ of priesthood to Dalit theology student G. Michael Raj took a new turn on Monday with the Tamil Nadu Untouchable Eradication Front (TNUEF) taking up the issue with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sivaganga. After Devendra Kula Vellalar Munnetra Sangam and Dalit Christians Federation fought in vain, the TNUEF took up the issue and led a procession of Dalit Christians to the Diocese here on Monday, seeking to find a solution to the raging controversy. After the Diocese offered to discuss the issue, the TNUEF dropped its demonstration plan in front of the Diocese and held talks with a three-member team, led by the Vicar General of the Diocese. The Dalit Christians were represented by K Samuel Raj, General Secretary, TNUEF and CPI (M) District secretary Kandasamy. “The Vicar General was receptive to our grievances and agreed to take up the issue with the Bishop,” said Mr. Samuel Raj. Later, it was decided to resume next round of talks with the Bishop on a day to be informed by the Diocese, he told The Hindu . Dismissing as false that Michael Raj was denied priesthood on disciplinary grounds, the TNUEF leader said the denial was part of a larger conspiracy to prevent Dalits from Devendra Kula Vellalar community from becoming priests in the Diocese. This was clear as the Bishop had reportedly offered priesthood to Michael Raj, outside the Diocese, he added. The Diocese, however, maintained that Michael Raj, the theology student of St Paul’s Seminary in Tiruchi, was removed from the seminary in the fourth year along with five others on disciplinary grounds. As he had not completed the course, the question of his ordination as priest did not arise, it said. (The Hindu 27/9/2016)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Tibetan refugees in Arunachal claiming ST benefits (13)

ITANAGAR: Claiming that many Tibetan refugees settled in Arunachal Pradesh have been claiming benefits of the scheduled tribe (ST) status under false pretences, Arunachal Civil Society (ACS), an NGO, urged the state government to cancel their ST certificates.Arunachal shares a long and disputed border with China and is claimed by the country as Southern Tibet. In a memorandum to CM Pema Khandu on Tuesday, ACS alleged that Tibetan nationals have been entering the state in the guise of businessmen. “It is difficult to distinguish Tibetan refugees from the local Monpas, Sherpas or Sherdukpens as all groups share religious and ethnic similarities,” ACS said.”The state government should immediately constitute an expert committee to study the Tibetan refugee issue,” it added.The ACS further demanded that the Arunachal government initiate immediate steps to identify each and every tribe living in the Himalayan state and abrogate the vague term ‘Any Naga Tribe’ used in the Constitution and the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986.”Even after 30 years of attaining statehood, the numbers and names of tribal communities have not been exactly identified. The Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986, lists only 12 tribal communities in the state. Moreover, tribes like Tangsa, Nocte, Wanchoos, Tutsa have been clubbed together under the head ‘Any Naga Tribe’,” the organization said.”This vague term has allowed our neighbour Nagaland and National Socialist Council of Nagalim to include eastern Arunachal within its vision of Nagalim or Greater Nagaland,” ACS added in its memorandum. (Kangla online (1/9/2016)

Schools to educate children of migrant workers (13)

COIMBATORE: As many as 25 students, all aged between nine and 14 years, are studying at a special school at Annur. Their parents are labourers from Maharashtra and are employed here. Another special centre at Thondamuthur has 35 students, who are all from Assam. Their parents work at the arecanut farms. They come to Coimbatore only for some months in a year, when the parents will get jobs in the farms. In an effort to give basic education to the children of migrant (from other States) workers, when they are in Coimbatore, the National Child Labour project has started centres at Annur, Thondamuthur, and Thamaraikulam in the district. Children of migrant workers usually do not go to school though their parents are employed at industries and farms here. This includes workers employed at brick kilns in Dharapuram and knitwear units in Tirupur. Coimbatore and Tirupur districts have 31 special centres run by NCLP for rehabilitation of rescued child workers. About 350 students in these centres are children of workers who are from other States. The children are from seven States, including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, and Bihar. The children from Assam will be here till March or April. They go to another State after that and come back to Coimbatore when their parents will get jobs at the farms. They are now into the second year at the special centre and can understand Tamil. Teachers who can speak to the children in Hindi are employed in some of these special centres. The students will get monthly stipend as other rehabilitated child workers. “We are opening bank accounts for these children so that the benefits from the Central Government are credited to their account directly. The NCLP gives an authorisation letter as many of them do not have any identity document,” said an official of NCLP here. In a move to educate children of workers from other States, the NCLP is identifying areas where there are more number of migrant workers. Awareness among parents needs to improve on sending these children to the special centres. Industries that employ these workers should talk to them or help the workers enrol the children in the schools or special centres nearby, he added. (The Hindu 2/9/2016)

UN: Fighting displaces 100,000 in central Syria in 8 days (13)

BEIRUT: Intense fighting between Syrian government troops and insurgents in Syria’s central Hama province displaced some 100,000 people over eight days between late August and early September, the U.N. humanitarian agency said. Earlier this month, insurgents pushed northward in Hama province, surprising government troops and dislodging them from areas they controlled around the provincial capital, also called Hama, including a military base and towns and villages near the highway to Damascus. The offensive, led by an ultraconservative Islamic group, Jund al-Aqsa, and also involving several factions from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, incurred an intense government bombing campaign that killed dozens of people. The fighting and the aerial bombardment sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for safety, creating the latest wave of displacement, part of a pattern that has left nearly half of the Syrian population displaced since the war began in 2011. In a “flash update” on Tuesday, OCHA said figures from a camp coordination group show nearly half of the displaced from Hama arrived in the neighboring rebel-held Idlib governorate. Others fled toward government-controlled Hama city, where four mosques were converted into temporary shelters, OCHA said. Dozens of schools in rural areas of Hama province were also turned into shelters. A shortage of shelter space means many displaced families are sleeping outdoors in parks in Idlib, the U.N. agency said. Most of those fleeing left towns and villages in government areas as the rebels advanced. They feared a violent government response to the insurgent offensive, according to Ahmad al-Ahmad, an activist from Hama. “Wherever the regime is driven out of an area, it ends up destroying it,” he said in a text message to The Associated Press. In at least one airstrike last week, government warplanes struck a van carrying displaced people fleeing Suran, a town north of Hama city, activists said. The government says it is targeting “terrorists.” OCHA said the United Nations has sent an “inter-agency convoy with life-saving supplies to Hama” and was evaluating the humanitarian situation. An estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war, now in its sixth year. Of those, 4.8 million are refugees with nearly 7 million displaced internally. In London on Wednesday, Syrian opposition leaders unveiled a plan for a political transition designed to bring an end to the war. It called for the departure of President Bashar Assad after six months and for elections to be held after two years. The High Negotiations Committee envisaged a three-phase plan, beginning with six months of negotiations with Assad’s government to develop a signed agreement on the “basic principles” of the transition process. This would be followed by the establishment of a transitional government body and the departure of Assad “and his clique,” according to HNC chief Riad Hijab. The HNC called for U.N.-supervised elections to be held 18 months thereafter. Hijab conceded there were formidable obstacles hindering the implementation of this plan. (New Indian Express 7/8/2016)

Registered Afghan refugees can stay in Pakistan till March 2017: Government (13)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal cabinet has granted an extension of stay to registered Afghan refugees in the country by three months. The permits will allow these refugees to live in the country till March 31, 2017. “The cabinet while deliberating on agenda item on Extension of the Proof of Registration (PoR) Cards and Tripartite Agreement in respect of Registered Afghan Refugees approved the extension till 31st March 2017,” Dawn quoted the statement issued by the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office. In June, the Pakistan Government had extended the stay of Afghan refugees till December 31, 2016. This is reportedly the third extension in the deadline since the decision was taken last year following the Army Public School tragedy to repatriate the remaining Afghan refugees by December 31, 2015. Reports suggest that around three million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan, half of whom are unregistered. (New Indian Express 10/9/2016)

Lankan refugees demand protection (13)

PUDUKOTTAI: They alleged that some anti-social elements, allegedly armed with arms, were causing panic. Although it had been brought to the notice of the police, no concrete action had been taken to protect them. Some unidentified persons had attacked five persons including Kamalanathan, president of the camp, with ‘aruval.’ The injured had been admitted to the Government Hospital here. The refugees wanted round-the-clock protection to be extended to the camp. Enquiries with the police revealed that some rivalry in trade caused the problem. One of the refugees, Ganesan, had recently started a ‘biriyani’ stall in the area causing heartburn to another private stall run by a local resident. Enraged over the competition, the local trader had been picking up quarrel with Mr. Kamalanathan, who supported Ganesan. (The Hindu 12/9/2016)

Official: US goal to take in 110,000 refugees in coming year (13)

Washington: The United States will strive to take in 110,000 refugees from around the world in the coming year, a senior Obama administration official said today, in what would be a nearly 30 percent increase from the 85,000 allowed in over the previous year. The increase reflects continuing concern about the refugee crisis stemming from Syria’s civil war and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet it’s still far short of what advocacy groups say is needed to address an unprecedented crisis that saw some 1 million people pour into Europe alone last year. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the numbers before an official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. Secretary of State John Kerry had previously suggested that the US target would climb to 100,000 in the coming year, but that the figure was a floor, not a ceiling. He briefed lawmakers on the revised figure yesterday. The 110,000 goal covers a 12-month period that starts next month. In the 12 months ending September 30, the US goal was 85,000, and in the three years bManage Categories+ efore that, the target was 70,000 per year. The White House has tried to emphasize that the refugee program is safe and doesn’t pose a major threat to national security. That concern was heightened last year after terrorist attacks in European cities, including some connected to people who had spent time in Syria. Officials said that potential refugees would continue to be subject a rigorous screening process that typically lasts more than a year and involves both in-person interviews and examination of biographical and biometric information. The announcement comes two weeks after the US announced it had met President Barack Obama’s goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees despite early skepticism that it would reach its goal. Millions of Syrians have been displaced by a civil war that has killed roughly half a million people. Republican governors have pushed back vehemently and tried to refuse to let them into their states, leading to a clash with the administration, which has maintained that states can’t legally bar refugees who otherwise meet the criteria. The administration did not release a breakdown of how many refugees would be accepted from specific countries in the coming year. The US has tried to encourage other countries, too, to increase their contribution to alleviating the refugee crisis. The official said increasing the US target this year reflected that strategy and Obama’s belief that all nations need to do more to help the neediest. (Deccan Herald 14/9/2016)

Number of South Sudan refugees passes one million – UN (13)

New York, Sept 16 : As instability and violence persist in the world’s newest country, the number of South Sudanese seeking safety and shelter in neighbouring countries has crossed the one million mark, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday. Most of those fleeing South Sudan are women and children, Leo Dobbs, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told the press at a regular briefing held at the UN Office at Geneva. They include survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or travelled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care, he added, noting that more than 185,000 people fled the country since fresh violence violence erupted in capital, Juba, in early July, just ahead of the fifth anniversary of the countrys independence. According to the agency, with this sombre milestone, South Sudan is now the fourth country in the world with more than one million refugees. The other three are Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. In terms of numbers, Uganda (373,626) accounts for the largest share of South Sudanese refugees. More than a third of them arrived since the most recent violence broke out. Ethiopia (292,000) and Sudan (247,317) are the second and third largest hosts to people fleeing South Sudan. Smaller numbers have also fled to Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR), since July. About 300 people a week have been crossing into Kenya, which now has over 90,000 South Sudanese refugees. Some 40,000 refugees are estimated in DRC. The UNHCR spokesperson further reported that the new arrivals spoke of increased fighting and attacks by armed groups that kill civilians, loot villages, sexually assault women and girls, and recruit young boys. Many refugees arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water. Many children have lost one or both of their parents, some forced to become primary caregivers to younger siblings, he noted. …  (New Kerala 16/9/2016)

West Pakistan refugees meet Jitendra Singh, demand action against Pakistan (13)

New Delhi, Sept 19 : A delegation of West Pakistani Refugees, led by its President Labha Ram Gandhi, met Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Jitendra Singh here on Monday and demanded action against Pakistan in the wake of yesterday’s Uri attack resulting in the martyrdom of 18 Indian soldiers. In a meeting lasting over 45 minutes, the members of delegation said that they are among the earliest victims of Pakistan hostility towards India and have suffered injustice for nearly seven decades since the time of partition. They said, as true patriots, while they have constantly suffered for their genuine rights, they also feel extremely distressed by the losses suffered by Indian brave hearts. While appreciating the sentiments of the members of delegation, Jitendra Singh assured them that whatever future strategy the Government of India decides, it will be in the best interest of the nation and in keeping with the expectations of over 125 crore people of India. Recalling the meeting which Labha Ram Gandhi and his team had with the All Party delegation that visited Jammu on 5th of this month, Jitendra Singh assured them that the Union Government is seized of their concerns and a mechanism is being worked out to address them. Labha Ram Gandhi, while speaking to media after the meeting, appreciated the keen interest conveyed by Jitendra Singh in the redressal of their grievances and for the meetings arranged by him between them and the officials of Union Home Ministry. In addition to issue relating to SC / ST / OBC Certificate, Labha Ram Gandhi said that because of the refusal to accept them as citizens, they were also denied the benefits of several Central Government schemes like Laadli Beti,among others. (New Kerala 19/9/2016)

Bangladesh to work with Myanmar on Rohingya issues: Hasina (13)

NewYork: Bangladesh, which has over 500,000 Muslim Rohingyas residing in its refugee camps, has said it is looking forward to working with Myanmar to find a permanent solution to the issue. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said this in her address at the UN General Assembly ‘Leaders’ Summit on Refugees’. In her address at the summit hosted by US President Barack Obama, Hasina said she was ‘already in touch’ with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Press Secretary to the PM Ihsanul Karim was quoted as saying by bdnews.24. The two countries have a dispute over Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Hasina told the summit that Bangladesh, with its limited resources, has been hosting the 500,000 refugees for nearly three decades, which she said poses many social, economic and political challenges for the country. She, however, said her government will keep investing in their security, health, education and skills. Bangladesh plans to provide identity documents for refugees from the neighbouring country, Hasina said, adding it will help them to get services like health and education. Urging the international community to remain engaged on the issue, Hasina said, “As part of our commitment to leave no one behind, we must promote orderly, safe, regular and responsible mobility of people.” (Business Standard 21/9/2016)

Years later, migrants still socially excluded: Report (13)

PANAJI: Despite living in the state for a number of years, migrants from the lower economic strata continue to face social exclusion and discrimination, a research study conducted across 305 households in 14 slums in Goa found. “Even though 38% of the people have been residing in Goa for over 16 years and even fall in the domicile category, they continue to be considered as outsiders by Goans, thereby facing social exclusion,” the study ‘Walking The Tightrope- Exploitation of Migrant Children in Tourism in Goa’ stated. Migrants not only endure harsh working and living conditions but are also subjected to the wrath of local people. “They face heightened levels of discrimination in every aspect of life. They have been driven from their homes to unknown places in search of a means of earning a livelihood with the hope of having a better future for themselves and their children. Lacking skills and assets, most migrants end up in the unorganized sector, with significant numbers employed in tourism. A child by the virtue of being born into these families, faces the risk of being pushed into exploitative situations. This vulnerability is intensified as they grow older, as the state does not have proper processes and systems to ensure that their safety is assured and that their rights are upheld,” the study states. One of the migrants, reacting to the Baina demolition and eviction in September 2015, said migrants clean gutters, toilets and work at construction projects to make a living and that Goans should take up these jobs if they don’t require them and if they want to keep Goa clean and the construction work going.Residents of Syed Nagar are concerned about Bihari migrants in their village while in Navelim people say their village has become a ‘mini Rajasthan’. Although an integral part of society, migrants are seen as a necessary evil. When there was a rise in the number of dengue cases in Cutbona, these were blamed on migrants. “Goans believe that it is the migrants who live in the bastis, especially from the lower economic status-primarily from the SC, ST and OBC communities- that are responsible for many of the negative impacts of tourism in Goa. They are blamed for drugs, sex work, taking away job opportunities and polluting the Goan identity and culture. An underlying feeling of resentment towards the migrant people is very strong within Goans,” the study states. Alito Sequeira who taught sociology at Goa University said migrants do not compete for the jobs that natives want but are targeted because they are the weakest socio-economic group. The study has called for attitudinal change towards migrant people where multiple stakeholders including civil society organizations, churches, temples, committees, local authorities, law enforcement, bureaucracy and politicians come together to recognize their contributions so that they can live a life of respect and dignity, availing of the same rights and privileges as any citizen of the country. (Times of India 21/9/2016)

‘We’re victims of our own exodus,’ riots refugees condemn NHRC Kairana report (13)

MEERUT: Liaqat Ali, who now lives in Kairana, remembers how he barely made it out of his village alive. Three years ago, a mob made its way into Shamli district’s Bawri village and chopped off his foot. He later limped to Kairana because he thought of it as an “oasis of communal harmony” during a time of conflict. Ali these days tackles his disability while trying to earn a living for his family, but the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report on an alleged “Hindu exodus” has him worried. Days after NHRC blamed worsening law and order on riot-displaced families who settled in Kairana in 2013, Ali said the uprooted lot were “victims of their own exodus”. Liaqat is not alone in all this. Other families told TOI that far from being “criminals”, they were only trying to rebuild their lives. NGOs working for the rehabilitation of riot-refugees in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli also hit back at NHRC and said there were no gangs being operated by riot-refugees. “I live with my wife and five children in Kairana now. Only we know how we survived the massacre. They (the mob) entered our house and hacked my right foot off. We managed to get out of the village alive but that incident changed my life forever. I now ride a rickshaw in Kairana for a living but I don’t get that many passengers,” Ali said. “I heard about the report which said that riot-refugees are criminals. It is far from the truth. What crime will we commit? We are the victims here.” The NHRC report vindicated the stand of Kairana’s BJP MP Hukum Singh, who had claimed that 250 Hindu families had fled the town due to fear from members of “another community”. Mohammed Nadeem, a riot-victim who settled in neighbouring Kandhla, said, “Our family used to live in Lisarhi village in Muzaffarnagar district. Back in the village, I owned a motorcycle repair shop. We weren’t crorepatis but we lived a comfortable life. Everything changed after the riots. We were forced to flee the village on the night of September 7, 2013. That was when the violence was at its peak. I don’t even know what became of my shop. We don’t have the time to join gangs. We have to feed our families.” (Times of India 25/9/2016)

Wary eye on Bangla border, Assam’s ethnic groups fret over citizenship bill (13)

Guwahati: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that proposes citizenship for migrant religious minorities (non-Muslims) from three countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — has run into opposition in Assam, a state where immigration from Bangladesh drives most of the politics and provided the key plank from where the BJP rode to power. On Thursday, two days before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament closes receiving views and suggestions on the bill, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) got leaders of 28 ethnic groups and nine ethnic literary bodies to jointly oppose the Bill, which proposes to grant citizenship to such migrants even if they do not have the documents usually required. The AASU’s contention, endorsed by leaders of the 37 organisations, is that the bill once passed would open floodgates for more migration to Assam, which in turn would further threaten the very existence of the indigenous people. “It goes against the very spirit of the Assam Accord of 1985. It also contradicts the Supreme Court’s view that unabated migration from Bangladesh amounted to external aggression of Assam and was the main reason behind internal disturbances,” AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya said at the end of a three-hour meeting of leaders of these organisations. “Assam accepted all those who came from East Pakistan and Bangladesh till March 25, 1971, purely on humanitarian grounds. These migrants have already seriously affected Assam’s demography and economy… This bill will only add to Assam’s already heavy burden.” After Home Minister had introduced the Bill in Parliament on July 19, the Opposition compelled the government on August 12 to refer it to the JSC, headed by Satyapal Singh. On September 7 last year, the government had issued a notification saying Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis facing persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh and entering India without valid documents would be allowed to stay in India. The 37 ethnic bodies said the bill would contradict the Centre’s commitment in the Assam Accord of constitutional protection to the indigenous people of Assam. “Moreover, the Supreme Court directed the Ceentre in December 2014 to start a dialogue with Bangladesh to streamline the process of deportation of the illegal migrants,” said Kamalakanta Mushahary, general secretary of Bodo Sahitya Sabha. Pramod Boro, president of the All Bodo Students’ Union, said, “All ethnic communities of Assam have been struggling to survive in the face of large-scale migration from Bangladesh. Hasn’t New Delhi seen this?” … (Indian Express 29/9/2016)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Law students to assess govt departments’ transparency (1)

NEW DELHI: Law students will be engaged by the Centre to suggest ways for improving transparency and accountability in the governance through effective implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), nodal authority for implementation of the RTI Act, has decided to give internship to students pursuing law courses to assess voluntary disclosures by various central government ministries. “The primary goal of the scheme is to contribute towards more accountable and transparent government and it has several components including programmes for awareness generation, training and e-governance initiatives for RTI for achieving the purpose,” the DoPT said in an order issued today. The programme will help the ministry or department consolidate and document its experience in the implementation of RTI, its successes, constraints in implementation, identify the areas which need more attention, address the gap areas and suggest what more needs to be done to help achieve the objectives of the Act. “The interns would be familiarised with the process of seeking information and enabling access to information under the RTI regime,” it said. The RTI Act, 2005, which was enacted by the UPA government, empowers a citizen to seek a time-bound reply on information related to the governance. The applicants would analyse the applications to get an overall picture and do an in-depth study of the information sought and the response by the public authority… (Times of India 1/9/2016)

RTI reveals Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana falls short of target (1)

BALANGIR: Even as the State Government has set a target to complete more than 90,000 houses under Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana (BPGY) during 2015-16, Balangir district has failed to meet the target during the last three years. A recent RTI reply revealed that out of a target of 942 houses in 2013-14, the district had completed construction of 883 projects. In 2014-15, the Government had set a target to construct 1,883 houses at an estimated cost of Rs.1.41 crore, but the district had utilised Rs.1.23 crore and completed 1,647 houses. With a poor track record of fund utilisation, the district has completed construction of 2,651 houses out of targeted 4,426 houses in 2015-16. The BPGY is an election promise of the ruling BJD intended to convert all kutcha houses into pucca houses within a period of five years. Similarly, implementation of Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) has fallen way behind the target. The performance report on the Centrally-sponsored scheme states that out of targeted 7,249 houses, the district has so far completed 3,014 houses. “The State Government has set a target to build 2.6 lakh houses under the newly lunched Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) and BPGY. But the Government has put up a dismal show in the report card,” said Sankar Panigrahi, convener of district RTI forum. Sources said earlier, each household was entitled to get `75,000 for construction under IAY. But from this year onwards, each beneficiary will get `1.35 lakh for construction of 20 sq m house. (New Indian Express 2/9/2016)

Real-time RTI through email, SMS: Report (1)

New Delhi: Citizens will now get real-time updates on any complaints or appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, reported the Economic Times on Monday. The report added that the Central Information Commission (CIC) would now function akin to an e-court.According to the report, from next week, the CIC will start utilising a new software. The software will ensure that hearings are faster and more convenient, the report added.Once the new software is online, the report said, an RTI applicant will receive a registration number and get an alert over his or her email and mobile phone as soon as an appeal or complaint is filed. Subsequently, the case will immediately be electronically transferred to the concerned information commissioner’s registry. This new system, the report said, will cut down the time taken by the whole process from a few days to a few hours. Further, with the new system in place, an RTI applicant will be alerted regarding the date of hearing through an automatic SMS and email, the report said, adding that the applicant concerned will also get an email in advance which will contain the records submitted by him or her to the CIC and the submissions by the government in the concerned case.According to the report, not only will the new system make the process faster and efficient for the CIC, it will also mitigate issues like loss of case files and non-registration of cases. Further, according to the report, the information commissioner concerned will receive background information regarding the specific case and details about the appellant upon opening the case file. Speaking to ET on the matter, a senior CIC official said: “We would know if he has more appeals pending. This could facilitate hearing of multiple appeals of the same person on a given day. It would directly impact pendency as more cases would be disposed in a day.” The CIC, the report added, has already scanned and converted 150,000 files into electronic files. (Business Standard 5/9/2016)

ACB wants govt. to keep it out of RTI Act ambit (1)

BENGALURU: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has written to the government seeking permission to be exempted from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The request was made a few months ago and was a step toeing the Central Bureau of Investigation and the State Criminal Investigation Department, which are out of the purview of the RTI Act. K.V. Gagandeep, Additional Director-General of Police, ACB, said it was very unlikely for the State government to give the green signal for their request. Apart from this request, another one pending government sanction is the permission to conduct investigation into cases against government officials in which preliminary investigation has been completed. Mr. Gagandeep was addressing mediapersons here on Wednesday to announce searches in the offices and homes of three government officials. The ACB sleuths searched the house of Srinivasa Reddy, Deputy Director, Commerce and Industries, Chintamani, Chickballapur district, and his office in Kolar; house of Sampath Krishna, Deputy Director, Mines and Geology Department, at R.T. Nagar here and his office in V.V. Towers; and house of G.T. Srinivas, second-grade clerk, Chickballapur Taluk Office. “We seized documents, and investigation is on,” said M.A. Saleem, Inspector-General of Police, ACB. About the luxury watch case involving the Chief Minister, he said they were awaiting information from the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate. (The Hindu 8/9/2016)

RTI filed against Kapil Sharma for destroying mangroves (1)

MUMBAI: An RTI has been filed against comedian Kapil Sharma alleging that mangroves were destroyed during his office construction. The complaint filed by RTI activist Asad Patel was registered in the Versova Police Station. The police are currently investigating the matter. Rajkumar Laxman A. Rajhans, advocate of Patel in the application said his client stated that no action has been taken against Kapil Sharma and his hirelings for illegal construction, encroachment, illegal eco-destruction, destroying and theft of mangorves and debris dumping. “Hence it is submitted that immediately strict action be taken under Section 378  of Indian Penal Code, 1860, The Forest Act, 1927, Environment Protection Act 1986. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, as per directions of the Bombay High Court in conservation of mangroves matter, against Mr. Kapil Sharma and his hirelings by arresting them and the place may be seized, sealed immediately….” the application read. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had earlier on Friday threatened Sharma to prove bribe allegations against BMC officials or face action. Kapil Sharma has claimed that he was asked to pay a bribe by a BMC official for his new office that is under construction. BMC vigilance chief engineer Manohar Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have both responded to Sharma and assured that they are looking into the matter. Pawar asked Sharma to make a formal complaint and name the officer who demanded bribe from him and the Chief Minister responded to his tweet asking for the name. (New Indian Express 10/9/2016)

After a year, RTI activist gets Governor’s flight expenses (1)

Bengaluru: It took an RTI activist almost a year and an appeal to the President of India’s office to get details about Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala’s flight expenditure. When T. Narasimhamurthy finally got the information, he learned that in the last 20 months, the governor had spent nearly Rs 2.89 crore. The activist had filed an RTI application on August 21, 2015, seeking information about the air travel expenditure that the Governor had incurred. “They did not give me the information within 30 days as is mandated by the RTI Act. I filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority and was called for a hearing on November 9, 2015,” Mr. Narasimhamurthy said. The Authority dismissed the appeal stating that a special leave petition was pending before the Supreme Court of India. He filed a fresh application on June 17, 2016, and simultaneously filed an RTI with the President of India seeking details about Karnataka Governor’s air travels. The governor’s office sent a reply on July 4 citing the same special leave petition on whether the governor’s office comes under the purview of RTI. Meanwhile, the President of India’s office also sent a reply saying that the papers were transferred to Karnataka Chief Secretary. “I received all the details from the Karnataka government on August 29,” Mr. Narasmihamurthy said. (The Hindu 11/9/2016)

RTI query on pellet guns rejected (1)

New Delhi: An RTI query with the Kolkata-based Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), seeking information about the sales of pump action guns, related ammunition, and their efficacy as a riot-control weapon, has been turned down on the grounds that the information sought is “sensitive defence information” that could prejudicially affect the security interests of the nation. The application, filed by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a New Delhi-based human rights NGO, comes in the wake of debates over the use of pump action guns, also known as pellet guns, by security forces during the recent turmoil in Kashmir. Anti-riot arms and ammunition used by paramilitary forces and state police organisations are manufactured by units under the control of the OFB. However, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the OFB turned down the RTI request under section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, which exempts sensitive defence information. Also invoked was section 8 (1) (d) of the Act, which exempts trade secrets, intellectual property or commercial confidence that could “harm the competitive position of a third party” from disclosure. Mr. Nayak said: “The queries were only about weapons and ammunition used against citizens within the country. Even this information has been denied without showing how India’s ‘security interests’ would be prejudicially affected. It is also not clear which third party’s interests is being protected here, since I had sought information on weapons sold by units run by the OFB, which is a public authority as per the RTI Act.”Two of the queries in the RTI application pertained specifically to the “12 Bore Pump Action Gun” though, according to media reports, a different variant of the pump action gun may be in use in the Kashmir Valley.The RTI application also sought official records that describe the “physical characteristics and specifications of all weapons and related ammunition manufactured for the purpose of riot control” as well as their “wholesale price and maximum retail price”. “There is a clear public interest in knowing how much money has been spent on these weapons since they are manufactured with taxes paid by Indian citizens, for use against Indian citizens — not against external enemies,” said Mr. Nayak. “Strangely enough, the OFB’s website contains detailed specifications of mortars, 155mm guns, machine guns, grenades and rocket bombs. How come there is proactive disclosure about specifications of defence equipment but not of anti-riot weapons used against citizens within the country?” (The Hindu 16/9/2016)

NGO wants to evaluate corporators through RTI (1)

MUMBAI: Instead of waiting for political parties to publish their progress reports ahead of the BMC elections, Marathi Abhyas Kendra, an NGO, has published a book, My Ward-My Corporator, to encourage citizens to come out and evaluate the work done by their civic representatives through the Right To Information (RTI) Act. In a pilot project, the RTI wing of Marathi Abhyas Kendra obtained information about MNS corporator Hemlata Wange and the work done by her in the last four years.Anand Bhandare, a member of the group and resident of Wange’s ward, said, “The report is a product of seven RTI applications and the information available on the BMC website. Getting information through RTI is an easy thing but it requires a lot of patience on the part of the applicant. We want people to replicate it to understand the work done by their corporators.” The report said that the the MNS corporator has not tabled a single resolution at the civic general body. The corporator was evaluated in the 296 meetings. Her attendance came down to 39% in March 2016 from 56% in April 2012. In special meetings held too, Wange is learned to have initiated a resolution to name a lane as Abhyas Galli. As far as funds are concerned, 27% of funds remained unutilized, while Rs 1.55 crore has been spent of footpath renovation, the NGO’s report said. (Times of India 20/9/2016)

Official refuses RTI information 24 times, fined Rs 2.29 lakh (1)

Bengaluru: Despite being the Public Information Officer (PIO), he repeatedly failed to furnish information sought by several applicants. An official has been fined a staggering Rs 2.29 lakh for failing to give information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act in 24 separate instances. He paid Rs 1.45 lakh of the fine but still refused to furnish information. Taking strong exception to the official’s continued misdemeanour, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has ordered disciplinary action against him under Section 22 of the RTI Act. The official in question is D Hemanth (in pic). He has been repeatedly trying to outwit the commission, which has been hearing cases against him from 2009 onwards. In all these years, he did not appear before the commission even once. Trouble started when Hemanth was posted on a deputation to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as Assistant Executive Engineer (Cottonpet). Despite being the Public Information Officer (PIO), he repeatedly failed to furnish information sought by several applicants. On March 22 this year, when yet another case against Hemanth came up for hearing, State Information Commissioner L Krishnamurthy decided to take stringent action against him. In this case, Hemanth had denied T K Renukappa, a resident of Laggere, information he had first sought in May 2012. When it came to light that the PIO was none other than Hemanth, the commission dug into previous instances of similar violations. The commission wrote to the Urban Development Department and learnt that Hemanth had been repatriated to his parent department (PWD) back in 2014 itself. He is currently working as AEE in the department in Chitradurga. During the enquiry, the commission also learnt that Hemanth had been fined Rs 2.29 lakh in 24 cases but had cared to pay only Rs 1.45 lakh. Taking serious note of the matter, the commission has asked M Lakshminarayana, Principal Secretary, PWD, to immediately take disciplinary action against Hemanth. It also asked Lakshminarayana to furnish the action taken report at the earliest.Krishnamurthy said that the ball was now in the PWD’s court as the next hearing was on October 19. Officials in the PWD said that the department had asked the BBMP to list the violations and frame charges against Hemanth. But the Palike is yet to oblige it. Once the Palike reverts to the PWD, an enquiry officer will be appointed to probe the matter and furnish the action taken report to the commission, officials said. (Deccan Herald 21/9/2016)

Official fails to answer RTI plea, fined Rs 25,000 (1)

CHENNAI: In what can be called a rare order of penalizing under the RTI Act, the State Information Commission (SIC) in a recent order has fined a former Ambattur sub-registrar 25,000 for failing to send proper replies to an RTI petition. The SIC has also directed the inspector general (IG), registration to initiate disciplinary action against the sub-registrar. The officer in question is K Vijayalakshmi who is now posted as the district registrar, Tiruvannamalai. In his RTI petitions filed in July and September 2014, SR Venkatraman, of Varadarajapuram in Ambattur, claimed to have obtained a stay order against registration of any transaction on his land, which, he said, was communicated to the district registrar. Despite that, a registration was carried out in December 2013. Using RTI, he sought to know the action taken on his intimation of the stay order and request for cancellation of the registration. He received a reply in November, 2014 from the Public Information Officer that there was no record of the stay order in question. After this, he filed two appeals with the SIC. During the enquiry, Vijayalakshmi submitted that she had received a letter from Venkatraman’s lawyer, but the stay order was not there in it. She also said she had arranged to send a reply to the RTI through her assistant. The information commissioner, K Ramanujam ruled that her explanations were not corroborated by any evidence. “There is no record either to show that she handed over the RTI file to her successor to enable him to send a reply,” Ramanujam noted in the order. During the enquiry, Ramanujam also sought to check the registers in the Ambattur sub-registrar’s office and noted that it was maintained in an improper manner. “This will negate the ideal of accountability which is a corner-stone of RTI Act. It is suggested that IG, registration may issue suitable instructions to all officers on this,” he noted. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

RTI plea turns Haryana schools into marriage bureaus (1)

CHANDIGARH: You would expect government school headmasters to have better things to do than to create an exhaustive list of unmarried people of a particular community among their teachers. But that is precisely what authorities in Haryana’s 10,000-odd government schools are doing these days – creating a databank of eligible single people from the Punjabi community!  The harried headmasters are creating the data after a woman from Rewari filed an RTI plea with the Haryana education department for the information. Instead of questioning the application’s intent, it was promptly sent to all schools of the state. TOI is withholding the applicant’s name as she is herself embarrassed with the query today. Sources say that the woman was looking for a marriage alliance for a relative, who is also a teacher. She filed the RTI as she simply wanted to know about a specific teacher in a school in Karnal. But the application asked the information officer to give the name, address and phone number of all elementary school teachers be sent to her. The government readily obliged and thus began a laborious exercise. Under RTI law, personal information can be given only with the consent of the person concerned, making life even more difficult for the school authorities. “We are careful in such cases as the information can often be misused especially when it comes to unmarried women,” says P K Das, Haryana additional chief secretary (school education). Education department superintendent Balbir Singh has asked district education officers of all 21 districts to send the requisite information by email or fax. “You will be responsible for any delay, for that you will be liable for disciplinary action apart from penalty of Rs 250 daily as per section 5.4 of the Act,” Singh has warned in the letter. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

International Right to Know Day: India ranks 4th on list of countries with strongest RTI laws (1)

September 28 is observed as the International Right to Know Day. This year, it marks five years since the launch of the RTI Rating, a comparative assessment of national legal frameworks for the right to information (RTI) which was developed and applied by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Access Info Europe. The number of countries with RTI laws has continued to climb, reaching 112 as of today. According to an assessment made by the CLD, India and Sri Lanka are placed fourth and ninth respectively on the list of 112 countries with the strongest national level RTI laws. This is good news for South Asia. Mexico, another developing country is rated with the best national level RTI law in on the planet. Recent amendments to the 2002 law have placed it at the top of the list. September 28, has now been recognised officially by UNESCO, under the title International Day for Universal Access to Information. And one of the indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.10 will assess whether states have adopted and implemented RTI laws. The popular myth – “RTI is meant for developed countries while developing countries have other urgent issues of poverty, hunger, poor levels of basic services like education and health” stands disproved once again. (Governance Now 29/9/2016)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Implementing RTE norms: Kerala HC dismisses 113 appeals by state government (11)

KOCHI: A division bench of the Kerala high court has upheld a single bench’s ruling that the state government is bound to provide adequate number of teachers in schools as per the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) stipulated in Right to Education (RTE) Act. The division bench comprising justices Antony Dominic and Dama Seshadri Naidu considered a total of 113 appeals filed by the state government challenging the single bench’s decision of December 17th last year. Through the appeals, the government had argued that PRT is to be calculated school wise and not class-wise as held by the single bench. As per the norms and standards prescribed in the act itself, two teachers are required for a class of 60 children for first class to fifth class. For 60 to 90 students in a class, the number of teachers should be three. For 91 to 120 students, there should be four teachers. For 121 to 200 students, there should be five teachers and a head teachers, as per the act. For sixth class to eighth class, at least one teacher is required for every 35 children. There should be at least one teacher per class so that there will be at least one teacher each for science and mathematics, social studies, and languages. Where the number of children is above 100, a full-time head teacher and part time instructors are required for art education, health and physical education, and work education, the act states. By referring to the act, the division bench pointed out that the Legislature has specifically prescribed “for first class to fifth class” and not “from first class to fifth class”. This indicates that the legislature adopted class as the unit for application and satisfaction of the norms and standards, the court said. Dismissing the arguments raised by the advocate general on behalf of the government, the court said, “There is a hidden danger in the argument of the State that the school should be adopted as the unit. If the total strength of the students from the first class to fifth class is between 61 and 90, it will be possible for the government to run the school with three teachers. According to us, that will run counter to object and purpose of the RTE Act.” Moreover, the requirement of minimum number of working days or instructional hours as stipulated in the act would not be met if PRT is maintained school wise as sought by the government, the court said while dismissing the government’s appeals. (Times of India 1/9/2016)

Govt moving fast to scrap ‘no-detention’ rule in schools (11)

NEW DELHI: Singapore deputy PM Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s recent lecture highlighting the crisis in India’s primary school education system has spurred the HRD ministry to look for quick-fix solutions. One of the first things the ministry wants to do is scrap the ‘no-detention policy’ till Class VIII in the Right to Education Act without taking the legislative route. Immediately after the lecture last Friday, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar reportedly spoke to the attorney general and sought his opinion on how the ‘no-detention’ clause could be undone through the executive route. Within the ministry , the new narrative is that ‘no detention’ is the biggest roadblock to quality. The fact that many states are also on the same page has galvanised the ministry into action.”For more than two years, there has been a growing consensus that no-detention should be limited till Class V. Waiting for amendment in the RTE Act will take very long,” a senior official said. The bigger fear is that an amendment bill might fail in Rajya Sabha where the government does not have majority . At the same time, officials feel there is a danger that the executive route could get challenged in the SC. Even as the ministry is grappling with how best to get rid of `no detention’, the home ministry has sought its views on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Delhi Amendment) Bill, 2015 passed by Delhi assembly last year. The amendment abolished the no-detention policy. In fact, the AAP government in Delhi has been among the first to protest against the no-detention policy . However, it is unlikely that the HRD ministry will agree with the amendment. Earlier this year, the ministry had rejected a similar amendment by the Rajasthan assembly. The ministry had argued that central legislations like RTE Act could not be amended by states. “The Centre will have to take a decision,” an official said. (Times of India 1/9/16)

Experts slam new central education policy (11)

Thiruvananthapuram: Subverting education in the pretext of promoting skill-based and career-oriented system is nothing but enforcing the agenda of corporates for making India a hub of cheap and skilled labour, said general secretary of Kerala History Congress Gopakumaran Nair N. He was speaking at a public debate on the new central education policy here on Wednesday. “The draft document which has been published for debate tries to implement the corporate agenda,” he said. He added that if the document is materialized, equality and social justice, which are integral to our education system, will be out of the textbooks. Inaugurating the seminar professor V Karthikeyan Nair said, “Only public intervention can save the education system from its present plight. Historically, fascists have been known for their misuse of our nation’s antiquity”. According to the All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), the revised policy document titled ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016′ has been designed with a clear intention for commercialization and communalization of education, which shows the anti-democratic mindset of the present government. AIFRTE representatives said that they are completely against the move by the Union government to promote skill-based education as they are supporting corporate agenda of MNCs to expand their manpower. Social sciences and humanities will be neglected and only technical/professional courses will get priority once the document is authorized. Youth Congress state secretary Mathew Kuzhalnadan pointed out that the document is mere replication of the Ambani-Birla Report on Education, which advocated rampant privatization and commercialization through public-private partnership. The document overlooks the options of reservation rules which will deny equal educational opportunities for SC, ST students and other minorities, he said. (Times of India 2/9/2016)

SC seeks Centre’s response on applicability of Right to Education Act on minority institutions (11)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking re-look by a larger constitution bench on whether minority institutions – aided and unaided – were excluded entirely from the ambit of the Right to Education Act, or from some of its provisions like reservation for students from weaker sections. The court has also sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government. The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice C. Nagappan sought response from the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea that said that minority institutions needed no recognition as mandated under the RTE Act after they have been excluded from its purview. The five judges constitution bench by its May 6, 2014, judgment while upholding the validity of the Right to Education Act, 2009 had said that it was not applicable to the aided or unaided minority schools. While upholding the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005, and that the RTE Act was not ultra vires of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, the constitution bench had said, “We, however, hold that the 2009 Act insofar as it applies to minority schools, aided or unaided, covered under clause (1) of Article 30A of the Constitution is ultra vires the Constitution.” Article 30 of the constitution guarantees the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. Appearing for the petitioner – Independent Schools Federation of India – counsel Ravi Prakash Gupta told the court that after the May 6, 2014, constitution bench judgment minority educational institutions don’t need even the recognition as provided under Section 18 (No School to be established without obtaining certificate of recognition) and Section 19 (Norms and standards for school) of the RTE Act. Ravi Pravash Gupta referred to earlier seven judges, nine judges and 11 judges bench judgment pointing out that apex court had earlier held that minority education institutions were not free from minimum regulatory measures. As Gupta mentioned earlier larger benches verdicts, the bench said that those judgments were prior to the constitution amendment and enactment of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. Asking for the response from the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea by the petitioner – Independent Schools Federation of India – the bench directed the listing of the matter on October 5 for further hearing. (Zee News 7/9/2016)

Draft National Edu Policy alarms minorities (11)

The draft National Education Policy (NEP), being framed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), seems to be ringing alarm bells among the minorities. The Committee for Evolution of NEP, constituted by MHRD under the chairmanship of T S R Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, has recommended that “the issue of extension of Clause 12 (1) ( C ) of the RTE Act to minority institutions needs a review. The Committee feels that the larger national obligations to meet the rights of economic weaker sections should extend to all institutions, including minority (religious and linguistic) institutions.” The MHRD, which came out with “some inputs for Draft National Education Policy,” has also echoed the high-powered panel’s view that “the issue of extension of Clause 12 (1) ( C ) of RTE Act to government-aided institutions (religious and linguistic) will be examined in view of larger national commitments towards the economically weaker sections.” Discussing the issue of 25 percent reservation for weaker sections and disadvantaged groups under the Right to Education Act, the Subramanian Panel suggests application of EWS Quota to religious and linguistic minority institutions. The panel notes that “minority (religious and linguistic) schools have been exempted from the RTE by the Supreme Court under Article 30 of the Constitution, as per the finding in Pramati Educational and Cultural Trust Vs Union of India. ” It goes on to add that “surprisingly, even aided minority schools have been given exemption; not surprisingly, there has been reportedly a marked increase in schools seeking minority status post this judgement!” This way, the panel virtually mocks at Supreme Court judgement pronounced by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising then Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices A K Patnaik, S J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and F J I Kalifulla in May 2014. While upholding the RTE Act 2009, the bench, inter alia, had exempted minority schools, both aided and unaided, from the purview of the Act on the ground that minority schools could not be put under legal obligation to provide free and compulsory elementary education to children who were not members of the minority community which had established the school. “In our view, if the RTE Act is made applicable to minority schools, aided or unaided, the right of the minorities under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution will be abrogated. Therefore, the (provision of the) 2009 Act, which made it applicable to minority schools, is unconstitutional,” the bench observed. … (Times of India 12/9/2016)

18,000 children to get free transportation under RTE Act (11)

HYDERABAD: The Telangana Government has issued a notification on Monday to provide free transportation facility to 18,131 children of remote habitations without schools in nine districts, except Hyderabad, to attend nearby primary and upper primary schools. The facility is being extended under the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, and Telangana Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010. (The Hindu 13/9/2016)

 ‘Liberalisation required in education’ (11)

COIMBATORE: The Central Government should liberalise the education sector and do away with affiliation system, G. Viswanathan, president, Education promotion Society for India (EPSI), said in Coimbatore on Wednesday. Speaking at the Regional Round Table Meeting on ‘New Education Policy Implications for School and Higher Education’ he said that the Government that did away with the license-permit-quota raj in 1991 however continued the recognition-affiliation-renewal system for education institutions. There was total lack of transparency, which the Government could do away with by starting to dismantle the affiliation system, said Mr. Viswanathan, who is also the Founder and Chancellor of Vellore Institute of Technology. For it was in the affiliation system there were corruption and total lack of transparency. And education institutions were at every step forced to turn to the Government. The draft of the New Education Policy had some good points like the once-in-three-year training for teachers. This would bring about a world of difference because teachers in the West were well-equipped vis-a-vis teachers in the country. C.R. Swaminathan, Member, Higher Education Council, CII, Coimbatore, suggested grouping of colleges into three categories – teaching institutions, teaching and research institutions and teaching institutions equipped to handle projects. He also suggested oral examination in choice-based credit system, facility for students transfer grades from one institution to another, and corporate support for education institutions. Former Vice Chancellor, Bharathidasan University, C. Thangamuthu said that affiliating system had to go lock, stock and barrel because it bred corruption. The stamp of affiliation helped unfit institutions survive and attract students. Comparing the accreditation process in India and the U.S., he said that in the latter, accreditation committees audited institutions for weeks by staying the campuses and attending classes. No such rigour existed in India. Vedprakash Mishra, vice president, EPSI, sought transparency in teacher recruitment and transfer process, a national campaign to attract talent to teaching and public display of vacancies and transparent transfer policy to stop corruption and nepotism. Nandini Rangaswamy, Chairperson, Southern Region, CII, sought parity in funding from Government for research projects. Earlier, A.K. Natesan, Secretary, Association of Managements of Coimbatore Anna University Affiliated Colleges, welcomed the gathering. (The Hindu 19/9/2016)

Alumni Association moots change in education system (11)

KOCHI: Alumni Association (AAJ) of JNU in Kerala will soon send a proposal for restructuring the education system in the state to improve the existing academics in the state. “An organized AAJ can constructively intervene in providing a vision to Kerala academia,” said Gopakumar Nair N, academic committee convener of AAJ, following a business meet of the organization at UC College, Aluva, on Saturday. “AAJ has always been a part and parcel of most of the social and civilian movements in the north and even in various states in the south, like Tamil Nadu. However, AAJ in Kerala has been dormant since its conception in 2012. Collaboration with civil society movements and more visibility of JNU in public sphere is necessary. Constructive and creative intervention in Kerala intellectual, academic and social sphere is one way. For this AAJ must be led by a functioning executive committee,” Nair said. Comprehensive training programmes for teachers and students will be initiated in a short while by the team as the first step towards integrating with the state’s populace. (Times of India 20/9/2016)

Going extra mile to keep slum kids in school (11)

NEW DELHI: The first attempt was a dud. In June 2016, primary teachers Anshu Pathak and Manoj Kumar tried putting children of Sulahkul Vihar who begged at the traffic junctions in Dwarka into municipal schools. Their parents weren’t just uninterested, they were downright hostile. Pathak changed tack. Every time she saw the kids at the Sector 14 traffic lights, she handed out snacks and water. She finally got over 20 of them ready for school in August. In the past year and a half, the duo has enrolled over a hundred previously out-of-school children — around 80 from Kabadi Basti (Matiala, Dwarka) and 42 from Sulahkul Vihar. They were identified and enrolled through South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s NEEV campaign. But enrolling is only half the battle won. Pathak and Kumar, who belong to a group of municipal and government school teachers called Akshar Gyan Abhiyan, go to extraordinary lengths to ensure these kids don’t drop out. They dedicate weekends and vacations to extra classes and summer camps amidst the accumulated refuse of hundreds of homes at Kabadi Basti. But, as the Sulahkul Vihar lot is fast discovering, extra classes aren’t enough.The Sulahkul Vihar slum is shared by two communities. One lot of shanties belongs to garbage pickers and sorters. The duo enrolled 18 from this group. The other community comprises people who clean ears and beg for a living. They were hesitant but were eventually won over, like their children, with “ration and kapda” and encouragement. Another 24 joined the list. Today, only four of the 42 are attending school. The Right to Education Act requires a primary school to be placed within a kilometre of every habitation. There isn’t one for Sulahkul Vihar. The closest municipal school — in Dwarka Sector 3 — requires children younger than 10 years to cross a major road with heavy traffic. Others are over 2 km away. “There is provision in the RTE Act for transport if the school is too far but there’s no policy decision from the government on it,” observed lawyer-activist Khagesh Jha. Pathak and Kumar must keep interest alive till the transport problem is solved. The community doesn’t believe good things come to them and are easily disheartened. The children themselves appeared thrilled the day TOI met them. A week earlier they had received stationery and the blue shirts of municipal schools, purchased with donations. New clothes are rare, and Rijnesh, who is to join Class I, wears his uniform at home. They want basta (bags) too. Most of the 24-odd kids Pathak readied have stopped begging at the traffic junctions. Ajay apparently did, and Rubina squealed on him: “Ye maangne gaya tha”.Kumar has spent the last one-and-a-half year trying to keep the 80 Kabadi Basti kids in school. “Around 45 of them are regular school-goers,” he said. “The malik who owns the sorting business brought the others here to work — some unaccompanied by parents — from villages. I haven’t been able to help them. The kids do want to study but are afraid.” Both the teachers insisted that the parents too want to send their children to school. “The shopkeeper we bought notebooks from said we shouldn’t bother because they would be sold off,” said Pathak. “He was wrong.” (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Congress flays state govt for poor education policy (11)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Congress on Sunday issued a statement accusing the BJP-led Gujarat government of being responsible for the poor condition of education in the state. The statement issued by Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi claimed that Gujarat has been pushed behind in the education sector and stood at 21st rank among all the states. The main reason behind such poor state is shortage of teachers in schools, he said. (Times of India 26/9/2016)

Centre working on National Education Policy-2016: Venkaiah Naidu (11)

VIJAYWADA: The Centre is currently working on the National Education Policy-2016 that seeks to promote “a credible education system” capable of ensuring quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu announced on Tuesday. The Centre was also working to promote 20 world-class institutions both in public and private sectors, he said, adding that “informing and reforming our youth force”, so as to enable it to take part in the transformation of India, “shall be the agenda of higher educational institutions”.Addressing the inaugural session of the south zone conference of vice-chancellors of various universities at the Vignan University at Vadlamani in Guntur district this afternoon, Venkaiah said the new policy, which was now going through a consultation process, was aimed producing students and graduates equipped with “knowledge, skills, attitude and values” that were required to lead a productive life and participate in the country’s development process. “Commercialisation of education with emphasis on success in competitive exams and securing a high-paid job is resulting in socio-economic issues to be grappled with. If our (present) higher education system does not result in right products, it could have serious socio-economic and political implications”, Venkaiah warned. “From being a pioneer of education in ancient times, we have now come to lag behind many other nations in terms of both quality and quantity. From great heights, we have for some reasons fallen by the wayside. “Thousands of our students flock to other countries for higher studies and that is a matter of serious concern,” the Union Minister observed.Andhra Pradesh Health Minister Kamineni Srinivas, Association of Indian Universities president D S Chauhan, Vignan University founder Lavu Rattaiah and vice-chancellors of universities of southern states are attending the three-day conference that is deliberating on the theme “Universities’ contribution to spilling, innovation and entrepreneurship”. (Times of India 27/9/2016)

Real education is respecting each other’s culture, says Javadekar (11)

New Delhi: Real education is one which teaches respect for each other’s customs and culture, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday even as he batted for educating the girl child. Inaugurating ‘Begum Hazarat Mahal Hostel’ for girl students at Jamia Millia Islamia here, the HRD Minister emphasised the need to boost research in various disciplines in the country. “Our speciality is that everyone accepts each other’s customs and culture, respect each other and carry on with our traditions, which is what real education is. The education of different subjects happens in classrooms but this is the education for life,” he said. Mr. Javadekar said all religions teach brotherhood, non-violence, truth and compassion for others. “The aim of education is not just knowing about a few subjects but becoming good human beings,” he said. Rooting for women’s education, Mr. Javadekar said it was a great loss to humanity that women were not allowed to study for hundreds of years. Referring to social reformers like Savitribai Phule and Maharshi Karve, he said when they tried to work for women’s education, they were pelted with stones but that did not deter them from pursuing the goals they had set for themselves. The BJP leader said the Modi government has paid special emphasis on education of girls through its popular campaign of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’Mr. Javadekar also told the students that the government has increased the supernumerary seats in technical colleges for students from Jammu and Kashmir from two to 10. He said despite the recent disturbances in the Valley, students have enthusiastically availed these scholarships, which would strengthen the unity of the country. The Union HRD Minister said that the British never focused on mass education during their rule in India. He said institutions like Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia were started when Indians began focusing on education.-PTI (The Hindu 29/9/2016)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

BPL kids likely to miss financial aid (10)

HYDERABAD: More than 1,500 children of daily wage labourers, petty hawkers, small-scale kirana shop owners in the city, falling under the Below Poverty Line category are likely to miss financial aid this year. The National Scholarship Portal under the supervision of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) has not been functioning since August 1, the date on which call for merit-cum-means based scholarships was announced. SQ Masood who runs a training and resource centre that links minorities — Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Parsi and Jain from all over the city informed that this problem has been existing since the day of announcement. “Every year we file close to 700 applications. This year, however, we haven’t been able to send any because of a technical problem. It is mandatory to add the mandal and the taluka of the applicant. A dropdown menu appears usually that lets you select, that has not been functioning since day one,” said Masood.  Another organisation, Association of Socio Economic Empowerment of the Marginalised (ASEEM) too has been facing the same problem. “We filed around 2,500 applications last year and we have around 800 plus applications waiting to be uploaded. We get applications on a daily basis. The last day to file online applications is September 30,” said Ali Asghar, founder member of the ASEEM. Their repeated attempts to reach the authorities have been unsuccessful. “A few students have filed complaints in the website’s complaint box and the central government’s grievance portal but have not received any response till now.”Masood wrote to Syed Omer Jaleel, Secretary, Minorities Welfare and also to the MEIT. “We were told that the minister is currently busy touring the country, seeing off Haj pilgrims and will look into the matter soon,” said Masood. However, when contacted, Jaleel informed that they are aware of the problem and measures are being taken to resolve it. (New Indian Express 2/9/2016)

First UN food aid in two years reaches over 30,000 Iraqis (21)

BAGHDAD: The UN said on Tuesday it has delivered food supplies to more than 30,000 residents of Qayyarah for the first time in two years after Iraqi forces expelled jihadists from the northern town. Government forces on August 25 pushed the Islamic State group out of Qayyarah, considered strategic for a planned offensive against the jihadists’ last Iraqi stronghold of Mosul further north. Qayyarah had been “inaccessible for over two years”, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement. “The people of Qayyarah… are suffering extreme hunger with scarce access to food supplies,” said WFP’s country director for Iraq, Sally Haydock. WFP said the food delivered in the past week included dates, beans and canned food as well as rations containing lentils, rice, flour and vegetable oil, enough to last for a month. The town is “in a dire state” with “black smoke” rising from oilfields around it that were set ablaze by the jihadists during fighting, WFP said. “All of its shops were either destroyed or closed and food stocks were running dangerously low with people surviving only on wheat from the recent harvest,” it said. “Safe drinking water, electricity and medical services remain nearly impossible to access,” it added. The UN food agency said it had also distributed food to “almost 2,000 displaced people living in camps and with host families in areas surrounding Qayyarah”.Located on the Tigris river, Qayyarah was retaken in a three-day operation led by Iraqi special forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes. Its capture is part of a plan by Iraqi forces to drive IS from their last stronghold in Iraq in Mosul, 60 kilometres away. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR warned last month that a Mosul offensive could displace another 1.2 million people. Around 3.4 million people have already been forced to flee their homes in Iraq by conflict since the start of 2014. WFP said it was “scaling up its food assistance in Iraq ahead of the Mosul offensive but “urgently” needed $ 106 million to assist displaced families until the end of 2016. (Times of India 6/9/2016)

Centre’s move to link PDS to Aadhaar opposed (21)

DIBRUGARH, Sept 15 – The Sadou Asom Gramin Shramik Sanstha, a constituent unit of All India Agriculture and Rural Labour Association, has opposed the Centre’s move to link Aadhaar to the Public Distribution System (PDS), alleging that the step would only complicate the distribution system and deprive poor people of their entitlements. The Leftist body, which organised a demonstration in front of the office of the Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner here today, said that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS, as desired by the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government, is not error-free and has a lot of loopholes. This ‘pro-corporate system’ is being enforced only to dismantle the present PDS, the leaders of the organisation alleged. Aadhaar-based biometric authentication in the PDS involves matching of fingerprints in the Aadhaar database over the Internet through point-of-sale machines. “This system is totally illogical and inappropriate for the rural people, who have no access to power, proper roads, Internet, phone connectivity, etc., which are essential for technology-backed biometric authentication,” said Subhrajyoti Vardhan, vice president of All India Agriculture and Rural Labour Association. The organisation added that identification of customers through fingerprints would be difficult for workers engaged in hazardous jobs like plantation fields, brick kilns, masonry, factories, workshops, etc., “as their fingerprints would keep on changing.” Moreover, under the new system, it will be mandatory for old, sick and differently abled persons to arrive at the PDS venues for identification. The Centre will deprive these segments of poor people under the Aadhaar linkage system of the PDS, the leaders maintained. Vardhan said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, being ‘pro-corporate,’ was seeking to gradually dismantle the present PDS so that the corporate sector could gain an upper hand in the foodgrains market. “Prices of foodgrains are more or less stable in the open market due to the PDS. If the PDS is done away with, the prices of foodgrains will skyrocket and poor people will not be able to afford anything. Besides, common people who are getting 25-30 kg of rice under the PDS at Rs 3 to Rs 4, will not be able to buy it from the open market with the subsidy proposed to be offered to customers in their bank accounts,” he said. The organisation has demanded that the beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act must not be linked to Aadhaar cards, and that all beneficiaries must be provided foodgrains and not cash subsidies. (The Assam Tribune 15/9/2016)

Paswan asks states asked to expedite reforms to ensure PDS transparency (21)

New Dlhi: Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday appealed to all states to expedite the reforms so as to bring transparency in the functioning of Public Distribution System (PDS), which is a key feature of National Food Security Act (NFSA). Highlighting the significant role played by Central and State Governments in ensuring food security to more than 80 crore eligible beneficiaries under the NFSA, which is presently being implemented in 34 States/UTs, Paswan requested Kerala and Tamil Nadu also to implement the Act as early as possible. He was addressing the inaugural session of the National Conference on Reforms in PDS and it Computerization here today. Paswan appreciated the significant efforts made by the various State/UT Governments in achieving 100 percent digitization of ration cards and automating 1.5 Lakh Fair Price Shops across the country. He also requested the concerned States/UTs, lagging behind in PDS Computerization in general, and in Aadhaar seeding and FPS automation in particular. Paswan said due to Aadhaar seeding a total of 2.33 crore ghost/fraudulent/duplicate ration cards have been deleted across 27 States and UTs which has led to estimated ‘Rightful Targeting of Food Subsidies’ of Rs. 14,000 crore. Addressing the conference, Minister of State of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution C.R. Chaudhary emphasized the need to further improve the efficiency and transparency of all operations related to food security i.e. production, procurement, storage, logistics, distribution and nutrition among others. In order to ensure the timely delivery of quality food-grains and protect consumer rights, he requested the concerned stakeholders to modernize procurement operations, construct scientific storage facilities, implement NFSA and complete the end to end computerization of TPDS operations within the desired timeframes. Vrinda Sarup, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, said that the National Conference provides an opportunity to review the progress and devise an effective roadmap for the acceleration of PDS reforms. With the innovative use of technology, significant progress has been reported by States/UTs in last two years. She identified the reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors and Aadhaar validation as the key focus areas so that no eligible beneficiary is denied entitlement under the PDS scheme. CEO of UIDAI, who also attended the conference, informed that the Section 7 of Aadhaar Act has been notified and made operational w.e.f. 12th of September 2016. He also briefed the gathering on the implications of Section 7 and Section 12 of Aadhaar Act which requires Aadhaar authentication on possession of Aadhaar for availing subsidy from consolidated fund of India. Those who do not have Aadhaar will be required to enroll for it. Departments can also provide for alternate methods of identification, so that no beneficiary is denied the benefit from Government Schemes in the interim. Officers from the State Governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra shared the Best Practices in Aadhaar Seeding, FPS automation and Supply Chain Management for the benefit of others States/UTs. (Business Standard 16/9/2016)

Centre issues ultimatum to Kerala on food security Act (21)

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday warned Kerala and Tamil Nadu that foodgrains for distribution to above the poverty line (APL) families would be provided at a higher rate to the States if they fail to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) at the earliest. Other 34 NFSA implementing States and Union Territories have been asked to address gaps on the list of beneficiaries, computerisation of public distribution system, PDS, operation, Aadhaar linkage with ration cards, and grievance redressal mechanism. The NFS Act, passed by Parliament in September 2013 during United Progressive Alliance regime, aims to abolish the APL and below the poverty line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provides 5 kg of wheat or rice to all beneficiaries every month at a subsidised rate of Rs.1-3 per kg. “Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only two States left where the NFSA has not been implemented yet. Despite being developed States, I don’t understand why they are not doing it,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said addressing a two-day national conference on PDS reforms. The Kerala government had earlier said it would implement the NFSA from November but now the State is planning to do it from December. “Kerala says it does not have necessary infrastructure. I don’t understand why a developed State like Kerala says like this,” he said.“If the two States do not implement the Act, we will take stringent action. One option we have is to supply APL foodgrains to them at a higher rate or we completely stop the allocation. Let them buy foodgrains for APL families at the support price,” he said. Asking the States to speed up reforms in the public distribution system (PDS) to curb leakage of foodgrains, Mr. Paswan said there could be problems in putting up necessary infrastructure for the effective roll-out of the NFSA but those issues need to be sorted out by both the Centre and States. While the ration cards have been digitised 100 per cent in the country, States are slow in seeding them with the Aadhaar card, which would help in eliminating bogus beneficiaries, he said,— PTI (The Hindu 17/9/2016)

‘Farmers having land holdings below 10 acres under threat of poverty’ (21)

NAGPUR: “Farmers need to increase their land holdings to at least 10-12 acres in order to earn a decent income from agriculture. Unfortunately, not many farmers in the state own land up to this level,” said Sukhdeo Thorat, the chairman of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). Thorat, who was speaking at a seminar on farm crisis organized by Dr Ambedkar Agricos Association of India, said the methodology followed by National Sample Survey Organsiation (NSSO) considers only those households with 50% of income from agriculture as farmers. Considering this yardstick the latest survey released in 2013 pegs the number of farmers at 37% of the rural population in Maharashtra. When it comes to holdings, the share of tribals and those under schedules castes (SC) is less, added Thorat. Citing the survey, he said the tribals’ share in the number of farmers is 28%, SCs are 22%, other backward class (OBC) are at 33%. “The income is minuscule, ranging from Rs17000 to Rs23000 per household,” he said citing the NSSO report on farmers’ socio economic conditions. Among these the least earners are the tribals, he added. “Unless the farm holding is in the range of 10-12 acres the farmers are poor or are facing the threat of poverty. Out of this, at least 6 acres should be irrigated. Even among the bigger holdings, the ratio of irrigated land is less in the state,” said Thorat. The solution lies in what Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had suggested during his time as a labour minister in British India. A similar problem was faced by farmers with small holdings during the early 1990s. Ambedkar had suggested that the land holdings needed to be increased. According to Ambedkar, there was surplus labour in the agriculture sector, which ended up being in the low income group. Industrialization needed to be boosted where the surplus labour from agriculture sector could be accommodated. “This will reduce the burden on agriculture, increasing the returns, and those remaining in the profession will get chance to invest in fresh holdings,” said Thorat. He said Ambedkar’s thrust was on industrialization which was also reflected in the second five year plan of the country. “Ambedkar was also the pioneer in harnessing water resources of the country. For example, the Damodar Valley project, which was his initiative to have dams for storing water to be used for drinking, irrigation and also power generation,” Thorat said. Later, journalist and author, P Sainath stressed on the need for proper reporting of farmers’ suicides. He alleged that even deaths of those categorized as farm labourers and tenant farmers should be taken seriously. (Times of India 19/9/2016)

HC concerned over 17,000 deaths due to malnutrition in Maha (21)

Mumbai, Sep 21 () Voicing concern over death of 17,000 persons due to malnutrition in tribal areas of Maharashtra in the last one year, the Bombay High Court today asked the state government to take immediate steps to tackle it and submit details of central grants received for tribal welfare. A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Swapna Joshi was hearing a bunch of PILs regarding malnutrition among children in Melghat region of Vidarbha and other tribal areas in Maharashtra. One of the petitioners showed the court a reply received through the Right to Information (RTI) Act which said over 17,000 persons, including women and children, had died due to malnutrition in the state in the last one year. The court was also informed that 283 persons had died in Melghat region during 2015-16 and additional 83 from January 2016 to July 2016. “This is a very serious matter that so many people have died due to malnutrition in the state. We direct the government to take immediate steps to tackle the menace”, said the judges. The bench also asked the state to improve the working conditions of the doctors in tribal areas. The Maharashtra government today submitted to the High Court a report of the core committee formed to tackle the menace of malnutrition in tribal areas. The government also informed the high court that it did not have enough gynaecologists, general practitioners and other doctors in tribal areas to improve the health condition of people particularly women and children. However, it had taken measures to improve the health conditions of the people in tribal areas because of which the number of deaths due to malnutrition had come down, said the government pleader. The bench sought to know how much grant was received by the state government from the Centre for development of tribal areas and asked the administration to file a reply by October 14 on this issue (Times of India 21/9/2016)

HC lambasts Maharashtra govt over starvation deaths (21)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday lambasted the state government for its “complete apathy” and “criminal negligence” that has lead to worsening malnutrition deaths in tribal areas of Maharashtra’s eleven districts, including Palghar, close to Mumbai. “This is shocking,” remarked a bench of Justice Vidyasagar Kanade and Justice Swapna Joshi when told by advocate Uday Warunjikar, appearing for petitioner Kasturba Adivasi Mahila Sangh, that nearly 18,000 children have died in the state during 2015-2016 financial year itself. The court is hearing a public interest litigation on malnutrition deaths. The judges said huge amounts of funds are earmarked and yet there are malnutrition deaths taking place. “This is criminal negligence. Every year large number of children die of negligence,” said Justice Kanade. The judges questioned whether it is not the government’s duty to ensure implementation of welfare schemes. Warunjikar informed the court about the recently reported casual response of the minister Vishnu Savara when told some 600 children had died in Palghar district. “See the mentality,” said Warunjikar. The court lamented the non-implementation of its orders passed since May 2010.”We are absolutely frustrated. If this continues, we will ask the chief secretary to come here. Only if we do that, the entire machinery will work,” said Justice Kanade. The bench asked for a compilation of all orders so that it can issue showcause notices to the officers responsible. The government’s advocate, Neha Bhide, said the core committee, formed following the HC’s May 2015 order, with the chief secretary as its chairperson has held eight meetings. She submitted its report saying the government is doing everything it can to implement the schemes. (Times of India 22/9/2016)

Propagate schemes to check poverty, says HC Judge (21)

KURNOOL: The government welfare schemes being implemented for alleviating poverty should be widely propagated among the people, in charge Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Justice Ramesh Ranganathan said on Saturday. The government schemes must be effectively implemented to ensure that families below the poverty line led decent lives, said Mr. Ranganathan, who is a