Posted by admin at 30 December 2015

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HR NEWS DECEMBER, 2015 (From Dec 1 to 31, 2015)

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

‘Implement Sadashiva commission report’ (2)

BALLARI: The members of the Karnataka Madiga Dandora Samiti, fighting for the internal reservation among scheduled Castes, staged a day-long protest in front of the Deputy Commissioners’ office in Ballari on Monday, asking the State government to implement the recommendations of the Justice A .J. Sadashiva Commission immediately. District president of the samiti J. Jaganath Madiga, in a memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Siddhramaiah, stated that even though the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Commission Report was submitted to the government in 2012, the government has not initiated any measures for implementation of the commission report. Mr. Jaganath demanded that the State government set up a separate development board for the Madiga community; the government should allot 5 acres of land to all landless farmers belonging to the community, he said. Instead of evacuating, the government should give land ownership rights to all Madiga families cultivating in government land. Mr. Jaganath urged the government to conduct a proper survey of Devadasis in all the eight taluks in Ballari, rehabilitate, and extend facilities to them. He added that the pourakarmikas working on contract basis in city corporations should be covered under health benefit schemes. (The Hindu 1/12/15)

Muslims cremate dalit boycotted by community for not voting on caste lines (2)

MEERUT: One has to go no further than this incident in Saharanpur to see how polarisation is playing out in villages of Uttar Pradesh. In the just-concluded pradhan elections in Dayalpur village, electorates were clearly divided along religious lines: while Muslims supported Saeed Ahmad, the dalits showed allegiance to Deepak Kumar. But Ram Daiya, a 55-year-old dalit, and his family went against the tide to support Ahmad, triggering off an unfortunate sequence of events that began with their social boycott by the dalit community. On Thursday night, when Ram Daiya died, due to natural causes, no one from his community came forward to attend his last rites. Eventually, it was Muslims who helped the bereaved family with the cremation on Friday. Ram Daiya’s son Rajinder Kumar told TOI, “The Hindus, particularly Dalits and members of the Saini community, completely boycotted us socially. In fact, we were told that nobody will assist us in performing the last rites when anybody in our family dies.” However, on hearing news of Daiya’s death, a large number of Muslims began to gather at his house on Friday morning. They then arranged for wood and other material for his cremation. Saeed Ahmad, the gram pradhan candidate Daiya’s family voted for, said, “We knew that no one would attend his cremation, so we extended all possible help to the family. But the way things are turning out is very sad. At least, no bitterness should be carried forward following one’s death.” Kumar said that his father was a very old associate of Saeed Ahmad and valued the ties with him. “He gave priority to his relationship with Ahmad and did not vote on caste lines,” he added. Deepak Kumar, Ahmad’s rival who was supported by the dalit community, said, “The social boycott story is all concocted. I was out of the village, so I could not attend his funeral.” (Times of India 5/12/15)

Dalit who complained of bias barred from village (2)

MUMBAI: Seven months after 13 Dalit families in Maharashtra’s Ansurda village of Osmanabad district faced social boycott by upper caste villagers, the main complainant in the case has been served an externment notice by three districts authorities. No action has been taken against the accused, so far. Nishikant Humbe, a member of the Dalit community who had contacted the police and the media about the social boycott in the village, is now accused of creating rift in the village, and has been called a habitual criminal. The notice bars him from residing in Osmanabad, Beed or Latur districts for the next two years. However, he will be given a chance to present his case in front of the sub-divisional magistrate on December 8. “I do not know why they want me out? I raised my voice against powerful people in the village. Was it my fault? I am nobody in front of them and still I am being targeted,” Mr. Humbe told The Hindu. When contacted, district collector Dr. Prashant Narnavare said that he was not aware about the notice being served to Mr. Humbe. “I must get all the details from the concerned officer before commenting on this matter. But there has to be a reason why the notice has been served. I will get all the details and appropriate action will be taken,” he said. In a first notice served to Mr. Humbe three crimes were registered against his name, while the second notice on October 31 mentions only one case. The notice accuses the complainant of continuing to terrorize people in the village as a result everyone is scared of him. “Any sane person who knows the dynamics of rural Maharashtra will laugh at this. Furthermore, the administration has not initiated any action against the accused. Why? There is no answer to this,” said Subodh More of Jati Ant Sangharsh Samiti, which had raised the issue in the past. The samiti members held a meeting with C. L. Thool, member of SC/ST commission demanding cancellation of this notice. On April 28, the Dalits took out a procession to mark the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, where songs dedicated to the Dalit icon were played. According to the original complaint, few upper caste youths objected to it and demanded songs on Shivaji Maharaj, which were played too. The young men allegedly desecrated the image of Dr. Ambedkar and abused Dalit women, according to a police complaint filed by the families. The police arrested four youths, of which two were minors. “The fact that we filed a complaint enraged the upper castes and they called for a social boycott,” said Mr. Humbe. Ansurda, with a population of over 1,500, has only 13 Dalit households — 11 of Buddhist Mahars and two of the Mang community. The Dalits were asked not to drink water from public taps and their cattle was barred from grazing in the village. Shopkeepers were asked not to sell groceries to them. (The Hindu 7/12/15)

Dalit families flee state’s rich NRI village Dharmaj (2)

DHARMAJ (Anand): In Dharmaj, known as Gujarat’s “village of NRIs” with a whopping Rs 1,000 crore of deposits in its banks, the dalit falia (quarter) wears a deserted look. Only 24 of 274 dalit families have remained in the village. The reason for the mass absence they claim, is that they were being intimidated by the dominant Patidar community , for trying to exercise their right to vote for local body polls held on November 29. Close to the 65th death anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on December 6, the dalits of Dharmaj village alleged that they were barred from exercising their constitutional right. The dalit quarter, which earlier had a population of about 1,500, had few houses open and almost none dared to talk about what happened between November 23 and 29. Rajesh Makwana, who filed an FIR in Petlad police station against 11members of the Patidar community for allegedly beating and intimidating them on November 23, says the accused were enraged that three dalit candidates were contesting district and taluka panchayat elections on Bahujan Samaj Party tickets. “They directed us not to go out to vote,” Makwana says, adding that posters of BSP candidates were torn down, and this led to a tense situation. Narrating the incidents of the night of November 25, a blind 77-year-old dalit man, Reva Rohit, said: “They (Patel vil lagers) first abused us with casteist slurs. They then beat me and my family , which frightened us and most of our community fled the village. Only 24 of 274 dalit families remained here.” “I have never voted in my entire life.Every election, the vote on my behalf. Do we not have rights?” he asks. Another community member Suresh Makwana (32) alleges, “On November 29, when polling was underway for Petlad taluka panchayat and Anand district panchayat, members of the Patidar community created a ruckus at Rohitvaas in the dalit quarter and carried out atrocities. One man, Purshottam Rohit (65), was beaten as he was going to vote, and the ambulance wasn’t allowed to take him for treatment.” Kala Rohit (32), says she took the lead for her community and went to the polling station, but even women weren’t spared. “Another woman and I were going to vote and fellow community members were behind us. But they (Patels) started abusing and beating us. This caused our community to flee the village in fear of further violence,” she says. Anand district collector Dhaval Pa tel, whom the villagers had made a representation to, wasn’t aware of the present situation. He said, “FIRs and crossFIRs were made by dalit and Patel communities after a brawl.” When asked if the dalits have fled, Patel said, “Some of them absconded.” Dharmaj sarpanch Bhupendra Patel, said: “There was a brawl between members of the Patel and dalit communities before the local elections. Some Patels did wrong to the dalits and now the entire Patel community is defamed.” Dina Rohit, a worker of the NGO Navsarjan, says atrocities on dalits are common here. “They don’t speak out as they fear losing daily-wage work on the tobacco farms of Patels. Even if a dalit farmer has land, he would grow tobacco and that trade is also dominated by Patels. So they fear harassment by way of blocked payments,” she says. Ashok Yadav, superintendent of police in Anand district, said the situation in Dharmaj is now peaceful. “A fight did take place in Dharmaj. Following which, we held meetings with leaders of both communities to restore peace,” he said. (Times of India 8/12/15)

Dalit woman not allowed to file rape complaint against PSI (2)

Nagpur: A Dalit woman is not being allowed to file a rape complaint against a police sub-inspector, who sexually exploited her for nine years before ditching her for a fellow woman officer. The 23-year-old Dalit woman, a Bachelor of Pharmacy student, was sent back by Hudkeshwar police station on Thursday when she tried to register an offence. The police seem extremely reluctant to help the Dalit woman sexually exploited by the sub-inspector, now with rural cops. Sunita (name changed) first approached the police with a written complaint on Thursday, and was made to wait for two hours at Hudkeshwar police station before being sent back. The woman, who was helped by social activist Nutan Rewatkar, was even denied an acknowledgement on the complaint by a senior police station officer for reasons best known to him. Incidentally, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio, has been stressing on lifting the department’s image among the masses with quick action in all cases. Fadnavis, along with guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, had expressed deep anguish over the media’s role last week, while launching the Distress Call Response Management System (DCRMS) in the city, for highlighting negativity in the police department. The CM had also raised doubts whether the media was playing a role in derailing investment plans for the city. However, citizens like Sunita are repeatedly expressing their disappointment with police at the ground level, which the media is reporting. Sunita said that she had first met a senior woman officer with the rural department earlier this year, who was supportive but did not initiate any legal action. “I want to register an offence against the man for shattering my life and also marrying another police officer without even informing me about the development. It was because of him that I had developed medical complications when I was in standard XI. We have been in a relationship for more than nine years, over which he continued to promise that he would marry me. He also entered into physical relations with me with these promises, but went on to marry another woman,” she said. Sunita said that she knew the officer from childhood as a neighbour in her village in Bhandara district, where they met and also became friends. Their families too knew about their relationship. He was later recruited in the police department as a constable and subsequently selected as an officer through state commission examination. Sunita would frequent his official quarters at Raghuji Nagar in Sakkardara. She said that her paramour started avoiding her after returning from a one-year training recently, and stopped taking her calls too. She later discovered that the man had married a fellow officer from the city police. “The woman officer too came to meet me. She too tried to convince me to forget the episode,” said the woman. Sunita then reached Hudkeshwar police station to lodge a complaint but was sent away. City police chief SP Yadav seemed to have been told a different version of events by senior officers. “I am told that the woman did not register any complaint at the police station. She should now furnish a written complaint to us,” said the CP. Yadav was not told that the woman had already furnished a written complaint but was sent away by the police station officer. (Times of India 12/12/15)

Limbs of 2 Dalit men chopped off in Fazilka, NCSC summons IG, DC (2)

National Commission for Scheduled Castes has issued notices to IGP Bhatinda zone, Deputy Commissioner Fazilka and SSP in connection with this case and they have been asked to appear before the commission on Monday afternoon in Abhohar. The commission has also directed the police authorities to arrest the people involved in the incident within three days failing which strict action will be taken against the official concerned,” Dr Rajkumar Verka said. Dr Verka said that the incident has shocked the entire Dalit community which has alleged that efforts are being made to hushup the case as the people involved in the case are influential. He has assured the affected families that the Commission will take action against the people involved in the case. According to the police, the Dalit youths identified as Bheem Tak and Gurjant Singh alias Janta were working with Shivlal Doda who is a liquor trader. They had some dispute with the  rival trader who had called them for a compromise on Friday at Doda’s farm house. The youths were taken hostage by the people present at the farm house. They chopped off Bheem’s hands and feet. Janta’s, also a Dalit, one arm and foot were cut off brutally. The people involved in the incident fled after the crime. They were numbered between eight to 10. While Bheem Tak succumbed to his injures in the hospital, Gurjant Singh is battling for his life in the hospital. The police has registered a case against 11 people including an Akali Dal leader Shiv lal Doda and his nephew. No arrests have been made so far.Relatives of Bheem and Gurjant protested in Abhohar on Saurday. The administration has deployed police force in the town to control the situation. (India Today 13/12/15)

Dalits in U.P. can now sell their land to non-Dalits (2)

LUCKNOW: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh would soon be able to sell their land to non-Dalits without the approval of the administration. This comes into being after Governor Ram Naik on Tuesday gave his consent to the Revenue Code (Amendment) Ordinance proposed by the Samajwadi government. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Cabinet had passed the ordinance last month but the Governor had withheld approval. The ordinance would bring radical changes in prevailing revenue laws dating to the British era, speeding up disposal of litigations in rural areas over land ownership. It also contains a contentious clause regarding Dalits, which has led to the BSP gunning for the SP. The ordinance will allow Dalits to sell their land to non-Dalits even if their remaining holding is less than 3.5 acres. To safeguard land ownership of Dalits and protect them from being forced to sell their land to upper caste persons, the existing land revenue laws did not allow them to sell their land to OBCs and Upper Castes if their remaining land was less than 3.5 acres. In 2006, the Mulayam Singh government proposed a similar amendment but it could not be implemented. The Mayawati government, which came to power in 2007, opposed the move. When the SP came back to power in 2012 it got the President’s assent, as the ordinance involved the repealing of more than 30 Acts, including Central Acts. While the SP has contended that the ordinance would safeguard Dalit interest and protect them from “distress selling,” the BSP has accused the party of conspiring to make poor Dalits landless and further push them towards the periphery.The issue could heat up during the 2007 Assembly election. Ms. Mayawati is hoping for a strong consolidation of her traditional voters, the Dalits, to regain power. Mr. Naik gave his assent keeping in view the urgency of the matter, as there was a possibility that the Winter Session of the U.P. Assembly could be convened in the last week of January, a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said. To end the stalemate on a number of issues, Mr. Yadav had called on Mr. Naik on December 9. Among other issues, the Winter Session and Revenue Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 were discussed. (The Hindu 16/12/5)

 

Proper inquiry sought into complaints lodged by Dalits (2)

COIMBATORE: Condemning the alleged action taken by the police in the favour of Caste Hindus when Dalits lodged complaints against them, representatives of Social Justice Movement tried to present a wreath to the officials at the Collectorate as a mark of protest. This caused flutter on Wednesday. Police personnel took away the wreath and allowed members of the organisation to make a representation to the Collector. The protest that led to flutter coincided with a steering committee meeting chaired by the Collector in connection with cases of atrocities against Dalits. The movement’s president N. Paneerselvam alleged that police obtained counter complaints from Caste Hindus and initiated action against Dalit people, who were victims of atrocities. Mr. Paneerselvam said that police and other authorities, who had to conduct an unbiased inquiry into atrocities against Dalits, were in favour of Caste Hindus. “This is the reason for acquittal of Caste Hindu oppressors,” he said, as he sought appointment of a special public prosecutor to appear for the Dalit victims of caste discrimination. After petitioning the Collector, he said that they have urged the district administration and the police to conduct a workshop for police officers and personnel, on the recent amendments in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The Hindu 18/12/15)

RSS extends its Dalit outreach: Adopt, host, dine with a family (2)

Lucknow: TAKING one more step to reaffirm its pro-Dalit credentials, the RSS has told its volunteers across the country to adopt at least one family of the community, intermingle with their family members, dine with them and work to bring them in the mainstream of society. While the Sangh has been trying to contain the damage from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks suggesting a rethink on the quota system, the RSS claims this programme is part of a campaign to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of its third sarsanghchalak, the late Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras. The Sangh’s Awadh Prant Sah Prachar Pramukh, Diwakar Awasthi, said their volunteers would adopt a Dalit family each, develop and maintain cordial relations with them, meet the family regularly, dine with them and invite the Dalit family home. The volunteers have been told to also introduce the Dalit family to their own community to establish social equality, as well as to the Sangh ideology. The Sangh’s Nagpur headquarters announced the campaign on December 11, the birth anniversary of Deoras. The campaign will continue till December 11 next year when some states including Uttar Pradesh, which has a strong Dalit vote, go in for Assembly polls. Deoras had served as RSS sarsanghchalak from 1973 to 1993. RSS office-bearers claim Deoras strove against the practice of untouchability and aimed to bring Dalits on a par with other sections of society. The RSS has published a speech of Deoras that he had delivered against untouchability. Volunteers are being given copies of that speech to tell them about the “motive behind the campaign”. Underlining the scale of the plans, an RSS office-bearer said the Sangh holds 52,000 shakhas across the country at present. Shakhas in urban areas have been asked to adopt a slum and start interaction with the Dalits there. In rural areas, district units of the RSS will adopt Dalit-dominated villages. (Indian Express 20/12/15)

Ostracised, dalit family forced to carry footwear over head (2)

BHOPAL: For the last couple of years 15 members of a family of dalits at a distant village in Sagar district have been carrying their footwear over their head when they walk down the dusty hamlet. Ostracised about two years back, the family is under tremendous pressure from members of upper caste to withdraw a criminal case filed against the member of a Thakur family of the same village. Guljari Dhanuk (50) alleged that his 17-year-old daughter was taken away to Delhi by Rajendra Singh, member of a Thakur family of village Kaithora in Bunda tehsil of Sagar. She was confined there and raped. Later, his daughter gave birth to a child who was killed by Rajendra’s family, he alleged. After his complaint, he said Bunda police registered a case of abduction and rape against Rajendra five years back, but he continues to be on the run. “In fact he roams around and even threatens to kill us,” alleged Anar Bai, sister of the rape victim. Two years ago, a village panchayat of upper caste decided to ostracise the dalit family and orderd them to carry their footwear over their head till they withdraw the case, Guljari said. “As we have decided not to withdraw it, we continue to suffer with no help from the police or administration,” he said. According to him, his daughter continues to live in Delhi with some dalit families and works as a maid . She is too scared to return to the village, he said. Santosh Athia, husband of the village sarpanch, confirmed the diktat to a team of journalists, which visited the village, saying “We are helpless.” As no one provides ration or water to the family, Dhanuks are facing a harrowing time. “We travel to Karrapur, about 10 km from our village, to purchase commodities of our daily need,” said Guljari. Even lower rung of bureaucracy in Sagar has no clue about the family’s misery. When contacted, CG Goswami, tehsildar of Bunda, said, “I have come to know about it from you. I have asked Bunda SHO to look into the case.” Sachin Atulker, SP Sagar, told TOI he has no idea about the incident and have asked for details from concerned officials. (Times of India 21/12/15)

Dalit families of Mansa village face boycott (12)

Mansa, December 24: Around 10 Dalit families of Burj Dhillwan village here are facing a boycott after a circle head of the Youth Akali Dal allegedly got announced in the village gurdwara that members of these families should not be given any work. A fine of Rs 5,000 has been allegedly announced for anybody giving employment or any other work to these families. Anybody informing about any such “violation” of the diktat will get Rs 2,000. All this was announced from the village gurdwara today. These families are being penalised for laying a kutcha pavement over a drain passing by the gates of their houses. Members of these Dalit families alleged that Akali leader Gurmeet Singh Nikka himself made an announcement to this effect in the gurdwara. Sukhdev Singh said he lived near the cremation ground and had laid a pavement on the drain as it had become difficult to bear the stench emanating from it. “As the gurdwara management refused to make any announcement against us, the Akali leader himself came forward and made the announcement. We are already facing abject poverty. Three days ago, a number of upper cast people gathered here along with panchayat members and threw our household goods into a nearby pond. They also assaulted and abused our women. We have submitted complaints to SHO Harpal Singh and met the Senior Superintendent of Police in that regard, but to no avail,” he said. The drain was forcibly constructed two years ago following which they had lodged several complaints with the district administration, but no action was initiated. Nikka said, “The announcement about the boycott was made by someone else and not me. I was just present there along with some villagers who were criticising the action of the Dalit family.” Panchayat member Harbans Singh denied the allegations of thrashing Dalit families and tearing clothes of their women. He said Nikka was being defamed by the Dalits. SSP Raghubir Singh Mann could not be contacted for his comments. SHO Harpal Singh said, “We came to knew about the issue two days ago when a tussle between the Dalits and some villagers came to the fore. But, we have no information about today’s happenings.” Majdur Mukti Morcha leader Bhagwant Smao, said, “Akali leaders have turned shameless. It is shameful to snatch bread from the mouth of a person who is already starving. We will stage a protest if the police fail to take action against the Akali leader.” (The Tribune 24/12/15)

20 Dalits, including pregnant woman, injured in attack (2)

RAICHUR: A group of 50 ‘upper caste’ men, equipped with rods and sharp weapons, barged into the Dalit colony and attacked the residents, leaving three persons, including a pregnant woman, seriously injured in Turvihal village of Sindhanur taluk on Friday. Another 25 persons sustained minor injuries. The pregnant woman, Huligemma, was rushed to Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences in Ballari after she started bleeding and was later shifted to a hospital in Sindhanur where two injured persons are being treated. Following a complaint lodged by Huligemma’s husband Shivaputrappa, Turvihal police booked 29 persons under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 148 (rioting), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), of Indian Penal Code and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Superintendent of Police Chetan Singh Rathore told The Hindu that no arrests had been made so far in the case. As per the information provided by Turvihal police and residents, an ‘upper caste’ youth accidently rammed his vegetable-laden goods carrier against a Dalit youth organisation’s signboard that carried B.R. Ambedkar’s photo on Thursday. Next day, some Dalit youth associated with the organisation picked up an argument alleging that the act was deliberate. Enraged by this, 50 men attacked the Dalits. The victims alleged that the attackers had warned that they would not allow them to live in the village. Meanwhile, the Karnataka Janashakti organisation demanded that the police arrest the accused at the earliest. The organisation also sought police protection for Dalits in the village apart from demanding Rs. 5 lakh compensation for the three persons, who were seriously injured. (The Hindu 27/12/15)

Fighting against untouchability proves costly for three Dalits (2)

Hassan: Three residents of the Dalit colony, who raised their voice against untouchability prevailing at Sigaranahalli, a village in Holenarsipur taluk, have been branded by the taluk administration as persons most likely to disturb peace and harmony in the village. The administration has issued notices to them under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code and asked them to appear before the taluk magistrate.Thayamma, K.T. Kumar and Umesh — all belonging to Scheduled Castes — have received the notices. Ms. Thayamma is one among the four Dalit women, who attracted penalty from the “upper caste” people for entering the Basaveshwara Temple in the village in September. Many Dalit residents opposed the penalty imposed on the women and staged protests against untouchability still in vogue in the village. In fact, they had demanded that the district administration allow them to enter the community hall constructed with government funds in the village. For the last 15 years, Dalits have been barred from entering the community hall. A notice dated December 18 was issued from the office of Holenarsipur tahsildar, which said that the Holenarsipur Rural police had informed the taluk administration that Ms. Thayamma, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Umesh were likely to disturb peace and order in the village. In order to ensure peace in the village, the three should be summoned and warned. The notice had been issued based on the police report. However, the Dalits of the village argued that there was no reason for the taluk administration to suspect them to be disturbing peace. “We have never indulged in any sort of violence. There are no police cases against us. What made the police to brand us as troublemakers?” asked Mr. Umesh. The Hassan district administration and H.D. Revanna, Holenarsipur MLA, had held meetings in the village to resolve the issue, but in vain. The Dalits are still not allowed to enter the community hall and the temple has been closed ever since the Dalit women entered it. (The Hindu 30/12/15)

TRIBALS

Manipur tribal festival promotes national integration (6)

IMPHAL: Manipur is inhabited by many tribal communities. Recently, members of various tribes came together on a single platform to celebrate their bond of brotherhood. In a move to promote national integration, a two-day tribal cultural festival was held at the Tribal Research institute’s complex in Chingmeirong. The aim was to bring different tribal communities together and encourage their sense of belonging to the state. Altogether, 34 tribes participated in the event to showcase their varied cultures. The mega festival was organized by Tribal Research Institute under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and co-sponsored by the Tribal Research Institute of the Government of Manipur. Z Solomon, Director, Tribal Research Institute, told ANI, “We want to have peace and harmony among ourselves. We want to understand our culture, development, progress, love, affection among our self.” Folk songs, traditional dances, apparel show and tribal musical symphony were among the events held at the festival. Leaving behind their differences, members of all the tribes interacted with each other and spread the message of unity. Aruna Kamei, a participant in the festival told ANI, “It is really great thing that we still preserve our cultures, not only the particular tribe but almost all the tribals in Manipur. We are very thankful to encourage.” Serto Chonglamjip, another participant, said, “It is very beautiful to be here with lots of tribal people around from respective districts and we represent a com tribe, we feel very happy and good about it.” Zinthang, another participant, said, “It is very interesting and we are very grateful to organize this thing because all the tribal’s are staying apart in different districts and we are very grateful to see together here.” The tribal people also displayed various handicraft and handloom products made by them at an exhibition held as part of the festival. Festivals like these make the people aware of the lifestyle and culture of tribal people. (Times of India 2/12/15)

SC, ST MLAs in Odisha Warn of Fast From December 6 (6)

BHUBANESWAR:  Cutting across party lines, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes MLAs on Wednesday warned to go on a fast-unto-death from December 6, the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar, to press their demands which include proper implementation of reservation policy as per the 85th constitutional amendment. Raising the issue in the Assembly during Zero Hour, Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi demanded a statement from the Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Minister. “As the SC-ST members from all the parties have united this time, we’ll intensify the agitation,” Majhi said. Accusing the State Government of denying constitutional rights to Dalits and tribals, BJP MLA Rabi Narayan Naik claimed that the communities faced negligence in all spheres of the society while the Government remained a mute spectator. “We will sit on a fast-unto-death agitation on the death anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar. The State Government has been adopting anti-Dalit and anti-tribal attitude,” Congress MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria, who also hails from ST community, alleged. Sagaria alleged that the Higher Education Department is not implementing the reservation of seats for scheduled category students during admission in Government educational institutions despite a notification in this regard on June 1, 2015. Scheduled category MLAs present in the House demanded a ruling from the Speaker on the issue. Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra urged Speaker Niranjan Pujari to give a ruling and also asked the Minister to give a statement on the issue. It is unfortunate that the Government pays no heed towards the concerns of Dalit and tribal members, he said. Mishra also wanted to know what steps were being taken by the Government to prevent the proposed hunger strike by the Dalit and tribal MLAs. As the Speaker did not give any ruling, Congress and BJP members protested. Finally, Speaker Pujari said he would convene a meeting of the agitating MLAs in his chamber. In a memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the SC and ST MLAs had given ultimatum to launch hunger strike from December 6. (New Indian Express 3/12/15)

Drive to free land occupied by migrants (6)

Guwahati, Dec. 3: Three indigenous people’s organisations in Assam will launch a campaign on Saturday against the state government’s alleged inaction to free land “encroached” upon by illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The message is – if illegal migrants from Bangladesh have been a vote bank for politicians in Assam, the indigenous people are strong enough to put pressure on politicians to drive the migrants out and free the lands illegally occupied by them in the state. Leaders of three organisations, Prabrajan Virodhi Mancha, Sangrami Satirtha Sanmilan and Dakshin Paschim Goal Xantha, said here today that the campaign would begin in Sipajhar Assembly constituency in Darrang district and would be extended to all the 126 constituencies. “The campaign will have three parts – a bike rally, a signature campaign and a rally at Mangaldoi, the district headquarters. We will collect 50,000 to one lakh signatures of indigenous people in the state and submit a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh through the Darrang deputy commissioner,” said Upamanyu Hazarika, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of Prabrajan Virodhi Mancha. “We are launching the campaign in Sipajhar constituency as the indigenous people there have been directly affected due to encroachment of government land by Bangladeshi migrants. According to information accessed through an RTI application in 2013, 77,420 bighas of land are illegally occupied in the district. A large chunk of the land is used for grazing and to pitch tents for displaced people, particularly during floods. There can be no construction there,” Hazarika said. Hazarika was appointed a commissioner by the Supreme Court during hearing of petitions, seeking the apex court’s intervention in solving the state’s long-standing problem of illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh. After an on-the-spot assessment of the India-Bangladesh border, challenges in fencing and illegal migration from across the border, Hazarika had informed the apex court that the illegal migrants pose as flood and erosion victims from other districts to establish that they are local people and thus occupy new land. This, Hazarika said, is done with the aid and assistance of “complicit and corrupt” administration. He recommended restriction on transfer of land – whether by sale, purchase or gift – to those failing to prove their Indian citizenship till 1951. “The politicians have always used Bangladeshi migrants as vote banks to win elections. The indigenous people must now prove that we are a strong political force that can put pressure on our politicians to act and take measures to safeguard the indigenous people,” Hazarika said. “We had filed cases in 2012 against illegal occupation of land in Darrang but no significant action has been taken,” Tilak Chandra Choudhury of Sangrami Satirtha Sanmilan said. (The Telegraph 4/12/15)

PIL seeks birth certificates for kids of nomads (6)

MADURAI: A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to Madurai Collector to frame a special scheme enabling around 200 Telugu speaking nomadic tribal families residing at Chattaiyadi Colony at Elamanur near here to obtain birth certificates for their children without going through the hassle of obtaining individual court orders. A Division Bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and N. Kirubakaran on Tuesday ordered notice, returnable by a week, on the PIL petition filed by one of the nomads E. Raman through his counsel G. Prabhu Rajadurai and I. Robert Chandrakumar. The petitioner claimed that schools in which children from his community were studying had suddenly started to insist on production of birth certificates. An affidavit, filed in support of the petition, pointed out that the colony, set up by one of the former Collectors of the district, consisted of 130 families belonging to Chattiyadi community who eke out a living by whipping themselves in public places, 80 Adhiyam Boom Boom Mattukarar community people who earn their bread using bulls that nod to drum beats and 10 families of fortune tellers. Though they were granted house sites and provided with financial assistance to construct houses, they never thought of obtaining birth certificates for their children until recently when they were told that such certificates could be obtained only by filing individual cases before a First Class Judicial Magistrate and after payment of the prescribed fee. (The Hindu 9/12/15)

Tribal outfits oppose Greater Ranchi plan (6)

Ranchi: A number of tribal organizations took out a procession, from Jaipal Singh Stadium to Raj Bhavan, on Thursday to protest against the Greater Ranchi plan. They claimed that the master plan is “not in the favour of tribals”.Sushil Oraon of Adivasi Chhatra Sangh said, “There are no provisions for tribals residing in areas covered under the master plan. There is no mention of a livelihood plan and security of tribals.” Veena Linda of Adivasi Adhikar Manch said that apart from the 55 wards of Ranchi Muncipal area, the master plan covers over 110 villages under RRDA area in Namkom, Kanke, Nagdi, Ratu, Ormanjhi and Angara. “Apart from agricultural land, these areas have social, religious and community land, which will be commercialized after the master plan is implemented. Where will tribals from these areas go if their land is taken away from them?” The protesters submitted a memorandum to governor Droupadi Murmu, stating their problems, while also appealing that the master plan be dropped. (Times of India 11/12/15)

Chhattisgarh CM announce 11-point programme for vulnerable tribal groups (6)

RAIPUR: Completing 12 years in office, Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh on Saturday unveiled an 11 point programme for integrated development of particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG, promising it to implement it within next two years. Announcing the decision at a meet the press programme this evening, he said seven PVTG groups comprising Kamar, Baiga, Pahadi Korwa, Birhor Abujmariah, Pando Bhunjia tribes -with a total population of 1.94 lakh, have been identified for covering under the programme. Singh said 44331 families belonging to these tribal communities, residing in 2017 villages, would be benefited from this 11 point programme The project aims at providing houses to all homeless, making available safe drinking water and electricity in all habitats and health check-up of entire population to be covered. While targeted population would be screened for sickle cell anaemia, all of them would be provided health cards and smart cards for all families. The programme also include providing ration card to all families, providing nutrition to cent per cent infant and lactating mothers, skill development of one member of each family, providing of forests rights, caste and residential certificates and coverage to all under social security schemes such as Atal pension scheme and Prime Minister’s insurance scheme. Chief minister announced that all families to be covered under the programme would be supplied radios, umbrellas and blankets. Claiming that there has been improvement in quality of life of these groups because of his government’s efforts during the last 12 years, the chief minister said the 11 point programme would be implemented in mission mode to ensure that the man behind the plough got opportunities to enjoy the fruits of development. (Times of India 12/12/15)

 ’Rehab Projects for Tribal People on Track’ (6)

KOCHI:  As the Adivasi Gotra Mahasabha is planning to relaunch ‘Nilpu Samaram,’ alleging that the implementation of promises given to it were not fulfilled, the Scheduled Tribe Welfare Department contends that the land distribution and rehabilitation projects were on track and that a report regarding the implementation of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act had already been sent to the Central Government.   The officials explain that a report on declaring tribal dominated panchayats in four districts in the state has been sent for the consideration of the Central Government in April this year. The Union government will take a call on the proposals. The panchayats to be declared scheduled areas under the PESA fall in Kannur, Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad and Idukki districts. It is learned that Edamalakkudy in Idukki, Aralam in Kannur, Thirunelli in Wayanad and Attappadi are among the areas proposed to be included under PESA Act.   As per official statistics of 2014, the total landless tribal families in the state is 10,517. Wayanad district, with 4,913, Palakkad with 1,826 and Kasargod with 1215 families tops the list of landless tribes in the state. The UDF government had also promised to provide housing for all tribal families without a roof over their head and it had also included it in the Mission 676. But the housing projects are progressing at snail pace. More than 30,100 houses have been sanctioned under various schemes since 2011-2012.   In a reply given in the State Assembly the other day, ST Welfare Minister P K Jayalakshmi blamed scarcity of construction materials, unavailability of skilled workers and climate change for the delay in completing housing projects. The minister also said that 2,600 acres of land has been located in Attappadi and fund for starting the survey proceedings had also been set aside.      The bone of contention is the distribution of 7,693 hactares of vested forest land sanctioned by the Central Government and the Supreme Court to be distributed among the tribes people who were alienated from their land. Though the government assured that the procedures to distribute the land is fast underway, the AGMS feels that concrete steps could only convince them to back off from the struggle. The general feeling at the Jana Jagrata Samiti a platform of tribals and activists held here the other day was that the government would play any tactic to avoid a tribal stir as the Assembly elections are round the corner. But the delegates at the meeting strongly felt that the government’s assurances should be taken with a pinch of salt. (New Indian Express 17/12/15)

 

Tribespeople stage token Nilpu Samaram (6)

KALPETTA: Hundreds of tribespeople under the aegis of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS) took out a march and staged a token ‘Nilpu Samaram’ (standing protest) in front of the collectorate here on Thursday in protest against the government’s failure to keep its promises on rehabilitation and providing compensation. Speaking after inaugurating the protest, C.K. Janu, chairperson of AGMS, said the organisation called off its protest in front of the Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, on December 17, 2014, after the government promised to fulfil their demands. But the government was yet to keep its words, Ms. Janu said adding that the successive governments were ruling the State under the pressure of communal forces and they had been cheating the tribal people by offering various promises. If the government failed to keep its promises, the organisation would resume its protest in front of the Secretariat from January 1, she added. M. Geethanandan, coordinator, AGMS, presided over the function. (The Hindu 18/12/15)

Odisha government to fund education of tribal students in elite schools  (6)

BHUBANESWAR: Now scheduled caste and scheduled tribe children from interior areas would get a chance to study in elite public schools in urban areas. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday launched Anwesha-a scheme under which every year 5000 children would pursue quality education in leading English medium schools. State government would bear all expenses for education of the children including school fees, uniform, books, hostel and transportation. “There is huge potential among tribal children and our state has been promoting their talents in fields of art, culture, sports and education,” said Naveen announcing the scheme at Saragi Phul- a three day children’s festival for ST, SC children started at Adivasi Ground here on Monday. The chief minister further said, over 3.5 lakh ST and SC students staying in hostels are to continue their education while two lakh more will avail the facility soon. Besides, the state has recently increased scholarships for ST, SC students, he added. The scheme would be operational in 17 tribal dominated districts in the first phase, official sources said. The scheme started in experiment basis in 2015-16 academic session during which more than 2600 students are studying in different public schools in different towns of the state. “So far we have received very good response from parents as well as different public schools. We have targeted to provide quality education to one lakh children from interior areas in next 10 years,” said secretary of ST-SC development department, Surendra Kumar. He said, for each student government will give Rs 25, 000 for school fees per annum excluding hostel cost and scholarship. “Separate hostel would be constructed for these children and presently they would be kept in rented hostels. Counsellor will be appointed to help students in self-studies in hostels,” said Kumar. Interested children would be selected through lottery by a committee chaired by district collectors. “Since no interview can be done for school admission as per Right to Education (RTE) Act, lottery is the best option. In future we are planning to include more schools also in bigger towns like Cuttack and Bhubaneswar as well,” Kumar said.  (Times of India 21/12/15)

Maharashtra releases tribal sub-plan, atlas based on TISS study (6)

Mumbai: THE state government has released a tribal sub-plan (TSP) and tribal atlas for Maharashtra based on a study conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to address the economic and social issues facing the state’s tribals. The report has recommended that a Scheduled Tribe (ST) budgeting Act needs to be formulated at the earliest. TISS, along with UNICEF, conducted a study in 2013-14 to analyse the tribal sub-plan formulation, funds flow, planning and implementation process, and monitoring and evaluation of TSP schemes and programmes in Maharashtra. The report provides insights into the functioning and programmes of the tribal development department and administrative departments of the state government with respect to the TSP in Maharashtra from the perspective of the functionaries of the tribal development department, administrative departments at district level, and the tribal community. The report suggests that there is a need for a Tribal Sub-Plan Act or Bill designed to address the management of TSP funds and to address serious economic and social issues of tribal communities. Since the gap between the social indicators for STs is not only large but also increasing compared to non-ST communities, there is an urgent need for a larger share of the pie to be shared with them, the report further noted. Hence, a weighted average of allocation based on grading of the extent of deviations will be necessary for budgeting to be effective. Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who released the TSP, stressed on the importance of integrating ST community into the larger development process. “The TSP report itself shows the way by recommending a more decentralised, flexible, pro-equity, pro-people approach to the planning and implementation. It looks at the quality of implementation, existing structures and areas of convergence, and stresses that the Tribal Sub-Plan and other schemes to become ‘outcome-focused,” said Rao. Rao urged that the state government should establish a Bill for the effective governance of TSP and enable coordinated development of tribal people. The report points out that due to isolation and socio-economic backwardness, India’s STs are among most disadvantaged sections of society. The tribal population in Maharashtra, as per the 2011 census, is 10.5 million, constituting 9.35 per cent of the total population of the state. Maharashtra has the second largest tribal population in the country, next only to Madhya Pradesh….   (Indian Express 22/12/15)

Separate budget for primitive tribes: Jharkhand CM (6)

RAMGARH, Jharkhand: Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das today praised former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his tireless efforts in improving the condition of tribals, while announcing a separate budget for the primitive tribes. Celebrating the 91st birthday of Vajpayee in the remote Dohakatu village of the primitive tribes in Ramgarh district, Das said the former prime minister’s work for the tribes were praiseworthy. He said Vajpayee made a good image of politicians during his six decades of active political life. Taking a piece of cake from a tribal student of the endangered Birhor tribe in the village as part of the celebrations, Das said the state has taken initiatives for their betterment and would prepare a separate budget for them in the forthcoming annual budget. (Times of India 25/12/15)

Transfer land title to tribals, Centre tells state (6)

Dehradun, December 27: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has asked the state government to improve its coverage of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, to transfer land title to forest dwellers and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities by May 2016. The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has been slowing down development works, there is absence of rights over forest lands to forest dwellers and non-fulfillment of their traditional rights over forest produce (non-timber). According to one estimate, there are around 7,500 gram sabhas whose inhabitants cannot exercise their traditional rights on minor forest produce (MFP) and community rights. However, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has agreed to extend the deadline for transfers from December 2015 to May 2016. The Uttarakhand Government has nominated the Department of Social Welfare as the implementing agency, who in turn, with the help of district magistrates, will complete the process. So far in the state, only people of Kunnao (Yamkeshwar block) village, falling in Rajaji National Park, have been able to get their rights under the FRA. “The Act is anchored in the Department of Social Welfare. We have to first make the villagers aware of the FRA so that they make appeals to village level committees and before the district magistrates,” said Manoj Chandaran, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare. The process will involve a number of steps, including presenting of evidence before the committees, including oral evidence, about ownership of the forest land, communication of reason for rejection, exhaustion of appeals, evidences, creation of records with clear demarcation of forest land boundaries. The implementation of the Act will also test the government’s resolve to force the Department of Forests to yield and give rights over minor forest produce to the forest dwellers, through the sale of which the department has been earning a hefty revenue. Besides rights over MFP, the community rights include right to pasture, water bodies and diversion of one hectare of land (forest) for community infrastructure like schools etc. It would also mean the total forest area will undergo a change and may reduce in the coming years, unless of course conservation measures are adopted. (The Tribune 28/12/15)

Services of two tribal welfare officials surrendered (6)

ADILABAD: The Project Officer of Utnoor Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) R.V. Karnan on Tuesday surrendered the services of Tribal Welfare Engineering Department Superintendent J. Devender and Technical Officer D. Muthanna for negligence and dereliction of duty. Their services have been surrendered to the Chief Engineer Tribal Welfare. According to the letters issued to the Chief Engineer, Mr. Karnan alleged that both the officials were absent for unreasonable durations due to which the regular work was hampered. There were complaints against the two tribal welfare officials from Village Tribal Development Agencies, he added. (The Hindu 30/12/15)

WOMEN

Domestic violence tops crimes against women, says report (8)

New Delhi: Among all registered cases of serious crimes against women, the largest share was under “cruelty by husband and relatives”. While 36 per cent of all cases were registered under this category, the next largest share was “assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty” (24 per cent), says a new report for the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, titled ‘Women and Men in India – 2015′. In 2014, five per cent of all cognizable crimes were directed at women. The report said there was a gradual increase in crime figures, with major increases in rape, kidnapping and abduction and assault on women with an intent to outrage their modesty. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 69 per cent of all such cases were disposed off by the police in 2014. The highest number of cases disposed (76 per cent) were those dealing with assault on women with an intent to outrage their modesty and those related to domestic violence. Cases of kidnapping and abduction were least disposed off, with almost 58 per cent pending. The data on rapes suggest younger women continued to bear the brunt. In 2014, almost 44 per cent of all victims were in the age group of 18-30 years, whereas one in every 100 victims was under six years of age. For the same year, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan earned the dubious distinction of registering around 10 per cent each of all rapes in the country. The rate of incidence of crimes against women was reported at 11 per cent in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh – among the highest. Among the major states, West Bengal and Assam saw approximately a fifth of reported crimes against women. The suicide rate among women was approximately half that of men and there has not been much variation in it over the past decade. The prevalence of suicides was approximately 75 per cent for those below secondary level of education. Family problems were the major cause of suicides among both genders – 23 per cent for women and 21 per cent for men. This was followed by illness, at 18 per cent, for both genders. The study said among women who committed suicide, approximately 47 per cent were housewives, 64 per cent were married and 76 per cent were matriculates or below. Among men who ended their lives, 67 per cent were married and 73 per cent were matriculates or below. (Business Standard 2/12/15)

Nari Niketan rape case: 3 women among 4 arrested (8)

DEHRADUN: Four more persons including three women were arrested on Friday in connection with the case related to the alleged rape and abortion of a speech-and-hearing impaired inmate inside the Nari Niketan in Kedarpuram area of Dehradun. The four, arrested on charges of misusing their position, conspiracy and hiding of facts, were produced before court, which sent them to 14 days judicial custody. With the action, the total number of arrests in the case has gone up to six. Craft teacher of the shelter home Shama Nigar, employee Chandra Kala Chhetri, teacher Kiran Nautiyal and Krishna Kant Kancha were arrested from different locations near the Nari Niketan on Friday. Confirming the fact, SP City Ajay Singh told TOI, “The arrests were made after strong evidences were collected against the four.” He further added that efforts were on to find that whether more people were involved in the crime or not. While the police did not reveal much about the role of the four arrested, source pointed out that Krishna Kant Kancha, who worked as a guard of the shelter home, took the burnt foetus to the jungle area of Doodhli and hid it there. The three women staff of the Nari Niketan were reportedly aware of the facts, but did not disclose them during the initial probe. Earlier on November 30, the Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to probe the matter had arrested Mohammad Hasim the caretaker of Nari Niketan and Lalit Bisht, a home guard posted at the shelter home. Sources pointed out that the inmate had been allegedly raped about four months back and on November 16, her abortion was carried out inside the shelter home. The fetus was set on fire and thereafter buried in the jungle area of Doodhli. However, when some complications arose the inmate had to be taken to Doon hospital. The issue of sexual exploitation of inmates of the Nari Niketan cropped up after some videos went viral. On the directions of DM Ravinath Raman, a probe was carried out by ADM Jharna Kamthan. Initially, it was maintained that there was no such incident and all the inmates were “safe” in the shelter home. The medical examination report of three other inmates was negative. The matter had turned into a political issue as Congress leader had initially given a clean chit to the shelter home staff, while BJP demanded a high-level probe into the matter. Taking into account the seriousness of the issue Chief Minister Harish Rawat ordered an investigation by SIT to be headed by a SP rank officer. In compliance with CM’s instruction, SSP Dehradun constituted a SIT headed by SP City Ajay Singh. (Times of India 4/12/15)

The Deadly Preference For Male Children In Our Society (8)

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it. But not everyone seems to believe in this adage. What delights most is the sight of a male child. And this, unfortunately, is the bitter truth. The preference for male children has taken such strong roots in the society that the birth of a boy and girl recently at a hospital in Nalgonda district of Telangana turned into a bone of contention between two young mothers. Both the mothers staked claim on the boy. What added to the confusion was the error on the part of a nurse who told the woman who gave birth to the girl that she was blessed with a boy. The sight of newborns moves even the stone-hearted. Who wouldn’t like to hug and kiss them? But these women could feel compassion only for the baby boy. Hours ticked by as the cuddly kids lay on the hospital bed hungry and unattended. All pleas to breast-feed the babies fell on deaf ears ­— the women would suckle only the boy and not the girl. Whatever happened to human kindness? The matter remains unresolved as it now awaits report of a DNA test. The whole episode is sickening and a sad commentary on the current state of humanity. When traditional man-woman roles seem to be reversing, many still yearn for the male child. This obsession is playing havoc with the basic fabric of the society. Sex-selective abortions are on the rise, despite being banned. The rich and the influential fly to countries where it is permissible to get abortions after the sex of the foetus is determined. All this has led to an adverse gender balance. Census data indicates that the number of girls per 1,000 boys has dropped from 910 in 2011 to 898 in 2013. The son fixation has deep social and cultural roots in the Asian countries. Even during the pre-Islamic times it held sway. The Arabs had then attributed sons to themselves and daughters to Allah. When someone gave news of the birth of a girl, their faces turned pale and gloom took over them. Should they keep her and suffer contempt or bury her in the dust. This was the question that bothered them. The modern man has overcome this barbaric form of burying alive baby girls. He simply snuffs out life in the womb and calls it abortion, an euphemism for murder. There is no hue and cry about the countless girls who are not allowed to see the light of day. Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen, calls them missing women.  Some families are so son-centric that they end up with half a dozen girls in the hope of producing at least one male baby. Though India is religious by nature we don’t have firm faith that it is God who gives daughters to whom He wills and sons to whom He wills and both to whom He wills and makes barren whom He wills. Nor do we have the scientific temperament to believe that it is an X and a Y chromosome that determines the gender of the baby. Even among the educated and urban couples, the son-only-syndrome persists. Economic factor also drives this mania.Moreover, boys are looked upon as budhape ka sahara (security in old age). They take care of education and marriage of younger siblings, perform the last rites of parents and most importantly, bring in the dowry. On the other hand daughters are considered a liability — a paraya dhan (someone else’s wealth) so to say. For this reason many are stingy with regard to spending on girl’s education as it would only benefit their husband’s families. If aversion to girl child is only because of dowry and marriage expenses, couldn’t something be done to root out this menace? Gender equality will not come with mere ‘save girl child’ slogans. As an anonymous wit put it: A son is a son till he gets his wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life. If you pray for a child, pray for a righteous child — not a boy or girl. (New Indian Express 7/12/15)

‘Women are treated like cattle’ (8)

PUNE: Cases of intolerance, including dowry demands and bride-burning, are still being reported in India, adman and theatre veteran Alyque Padamsee said here on Tuesday. “Women in the country are being treated like cattle. Despite being the fastest growing economy in the world, India lags behind in moral economy,” Padamsee said. He was in the city to receive the Tanveer Sanman-2015, an award instituted by noted actor Shriram Lagoo in memory of his late son. “If I am asked whether India is tolerant, my answer would be yes and no. We have a caste system in India and the scheduled castes or dalits never got much tolerance from the brahmins,” he told TOI on the eve of the award ceremony. In a career spanning 60 years, Padamsee has directed more than 70 plays. Speaking about the theatre scene in India, he said it has been taken over by the youth. “Few youngsters were interested in theatre till 2000. I am a great believer in constituting awards for achievers as it inspires others. Some of these awards include the Sultan Padamsee, Thespo award that encouraged the youngsters to do plays,” he added. Padamsee has helped set up playwriting awards (Sultan Padamsee Awards) under the auspices of the Theatre Group of Bombay, founded in 1941 by his elder brother Sultan, to encourage original writing in English by Indians. Padamsee said though plays are portraying social issues, it has failed to involve the audiences. “Many forget that apart from a playwright, actor and director, there is also a fourth element, which is the audience. Unlike movies, theatre has a live audience and they should be involved in the play. Once the play is over, a discussion with the audience must be held,” he said. The Roopvedh Pratishthan will be presenting the Tanveer Sanman and the Tanveer Natyadharmee Puraskar 2015 to Pradeep Mulye. Senior theatre artiste and founder of the organisation Lagoo will hand over the awards at a ceremony on Wednesday at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha in Kothrud at 6.30pm. (Times of India 9/12/15)

426 cases registered under the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 during the year 2014 (8)

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), they(NCRB) have started collecting data on the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 using Ministry of Home Affairs approved revised proforma of ‘Crime in India’ since 2014. A total number of 426 cases have been registered under the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 during the year 2014. The number of cases filed under the Act clearly shows that women are taking recourse the law to get reliefs from domestic violence. State /UT Governments are responsible for implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005. The Act provides for an inbuilt mechanism to facilitate the entire system of access to justice. It identifies specific functionaries such as the Protection Officers and Services Providers whose primary duty is to assist women in accessing reliefs provided under the law. All the States/UTs are required to appoint the Protection Officers, registration of Service Providers and notification of shelter homes and medical facilities. As on date, all State Governments have appointed Protection Officers. The Central Government has been emphasizing upon the need to impart training to First Class Judicial Magistrates/Metropolitan Magistrates through National/State Judicial Academies to deal with cases under Domestic Violence Act. Continuous awareness creation among men and women in the society through workshops, seminars, street plays, Nari ki Chaupals, Beti Janmotshav are being undertaken at the district level. Further, advertisements in the press and electronic media educating people about issues of domestic violence, Child Sex Ratio and Child Marriage etc are also being taken up. Platforms such as the International Women’s Day and the National Girl Child Day are used to create awareness on rights of women. Through Sabla programme of this Ministry, adolescent girls in the age group of 11 to 18 years are imparted about training with regard to legal rights of women. This information was given by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha today. (Govt. of India, PIB 10/12/15)

Take measures to prevent human rights violations’ (8)

BELAGAVI: The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission’s Acting Chairperson Meera C. Saksena has expressed serious concern over the continuance of female foeticide, dowry harassment, bride burning, child marriage and other socio-cultural evils for various reasons, all of which were eventually based on violations of human rights enshrined in the Constitution. Inaugurating World Human Rights Day here on Thursday, she said, “It appears that there are people ready to violate human rights and commit such heinous offences every time they get a chance to do so.” It is high time that the law implementing officials not only deal with such offences seriously but also take effective measures to prevent it recurrence. Principal District and Sessions Judge P. Krishna Bhat said the right to freedom of expression was often being used to create unrest by some authors, to hurt sentiments of various sections of society, instead of serving the purpose of an ideological or philosophical debate. Drawing attention to “freedom from want”, he said roughly about 10 per cent of the population occupied central space while the remaining 90 per cent were on margins. Overall development, progress and peace could not be achieved for all unless this pervading gap was effectively and expeditiously bridged. Regional Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram stressed on creating more awareness on the importance of human rights and its effective implementation (The Hindu 11/12/15)

20% more crimes against women in 2015 (8)

New Delhi: Crime against women in the capital has gone up by 20% this year as compared to 2014, and there has also been a 27% increase in registration of rapes cases. A total of 6,482 cases of rape and molestation were registered under IPC up to October 31 against 5,483 in the corresponding period last year. Police data also reveal that 2,069 cases of rape were registered in 2014 as compared to 1,571 in 2013; 4,179 molestation cases were reported in 2014 against 3,345 in 2013; there were 1,282 cases of harassment in 2014 against 879 the year before; and dowry death cases touched 147 in 2014 as compared to 137 in 2013. Delhi Police has registered 7,124 FIRs of rape in the first eight months of 2015 of which only one case has been solved. In 2014, 11,209 such FIRs were lodged, but only nine accused were convicted. In 2013, the figure stood at 65 for 9,271 FIRs. Police officers say that in 70% of cases, the accused are known to the victims and crimes are committed inside homes, making it difficult to prevent them. Only 3.5% of rapes are committed by strangers. Activist Kavita Krishnan says there is no doubt that the number of cases has gone up, but the justice-delivery mechanism has failed. “The number of cases have not decreased with more reporting. There have been instances when people have been harassed and humiliated in the process of getting justice. This should be looked at,” she said. Police said majority of sexual assaults go unreported due to stigma attached to such crimes. “But police stations have a zero-tolerance policy while dealing with cases of crimes against women,” an officer said. Mental health expert Avdesh Sharma blames it on rising social disparities. “People’s lifestyles have changed but their mindset has not. If there is a case, there is a lot of publicity but no one feels the trauma of the woman. This must change,” he said. Delhi Police has registered 7,124 FIRs of rape in the first eight months of 2015 of which only one case has been solved. In 2014, 11,209 such FIRs were lodged, but only nine accused were convicted. (Times of India 15/12/15)

 Desire for male children creates 100-member family (8)

AHMEDABAD: The Bhabhor family faces a peculiar problem at Vavad Village in Dahod. Not that they are treated like outcasts, but villagers feel reluctant to invite them to social functions like weddings. The reason being a 100-member strong family which have kept increasing their members to ensure male children. Narsinh Bhabhor, patriarch of the Bhabhor family , has 11 children which include five girls. Narsinh’s son Samshu says, “If the entire family gathers for any celebration it becomes difficult to keep tab on the small children. One would need a cook for the entire family. No one in the village invites the entire family for a social function.” About family planning, Narsinh says that they are not aware of any such methods. Of late, health workers started coming and educating people about various family planning methods. Narsinh is not alone. There are over 8,000-odd families in the state who have 10 or more children. The census `Data on fertility’ reveals that of 42 lakh families who have had one or more children, there are 8,000-odd families where the number of children is 10 or more. Interestingly, of around 1.48 crore families there are around 25.51 lakh families who have only one child that is either a baby girl or a boy. Of these 25.51 lakh families, around 15.37 lakh have only one boy , while the remaining have only one girl. There are another 20.53 lakh families who have two children.Of these 20.53 lakh families, there are 15.37 lakh families who only have two boys, while the number is just 5.16 lakh when it comes to only two girls. Interestingly, it has been noticed that the number of families that have only boys is over 50% as compared to those having only girls. Among the families having five children, the number of families having all five girls increases than the families having sons.Gaurang Jani a sociologists says, “We are five brothers and today I am 50 plus. In the past and in the present, families having only sons are seen with respect and considered fortunate, but more number of girls indicate that the family had the urge for a male child and in the wait they were having daughters.” “I would say that in the past when the state had a good sex ratio, it was only because of more girls were born in the urge to get a male child,” explained Jani…. (Times of India 16/12/15)

 

December 16 Gangrape Victim’s Mother Takes Her Name in Public (8)

NEW DELHI: In a brave homage to her daughter, the mother of the December 16 gangrape victim today took her name in public, and said people who commit heinous crimes like rape should hang their heads in shame and not the victims or their families.  The 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally sexually assaulted on the ill-fated night of December 16 three years ago, and died 13 days later, triggering a massive public outrage. Among many, her spirit continued to live, and in tribute she was given the name ‘Nirbhaya’ or brave heart. But, today on the third anniversary of the infamous incident that shocked the entire world, the victim’s mother Asha Devi, in a display of extraordinary courage, took her daughter’s name in public.   “My daughter’s name was……and I am not ashamed to name her. Those who commit heinous crimes like rape, their heads should hang in shame, not the victims or their families. You should take her name too,” she said at ‘Nirbhaya Chetna Diwas’ here, a public event organised by women’s and citizens groups at the Jantar Mantar to mark the anniversary.         The parents of the girl, Asha Devi and Badri Singh Pandey also demanded that juvenile convict, allegedly the most brutal” of the six offenders, and scheduled to be released on December 20, should not be released, citing he was a threat to the city. “On the third death anniversary of our death, we are seeing the release of the juvenile convict. Where is justice in that? I do not know whether he is 16 or 18. I only know that he has committed a brutal crime and there should be no age limit for punishment,” Asha said. She also put forth four demands from a public platform that the five accused including the juvenile convict should be sentenced to death, fast-track courts be set up in all the courts to offer speedy justice to sexual assault victims, amendments to the Juveniles Justice Act be passed and utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund for setting up high quality forensic labs in all states. Celebrities like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Delhi Congress chief spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee, and various women’s groups had gathered at the Jantar Mantar to pay homage to the girl and agreed that it was the certainty of justice which can bring about a change.The Jantar Mantar street after the incident had virtually turned into a public memorial for her, with people flocking in from all parts of the city to light up a candle or offer a prayer in her memory, with many moved to tears, recalling the brutality the young girl was subjected to.  Today also, candle light vigils, prayer meetings and a series of other events marked three years of the heinous gangrape and death of the girl, that left the nation benumbed. The father of girl said there was a lack of political will to do anything to enhance the safety and security for women. “The government was supposed to carry out major activities like deploying more policemen and installing CCTV cameras aimed at stepping up security and safety for women in the city but nothing has been done. “The government has money but not the will to do anything to enhance the safety and security for women,” he said.   (New Indian Express 17/12/15)

Haryana khap does its bit to end female foeticide (8)

Jind (Haryana): No third child after the birth of two daughters and only Re. 1 to be taken by the groom as dowry from a girl’s family. These were among a host of rulings given out by a Khap Panchayat here to discourage the practices of female foeticide and dowry. In an announcement which comes as a breath of fresh air, as khaps are infamous for issuing orthodox diktats, Bura Khap’s head Rajbir Bura said its members at a meeting held here on Sunday have decided to felicitate couples who do not have a third child after the birth of two daughters and those who took no or only Re. 1 as dowry from the bride’s family. The Khap has also limited the members in the bridegroom’s wedding procession to 21. “The decision was much-needed as too many people in a ‘baraat’ puts unnecessary financial burden on the bride’s family,” the Khap head said. Mr. Bura said a decision to shorten the mourning period after death in the family from 13 to seven days was also taken. “It was decided to end the old practice of not having wheat flour, pulses and ghee during the mourning period.” — PTI (The Hindu 20/12/15)

Nirbhaya Gangrape: Victim’s Kin Continue Protests Against Juvenile’s Release (8)

NEW DELHI: As the news of Jyoti Singh’s juvenile rapist walking scot free hit the country, protest were held across the national capital. The parents of the December 16 gang rape victim’s mother Asha Devi and Badri Singh protested at Jantar Mantar and held a candle light vigil on Monday to protest the juvenile’s release. This comes after the apex court denied the late night provisions moved by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) today, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) along with parents gathered at the protest site demanding the Juvenile Justice Bill be passed in Rajya Sabha. The parents demanded that the amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act has been cleared by the Lok Sabha and is awaiting clearance from the Rajya Sabha that should be fast tracked. “”Modi ji is talking about Beti bachao, but the law is not saving our daughters. On the contrary it is promoting more and more crimes committed by under age kids, if thre is law at least people will have a fear in them before committing such crime. Our daughter is no more there but the least we can do is fight for the other girls” Badri Singh father of Jyoti told to Express.   Scores of students along with parents gathered and demanded that there be change in the juvenile justice act. “We will take our battle for justice across India to awaken governments and law makers, it starts from here, will fight to ensure death penalty for rest of the four rapists who are currently lodged in Tihar jail. We will not take support of any political party, but we want people of this country to help us” said Asha Devi sitting on the site.  After the protest parents met the Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to ask for the party’s support n passing the amendments in the Juvenile Justice act. Azad has reportedly assured his party’s support in passing the bill. (Indian Express 22/12/15)

Domestic violence, dowry laws misused to harass elderly: Court (8)

NEW DELHI: There has been a sharp increase in misuse of domestic violence and dowry laws to silence and arm-twist ageing parents, a trial court noted while directing a man and his wife to vacate his widowed mother’s property. “Respecting our parents and elders and caring for them is an integral part of our culture. Lately, there is rampant abuse of laws related to domestic violence and dowry to arm-twist parents. In case of any misbehavour with the elderly, courts would certainly step in to stop this inappropriate and illegal conduct,” additional district judge Kamini Lau said. The court made these observations while coming to the rescue of septuagenarian Shanti Devi who alleged harassment and humiliation at the hands of her son and daughter-in-law. “The plaintiff is the widowed mother of the defendant. She is a senior citizen and has been facing trauma, harassment and humiliation at the hands of her own son, Suresh Kumar, only because she refused to transfer the in question property in his name. She has been abused, misbehaved and manhandled,” the court said. In her plea, Shanti told the court she purchased the property with her savings in June 1997, after her husband’s death. She said that in 2006, Kumar asked permission to live in the house with his wife and children. Shanti told the court she allowed her son to stay with his family as licencess. However, the couple soon started beating her for not transferring the property to them, Shanti alleged. She also claimed her son and daughter-in-law Sunita got false property papers made by forging her signatures. Kumar, on the other hand, claimed he had brought the property in his mother’s name who was now trying to grab the house by levelling false allegations. Kumar, a retired armyman, also said he used to transfer most of his salary to his mother. However, he failed to produce any evidence to back his claim, after which the court ruled in Shanti’s favour and directed Kumar to pay damages to her. “I hold that the plaintiff is entitled to damages to the tune of Rs 5,000 per month from the date of institution of the suit. She is also to be paid Rs 7,000 per month till the vacant, physical and peaceful possession of the property is handed over to her. I also restrain the defendant from selling, transferring and creating any third party interest in the property,” the court said. (Times of India 26/12/15)

114 women have died during abortion in state since 2010 (8)

MUMBAI: Over a hundred women in the state have died while undergoing medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) in the past six years, an RTI query has revealed. The deaths have raised serious concern over the access and availability of safe abortion for women in rural areas, particularly in the second trimester. The RTI query by activist Chetan Kothari to the family welfare department shows that 114 women in the state died during or after undergoing MTP at a registered centre between 2010 and 2015 (October). It is estimated that over 3 lakh women in the state undergo MTP annually. Activists say the figure is just the tip of the iceberg as abortions and related deaths go largely unreported. For 2015-16, statistics show that five women have died till October, while in the last two financial years, 15 deaths were reported each year. The scenario was worse between 2010 and 2012 with 27 and 35 deaths at registered centres alone. An state government audit of all maternal deaths, including those during MTPs, has found three main causes for the deaths. “Those are delay in decision-making, transporting and intervention. Mostly, it is the husband or in-laws, not the woman, who decides about terminating the pregnancy, often causing a fatal delay,” said assistant director Dr N D Deshmukh from the directorate of health services. In most cases, he said, women come with pre-existing complications and succumb at these centres. Therefore, the state claims to have equipped even primary and rural health centres to increase access to skilled doctors. Activists, however, allege that such initiatives exist only on paper. “There are no gynaecologists in rural areas to provide basic delivery services, leave alone MTP,” said Dr Arun Gadre, a Nashik-based retired gynaecologist who is now into health advocacy. “The load ultimately comes on district hospitals, where not many women can afford to commute,” he said, explaining why an overwhelming number of women prefer a midwife or quack in the village. “Often botched abortions lead to excessive bleeding, infections and ultimately death,” he added. Access to safe abortions has also taken a huge beating since the state’s crackdown on sex-selective MTPs. “Skilled doctors are afraid to conduct abortion in the second trimester, fearing coercive action if the child happens to be a girl,” said Pritam Potdar of NGO Samyak that works for the rights of urban poor women. Gadre added that over-dependence on MTP pills in the first trimester, often without medical supervision, also leads to many complications. Head of gynaecology at JJ Hospital, Dr Rekha Davar, said that many women have come to hospital in a critical condition after attempting an unsuccessful medical MTP (with pills) and required emergency blood transfusion or surgical evacuation. She, however, said that MTP deaths are on a decline. (Times of India 28/10/15)

Ensure 33 per cent women in Delhi police: Parliamentary standing panel (8)

New Delhi: The department related parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs has directed the home ministry to ensure that the representation of women personnel in the Delhi Police reaches 30 per cent. “The committee notes that as on date, the representation of women in Delhi Police is 9.27 per cent only,” stated the report. “However, on March 20, 2015, the government approved reservation of 33 per cent for women horizontally and in each category… in direct recruitment in non-gazetted posts… in police forces of all union territories, including Delhi Police,” it added. The committee’s report also refers to steps taken by the Delhi Police after the December 2012 gangrape case to prevent crimes against women. “However, incidents of crimes against women have a disheartening trend…The committee feels that there is a need for sensitisation programmes on behaviour towards women,” stated the report. (Indian Express 28/12/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

30 minor children rescued from illegal hostel in Kandhamal (14)

BERHAMPUR: Thirty minor children were rescued from an illegal private children’s home at Baliguda in Kandhamal district. This hostel for poor tribal and Dalit children was raided by the police along with activists of Childline. District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) Rashmita Karan and members of district Child Protection Committee participated in the raid. Rescued children have been sheltered at Banabasi Seva Samity at Baliguda. Most of them were from remote villages of Kandhamal district, while some of them were from adjoining Gajapati district. According to officials, their parents were being contacted so that they could be properly rehabilitated. All the rescued children were studying in Classes I to X. The hostel management had promised better education and life for these children. It is alleged that money was also being collected from parents. The hostel was not registered despite directives of the administration. It did not have proper infrastructure to house the children. According to the rescued children, as there was no toilet facility in the building they were staying in and they had to go out in the fields. They added that they were also involved in labour at their hostel, including cooking work and gathering firewood from nearby jungle for their kitchen. (The Hindu 2/12/15)

Every child kept out of school works as a bonded labour: Swami Agnivesh (14)

“Every child who is kept out of school in India is a bonded child labour. More than 60% of the contribution to India’s GDP comes from daily wage labourers and 450 million of India’s unorganised labour is not getting minimum wage salary, making India the largest home to modern day slaves and child labourers,” said Swami Agnivesh speaking to TOI during his visit to Bengaluru on Wednesday. Speaking on the sidelines of Teach for change, an NGO with an objective to improve the overall literacy at government high schools in Karnataka, Agnivesh said, “Every child who is kept away from school can be called a bonded slave because if not in schools then where are these children spending their entire day? Children do not drop out from the government schools; they are pushed out of these schools because the government is working against them”.Children from backward castes and background have no right to education in our nation. Government schools are in shambles because of the governance, he adds. “The government was supposed to allocate 6% of the national budget to education but only half of it is it used today. The government teachers are taking money from the government only to send their kids to private schools. All states should follow Allahabad High court’s order of ensuring that all government servants send their children to primary schools run by the state education board,” said Agnivesh. When asked about about the current education schemes introduced by Union minister Smriti Irani, the human right activist replied, “All these schemes from mid -day meals to RTE are scams and Smriti Irani does not have the will to make radical change in the education system of India. We have more religious places than schools in India, religious places where false gods are worshipped and children are found begging.” (Times of India 2/12/15)

More than 180,000 child brides in Turkey, lawyer claims (14)

There are more than 180,000 child brides in Turkey, a female-rights lawyer has claimed. Around third of all marriages in the country are between an elder man and a child, according to statistics from a Turkey Population and Health Research survey. And lawyer Nuriye Kadan, an executive member of the Izmir Bar Association Central, said: “There are 181,036 child brides in our country, unfortunately.” In 2002, the legal age of marriage for girls was raised to 17 years old, although the civil code allows for marriage at the age of 16, with the consent of the court in “exceptional circumstances”.Speaking at a conference to address the issue on Sunday, Ms Kadan said: “Nearly 20,000 parents filed applications to marry off their under-16 girls in 2012.” Child marriage in Turkey has been a longstanding problem, but reliable statistics around the issue are scarce. Research conducted by the United Nations Population Fund in 2013 indicated 28 per cent of marriage in Turkey involved girls aged under 18. A huge influx of refugees – often women and children – from Syria and Iraq is thought to have pushed numbers up.Parents are faced with the decision to either marry their daughters to strangers or attempt to protect them from the volatile conditions in refugee camps. While President Recep Erdogan has called the state of women’s affairs the “bleeding wound” of his country, he also said men and women cannot be placed on an “equal footing”.Globally, around 15 million girls are married as children. A total of 90 per cent of adolescent pregnancies occur within marriage, and are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low to middle-income countries. (Times of India 9/12/15)

Metro stations hosting child rights exhibition (14)

New Delhi: Twelve Delhi Metro stations are hosting ‘Click Rights’, a photojournalism exhibition highlighting the health and nutrition challenges faced by children below the age of five in the country. The photo exhibition is part of the ‘Get Healthy, Give Healthy’ campaign launched by Child Rights and You (CRY), a non-governmental organisation, seeking to make people aware about the issues confronting children. “The campaign focuses on children under 5 years of age and their health, education and nutrition. Growth and development is at its peak in this age-group and proper nutrition, health and a safe and stimulating environment lay the foundations for later development,” said Soha Moitra, the Regional Director, North, CRY. She said 56 percent of children from 12 to 23 months were not immunized and 48.4 percent were malnourished. “Almost one million children every year do not live to see their first birthday. Therefore through ‘Click Rights’ we aim to reach out to people and convey that every child needs a healthy start and that opportunities lost in this phase cannot be reversed”.A large number of the photographs were contributed by children from CRY intervention areas, with training from photography volunteers. Anuj Dayal, Executive Director Corporate Communications, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, said, “The Delhi Metro is pleased to associate itself with the ‘Click Rights’ initiative.” “Children are the future of the nation… We are sure that through this campaign we will be able to benefit many children and provide them with the ideal platform to shine in their lives,” he added. The photo exhibition will run up to December 31 across 12 stations, including Shahdara, Kashmere Gate, Vishwavidyalaya, Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazar, New Delhi, Rajiv Chowk, Uttam Nagar East, Janakpuri West, Anand Vihar ISBT, Mandi House and ITO. (Business Standard 10/12/15)

More number of child labourers turning into rag-pickers: survey (14)

A survey conducted by children under the aegis of non-profit organisation CHETNA (Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action) found out that the number of child labourers, specially in and around the railway stations in the Capital has gone up from 224 last year to 482 this year. Out of the total number of child labourers, majority is that of rag-pickers. The survey found that 155 children are employed as rag-pickers while others are engaged in odd jobs like working at a restaurant, selling balloons and others. The one of its kind survey was conducted by children who were once living on the street and were rehabilitated by CHETNA, was done with the aim of making the government aware about their problems so that positive measures can be taken. “Members of Badhte Kadam, a wing of CHETNA did something which seemed impossible for our government. We have conducted this survey to let the government know about the problems of street children. Because of the government’s inability to get a headcount of the children, they remain a neglected lot when it comes to implementation of facilities for them,” said Poonam one of the surveyors. The surveyors conducted a survey around railway stations, which is the hub of trafficking of children and has a large population of children working in shops, as rag-pickers, or at restaurants. They also expressed an apprehension that Sarai Kale Khan could be the hub of trafficking. “We also found out that the majority of children come from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, followed by States like Haryana, Assam, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and West Bengal,” added another surveyor Shambhu. CHETNA is now planning to take the findings of the survey to organisations including National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to put pressure on the government for designing an action plan for street working children. “Street and working children have done an amazing work by conducting the consensus of working children. I think now is the time to include our street and working children in the consensus and this issue will also be considered in the United Nations,” said Sanjay Gupta, Director CHETNA. (The Hindu 11/12/15)

46 Child Workers Rescued From Bangle Units in Old City (14)

HYDERABAD: Despite the efforts of the police and social welfare departments, child labour thrives in the bylanes of the city. Though the police and child welfare officials launched a massive drive against child labour earlier this year, hundreds of teenagers are made to toil in the dark rooms of bangle units dotting the winding lanes of the Old City, without proper food and sleep for meagre wages. The Hyderabad police on Tuesday rescued as many as 46 minors from the bangle units in the old city. The sleuths came across minors hailing from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Cases have been registered against Abdul Waheed(43), Parveez(23), Dhanesh(21), Rajan(65) and Tanveer(20), the owners of the bangle manufacturing units. Deputy commissioner of Police V Satyanarayana said that minors were found working in four bangle units under the limits of Chatrinaka and Falaknuma police stations. Among them, 12 children have been brought to the city from Purnia district in Bihar. Eight children from Jharkhand and two from Kolkata were among the rescued. “The children were made to work in surroundings unsafe for human beings. All the 46 children will be sent to the rescue home of Child Welfare department and united with their parents. Earlier, as many as 385 children were rescued from the units working under limits of Bhavani Nagar, Chandrayangutta, Kanchanbagh, Falaknuma, Charminar, Mirchowk, and Moghalpura etc between January and April 2015. As many as 31 cases were registered against the employers. As many as 63 persons were arrested in connection with the cases, said the DCP. According to him, those who were involved in child labour earlier have not returned. “People who escaped the attention of Police earlier have brought these minors recently on a trial basis by concealing their identity at the units,” said the DCP. (New Indian Express 16/12/15)

87% dip in child rights violation cases in Maharashtra in 5 years (14)

Mumbai: Even though incidents of crimes against children are being reported frequently, the number of complaints on the violation of child rights filed in the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has dropped by more than 87% in the last five years. The number of fresh complaints filed in the child rights commission has dropped to 61 in 2015 from as many as 498 in 2011, revealed the statistics released by the commission recently. The commission was established in 2008-09 but it started getting more cases from 2011 onwards, with the introduction of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009. In 2008-09, it had received only nine cases and the number increased slightly to 35 in 2010. The commission deals with cases which involve violation of child rights such as child sexual abuse, corporal punishment, child labour and trafficking among others. Interestingly, with the fall in number of complaints, the number of pending cases with the commission has also reduced, with the commission having zero pending cases to be looked at right now. This has happened for the first time since its inception. The number of pending cases has dropped from 575 in 2011 to just 80 in 2015. Out of these 80, 15 cases are currently being heard, while reports have been called for 38 cases and the remaining 28 cases have been closed for order. This means that there are zero complaints that have not been addressed by the commission. Member secretary of the commission, AN Tripathi attributed the trend to increased awareness on child rights and swift disposal of cases by the commission. “Awareness on child rights has increased recently because of strict penalties or punishments under the new acts such as the RTE act, Juvenile Justice Act and the (POCSOA) Act,” said Tripathi. However, child rights experts said that besides more awareness, number of cases coming to the commission might have also reduced because of other factors such as less reach in other parts of the state. “Since the commission is based out of Mumbai, people from remote parts of the state find it difficult to approach them,” said Farida Lambay, co-founder, Pratham NGO. “It is true that awareness has increased, but it is also important to see what type of cases are now coming to the commission.” Also the commission has been conducting regular hearings of the cases that are filed with them. “We are short staffed but still we are trying to ensure that we come up with recommendations as soon as possible,” said Tripathi. “We are the only child rights commission in the country to have achieved this.” In the past, the commission’s recommendations on allowing autistic children to study in the same class as regular children by assigning a shadow teacher and suggestions to ban children under 18 years from participating in dahi handi have been upheld by the Bombay High Court. (Hindustan Times 17.12.15)

76% kids below age 13 hooked to YouTube: Assocham (14)

MUMBAI: A whopping 95% of the teens, aged between 13 and 17 years, access the internet while 76% of minors, below the age of 13, use YouTube daily, a new survey revealed. One is required to be of above 18 years of age to open an account on YouTube, the video-sharing website. Social media networking sites are used by 81% of the teenagers while 72% of them log into social media more than once daily, the survey by Assocham said. Of these, 65% of the kids aged below 13 used social media sites and 76% of the children below 13 have a YouTube account, and 51% of them also have a smartphone. Over one-third — 35% — of the teenagers use laptops and 32% use tablets to access their favourite websites, said Assocham secretary-general DS Rawat. “The statistics are sad and worrying. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but even a five-year-old can easily sign up with parents’ permission. Despite these clearly stated and published age restrictions, large and growing numbers of children between the age of 7 to 13 are using social media networks and access YouTube assistance without their parents’ knowledge and consent,” Rawat said. The survey by Assocham’s Social Development Foundation (ASDF) of 4,750 parents of children in the age group of 6-13 was conducted in various Indian cities. YouTube is accessed daily by 76% of those below 13 with music video clips being the most popular, and 40-50% below the age of nine are also active on other sites. In the survey, Lucknow ranked first on the YouTube chart followed by Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Coimbatore, Chandigarh and Dehradun…. (Times of India 21/12/15)

Demand in Rajya Sabha for immediate passage of juvenile bill (14)

NEW DELHI: A demand for expeditious passage of the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act to allow children between 16-18 years to be tried as adults in heinous crime cases was made in the Rajya Sabha today, soon after the Supreme Court dismissed a plea against the release of the juvenile offender in the December 16 gang-rape case. As memories of the brutal 2012 Nirbhaya case returned with the release of the juvenile, Derek O’Brien (TMC) said he has given a notice under rule 267 seeking suspension of business and taking up the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014. He said the House had only three days to go before end of the Winter Session and government’s listed agenda includes commercial courts, arbitration and real estate bill. The government has not even listed the juvenile bill for discussion and passing today, he said during Zero Hour. “It is incumbent upon the House to listen to what is going on outside,” he said, asking the House to rise above politics. “It is not a perfect bill but let us list it and pass the bill,” O’Brien said. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the bill was listed on December 8, 10 and 11. “We have listed it for tomorrow,” he said, adding if all agree the bill can be taken up for discussion today itself. Deputy chairman PJ Kurien said O’Brien has raised a relevant point. If the government and opposition agree the bill can be discussed. “But government has to list the bill.” Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the bill is not listed today even though the Congress had at all-party meeting last week agreed to its passage. Today, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015 has been listed for passing. “We are committed to passing it today,” he said adding the juvenile bill can be taken up tomorrow. (Times of India 21/12/15)

Suja Jones seeks intervention of child rights commission (14)

Bengaluru: Suja Jones Mazurier, mother of the seven-year-old who allegedly faced sexual abuse at the hands of her father Pascal Mazurier, has sought the intervention of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights in the case. A High Court order on December 18 had given Pascal Mazurier visitation rights to all their three children, including their daughter, the alleged victim. Though she said that she would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court, she did not do so. Sources close to her said she was trying to mobilise resources and find an advocate who would take up the case pro bono. In a letter to Kripa Alva, chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a copy of which is available with The Hindu , Suja Jones wrote: “My daughter is traumatised and I am shocked that this could happen. I do not know what step to take. I need the immediate intervention of the Commission since I do not have much time.” Kripa Alva said, “We are looking into the matter and trying to explore how we can help them. But the court order came late and with court holidays having begun, we will see what best we can do in the coming days.” Throughout the day, Suja Jones Mazurier remained inaccessible to the media. Several child rights activists and groups, including South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) and Swaraj Abhiyan, held a press conference on Wednesday supporting Suja Jones. They said that the child was an important witness in the case and such a meeting may intimidate her. (The Hindu 25/12/15)

Flow of child labour from Bihar on the rise (14)

VISAKHAPATNAM: The case of the 12-year-old girl, who was rescued by the Malkapuram police and the Childline from the house of a sailor of the Indian Navy, appears to be a typical instance of bonded child labour. Even after over six decades of Independence, bonded child labour still seems to exist. Bihar is said to be the main supplier. The rescued girl too hails from a village in . Ravi Kiran of the Childline and Ranganadham, SHO of Malkapuram Police Station, said that the girl was brought from Bihar two months ago as a domestic help and was not being paid for her services. Initial investigations suggest that the couple paid some amount to the girl’s parents. The girl was mercilessly beaten allegedly by the sailor’s wife, Anjali, a number of times. The girl was produced before the Child Welfare Committee on Saturday and sent to a shelter home after treatment. A case was registered against Anjali under IPC Section 324. But this is just one among the many incidents of child labour and abuse that have come to light in the recent times. Between March 2014 and April 2015, the Childline rescued 55 child labourers, 10 of them girls, from hazardous profession and domestic sector. Of them, 32 children were from various districts of Bihar. Of the total rescued children, 53 were picked up from brick kilns, motor mechanic shops, welding shops, construction sites, and bars and restaurants, and two from the domestic sector. “The flow of children from Bihar is on the rise. In this year, we have rescued 12 children from various hazardous sites and seven of them are from Bihar,” said Deputy Commissioner of Labour, R. Srinivas.“We do not have problem with the other sectors. But domestic sector is a bit problematic,” said Mr. Srinivas. Acquiescing with the Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Mr. Ravi Kiran said that there were a number of children employed as domestic help and they were being subjected to torture. “But we cannot conduct a raid without prior concrete information,” he said. (The Hindu 27/12/15)

115 children facing legal trials across district (14)

KOLHAPUR: As many as 115 children are facing legal trials at the juvenile justice board (JJB) in Kolhapur for their alleged involvement in various crimes. There are couple of cases, such as molestation, which can be considered heinous crime against women, while the rest are related to theft, robbery and street-fighting. Officials said the number of over 100 cases is a steady trend and there is no sharp increase or decrease. Kolhapur and Ichalkaranji are the two major urban areas from where the children were taken into custody by the police and later the JJB’s probation and observation centres, sources in the judiciary said. The JJB Kolhapur has a magistrate and two members. It has been known as one with the least pendency in Maharashtra. The JJB conducts two sittings every week — on Fridays and Saturdays — to sort out the cases. However, the police can take the child to the magistrate any time of the week in case of emergency, officials said. As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (56 of 2000), rule 5, a child apprehended by police, shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit, or the designated police officer. The rule states that the juvenile shall be brought by the concerned police officer to the JJB within 24 hours of taking charge of him or her. The the details of not doing so be recorded in the police diary or general diary. “The police strictly follow the norms. The JJB at Kolhapur has remained punctual to sort out the pendency of cases. Still there 115 cases pending. Our key task is to provide necessary counselling to the child in conflict with law. I have seen cases when names of children were got registered in police book as per the complaint against an whole family. In such cases, we have to ensure that the future of the child is not ruined,” said Rajashree Sakle, member of the JBB Kolhapur.Though the district has five such centres, in almost all cases the child is sent to the city-based centre. “We conduct inquiry of the child’s behaviour using our probation officers. We send them to the centres only if the report consists of some negative remarks; however, at the centre also we ensure that the child receives counselling from our officers,” Sakle added. The NGOs working in the field of child rehabilitation, while opposing the new law reducing the juvenile age from 18 to 16, say that the probation and observation centres are more responsible to convert a child into hardened criminal. “We have JJBs at all the districts in Maharashtra; but there are very few places where the child in conflict with law can get proper counselling. At other places, the child is often exposed to a hardliner partner and there is chance that the child starts following him or her. There is no scientific therapy of counselling is available in any of our centres,” said Anuradha Bhosale, an activist, working for child-rights. (Times of India 29/12/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

 Indian citizens have the right to propagate religion, says cardinal (7)

PATHANAMTHITTA: Every Indian citizen has the right to live in his own motherland and to follow and propagate the religious faith he belongs to, Cardinal Mar Baselius Cleemis Catholicos has said. The Cardinal was delivering the presidential address at the Archbishop Mar Benedict Mar Gregorios commemoration meet held under the auspices of the Pathanamthitta diocese of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church here on Monday. “India is the land of the Rishis of the yore who taught the world the noble message of universal brotherhood and peace. The broadminded outlook of India and its rich contributions to the world at large belonged to those who have deeply felt the Hindu culture and tradition,” the Cardinal said. Benedict Mar Gregorios was a real symbol of Indian secularism. Mar Gregorios could whole heartedly accommodate the diverse Indian culture, firmly following the Christian faith and upholding the secular credentials of the country. Both believers and atheists supported him, the Cardinal said. Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash inaugurated the commemoration meet and Jacob Punnose, former Director General of Police, delivered the keynote address. K. Sivadasan Nair, MLA; Youhanon Mar Chrysostum, Pathanamthitta Bishop of the Malankara Catholic Church; Mon. Jose Chamakkalayil Corepiscopa, Mon. Joseph Antony, Vicar Generals; Thykkoottathil Zakeer, Fr Ignatius Thangalathil, and Fr Mathew Alummoottil, also spoke. (The Hindu 1/12/15)

Mansa admn fails to provide adequate land for graveyards (7)

Mansa: Even five months after the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) expressed concern over inadequate land for graveyards, the Mansa district administration seems to have failed to resolve the issue. At a meeting held to redress grievances of people here on Wednesday by deputy commissioner Isha Kalia, members of the Methodist church expressed concern over the issue. “We met the deputy commissioner and asked her to resolve the issue and offer us some area at a suitable location to construct a graveyard.” “There is no graveyard available in the entire district and, despite repeated assurances from the chief minister himself, the issue has not been resolved yet,” said pastor Gurtej. The pastor further added that the bodies have to be taken to the graveyard in Bathinda. “At times, we have tried to bury the bodies in the local cremation ground, but we always have to face stiff opposition from members of the majority community. Last time, we could manage to do it after SDM Budhlada provided us security.” Deputy commissioner Isha Kalia said that she has asked the subdivisional magistrate of Budhlada to look into the issue and resolve it at the earliest. A member of the National Minority Commission Ajaib Singh, who had visited the state in July, had sent a detailed report of the commission’s findings on the problems faced by minorities to the chief minister. Singh had met the officials of Bathinda, Mansa and Ludhiana districts on his 3-day tour to Punjab. The report primarily highlighted the problem of scanty availability of land for graveyards faced by the minority community. The HT had accessed the report which mentioned that the Christian community has only one graveyard in Bathinda district catering to the needs of people from Bathinda, Mansa and Barnala. (Hindustan Times 2/12/15)

Minorities commission seeks action against Raja Singh for hate speech (7)

HYDERABAD: The State Minorities Commission (SMC) will write to the Telangana government and city police to take action against controversial Bharatiya Janata Party legislator T Raja Singh for his recent comments pertaining to cow slaughter in the run up to the beef festival planned in Osmania University. Taking questions from the media at SMC office on Raj Bhavan Road, the commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan said that the first time Goshamahal legislator’s “inflamatory” remarks days ahead of the proposed beef festival in the varsity were causing “heartburn” and that the commission has been taking a note of all of his “controversial speeches”. Singh had reportedly said that he was even ready to “kill” for protection of cows. “We have written before and will write again to the police. The government is aware,” Khan said. The chairman explained based on a complaint filed by former Azampura corporator Amjedullah Khan, the commission wrote to the police asking for a report on the cases booked against Singh. “We were told that there are four or five cases against him. We told the police to curb these types of speeches. If these speeches are heard, they may cause disturbance,” he said. Describing Singh as a “habitual offender”, Khan said that the police had no reason to check for Singh’s “credentials”. “The law is there to deal with him,” Khan said. The commission has already taken up the matter, he clarified. Speaking on the issue of a group of 12 Muslim youth from Anwar-ul-Uloom College who were turned away from the National Cadet Corps for wearing a beard as it was against stipulations, Khan said that the matter has reached the Rajya Sabha and that he was hopeful of a positive outcome. He said that Khan had raised the issue in the upper house. The question was responded to by defence minister Manohar Parikkar who said that the recommendations of SMC are being “examined by the ministry”. “The issue is big and can have national ramifications. I have spoken to M A Khan and he said that he will follow up the issue again next week,” Khan said. case of Malaysian national Nor Azizah Binti Harun and the government of India’s agency’s unwillingness to accept her State Wakf Board issued marriage certificate. Nor, who married Faiz Farooq, an Indian citizen in 2003 and has an eight year old daughter, petitioned the commission in 2013 to intervene in her case. She said that the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) has been insisting that she get her marriage registered at the sub-registrar’s office. “We have written to the office of the FRRO and the the Ministry of Home Affairs but so no response has come. If registration of the marriage is applied retrospectively it makes sense. Also, all Muslim marriages are regsitered at the State Wakf Board. We are not sure why the concerned departments are not accepting it,” Khan said. The commission has written to Muslim parliamentarians to take up the issue in the parliament, he added. (Times of India 5/12/15)

‘Judiciary won’t allow intolerance towards anyone’ (7)

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said the debate on growing intolerance in society had a “political dimension” and assured citizens that the judiciary was there to protect them from any victimization or discrimination. Justice Thakur said there was no intolerance towards any community in the country and it would never happen as rule of law and judiciary were there. He said the judiciary was committed to protect the country’s heritage of religious diversity. He, however, refused to elaborate on the “political dimension” to the intolerance debate. Justice Thakur, the country’s 43rd CJI, said there was some “politics” involved in the debate on intolerance and added that he did not want to get involved in it. However, he emphatically stated that no person belonging to any community should be afraid of living in the country as the judiciary would take care of every citizen’s rights and freedom. “Our existence is based on philosophy of tolerance and I don’t think it (intolerance) is there. No one should have any reason to fear that they would be thrown out of the country or would be victimized,” Justice Thakur said while interacting with legal reporters at his residence. “I am heading an institution which protects constitutional rights of all citizens and also, sometimes, non-citizens. So long as rule of law is there and judiciary is functioning, no one should feel threatened. We are capable of protecting the rights of all citizens,” he said. Justice Thakur said India has always welcomed people from different religions with open arms and they have been living in the country peacefully for centuries. He said all religions teach brotherhood and harmony. Quoting Persian poet Khawaja Dil Mohammed who translated Bhagwat Gita into Urdu, Justice Thakur, well known for his love of Hindi and Urdu literature, said paths followed by people of different religions were different but all ways eventually led to one god. “Mutual respect for all religions must be promoted. We can progress only if we have an inclusive society,” he said. “India is the home of all religions. People prosecuted in their country came to India and settled. They flourished and prospered here and they also contributed a lot in the progress of this country. Look at Parsi community. They have contributed so much to the development and progress of the country. Their contribution in judiciary and industrial development is immense,” he said. It goes without saying that intolerance was inbuilt inn constitution & judiciary have to obey it & protect it, t… Read MoreDimple JunejaJustice Thakur, who in September raised questions on growing ban culture in the country while hearing a case on meat ban in Maharashtra, said the Constitution provides equal rights to all citizens irrespective of caste, creed or religion and assured that judiciary would live up to people’s expectation to protect their rights. “We don’t have reluctance or bias in protecting rights of all sections of society. People should not get upset till the judiciary is there. There is no need of fear,” he said, adding that India was known for diversity and tolerance which were the most valuable assets of the country. (Times of India 7/12/15)

Minority refugees from Pak, Bangladesh can stay without valid documents (7)

New Delhi: Refugees of minority communities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, can stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, even without valid travel documents, Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday. In response to a written question, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said the government vide its notification dated September 7, 2015, has granted exemption to persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who entered into India on or before December 31, 2014, from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the orders made there under in respect of their stay in India without valid documents, including passport or other travel document; or with valid documents including passport or other travel document and the validity of any such documents has expired. “The immigrants from Bangladesh can obtain Indian citizenship under the provisions of Citizenship Act, 1955 and the rules made there under. Persons residing in Indian enclaves on Bangladesh side of the border are already Indian citizens. “However, 14,864 persons residing in erstwhile Bangladeshi enclaves on Indian side of the border have been granted Indian citizenship with effect from August 1, 2015, the date of transfer of enclaves, as per the provisions of section 7 of Citizenship Act, 1955,” he said. (The Hindu 9/12/15)

Aamsu: Govt harassing minorities (7)

Guwahati: The All Assam Minority Students’ Union (Aamsu) has blamed the state government for harassing people of the minority communities on suspicion of being illegal migrants. This comes at a time when the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated in the state, following the apex court guidelines. Aamsu took out a mammoth rally on Saturday at Biswanath Chariali in north Assam where they talked about launching highway and railway blockades if minority people continue to get notices from foreigners’ tribunals. “This is just a conspiracy to harass minority people of the state at a time when the NRC is being updated in the state. Once the register is updated, all illegal migrants residing in Assam can be easily identified. But at such a crucial juncture, some government officials are hatching this conspiracy and they are behind sending notices from the foreigners’ tribunals,” alleged Aamsu president Abdur Rahim Ahmed. He alleged that people, whose ancestors’ names are there in the NRC of 1951, are also being harassed on the suspicion of being illegal immigrants. (Times of India 13/12/15)

Cultural freedom of minorities being suppressed: JIH (7)

Hyderabad, Dec 14 (PTI) Jamaat-e-Islami Hind today expressed deep concern over “growing intolerance” and “suppression” of cultural freedom of minorities in the country, alleging that communal elements got strengthened after the assent of BJP to power at the Centre. All India Members’ Convention of JIH “expresses anguish over the suppression of cultural freedom of minorities and saffronisation of the country’s education system,” a resolution passed at the conclusion of a National Members’ Meet of the JIH said. The convention regretted “continued silence of Prime Minister over this grim situation” and said “ironically, Union Home Minister is blaming the state government by putting all responsibility upon the state governments.” Expressing deep concern over “growing intolerance and communal violence” in the country, it said, “The Convention opines that communal elements got strengthened after the assent of BJP to power at the Centre.” At a press conference, JIH national president Maulana Syed Jalauddin Umri said his organisation was against terror group IS. “Whatever Daaish (IS) is doing, whatever people are showing, if it is true, we are against it,” he said. Noting that the United States can finish off IS “within minutes” if it wants do so, he said but America is not doing so. Umri felt that there could be a conspiracy in not finishing off the IS so as “to tarnish the image of Islam”.How did IS emerge in a span of a few months? he asked. He said those trying to join the terror outfit are “stupid” and it is the responsibility of their parents and the society to stop them from doing so. (PTI 14/12/15)

Respect rights, sensitivities of minorities: President Mukherjee (7)

Kolkata: President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday called for respecting the rights and sensitivities of minorities, both in letter and spirit, and eliminating forces that divide society. Delivering the Indira Gandhi Memorial Lecture (2013) on National Integration of the Asiatic Society, he also stressed on the awareness about “limitations and mistakes of the past which gave rise to problems of inequality” in the country. “Let us create on the foundation of our intrinsic unity, a strong and compassionate nation respected around the world. Let there be no forces that divide our society. Let us consolidate our thoughts around a common vision of a great nation,” Mukherjee said. The President said the state must do its best to reduce regional imbalances and provide a just, fair and good administration which will ensure equal treatment to every citizen, irrespective of his caste, religion, race, colour, sex or place of birth. Mukherjee requested the citizens to rise above caste or communal loyalties and underscored the need for cultivating a secular and democratic outlook and ensuring inclusivity of every community in the national narrative. “We must encourage a broad human outlook in all our citizens and educate them to rise above caste or communal loyalties.” “We must learn to respect the rights and sensitivities of minorities, both in letter and spirit. We must cultivate a secular and democratic outlook, and promote a way of life that is inclusive and does not interfere with civic duties and rights as well as responsibilities of individuals,”he said. “We must strive to maintain an atmosphere where every community feels a part of the national narrative,” he added. The President said sometimes regional interest overtook national commitments, and urged everyone to guard against it. “National integration demands that every citizen recognise the primacy of national interest over group or individual interests. Sometimes, it does happen that regional interests overtake our commitment to the national interest. We have to guard against any such tendency,” he said. The President described national integration as “essential for the idea of India to grow” and highlighted the role of the academic community to promote national integration. He urged Indians to learn about the nation’s history, and spoke about learning from the mistakes of the past. “As with every other country, our beauty, achievement and potential for future growth are peppered with some deficiencies and failures. Every Indian citizen must also be aware of our mistakes of the past and limitations which have created problems of inequality in our midst.” Mukherjee batted for ingraining the concept of unity in diversity in the youth. “All Indians must learn about the people who came here from different parts of the world and made their own contribution to the splendid mosaic that Indian culture is.,” he said. “Knowledge about different religions and great saints who took birth here should be part and parcel of everyone’s education. Every Indian must be familiar with our age-old contacts with the outside world and our contributions to world civilization.” “Most important of all, the basic unity that keeps us together amidst the immense diversity of our peoples, ethnicities, languages and cultures should be ingrained in every individual citizen, especially the youth,” he said. (Hindustan Times 15/12/15)

Minority welfare schemes not getting funds: Minister (7)

Kozhikode: Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty has stated that many of the eligible grants for the development of minority communities in the State are not being provided on time with the continuing restrictions on the part of the Union government. The Minister, while inaugurating the Minorities Rights Day at the Indoor stadium hall here on Saturday, observed that it was time to have a concerted effort on the part of all minority organisations in the State to win their reasonable rights. “The Kerala government is ready to take up detailed discussions on the issue as the rights of the minority communities are not the benevolence of anyone in the country,” said Mr. Kunhalikutty while explaining that it had been well-defined in the Indian constitution. The Minister, while pinpointing the new restrictions imposed on the allotment of various financial support schemes for the empowerment of minority educational institutions, said the State was currently missing assistance under the Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutes (IDMI) scheme. “Madrasa grants too have been withheld for long in the case of Kerala,” he said. Referring to the initiatives on the part of the State government to settle the issues, Mr. Kunhalikutty said a committee of Minority Education Cell would meet Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb on Wednesday. The delegates would hold discussion with the Ministers on the possible measures to be taken immediately to address the concerns, he added. Minority Educational Association’s State president Panakkad Syed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal chaired the inaugural function. Association secretary Nadukkandi Aboobacker and chairman of State Minority Commission M. Veerankutty were also present. (The Hindu 20/12/15)

Pvt bill tabled for protection of minorities (7)

Nagpur: A private bill, which was tabled before the state legislative assembly on Monday, argued that the state government should come up with a new law to secure the interests of the minority community. The bill was moved by Congress MLA Amin Patel demanding protection of the six minority communities in the state—Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims and Christians. “People from the minority community have to face insults by other communities. They are feeling insecure, not only about their property but also about their lives. Shrines of minorities are being destroyed, denial in job, refusal in housing societies are some examples of discrimination,” stated Patel in his bill. He added that the existing laws and IPC sections are not enough to secure the interests of the minorities. “To protect minorities and to discourage people of other communities from committing such crimes, the government should come up with a law,” stated Patel in the bill. The bill will come up for discussion in the assembly probably in the coming budget session in March 2016. (Times of India 22/12/15)

BJP steers clear of Madhav’s ‘Akhand Bharat’ comment (7)

NEW DELHI: A day after BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s ‘Akhand Bharat’ remark, the BJP went into damage control mode on Sunday, making it clear that his views were his own and did not reflect that of the party or the government. Party spokesperson M J Akbar recalled former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech in Lahore in 1999, in which he had said that India and Pakistan negotiate as sovereign nations. “And that fact is a fact,” he said. Asked why a senior leader made this remark when the stand of the party and the government was clear, Akbar said Madhav “was answering a particular question… the context was different… and he has a right to his own views. But the government’s position requires no clarification”.Madhav, who joined the BJP after long years with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) last year after the Modi government came to office, had said RSS believes that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will one day reunite again not by war but through “popular goodwill”.The comment came on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore and held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Madhav later clarified that his interview was recorded on December 7, much before Modi opened a new chapter of friendship with Pakistan, but was aired only on December 25. BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said Madhav’s words should be seen in the present context where ‘Akhand Bharat’ speaks of the same culture and stands for “better relations between India and its neighbouring countries and more interaction and contact with them”. Meanwhile, opposition parties latched on to Madhav’s statement to condemn the BJP, with CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury saying, “Superficial talks between leaders will not succeed in strengthening India-Pakistan relations against the backdrop of calls for ‘Akhand Bharat’ and not allowing Pakistani artistes and the cricket team to ply their trade on Indian soil.” CPI leader D Raja said Madhav’s remark was “highly provocative and deplorable… it is the surest way to derail any effort for a dialogue with Pakistan”. He demanded a clarification from the PM on the party’s stand.Congress took a dig at BJP, saying given the condition of minorities in the country, the party would need a “heart transplant” to achieve the lofty goal of ‘Akhand Bharat’. “It’s a brilliant idea. It should happen. He talked about it in future terms, but presently, a grim situation is going on in the country. The economy is in bad shape and security of women, Dalits, minorities need to be addressed and you have a problem with minorities in India,” Congress spokesman Tom Vadakkan said. He said Congress welcomed the concept of ‘Akhand Bharat’, but what Madhav had talked about was for the future. “The thought process is good, but the ‘karam’ (action) they have been practicing in India needs to be restrained. The word intolerance must move out of our dictionaries. Just going to the birthday party of your Pakistani counterpart does not mean you have given up intolerance,” he said. “It has to stop motormouths and if you are thinking in terms of ‘Akhand Bharat’, then you need to have a large heart, and it needs a heart transplant,” Vadakkan said. (Times of India 28/12/15)

AP minorities commission seeks President’s help on beard issue (7)

Hyderabad, Dec 28 (PTI) Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Commission today sought the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee in the row regarding allowing Muslim NCC cadets to sport beards on the lines of the exemption given to Sikhs. A few Muslim youths who were not allowed to sport beards during a camp of National Cadet Corps here earlier this year had complained to the commission. The Commission chairman Abid Rasool Khan and others met the President here and raised the issue, it said in a release. The Commission had recommended to the Defence Ministry to consider allowing Muslims to sport facial hair/beard as in the case of Sikhs because both the communities are minorities.” The recommendations were discussed in Rajya Sabha on December 2 by way of answer submitted by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has replied that this matter is being examined by the Ministry and necessary orders will be passed,” Khan had earlier said. The President should recommend to the ministry that it should grant such a concession, the commission members requested. They also requested the President to advise the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments to consider the ‘Protection of minorities and other marginalised sections (prevention of atrocities) Act’, a bill drafted by the commission. The delegation also requested Mukherjee to grant pardon on health grounds to Abdul Khadeer, a former head constable convicted for killing an assistant commissioner of police during communal riots in Hyderabad in 1990. (Niticentral 28/12/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

Centre awaiting UP Govt’s report on Dadri lynching: Naqvi (7)

New Delhi:The central government is awaiting a report it had sought from the Akhilesh Yadav dispensation to ascertain factual position and action taken by the state in the Dadri lynching incident, the Lok Sabha was told on Wednesday. “As law and order is a state subject, a report has been called for ascertaining the factual position, comments and action taken by the state government, which is still awaited,” nion Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said in a written reply to a question. The minister was asked if the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) had, in its report on the incident, stated whether the killing was “pre-mediated” and if the episode was a result of planning in which a “sacred” place like temple was used for “exhorting” people of a community to attack a “hapless” family. He was also asked about the Ministry’s reaction to the Commission findings and steps it took/proposes to take on the panel’s recommendations. Naqvi did not give direct answers to the queries but confirmed the Union government had received the NCM report with its observations on the episode. He said the Union Home Ministry had on October 5 issued an advisory to the state government stating that there is “zero tolerance” toward any attempt to “weaken the secular fabric and exploiting religious emotions or sentiments”. “Also the MHA has called on the states to take strictest action as per law against such elements without any exception whatsoever,” Naqvi added. A three-member team of the Commission led by its chairman Naseem Ahmad had visited Bishada village near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and interacted with family members of Mohammed Ikhlaq, who was lynched following rumours of beef eating in September this year, the authorities concerned and locals. In its report compiled in October this year and put up on its website, the NCM had stated the lynching strongly appeared to be the result of “planning under which people were incited using a temple”. The minority panel had also described in the report as “disturbing” the “irresponsible comments” by politicians who paid visit to the village after the incident. The NCM said it will be “quite an understatement” to say the killing was merely an “accident as has been claimed even by some persons in authority”. (Hindustan Times 2/12/15)

Man arrested for ‘derogatory remark’ against Prophet (7)

Lucknow: THE Lucknow police Wednesday arrested a man who allegedly passed derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad, after students of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and other members of Muslim community staged a protest demanding action against the person, who claimed himself to be associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha. SP, West, Ajay Kumar confirmed the arrest of the person, identified as one Kamlesh Tiwari. The SP told mediapersons that Tiwari had circulated a paper allegedly containing derogatory comments against Muslims. The officer, however, denied Tiwari was associated with Hindu Mahasabha. At Deoband, hundreds of Muslims staged protest against the alleged remarks. They were joined by students of Darul Uloom Deoband seminary. Chairman, Municipal Board Deoband, Maviya Ali however controlled the situation keeping the protesters confined to Darul Uloom Chowk. In the commotion, a loudspeaker fell on Ali’s head causing heavy bleeding. This sparked rumours among the protesters that Ali got hurt in stone-pelting but the matter was brought under control with prompt clarification. “There were young students and I got hurt by a loudspeaker, there was no stone pelting. They were pacified after assurance that Tiwari has been arrested. Situation is normal here,” Ali told The Indian Express. (Indian Express 3/12/15)

70,000 clerics issue fatwa against terrorism, 15 lakh Muslims support it (7)

BAREILLY: On the last day of Urs-e-Razvi of Dargah Aala Hazrat, nearly 70,000 clerics came together and passed a fatwa against terrorist organizations, including IS, Taliban and al-Qaida. These are “not Islamic organizations,” the clerics said to a sea of followers, adding that the members of these outfits were “not Muslims”. Around 15 lakh followers who visited the Urs put their signatures to a document circulated at the Urs, protesting terrorist strikes. Mufti Mohammed Saleem Noori, one of the clerics who passed the fatwa told TOI on Tuesday, “From Sunday onwards, when the annual Urs began, members of Dargah Aala Hazrat have been distributing forms among followers seeking signatures to show that those signing stand against terrorism. Nearly 15 lakh Muslims have recorded their protest. Around 70,000 clerics from across the world, who were part of the event, passed the fatwa.” Noori said he would like to request the media to stop calling terrorist groups “Muslim organizations”.Hazrat Subhan Raza Khan, chairperson of the influential Dargah Aala Hazrat, said that following the Paris attacks, it was decided that a fatwa should be passed at the Urs this year, so the message went out loud and clear that the Muslim community condemns terrorism. “It is written in the Quran that killing one innocent person is equivalent to killing all humanity,” said Mohammed Ehsan Raza Khan, Sajjadanasheen (hereditary head) of this shrine. Mohammad Farogh-ul Quadri, secretary-general, World Islamic Mission, UK, said, “I condemn the barbaric terrorist attack in Paris on innocent civilians and call for an international ban on the radical extremist IS and its counterparts with different names across the world.” The 97th death anniversary (Urs) of Mujadid Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Qadri, founder of the Barelvi school of Islamic theology, was observed here between December 6 and 8. Clerics also opposed the move by France and other countries to bomb Syria, saying innocent people, including women and children, have died in such strikes. They said the powerful western nations should focus on stopping terrorists, but not at the cost of taking the lives of innocent people. Dargah Aala Hazrat has been campaigning against terrorism for the last one year. On Eid this year, clerics here announced that if a man involved in terrorism is killed, “namaz-e-janaza” would not be read during his funeral services. This prayer is an important part of the last rites in Islam. The madrassa run by this shrine recently introduced a specialization within the Hadith course, titled ‘Islam and terrorism’, for graduate students. As part of the coursework, students compare the original Quran text with translations offered by terrorist groups, to understand how religious texts could be misinterpreted… (Times of India 9/12/15)

Home minister urges Muslims in MP to exercise restraint (7)

Bhopal/Indore: Protests by Muslims across the state against Kamlesh Tiwari, a Hindu Mahasabha leader from Uttar Pradesh who allegedly made derogatory comments about Prophet Mohammed, seems to have alarmed the Madhya Pradesh government. However in Indore, a saffron brigade organised a demonstration demanding sedition charges against the people who allegedly raised slogans in favour of Pakistan. On Thursday, home minister Babulal Gaur in Bhopal appealed to the members of the community to “exercise restraint.” The minister said the statement was made in Uttar Pradesh, not in Madhya Pradesh. “They must understand that Madhya Pradesh has nothing to do with the reported remarks against Prophet Mohammad. It all took place in Uttar Pradesh. Hence, I would like to make an appeal to Muslim community members to maintain peace and order in the state,” Gaur said. His appeal comes a day after a law and order review meeting with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and several senior officials. Gaur told Hindustan Times over the phone that there was “no propriety behind Muslims protesting in Madhya Pradesh for something that took place in another state, especially when action had been taken against the person who made the remark.” Kamlesh Tiwari was arrested by Lucknow police on December 3 after his statement against Muslims and Prophet Mohammad led to widespread spontaneous protests in UP and elsewhere in the country. The Hindu Mahasabha also distanced itself from Tiwari, claiming that he was not a member of their organisation and that their name had been misused by him. On December 8, hundreds of Muslims gathered at Iqbal Maidan in Bhopal demanding action against the leader of a fringe Hindu outfit. Similar protests were organised by members of the community in Indore, Dhar, Raisen, Harda and a few other parts of the state. In Indore, a section of protestors pelted stones on shops and vehicles on Tuesday. Meanwhile in Indore, a saffron brigade on Thursday organised a demonstration demanding sedition charges against the people who allegedly raised slogans in favour of Pakistan. On Tuesday, thousands of Muslims gathered at Regal Square demanding action against Kamlesh Tiwari leading to traffic jam and stone-pelting. In retaliation, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha took out a demonstration on Thursday, denouncing what they termed as the Muslims’ efforts to vitiate the atmosphere of the city. However, this time round, the number of police was more than the protestors. The Mahasabha members alleged that those protested at the Regal Square had raised slogans in favour of Pakistan, and submitted a memorandum to senior police officers, claiming that SIMI operatives were provocating the sentiments of the Muslims. A senior police official said local intelligence was focusing on the radicals of community and a list had been made in this regard. The police said they have lodged four cases against five people who had organised the demonstrations at Regal Crossing on Tuesday. Police are also keeping a close eye on social media, including Facebook, to find the people who can disturb peace of the city. Not more than five persons are allowed to present memorandums to officials. (Hindustan Times 10/12/15)

Muslims stage silent protest march over Tiwari remark in Ajmer (7)

AJMER: Hundreds of Muslims staged a silent protest march against the derogatory remark on Islam religion by Kamlesh Tiwari of Hindu mahasabha after the prayers at dargah on Friday afternoon. The protesters also went to the district headquarters and gave memorandum in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding stern action against Tiwari. The protesters included khadims, maulanas and also common Muslim devotees who had came to attend the special prayer on Friday. Showing concern over the remark, they staged a protest. “Sufi Moinuddin Chishty gave the message of brotherhood and harmony and to maintain these teachings we request people of India not to hurt sentiments of anyone related to religion,” said a maulana. The delegation while handing over the memorandum to the administration also demanded a law in the country to put a brake on speeches made by religious leaders of any community. They said that harmony is key to the nation and, therefore, teachings of Sufi Khwaja Moinuddin are contemporary. The protest march started from Nizam gate of the dargah after the special prayer. After passing through different roads of the city, it reached the district headquarters. Looking at the march, HHigh security was deputed to control the situation. Devotees also joined the protest and said that they wanted to give a message to the country in a peaceful way that hurting anyone is not a step towards development. On this occasion, Maulana Mehandi Miyan said that the act of Tiwari of insulting the apostle of peace and brotherhood has left the people deeply hurt. Tiwari had on Thursday remarked about Islam in Varanasi. He added that they condemned the speech of Tiwari and demand the PM to ban Hindu mahasabha. The protest was supported by hundreds of khadims and they also offered prayers after the special namaz for peace and harmony in the country. One of the groups also appealed to the youth not to get annoyed over the messages running on different social sites. Looking to the march, some organizations also came out in support of the protest and condemned the hate speech atmosphere in the country. Sources said that different meetings were held in khadims and also of maulanas on the discussion on the hate speech and later they decided to have a protest march on Friday. Sources said that the CID of state police noted the strength and numbers and sent the report to the state government. (Times of India 12/12/15)

Muslim reservation: Oppn stages walkout (7)

Nagpur: MLCs belonging to Congress and NCP staged a walkout from legislative council on Tuesday alleging that the BJP-Shiv Sena government was not intent on providing 5% reservation to Muslims. Minority affairs minister Eknath Khadse hit back at them questioning why the two parties did not do so in their 15 year rule. NCP MLC Khwaja Beg had raised the issue through a call attention motion. He pointed that even though the Bombay High Court had allowed 5% reservation for Muslims in education, the government allowed the ordinance to lapse thereby denying reservation to the community. Beg objected to the written reply submitted to his motion saying that it was almost the same to that submitted in the monsoon session. “This shows that the government is not at all serious about providing reservation to Muslims,” he said. The MLC further said that a large number of committees constituted by the British government as well as that of independent India had favoured reservation for Muslims. Khadse, however, maintained that the government was positive on providing reservation to Muslims but would take steps only after the Supreme Court (SC) gave a ruling in this regard. “Several question marks have been raised over Muslim reservation in the writ filed in the HC. They include that reservation could not be provided on the basis of religion, the state backward classes commission had not given any report in this regard, 50 castes of Muslims were mentioned as backward in the ordinance but they were not named,” he said. Leader of opposition Dhananjay Munde intervened in the matter and pointed out that when the HC stayed 16% reservation for Marathas, the BJP-Shiv Sena government got a legislation passed in both Houses. “Why didn’t do the same for Muslims? It is clear that the government is not interested in welfare of Muslims,” he said slamming Khadse. The minister hit back at him pointing out that the reservation for Muslims was provided in the fag end of Congress-NCP rule and without any homework. “The government was well aware that it won’t stand in the court,” he said. The opposition members did not reply to his charges and staged a walkout. (Times of India 16/12/15)

Muslims stage protest against Hindu Mahasabha (7)

Agra: Infuriated with working president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha Kamlesh Tiwari, who allegedly gave blasphemous statement on the Prophet Muhammad, hundreds of Muslim men lead by religious clerics took out massive protest march on Sunday. They also gave a memorandum to senior officials of district administration Agra, asking them to take stern action against him. In the memorandum of whose copy is with TOI, stated that, “People like Kamlesh Tiwari are openly flouting the law and are trying to instigate riot like situation in the peaceful country.” “Persistently, anti-social elements have being trying to malice the image of Prophet Muhammad on various platforms especially on social networking website, where the miscreants are using foul language and also sketching obnoxious image of prophet,” stated the memorandum. Speaking to TOI, chairman of Islamiya Local Agency of Shahi Jama masjid Agra, Haji Aslam Qureshi said, “There is great amount of anger in the Muslim community across nation against the blasphemous statement of Kamlesh Tiwari. Though I request all the muslims across nation to not take law in their hands and do not indulge in anything which can trigger any conflict.” He said, “We don’t understand why haven’t government taken strong action Kamlesh Tiwari. Government must take stern action against him. They should identify and mark such anti-social elements who are always in hope to destroy peace in the society.” The memorandum was handed over by Imam Irfan-ul-lah Khand of Shahi Jama Masjid along with Haji Aslam Qureshi and several other clerics to Additional Magistrate of City Rajesh Shrivastav in the presence of Superintendent of police for City, Rajesh Kumar Singh. Speaking to TOI, ADM city Rajesh Shrivastav said, “We will forward the memorandum to state government.” (Times of India 20/12/15)

Random arrests of Muslim youths leading to radicalisation: Telangana Police chief (7)

New Delhi: Socio-economic exclusion of Muslims and random arrests of youths from the community in the aftermath of a terror attack are leading to radicalisation among the minorities. This was the running theme of a presentation and discussion on radicalisation at the conference of Director Generals of Police (DGPs) in Bhuj, that concluded on Sunday. While there were 10 presentations on various aspects of internal security at the annual meet organised by the Intelligence Bureau, the one on radicalisation, presented by Telangana DGP Anurag Sharma, was the most critical in the context of threats from the Islamic State. According to sources, Sharma said there was a sense of alienation among Muslims as “expected social and economic benefits” had not reached them. He highlighted how areas inhabited by minorities were generally bereft of civic amenities and dearth of economic opportunities. All this, he said, made the community vulnerable to radicalisation. To illustrate how random arrests of Muslim youths has led to radicalisation, Sharma cited the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad. He pointed out how, immediately after the blasts, police arrested Muslim youths who were found to be innocent. The blasts were found to have been executed by Hindu outfits. (Indian Express 22/12/15)

‘Muslims lag behind in higher education’(7)

HYDERABAD: The enrollment of Muslim students in institutions of higher learning affiliated to both the state and Centre is lower than Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs), a provisional report of the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) indicates. The report, which was released on the AISHE website, concludes that Muslims in the country constitute 4.4% of students, who are study ing in various colleges, polytechnics and universities.The percentage is much less than that of SCs, who constitute 13.4%, STs who constitu DISMAL FIGURES te 4.8% and the 32.9% belonging to OBCs. In Telangana, the trend of Muslims lagging behind SCs, STs and OBCs continues both in terms of students’ enrollment and members of the community being employed as teachers. The report records that of the 16.32 lakh enrollments in the state in the academic year 2014-15, Muslim students constituted a mere 6.57 percent. While the OBC enrollment stood at 7.2 lakh, that of the SCs was recorded as 2.63 lakh and the number of STs was recorded as 1.33 lakh. A gender-wise break up put girl students belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs ahead of Muslim girls. Of the 1.07 lakh Muslim students enrolled in academic year 2014 15, 57,170 are male and 50,233 are female. This is a margina increase from the enrollments recorded last year. The representation of Muslim teachers too, remained behind SCs, STs and OBCs in the state. Of the over 1.04 lakh posts in Te langana, teachers belonging to the Muslim community occupied only 0.56% of the posts. (Times of India 26/12/15)

India only country where Muslims stop their youth from joining IS: Rajnath Singh (7)

Lucknow: isis india, muslims hate IS, india islamic state, islamic state news, isis rajnath singh, rajnath islamic state, muslims and ISIS, ISIS, indian muslims File photo of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (Source: PTI) Union Home Minister Rajanth Singh Sunday said that while all countries face the Islamic State (IS) threat, the organisation could not dominate in India due to the country’s “life values” and “family values”. “Today the IS is being discussed a lot. But in the capacity of the Home Minister of India, I say that India is the only country where Muslim families stop their children when they get deviated from the right path. Only Indian Muslim families do this,” Rajnath said. He was speaking at a conference, Taleem ki Taquat, organised by Maulana Azad National Urdu University of Hyderabad, in Lucknow. University Chancellor Zafar Sareshwala, who said there was a lot of positivity in the country but people “unnecessarily raised negativity”, claimed, “It was the first time in 65 years that a Union home minister had directly addressed an event of Muslims.” Citing an example to show why the IS couldn’t flourish in India, the Union minister said, “A Muslim youth got caught in radicalisation in Mumbai and his parents came to me with the request to save him. Such are the values of our country. I have full faith that the IS can never have supremacy in India.” Rajnath also pointed out that thousands of Indian imams had recently taken out a procession against the IS. “If this culture of the country can be saved, no one can stop India from becoming the most powerful nation with maximum knowledge in the world,” he said. The minister said: “The education system and culture of India develop tolerance among us. I believe that such education and culture should be kept alive.” (Indian Express 28/12/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

‘We should be more welcoming of the LGBT community’ (7)

MUMBAI: Speaking to reporters on a flight in 2013, Pope Francis outlined a new tone on the Catholic church’s stand on homosexuality. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” he asked. As Parliament readies to discuss the issue of repealing Section 377, Indian religious leaders have tended to disagree. But Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and the head of India’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, emerged as a progressive voice. The Hindu spoke to the cardinal on his involvement with the movement to decriminalise homosexuality and his thoughts on how the Church can encourage a more humane approach. In the midst of a debate on whether homosexuality should be considered a criminal act, he was the only religious leader who spoke out against such a move, arguing that the Church should embrace people from the LGBT community and help integrate them into society. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has recently said that Parliament may consider taking up the discussion on Sec 377 and Shashi Tharoor is planning to pass a private member’s Bill on the same. Can you reflect on your own involvement with this issue? I had been reflecting on the question of whether the church should be more welcoming towards members of the LGBT community for some time. I met some groups and associations of LGBTs and I had an understanding for them. I don’t want them to feel ostracised. That’s why I came out publicly some time back saying I was in favour of decriminalisation of Section 377. When the Delhi High Court order was passed decriminalising homosexuality, they asked me whether the Church would be unhappy and I said  “No. I think it’s a good thing.” On the other hand, I fully understand why the Supreme Court turned down the Delhi HC decision, because its reasoning was also legally correct. Legislation is done by the legislators, not by the judiciary. But personally I feel that it should not be criminalised. For me it’s a question of understanding that it’s an orientation … I know there is still research being done whether it’s a matter of choice or matter of orientation and there are two opinions on this matter. But I believe maybe people have this orientation that God has given them and for this reason they should not be ostracised from society. The Church is concerned, and if you’re Christian or catholic and if you’re part of the Church you have to have compassion, sympathy and understanding toward them. You were the only religious leader who publicly spoke against criminalisation of homosexuality. Did you face much of a backlash at the time from other Christians and members of the Church? Yes, people were surprised that I said it. But, personally I think that’s the thinking of the church. Not everybody perhaps has fully understood it. The church has always said people should not be discriminated against and I know the Vatican itself is not for criminalisation of these people. I have to make a distinction of course. Catholic theology makes sexual morality rather clear. Homosexual acts have been considered improper and we do not accept gay marriage. There is no such thing as gay marriage for the church but that does not mean you throw out these people as bad. I’m not touching on the moral principle, but I think it would be unchristian really to be harsh with people from that community. If given a choice, why would you be harsh? That’s my thinking. Interesting you mention this is actually part of the Church’s thinking. Many people assume that the Church is very rigid in it’s thinking of homosexuality and speaks of it as a sin or as being evil. …. (The Hindu 2/12/15)

 Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council (7)

KANNUR: The Latin Catholic community will hold a rally to highlight ‘community unity and equal justice’ on December 6 under the aegis of Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council (KRLCC) as part of observing its community day. Announcing this at a press conference here on Wednesday, Kannur Bishop Alex Vadakkumthala said the KRLCC was organising the event to press for equal justice and equal opportunity guaranteed by the Constitution. The Latin Community Day observance was also to strengthen the struggle for the ‘Dalit Christian brothers’ who were denied equal justice. The KRLCC had been in the forefront over the past 13 years of the struggles to highlight the ‘apathy and injustice’ being faced by the Latin community, he added. (The Hindu 3/12/15)

Christians write to PM over ‘continuous harassment by the right wing groups and authorities’

Meerut: Hundreds of Christians have come together to write a letter to PM Modi complaining that attacks against Christians, “sometimes veiled, sometimes not”, have gone up in the past few months. In the letter, given to the DM, they said a graveyard belonging to them was forcefully taken over by the Hindu community”, a Bible torn in June and a priest beaten up recently.” The administration hasn’t helped, they said. On Monday, hundreds of Christians staged protest against the detention of a priest John Isaac in Mawana on the charges that he was indulging in conversion in an illegal building. Christians allege that on Friday, sub divisional magistrate at (SDM) Mawana, Rita Punia, asked him to be present in Mawana police station to explain how he was building a ‘prayer hall’ without permission. However, on reaching the police station, the priest was detained. Later, when members of the community came to know about the incident, they met the SSP after which the priest John Isaac was released. SDM Rita Punia, however, denied that the priest was detained. She said “We got a complaint by a few locals that a church was being constructed and conversion taking place, but later we found it had no base as it was not a ‘church but a prayer hall and no conversion was taking place as such.” She added, “But we are certainly looking into the legality of the building constructed.” According to John Issac, “We had purchased 182 sq yards of land in 2014 for the main purpose of erecting a prayer hall to cater to local Christians who had to travel long distance to attend Church on Sundays. We had already submitted the requisite papers to the authorities at tehsil for permission for prayer hall. Meanwhile, we had started conducting our prayers which a few members of majority community disliked and alleged that we were trying to convert people here in an illegal building.” Isaac further stated that he was asked to be present in Mawana police station to explain his situation but was detained. Even SDM threatened to bring down the building. District president of All India Issai Mahasabha, Robin Nath, who led the delegation to DM office, on Monday, said, “Since the last couple of months we are being subjected to veiled attacks by right wing organizations. In Mawana, members of Bajrang Dal had in fact threatened the priest who is ever since constantly living under fear. In Kaseru Baksar area our graveyard has been taken over by right wing groups. In June a priest was thrashed while his Bible was torn apart in Shastri Nagar area. Unfortunately, even police tries to suppress these incidents and that is why we written to DM and also sent a copy to the prime minister.” When TOI contacted Vijay Joseph, the priest who was manhandled in June at Shastri Nagar, he said, “Spiritual discussions among members of various religious groups keep taking place and one such was taking place at a friend’s place in Shastri Nagar when a few members of Bajrang Dal attacked me when I came out of the house. They hurled abuses at me alleging that I was involved in conversion. Later, even police did not allow us to lodge a formal complaint. Too much pressure was built upon me to stay quiet despite the fact I had done no wrong.” (Times of India 7/12/15)

KCBC: End Communal Discrimination (7)

KOCHI:  Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council(KCBC) president Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis on Friday said it was unfortunate that members of minority communities need to pressurise the government to get their legally entitled rights. “Such a situation will force the minority communities to think in a narrow perspective,” said the cardinal at the Pastoral Orientation Centre in Kochi, where the two-day conference of the KCBC concluded on Friday.  “The government cannot escape from the responsibility of communal polarisation and the growing intolerance,” said the cardinal, adding that the government was showing discrimination towards the Christian community  by not providing salary and service benefits to teachers working in church-run schools for the past four years.  “The government should immediately fulfil its promises on teachers’ appointment, and thereby ensure ‘right to education’ for  children,” he said, and urged the State and Central governments not to conduct public examinations and official functions on days that are of importance for the Christian community. (New Indian Express12/10/15)

Celebrate Christmas by donating for flood-hit, Bishop urges Christians (7)

THANJAVUR: Instead of presenting cakes and shawls, please come with aid to ameliorate the sufferings of the flood and rain-affected people, Bishop of Thanjavur Rev. M. Devadass Ambrose has requested the faithful in his diocese who come to greet him ahead of Christmas. Rev. Ambrose referred to the sufferings of the flood and rain-affected people in the State and the need for the faithful to reach out to them in a message to the people in which he has invited people to celebrate Christmas without extravagance. The parishes and institutions in the diocese could help the affected with aid on the occasion of Christmas, he said in the message. The Bishop pointed out that the Sacred Heart Cathedral parish had collected Rs. 1 lakh that was handed over to the district administration while Anna Nagar and Thirukkanoorpatty parishes have collected more than material worth Rs. 3 lakh and they were distributed among the needy in Cuddalore and Chennai. Besides, upon instructions from the Bishop, the Shrine Basilica of Velankanni donated relief material worth around Rs. 12 lakh to flood victims in Chennai, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts. (The Hindu 13/12/15)

Clothes distributed among Christians (7)

NIZAMABAD: Keeping its promise, the TRS government launched the distribution of new clothes to Christians in connection with Christmas celebrations, here on Wednesday. Giving away the clothes to Christians at Rajiv Gandhi Auditorium, MLA Bigala Ganesh Gupta said the idea behind distributing new clothes to the poor is to instil confidence among them that the government is concerned about their welfare. It was launched in view of the welfare of all the poor in the State, he added.Clothes worth about Rs.1,000 would be distributed to 10,000 people in each Assembly constituency and on December 19, a community lunch would be organised for one thousand people, he said adding that all these years, there was no opportunity for the poor belonging to minority communities to wear new clothes on festivals. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also allotted land and granted money for the construction of Christian Bhavan in the State capital. “I have been celebrating Christmas for the last 25 years. On Christmas day, I have lunch at Beedar and dinner at Sangareddy every year,” Mr. Ganesh Gupta said.Describing the distribution of clothes among poor Christians as a great gesture, District Collector Yogitha Bala said the festival was being celebrated amid much pomp and fervour all over the world. “On this occasion, let us pray that those with bad intentions turn towards light and do good deeds,” she said. Four thousand pairs of clothes would also be distributed to orphans, HIV patients and the poor here on December 19, she said. Earlier, Christmas songs were sung. About 9,000 pairs of clothes were distributed here on Wednesday. Joint Collector A. Ravinder Reddy, trainee IAS officer Jyothsna, Additional JC P. Rajaram, Minority Welfare Officer Premkumar and pastors were also present. (The Hindu 17/12/15)

 

Won’t allow injustice to Christians: Rajnath Singh (7)

New Delhi: No injustice will be allowed to happen to Christians in the country, home minister Rajnath Singh assured the community on Thursday, as he asserted that Indian tradition and culture are similar to Christianity. Addressing a Christmas celebration, organised by Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the home minister asked the community leaders to contact him directly if any injustice is done to them anywhere in the country. “I want to assure all bishops and cardinals that if you face any problem, contact me directly. I will not allow any injustice to happen to you,” he said in the presence of community members, several MPs and diplomats. Mr Singh said he, the NDA government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi always stand by the side of Christians of the country and no one should have any doubt about that. Referring to certain attacks on churches and Christian institutions just before the last Delhi Assembly polls, Mr Singh said he was deeply hurt by such attacks and had instructed the police to ensure that such incidents were stopped immediately. “You may call it as a conspiracy or coincidence, but all such incidents had happened before the Delhi elections and stopped after the polls. I don’t know why did it happen,” he said. (Asian Age 18/12/15)

Christians in India and Across Asia Targeted for Faith (7)

Christians in India and other parts of Asia are being targeted for their faith and some are even forced to convert to Hinduism. In August 2008, the Christian minority in Kandhamal, India was blamed for the death of a local Hindu leader, and violence had become widespread in the region. Kanaka Rekha Nayak’s family was among those affected by the incident, according to Crux. Nayak’s family fled to a forest near Tiangia Budedipade, but the Hindu radical mob caught up with them after two days. After finding out that they were Baptist Christians, the attackers tied a bicycle chain around her husband Parikhit’s neck and dragged him to town before demanding that he renounce his faith and convert to Hinduism, the report details. When Parikhit refused to do so, the mob beat him and cut him to pieces in front of his wife before setting him on fire. After that, they turned to Nayak intending to rape her, but she escaped once again to the forest and found her way to a relief camp called Raika. Seven years later, the violence against Christians in India still continues. Indian website Speak Out Against Hate reports that this year alone, one violent incident occurs in the country every week, the report relays. Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently promised that he will not allow Christians in India to experience injustice. He said this in the wake of attacks on Christian establishments and churches happened before the Delhi Assembly polls, NDTV reports. “I want to assure all Bishops and Cardinals that if you face any problem, contact me directly,” NDTV quotes Singh’s statement. “I will not allow any injustice to happen to you.” Singh, together with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government, vowed to support Christians in the country. He said inclusiveness and accommodation are part of the Indian tradition and Christianity proclaims the same message of love and respect that his religion also teaches. India is not the only Asian country being beset by Christian persecution. Other nations wherein Christians experience the same thing include North Korea, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Pakistan. (Christian Post 21/12/15)

Intolerance rising in India under BJP: Archbishop (7)

BHOPAL: Bhopal Archbishop Father Leo Cornelio on Monday said intolerance had risen in recent times, “especially after BJP came to power at the Centre last year”. Expressing concern about the recent furore over Aamir Khan’s remarks and the alleged attack on a group of Christians reciting the Bible in Jabalpur, the Archbishop said people should respect each other’s views on any issue without resorting to violence. “I think intolerance has grown in recent times, especially after the new government came at the Centre.Take for example the episode involving actor Aamir Khan, who had shared his wife’s concerns on the issue… the way it was protested against by those associated with politics is not fair,” the Archbishop said at a press conference here. “Everyone has the right to freedom of speech in the country , and we should not oppose it just for the sake of opposition,” he added. When specifically asked if, as a leader of the Christian community, he had ever encountered intolerance in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Cornelio highlighted the alleged Bible incident, which occurred in March. “It was an avoidable incident. If you are not happy with something like loud voice on a speaker, then you can always request people to lower it. You are not supposed to resort to violent means,” he added, “The government did not take prompt action in the matter.Some people were arrested but a number of them are yet to be.” … (Times of India 22/12/15)

India church calls for study of all religions in government schools (7)

Bhopal: The Catholic Church in India has called for the study of all religions in Indian schools in reaction to government moves to have only Hindu scripture as part of the curriculum. “It is an ideal position to integrate scriptures of all religions in academic curricula,” Father Gyanprakash Topno, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told ucanews.com. He said students should be given the opportunity to learn all religious scriptures rather than sticking with one religious book. “We being in a democracy cannot promote one religion; such practice does not augur well for democracy,” he added. The debate over the introduction of the Bhagavad Gita, the religious scripture of Hindus, into school curricula gained momentum after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won May 2014 elections. The BJP government in northern Haryana state already announced that the Bhagavad Gita would be taught in government-run schools from grades five-12 beginning with the next academic year, despite opposition from other religious groups and opposition parties in the state. Opponents said the move was an attempt on the part of the BJP to “Hinduize” education. State education minister Ram Bilas Sharma described the Bhagavad Gita as the “supreme source of knowledge” and said there was nothing wrong with teaching the book to school students. Also, the BJP-led government in northern Rajasthan said it would make 13,500 copies of the Hindu scripture available in government schools as an apparent prelude to introducing it into the curriculum. Father Topno said the introduction of scripture from only one religion in Indian schools would violate the country’s secular principles. “Letting students learn from all religious books helps strengthen further national integration, peace and harmony,” he said. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal said that children should be allowed the opportunity to learn from the Bible, Quran and other religions. UCA News 24/12/15)

Rs. 1,900 crore earmarked for STs under Sub-Plan, says Ravela (7)

RAJAHMUNDRY: Minister for Social and Tribal Welfare Ravela Kishore Babu has said that the state government earmarked Rs 1,900 crore for Scheduled Tribes under ST sub-plan and made it clear that there was no dearth of funds for the development of STs. He celebrated Christmas at tribal hostels for boys and girls by cutting cake in Rajahmundry on Friday. He informed that the hostels of the scheduled tribes students would be strengthened and admitted that in Rajahmundry, the ST hostels are overcrowded and suggested the officials to send proposals for another hostel. He mentioned that he would talk to local authorities of the Government Arts College to build another hostel for boys on the premises of the college. He maintained that he would make efforts in providing basic amenities in full scale in all ST hostels. The Minister promised to solve LPG gas problem in hostels. When some reporters asked about Christian burial ground on which former MP G.V. Harsha Kumar had agitated before Pushkarams, the Minister said that he came to know about immediate need of five acres for Christian burial ground in Rajahmundry and he already had held discussions with Rajahmundry rural MLA Gorantla Butchaiah Choudary on this subject. He informed that Rs 1.50 crore was needed for the burial ground and expressed hope that this problem would be solved very soon.As the Christian band was singing carols and the waiters with Santa Claus caps welcomed the guests into the dining hall of a private hotel in Kakinada on Friday. (The Hindu 26/12/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

Drive to free land occupied by migrants (13)

Guwahati, Dec. 3: Three indigenous people’s organisations in Assam will launch a campaign on Saturday against the state government’s alleged inaction to free land “encroached” upon by illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The message is – if illegal migrants from Bangladesh have been a vote bank for politicians in Assam, the indigenous people are strong enough to put pressure on politicians to drive the migrants out and free the lands illegally occupied by them in the state. Leaders of three organisations, Prabrajan Virodhi Mancha, Sangrami Satirtha Sanmilan and Dakshin Paschim Goal Xantha, said here today that the campaign would begin in Sipajhar Assembly constituency in Darrang district and would be extended to all the 126 constituencies. “The campaign will have three parts – a bike rally, a signature campaign and a rally at Mangaldoi, the district headquarters. We will collect 50,000 to one lakh signatures of indigenous people in the state and submit a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh through the Darrang deputy commissioner,” said Upamanyu Hazarika, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of Prabrajan Virodhi Mancha. “We are launching the campaign in Sipajhar constituency as the indigenous people there have been directly affected due to encroachment of government land by Bangladeshi migrants. According to information accessed through an RTI application in 2013, 77,420 bighas of land are illegally occupied in the district. A large chunk of the land is used for grazing and to pitch tents for displaced people, particularly during floods. There can be no construction there,” Hazarika said. Hazarika was appointed a commissioner by the Supreme Court during hearing of petitions, seeking the apex court’s intervention in solving the state’s long-standing problem of illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh. After an on-the-spot assessment of the India-Bangladesh border, challenges in fencing and illegal migration from across the border, Hazarika had informed the apex court that the illegal migrants pose as flood and erosion victims from other districts to establish that they are local people and thus occupy new land. This, Hazarika said, is done with the aid and assistance of “complicit and corrupt” administration. He recommended restriction on transfer of land – whether by sale, purchase or gift – to those failing to prove their Indian citizenship till 1951. “The politicians have always used Bangladeshi migrants as vote banks to win elections. The indigenous people must now prove that we are a strong political force that can put pressure on our politicians to act and take measures to safeguard the indigenous people,” Hazarika said. “We had filed cases in 2012 against illegal occupation of land in Darrang but no significant action has been taken,” Tilak Chandra Choudhury of Sangrami Satirtha Sanmilan said. (The Telegraph 4/12/15)

No tomorrow for this six-year old Rohingya refugee girl (13)

Jammu: Six-year-old Tasleema is nobody`s `laadli beti` (beloved daughter). She has no idea of the horrors her parents have been through. Worse still, she has no future as she belongs to one of the nearly 650 families of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar living in this Jammu and Kashmir winter capital since 2008. Molvi Yunus, 39, is a Rohingya Muslim refugee living with his family in Jammu`s Narwal area where a stinking slum sans any civic facilities has come up. The `jhuggies` (structures made of bamboo sticks wrapped on the sides and the top by a polythene cover) are what these refugee families call their homes. There is no drinking water, no electricity, no toilets and no healthcare facilities for them and yet the refugees thank God because they believe their lives are `safe`.”I crossed into Bangladesh from Burma (Myanmar) when persecution of Muslims became unbearable. From Calcutta I shifted with my family to Delhi where I begged for food to keep myself and my family alive,” Yunus told IANS as he narrated his story. “It was in Delhi that I met a Kashmiri who told me J&K was a state in India where Muslims lived in majority. I came here in 2008. Buddhists and Muslims fought together for Burma`s independence. Just two years after 1948, one of our senior community leaders, Abdul Razak was murdered, under a conspiracy. “Thereafter, the process of Muslim persecution started in Burma. In 1972 our religious rights were usurped. No Muslim could build a new mosque nor could an old mosque be repaired.” “Taxes were imposed on Muslims. For burying a Muslim we had to pay a huge tax to the government. Muslims had to give one-fourth of their agricultural produce to the government without any compensation,” Yunus claimed. “My relatives who ran out of Burma to India after 2012 told me that a group of Muslim preachers had come to our native Moungdow district in 2012. On their way back from Moungdow where they had held religious congregations, all the nine preachers were kidnapped and brutally murdered”, Yunus said. When voices were raised against Muslim persecution, the government authorities, he alleged, gave weapons and army uniforms to members of the other community who went on a rampage to kill Muslim men, women and children. Ali Ahmed, 66, is another Rohingya refugee living in Narwal. He says after settling as refugees in Jammu, the community has no future except that their lives are safe. “Yes, we will not be killed here, but we can always die of hunger. We cannot get government employment. Our children were not admitted in any government school till two years back. Now, we are allowed to send our children to a government school”, Ali Ahmed said. The youths of the community like Usman Gani, 22, Mehmood-ul-Haq, 25, and others work as scrap gatherers, starting their day before sunrise. “We collect scrap and sell it to scrap dealers in the city. We also do jobs like laying underground cables for the telecommunication companies or laying of railway tracks. But that is not earning a living. We are just surviving”, said Usman Gani. Yunus said he has called on almost every minister and senior bureaucrat in the previous and the present government to narrate the problems of his community. “They say `kareingay` (Will do), but nobody does anything for us,” he said. As the elders of her refugee community narrated their heart-rending stories to IANS, Tasleema looked on with hope. A faint, half-smile on her face shows she thinks somebody has come to address her problems and assure her a better future. The girl has no idea that hers is going to be another `human interest` story for the readers. Nobody can assure her a better tomorrow, for all members of this refugee community are living `illegally` in Jammu and Kashmir. (Zee News 5/12/15)

Minority refugees from Pak, Bangladesh can stay without valid documents (13)

New Delhi: Refugees of minority communities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, can stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, even without valid travel documents, Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday. In response to a written question, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said the government vide its notification dated September 7, 2015, has granted exemption to persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who entered into India on or before December 31, 2014, from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the orders made there under in respect of their stay in India without valid documents, including passport or other travel document; or with valid documents including passport or other travel document and the validity of any such documents has expired. “The immigrants from Bangladesh can obtain Indian citizenship under the provisions of Citizenship Act, 1955 and the rules made there under. Persons residing in Indian enclaves on Bangladesh side of the border are already Indian citizens. “However, 14,864 persons residing in erstwhile Bangladeshi enclaves on Indian side of the border have been granted Indian citizenship with effect from August 1, 2015, the date of transfer of enclaves, as per the provisions of section 7 of Citizenship Act, 1955,” he said. (The Hindu 9/12/15)

UN urges Jordan to let 12,000 stranded Syrian refugees enter (13)

GENEVA/AMMAN: The United Nations urged Jordan on Tuesday to allow in 12,000 Syrian refugees stranded at the border in deteriorating humanitarian conditions and offered to help reinforce security at registration points. The Syrians are fleeing escalating air strikes on their battered homeland as well as punishments imposed on civilians by Islamic State militants in the north, including forced marriages, beheadings and floggings, it said. The number of refugees at Syria’s remote northeastern border with Jordan, where many are gathering near an earthen wall or berm, has jumped to 12,000 from 4,000 in recent weeks, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. Human Rights Watch said Jordan was putting many lives at risk by blocking 12,000 refugees, most of whom it said were women and children. “Jordan should stop stranding people in remote border areas for months on end and swiftly screen them in the country’s well-established transit centres,” Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of HRW, said in the statement. Aid workers and two Jordanian relief officials attributed the sudden rise in refugees at the border to Russian bombing of IS-controlled areas in eastern Homs, such as Palmyra, as well as in Raqqa province and city. “It includes elderly people, it includes people who are sick and wounded, it includes children, women and others who are vulnerable and really need help,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a briefing. “We’re concerned that women have had to give birth at the berm in very unsanitary and unhygienic conditions,” she said. Respiratory tract infections, gastroenteritis and skin diseases such as scabies have been reported. There are signs of acute malnutrition among children and outbreaks of diarrhoea. The UNHCR is appealing to Jordan to allow in the most vulnerable cases, Fleming said. Diplomats say refugee numbers in Jordan have fallen sharply in the last 18 months as tens of thousands have returned to Syria or emigrated while only a trickle are now allowed in. (Times of India 9/12/15)

Christian slums in Pakistan targeted (13)

Islamabad : Human rights activists slammed Islamabad authorities on Thursday after court documents showed the Pakistani capital’s development body had cracked down on illegal slums because it feared their growing Christian population would threaten the city’s Muslim majority. In 2014 the capital development authority declared a war against illegal slums in leafy, affluent Islamabad, saying the areas — largely populated by Christians and Afghan refugees — are illegal and havens for militants. The drive rendered hundreds homeless and stirred anger with demonstrations held to try to stop the bulldozers. The left-wing Awami Workers Party (AWP) launched a Supreme Court bid against the drive, with the court ordering written justification from the CDA for its actions. In the reply submitted this week – which has also been criticised for its poor English – the CDA states: “It seems this pace of occupation of land by Christian community may increase… Removal of katchi abadies is very urgent to provide better environment to the citizen of Islamabad and to protect the beauty of Islam”. The report sparked a swift backlash, with rights activists holding a rally in the capital against what they call the “discriminatory” stance. Ammar Rashid of the AWP told AFP the move was “old- fashioned bigotry against minorities and working classes”. “The administrative body has no right to be making decisions about the religious demography of Islamabad,” he said. (Asian Age 11/12/15)

Plight of persecuted Myanmar Muslims (13)

GUWAHATI, Dec 13 – Two violence-hit teenage girls of the Rohingya Muslim community of Myanmar, who were arrested earlier this year for illegally entering India and later sent to an observation home in Guwahati, had a heart-rending story of human tragedy to tell. After undergoing a series of counselling sessions, the minor girls from Myanmar finally submitted before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), Assam (Guwahati), that it was after their respective parents were killed in front of their eyes during the violence in Myanmar this year that they decided to flee the neighbouring country fearing for their lives. “The girls told the Court that they had no other choice after their families were killed during the ethnic clashes in Myanmar. They somehow managed to escape and a few days later sneaked in to the Indian side through Tripura,” said sources closely monitoring the developments of the Rohingya refugees in India. “Our parents were killed and we would have been killed as well had we not fled the country. India seemed to be the only safe choice,” the girls, who are cousins, told the JJB on Friday. The case is now in the argument stage, sources told The Assam Tribune. One of the girls even deposed before the Board that apart from killing her parents mercilessly, the miscreants also killed her brother and there was nobody left in their family. Classified by many as the most persecuted community in Myanmar, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled their country fearing for their lives and sought refuge in different countries, including India. Sources at Dispur informed that at present there 28 Myanmar nationals lodged in the detention camps in the State. The episode involving the girls has witnessed twists and turns from day one, when they were detained from the Guwahati Railway Station by the Government Railway Police (under Foreigners’ Act and Passport Act) in June this year when they were about to board a train to Jammu and Kashmir. Although a claim for guardianship was put forward by a person from Jammu and Kashmir, the Board rejected the plea as the person in question could not produce any valid or admissible documents. The Rohingya cousins were kept under the supervision at an observation home and nobody was allowed to meet them without prior permission from the Board, keeping their safety in mind. Sources at Dispur told this reporter that if need be the matter would be taken up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other agencies concerned. The minor girls probably tried to go to Jammu and Kashmir as many Rohingya families are already there, sources further said. (The Assam Tribune 13/12/15)

12 Sri Lankan refugees return home (13)

TRICHY: Twelve Sri Lankan refugees from five camps across the state returned to their home country on Tuesday morning. They left on a Sri Lankan Air lines flight to Colombo from the Trichy International Airport with the assistance of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At least 150 people who fled their homes during the civil war in Sri Lanka and took asylum in the state have returned so far, as things begin to return to normalcy in island nation. According to police, refugees have been leaving in the recent months as Sri Lanka has been witnessing a positive change after the new government took over. The refugees who left on Tuesday had been lodged in camps in Erode, Dharmapuri, Cuddalore, Namakkal and Salem. (Times of India 16/12/15)

PoK Refugees Hail PM for Sanctioning Rs 2000 Crore Package (13)

JAMMU: Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sanctioning Rs 2,000 crore package for people displaced in 1947, refugees of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) today said the package amount should not be seen as the final figures as a total of Rs 9,200 crore was required to settle all of them. Members of Jammu and Kashmir Sharnarthi Action Committee (JKSAC), an organisation representing the displaced members of the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), expressed their gratitude toward Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sanctioning a package of Rs 2,000 crore for the displaced people. “We express our gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sanctioning a package of Rs 2,000 crore for the displaced people from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) of 1947,”JKSAC vice president Amrik Singh said. He said the package of Rs 2,000 crore should not be seen as the final settlement as the total amount required to settle the displaced people of PoK was Rs 9,200 crore. “The Prime Minister while sanctioning Rs 2,000 crore had himself said that this was just a beginning and not the final settlement,” Singh said, adding that displaced people had to wait for more than six decades to get this relief package announced. Singh urged the state government to disburse the sanctioned relief package amongst the displaced people at an earliest so that the demand for remaining money could be made to the central government. He also demanded that the state government should constitute a committee in which representatives from JKSAC be also included for the disbursement of the package. (New Indian Express 17/12/15)

70 years on, West Pakistan refugees denied basic rights in J&K (13)

NEW DELHI: Braving the bloodbath of partition, they migrated from Pakistan’s Sialkot to villages in Jammu hoping for a better future but after 70 years, they are knocking at the Supreme Court’s door protesting denial of permanent resident status, right to education, employment and voting in Jammu and Kashmir. The nomenclature — West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee, 1947 — may sound archaic but their grievances are grave as they find themselves living like second class citizens in J&K despite a Supreme Court decision in 1987 in Bachan Lal Kalgotra case. The SC had said it was for the governments, the Centre and state, to realize the genuine grievances of these refugees and grant them permanent resident status in the state to enable them vote for the state assembly and panchayat elections. Interestingly, these refugees and their progeny have been allowed to vote in Lok Sabha elections. But what the refugees alleged is unthinkable in a modern democracy which treats an individual’s rights as cardinal. The committee, through advocate Anirudh Sharma, said, “The state government granted permanent resident status to some of these West Pakistan refugees subject to the condition that they could be employed only as sweepers. “They and their children are not allowed to hold any positions higher than these. Further, their children are not entitled to gain education in government universities or avail any scholarships to gain education.” In contrast, these refuges’ children and grandchildren can vote for parliamentary elections and compete for All India Civil Services examination conducted by the Union Public Services Commission.This is downright apathy from the governments side. Now that the new government is in place they should ensure that the … Read MoreHrishi Desai. This means if the progeny of a refugee is successful in the All India Civil Services examination, he/she could become the chief secretary or the head of the police force in J&K, but he/she can only become a constable or a clerk in the state government if he/she decides to take employment in the state. “The petitioner is filing the instant petition for conferring the status of permanent resident status to around 300,000 West Pakistani refugees who have been denied basic human rights like the right to employment, education, ownership of property and political participation,” the committee said. “Nearly 80% of the refugees who migrated from West Pakistan to the state of Jammu and Kashmir were from the Scheduled Caste community. A large number of refugees from West Pakistan took shelter in Kathua and Samba, though no land was allotted to them. “It is a pity that their situation has not changed at all for the past 30 years and their children and grandchildren are facing same agonies despite Bachan Lal Kalgotra judgment in 1987,” the committee said. (Times of India 22/12/15)

At least 18 refugees drown off Turkey in latest refugee tragedy (13)

Ankara: At least 18 migrants drowned when their overcrowded boat sank in the Aegean Sea on Thursday on the way to the Greek island of Lesbos in the latest tragedy involving refugees seeking to enter Europe. The wooden boat  capsized  in high waves two miles off the Bademli coast in the Aegean, the private Dogan news agency reported. The Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies including several children from the  sea,  and were hunting for another two who were missing. A  one-year old  baby was among those rescued. Divers from the nearby Turkish coastal city of Izmir were rushed to the scene after a tip-off that more refugees could be stuck in the hold, Dogan said. The UN refugee agency and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said this week more than one million migrants and refugees reached Europe this year, most of them by sea. The vast majority of people — over 800,000 — landed in Greece, according to the figures. Greek police said on Wednesday that at least 13 people including seven children,  drowned when their boat sank in the Aegean. Turkey, which is currently hosting at least 2.2 million Syrian refugees, is a major launch-pad for migrants who are seeking better lives in European Union nations. The EU is grappling for solutions to the mass arrival of migrants, most of them Syrian refugees from Turkey. Ankara reached an agreement with the EU in November to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, in return for financial assistance. Brussels vowed to provide three billion euros (USD 3.2 billion) in cash as well as political concessions to Ankara in return for its cooperation in tackling Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II. After the landmark deal, Turkish coastguard and police have stepped up their presence along the coasts where smugglers operate the refugee business. EU ambassador to Turkey, Hansjorg Haber, told AFP last week that the goal was to put smugglers “out of business” and deter migrants from going to the coastline. “We are already seeing enhanced effort on the part of the gendarmerie and the  police  but  basically  we want to stop this,” he said. The Turkish government however criticises the EU’s “security-oriented” approach to the refugee crisis, saying that the issue should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. “The refugee issue is not a matter of political bribery,” a Turkish government official said, while adding that there was no other country as experienced as Turkey in meeting refugee demands. Meanwhile, because of the winter conditions, there has been a decrease in the numbers of people seeking to reach Europe in risky sea journeys. (DNA 24/12/15)

UN refugee agency seeks to protect displaced gays, lesbians (13)

New York, Dec 26 (Just Earth News/IBNS): With lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in forced displacement facing discrimination, prejudice, violence and other hurdles as they seek asylum, the United Nations refugee agency has rolled out the most comprehensive training package of its kind globally to enhance their protection. The need to ensure that the rights of LGBTI people are respected has recently received increased attention and support from UN agencies, States, and the broader humanitarian and human rights community, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Turk says of the measures which focus on practical guidance for staff and partner organizations. However, despite significant progress in this effort, discrimination against LGBTI persons persists, and their international protection needs often go unmet, he added in a news release. UNHCR [High Commissioner for Refugees] is committed to protecting the rights of LGBTI persons of concern, and will continue to take targeted actions to build the capacity of staff and partners to this end. The training package we have developed is a significant step in that direction. The programme, developed jointly with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and funded by the United States Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, covers relevant terminology, international law, communication, operational protection, conducting interviews, durable solutions, health, and refugee status determination. It encompasses sexual orientation and gender identity, the particular protection risks affecting displaced LGBTI people, specific means to address them and will result in better delivery of protection to LGBTI persons of concern by UNHCR and its partners, the agency said. (New Kerala 26/12/15)

Persecuted Myanmarese in Assam to seek refugee status (13)

GUWAHATI, Dec 26 – As many as 28 persecuted Myanmarese nationals (Rohingya Muslims), who are presently in Assam, including those languishing in detention camps, have decided to formally seek asylum in India through the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These persecuted Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who were apprehended in the State in the last few years for illegally entering the country following persecution, include women and children, official sources confirmed. The UNHCR is now working on the legal nitty-gritty so that the ‘victims’ are interviewed and granted refugee status. Sources at Dispur informed this newspaper that the UNHCR has already engaged its legal partner, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), to study the merits of the case and act accordingly. As per the information gathered by the HRLN, they have come across 28 such nationals from Myanmar, including 22 of those languishing in detention camps in Golapara, Kokrajhar, Jorhat, Silchar, Dibrugarh and Tezpur. “The other six are at different stages of legal process,” sources divulged. “Once the matter is taken up by the UNHCR, the 28 Myanmarese nationals would be given refugee status, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. As India is signatory to various UN treaties, granting of refugee status to them should not be a problem,” sources stated. A team of HRLN is also working on the case of two Rohingya Muslim minor girls, which is presently being fought in the Juvenile Justice Board, Guwahati. “Like other persecuted Rohingyas, the minor girls do not want to go back to Myanmar fearing threat to their lives. They want to be in Jammu and Kashmir to join thousands of Rohingyas that have already settled there following tensions in the neighbouring country in recent years. By way of granting refugee status, we can facilitate their legal stay in India,” sources pointed out. “If there are no legal complications, I do not think the State Government will be averse to the idea. The process has just started,” a senior official at the Assam Accord implementation department said. While confirming that the UNHCR is taking a keen interest in the Rohingya Muslims presently in Assam, he said the State Government, too, is studying the probable legal implications. An official of the UNHCR told this reporter that its legal partners have been asked to find out more about the issue before it can go ahead with the necessary documentation and other related matters. “If the court allows them to travel to New Delhi, we would register and interview them for refugee status,” sources added. (The Assam Tribune 27/12/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

15 years on, no data or policy for disabled (1)

NEW DELHI: Twenty years after a disability Act came into force, the city doesn’t have a policy on disability, and it also seems in the dark about the number of persons with disability (PwD). While disability rights activists say 6-8% of Delhi’s population has some form of physical disability, data captured in the 2011 Census puts the PwD count at only 2.35 lakh or 1.4% of the population. And though the Delhi government notified Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 in 2001, and another disability Bill is pending in Parliament, there is still no state policy on disability in the national capital. TOI had reported in July how successive city governments had done little on this issue and even the present government hasn’t formed its State Coordination Committee (SCC) and State Executive Committee (SEC) that are to be reconstituted every three years. Worryingly, policies are being made without any background data on disability at both the state and central levels, as seven RTI queries to the Delhi Government and central agencies have revealed. Even today, there is no comprehensive state policy on disability in Delhi. Earlier this year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s audit of the department of social welfare—the nodal office for implementation of the 1995 Act—had highlighted that the department did not conduct any independent door-to-door surveys to create a comprehensive database of the disabled residing in Delhi, and “it did not develop the state disability policy to address the issues of persons with disability.” “I have filed RTIs (copies of replies are with TOI) with Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India. The nodal ministry of Government of India that is responsible for policy decision does not have any statistics to speak of,” said Dr Satendra Singh, disability rights activist. “Although Delhi is the national capital, its state policy on disability is yet to be drafted; the SCC and SEC have not been constituted even now, and the third issue is that a separate department of disability—which was promised by the AAP government—has also not been taken up,” Singh added. While RTI replies in July 2015 revealed that the AAP government had initiated the process of reconstitution of both SCC and SEC, sources said neither body has been constituted four months on, and there are no records available on the advice given by the government on formulation of policies, programmes, legislation and projects related to disability. Sandeep Kumar, minister for social welfare, could not be contacted. Slamming the political class and the bureaucracy, Javed Abidi, honorary director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, said, “While credit goes to media and judiciary, the two organs that have not done justice are the politicians and the bureaucrats. This is across the political spectrum. A lot of nice things are said and forgotten. They don’t look at the disabled as a vote bank. We have got disability included in civil services, right to education and planning, but still things are not hunky-dory, and on a scale of 10, I would give 2 for what we have achieved in the past 20 years.” (Times of India 2/12/15)

RTI activists give a thumbs down (1)

NEW DELHI: National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) has put out a detailed analysis on the Kejriwal government’s Delhi Janlokpal Bill 2015. Pointing out that as per the draft the Janlokpal is not independent of the government, the report also questions the silence over how expenses will be met. NCPRI, which has been continuously questioning the government’s decision to bring the bill without any public consultations, has now delivered its verdict on the contents and also given recommendations on how it can be made into a strong law. A statement from NCPRI reads: “The NCPRI has maintained that a Lokpal should be independent, empowered, with appropriate jurisdiction, adequately accountable and realistically workable. We have consistently advocated that separate institutions with requisite jurisdiction and powers be set-up to investigate and prosecute corruption of elected officials and bureaucracy; of the judiciary; and separately to redress grievances of citizens.” “The draft seems to propose that the Delhi Janlokpal would also have jurisdiction over judges of the high court and Supreme Court for complaints of offences allegedly committed in the union territory of Delhi. Apart from this, the bill also has various weaknesses and deficiencies,” the statement adds. It has also been pointed out that the selection committee for appointing the Lokpal is biased in favour of the ruling party, with two of the four members being from the government (the CM and speaker). This curtails independence of the Lokpal. “Further, the bill envisages an even-numbered selection committee without providing for a solution to an impasse,” NCPRI states. The agency has also questioned the procedure for dealing with complaints against the Janlokpal chairperson and its members as well as the process of removal. “It is essential that the assembly in no way be involved in this process and complaints against the members of the Lokpal be received directly by the chief justice of HC and SC, who should have the complaints probed and, if warranted, recommend their removal to the LG.” (Times of India 4/12/15)

FIR against former med council officials for tampering records (1)

JAIPUR: An FIR has been registered with Ashok Nagar police station against the former office bearers of Rajasthan Medical Council for tampering with the hospital documents related to mysterious death of a dentist, 14 years ago. The dentist’s father who is also a doctor alleged that the death was under mysterious circumstances, but to cover up the real cause of death, the doctors tampered with the documents. The father has expressed suspicion about his daughter-in-law who has been missing since her husband’s death. According to the police, dentist Anurag Pandey, a resident of Mansarovar in the city, had his clinic adjoining his house. “He was rushed to SMS hospital in critical condition on December 31, 2001 from where he was referred to a private hospital. Anurag died while undergoing treatment,” said sub-inspector Gita Chaudhary who is probing the case. She said that when Anurag’s father Shivkant Pandey came to the hospital the next day the doctors didn’t tell him clearly the cause of death. The doctors at the medical council issued bogus documents explaining his cause of death. “After RTI came into force, he filed an RTI for medical council records. He found that the records had been tampered with. There were many corrections in the records. From the very beginning, he thought that Anurag’s death was suspicious. His daughter-in-law left home the next day and never came back. He thinks she is abroad,” said the officer. The police officials said that an FIR has been registered against doctors including Bhagwan Sahay Mishra, Dr Archana Johari and Shashimohan Sharma under sections 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), 219 (public servant in judicial proceeding corruptly making report, etc., contrary to law) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC. (Times of India 6/12/15)

204 unauthorised schools in Mumbai: RTI (1)

There are as many as 204 private unauthorised schools operating in Mumbai, of which, the highest number i.e. 36 are located in Goregaon suburbs, an RTI query has revealed. However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not taken any strict action against these schools apart from sending notices citing that the Right to Education Act has no clarity on collection of fines from such schools. Information sought from the civic body’s education department by social activist Anil Galgali revealed a list of 204 unauthorised schools with English, Marathi and Urdu as medium of instruction. To Mr Galgali’s query regarding action taken against such schools, he was informed that as per provisions of the Right to Education Act and actions based under Section 18(5) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, a fine of Rs 1 lakh is levied on any unauthorised school. In the event the school fails to cough up the fine, a fine of Rs 10,000 is imposed per day. While the department informed Mr Galgali that all said schools have been issued notice, it expressed its inability to collect the fine, citing lack of clarity in the RTE Act. “The RTE Act 2009 does not contain clarity on ‘Account Head’ under which, fines levied on unauthorised schools have to be collected. Clarity is absent even in the orders of government as well as its various resolutions issued in regard to implementation of the Act,” said the reply. However, BMC deputy education officer Shambhavi Jogi said that these schools cannot be termed as unathorised. “The schools have been operating for many years. But their recognition cannot be extended as they have not complied with some of the parameters in the RTE act. If action is taken against them, the future of a large number of students will be in jeopardy. Hence, these schools have been asked to comply with RTE guidelines at the earliest. Also, correspondence is on with the government to relax some of the tough guidelines,” she said. The education department further replied that it has sought necessary direction from the government regarding ‘Account Head’ under which, fines levied have to be collected and deposited with the treasury, but it has not yet received necessary guidelines from the government. Reacting to the reply, Mr Galgali said that criminal cases should be filed against promoters of these schools. “The BMC is facing losses of Rs 2 crore as there is no clarity about fine collection,” he claimed. According to the list, “a maximum of such schools, 36, are in the jurisdiction of Goregaon M West ward; followed by 30 in Kurla L ward; 20 in Malad P North ward; 12 in Ghatkopar N ward; 12 in Chembur M East ward; 10 in Matunga F North ward; 10 in Andheri K East ward; 10 in Borivali R Central ward; 10 in Dahisar R North ward; 9 in Kandivali R south ward; 9 in Bhandup S ward; 8 in Goregaon P South ward; 8 in Mahim G North ward; 5 in Byculla E ward; 5 in Andheri K West ward; 3 in Sandhurst Road B ward; 2 in Mulund T ward; 2 in Parel F South ward; and 1 each in Colaba A Ward, Santacruz H East ward and Grant Road D ward.” (Asian Age 9/12/15)

Vyapam : Names of selected candidates removed from law institute’s merit list, RTI reply reveals (1)

New Delhi, Dec 13 : The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, (or Vyapam as it is popularly known), which has conducted admission tests for National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal since its inception in 1997, removed the names of those in the the merit list during 2001-07, leaving only the roll numbers, the reply to an RTI query says. Whistleblower Ajay Dubey says this has been done to protect the beneficiaries. The merit lists of pre-BA.LLB (Hons) entrance test from 2000 to 2007, obtained through RTI application in November by Ajay Dubey from the MP professional examination board, show that in 2000 the names of the candidates were mentioned on the list along with their roll numbers. But from 2001 till 2007, the board removed the names of the candidates from the list and only the roll numbers were displayed, the RTI reply said. “Vyapam conducted admission tests for NLIU till 2007. From 2008, the admission test for the law institute came under Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). The general practice is to put out the names of the candidates and their father’s name on the merit list. They removed the names of the candidates from the list after 2000 because they didn’t want to disclose their identities. This gave a strong impression of how recommendations of influential people were considered in the selection of candidates. And all possible efforts were made to hide their identities,” Dubey told IANS. Meanwhile, the MP government auditor had earlier raised a number of objections related to inflated travel expenses by experts hired by the state’s Professional Examination Board or Vyapam for an examination in 2006-07 and had called for expeditious investigations, a reply to an RTI plea received earlier this year had stated. The Local Fund Audit had also raised objection to the reprinting of 200,000 answer sheets for the Women and Child Development Examination that was conducted two months earlier, causing a loss of Rs.262,350. More than 1,000 financial irregularities were reported in Vyapam since 1970 to which objections were raised by the state’s audit teams. Madhya Pradesh has been mired in the Vyapam scam for years, but the irregularities eventually came to light when 20 people were arrested in 2013 for impersonating candidates appearing for the 2009 medical entrance examination. Forty-eight people associated with the Vyapam scam have died – mostly under mysterious circumstances. Following the chain of deaths, the Supreme Court in July directed the CBI to investigate not just the Vyapam scam but also the deaths related to it.  (New Kerala 13/12/15)

Haryana govt. spent 17 crore on publicity: RTI activist (1)

Chandigarh: Opposition Congress on Monday hit out at the Haryana government for spending nearly Rs.17 crore on the publicity blitzkrieg as part of its completion of one year in office, claiming that the amount was spent on “non-existent achievements”. Panipat-based RTI activist P. P. Kapoor said that out of this amount, nearly Rs.6 crore was spent on functions organised for Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his ministerial colleagues to publicise the BJP government’s achievements, another Rs.4 crore on advertisements in various newspapers. Besides print media, electronic media was given advertisement worth about Rs.4.30 crore, he told reporters. Stating that he procured the documents through RTI, Mr. Kapoor further informed that about Rs.25 lakh was spent on advertisements to various magazines. He added that the money was spent during the period between October 21 and November 5. The first-ever BJP government in Haryana completed one year in office on October 26 this year. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar termed the publicity spending revelations as “unfortunate”. “Spending Rs.17 crore just on advertisements to tell people that we have completed one year and to talk about non-existent achievements, is unfortunate. The BJP government’s only achievement has been to take credit for the schemes and projects initiated during the previous Congress government,” he said. He said that the BJP, which claims itself to be a party with a “difference”, should rather have utilised this money for meeting their “unkept poll promises” including giving unemployment allowance to the youth or giving Rs.2,000 per month as old age pension to the beneficiaries rather than cheating them with meagre annual raise. “But to use this money for some kind of false publicity, how can this be justified? We want to ask the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues is this not a waste of public money,” Mr. Tanwar asked. – PTI (Th Hindu 15/12/15)

No data on whistleblower, RTI activist killings: Government (1)

New Delhi: There is no centralised data regarding killing of whistleblowers or RTI activists, the government said on Wednesday. The Central Vigilance Commission, which is designated agency to receive whistleblowers complaints, has informed that it has not come across any confirmed incident of victimisation or killing of the complainant in past three years. However, in two cases, the complainant, who had made complaint to the Commission had alleged victimisation, minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh said in Lok Sabha. “There have been reports in the media that some persons have been assaulted and killed in the last three years allegedly due to their role as RTI activists. However, data regarding attack, killing of whistleblowers and RTI activists are not maintained centrally,” he said. The CVC, after receipt of representations from whistleblowers about threats to their life, takes up the matter with the ministry of home affairs, the nodal agency, to undertake the responsibility ofproviding security cover to genuine whistleblowers, a term given to people who expose corruption, the minister said. (Asian Age 17/12/15)

 

RBI cannot withhold info on defaulter, says apex court (1)

New Delhi: Holding that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cannot withhold information on defaulters under the RTI Act, the Supreme Court has asked the banking regulator to take strict action against financial institutions which were trying to cover up their acts. A bench of Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice C Nagappan said that the RBI cannot take pretext of confidence or trust with financial institutions and is accountable to provide information sought by general public. “RBI and the banks have sidestepped the general public’s demand to give the requisite information on the pretext of ‘Fiduciary relationship’ and ‘Economic Interest’. This attitude of the RBI will only attract more suspicion and disbelief in them. RBI as a regulatory authority should work to make the banks accountable to their actions,” the bench said. The apex court rejected the contention that disclosure of information might affect economic interest of the country, by terming it as “misconceived”. “It includes in its ambit a wide range of economic transactions or economic activities necessary and beneficial to attain the goals of a nation, which definitely includes as an objective economic empowerment of its citizens. It has been recognised and understood without any doubt now that one of the tool to attain this goal is to make information available to people,” the court held. Noting that several banks resorted to non-transparent stances and tried to defraud public, the court pointed out, “The RTI Act under Section 2(f) clearly provides that the inspection reports, documents etc., fall under the purview of ‘Information’ which is obtained by the public authority (RBI) from a private body.” The court passed its judgment on a clutch of pleas transferred from various High Courts against the Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to furnish the information sought by applicants under the transparency law. The court asked the RBI to desist from trying to cover up the acts of financial institutions from public scrutiny. “It is the responsibility of the RBI to take rigid action against those banks which have been practicing disreputable business practices,” the court said. (Deccan Herald 18/12/15)

RTI query reveals women’s cells at most police stations not functional(1)

Nagpur: A query under Right to information (RTI) Act has exposed the callous approach of the city police in implementing the 2012 circular of state director general of police (DGP) calling for setting up ‘mahila kaksha’ or special women redressal cell in every police station. State police have claimed in an affidavit filed earlier this year before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High court that 1049 women cells had been established in police stations across the state. This was during hearing of a public interest litigation filed by woman activist Nutan Rewatkar seeking direction of the high court to set up all-women police stations like in other states against the backdrop of rising atrocities against women. Rewatkar had cited hardships faced by the women at police stations while lodging complaints of sexual abuse in presence of male cops. Activist advocate Sameer Sonwane, who had filed the PIL, said he was preparing to file a contempt petition against the police department. “The details procured through RTI could be a big eye-opener for the court that probably now feels police department was fulfilling the requirement of women’s cell but it is merely a hogwash,” he said. The RTI query filed by TOI with the city police on status of these cells also exposed the lackadaisical approach of cops in certain cases like Ganeshpeth police station that claimed their cell had turned defunct as two women personnel on it had proceeded on leave. While most police stations claimed the senior inspector was supervising the records, they also stated in the same breath that no separate documentation was being maintained at the cell for the cases pertaining to women. This is contrary to the guidelines in the circular that had called for maintenance of separate records at the police station. The women cells, expected to be operational by now at all police stations, were to deal with grievances of women and children. The latest statistics of city cops with 153 cases of rape and 352 molestations till November and another 229 cases of torture at in-laws’ place filed upto September this year underline the fact that footfalls of the women at the police stations has been quite substantial. Last year, there were only 95 cases of rape and 254 molestations till November. The statistics show there is increase in number of women requiring police help in sexual assault cases. RTI query seemed to have caught the cops napping. Of the 24 police stations, only 15 replied while the rest even ignored the RTI law as well. Most police stations claimed the cell was operational to some extent. Sadar police stated that nothing of sort existed at their premises… (Times of India 21/12/15)

 ‘Invoke RTI Act to make State accountable’ (1)

VISAKAHPATNAM: Right to Information (RTI) Act is a tool that empowers the common man and gives the right to people to question the government, former Chief Information Commissioner Om Prakash Kejariwal has said. Interacting with The Hindu here on Monday, he said people should utilise the RTI Act to make the government accountable and reduce corruption by questioning the authorities. According to him, RTI has three basic functions — transparency, accountability, and reduction of corruption. “Ever since the Act was passed in 2005, the level of corruption has decreased to a certain extent. But the Act needs to be used more often by the citizens,” he pointed out. Even over 10 years after the Act was passed, it was being used by a small segment of people, he said. “The more we use it the more accountable the government will become, and corruption too will decrease,” he said. Mr. Kejariwal, who also served as CEO of Prasar Bharathi, said the killing of RTI activist Shehla Masood in Bhopal and frequent attacks on the activists suggest that the Act was a powerful one and had the capacity to root out corruption. On safety and protection of the RTI activists, he said that they can be brought under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act. The former CIC, however, was not happy the way some of the departments were handling the RTI queries. “The Act is a comprehensive one and addresses a range of issues, but it is not being implemented in its true spirit by many of the departments.” He pointed out that many departments abstain from declaring the file notings. But as per the Act, a complainant is eligible to get a photocopy of the notings. Many departments try to skirt queries by citing Section 8 or the Official Secrets Act, but it can be overruled by the Information Commissioners. “It is up to the discretion of the Information Commissioner. But it has been seen in many cases that the department heads do not respond to the Commissioner’s orders,” said Mr. Kejariwal…..  (The Hindu 22/12/15)

12 information officers fined Rs.25,000 each in UP (1)

Agra, Dec 26 : Twelve information officers of various state government departments in Uttar Pradesh have been fined Rs.25,000 each for failing to provide information sought under the RTI Act. State information commissioner Gajendra Yadav found the 12 officers guilty of not providing information or delaying the process. Assistant regional transport officer Daroga Singh, district basic shiksha adhikari Dharmendra Saxena, secretary water works V.K. Gupta, Etmadpur tehsildar Jeet Lal Saini, district inspector of schools Dinesh Yadav, horticulture officer Anita Yadav were among the 12 people. The other officers are from the electricity department, police, municipal corporations and panchayat and block level officers. The 12 officers have been asked to present their case in person in 10 days, failing which they will have to pay the fine. (New Kerala 26/12/15)

MPs’ domestic travel bill in FY15: Rs 135.8 crore (1)

NEW DELHI: The government spent about Rs 147.38 crore for “domestic travel expenses” of Members of Parliament (MPs) during 2013-14 and it was Rs 135.8 crore during 2014-15. In response to an RTI application regarding the annual expenditure incurred by government in air and rail journeys, government has said the domestic travel expenses not only includes expenses of air fare but it also rail and road journeys and daily allowances. “I had sought the exact information to find how much from public exchequer is spent annually for MPs for their travelling since now they want their salary and allowances should be increased further,” said RTI applicant Ved Pal. Citing the legal provisions regarding such entitlement of MPs, the RTI reply said, “A member is entitled to an amount equal to the fare by air for 34 single air journeys during a year performed by him/ her spouse or any number of companions or relatives.” While the government has provided the domestic travel expenses for Lok Sabha MPs for two years – 2013-14 and 2014-15 – in the case of Rajya Sabha members, the details are available from 2010-11. The reply mentions how the expenditure under this head was about Rs 42.94 crore in 2010-11, Rs 44.96 crore the next year and nearly Rs 51 crore during 2012-13 for members of the Upper House. On July 2, TOI had first reported how a panel of MPs from both the Houses had recommended for doubling the pay package for MPs and automatic pay revision as well. Five years after parliamentarians gave themselves more than 300% salary hike, the NDA government seems to be inclined for another rise in the lawmakers’ salary. There were recent reports of a proposal lying with the finance ministry to double the basic salary of MPs from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month, constituency allowance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000 and secretarial assistance plus office allowance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000. (Times of India 26/12/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

16 Indian institutes among Top 200 in Times Higher Education ranking for emerging economies (11)

NEW DELHI: Indian educational institutes occupy 16 places among top 200 universities in Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies rankings for 2016. At 16th place, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore is the only Indian institute to feature in the top 20. China, on the other hand, has five institutes among top 10 followed by two from South Africa, and one each from Taiwan, Brazil and Russia. Even Taiwan has done better than India with 24 universities in top 200. Releasing the report on Thursday, Phil Baty, editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, said, “It is good news for India that 16 of its institutions feature in this year’s list of the best universities in the BRICS nations and emerging economies. However, India will have to work harder to compete with other developing nations, such as Russia, which have a higher proportion of institutions in the upper echelons of the table. India is the only BRICS nation without a university in the top ten.” At 29th place, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay makes to the Top 30, but rankings show that it requires investment and international collaboration if it has to compete with institutions from other BRICS nations. China dominates the rankings, with Peking Universityand Tsinghua University at first and second position respectively. The University of Science and Technology of China is at seventh place, Zhejiang University at eighth and Shanghai Jiao Tong University at tenth. From Russia, Lemonosov Moscow State University is at third place; from South Africa, University of Cape Town is at fourth and University of Witwatersrand at sixth. National Taiwan University is at fifth. In fact, Taiwan has 24 universities in top 200. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil is at ninth place. .. (Times of India 4/12/15)

Edu activists up in arms against govt-WTO pact (11)

Nashik: Members of the Forum Against Commercialisation of Education (FACE) staged an agitation on Saturday opposing the government’s move to open up education commercially as a tradeable service under World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS). FACE is one of the 73 organisations under the All India Forum For Right To Education (AIFRTE) that has been protesting against the government’s likely move. It is likely that the government would be signing an agreement with WTO in this regard in Nairobi on December 14. Organisations under AIFRTE have been opposing the move across the country. AIFRTE’s Anil Sadgopal has been trying to create awareness about the implications of opening up India’s higher education sector to the WTO in his lectures. “In 2005, India had given an offer that higher education would be as per WTO. Once the round of negotiation gets over, and if it is successful, then the agreement will be signed. Thereafter, everything would be as per WTO and it will be permanent,” said Milind Wagh, a member of FACE. He said if higher education becomes as per WTO, then it would be a commodity and will be traded. “We don’t want this because education is the right of all. WTO wants some amount in everything that they are involved in. Hence, the cost of education will increase. Education norms and policies will be as per WTO. Therefore, we are asking the government to withdraw the move,” Wagh said. The members of FACE submitted a memorandum to the district collector to forward it to the national human resource department (NHRD), which will submit it to the president. They also carried out a signature drive that will continue till December 14. “Now, we will be giving a letter to the MP so that he can discuss the issue in Parliament,” said the members of FACE. They said the students will have to pay for education through correspondence from foreign institutions and universities. (Times of India 6/12/15)

English education can’t instil patriotism: RSS (11)

PANAJI: Education in English is insufficient to teach humanitarian and patriotic values, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said here on Sunday, after opening for public viewing a statue of KB Hedgewar, the founder of the right-wing volunteer organization. “English education can only train us enough to be able to earn our daily bread. These are the words of Swami Vivekananda. We don’t need such schools but those that teach us to serve for the betterment of other human beings,” Bhagwat said. “Veer Savarkar had said, ‘If I cannot spread the fragrance of my education for the betterment of our country, then my education would be useless… Even donkeys can go around bearing the weight of books’,” Bhagwat said, close to Dr K B Hedgewar School campus. He spoke in the presence of Goa chief minister and education minister Laxmikant Parsekar, with education officials in the audience, including Goa University vice-chancellor Satish Shetye, GU registrar V P Kamat and director of education G P Bhat. Playing safe, Parsekar later said Bhagwat’s speech won’t influence the government while deciding on the medium of instruction (MoI) issue at schools. Parsekar said, “I don’t feel it will have any effect, positive or negative.” Forum for Rights of Children’s Education (FORCE) has been demanding that the government pass an Act providing grants to schools with English as their MoI, while Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) has demanded the government discontinue grant-in-aid to English-medium primary schools, owned and managed by minority institutions and restrict grants only to primary schools run in Indian languages as listed in the Eighth Schedule. The winter session of the state legislative assembly will commence on January 11. Parsekar had said that medium of instruction Bill will be introduced in this session. The bill is with the select committee and once it decides on it, it will be introduced in the assembly. “The select committee will soon meet and finalize the bill,” he said, while speaking to reporters. (Times of India 7/12/15)

204 unauthorised schools in Mumbai: RTI (11)

There are as many as 204 private unauthorised schools operating in Mumbai, of which, the highest number i.e. 36 are located in Goregaon suburbs, an RTI query has revealed. However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not taken any strict action against these schools apart from sending notices citing that the Right to Education Act has no clarity on collection of fines from such schools. Information sought from the civic body’s education department by social activist Anil Galgali revealed a list of 204 unauthorised schools with English, Marathi and Urdu as medium of instruction. To Mr Galgali’s query regarding action taken against such schools, he was informed that as per provisions of the Right to Education Act and actions based under Section 18(5) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, a fine of Rs 1 lakh is levied on any unauthorised school. In the event the school fails to cough up the fine, a fine of Rs 10,000 is imposed per day. While the department informed Mr Galgali that all said schools have been issued notice, it expressed its inability to collect the fine, citing lack of clarity in the RTE Act. “The RTE Act 2009 does not contain clarity on ‘Account Head’ under which, fines levied on unauthorised schools have to be collected. Clarity is absent even in the orders of government as well as its various resolutions issued in regard to implementation of the Act,” said the reply. However, BMC deputy education officer Shambhavi Jogi said that these schools cannot be termed as unathorised. “The schools have been operating for many years. But their recognition cannot be extended as they have not complied with some of the parameters in the RTE act. If action is taken against them, the future of a large number of students will be in jeopardy. Hence, these schools have been asked to comply with RTE guidelines at the earliest. Also, correspondence is on with the government to relax some of the tough guidelines,” she said. The education department further replied that it has sought necessary direction from the government regarding ‘Account Head’ under which, fines levied have to be collected and deposited with the treasury, but it has not yet received necessary guidelines from the government. Reacting to the reply, Mr Galgali said that criminal cases should be filed against promoters of these schools. “The BMC is facing losses of Rs 2 crore as there is no clarity about fine collection,” he claimed. According to the list, “a maximum of such schools, 36, are in the jurisdiction of Goregaon M West ward; followed by 30 in Kurla L ward; 20 in Malad P North ward; 12 in Ghatkopar N ward; 12 in Chembur M East ward; 10 in Matunga F North ward; 10 in Andheri K East ward; 10 in Borivali R Central ward; 10 in Dahisar R North ward; 9 in Kandivali R south ward; 9 in Bhandup S ward; 8 in Goregaon P South ward; 8 in Mahim G North ward; 5 in Byculla E ward; 5 in Andheri K West ward; 3 in Sandhurst Road B ward; 2 in Mulund T ward; 2 in Parel F South ward; and 1 each in Colaba A Ward, Santacruz H East ward and Grant Road D ward.” (Asian Age 9/12/15)

Big Question Mark Over Right to Education (11)

NEW DELHI: An NCERT study has found lack of elementary knowledge among the country’s Class VIII students. “The findings raise a big question mark over the achievements under the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the fundamentals that need to be addressed before India aspires to reach new heights,” said an official involved in the project work. Seventy per cent of Class VIII students in India are not aware of the freedom struggle; 55 per cent believe the Supreme Court is part of the Indian Parliament; 69 per cent are not aware of why the Swadeshi Movement was started during the freedom struggle. Only about 48 per cent of the students surveyed could explain the reasons behind the spread of European trading companies in pre-colonial India. Only 44 per cent knew how the British established control over Bengal. When quizzed about the 1,857 uprising, only 41 per cent could identify its geographical spread on a map. When quizzed further, 68-72 per cent could not identify the various rulers who participated in the revolt. The knowledge level is equally dismal about on the Indian economy and industry. Around 47 per cent understand that both private and public sectors participate in the industrial production in our country. On biodiversity, only about 35 per cent of the students know the objective of Project Tiger. The survey is intended to provide policy makers, planners, curriculum developers and other practitioners with a ‘snapshot’ of what students have learned in core subjects, and give a baseline against which, changes in educational standards can be monitored. (The Sunday Standard 13/12/15)

Tribal students go on hunger strike, seek nod for voluntary death (11)

Yavatmal: Hundreds of tribal students across the district have launched a chain hunger strike in front of the collector’s office here to draw the attention of the state government towards their demand for admission in the government-run hostels meant for them. In a memorandum, they sought the permission for voluntary death (Ichha Maran) from the president and governor. The agitation is under the banner of Birsa Brigade of Yavatmal. President of the Sanghatana Aravind Kudmethe told mediapersons on Saturday that adequate hostel buildings should be constructed for at least 1,000 additional admissions at the district level and 500 additional admissions at the tehsil level for adivasi students. “We had demanded for additional facility in the beginning of the academic session but to no avail,” Kudmethe said. Various organizations have extended their support to agitating students. (Times of India 13/12/15)

Educational standards absymal in Kalaburagi city (11)

KALABURAGI: More than 25 per cent of the population in Kalaburagi city never attended any educational institution or literacy centres in their life, according to a study conducted by economist Sangeeta Kattimani. Quoting from the data released by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner on the educational status of different regions from the information compiled from Census 2011, Prof. Kattimani said that of the 5.43 lakh population in Kalaburagi city, 1.38 lakh never attended any educational institution in their life. Of this, the number of women who did not attend educational institutions was higher. Of the 2.66-lakh population of women, more than 80,000 never attended any educational institution. Prof. Kattimani said that as per the new data, enrolment in schools has gone up in Kalaburagi city. This achievement is due to the initiatives taken by the government, including introduction of the midday meal scheme, compulsory education up to the age of 14, the Right to Education Act, and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. According to the new data, the enrolment in schools is now over 23 per cent of the total population of the city. However, enrolment in colleges remains low at 5.9 per cent. For boys, it is 6.5 per cent and girls it is 5.56 per cent. Those taking up vocational education remain at 2.6 per cent. As per the latest data released by the Census Commission, Kalaburagi’s sex ratio was 963 females for every 1,000 males. The females currently attending educational institutions, including schools, colleges, vocational centres, literacy centres and other institution was also low. For every 1,000 males attending educational institutions, only 977 females attained educational empowerment. Dropping out of schools early, marriages and poverty are some of the reasons, Prof. Kattimani said. (The Hindu 14/12/15)

Kerala High Court Quashes 1:45 Ratio for Teacher’s Appointment (11)

KOCHI:  The Kerala High Court on Thursday set aside provisions in the teachers’ package that the Pupil-Teacher- Ratio (PTR) of 1:45 for the appointment of teachers should be followed by the aided school management from the current academic year. The court observed that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act was applicable for elementary education. The state government emphasised on the huge financial liability of the state to provide for so many teachers, if the ratio is followed on class basis. The court pointed out that the PTR is with respect to a school and not to a class. An examination of the various studies, with respect to PTR would also disclose that generally the ratio is intended on a school basis. The Bill introduced by the Minister of Human Resources Development in the Parliament was intended at discharging  the government’s responsibility “to ensure universalisation of elementary education.” The court observed that the state cannot argue that the financial liability should be a criteria in considering whether the PTR is to applied for the school or the determinate unit of Class I to V and Class VI to VIII or to the individual class rooms. The PTR is not a philosophy based merely on numbers, of the student population, but on the need to provide individual attention and cater to the needs of each student. The court held that specification of PTR at the ratio of 1:30 for Lower Primary and 1:35 for Upper Primary , based on the student strength of the respective school is permissible. The court observed that highest literacy rate achieved by the state, as against the comparably low literacy rate of the other states, has been achieved only by a reason of the inroads made in education through the Kerala Education Act and Kerala Education Rule and the aided school. Despite the working of the KER, for five decades and half a dozen years, and the numerous orders, circulars issued by the government, as also decisions of the courts and the Supreme Court, the grievances of teachers have not been redressed fully, the court observed. The court pointed out that there was no provision for appointment of a teacher protected in one school of a management to be appointed in another school under a different management in a temporary vacancies. The court also held that the provision that government approval for appointment of teachers in aided school is compulsory will not be sustainable. The emphasis was on education and not on the financial burden of the government. The educational need for the teacher could not wait for the notification of the post by government. Nor it could wait for the approval of the government. The teachers’ appraisal committee as provided in the packages was only to appraise the performance of teachers once in three years and suggest measures for their efficiency and enrichment. The suggestions could be implemented with the sanction of the government, the court held. (New Indian Express 18/12/15)

‘RTE Act Helping Pvt Educational Institutions Only’ (11)

BENGALURU: With the implementation of Right To Education Act, the government is encouraging the privatisation of education, said Baragur Ramachandrappa, chairperson, Textbook Revision Committee (TRC), here on Sunday. He said that RTE, in its current form, should be scrapped. Rather than paying private schools to admit students from economically backward communities, the government should reserve seats for such students, he said. He was speaking at a session on “Compiling textbooks based on Scientific and Democratic Ideals”, organised by All India Save Education Committee. Noting that the State Government was paying `165 crore to private schools under RTE, he said the funds could be used for the development of government schools. “RTE delivers a bad message that government schools are not good,” he said. A decision to this effect has been taken by the state government and has been communicated to the Centre. Since, amendments to RTE must be enacted by the Centre, it should take a decision on it, he said.During the meeting, he said that the proposal of changing the name TRC to Comprehensive Review and Restructuring Committee. This would empower the body to rewrite the textbooks. He said that new textbooks will be introduced in schools from the next academic year (2017-18). “Revising textbooks is under process and is expected to be completed by May 2016. Some parts of the existing textbooks will be revised, while others will be reconstructed,” he said. The process of collecting opinions for textbooks is on. The panel has received recommendations and objections, which will be considered on merit. “However, if any chapters are found violating the ideals of the Constitution, they will be removed or revised,” he said. (New Indian Express 21/12/15)

Geeta made compulsory for Rajasthan school libraries (11)

JAIPUR: In yet another move aimed at saffronising education in government schools in Rajasthan, state education minister Vasudev Devnani on Monday said all upper primary schools will be required to keep the Geeta in their libraries from the next academic session. The minister’s statement, made at a function in Ajmer, coincides with Geeta Divas which was observed on Monday. “Geeta is a book of guidance for all. I think keeping it in libraries will be an opportunity for all students to read it and lead a balanced life,” the minister later told TOI. There are 13,000 government schools with libraries in the state. Devnani has been stoking controversies over saffronisation of education since his appointment as education minister in 2014. Earlier this year, he made Surya Namaskar compulsory for students in schools. When the matter was challenged before the court, Devnani retracted his decision by making it optional. (Times of India 22/12/15)

Fine whip for RTE offence (11)

JharkhandZ: The state government has decided to act tough on private schools that are not adhering to provisions of the Right to Education Act, 2009. At a daylong seminar with school managing committees (SMC) in Ranchi on Wednesday, state HRD minister Neera Yadav said the government was seriously mulling to impose fines on private cradles that were not filling up 25 per cent of their total seats with students from poor and backward sections of the society as is mandatory under the Act. The meet, organised by Jharkhand RTE Forum, was attended by over 200 representatives of SMCs and members of Bal Sansad. “The government is doing its bit, but implementation of the Act will be satisfactory only when the society comes forward to make it successful,” the minister said. Despite having better infrastructure at many government schools, it is unfortunate that many parents prefer sending their children to private cradles, Neera rued. It is nice to see that some SMCs have taken initiatives to improve infrastructure at schools, the minister said, adding “Whenever you find lapses, inform us so that we can take corrective steps.” She also asked her audience to note down two toll-free numbers (1800346542/544) for the purpose. “Some SMCs have done a wonderful job and improved functioning of schools in their areas without taking any help from the government,” said A.K. Singh, convener of Jharkhand RTE Forum. The government should ensure proper infrastructure and quality education at government schools that are trailing, observed J.B. Tubid, former state home secretary, who was also the guest of honour at the programme. “Right to education should not be seen in isolation,” he said, explaining that it would be successful when the provisions of some other Acts like ensuring right to food, protection of child rights and banning child labour and trafficking are also implemented and the rate of school dropouts are arrested. (The Telegraph 24/12/15)

HC directs Governor to raise education standard of colleges (11)

NAGPUR: Putting an end to one of the most famous cases, that rocked Nagpur University 2013-14, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court directed chancellor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to force colleges in the state to raise their education standard. The court disposed of cases related to NU’s ’250 banned colleges’ that brought much disgrace to the once-prestigious institution and brought it on the verge of collapse. The issue culminated with the resignation of former vice chancellor Vilas Sapkal under pressure by senior academicians like Baban Taywade and Dinesh Agrawal, who run NU’s political outfits. Interestingly, both Taywade and Agrawal were bitter rivals, but joined hands along with government officials to oust Sapkal, who dared to ban colleges operating without regular teachers, mandatory as per UGC norms. Ironically, a majority of NU colleges are still operating without regular teachers and infrastructure. TOI was the first to raise the issue and closely tracked all developments related to it. “We’re certain that the office of the chancellor shall force concerned institutes to take necessary steps to uplift standard of education. We also grant liberty to petitioner to point out these orders and to move the chancellor, so as to attempt to eradicate the wrongs prevailing in the system,” a division bench comprising Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Vinay Deshpande ruled. The judges directed VC, pro-VC and Board of College and University Development (BCUD) director (Agrawal) to assist petitioner Sunil Mishra by providing him necessary data at the earliest by charging only actual expenditure. “The respondents shall also allow him facility to take inspection for that purpose. If such representation is made within two months, we request the chancellor to arrange for its scrutiny and necessary consequential action at the earliest.” The court lauded Mishra’s efforts for pointing out alarming situation in educational institutions. “Such situation necessitates a serious attention. If such lapses are still continuing, students are being forced to take admission in below standard educational institutions and colleges,” the judges tersely observed. The NU top brass tried to find an escape by pointing out difficulties faced by colleges in procuring trained teachers. However, the judges made it clear that those difficulties can’t constitute a valid answer to discharge of their statutory obligation. “Law laid down by the Supreme Court in National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) versus Venus Public Education Society and others (2013) and Bhartia Education Society Chairman versus State of Himachal Pradesh and others (2011), show obligation which respondents must honour and discharge.” The judges expressed concern on the overall situation in NU stating that their observations substantiated petitioner’s stand to a certain extent. “Our various orders from December 17, 2013, to June 24, 2014, indicated that NU itself was not in a position to effectively address the situation,” they said. (Times of India 27/12/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

Anand: Education alone can eradicate poverty (21)

PATNA: Super 30 founder Anand Kumar, who was felicitated in Germany recently, said educational empowerment was the key to find a lasting solution to the twin problems of poverty and deprivation facing the world. Kumar was invited by German government to deliver a lecture and was honoured by Eva-Maria Stange, minister for higher education and research. A special lecture followed the felicitation. Citing the success stories from Super 30, Kumar said there is no dearth of talent in India. “What is important is to ensure that all get equal and proper opportunity to excel in their chosen fields. Lack of opportunities is what makes them suffer,” he said. Kumar said like Japan, Germany should also think of attracting Indian talent through special scholarship so that they could continue their higher studies to contribute to the world’s progress in more ways than one. “Today, a large part of the world is affected by recession. If there is one thing that is still produced in large numbers to cater to the growing demand is automobiles,” he said and added, “With huge scope for automobile engineering, Germany should do something for talented students from underprivileged sections of the society in India and train them for the job.” (Times of India 2/12/15)

Supreme Court frowns upon tardy roll-out of shelter scheme (21)

NEW DELHI: As temperatures dipped in the National Capital, the Supreme Court on Friday criticised the government for not implementing the scheme to provide shelter to the urban homeless. The Social Justice Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit asked the government where the money for the scheme had gone. It said merely setting up committees will not translate into effective implementation of the scheme. “Setting up of the committee doesn’t mean you are done. The entire leadership is not interested… You pass the buck to the Secretaries and Chief Secretaries. How will it work? You are giving money but it is not being spent. Where has the money gone?” the court asked. The Bench asked the Union Urban Development Ministry Secretary to appear before it on January 8. The court was looking into the progress made by the government in implementing the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM). (The Hindu 5/12/15)

1,321 officials fined for holding BPL cards (21)

Vijayapura: In an effort to weed out BPL cards given to undeserving persons, the Vijayapura district administration has identified 1,321 government officials having (below poverty line) BPL cards, and collected a fine of Rs. 9.22 lakh from them. The BPL card is meant only for poor people to avail themselves of government benefits such as subsidised ration. The Department of Food and Civil Supplies, which had identified 13,725 ineligible card-holders, including 1,321 government employees, had directed them to return their BPL cards before July-end. “Many did not adhere to the order even after the deadline,” said Srishail Kankanawadi, Deputy Director of in Food and Civil Supplies Department. “As per the norms, no government official or their family members are entitled to BPL cards,” he said. He said that during a survey, the officials found 2,085 ineligible card-holders in Vijayapura, 2,560 in Vijayapura Rural, 1,316 in Basavanabagewadi taluk, 3,284 in Muddebihal, 2,485 in Indi, and 1,995 in Sindgi taluk. (The Hindu 6/12/15)

Village residents protest against cancellation of BPL ration cards (21)

Mandya: Residents of several villages in the taluk staged a protest demonstration outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office here on Tuesday against the cancellation of ration cards by the Department of Food and Civil Supplies. They said the department had cancelled ration cards of nearly 220 families below the poverty line staying in Avverahalli, Madegowdana Koppalu, Chikka Koppalu, Maradevanahalli, Putti Koppalu and Maranachakanahallli. MLC Ashwath Narayana, who was near the Deputy Commissioner’s office, visited the spot and supported the protesters. They shouted slogans against the Department of Food and Civil Supplies for deleting the cards and urged its Deputy Director Kumuda to immediately take steps to issue new ration cards. They said cancellation of ration cards had deprived the villagers of benefits under the public distribution system. Later, they submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Director Kumuda demanding ration cards. A.S. Sudha, Puttaswamy, Bhagawan, T. Shridhar, H.R. Ashok Kumar and others led the protest. (The Hindu 9/12/15)

Poverty in mountains has increased: study (21)

COIMBATORE: While global poverty is on the decline, poverty in mountain areas increased by 30 per cent between 2000 and 2012, according to the latest study released on the International Mountain Day by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and Mountain Partnership. The Nilgiri Documentation Centre is member of the Mountain Partnership. Mapping the vulnerability of people of the mountains to food insecurity, the study found that the number of people with food insecurity living in mountain regions in developing countries grew to nearly 329 million in 2012, up from 253 million in 2000, even though the overall population in the world’s mountains increased only by 16 per cent during that same time. Mountain areas covered 22 percent of the earth’s land surface and it is home to 13 percent of the human population, says the study. “The living conditions of people in the mountains have deteriorated and their vulnerability to hunger has increased. Harsh climates and the difficult, often inaccessible terrain, combined with political and social marginality certainly contribute to making people of the mountains particularly vulnerable to food shortages” says the report. “As we now endeavour to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community and resource partners are hereby called upon to invest in mountain areas and reinforce the efforts of FAO and the Mountain Partnership. “Ninety percent of the people live in developing countries where most are dependent on subsistence agriculture, working in fragile ecosystems that are easily affected by climate change.”What that means for people in the mountains is an unfortunate injustice: communities with one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world are among the first to bear the brunt of climate change”, says Mountain Partnership Secretariat. Almost 59 million people in the mountains in Africa were identified as vulnerable to food insecurity in 2,000, a number that increased from 46 percent to 86 million by 2012. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the total number of vulnerable people in the mountains increased by 22 percent from more than 39 million in 2000 to nearly 48 million in 2012. However, the proportion of vulnerable mountain populations remained quite stable, passing from 30 to 31 percent in 12 years. Mountain populations of Asia are particularly prone to vulnerability. Results of the study showed that more than 192 million people were considered vulnerable to food insecurity in 2012, an increase of over 40 million people, or 26 percent, from 2000. The study also found the proportion of vulnerable people among mountain populations grew from 35 to 41 percent between 2000 and 2012.The report has called for strong political commitment and effective actions to invert the hunger trend and address the roots of food insecurity in mountains, filling the hunger gap between lowland and upland people. In mountain areas, where family farming and smallholder agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry are the prevailing farming systems, it is key to create a supportive, enabling institutional and political environment in which people in the mountains can have access to services such as training, information, credit and healthcare, and adequate infrastructure. Investments and technical support are also needed to diversify and boost mountain production systems through, for example, integrating indigenous knowledge and traditions with modern techniques, says Dharmalingam Venugopal of the Nilgiris Documentation Centre. (The Hindu 14/12/15)

41 percent of Odisha’s BPL families are without power (21)

Bhubaneswar: About 18 lakh poor families, or 41 percent of all BPL households in Odisha, are yet to get an electricity connection, the state government said on Tuesday. A total of 25.91 lakh households, out of 44.37 lakh Below Poverty Line (BPL) households in the state, have been provided electricity while 18.45 lakh are yet to get power connection, Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das told the state assembly on Tuesday. The total number of households – i.e. BPL plus others – without electricity connection was 35.35 lakh, Das had stated recently, noting that the state government aimed to electrify every household by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017). The minister also informed the assembly that dues of Rs.5,538.23 crore were pending against electricity consumers in Odisha. The dues pending against BPL families were Rs.309.76 crore. While general domestic consumers are charged Rs. 2.50 per unit up to 50 units, BPL consumers pay Rs.80 for 30 units per month. Households are being provided electricity through Rajiv Gandhi Vidyutikaran Yojana, Biju Gramjyoti Yojana, Biju Saharanchal Bidyutkaran Yojana, and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. (Business Standard 15/12/15)

‘No starvation deaths in tea gardens’ (21)

Kolkata: There have been no starvation deaths in tea gardens of North Bengal, State Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak said in the Assembly on Tuesday. Replying to a question raised by Communist Party of India(Marxist) MLA Mamata Roy, the Labour Minister said that there has been no death due to starvation or lack of treatment in the tea gardens of North Bengal. When the members of Opposition parties referred to several newspaper reports about the same, the Minister asked whether they could show any certificate in recent past where doctors have written that the death was due to starvation. The Minister went on to compare the death rate of West Bengal and India and said that these deaths are natural. Mr Ghatak said that facilities like jobs under MGNREGA, medical vans, mid-day meal and drinking water are being provided in the closed tea gardens. When the Minister said that the Trinamool Congress government had decided to reduce the time span in which the assistance under the scheme Financial Assistance to the Workers in Locked Out Industrial Units (FAWLOI), certain members raised the issue many tea gardens where distress have been reported have not been declared closed. The remarks of the Labour Minister come at a time when several rights organisation and trade unions have claimed that situation in the tea gardens of the State remain grim. Recently an international team called Global Network on the Right to Food and Nutrition (GNRtFN) comprising 18 members from nine countries visited the tea plantations of north Bengal and Assam from November 27 to December 4. “The team witnessed a hazardous combination of extremely low wages, precarious working conditions, inadequate housing and sanitation, structural violence against women, as well as lack of access to water, education and health care,” a press statement issued by GNRtFN said. (The Hindu 16/12/15)

Starvation Death in Nuapada (21)

NUAPADA: An alleged starvation death was reported from Kamkeda village in Nuapada district on Thursday. The deceased is 65-year-old Tike Mahanand. Apparently, Tike had not taken food for the last few days. He was enlisted under Antodaya scheme and got 35 kg of rice every month. He begged to eke out living and sustain his family that comprised his mentally-challenged daughter Hemlata (35). His son Hemant, who is also mentally-challenged, is missing from September this year. After the State Government implemented the Food Security Act, Tike found his name missing from the list of Antodaya beneficiaries. He had not got his rice share for the last two months. After the news spread, Congress workers blocked NH-53 for an hour. The blockade was lifted after Komna BDO Abani Kumar Sahu pacified the protestors. On the other hand, Komna Block Development Officer Abani Kumar Sahu said Tike’s name was removed from the Antodaya beneficiary list and had been recommended for inclusion recently. He said Tike was suffering from fever and that could be the reason behind his death. (New Indian Express 18/12/15)

‘Starvation, water scarcity have hit Bengal tea garden workers’ (21)

Kolkata:  Another Bengal tea garden worker dead; minister rules out starvation deaths Five Bengal tea garden workers die over past 10 days WBengal draws plan to support closed tea garden workers Labourer dies at tea garden, admn says no starvation death in Tea garden workers stage demonstration demanding bonus Scarcity of water and food are the major concerns for tea gardens workers in northern West Bengal, where work has been suspended and deaths are frequent, a report by a group of civil society organisations said here on Monday. Deaths in the region’s tea gardens have made headlines this year, even as a minister claimed not a single death due to starvation has taken place there. In the wake of reports of deaths, an umbrella group of organisations like G-NESEP, NAPM, MASUM, ActionAid, DISHA and also comprising academicians, human rights activists and doctors, visited the gardens on November 24 and November 25, and released the findings here on Monday. The right to food of workers in the Bagracote (Jalpaiguri district) and Dumchipara (Alipurduar district) gardens, owned by a particular company, was being “completely violated”, according to the report which highlights the “deprivation of basic human rights and living with dignity”.The report said “most of the tea gardens owned by this company are under complete work suspension since 10 to 12 months, but have not been officially declared as closed”.It further revealed that “permanent workers, who are to receive Rs.1,500 per month as employees of closed tea gardens under the FAWLOI (Financial Assistance to the Workers of Locked-Out Industrial Units) are being deprived of that minimum benefit”.In Dumchipara, after the closure of the food distribution system, the families have been brought under the Antyoday Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme but the amount of food grains reaching them is less than half of what they should be getting, the findings show. “Prolonged starvation has caused malnutrition, frail health and abnormal losing of body weight. A considerable number of people are suffering from lack of appetite, vomiting, swelling kwashiorkor, jaundice, tuberculosis etc.,” The report also sheds light on the provision of water. “Since closure or work suspension, supply of water has been withdrawn in Dumchipara. In Bagracote, the workers’ families have to pay for the supply,” said Sasanka Dev, on behalf of the group. (Business Standard 21/12/15)

PPP Projects for Rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers in Gujarat (21)

NEW DELHI: Gujarat has become the first state in the country to take up public-private partnership projects for in-situ redevelopment of slums in urban areas under the recently launched Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana. The inter-ministerial Central Screening and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) of the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation chaired by Secretary Nandita Chatterjee today approved 30 PPP Projects proposed by Gujarat government for rehabilitation of slum dwellers in Ahmedabd, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara. 17,580 new dwelling units will be constructed for slum dwellers living on government lands in these four cities of Gujarat by private developers, according to a release. Centre will provide an assistance of about Rs 176 cr @ Rs 1 lakh per house to be built. Land will be monetized for meeting the remaining cost of slum rehabilitation projects and consequently, slum dwellers will get new houses with all amenities free of cost. CSMC today sanctioned 1,69,381 houses for economically weaker sections in 145 cities in eight states for which a total central assistance of Rs 2,444 crore will be provided. These include construction of houses under in-situ slum redevelopment, affordable housing in partnership and beneficiary led individual construction.     EWS houses approved today include 47,050 units in 70 cities of West Bengal, 45,217 in 27 cities and towns of Telanagana, 27,186 in 6 cities of Gujarat, 19,241 in 16 cities of Madhya Pradesh, 16,146 in 14 cities of Jharkhand, 7,621 in 9 cities of Tamil Nadu, 5,548 in Bhubaneswar in Odisha and 1,364 in Aizawl and Lawngtlai in Mizoram. With this, HUPA Ministry has so far approved construction of 4,23,415 houses for urban poor in 243 cities in 11 States across the country, for which the Union Government will provide an assistance of Rs 5,900 crore.  Under PMAY (Urban), the Union government provides an assistance of Rs 1 lakh per unit for in-situ rehabilitation of slum dwellers and Rs 1.50 lakh per unit under Affordable Housing in Partnership and Beneficiary led individual construction for EWS beneficiaries. Under the fourth component of Credit Linked Subsidy of Rs 2.30 lakh per beneficiary will be provided.  (New Indian Express 21/12/15)

72,000 ‘fraudulent’ Aadhaar cards found linked with PDS (21)

Gurgaon: The Food and Supplies Department authorities of Tawdu block in Mewat district have come under scanner as around 72,000 fraudulent Aadhaar cards were detected to be attached with the public distribution system (PDS) hinting at a major scam. The revelation, which has rattled the entire department, has reached the ministry which has marked an internal inquiry into the matter to identify the officials involved in it. It may be noted that to ensure maximum benefit of various schemes of the department and easy distribution of the ration the Aadhaar cards were linked to the PDS. The decision, however, backfired in many blocks, including Tawdu, where such fraudulent Aadhaar cards were linked to the PDS system to misuse the ration items. “The issue has been brought to the notice of all high-ups concerned and we are checking the records to find whether it was just a mistake or an intentional blunder,” said a senior official. “Tawdu is not the sole case in Mewat. In fact, there are around 13 lakh such fraudulent cards in the entire state but the ministry concerned is sitting quiet. Those eligible are getting the benefit of the scheme and ration meant for them. We want a thorough inquiry and punishment for all those responsible for it, besides a better mechanism to make the system fullproof,” said senior Congress leader Aftab Ahmed. “We cannot say these are fraudulent linking but we can say wrong Aadhaar card numbers have been put in the system. It may be a clerical mistake or mistake of data entry operators and we are looking into it. All beneficiaries of the block are genuine,” said Surender Saini, Food and Supplies Controller, Mewat. (The Tribune 22/12/15)

Over 22,000 families out of NFSA in Darrang (21)

MANGALDAI, Dec 26 – More than 22,000 households pertaining to eight Gaon Panchayats in Darrang district may be deprived from enjoying the benefits under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which was formally launched in the State on Thursday. According to sources in the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department in Darrang, the district under the provisions of the Act has a total target 1,55,526 families. However, due to intervention of the Gauhati High Court, initially a list of 25,545 targeted beneficiary families under nine Gaon Panchayats could not be finalised. In the meantime, in case of Ojagaon Gaon Panchayat under Pub Mangaldai Development Block, which has total target of 3,197 families, the court reportedly reviewed its earlier decision and directed the Deputy Commissioner to ensure removal of the alleged anomalies and prepare a correct final list, resulting in inclusion of that gaon panchayat. However, as petitions against eight other gaon panchayats under Dalgaon LAC are still pending in the court, a total of 22,348 families have been deprived from enjoying the privilege of availing rice or foodgrains at subsidised rates under the provision of the Act, the source added. The district administration, it has been gathered, will start the process of distribution from Sunday after its scheduled ceremonial distribution function held at the District Library auditorium here on Thursday. It may be mentioned that petitions were filed in the Gauhati High Court challenging the selection process of beneficiaries with allegations of anomalies, nepotism and political influence, thereby depriving a section of genuine applicants. (The Assam Tribune 26/12/15)

25 States, Union Territories Have Rolled Out Food Security Law: Centre (21)

New Delhi:  The Centre has said that 25 states and union territories have so far rolled out the ambitious food law and is making efforts to ensure remaining 11 states also implement the Act at the earliest. At present, over 11 crore households consisting of 53 crore beneficiaries are being allocated highly subsidised foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) at Rs. 2 per kg wheat and Rs. 3 per kg rice, it said. Computerisation and use of technological device at ration shops to authenticate beneficiaries has helped delete 61.43 lakh bogus, duplicate or ineligible ration cards in last two years, thus stopping diversion and misuse of foodgrains in the PDS system amounting to about Rs. 4,200 crore, it added. “Now, 25 states/UTs have started implementing NFSA. The government is making all efforts to ensure that remaining states also start implementing the Act at earliest,” the Food Ministry said in a statement. The NFSA came into force in July 2013. In the first ten months, 11 states/UTs had started implementation covering about 7 crore households, while 14 more states rolled out NFSA in the last six months, the ministry said. “Implementation in some of the states was started hurriedly without completing all the requisite preparations. Consequently problems were faced. Uttarakhand had to roll back the implementation and Bihar also faced initial problems in distribution,” it added. Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar, Gujarat, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh are among 11 states which are yet to implement the Act. In the statement, the Centre said 17 states/UTs gain in terms of quantity of foodgrains allocation under the food law compared to previous PDS system. However, a provision has been made for remaining states to protect their average annual offtake of foodgrains. For successful implementation of the Act, the government said stress is being laid on end-to-end computerisation for which states are being technically and financially assisted. The beneficiary database has been digitised in 33 states/UTs, wherein, information is available right up to beneficiary level and is in the public domain. Online allocation of foodgrains in being done in 17 states/UTs, and the entire foodgrain supply chain has been computerised in nine states/UTs. All States have set up grievance redressal systems, it added. To ensure leakage-free distribution of foodgrains, food subsidy is being tranferred in cash into the bank account of beneficiaries in Chandigarh and Puducherry on a pilot basis. That apart, a fair price shops are being automated for distribution of foodgrains through a point of sale (PoS) device which authenticates beneficiaries at the time of distribution and also electronically captures the quantum of foodgrains distributed to the family. At present PoS devices are operational in about 59,500 shops, it added. (NDTV 29/12/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

 Factories Act gets Prez nod, women can now work night shifts (14)

MUMBAI: On Monday , President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the landmark Factories (Maharashtra amendment) Bill, 2015, paving the way for women to work in factories in night shift. A senior bureaucrat told TOI after both the Houses passed the Factories (Maharashtra amendment) bill, 2015; it was submitted to Rashtrapati Bhavan for Presidential assent. “We have received the presidential assent, so we can implement the provisions of the new law with immediate effect,” he said. The bureaucrat said over 40,000 small factories will benefit following the amendment, allowing women to work from 7pm to 6am. Factories employing less than 20 workers (without power) and less than 40 workers (with power) will be out of the purview of the Factories Act. Earlier, the limit was 10 and 20 workers respectively . (Times of India 1/12/15)

“2,480 bonded labourers rescued in Tamil Nadu since 2011” (14)

MADURAI: Around 2,480 bonded labourers had been rescued from various places in Tamil Nadu since 2011, said T. Kural Amuthan, Director of Research and Partnership, at the NGO International Justice Mission (IJM), at an awareness meeting on bonded labour held at the Lady Doak College here on Tuesday. Speaking to the media during the meeting to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery that falls on December 2, Mr. Amuthan said that out of these rescued bonded labourers, nearly 44 per cent were migrant labourers who had come from other States. He said that most of these workers were treated as bonded labourers in brick kilns, rice mills and other industries where cheap manual labour was required. One Manimaran and his family who were kept as bonded labourers in a brick kiln near Tiruparankundram were provided release certificates by the Revenue Divisional Officer (Madurai) G. Senthil Kumari. She assured that criminal proceedings would be initiated against those who had kept Manimaran and his family as bonded laborers. The National Human Rights Commission had earlier ordered Madurai Collector to inquire into the complaint of Manimaran. (The Hindu 2/12/15)

Gujarat’s contentious labour law gets Prez nod (14)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat’s labour reforms bill with some controversial provisions like settling disputes between workers and management through a `compromise’ formula with payment of `penalty’ to the government among the new measures, has received President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent. The President gave his assent to the The Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2015 which provides for “compounding of offenses’ wherein industrial employee(s) can arrive at a compromise with the employer without moving court.The Bill proposes a total of 14 amendments to various labour laws.”We have received the Presidential assent for the The Labour Laws (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2015,” C J Gothi Parliamentary Secretary of Gujarat government said on Wednesday . “The assent was received in September but we are yet to notify the Bill in the gazette to start its enforcement,” he said. The Bill has a provision where both the parties (workers and industry) can end their dispute through compromise called as `compounding of offenses’. Under this new system of com pounding of offenses, workers can arrive at compromise with the employer without approaching court.For this, government will charge upto Rs 21,000 as penalty from the employer and give 75 per cent of that penalty money to the affected employee or employees. However, this compounding of offenses will be only implemented if both the parties agree to it, as per the Bill. The Bill says that this provision has been introduced to reduce legal cases. An industrial unit can take benefit of it three times only , it said. “The state government has considered it necessary to strike a balance of interest between the industries and the workers and create an environment which is conducive for both through this Bill. The Bill has many pro-labour changes also,” State Labour minister Vijay Rupani said. Another contentious provision of the Bill is allowing the state government to prohibit labour strikes in public utility service from the minimum period of six months to one year. The Bill also reduced the time limit of workers to apply against their dismissal, discharge (industrial disputes) to the labour court or tribunal from three years to one year. (Times of India 3/12/15)

Government aims to move five more reforms to labour laws (14)

New Delhi: The government is striving to introduce five more labour reform legislations in the winter session of Parliament, including the bills to introduce a new wage and industrial relations code and amend laws governing child labour and bonus payments. These are in addition to the amendments to the Factories Act of 1948 that the government had listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha last week, but eventually wasn’t tabled. The only new bill to be introduced in Parliament’s lower house so far in this session is the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that the Opposition party with 45 MPs in the Lok Sabha would not allow dilution of labour laws by the NDA government just as it had thwarted its attempts at changing the land acquisition law. “If time permits, we want to at least table the Bills to introduce the Wage and Industrial Relations codes, the new law for small factories and the amendments to the Child Labour and Payment of Bonus Acts,” a senior official in the union labour and employment ministry told The Hindu. “We may not be able to pass all these bills in the time left in this session, but if the bills have to be studied by parliamentary committees, at least that process should start once they are tabled,” the official added, stressing that the key thrust of these reforms was creating more jobs and improving the ease of doing business. The government has officially listed the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015 for consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha this week, which would be the penultimate week of the winter session. The law is being changed to make more employees eligible for bonus and double such payments. It proposes to raise the salary ceiling for statutory bonus payments to Rs 21,000 per month from Rs 10,000 specified under the 1965 law. The Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, for instance, seeks to make it easier for manufacturing firms to employ upto 40 workers by exempting them from compliance with six labour laws which include the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 and the Shops and Establishment Acts of respective states. The code on wages aims to replace four different laws pertaining to salaries — the Payment of Wages Act of 1936, the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. Similarly, the code on industrial relations would substitute three different laws — the Trade Unions Act of 1926, the Industrial Disputes Act and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act of 1946. The government has also proposed to introduce the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 in the Rajya Sabha this week. The Bill proposes that children below fourteen years of age may only be allowed to work in their own family enterprises. It also bars employment of children in hazardous occupations till the age of 18 years. Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has, however, raised concerns about the Bill reducing the list of such occupations from 83 to just three – mining, inflammable substances and explosives and hazardous occupations as per the Factories Act. This would leave the door open for children to be employed in sectors that are largely family-run like the carpet industry, embroidery and agriculture, Mr. Satyarthi said at a national consultation on the law in November. (The Hindu 7/12/14)

24 bonded labourers rescued (14)

VELLORE: On Friday, a sense of relief came over the weary faces of 24 persons, including six children, after being rescued from the chains of bonded labour. They tasted freedom after toiling day in and out for years in three brick kilns in Pudur village, Kaniyambadi. Members of the National Adivasi Solidarity Council had alerted Ajay Srinivasan, Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), Vellore about the plight of bonded labourers in brick kilns in the village. Following this, a team of officials and members of NGO conducted a joint inspection on Friday and rescued the 24 persons. A.P. Kanniappan, State coordinator of National Adivasi Solidarity Council, said following information about these persons, the council had kept an eye on them for 70 days and met them secretively on three occasions when the owners of the brick kilns were not present. “According to our survey, there are around 2,000 brick kilns here, of which 500 are bonded labourers. These persons have been working here for 3 – 8years,” he said. Meeting the rescued persons, the RDO advised them to go for daily wage work, rather getting caught in the bonded labour system. “Of the 24 persons, six are below 18 years. These children have not been going to school. The brick kiln owners have not been paying them the minimum wages as stipulated by the government. Instead, the labourers have been getting around Rs. 400 for 1,000 bricks, and that too, not on a regular basis,” Mr. Srinivasan said. While the rescued persons expressed fear on earning the wrath of the owners, the officials allayed their fears and said the owners will be arrested.Thirty-five-year-old Banumathi of Sammandhipuram, Tiruvannamalai district has been working at one of the brick kilns along with her family members for the last one-and-a-half years. It was she who alerted members of the NGO about the situation at the brick kilns. “I borrowed Rs. 1.5 lakh as advance and ended up as a labourer in the brick kiln. We were paid Rs. 300 on a weekly basis only if we made 1,000 bricks,” she said. Her husband, two sons and a daughter, daughter-in-law were also working as labourers. Her younger son, Sakthi (16), had studied up to class X. “I admitted him for a catering course but the brick kiln owner stopped him from pursuing the course,” she added. Similar is the story of 37-year-old Ramaiya of Gudiyatham. He along with his wife and two sons have been working at a brick kiln for seven years. “Our owner paid Rs. 100 a week. We used to start working at 2 a.m. every day. After breaking for lunch for an hour, we continued work till 6 p.m.,” he said. He heaved a sigh of relief after being rescued owing to the hardships his family had faced at the brick kiln. “We were not allowed to go outside. If we fell sick, we were not given medicines or allowed to go to the hospital. Our children too had to toil in the brick kilns,” he added. The labourers were not paid as there was no work due to the rains. Ammu, advocate with National Adivasi Solidarity Council, said that they will follow up the rescued labourers for five to 10 years and see that the children are enrolled in schools too. “We will conduct health checks up and provide counseling too,” she added. Collector R. Nanthagopal handed over the release certificates to the rescued persons. They will get Rs. 20,000 from the Department of Adi Dravida Welfare. (The Hindu 12/12/15)

 Policy still not in place, vendors cry harassment (14)

NEW DELHI: Two months after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the newly notified policy for rehabilitation of street vendors will be withdrawn and revised, the AAP government is yet to do so. Meanwhile, vendors say this has led to harassment by Delhi Police and corporation officials. Vendors want the government to withdraw the notification and start the process to review it so that it can be implemented at the earliest. Recently, action was taken against street vendors in Vasant Kunj and Lajpat Nagar. “In the absence of a policy, vendors are being harassed by police and municipal officials. The government should withdraw the policy it notified in October and draft a new policy at the earliest,” said Arbind Singh, national coordinator, National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI). TOI had earlier reported the “flawed” provisions in the policy as well as vendors’ objections. Following this, the CM admitted there were some problems with the policy, which was notified on October 13, and assured vendors these would be looked into. “It has been two months and no decision has come. The government needs to finalise the policy fast as implementation will also take time,” said Singh.Under the policy notified by the state government, there was a blanket ban on cooking along roads as well as other stringent measures. Vendors associations say this would make it difficult for them to earn their livelihood and lead to more harassment. As per the scheme, vendors can’t cook, can work only from sunrise to sunset, can’t leave their goods at the vending site, no electricity and water connection will be provided, they can’t make noise to grab customers’ attention, they have to ensure that customers don’t park their vehicles in front of their stalls, etc. The government also proposed o ensure there is no traffic problem due to vendors, the government has laid down stringent measures with fines between Rs 250 and Rs 2,000 per day. “We will not let the government implement the policy. We have submitted our objections to the government,” said Singh.The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, mandates that state governments frame a scheme for its implementation by municipal corporations under the direction of town vending committees. (Times of India 13/12/15)

Atal Pension Yojana likely to miss December target (14)

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s flagship scheme Atal Pension Yojana (APY), which aims to provide old age income security, is likely to miss the target with just about one million subscribers on board so far against 200 million aimed by December-end. The scheme, targeting the unorganised sector, struggles to pick pace six months after the launch. With the number roped in so far being just five per cent of the target, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is working out plans to improve reach and information dissemination. APY numbers are in contrast to the overwhelming response for the other universal security schemes launched simultaneously by the Modi regime, including cover for life and accident. About 120 million policies under the Jan Suraksha Yojana have been sold during this period. “We have crossed one million subscribers. Though it is much lower than our target, the scheme is picking up now. Huge interest has been shown by the private sector banks. It is challenging to convince people to invest for their retirement,” said R V Verma, member (finance) PFRDA. PFRDA, the nodal agency for APY, has pitched for an extension of co-contribution incentive by the government beyond December 31 to attract subscribers. According to the current scheme, the government would co-contribute 50 per cent of the subscriber’s contribution or Rs 1,000 per annum, whichever is lower, to each eligible subscriber account for five years to 2019-20. Only those who don’t pay income tax can apply for the scheme by December 31. “We have requested the finance ministry to extend the co-contribution incentive further as it is now that the scheme has started picking pace,” said Verma. The government is also considering the sale of NPS and APY through post offices and business correspondents tied with banks to improve information dissemination and reach for widening of subscriber base. “We are in consultation with the Department of Posts to sell NPS and APY through post offices to widen the reach. Besides, we are in discussion to rope in business correspondents of banks to sell the scheme on commission basis,” added Verma. State Bank of India has the highest subscribers at about 250,000 by November end, followed by Bank of Baroda and Indian Bank. APY is being sold through 125 institutions across the country, including 27 public sector banks, 17 private banks, close to 50 regional rural banks, district and state cooperative banks. APY guarantees subscribers a monthly pension of Rs 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 in turn for the contribution varying from Rs 42 to Rs 210 per month. Pension plans are considered tough to sell compared to insurance schemes, as it is difficult to convince people to invest for their retirement, not considered a priority as against uncertainties like accident and life. “We won’t say the response has not been good. It is generally more difficult to convince people to invest in a scheme that will give them returns after 20-30 years,” said a public sector banker. “Besides, under APY, we are talking about the unorganised sector here, which makes the convincing task more cumbersome as most are daily wagers,” said the bank official. (Buiness Standard 16/12/15)

NREGS ‘best known’ direct employment guarantee programme, says UNDP (14)

LUCKNOW: The latest edition of the United Nations Development Report on Human Development Index released on December 14 has referred to India’s National Employment Guarantee Scheme as among the best known employment guarantee schemes undertaking direct employment to the rural poor. The Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which finds mention as a “milestone” in the report’s chapter dedicated to enhancing human development through work, has also been cited as exemplary in the area of accelerating job creations from less than 1 million working days among 20 million households in the scheme’s first year of operation, 2006-2007, to 2.5 billion among 50 million households in 2010-2011. The report, which focuses on policy options and actions that governments can undertake to enhance human development through work, mentions MGNREGS as among the schemes undertaken by the Indian government to provide greater social protection through direct employment. It says, “Instead of cash transfers or conditional cash transfers, countries have also provided employment guarantees. Jefes de Hogar in Argentina and the regional Karnali Employment Programme in Nepal are examples, though the best known is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India.” The findings of the report come close on the heels of the NDA government’s sharp criticism of MGNREGS. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in February this year referred to MGNREGS as a “living monument” of the Congress-led UPA government’s failures. The rural employment guarantee Act was mandated in 2005 as a demand-driven employment creation programme to benefit the rural poor through projects that improve agricultural productivity and alleviate land degradation. The scheme guarantees rural households 100 days of unskilled manual work. The report says: “As the programme (MGNREGS) began to revamp prior employment programmes, evaluations have found that job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion working days among 20 million households in the act’s first year of operation, 2006/2007, to 2.5 billion among 50 million households in 2010/2011.” Extrapolating from the given numbers, the report also said, “A simulation estimated that GDP would increase 0.02-0.03%, that labour income would rise about 700 million rupees and that the welfare of the poorest households (as measured by Slutski-adjusted consumption relative to initial consumption) would increase up to 8%. People belonging to Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled Castes would also benefit.” In its assessment of NREGS, the UNDP HDI report also says evaluations has shown that the impact of the programme have been found to be asymmetrical between urban and rural dwellers, men and women, better-off and privileged population groups and more educated versus less educated groups. “Its size has not precedent nationally or internationally, posing important design and management challenges,” the report says. (Times of India 17/12/15)

Uproar in Jharkhand Assembly over labour amendment acts (14)

RANCHI: Uproarious scenes were today witnessed in Jharkhand Assembly as the opposition demanded withdrawal of labour amendment acts forcing Speaker Dinesh Oraon to adjourn the House thrice. The opposition members trooped to the Well in protest against the Contractual Labour Amendment Act, 2015 and Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition-1948) Jharkhand Amendment Act, which were passed by voice vote on Friday. Leader of the Opposition Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha termed it as anti-labour as it would increase exploitation. He demanded a review of the Acts. During the course of the protests, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Saryu Roy suggested that the opposition could bring whatever amendments it wanted through the process of business instead of disrupting the House. Labour, Employment, Training & Skill Development Minister Raj Paliwar said the opposition was anti-labour as it walked out when the bills were passed. (Times of India 21/112/15)

Government to bring a bill for mandatory national minimum wage (14)

New Delhi: Government on Tuesday said it will soon introduce a bill to provide for mandatory national minimum wage and go ahead with labour reform measures to protect the interests of poor workers. Winding up a debate on the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the Lok Sabha, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya also said that following the recommendations of the second national labour commission, 44 central labour laws would be converged into four codes. “The four codes would be — code on industrial wages, code on industrial relations, code on social security and code on safety and security conditions of workers,” he said. “I will bring in this House a national minimum wage bill which will have a statutory provision so that every worker in this country gets a fair wage. Till now, the minimum wage is non-statutory,” he said. The government would also ensure social security, wages and job security of workers, Dattatreya said. Saugata Roy (TMC) sought to know from the minister whether the labour reforms are intended to benefit the big businesses and whether the laws would bring in ‘hire and fire’ policy. “If that is the case, then we will oppose tooth and nail,” Roy said. Currently, each state decides on the minimum wage in its jurisdiction. According to the labour ministry, a national benchmark will do away with discrepancies, improve the salary threshold and bring in some pay parity across the country. (Hindustan Times 22/12/15)

Lok Sabha passes bill to raise bonus for workers (14)

NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill allowing two-fold hike in the wage ceiling for calculating bonus to Rs 7,000 per month for factory workers, applicable to establishments with 20 or more workers. The benefit under the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015, are to be applicable from April 2014. Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the government has ensured that interest of workers are protected. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had nudged him to make the bill applicable retrospectively from April last year, moving an official amendment to change the date from which its provisions would kick in. The bill enhances the monthly bonus calculation ceiling to Rs 7,000 per month from the existing Rs 3,500. It also seeks to enhance the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from Rs 10,000 per month to Rs 21,000 per month. Terming the legislation as historic, Dattatreya said the outgo from the government coffers would be about Rs 6,203 crore. This increase in wage ceiling and bonus calculation ceiling was an assurance given by the Centre after the strike of central trade unions on September 2. (Times of India 23/12/15)

Nregs job cards to be given for 150 days in B’khand (14)

LUCKNOW: To provide relief to farmers hit by a famine-like situation in Bundelkhand, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav directed officials on Thursday to set up camps to ensure job cards are distributed to those employed under the rural employment guarantee Act and given the same for 150 days, instead of 50. The Centre, in October, had already issued a notification directing all states suffering from drought to provide additional 50 days employment under the NREGS. Setting up drought mitigation plans specifically for Bundelkhand, where drought condition is especially bad because of three consecutive crop failures, the CM also said the government must make every effort to ensure there are no farmer deaths caused by hunger, and that farmers are given subsidised seeds, 24-hour power supply and food grains are provided to districts in Jhansi division at rates under the Food Security Act.

Hope few Lakes are built in Elevated areas to collect Rain water so that Farmers are supplied with bore well water during harsh summer.Truth Sach Legally, once drought is declared in a state, the government is mandated to provide food grains to the population affected, at subsidised rates, regardless of the type of ration cards—APL, BPL or Antyodaya —they hold. Under the Food Security Act, beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System are entitled to 5 kilograms per person per month of cereals. While rice must be made available at Rs 3 per kg, wheat has to be sold at Rs 2 per kg and coarse grains or millet at Rs 1 per kg. Pressing into service existing government programmes in Bundelkhand, the government has also said it will identify and distribute Samajwadi pension to beneficiaries, repair tube wells and hand pumps and provide fodder blocks for cattle, among other initiatives. (Times of India 25/12/15)

RESERVATION

Implementation of Sadashiva commission report sought (25)

BALLARI: The members of the Karnataka Madiga Dandora Samiti, fighting for the internal reservation among scheduled Castes, staged a day-long protest in front of the Deputy Commissioners’ office in Ballari on Monday, asking the State government to implement the recommendations of the Justice A .J. Sadashiva Commission immediately. District president of the samiti J. Jaganath Madiga, in a memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Siddhramaiah, stated that even though the Justice A.J. Sadashiva Commission Report was submitted to the government in 2012, the government has not initiated any measures for implementation of the commission report. Mr. Jaganath demanded that the State government set up a separate development board for the Madiga community; the government should allot 5 acres of land to all landless farmers belonging to the community, he said. (The Hindu 1/12/15)

DC for 3 pc quota for specially abled (25)

Mangaluru: Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim said a proposal for the construction of a full-fledged and permanent rehabilitation centre in the district  has been sent to the State government. He was speaking at a programme organised on the occasion of the International Day for the Differently Abled Persons at the Town Hall here on Thursday. He lamented that the demands of specially abled, like separate parking space and ramps or lifts in offices and banks not being fulfilled. Ramps and lifts should be included in the planning stage of buildings itself. There is a need for an effective implementation of three per cent reservation for specially abled, the officer said. Ibrahim said that 28,000 people have either become physically or mentally disabled due to Endosulfan in the district. He said the gap between haves and have nots is increasing in the mad race of development. The discrimination against women, dalits, minority, differently abled has not decreased and they are not getting equal platform, which they are eligible to get, he regretted. St Agnes Special School teacher Pushpalatha, Christaraja Navachethana Special School teacher Zeta D’Souza, Roman and Catherine School for Blind student Deekshith, St Mary’s Special School, Kinnigoli, teacher Reshma Jyothi, Saanidhya Special School teacher Veena P N, Lions Special School, Surathkal, Assistant Teacher Meenakshi, Rebecca from Bethani Special School, Mardhala, Sandeepa Special School, Sullia, student Mithun, Chethana Special School, Mangaluru, Assistant Teacher Veena Kulal, Mangalajyothi Integrated School, Vamanjoor, teacher Savitha Kakathkar, Chessire Home of India, Warden Sr Theresita, Andhara Chalana Valana Kendra, Mangaluru, Assistant teacher Sundar C Kotian, Karavali Vikalachethanara Abhivruddhi Sangha President Muhammed Junaid, rural rehabilitation worker, Vittal, Vasanthi B and agriculturist Koragappa were felicitated on the occasion. A number of cultural programmes were present on the occasion.Dakshnina Kannada Zilla Angavikalara Federation submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner seeking the fulfillment of their demands, such as providing school facilities to specially abled children in rural areas, concession rates in private and express bus fare and airfare for specially abled, increase in monthly pension to Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,200. Senior Civil Judge and District Legal Services Authority Member Secretary Ganesh B inaugurated the programme. Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer P I Srividya, District Women and Child Development Department Deputy Director Sundar Poojary, Lions District Governor Kavita Shastry,   District Angavikalara Federation President Dinesh Shetty and Lions Club, Gandhinagar, President Sudhakar Shetty were present. Dakshina Kannada district administration, Women and Child Development Department, Differently Abled and Senior Citizens’ Empowerment Department, District Legal Services Authority and Lions Club, Gandhinagar, had organised the programme. Specially abled children took out a rally from University College, Hampankatta, to the Town Hall. Senior Civil Judge Ganesh B flagged off the rally. (Deccan Herald 4/12/15)

Assam CM announces Rs 1,000 crore special package for SC community (25)

GUWAHATI: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced a special package of Rs 1,000 crore for the development of Scheduled Caste community in the state. Announcing the special package at a public meeting held on the occasion of 60th death anniversary of BR Ambedkar, Gogoi said his government has all along given thrust on the development of SC and other communities. “If the SC and other communities lag behind, then how can Assam march on the path of growth and development? With this in mind, we constituted the Development Councils so that the different communities can take part in the development process and reap the benefits,” he said. The chief minister also announced that an Institute of Social Justice will be set up in the name of Ambedkar and additional grants would be given to the SC Development Council. Paying tribute to Ambedkar, Gogoi said he was a freedom fighter, a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer – all rolled into one. “The principal architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr Ambedkar fought untiringly for the downtrodden, against social discrimination, injustice and oppression. He devoted his entire life to the cause of social justice, gender equality and promotion of education,” he added. Following the footsteps of Ambedkar, Gogoi said his government is giving emphasis to gender equality by empowering women through education and formation of Self Help Groups to bring about economic transformation. Advocating for continuation of reservation for backward communities, Gogoi said he will oppose the decision of the Centre to review the policy of reservation on the ground that these communities are still trailing behind and need support to be on par with other advanced communities. (Times of India 6/12/15)

‘Extend quota system in private sector’(25)

KALABURAGI: The Research Scholars Association has demanded that the Union government bring in changes in the Constitution to extend reservation benefits to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Class candidates in the private sector. Association president Sunil Jabadi told presspersons on Monday that the members of the association would stage a protest demonstration on the main campus of Gulbarga University on December 11 raising this demand.He said that research scholars pursuing M. Phil and Ph. D would take out a protest rally from the administration building to the B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan and submit a memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to the Vice-Chancellor. (The Hindu 8/12/15)

HC notice to state govt on reservation in promotion (25)

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday issued notice to the Punjab government on a plea against the provisions to provide reservation to state employees of scheduled castes (SC) and backward classes (BC) categories. A division bench comprising Justice S K Mittal and Justice Shekhar Dhawan has asked the Punjab government to file reply on the issue by March 8. The matter reached before the high court in the wake of a petition filed by Ujjal Singh and Satish Kumar, administrative officers of the Punjab forest department. The petitioners have sought directions to quash sections 4 (3), 4 (4) and 4 (8) of The Punjab Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006, providing reservation to socially-backward employees in promotions. Referring to the Supreme Court judgments, the petitioners submitted that before making promotions on basis of reservation, the state government had to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of the class and inadequacy or representation of that class in public employment in addition to compliance with the Article 335 of Indian Constitution. According to petitioners, the Punjab government, however, had not done that exercise till now, but was going ahead with making such reservation-based promotions in various departments by relying on erroneous and vague legal advice given to it. Thus, the Punjab government was required to be restrained from making any promotions based on provisions contained in state’s Act of 2006, the petitioners mentioned. They also referred to a Punjab and Haryana high court judgment in case of Hari Singh, wherein the similar policy of Haryana government providing for reservations in promotions, was quashed. (Times of India 12/12/15)

MP to extend reservation for SC, ST in ad hoc recruitments (25)

BHOPAL: Taking a lesson from Bihar assembly and Jhabua by-poll debacles, BJP has decided to extend full support to reservations by extending it to other recruitments in Madhya Pradesh, if chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s announcement is any indication. Chouhan on Sunday declared reservation to SCs and STs will also be given in ad hoc recruitments. Congress termed this announcement as a bait aimed to lure tribals. “There were misconceptions floated by opposition parties that BJP is against reservation which are absolutely baseless. We are not against reservation of backward class but, from now on we will extend it in ad hoc recruitments too”, said Shivraj Singh while addressing a gathering of SCs and STs union in Gwalior. Beginning with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comment on reservation to BJP’s repeated clarifications on the issue, it was observed party needs to convince backward class about it’s stand. Chouhan also believed party’s debacle in tribal belt of Jhabua during parliamentary by-poll was caused by Congress raking up reservation issue. “Reservation will never be abolished in the state,” Chouhan reiterated at the meeting, adding, backlog vacancies of SCs-STS will also be filled within time-limit. As an add-on, BJP government ensured government servants of reserved classes will be promoted by holding departmental promotion committees, while reviews will be undertaken by the chief secretary. It was stated rules for promotion on seniority basis will be implemented strictly and chief secretary would undertake review every six months. The government has also given special attention to SC and ST employees in field postings. Congress, has reiterated that BJP has always been against reservation. Congress state president Arun Yadav said, “BJP tried to woo backward classes and considered them only as a vote bank. This is again a step to lure the SCs and STs after BJP started losing elections. Congress will always be with the deprieved class, fighting for their rights”, Yadav told TOI. Shivraj Singh during his public meetings has also raised issue of free education, facilities and scholarships to reserved class. Now he has assured to extend benefits of higher education abroad to the students of reserved classes too. (Times of India 15/12/15)

Centre okays inclusion of some castes in Scheduled Castes list (25)

NEW DELHI: The government today approved a proposal for inclusion of certain castes, including Sais, Aheria and Peruvannan, in the list of Scheduled Castes (SC) in five states. The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval for introduction of a Bill for amendments to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, in order to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in respect of the five states — Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal. The proposal also seeks some changes in the Central List of Other Backward Classes of the states of Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Kerala, consequent upon inclusion of certain castes or parts thereof in the list of Scheduled Castes. The castes and communities that were found eligible for their inclusion in SC category from Chhattisgarh are Sais, who are also known as Sahis, Sarathi, Soot-Sarathi and Thanwar. Two castes from Haryana have also been included in the SC list. These are Aheria, also called Aheri, Hari, Heri, Thori and Turi, and Rai Sikh. In Kerala, Peruvannan caste has been included the SC list while Malayan from certain areas will also be entitled to the same benefits. Castes, which have been excluded from the OBC list consequent upon their inclusion in SC list include Bariki and Kummari from Odisha, while the area restriction of the inclusion of Chain caste in West Bengal has been removed. After the Bill becomes an Act, members of the communities included in the list of Scheduled Castes will be able to derive benefits meant for Scheduled Castes under the existing schemes. Some of the major schemes for these groups include Post Matric Scholarship, National Overseas Scholarship, Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, Top Class Education, Concessional Loans from National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation, Hostels for SC boys and girls. In addition to above, they will also be entitled to the benefits of reservation in services and admission to educational institutions. The Constitution provides certain privileges concessions to the members of Scheduled Castes which are notified under the provisions of Article 341. First list of Scheduled Castes in relation to a state or Union Territory is to be issued by a notified Order of the President after having consultation with the state government concerned. Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Castes can be effected through an Act of Parliament as envisaged under clause (2) of Article 341. Six Presidential Orders were issued between 1950 and 1978 for specifying Scheduled Castes in respect of various states/Union territories. These Orders have been amended from time to time by Acts of Parliament enacted as per Article 341(2) of the Constitution between 1956 and 2015. (Times of India 16/12/15)

MPs “Condemn” Gujarat HC Judge’s Anti-quota Remark, Warn of Impeachment (25)

NEW DELHI: Members of a Parliamentary panel on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, cutting across party lines, today assailed the alleged “anti-reservation” remarks of a Gujarat High Court Judge and warned of impeachment proceedings against him. The members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on SC/ST at a meeting in Parliament House “condemned” the remarks by Justice J P Pardiwala and resolved to stage a protest in front of B R Ambedkar’s statue on December 23. The meeting was attended among others by Union Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Thawar Chand Gehlot. “At the meeting the remarks of the judge were condemned and it was decided that MPs will protest on December 23 in front of the statue of B R Ambedkar. The judge has abused the Constitution and we will move impeachment proceedings against him in Rajya Sabha,” BJP MP Udit Raj told PTI; He said the process of moving an impeachment motion against the judge has begun with several MPs already having signed the petition. Signatures of 50 members are required for moving such a motion. Weeks after the Supreme Court scrapped the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, BJP member Udit Raj had targeted the judge in the Lok Sabha.     Pardiwala, while declining to drop the charge of sedition against Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel, had recently said,”If I am asked by anyone to name two things which have destroyed this country or rather has not allowed the country to progress in the right direction, then the same is reservation and corruption.”  “It is very shameful for any citizen of this country to ask for reservation after years of independence. When our Constitution was framed, it was understood that reservation would remain for a period of 10 years, but unfortunately it has continued even after 65 years of independence,” he had reportedly said in his order.   (Nw Indian Express 18/12/15)

Parliamentary panel: SC/ST candidates denied chance (25)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has observed “discrepancies” in the reservation roster of the Delhi University and “deliberate” denial of appointment to SC and ST candidates in various teaching posts. It sought the government to fix responsibility of those involved and take action against them. Taking note of the complaints of “gross injustice”  being meted out to members of reserved categories also in appointment of non-teaching posts at Delhi University, the panel sought for a fact-finding committee and submit an action taken report with it in three months. Out of a total strength of 264 posts of professors in Delhi University as on April 2015, only three have been filled up with SC candidates. Not a single professor appointed to the post belongs to the SC, the committee, headed by BJP MP and former Union minister Faggan Singh Kulaste, noted in its report. While only seven candidates belonging to SC have been appointed as assistant professor in Delhi colleges out of a total strength of 271 posts for all categories, the number of those appointed under the reserved category of ST is just one. (Deccan Herald 21/12/15)

RSS chief’s comment on quotas in context of Patel stir, says Minister (25)

NEW DELHI: Defending RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s controversial remark on reservation, India’s Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot said on Tuesday that the remark was made strictly in response to the Patel agitation for reservations in Gujarat. In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Mr. Gehlot said: “People ignored the context in which he said this and some linked it with the Bihar elections and launched false propaganda. He had said in the context of the Patel agitation in Gujarat that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are getting quotas and in relation to the new demand the government should think about how it should discuss and debate it.” Mr. Gehlot’s ministry’s mandate is to look into issues concerning the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, who are all beneficiaries of reservations in employment and education. “Even recently he (Mr. Bhagwat) said that till the purpose for which reservations were put in place is not fulfilled, reservation should continue. As there were elections in Bihar, people mounted false propaganda on the statement for electoral gains. The government clarified at that time itself that it supports reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs,” he added. Speaking on the key schemes of his ministry, Mr. Gehlot said the govt. was working to rehabilitate manual scavengers, who are being given Rs. 40,000 and being imparted training move to other professions. He also said that under a Sugamya Bharat Yojana (Accessible India) launched early in Dec., 100 public buildings each in 50 big cities would be fitted with lifts, ramps and railings, disabled-friendly toilets, etc. (The Hindu 23/12/15)

Parliamentary Panel Asks MHA to Increase Women in Delhi Police to 33 Percent (25)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has found that women personnel constitute only a little over 9 per cent of the Delhi Police force and asked the Home Ministry to ensure that their numbers are enhanced and reaches up to 33 per cent. The department related parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs said that the set objective of enhancing the representation of the women in Delhi Police to 33 per cent should be achieved within a time-frame. “The committee notes that as on date, the representation of women in Delhi Police is 9.27 per cent only. “However, on March 20, 2015, Government of India has approved reservation of 33 per cent for women horizontally and in each category (SC, ST, OBC and others) in direct recruitment in non-gazetted posts from constable to sub-inspector in the police forces of all Union Territories, including Delhi Police,” the Committee observed. The panel noted the steps taken by Delhi Police in the post December, 2012, Delhi gangrape phase to curb crimes against women, including instilling confidence in girls through various gender sensitisation programmes and propagating fear of the law among sexual offenders. “However, the incidents of crimes against women have a disheartening trend, be it incident of recent murder case of Anand Parvat or alleged molestation of American citizen. The Committee, therefore, feels that there is a need for sensitisation programmes on behaviour towards women,” it said. The Standing Committee, meanwhile, also said that Delhi Police must ensure, through the education department of Delhi government, that all schools designate one teacher as road safety coordinator so that regular road safety programmes are organised for raising awareness among children in this regard. (New Indian Express 27/12/15)

Form Body to Ensure Job Quota, MK Urges Modi (25)

CHENNAI: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo M Karunanidhi has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up a monitoring body to oversee and ensure that jobs in the Central Government services are allotted as per existing reservation norms. The DMK chief also demanded an amendment of the existing reservation laws to eliminate the ‘creamy layer’ norm. The media has recently reported that less than 12 per cent of Central Government jobs were held by Other Backward Classes (OBCs) despite the Mandal Commission recommendations that were made 20 years ago. Karunanidhi said measures had to be taken to make sure that reservations in Central Government jobs were implemented according to existing quotas. “A monitoring body should be set up to ensure that job appointments under the Union government services are made in accordance with the quota earmarked for reserved categories,” he said in his statement, adding that the discriminatory ‘creamy layer’ norm has to be done away with. “It is surprising and shocking. It is a betrayal and makes it very clear that only a very low percentage of (reserved categories) got jobs,” he said. Reiterating his party’s stance of having  consistently opposed the notion of a creamy layer in reservations, the former chief minister said that the Central Government should release a white paper on the jobs given so far for those from backward classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs & STs) department-wise while also demanding that backlog vacancies be filled through a special examination and through appointment drives. (New Indian Expressa 28/12/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

Clerics to educate people on Prophet’s human rights during Urs (1)

BAREILLY: As many are still unaware that Prophet Mohammed had given a speech on human rights during his last Haj, the clerics at dargah Ala Hazrat have decided to conduct a programme during their annual Urs to educate people about it. The clerics said that human rights prescribed by the United Nations (UN) are similar to the one stated by the Prophet. Subhan Raza Khan, chairperson of the shrine, said, “Prophet Mohammed had said that people of both fair and dark complexions should enjoy equal rights. No difference should be met to people on the basis of their native country, religion or caste.” Mufti Mohammed Saleem Noori said, “While talking about human rights, the Prophet said that it is the responsibility of every person to take care of their neighbours, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Hence, we would tell the visitors of the shrine to follow this and start taking care of needs of their neighbours irrespective of their religion.” The 97th death anniversary (Urs) of Mujadid Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Qadri, the founder of the Bareilly school of Islamic theology, is observed from December 6-8. The annual event is usually attended by lakhs of followers from across the world. (Times of India 1/12/15)

NHRC notice on denuding of woman during search (1)

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognisance of a recent incident of alleged outraging of modesty of a woman at a police station in Ajmer, where she was forcibly denuded during the search for a stolen mobile phone. The woman was also beaten when no mobile phone was recovered from her. The Commission has observed that the reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights. It has issued a notice to the Ajmer Superintendent of Police, calling for a report within two weeks. The incident took place on November 21, when the victim, while marketing in the Dargah Bazaar area, was caught by another woman alleging that she had stolen her mobile phone. Two women constables took her to the police station, where she was allegedly stripped, subjected to indecent remarks and threatened that her sister would be implicated in a case as well. (The Hindu 4/12/15)

Rights violations in ISRO spy case: Nambi Narayanan questions NHRC decision before HC (1)

KOCHI: Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan has approached the Kerala High Court questioning the decision of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) not to proceed against the officers responsible for ‘framing’ him in ISRO espionage case of 1994. In the petition to NHRC, the scientist had sought action against five officials including former ADGP Siby Mathews, who is presently the chief information commissioner of the state, and RB Sreekumar, who retired as the joint director of intelligence bureau’s state wing. Relying on the Kerala high court’s decision on an appeal over state government’s decision not to proceed against the officials, NHRC had closed further action in the matter pending before it. As per section 18 of Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993, NHRC has the power to conduct an inquiry into human rights violations and order the state government to provide compensation as well as direct for prosecuting the officials responsible. In the petition filed to the high court through advocate C Unnikrishnan, Nambi Narayanan points out that the high court was dealing with the government order deciding not to take action against erring officials as they have retired and have, therefore, ceased to be under the control of the government. Such a decision by the high court will not in any way affect the action to be taken by NHRC in the case of clear and established human rights violation, it is argued. NHRC should have proceeded to complete the final enquiry as per section 18 and its present decision to close the proceedings is a mockery to justice and amounts to protecting the criminals, it is alleged by the scientist. While the high court’s decision in the appeal dealt with disciplinary proceedings, NHRC was dealing with human rights violations by the erring officials, the petition said. Nambi Narayanan was booked on charges of engaging in espionage at Indian Space Research Organisation, where he was working, in 1994 but was later given a clean chit by CBI and discharged of the charges by a chief judicial magistrate court in 1996. (Times of India 8/12/15)

Trump call for Muslim ban ‘irresponsible’: UN rights chief (1)

UNITED NATIONS: The UN human rights chief called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal that all Muslims be banned from entering the United States “grossly irresponsible,” warning Tuesday that it plays into the hands of extremist groups at the expense of ordinary Muslims who are also “eligible targets” of the extremists. Zeid Raad al-Hussein said he and other Muslims at the UN “could be victimized by these groups” as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. “So it’s not a case of the West vs. Islam, it’s a case of the violent extremists on the one hand vs. the rest, and that’s the truth,” he told a group of reporters. The UN high commissioner for human rights said that “when political leaders rampage verbally through the lexicon to describe any minority in a way that is somehow pejorative, I think it’s dangerous in this moment in time.” He added that the leaders themselves may not be aware of the potential repercussions. Zeid said the United States was founded on the dignity and rights of the individual, and the danger of classifying and categorizing people is that “it dehumanizes _ it can lead to victimization of the innocent.””Clearly, while there’s no love lost for those who perpetrate violence and the killings of civilians, it’s a double tragedy when the innocent have to suffer because of the reactions,” Zeid said. Earlier secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said the U.N. chief also strongly opposes Trump’s call.While political campaigns have their own dynamics, Haq said, “we do not believe that any kind of rhetoric that relies on Islamaphobia, xenophobia, any other appeal to hate any groups, really should be followed by anyone.”Trump has defended his call Monday for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which has sparked widespread condemnation in the US and abroad. (Times of India 9/12/15)

Human rights violations: Activists say cops go scot-free (1)

HYDERABAD: Gross human rights violation by the police in Telangana is going unpunished, activists alleged on Thursday , which also happens to be the Human Rights Day , as the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has called upon the police top brass not to ignore delinquent behaviour of law enforcers. Activists recalled how a government medical doctor and a few others were thrashed ruthlessly near a restaurant at Tandur in Ranga Reddy district by the local police and how the victims were snubbed by the police station when they wanted to press a case against the inspector, D Sudheer Reddy . And till date no criminal case is filed against the inspector. Finally when the matter was brought to the NHRC’s notice, the district SP, in a report in February 2015, said no action could be taken against the guilty inspector because he was transferred to another district.This underscored how police department shields guilty officers. Last week, reacting to the report, SHRC chairperson Justice Nisar Ahmad Kakru flayed Telangana police and demanded an explanation from DGP Anurag Sharma. “How amazing it is to notice that all laws of humanity are allowed to be breached on the pretext of transfer from one district to another, as if transfer of a public servant terminated the disciplinary proceedings. Prima facie it is a case of grave violation of human rights and does call for an immediate response from the police chief of Telangana,” Kakru said. Ever since Telangana was formed, several instances of stark human rights violation came to light, especially in Hyderabad.The brutal assault on three Ireland-based NRIs by the Musheerabad police in June is a case in point. In this case, Hyderabad commissioner Mahender Reddy , in his report to SHRC, admitted that gross hu man rights violations did take place, but strangely only lower rung policemen were suspended, letting off others with transfer. Similarly , the death of a woman under mysterious circumstances in the custody of Asif Nagar police station in August this year went uninvestigated. Activists say the mysterious encounter of Tehreek-e-Galba Islam (TGI) founder Viqaruddin Ahmed and four others, while they were being brought to court from Warangal jail, killing of CPI (Maoist) cadres in Warangal and Khammam in the last one year has also been categorised as human rights violation by some groups. Reacting to the Viquar encounter probe, Anurag Sharma said it was not time-bound, and said the SIT would complete the enquiry at the earliest.”No guilty official will be spared in cases of custodial deaths or police excesses,” Sharma said speaking to TOI. Human Rights Forum (HRF) president S Jeevan Kumar demanded that NHRC guidelines on encounters killings, should be followed and a case of murder should be booked. (Times of India 11/12/15)

Human rights protest march: Engineer Rashid, others detained in Srinagar (1)

Srinagar: Police on Thursday detained independent legislator Sheikh Abdul Rashid along with dozens of his supporters after they tried to take out a protest march here on the occasion of International Human Rights Day. Rashid, who represents north Kashmir’s Langate in the state assembly, along with supporters from his Awami Ittehad Party (AIP), were detained by the police at Residency Road after they took out a protest rally from Sher-e-Kashmir Park, a spokesman of the AIP said. He said the party had arranged for a cow, a horse, a goat and a dog carrying placards which read that the animals were “more secure than the people of Kashmir”. “It was a unique protest on the occasion of International Human Rights Day to show that animals enjoy more rights than the people in Kashmir.Our protest rally was peaceful, but police detained the MLA along with dozens of his supporters,” the spokesman said. (Hindustan Times 10/12/15)

PUCL raises concern over killing of villagers (1)

BHUBANESWAR: People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a rights group, has urged intellectuals to put pressure on the government to ensure protection of human rights in areas where security forces have been deployed to combat Maoists. The police version that three people were killed in crossfire and that the Special Operation Group personnel opened fire in self defence in Nisanguda forest area of Kalahandi district is not credible, it said after probing the incident by a team. “There is preponderance of probability that innocent people were killed and injured in an unprovoked, indiscriminate and one-sided firing by the Special Operation Group personnel,” it said. Two tribals and a Dalit were killed and two others injured in the firing by the SOG personnel in Nisanguda forest area of Kalahandi district on November 15 last. “There are clear violations of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India in the matters of investigating deaths in police encounters. Neither the concerned police officers nor the executive magistrate ensured the presence of family members or their relatives or co-villagers during inquest or post-mortem of the dead bodies,” said Pramodini Pradhan, convenor of PUCL, Odisha. (The Hindu 13/12/15)

Ensure no violence against Shakur Basti displaced, HC tells police (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the police to ensure there was no further “violence” against the displaced residents of Shakur Basti in west Delhi. It also directed the city government to ensure children of the slum dwellers were assured of education during the rehabilitation programme. A division bench of Justice S. Murlidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhru appointed Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to carry out a survey of people affected by the demolition drive there on December 12 and share the findings with the Centre, city government and other agencies so that relief materials was given to them. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was also asked to depute an official in the area to coordinate with government agencies and prepare a report on relief materials provided to the affected people. The court also asked the NHRC to submit a report on the issue. The court’s direction came while hearing a plea filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken to seek directions to authorities for the rehabilitation of the displaced in temporary relief camps and shelter homes. More than 500 hutments were demolished by railways authorities on Saturday, leaving hundreds homeless in the winter chill. An infant allegedly died during the drive. Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, told the bench that steps were taken to provide relief materials to the people in the slum. “Around 700-800 families have been affected by the demolition drive. As many as 3,000 blankets have been provided to them and 60 big tents set up,” he told the court. The court posted the matter for further hearing on December 22. (Business Standard 16/12/15)

Human Rights Body Issues Notices To Aviation Ministry, Air India Over Technician’s Death (1)

Mumbai:  The National Human Rights Commission or NHRC today issued notices to the Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India over reports of death of a technician who got sucked into engine of an aircraft at the Mumbai Airport. The Commission has issued notice to the Secretary, Union Civil Aviation Ministry and Chairman of Air India after taking suo motu cognizance of media reports of the death of the Air India ground staffer Ravi Subramanian on December 16. They have been given two weeks to respond. “The safety and security of both technical and non-technical staff are of great concern. Though the incident is pictured as an accident, the reports in the press are otherwise. Right to life guaranteed under the Constitution of India would include Right to Safety as well,” observed Justice D Murugesan, Member of NHRC, while issuing the notices. The mishap occurred when the co-pilot of Mumbai-Hyderabad flight 619 mistook a signal for starting the engine and the victim, Ravi Subramanian, who was standing close, got sucked into it at bay 28 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji domestic airport around 8:40 pm. A committee has been set up under the Air India CMD to look into the incident while an ex-gratia amount of Rs. 5 lakh has been granted to the victim’s family. (NDTV 18/12/15)

Bijapur rapes under NHRC lens, govt to file report in 4 weeks (1)

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission issued notices to the Union home ministry and the Chhattisgarh police on Monday after taking suo motu cognisance of articles published by the Hindustan Times on December 16th and December 17th on alleged gang rapes, assaults and looting by paramilitary and police. The alleged violence by security forces took place from October 19-24 when they were conducting an anti-Maoist military operation in South Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, witness to a decade-long conflict between security forces and Maoist rebels. In its notices, the apex human rights watchdog has asked the Union home secretary and the Chhattisgarh director-general of police to submit “detailed reports within four weeks” on the alleged human rights violations. Reporting from three of the five affected villages, HT carried the accounts of several assaulted women, including of two gangrape survivors. The newspaper reported how investigators had made no arrests close to 50 days after a FIR was registered by the Bijapur police against ‘suraksha bal’ on November 1. HT also reported how, despite a police investigation and a magisterial probe being ordered, investigators were yet to visit the site of the alleged crimes, ascertain the scale of the violence, or collect potentially crucial evidence, like the clothes of the rape survivors. The clothes worn by a teen survivor from Peddagellur village when security forces allegedly gangraped her. Police investigators are yet to collect this evidence, over 50 days after an FIR was lodged. The NHRC on Monday observed, “The reports, if true, indicate gross violation of human rights of the victims.” The NHRC also noted how no arrests had been made in the case so far. (Hindustan Times 23/12/15)

Juvenile Justice Bill: NHRC opposed move to lower age, says former chief (1)

New Delhi: Questioning the rationale that led Parliament to pass a new Juvenile Justice Bill, that lowers the age of juveniles who can be tried as adults from 18 to 16 years in cases of heinous offences, former National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan said the rights panel had opposed the move. Speaking to The Sunday Express, the former Chief Justice of India, who demitted the office of NHRC chief early this year, said the rights panel had sent its opposition in writing to the government. “Our objection was based on government data only. We felt it would prove to be a counter-productive step,” he said. “We told the government that reducing the age from 18 to 16 years would be against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India ratified in 1992. We also said that at 16 years, the boy is still a child who is in his formative years. If he is sent to jail, after trial in an ordinary criminal court, there is no likelihood of any reformation and he would come out a hardened criminal. So, we said we should be very careful before reducing the age to 16 years,” he said. “A village boy of 16 years, what maturity can we attribute to him? In a well-educated family of fair means, 16 years may be a good age. But the same cannot be true in the case of ordinary, poor citizens,” he said. “We had also cited a number of other reasons why it should not be done. The data shows that the number of serious crimes in which juveniles between the age of 16 and 18 years are accused is not very high, except in a couple of states. In most states, the percentage of people in this age group committing crimes is not so serious as to warrant a legislation at this stage. That was what we had said in the report,” said Justice Balakrishnan. Paving the way for a new juvenile system in which the age of criminal culpability will now be 16 years, subject to some conditions, the Rajya Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, earlier this week. Asked if the Parliament had erred in passing the legislation, although there were many MPs who wanted it to referred to a select committee, he said, “We can’t attribute things like unreasonableness, illegality, etc to parliamentarians. They have passed the legislation and it will become the law. But our view was that it should be sent to a select committee for further deliberation.” Would it have been better if the Bill had been referred to a select committee? “We had said so. Every enactment, if it is given to a committee, it (the committee) will consider all pros and cons, look at all evidence before finalising its report. Important legislation that affect the serious rights of citizens may be sent to a select committee for a better law.” To a question on whether he was of the view that the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill in a hurry, under mounting public pressure in view of the release of the juvenile (now adult) convict in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape case, the former CJI said, “Every law is a reflection of popular opinion. But the only thing that needs to be considered is that the law is just and is not passed only because public urge is there. We amended Sections 376, 354 only after popular urge. But nobody questioned it.” (Indian  Express 27/12/15)

Human rights body for sensitising police officers on JJ Act (1)

BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Monday asked the State police to sensitise its ground-level officers on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act for careful handling of minors in conflict with law. The Commission directed the State police while hearing a case pertaining arrest and alleged torture of a 13-year-old Dalit boy in Laxmipur police station in Koraput district on March 16 this year. “The OHRC heard the case and found the police officers at fault. Making an observation with regards to handling of minors by law enforcing agency, the Commission directed the Director General of Police to sensitise officers on provisions of the JJ Act. The sensitisation programme should be held at regular intervals,” said Biswapriya Kanungo. (The Hindu 29/12/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

Husband can’t divorce wife if she is terminally ill, rules Supreme Court (19)

New Delhi: In a judgement that will protect women in need of medical attention, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a husband cannot be allowed to separate from his wife if she is terminally ill. According to the apex court ruling, the couple cannot be granted divorce even under mutual consent if woman partner is terminally ill. The Supreme Court bench headed by MY Eqbal said the plea for divorce can be accepted only when the wife has recovered. While passing the judgement, the court advised husbands to stand by their wives in their difficult times as in Hinduism, a wife considers her husband as God. The court disallowed the divorce plea after it was informed that the wife was suffering from advance stage of cancer and needed immediate medical care. The wife had, however, earlier given her consent for divorce after her husband agreed to pay Rs 12.5 lakh as alimony to her. “Hindu marriage is a sacred and holy union of husband and wife by virtue of which the wife is completely transplanted in the household of her husband and takes a new birth. It is a combination of bone to bone and flesh to flesh. To a Hindu wife her husband is her God and her life becomes one of the selfless service and profound dedication to her husband. She not only shares the life and love, but the joys and sorrows, the troubles and tribulation of her husband and becomes an integral part of her husband’s life and activities” the bench said, as per The Times of India. “It is evident that the wife needs sufficient amount of money for the treatment of breast cancer. Hence, it cannot be ruled out that in order to save her life by getting money, she agreed for a settlement of dissolution of marriage, ” it said. The court also ordered the husband to provide Rs 5 lakh to his wife for her treatment and agreed to reconsider the divorce plea after she recovers from illness. (Zee News 3/12/15)

‘Judiciary won’t allow intolerance towards anyone (19)

NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India T S Thakur on Sunday said the debate on growing intolerance in society had a “political dimension” and assured citizens that the judiciary was there to protect them from any victimization or discrimination. Justice Thakur said there was no intolerance towards any community in the country and it would never happen as rule of law and judiciary were there. He said the judiciary was committed to protect the country’s heritage of religious diversity. He, however, refused to elaborate on the “political dimension” to the intolerance debate. Justice Thakur, the country’s 43rd CJI, said there was some “politics” involved in the debate on intolerance and added that he did not want to get involved in it. However, he emphatically stated that no person belonging to any community should be afraid of living in the country as the judiciary would take care of every citizen’s rights and freedom. “Our existence is based on philosophy of tolerance and I don’t think it (intolerance) is there. No one should have any reason to fear that they would be thrown out of the country or would be victimized,” Justice Thakur said while interacting with legal reporters at his residence. “I am heading an institution which protects constitutional rights of all citizens and also, sometimes, non-citizens. So long as rule of law is there and judiciary is functioning, no one should feel threatened. We are capable of protecting the rights of all citizens,” he said. Justice Thakur said India has always welcomed people from different religions with open arms and they have been living in the country peacefully for centuries. He said all religions teach brotherhood and harmony. Quoting Persian poet Khawaja Dil Mohammed who translated Bhagwat Gita into Urdu, Justice Thakur, well known for his love of Hindi and Urdu literature, said paths followed by people of different religions were different but all ways eventually led to one god. “Mutual respect for all religions must be promoted. We can progress only if we have an inclusive society,” he said. “India is the home of all religions. People prosecuted in their country came to India and settled. They flourished and prospered here and they also contributed a lot in the progress of this country. Look at Parsi community. They have contributed so much to the development and progress of the country. Their contribution in judiciary and industrial development is immense,” he said. Justice Thakur, who in September raised questions on growing ban culture in the country while hearing a case on meat ban in Maharashtra, said the Constitution provides equal rights to all citizens irrespective of caste, creed or religion and assured that judiciary would live up to people’s expectation to protect their rights. “We don’t have reluctance or bias in protecting rights of all sections of society. People should not get upset till the judiciary is there. There is no need of fear,” he said, adding that India was known for diversity and tolerance which were the most valuable assets of the country. (Times of India 7/12/15)

 Supreme Court declines PIL on Uniform Civil Code (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a public interest petition seeking direction to Parliament to enact a uniform civil code to put an end to alleged discrimination being faced by Muslim women. An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said that it is for Parliament to take a call on the issue and it was not in the realm of the apex court to issue a direction on this. Chief Justice Thakur, in a disapproving note, told senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam that if such petitions were filed without regard to the law, the court will come down very heavily. The court asked why none of those who are being allegedly discriminated against have come forward for redressal. Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed the PIL. (Times of India 7/12/15)

Sexually transmitted disease no ground for divorce: HC (19)

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that a person suffering from hepatitis B, which could be passed on to others by sexual activity, could not be a ground for divorce. The court passed these orders while rejecting the plea of a man seeking directions for medical examination of his wife on the grounds that she was suffering from hepatitis B, which was transmissible by exposure to infectious blood or semen and vaginal fluids. “Cruelty must be a voluntary act of person who visits cruelty on the other. If a woman refuses sexual access, there are authorities to the effect that such a voluntary refusal would itself constitute a cruelty and afford a ground for divorce. This is not a case where the woman is complained of as having denied sexual access to the husband. On the other hand, the apprehension of the petitioner is that if he has access to the wife, he will get infected with hepatitis B. I am afraid this argument is not sound, for every communicable disease does not afford a spouse a ground for divorce,” observed Justice K Kannan in the November 4 orders. The judge was of the view that there are the only two instances of diseases, apart from mental illness, which afford a ground for a spouse to seek for divorce under the existing laws. These include where a person has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy and a person has been suffering from venereal disease in communicable form. The matter had reached before the court through a petition filed by a Hoshiarpur resident seeking directions for medical examination of his wife. The petitioner had apprehensions that his wife was suffering from hepatitis B, which could be communicated by sexual access. Thus, he would be denied of sexual access to his wife, which amounted to cruelty and a ground of divorce. He had approached the HC after the local court, where his petition for divorce against his wife is pending, had declined permission for medical examination. Dismissing his plea for medical examination, Justice Kannan also observed that it was a male-dominated society and it led to several ills. The judge stated the present petition itself was an example of how cruel a man could be to a woman in a matrimonial relationship. (Times of India 10/12/15)

Maggi row: Supreme Court issues notice to Nestle India on FSSAI’s appeal (19)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from Nestle India on an appeal by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) against lifting the ban on popular instant Maggi noodles. A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra waived off the formal notice as Nestle’s counsel Harish Salve accepted the notice and said he would file a reply to the petition by January 5. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the FSSAI, said he was not pressing for an immediate stay of the Bombay High Court order but, he wanted to draw the court’s attention towards the difficulties being faced by the good regulator in view of the HC order. The bench agreed to examine FSSAI’s contentions on January 13. After a favourable HC order, Swiss giant Nestle had relaunched its instant noodle on November 9. The FSSAI, in its petition, has questioned the “sanctity” of the samples provided to the government-approved labs for the re-test, contending that the High Court had asked Nestle to provide samples whereas it should have been picked up randomly from the market. As per the sources, seeking Maggi samples from Nestle vitiated the entire procedure of re-testing and that a neutral authority should have ideally lifted the samples. Further, the petition has claimed that the Bombay High Court allowed substantial changes in its order when Nestle filed a plea for correction of the original order on the ground of there being certain typographical errors. “This led to a substantial impact on the outcome of the proceeding before the High Court,” FSSAI officials said. They added that stacking Maggi back on shelves without a fresh permission from the authorities also amounts to a breach of a pertinent provision in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. In August, the High Court had quashed the orders of FSSAI and Maharashtra food regulator FDA, which had banned nine variants of Maggi noodles in the country. It had said that the principles of natural justice were not followed in executing the ban as the manufacturer was not given a hearing. The court had allowed Nestle to go in for fresh testing of five samples of each variant of the noodles at three independent laboratories in Punjab, Hyderabad and Jaipur which were accredited with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). It had clarified that these samples would be taken out of the 750 samples preserved by the company following the ban and if the lead content was found below permissible limits by the three labs, Nestle India will be allowed to manufacture Maggi noodles. Subsequently, Nestle had announced that tests done on fresh Maggi samples provided to government approved labs were found safe and retail sales would start shortly. (Indian Express 11/12/15)

 Lok adalat held in three southern districts (19)

TUTICORIN: As many as 5,855 cases were disposed of at the National Mega Lok Adalat held across Tuticorin district on Saturday as per the directive of National and State Legal Services Authority. Principal District Judge N. Rajasekar presided over the lok adalat. A total of 8,461 cases were referred through the 15 benches formed by District Legal Services Authority. During the adalat, 2,644 pre-litigation cases were taken up and 293 cases were settled. Of the pending cases, 5,817 were taken up and 5,562 were settled, besides awarding a sum of Rs. 2,62,71,715 for litigants of pre-litigation cases and Rs. 3,54,76,219 for litigants of pending cases , sources from District Legal Services Authority said. In Tirunelveli district, Principal District and Sessions Judge M. Nazir Ahamed presided over the lok adalat in which a total of 15,550 cases were taken up and 12,546 settled. During the adalat, 3,089 pre-litigation cases were taken up and 184 cases settled. A sum of Rs. 14,09,35,999 was settled to litigants. District Legal Services Authority had formed 18 benches across the district. DLSA members, judicial officers and court managers attended the lok adalat, sources added. In an adoption case, a couple was directed to adopt a baby. Earlier, C. Isravel of Thenguvilai in Kanyakumari district along with his wife Prem Nirmala had approached the Tirunelveli family court for adoption of a baby. Based on the lok adalat’s direction, the couple adopted a girl baby from Tirunelveli Saranalayam, sources also added. As many as 5,474 cases including, 39 motor accident claim cases, were resolved through mediation at the lok adalat conducted in all the five courts in – Nagercoil, Boothapandi, Padmanabhapuam, Kuzhithurai and Eraniel in Kanyakumari district . Sources in the District Legal Services Authority said the total compensation awarded was Rs. 6,19,25,386, including compensation of Rs. 90,95,000 for motor accident claim cases. A total of 11,622 cases were listed before the seven benches in the adalat. The mega lok adalat was inaugurated by District Principal and Sessions Judge S. Sathi Kumar and Mahila Court Judge John R.D. Santhosam. (The Hindu 13/12/15)

Lok Sabha Passes Arbitration and Reconcilliation Amendment Bill, 2015 (19)

The Lok Sabha has today passed the Arbitration and Reconciliation (Amendment Bill), 2015 by voice vote. The Bill seeks to make the arbitration process more investor-friendly, cost effective and suitable for expeditious disposal of cases. It will also facilitate in making India a hub of international commercial arbitration. It may be noted that the President had promogulated an ordinance for amending the earlier prevalent act, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 related and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto. The union cabinet had approved promulgation of this ordinance on 21.10.2015 and had recommended the same to the President. (Govt. of India, PIB 17/12/15)

Gowda hints at new bill to probe complaints against judges (19)

New Delhi: The government on Thursday hinted that a fresh bill could be brought to change the system of probing complaints of misbehaviour and incapacity against judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts as the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill has lapsed. Replying to questions in Lok Sabha on working of judiciary, corruption in judiciary and pendency, law minister Sadananda Gowda said, “Several legislations have been brought before Parliament which have certainly given a boost to this (working of judiciary). Of course, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill had lapsed earlier. We are working on it. We will look into the matter after taking suggestions from various stakeholders.” The bill moved by the previous UPA government had lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. Though the bill was passed by Lok Sabha in March 2012, it underwent changes in Rajya Sabha following protests by the judiciary and jurists who questioned some of its provisions. The lapsed bill provided for a comprehensive mechanism for handling complaints of alleged misbehaviour and incapacity made by citizens against judges of the SC and HCs. It also provided for a mechanism to take action against those found guilty after investigation. It also laid down judicial standards and made it incumbent on judges to declare their assets and liabilities. Referring to the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, Gowda said, “A broad-based, participative and transparent mechanism for appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts was created but it was struck down by the Supreme Court.” As of November 30, 58,879 cases were pending in the SC, 41.53 lakh in the HCs and 2.64 crore in district and subordinate courts, he said. BJP MP Prahlad said judiciary in India took long vacations and were also closed at times due to strikes. He asked whether the government was planning to increase the number of working days for courts and reduce vacations. To this, Gowda said “a conclusion can be drawn on this only after discussing the matter with the Chief Justice of India, high courts and states”.He said pendency had come down in the last two years as the government had taken several steps in this regard. He added that 1,741 redundant Acts had been identified and 1,200 had been removed. He also said the government was working on a proposal for a comprehensive road safety bill because of which ‘challan’ cases would come down. (Times of India 18/12/15)

Juvenile Justice Bill: Here are 7 things you should know about the Bill (19)

Juveniles aged 16 years and above will now be tried under laws for adults for heinous crimes as Parliament today passed a much-expected bill in this regard against the backdrop of a juvenile convict being released in the gangrape-cum-murder case of December 2012. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, which provides for lowering the age for trial from 18 years, was passed by Rajya Sabha with a voice vote after a walkout by Left parties which wanted it to be sent to a Select Committee. The bill was taken up against the backdrop of uproar over release of juvenile convict in the heinous gangrape-cum-murder of a 23-year-old girl on December 16, 2012. Here are 7 salient features of the Bill: 1) The Juvenile Justice Bill was introduced in the Parliament for the first time in 2014.  The bill was passed by Lok Sabha earlier.2) The Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 which addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection. 3) The Bill will permit juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. 4) Any 16-18 year old, who commits a ‘serious offence’ (not heinous), maybe tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21.5) Juvenile Justice Bill and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be constituted in each district. The JJB will determine whether to send offender for rehabilitation or will be tried as an adult. CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection. 6) Rules for eligibility of adoptive parents and procedure for adoption have been included in the Bill; Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed. 7) This bill is not in accordance with United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as ratified by India. The UNCRC states that signatory countries should treatevery child under the age of 18 years in the same manner and not try them as adults. It recommends that those countries that treat or propose to treat 16-18 year olds as adult criminals, change their laws to align with the principle of non-discrimination towards children.  8) The bill faces criticism for the possible violation of Articles 14, 21 and 20(1) of the Constitution. (DNA 22/12/15)

HC: Can 2011 adoption norms be followed till decision on new ones? (19)

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday asked the Centre if the 2011 adoption guidelines can be followed even as it decides on the challenges to the new guidelines issued earlier this year, including the online selection procedure. “Our suggestion is that till the next date if you can follow the old pattern,” said a bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere, after they were informed that the situation with the new guidelines is chaotic and prospective adoptive parents are confused. Advocate Shirin Merchant, appearing for a parent, said the Central Adoption Resources Agency’s (CARA) idea for expediting adoption is not true. “Most parents are not able to follow the guidelines,” she added. She informed the HC that statistics show there were 852 domestic adoptions in 2014 while till date, in 2015, the number is 355. In 2014, there were 112 foreign adoptions and 92 in 2015. The judges said the idea was that the process be expedited in the interest of children. “No point keeping a child in an adoption home. It will be traumatic when s/he sees other kids being given for adoption,” said Justice Kanade. The judges said if the new rules are not working, CARA will have to take a relook. “Your intention to expedite adoptions is laudable but practical experience and ground reality is different,” the judge said. Merchant said an unpleasant situation is created between the adoption agency and the prospective parents because, after being rejected, the latter complain to CARA who issues show-cause notices to the agency. The bench said loopholes in the previous guidelines had led to some institutions trying to take advantage and referred to the HC to ban Pune-based Preet Mandir. It said that NGOs cannot be eliminated altogether but can be monitored. “They collect abandoned children and look after them,” said Justice Kanade. Pointing out that it is an “urgent matter”, the judges sought the Centre’s response on Wednesday. “Think about the children who are waiting (to be adopted),” said Justice Kanade. (Times of India 22/12/15)

Congress opposes minimum education rule in Haryana, Rajasthan civic polls (11)

New Delhi: A new law in BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan mandating that only those having minimum educational qualifications can contest panchayat elections, has found little support from the Congress, which dubbed the move as one “hurting Constitutional rights”. But the BJP hit back at the Congress saying that while efforts are being made to take country forward, the opposition party was “setting the clock backward”. One of the clauses in the law passed by the two States makes it clear that only those having minimum educational qualifications will be eligible to contest panchayat elections. Haryana’s law has been upheld by the Supreme Court. “It hurts the Constitutional right. All have right to vote and thus contest. No pre-condition can be imposed,” Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma said slamming the law. But Environment Minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said while efforts are being made to take the country forward, the Congress was “setting the clock backward” by opposing the law which has been upheld by the judiciary. He said since it pertains to local polls, States have framed the law and it is not an all India decision. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the pre-condition imposed is “irrational” as those having a right to vote should also be free to contest. He said such a law is “practical” when the level of literacy is anywhere between 90 per cent and 100 per cent. Otherwise it will “deny people a level playing field”. BJP secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said there was need to spread education in the country and such laws work as incentive for people regarding literacy. He said efforts should not be made to take the country “backward”. – PTI (The Hindu 27/12/15)

Intellectual property rights attorneys slam proposed amendments in patent rules (19)

CHENNAI: A few key proposed amendments in the patent rules, such as limiting adjournments to just three and restricting the right to file patent applications only to patent attorneys and not all regular lawyers, have come in for criticism from an association of IPR attorneys. In its objections to the Union ministry of commerce and industry, the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Attorneys Association has said the proposed conditions would hit advocates as well as applicants from rural or far-flung regions of the nation hard. Taking exception to the proposed amendment rule that patent applications could be filed only by patent attorneys who clear the qualifying examinations, IPRAA president P Sanjai Gandhi cited an order of the Madras high court which held that patent applications filed by qualified advocates also should be processed. “In S P Chockalingam vs Controller of Patent case, the high court of Madras said patent amendment Section 126 and 67(a) illegal and unconstitutional, and directed the government of India to process patent application by the advocate. As on date, the verdict is enforceable. In the circumstances, I request you to allow advocates to file the patent applications,” he said. According to the new draft rules, applicants can seek a maximum of only three adjournments. Fifteen extra days would be given if adjournment request is accompanied by acceptable reasons, Sanjai Gandhi said, adding: “This clause is not practical. Three-adjournment rule will affect the whole proceedings and will result in violation of natural justice and arbitrariness.”Objecting to the proposed rule that documents could be submitted only through electronic mode, the IPRAA president said since not everyone in the country had access to electronic media on daily basis, the condition could adversely affect the interest of the applicants from rural and far-flung regions. Also, according to the draft amendment rules, in case of patent applications for biological resources, applicants must obtain no objection certificate (NOC) from the Biological Diversity Authority within three months. Noting that the condition is impossible to fulfil, Sanjai Gandhi said: “Though the central government has ordered setting up of a biological diversity authority, many states have not set it up. Since the headquarters is in Chennai, applicants from other parts of the country cannot get the NOC, as it involved time lapse in travel and communication.” (Times of India 28/12/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

HC orders recording of witness statement in custodial death case (1)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered recording of statement of a man who claimed to be a witness to the alleged custodial death of a 34-year-old man. Justice Siddharth Mridul ordered registrar appellate of the high court to personally escort Zahid Ahmed to Karkardooma court complex and get his statement recorded before a magistrate. Ahmed, who appeared before the high court on Wednesday, told Justice Mridul that he had approached the special investigation team, which is probing the case, many times to get his statement recorded but no one paid him any attention. The court was hearing the plea of the wife of victim Shahnawaz Chaudhary, seeking action against officers involved in the incident and a compensation. According to the petition, the incident took place at Nand Nagri area of northeast Delhi on September 7 when the victim had tried to intervene in a road-side fight between a couple and police. He died under “mysterious circumstances” after being taken to a police station. (Business Standard 2/12/15)

AFSPA extended in Manipur by another yr (1)

IMPHAL: In spite of prolonged and sustained protests from civil bodies, the Manipur government has extended the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, in the state by another year. Seven assembly constituencies in Imphal have been kept outside the purview of the act. A cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh resolved to extend the ‘disturbed area’ tag under Section 3 of AFSPA in Manipur from Tuesday. The AFSPA is enforced in disturbed areas. The cabinet decision comes barely a month after civil activist Irom Sharmila Chanu entered her sixteenth year of fasting against the act that gives sweeping powers to the Armed Forces. Government spokesperson M Okendro Singh said the decision to extend the disturbed area status in the state for another year was taken after collecting data from police and central forces. The chief minister has the power to review the status every six months, Okendro added. Monday’s cabinet meeting also resolved to open an SDC circle at Sugnu in Thoubal district, he said and added that the circle will cover eleven villages. To give more power to urban local bodies, the meeting agreed to amend the Manipur Municipalities Act, 1994, he said. It also recommended the contractual appointment of 357 employees, including specialist doctors, in the National Health Mission. Through the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC), 24 vacant posts, including those of assistant engineers, will be filled up in the state PWD, Okendro said. Of the 24, 10 people will be appointed through direct recruitment, while the rest will be recruited on promotional basis. (Times of India 2/12/15)

Three cops suspended for torture (1)

KANPUR: Three cops including an SI have been suspended after a video showing them applying third degree torture to an alleged pick pocket went viral on social media on Thursday. The incident was reported at Saifai police station of Etawah district on November 27. Taking a serious note, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manzil Saini also ordered a probe into the incident by circle officer (CO) Arun Kumar Dikshit. Video of three policemen of Saifai PS including S-I Awdhesh and two constables Gulab Singh and Arvind Singh who were posted at Saifai police station went viral on Thursday. They were shown brutally assaulting one Rupelu for involvement in an alleged pick-pocketing case in Saifai police station. The Chief Minister too has taken cognizance of the matter while senior police officials were now looking for the constable who recorded the episode on his mobile phone. Sources in the police informed that on November 27, the alleged pick-pocket from Mainpuri was caught near Muchehra petrol pump at Etah-Mainpuri road and brought to the Saifai police station. Later, he was brutally beaten up by the accused cops with a wooden baton inside the police station. “Rupelu pleaded, but the third degree treatment continued,” said sources. The SSP said, “The incident happened on November 27 and departmental proceedings were being initiated against the accused policemen. Besides, a case has also been registered against Rupelu.” CO Arun Kumar Dixit is conducting a probe into the case, she added. (Times of India 4/12/15)

 6 MP cops suspended for man’s ‘suicide’ in police lock-up (1)

SHAJAPUR, MP: Half a dozen policemen, including three assistant sub-inspectors (ASI), were today suspended in connection with alleged suicide of an accused in lock-up.Superintendent of Police (SP) Anil Sharma issued suspension orders of these policemen posted in Kalapipal Police Station near here, an official said. Sanjeev Maron, Nirmal Tigga and Ramesh Chand Yadav – all ASIs – head constable Subhash Patel, constables Anand Gurjar and Om Prakash Patel were placed under suspension on charge of dereliction of duty, said Shujalpur sub-divisional officer of police (SDOP) DK Jain. A probe is also going on in the matter which is being conducted by Judicial Magistrate (First Class) Shivlal Kevat, he said. A 34-year-old man, arrested in an abetment of suicide case, allegedly hanged himself in lock-up at Kalapipal Police Station, nearly 85km from here, yesterday. Sunil Lodhi, a resident of Dhabla Dheer village, was found hanging from an end of a ventilator inside the lock up, police had said. (Times of India 8/12/15)

Responses of Government, CBI Sought (1)

CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Thursday issued notice to the State Government and CBI in connection with the alleged custodial death of Makhunu Bag at Bheden police station in Bargarh district in July this year. Acting on a writ petition filed by the alleged victim’s son Biju Beg seeking a CBI probe along with compensation, the single judge bench of Justice BR Sarangi directed the Government and the investigating agency to file responses within four weeks. The petitioner from Dekulba village of Bargarh said his father Makhunu (54) had gone to the local Bheden police station on July 17, 2015 to meet OIC Sunil Kumar Nayak in connection with his elder son Raju Bag’s whereabouts. Raju had absconded following a rape case filed against him by a local girl. However, he did not return. After a long wait, his wife Sahebani Bag filed a petition with Bargarh SP on September 9 reporting his missing since his visit to the police station. The villagers also gheraoed the police station and were given assurances of tracing Bag soon. And within days, they got information about a skeleton lying near a Panichhapar jungle under Ulunda police limits of Sonepur district. The family members went there on September 24 and identified it as Makhunu Bag from the rags of a shirt on the skeleton. On the basis of a complaint of Biju Bag, Ulunda police registered a case against Bheden police for murder of Makhunu Bag and disappearance of evidence under sections 302 and 201 of IPC. Subsequently, the skeleton was found to be Makhunu’s through a DNA test and several police personnel including the IIC were arrested. Bag had then approached the High Court seeking `20 lakh compensation and CBI investigation into his death. (New Indian Express 11/12/15)

“Over 3,000 killed in ‘encounters’ since 1968’ (1)

HYDERABAD: Politics and policing are never divorced from each another. All political scientists vouch for the fact that the approach by the police in any State is heavily dependent on policies of the contemporary dispensation. The latest compilation of “encounter killings” by the Human Rights Forum (HRF) only strengthens this assumption. In what could be termed a significant tool for political analysis, the Forum has compiled the numbers of deaths in what the police claimed as “encounters” over years, and grouped them across various regimes. The data strictly comprised only those died in “encounters”, and does not include deaths in police firings, lock-up deaths, missing persons and murders of civil liberties activists, though they were largely attributed to the police. As per the report, during the last 47 years, a total of 3,252 persons were killed in “encounters”, in the joint State, and now in the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. More than half of them, a total of 1,629, were killed during the nine years of TDP regime headed first by N.T. Rama Rao and then by the present AP Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu between 1995 and 2004. The initial years from 1968 to 77, encompassing Srikakulam Armed Struggle and Emergency, saw 335 persons being killed by the police. Thereon, there was a brief slowdown during Congress regime headed successively by Marri Chenna Reddy, B. Venkata Rami Reddy and K. Vijayabhaskar Reddy from 1978 up to 1983 which recorded 16 killings. The “encounters” picked up again with the thunderous entry of Telugu Desam Party into the political arena, presided by the actor-turned-politician N.T. Rama Rao. His years from 1983 to 1989, interrupted by two months of N. Bhaskara Rao, were the goriest under any other CM till then, marked by total 199 police killings. Analysing the regime-wise statistics, academician G. Haragopal situated the increased repression during Mr. Naidu’s time in the context of his pro-globalisation policies, and the hope with which the First World looked at him. “He did not enjoy the legitimacy that NTR did. He was only propped up by the media and the global powers. His model of administration was not morally rooted, from which stemmed the ruthlessness of the time,” he postulated. President (Telangana), HRF, S. Jeevan Kumar minced no words in attributing the “encounters” to the regime in place. The years past are proof enough that the killings would stop if the State wished so. In a letter addressed to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao recently, HRF listed the regime-wise killings, and linked them to the policies of respective governments. Referring to the three “encounters” in which eight persons were killed after TRS government came to power, the letter sought a decisive policy announcement from the government against the “process of encounter killings”. (The Hindu 14/12/15)

Bijapur villagers recount widespread sexual assaults by men in uniform (1)

Bijapur: Large-scale violence and looting was reported between October 20 and 24, when 200 men in uniforms undertook an anti-Maoist military operation in the villages of Pegdapalli, Chinnagellur, Peddagellur, Burgicheru, and Gundam in Bijapur district. The villages where the crimes have been reported lie 18 to 25 kilometres from the nearest road and a CRPF camp, a veritable outpost of the Indian state in a region racked by a decade-long conflict which has claimed nearly 8,000 lives. The fear of violence and death stalks combatants and civilians alike. It’s a sparsely populated area – with far-flung hamlets of mud, tiled and thatched homes sprinkled amid tracts of jungle, freshly harvested paddy fields, streams and low mountains – that the state describes as Maoist-held territory it is currently trying to militarily reclaim. Since no investigator or official has visited the villages so far, the scale of the violence remains unknown. HT is reporting a partial account of incidents based on some of the interviews it conducted in three villages last week, assisted by a female Gondi translator. Karam Mungi of Burgicheru village in front of her damaged house, which security forces wrecked with wooden sticks. In Peddagellur village, the aunt of a teen who reported being gang-raped said, “Four of us were grazing our cows that morning when the force (a generic term used by villagers to refer to police as well as paramilitary personnel) arrived and started chasing us. There must have been 15-20 men.” Holding her head in her hands, she said, “They beat us severely, with sticks and rifles. I was hit on my buttocks, thighs and legs. Our cows were running. We fled scared, but they had surrounded her (the teen). Later that day, Sodi Lakshmi and I found her. She was badly bruised and swollen. Both of us brought her back home. I applied jungle medicine to her body.” Fact-finding reports from three different groups of activists, Adivasi Congressmen including the area’s legislators, and Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an Adivasi civil society group who visited the area in November contain additional accounts of violence. Over 15 women reported to the teams that their lower clothing was lifted, and they were threatened with sexual violence, including chilli being pushed into their private parts. Others said they were stripped and chased. Victims reported being chased out of their homes, occupied by security forces. In some instances, security men allegedly took off their clothes and told the women they could come and sleep inside with them. Women said even those holding infants were beaten and their hair pulled. Some children were also beaten and their clothes removed. When women tried to intervene, they were also beaten, they told the teams. Several villagers said the personnel looted money ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 27,000 from their homes. They also reported destruction of possessions like clothes, bicycles and utensils, as well as looting of chickens and essentials like rice, pulses and cooking oil, which the security men ate during the days they stayed in the villages. (Hindustan Times 16/12/15)

SPCA launches probe into incident of custodial torture (1)

KOCHI: The State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) has launched a probe into the alleged torturing of a 25-year-old man by the Ernakulam South police. The man identified as Shaiju of Thrissur was hospitalised on Wednesday evening with injuries all over his body. The police had taken him into custody on Monday in connection with a theft case. SPCA chairman Justice K. Narayana Kurup confirmed that the man had been subjected to torture under police custody and a show-cause notice would be issued to Vipin A.C., station house officer, Ernakulam South police station. Based on a complaint, Mr. Kurup on Thursday visited the Ernakulam General Hospital and collected the victim’s statement. “The person has developed urinary obstruction and haematuria owing to the torture and injuries sustained. He has now been referred to a detailed medical examination to confirm if any of his injuries are fatal,” the chairman said. He said the police placed him under custody for nearly 72 hours without recording his arrest. The SPCA chairman called upon the police to carry out investigation scientifically instead of resorting to violent torturing to bring out the truth. Based on specific information, he visited the police station here and warned the officials to desist from deploying inhuman techniques while interrogating suspects. Officials of the South police station, however, denied reports of assaulting Shaiju and said they had only interrogated him. “He was subjected to intense grilling as we could spot some contradictions in his statements. We never assaulted him,” they said. The case pertains to the lifting of a chest containing Rs.2.75 lakh from a restaurant on M.G. Road. The chest, weighing around seven kg and fastened to the floor, was lifted in the wee hours of Monday. The police had already interrogated four employees of the restaurant, who were present on the spot when the theft took place. (The Hindu 18/12/15)

‘Revise maximum sentence for juveniles’ (1)

BELAGAVI: The National Federation of Indian Women has urged the Union Law Minister to revise the maximum limit of three years of custodial sentence for juveniles under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, to ensure justice to the victims of heinous offences. NFIW office-bearers said that if the offenders aged above 16 were involved in serious crimes against young girls and women, they must not be treated as juveniles. Drawing attention towards the rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi, rape of a girl in Shakti Mills in Mumbai, they said that the law proved to be inadequate in providing protection to rape victims. The latest National Crime Records Bureau report in 2014 said that juveniles were involved in 1,175 of the reported rape cases in the country as compared to 531 in 2002. (The Hindu 20/12/15)

Dalit women allege police torture, threaten mass suicide (1)

Coimbatore, Dec 21: Fifty women belonging to a Scheduled Caste community in the district here today threatened to commit suicide en masse in protest against what they alleged was the torture of the members of the community by police on the pretext of pursuing theft cases. The women of the ‘Koravar’ community also submitted a memorandum at the District Collectorate here highlighting their plight and said they would all end their lives if no action was taken on their complaint. Dalit women threaten mass suicide Drama unfolded during the protest as an elderly woman even tried to consume a suspected poisonous substance but was prevented from doing so by a policeman. The elderly woman, Ayyamma, led the protesting women of Paramedu in Angalakurichi near Pollachi who alleged that for every theft or crime in the area, police would come to their colony and target them. It was alleged that, in the name of pursuing inquiries, police come and take away gold and other valuables belonging to the womenfolk of the colony, where 25 families have been living for the last 100 years. Ayyamma further told reporters that her son, identified as one Marimuthu, was taken for questioning three days ago but has not returned yet. She sought the intervention of the District Collector to put an end to such “torture and humiliation”. As she was speaking at the protest, Ayyamma took out some poisonous powder and tried to consume it. However, a policeman snatched it from her and foiled her attempt. When contacted, a police official said that the allegations levelled by the women would be inquired into and anybody found guilty would be punished. (One India 21/12/15)

Sikh leaders to petition NHRC (1)

KARIMNAGAR: Local leaders of Sikh community plan to petition National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over the police shooting down a youngster, S. Balwinder Singh, after the latter ran amok attacking his parents and others with a sword. Many members of the community here felt that the police had ‘other options’ than gunning down Singh, a software engineer. They feel the police overreacted while trying to nab the techie, who was apparently in a state of disturbed condition and attacked whoever came his way the previous day. Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee president Manjit Singh said the committee would petition the NHRC over the failure of police to detain the youngster. Already, members of Ameerpet Gurudwara Committee in Hyderabad complained to the State Human Rights Commission over the manner in which the One Town police station Inspector Vijayasaradhi shot dead the techie with his service pistol. Mr. Manjit Singh and other leaders of the community went to Warangal to meet Karimnagar range DIG in-charge B. Malla Reddy to complain against the Inspector. They charged that the Inspector could have shot the techie below the waist. Already, they lodged a complaint in One Town Police Station to register a case of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code against the Inspector. Civil Liberties Committee leaders, led by its general secretary M. Kumara Swamy and others, consoled the bereaved family members of the software professional. (The Hindu 24/12/15)

Girl alleges gang rape by army men in running train (1)

Ranchi: A girl has filed a police complaint alleging she was gang-raped by three army personnel in a running train on Monday, police said. Police said they have arrested one army man, and the others will be arrested soon. The girl was travelling in the Howrah-Amritsar express train. She had boarded the army compartment in the train at Howrah and was on her way to Ludhiana to meet a friend. According to the police complaint, the girl said she was offered liquor by the army men, and three personnel raped her when she was drunk. The girl got down from the train at Madhupur station in Deoghar district of Jharkhand on Monday and informed railway police, who arrested one army man. There was, however, no comment from the army about the incident. Police said a medical test will be conducted on the girl to ascertain rape. On December 20, two girls were gang-raped in the Jharkhand capital. Four youths were arrested on Monday in the case. Jharkhand has witnessed a surge in crimes against women. The number of kidnapping and rape cases this year till August stood at 996 and 1,261 respectively, up from 792 and 905 during the same period in 2014. (Business Standard 28/12/1`5)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Sikh rights group to hold convention on ‘intolerance in Punjab’ by state government (1)

JALANDHAR: Claiming that intolerant attitude is clearly visible towards dissent and opposition to established political parties in Punjab, state based NGO Sikhs for Human Rights (SFHR) has announced that they will organize a convention to highlight the dismal human rights conditions, arbitrary detentions and misuse of UAPA, sedition and preventive detention laws against political activists at Chandigarh on December 10. “The occasion will be 67th World Human Rights Day (WHRD) and the subject would be growing intolerance in Punjab, Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Punjab human rights organization, Lawyers for Human Rights and Sikh Youth of Punjab have extended their support to the programme,” said SFHR head advocate Harpal Singh Cheema while addressing a press conference here on Thursday. “The convention is being organized at Makhan Shah Lubhana auditorium, Chandigarh, to discuss, debate and formulate the strategy to counter these rights violations. He said the candle-light vigil would be held at Sector 17 in memory of all the victims of state repression,” he said. Explaining the rationale behind the meet, he said the Punjab was witnessing a new round of mass arrests as the state becomes intolerant to opposing religious and political opinion. “A congregation of Sikhs on November 10 at Amritsar which saw an assembly of more than a hundred thousand people opposed the misrule and misconduct of Akali Dal led Punjab government tooth and nail. Dubbing the whole affair anti-national and seditious, nearly three to four dozen activists, opposition party leaders, Sikh preachers, demonstrators, social media activists have been either put under house arrests or put behind bars under sedition and preventive detention laws,” he said. (Times of India 3/12/15)

‘No reason for media to seek protection against the mob’ (1)

MUMBAI: “Thanks to social media, people realized unfiltered Donald Trump was pure sewage. The US presidential candidate is a big user of social media. But for social media, people would never have known what he was all about. Social media is transparency.” New York Times journalist Clifford Levy negotiated questions in the session titled ‘Who will save us from the mob? Why should media be the only voice of sanity?’ at the Times Litfest on Friday. “Who would you call ‘the mob’ and how would you define ‘us’?” asked Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy, who said more people have begun to engage in public conversation in corridors of power, with a new elite taking centrestage. Nundy said the meeting point in the raging contemporary debate between clashing ideologies is the Indian Constitution—a common ground for the Right, Left and Centre. “If there’s a mob at your door, the Constitution will only save you if it is implemented.” “There’s no bigger mob than the media itself,” said journalist and political commentator Shekhar Gupta. He pointed to instances of mob mentality in mainstream media, like the manner in which the media deified Anna Hazare at the height of the anti-corruption movement. He sees no reason for the media to seek protection from the mob. Writer Coomi Kapoor felt the very idea that the media is the voice of sanity is a bit of a misnomer. “When Aamir Khan made a comment on intolerance, he was called anti-national by trolls. When Arun Shourie spoke out against the government, his son was mocked. Media is no longer the voice of sanity. It’s not just professional journalists but anybody who can resort to use of social media.” (Times of India 4/12/15)

This is most anti-intellectual government we have ever had: Guha (1)

BENGALURU: Puns and metaphors made way for a blistering attack by historian Ramachandra Guha at the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) on Saturday. The noted writer described the Modi government as “the most anti-intellectual and philistine” that India has ever had. In a lecture on ‘Eight Threats to Freedom of Expression’, he said anti-intellectualism is manifest in the appointments made by the Modi government. “Directors of IITs tell me that Smriti Irani (HRD minister) makes them nostalgic for Murli Manohar Joshi,” said Guha. Joshi, who was HRD minister in the Vajpayee government, was alleged to have interfered in the functioning of higher education institutions – a charge made against Irani as well. “As for Mahesh Sharma, in charge of culture, who could be more grossly anti-intellectual and philistine than him?” The other appointments Guha held up for scrutiny included Y Sudershan Rao as head of the Indian Council for Historical Research (he has since resigned), Pahlaj Nihalani as chairman of the Censor Board and Gajendra Chauhan to the Film and Television Institute of India. “The man who was chairman of ICHR has never published a scholarly paper in his life, and considers the Mahabharata and Ramayana real texts. Nihalani was brought in for composing ads in praise of Narendra Modi,” he observed. The appointments show, he said, the government’s contempt for scholarship, literature and the arts. “The PM doesn’t believe intellectuals and artistes contribute.”"Bigots and chamchas are the people this government appoints to important cultural and academic posts,” said Guha. The Congress was no better. It also appointed cronies to important positions and never supported freedom of expression. But now, the situation seems to have worsened as writers and artists are being targeted. India has never had a golden age for freedom of expression, but “my view is that the position today is indeed worse. In the past, writers had their books banned, filmmakers had their films censored, artists had their paintings vandalized. Now, they are being physically eliminated”, said Guha, referring to the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. These activist-writers were most likely murdered by Hindu fundamentalists for holding a critical view of Hindu traditions, he said. “It makes India a tragic mirror of Bangladesh.” The murders seem to indicate that writers in English are less threatened than writers in Indian languages. Nearly 10 years ago, Guha said, he wrote that India was a 50:50 democracy. “A decade later, we seem to be a 40:60 democracy.” (Times of India 6/12/15)

Media can report open court, says Justice Pasha (1)

KOCHI: Media should be careful while reporting observations as part of a court verdict, high court judge Justice B Kemal Pasha said here on Saturday. He was delivering the inaugural address at a legal workshop organized by the Ernakulam Press Club. Stating that there was no harm in reporting open court proceedings, he said the media should exercise caution while reporting closed-door court proceedings. “The public has every right to know what is happening in the court. However, the observations made by judges in a case need not appear in the verdict… The reporter should understand the essence of what is said in the court and then report. He should identify whether the reported news would turn contempt of court,” he said. Visual media should be very careful, he said. “We had lost lives of military officers due to the live reporting at the time of Mumbai terror attack,” he added. Justice Pasha has called for censorship of television serials. Pasha took exception with the themes of serials, which he found dangerous. “At present there is no censoring for television serials. That is dangerous,” he said, adding that themes of serials were mostly about eloping, abortion, infidelity and abuses. Justice Pasha said today’s serials were the new avatar of pulp fiction. Stating that he raised the issue after a reputed artist complained to him on the matter, Pasha said channels should have social commitment, and not just business interests. Justice Pasha said the judges should be aware of the developments in the society. “But judges have no right to say anything. The personal opinions of judges don’t count, he said. Sebastian Paul, former MP and media critic, also spoke. (Times of India 13/12/15)

2 booked for harassment on social media (1)

GURGAON: Two men were booked in separate cases of harassment on social media. The cases were registered on the recommendation of the cyber crime cell. According to police a doctor from Sushant Lok had lodged a complaint about an unknown person hacking into her Facebook account and posting objectionable photos. “The complainant also received calls from various numbers where the caller spoke in an inappropriate manner with her. Her Facebook profile photo had also been changed”, said a police official. In second case, police have booked a Mohali resident for allegedly sending obscene photos via WhatsApp to a Ardee City resident. When she blocked his number on WhatsApp, he started calling and harassing her. The woman moved to the police and a FIR was filed against him under relevant sections of the IT Act.”We are trying to trace the accusedinthefirst case,” said Vikas Kaushik, SHO, Sushant lok police station. (Times of India 13/12/15)

 Every country should govern its Internet: Xi Jinping (1)

Wuzhen (China) : Every nation should have independent authority over its own Internet, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Wednesday, telling a government-organised conference that “freedom and order” are both necessary in cyberspace. Rights campaigners have condemned the World Internet Conference, part of China’s push to sell its idea of “Internet sovereignty”, a concept that stands at odds with a vision of the Internet as an open global commons. “We should respect the rights of individual countries to govern their own cyberspace,” Mr Xi said in a speech opening the second forum, whose version 1.0 in 2014 was greeted with derision by activists who questioned China’s motives. “No country should pursue cyber hegemony or interfere in other country’s internal affairs,” he added.China censors online content it deems to be politically sensitive, while blocking some Western websites and the services of Internet giants including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. Mr Xi made no reference to the case of Pu Zhiqiang, China’s most celebrated human rights lawyer who was tried on Monday over seven microblog posts critical of the ruling Communist Party. “Like in the real world, freedom and order are both necessary in cyberspace: Freedom is what order is meant for, and order is the guarantee for freedom,” Mr Xi said. “We should allow users to express their ideas, and we should also build a good order in cyberspace in accordance with law, as it will help protect the legitimate rights and interests of all Internet users.” The policy is one facet of Beijing’s strict limits on freedom of expression, and rights groups say it uses state security as a pretence to crack down on political dissent. The conference was attended by a handful of high-profile figures from nations that have been criticised for their records on freedom of speech, including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev. Amnesty International has condemned the use of vaguely worded laws by Chinese authorities to “arbitrarily target individuals for solely exercising their right to freedom of expression online.” “Under the guise of sovereignty and security, the Chinese authorities are trying to rewrite the rules of the Internet so censorship and surveillance become the norm everywhere,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International. “This is an all-out assault on Internet freedoms,” she said. An October report by the American pro-democracy think tank Freedom House found that China has the most restrictive Internet policies of 65 countries studied, ranking below Iran and Syria. China has nearly 700 million Internet users — twice the population of the entire United States. (Asian Age 17/12/15)

Criminal defamation law under SC scanner (1)

NEW DELHI: The maintainability of the criminal defamation case filed by finance minister Arun Jaitley against AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and five others hinges on the impending judgment of the Supreme Court on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the criminal defamation provision in IPC. Abench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant is likely to pronounce its verdict in January on petitions filed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and Kejriwal. After holding extensive hearing over 19 days, the SC had reserved its order on August 8. The court will decide whether IPC Sections 499 and 500 are an infringement on the individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression and whether remedy against defamatory statements can be sought only through civil process— defamation suit — seeking damages from offender. The SC will also consider whether the tone, tenor and stringency of Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC needs to be read down. During the hearings, the Centre and many state governments had opposed the plea for quashing of criminal defamation provisions in IPC. They had argued the penal provision acted as a deterrent and prevented people from maligning reputations. They had contended that scrapping the law would lead to anarchy in society as people would get away with destroying the hard-earned reputation of a person. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi had told court that such a penal provision was a must in the present era of social media when a person’s reputation could be sullied in a second. He had said such activities could not be allowed under the guise of constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. “If Section 499 goes then it means that a person will have aright to hurl abuses at others. Can any civilised society permit such a thing? Someone’s hard-earned reputation will be destroyed in a second. It will result in anarchy in society,” he had said. Swamy and other petitioners submitted that criminal defamation was unconstitutional as it put unreasonable restrictions on right to free speech and expression and it should be scrapped for violation of fundamental rights. (Times of India 22/12/15)

Criminal offence of defamation is woefully out of date (1)

Today in India there are two potent threats to free speech: First, the provision of criminal defamation in the Indian Penal Code, and second, the power of the State to suspend the Internet whenever it wants to. Criminal defamation has often been used to settle political scores. For example, in 2014, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made a statement against Union minister Nitin Gadkari for which the latter filed a criminal defamation case against the CM. This legal provision is also often used to intimidate journalists. The spread of the Internet has brought some new challenges. In recent times, the State has often used the threat of communal propaganda as a pretext to suspend Internet operations in states like Gujarat (during the Patel agitation) and in Jammu and Kashmir. These new challenges can be tackled by creating a balance between public interest and free speech. And this balance must be based on objective and predictable legal principles. According to the law, even the truthfulness of an allegedly defamatory statement is not considered to be an absolute defence against criminal liability. The nature of criminal law demands that an offence be objectively and specifically defined in a statute. The penal law on defamation is a brazen violation of this basic principle of law. The offence of defamation is subject to contentious, personal and strictly non-objective considerations. On these grounds alone, the criminal offence of defamation is liable to be struck off the statute book. In the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the vagueness and the arbitrariness of a penal provision is reason enough for it to be held in violation of the Constitution. The Supreme Court added, “In creating an offence, Section 66A suffers from the vice of vagueness unlike the offence created by Section 66, none of the aforesaid terms are even attempted to be defined and cannot be defined … the enforcement of the said section would really be an insidious form of censorship which impairs a core value contained in article 19(1)(A).” As the court has already held that an arbitrary restriction of free speech is per se a violation of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, the direct corollary of the aforesaid crystallised legal principle is that defamation should be reduced to a civil offence alone…. (Hindustan Times 23/12/15)

Editors Guild aghast over militant attack on Manipur media (1)

New Delhi: “Editors Guild of India condemns violence and attack on media people by militants. Guild calls upon government of Manipur to arrest the culprits and give protection to journalists in the state. There is a serious threat to freedom of media in the state,” a Guild statement said.  ”All the newspapers in the state closed their publication on December 16 and not even a single newspaper hit the stands on December 17. In their editions dated December 16 they left the editorial space blank,” it noted. The PCI while expressing grave concern over the death threats to the Editors and working journalists in Manipur from some underground and banned organisations in the recent days sought a report from the state government on the issue. In a statement, the Council Chairman Justice Shri C K Justice Prasad said any “diktat” to the Editors or working journalists for publication or non-publication of news by state or non-state players amounted to “invasion” of the news room and it violated freedom of the press guaranteed under the constitution. The Council move followed reports of death threats received by Impact TV Editor-in-Chief Yumnam Rupachandra Singh from a militant organisation for not broadcasting a press note issued by it. Terming it as unacceptable in a democratic society, Justice Prasad said the Press Council of India, a statutory body mandated to protect freedom of the press in the country, had taken suo-motu cognizance of the threats to the media and media personnel in Manipur. The Council further said it will explore the possibility of sending a sub-committee to assess the situation in Manipur and neighbouring States in the wake of such threats. (Greater Kashmir 24/12/15)

Blasphemy isn’t freedom of speech: Asad (1)

Hyderabad: Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi on late Wednesday night reacted strongly to the comments made by a Hindu Mahasabha leader against Prophet Muhammad. Owaisi was addressing a packed gathering at the Jalsae-Rahmatulil Alameen public meeting at the party headquarters in Darussalaam. In an oblique reference to Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari, whose recent controversial comments on Prophet Muhammad, created outrage in the Muslim community in many parts of the country, Owaisi said: “The person who has made blasphemous remarks against the Prophet is walad-ul-haraam (illegal child).” He sought to buttress his point by quoting the scriptures and also by using arguments of scholars of Islam on the issue. The Hyderabad parliamentarian contended that blasphemy was not freedom of speech. “I agree that there is freedom of expression. But blasphemy isn’t freedom of speech. This is why we have section 295 and 153 A of the IPC and Article 19 G (of the Constitution),” Owaisi said. He demanded that the Samajwadi Party government take action against Tiwari. Tearing into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gaffe in Russia when he walked on despite the national anthem being played, Owaisi quoted a cartoon in a newspaper which carried the word “aawara”.He sought to compare Modi’s gaffe with the recent incident of a Muslim couple being forced to leave a movie theatre in Mumbai, for not standing up when the national anthem was being played. Even as he expressed outrage at the couple being labelled by a section of people as “anti-national”, Owaisi said, “The band started playing the national anthem and our PM started walking. What will you call him? What will the RSS khaki chaddi wearing people who call us traitors do now?” he wondered. Owaisi lashed out at right wing groups for having brought stones for the construction of a Ram Mandir at the Babri Masjid demolition site in Ayodhya. “Unless the Supreme Court delivers a verdict, not a single bird can flutter its wings,” he said…. (Times of India 25/12/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

Communal incidents have ‘declined substantially’ during NDA government: Kiren Rijiju (7)

New Delhi: The number of communal incidents in the country have declined “substantially” since the NDA government has come to power, the government said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Responding to a series of supplementaries on communal incidents in various parts of the country, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said between 2013 and October this year, the number of communal incidents reported have come down “substantially.” As opposition members questioned his remark, the minister said so far this year four major communal incidents have taken place. “In fact, the incidents have gone down and not come up since our party has come to power,” he said during Question Hour. Amid heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches, he said while there has been some rise in incidents between 2014 and 2015, but compared to 2013, they have come down. He said he was comparing the number of incidents since 2013 as NDA was not in power for the entire of 2014 but only part of it. He also said he would not like to comment on the communal incidents which took place during the UPA rule. In the written reply, government has explained that ‘major events’ are classified as those where over five persons have been killed or 10 injured or which lead to multiplicity of fatalities and extensive destruction of property. ‘Important events’ are classified where at least one person has been killed or at least 10 persons are injured. According to the written reply, in 2014, 644 ‘communal incidents’ took place, including 133 in UP, 72 in Rajasthan, 97 in Maharashtra, 56 in Madhya Pradesh, 73 in Karnataka, 10 in Jharkhand, 74 in Gujarat, 7 in Delhi, 61 in Bihar and 16 in West Bengal. This year, between January and October, 650 incidents have taken place with a maximum of 139 taking place in Uttar Pradesh. While 97 incidents were reported from Maharashtra, 86 from Madhya Pradesh, 79 from Karnataka, 24 from Jharkhand, 47 from Gujarat, 59 from Bihar and 24 from West Bengal. Rijiju rejected suggestions by Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge that there have been more communal clashes in states where BJP has “more presence” such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Bihar. “It is not a fair comment. What Kharge says does not tally with the figures. It is the responsibility of state government or MPs,” the minister asked. Saugata Roy (TMC) wanted to know whether there are plans to “control” remarks of ruling party members which fuel communal differences. Observing that he does not agree with Roy’s statement, Rijiju shot back saying, “an artificial atmosphere of intolerance is being created in the country.” Responding to a supplementary by Sushmita Dev (Cong) on whether the government will come up with a fresh definition of communal riots based on the statement of Home Minister Rajnath Singh that secularism actually means ‘panth nirpeksh’ and not ‘dharma nirpeksh’, he said as of now there is “no proposal” to change the definition. He also said government has no plans to set up a committee to investigate communal riots which have taken place in the last five years and identify the culprits. Rijiju said the responsibility of maintaining law and order rests with the state governments and the Centre assists them in a variety of ways such as sharing of intelligence, sending alerts, advisories and deploying central forces after consulting them. Responding to a question on ‘major’/'important’ communal incidents in the last two years, Rijiju said one incident each was reported from Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Haryana in 2014. Till October this year, an incident each was reported from Haryana and UP in May and October respectively. (Zee News 1/12/15)

Communal incidents: Home ministry probes why its data is different from NCRB tally (7)

New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken serious note of discrepancies in data on communal violence collected by its human rights division and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The Indian Express had on Tuesday reported that communal violence figures for 2014 revealed by the government in Parliament were almost half compared to those recorded by the NCRB for the same year. The home ministry is now investigating how this happened. Sources said the issue was discussed in the home ministry on Wednesday and a reply was sought from the NCRB as well. “The matter is being discussed. Our effort will be that in the future, a consolidated single data is released without any discrepancies,” said home ministry spokesperson K S Dhatwalia. On Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, while replying to questions on intolerance and communal violence in Lok Sabha, said that 2014 had witnessed 644 communal incidents which had risen to 650 in 2015. The NCRB figures, however, had showed that there were 1,227 communal incidents in the year 2014. This was almost double the figure of 644 that Rijiju presented in Parliament. Data on communal violence is collated by the home ministry periodically by asking states to furnish such details, and also based on reports from the Intelligence Bureau. The NCRB, on the other hand, relies on First Information Reports lodged in various police stations in a state and categorises offences according to relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code invoked in the cases. 2014 was the first time that the NCRB had put out data on incidents of communal violence. (Indian Express 3/12/15)

Vellappally hints at tie-up with BJP (26)

PATHANAMTHITTA: Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan, who is leading the Samathwa Munnetta Yatra from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, has hinted at a possible tie-up of their yet-to-be-launched political party with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Natesan was addressing a crowd at the Municipal stadium at Chengannur on Wednesday. Mr. Natesan said that the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front had made the Hindus fight each other, by keeping them in different compartments. “It is time to strive for Hindu unity,” he said. “The Samathwa Munnetta Yatra, as its title suggests, is not against Muslims or Christians as is portrayed by the CPI(M) and the Congress. The yatra is aimed at ensuring equal justice in society.” Mr. Natesan alleged that the move to book a case and arrest him was a political decision jointly taken by the LDF and the UDF following his sharp criticism of the encroachers of lakhs of acres of forestland and other government land at the Idukki meeting. His statement seeking equal justice, in the backdrop of the compensation announced for the victims in the Kozhikode manhole accident, was only a smokescreen created by the Congress and the CPI(M), Mr. Natesan alleged. He lambasted the media for “holding serial debates, picking lines singled out from his speeches and trying to portray him and fellow travellers as terrorists who are out to destroy communal harmony.” Addressing the march, Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha State general secretary T.V. Babu alleged that the “arrest threat against Mr. Natesan was nothing short of State-sponsored terrorism.” In his presidential address, Kerala Yogakshema Sabha president Akkeeramon Kalidasa Bhattathirippad said the “people of Kerala would give a fitting reply to those trying to malign the initiatives taken by Mr. Modi for national development.” (The Hindu 3/12/15)

Communal tensions rise over war of words (7)

Meerut: Muslim pockets of western Uttar Pradesh like Deoband, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli are tense after the State Hindu Mahasabha chief Kamlesh Tiwari’s statement against Prophet Mohammad, which a section of the Muslim community has found “objectionable”. The statement has been widely circulated and discussed on social media and Whatsapp, sparking protests in several cities. The Hindutva activist had targeted madrasa institutions and also made a statement against the Prophet in response to a statement by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan against the RSS. The SP leader had earlier this week allegedly called RSS activists “gay”. While students of Darul Uloom Deoband staged a protest march in Deoband town, the religious seminary issued a statement demanding strict action against Mr. Tiwari. A case was registered against unnamed Deoband students after the protest. The fact that Mr. Tiwari was arrested after he made the statement helped the administration persuade the students to withdraw their blockade of the GT road in Saharanpur. A Deoband spokesperson clarified that there was no violence during the protest during which students raised slogans against the Hindu Mahasabha leader and burnt his effigy.Meanwhile Hindu groups have scheduled retaliatory protests against the “hooliganism” of the madrasa students. Demanding their under the IPC, the local Bajrang Dal leader Vilas Tyagi said the State administration had remained “silent” when the students blocked the GT road. A meeting was organised on Friday by the local Hindutva groups to chalk out a strategy after Mr. Tiwari’s arrest. “The SP government controlled administration allowed the irate madrasa mob to indulge in hooliganism. Why were the students allowed to raise slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi? The administration is helpless when it comes to Muslim hooliganism,” alleged the Hindutva leader. “Mr. Tiwari made a statement against madrasa in response to Azam Khan’s objectionable statement against the RSS. If Mr. Tiwari committed a crime then Mr. Khan should also be behind bars,” Mr. Tyagi asserted while announcing that protests would be organised demanding the arrest of the madrasa students and Mr. Khan. Shiv Sena chief of Saharanpur city Kuldip Pundir also said protests by madrasa students would not be “tolerated.” “The administration should have handled the situation better. Why did it allow the madrasa students to come in the street and protest? It is being done to polarise the voters ahead of the Assembly by polls in Deoband and Muzaffarnagar,” he charged. The Saharanpur administration has taken necessary precautions to ensure that the protests do not snowball with police personnel widely deployed. (The Hindu 5/12/15)

1 lakh Muslims gather in Muzaffarnagar, demand death for Kamlesh Tiwari (7)

MEERUT: There is no end to the troubles of self-professed Hindu Mahasabha chief Kamlesh Tiwari, who courted controversy with his statement against the Prophet Mohammed, as close to one lakh Muslims gathered in communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar to protest against him. The protestors demanded the death penalty for Tiwari and asked for a stricter law against hate speech. “Kamlesh Tiwari has offended Muslims across India and he needs to be punished. We cannot hear any such words against our Prophet. The sentiments of Muslims should be respected. We demand that action be taken against Tiwari at the earliest. This kind of venom cannot be allowed to spread in society,” said Haji Ehsaan, a leader of the Ittehad-e-Mliiat, a Muzaffarnagar-based Islamic organization. The organization printed pamphlets, inviting people to gather at the city’s Shiv Chowk to protest against Tiwari’s remarks. Close to a lakh people gathered at the spot. Javed Ansari, Samajwadi Party’s media convener for Muzaffarnagar, said, “Our demand is two-fold. Firstly, we want nothing less than the death penalty for Kamlesh Tiwari. Anyone who insults our Prophet in such a manner deserves nothing else. He should be hanged unto death. The second demand is that we want a stricter law against such instances of hate-speeches. Nobody from any community, whether Hindu or Muslim, should be allowed to pass such comments. We want that people’s sentiments should be respected. Those who spread such hatred and animosity should be punished.” Muzaffarnagar’s city magistrate Ravinder Singh, who was at the spot to observe the situation, said, “We have ensured heavy police deployment in the area to ensure that we are able to deal with the situation if any communal tension leads to violence. However, all the protestors were peaceful. They registered their protest in a lawful manner and we are not against that.” (Times of India 11/12/15)

Tension in Malpura over FB post, 4 held (7)

JAIPUR: Police arrested four persons in Malpura town of Tonk district on Saturday for disturbing peace. On Friday about 200 people were on their way to give a memorandum to the authorities over Facebook post on their religion. However, during this time, some anti-social elements shouted slogans in favour of IS which was objected by the members of the other community. Though there were reports that the members of a community were shouting slogans to protest the arrest of Mohammed Sirajuddin by the ATS for his alleged links with IS, the Tonk police refuted such reports. “Actually, 200 people gathered in the town and were protesting against a Facebook post which was against Prophet Mohammad. While they were on their way to meet the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) to submit a memorandum, 22 youths started shouted slogans in favour of IS. Based on the complaint we have registered a case under Section 153-A (disturbing communal harmony) against 22 people and have arrested 4 persons in this connection so far,” said Deepak Kumar, superintendent of police, Tonk. He clarified, “This has nothing to do with the arrest made by ATS in Jaipur.” He added that the members of the community are cooperating with the police. Tension prevail in Malpura over FB post; police lodges case against 22 for disturbing communal harmony (Times of India 14/12/15)

Hindu temple and houses gutted in fire, leads to communal tension (7)

Jammu: An ancient temple and two houses belonging to Hindus were gutted in a fire that broke out under suspicious circumstances at two different locations, leading to tension in Kishtwar town on Tuesday. Giving details, police said that fire first broke out at the houses of Malal Chand and Rajesh Kumar at Chhan Siri village around 2 am. The residents, who were asleep at that time, however escaped unhurt, sources said. They added that the village was inhabited by Hindus. Nearly three hours thereafter, an ancient temple of Mehar Devta was gutted in fire in Mughal Maidan area around 5 kms from Chhan Siri. Significantly, the single storey wooden structured temple had no electricity connection. There was also no civilian population nearby. According to police, while anti-social elements appear to be behind the gutting of temple, electric short circuit can be the cause of fire at Chhan Siri. However, separate cases have been registered and investigations started. No arrests have been made so far. The incident led to tension in Kishtwar town, with Hindus observing bandh on the call of local Sanatan Dharam Sabha in protest over the incidents. The Minister of State for Home Sunil Sharma along with Inspector General of Police for Jammu zone, Danish Rana, rushed to Kishtwar to take stock of the situation. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere the town as both Sharma and Rana assured prompt investigations into the incidents and stern action against those found guilty. The former also assured adequate compensation to the people whose houses were gutted in fire. (Indian Express 16/12/15)

Jammu: Kishtwar town tense after temple, 2 houses gutted (7)

Jammu: Following two incidents of fire, including one at a temple, in Kishtwar on Tuesday and a rumour of cow slaughter the next day, Jammu and Kashmir Police suspect that attempts were being made to engineer communal tension in the sensitive Chenab Valley region. Police suspect the involvement of some miscreants behind the burning of the temple and two houses in Chatru area. Pointing out that the incidents indicate a pattern, official sources said that forensic experts called from Jammu have ruled out short-circuit as the reason behind the fires. Police sources said the fire first broke out at the houses of Malal Chand and Rajesh Kumar at Chhan Siri village at around 2 am. Though both the houses have electricity connection, there was no power supply in the village at that time. As a result, nobody from the affected families could notice any suspicious movement. Nearly three hours later, the ancient temple of Mehar Devta at Mughal Maidan area, around 5 km from the village, was gutted. Sources said the single-storey wooden structure has neither electricity connection nor any inflammable material stored within its vicinity to have caused the fire. Also, there is no civilian population living in the nearby area. While timely intervention by civil and police administration ensured the situation was under control, tension prevailed in Kishtwar again the next morning following reports of a cow slaughter in the town. Hindu merchants closed their business establishments in protest and vehicular traffic also remained off the roads. As senior police officers swung into action to locate the carcass, the reports turned out to be rumours. However, the police had a difficult time convincing people. Following the incidents, Minister of State for Home Sunil Sharma along with Jammu zone Inspector General of Police (IGP) Danish Rana rushed from Jammu and assured people of stern action. To keep the situation under control, Sharma also announced Rs 1 lakh for the reconstruction of the temple and Rs 10,000 each to the affected families. He also assured release of Rs 1 lakh each for the reconstruction of their houses under Indira Awaas Yojana. Union Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh announced Rs 5 lakh out of his MPLAD fund for the reconstruction of their houses. Besides, the IGP announced the constitution of an SIT headed by Kishtwar Additional Superintendent of Police Abdul Qayoom to investigate the incidents. Additional SP Qayoom, when contacted, admitted the incidents in the district during the last two days appear to have a pattern. “We have taken these incidents seriously and have intensified our vigil,’’ he added. Meanwhile, former minister and opposition National Conference MLC Sajjad Kitchloo cautioned people against “divisive forces that are hell bent upon dividing people on communal lines”. Describing the recent incidents as “politically motivated”, Kitchloo complimented the people for maintaining peace and brotherhood. He also called for action against those behind incidents of arson and rumour mongering. (Indian Express 18/12/15)

SP, Muslim Community Accuse VHP of Creating Tension (7)

Ayodhya: In the backdrop of two stone-laden trucks arriving in Ayodhya, Samajwadi Party today accused “saffron forces” of trying to disrupt communal harmony even as BSP supremo Mayawati said it is the responsibility of the state government to ensure peace. Prominent members of the Muslim community also alleged that the VHP, which had almost six months ago announced its nationwide drive to collect stones for construction of Ram temple, is “openly making mockery of judiciary”.”Saffron forces are trying to create communal tension to divert public’s attention from development works undertaken by the state government,” Ayodhya MLA and State Forest Minister Tej Narain Pandey told PTI. Reacting to the news of two stone-laden trucks reaching Ayodhya, BSP president Mayawati said, “It is the responsibility of the state government to maintain communal harmony amid increased activities of the saffron forces.”   Vice-Chairman of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) Mushtaq Ahmad Siddiqi feared the activities of the VHP may hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community and urged the state government to take preventive steps for maintaining peace and communal harmony.Another member of BMAC, Haji Mahboob, warned “Muslims will also be bound to collect stones for the construction of Babri Masjid if the VHP is collecting stone for building Ram temple.” Babri Masjid case main plaintiff Hashim Ansari alleged that while Muslims are peacefully awaiting the court verdict, “the VHP was trying to flare up communal atmosphere (in Ayodhya)”. “If we want to repair a mosque in Ayodhya, the local administration doesn’t allow us to. But the VHP is free to do anything which is a big threat to communal harmony,” Haji Asad Ahmad, the only Muslim corporator in Ayodhya, said. (Outlook 21/12/15)

Communal unrest: Karnataka town tense (7)

Bengaluru,: Gokak, a town in Belagavi district in northwestern Karnataka continues to remain tense following communal clashes on Thursday evening. The police have sent additional platoons to maintain the law and order situation in the town. Around 7 pm on Thursday, when a Eid-Milad procession was passing through the Sangolli Rayanna junction, miscreants pelted stones at the participants. A few people were injured in the incident and in retaliation, they attacked the neighborhood residents. Seven buses, two police vehicles and scores of two- wheelers were damaged in the violence. Three people, who were seriously injured, have been admitted to a local hospital. The police have imposed prohibitory orders in Gokak town. (Indian Today 26/12/15)

It was mutton, not beef: Dadri probe report (7)

MEERUT/NEW DELHI: An enquiry by the U.P. Veterinary department revealed that the meat over which Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on September 28 was mutton. What was recovered from the house of the lynching victim in Dadri was not beef, but meat of “goat progeny,” a preliminary inquiry by the Uttar Pradesh Veterinary Department has found. The “mutton sample” has now been sent to the forensic laboratory in Mathura for ‘final diagnosis,’ says the report. Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, was beaten to death on September 28 in Bisahra village in Dadri district by a mob infuriated by rumours that he and his family were eating beef. Akhlaq’s son Mohammad Danish, who was also beaten up, is recuperating. “To the best of my knowledge and after a proper physical examination, it appears the meat [about 4-5 kg] is of goat progeny,” said the veterinary officer in his report. BJP MLA Sangeet Som, who had visited the village after the incident, said he did not have faith in a State-supervised probe and demanded a CBI investigation. Mr. Som, also an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots case of 2013, had earlier offered to fight the case for the accused. During the course of the investigations and even when it filed a charge sheet against the 15 accused last week, the Uttar Pradesh police refrained from using the word ‘beef’ anywhere in its correspondences. Neither did the State, from whom the Ministry of Home Affairs had sought a report. It said there were allegations that Akhlaq was killed for consuming pratibandhit pashu ka maans [meat of an animal whose slaughter is banned]. The incident had provoked the Ministry of Home Affairs to send a strongly worded letter to all the States asking them to keep a check on incidents of communal violence and work on improving the relationship between communities. Mr. Som refused to directly comment on the veterinary department’s report. “We do not have any faith in the State-supervised probe which will never be independent and objective. The person who died should get justice, but innocents should not be punished in this process. The Samajwadi Party government is not capable of doing justice in this case,” he said. “The area was communally charged when the incident took place and we did not want to add to the tension by declaring anything about the confiscated meat,” a senior State government official told The Hindu. “It was decided to stick to the procedure. Instead of jumping the gun, we decided to wait for the forensics report which has made it clear that it was indeed mutton and not beef.” The report is now part of the charge sheet filed last week against 15 persons, including Vishal Rana and Shivam, son and nephew of local BJP leader Sanjay Rana. Vishal and Shivam allegedly spread the rumour that resulted in the mob attack on Akhlaq’s house. “This we have been saying all along. The meat in the fridge was mutton sent to us by one of our relatives,” Sartaj, Akhlaq’s elder son who works for the Indian Air Force, told The Hindu. “My father was a victim of mass hysteria created by some people who stood to benefit from the politics over beef. He won’t come back. My only request to the people is that an incident like this should not happen again.” .. (The Hindu 28/12/15)

Shamli: Ashram head arrested for sparking communal tension (7)

Kandhla (shamli): THREE DAYS after a mahapanchayat was held over a missing Hindu woman, the Shamli police on Monday arrested Acharya Jasveer Maharaj, a local sadhu who is alleged to have made an inflammatory speech that led to communal tension in the area. The mahapanchayat was attended by BJP MP Hukum Singh and MLA Suresh Rana. “We received information about Jasveer Maharaj planning to carry out a march in connection with the incident. Based on the information, the team arrested him from Muzaffarnagar district,” said Vijay Bhushan, SP, Shamli district. Jasveer, who runs a local ashram, has been sent to police custody. The mahapanchayat was called on Friday over the Shamli police’s “failure” to trace the 23-year-old Hindu woman, who went missing with a tenant of her family on November 28. The woman has since been traced.According to police sources, the woman has alleged that the accused, Mohammad Asif, took her to Delhi on the pretext of finding her a job. Asif allegedly told her that he was a chartered accountant and had contacts in Delhi. The woman, in her statement to the police, has alleged that she was locked in a room in South Delhi. The police have registered a case against Asif and his family members, including his wife, brother and mother. While Asif and his brother Arshad have been arrested, his wife and mother have fled the village. On Saturday, the police registered a case against Jasveer and others, based on a complaint filed by the local cleric, Maulana Ehtaramul Hasan. The police registered an FIR against Jasveer under IPC Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause a riot), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). Naresh Saini, a social worker from Kandhla who organised the mahapanchayat, claimed Jasveer “had just begun speaking about Prophet Muhammad” when he was stopped by the others. “He had just begun his speech and referred to the Prophet. However, he was stopped by the members on the stage,” said Saini. Asked if Jasveer was invited to the mahapanchayat, Saini said, “No. In fact, most of us don’t even know who he is. He came here after the news of a mahapanchayat spread to the bordering districts of Shamli. He was not asked to speak at the gathering. We also did not know what he was going to speak about.” However, Hasan, the complainant in the case, said: “Why was Jasveer allowed to speak at the event? On whose behalf was he invited to the event? The BJP, Bajrang Dal leaders shared the dais and watched him deliver an inflammatory speech. The Muslim community does not have a problem about a mahapanchayat being organised. But if this is done only to hurt the sentiments of Muslims, police have to take action. His speech was not just inflammatory but also derogatory. We demand that the National Security Act be slapped against him for referring to the Prophet.” (Indian Express 29/12/15)

COMMUNALISM

Prepare ground for building Ram Temple: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (26)

New Delhi: A day after Mohan Bhagwat said he was confident of seeing the Ram Temple built in his lifetime, the RSS chief, in a series of tweets on Thursday, urged society to prepare the ground for it. “The temple will be built within my lifetime… We need to plan it carefully… (we need) a good mix of ‘josh’ and ‘hosh’,” Bhagwat had said in Kolkata on Wednesday. While he said that the Ram Temple could be built anywhere, Bhagwat added that Ayodhya was the birthplace of Ram. “Just as terrorists attacked the twin towers of World Trade Centre in the US because it was their economic centre. Similarly, this Ram Temple was attacked several times earlier as it was our cultural heart. We couldn’t do anything earlier because at that time we were weak. Now it is in a broken state and should be redone,” he said. On Thursday, the RSS’s official Twitter handle sent out three tweets quoting Bhagwat on the issue. In one tweet, he recalled that the Somnath temple was rebuilt with the “efforts” of then Home Minister Sardar Patel. In another tweet, Bhagwat asked society to prepare for the building of a grand Ram Temple. “Ram aur Sharad Kothari ke jeevan se prerna lekar samaj khada ho aur Somnath ke samaan bhavya Ram mandir ke nirman hetu taiyyar ho (Society should draw inspiration from Ram and Sharad Kothari and prepare for building a grand Ram Temple like Somnath),” the RSS chief was quoted as saying, referring to the kar sevaks who were killed in the police firing in Ayodhya in 1990. The BJP, meanwhile, evaded questions on Bhagwat’s comment. “I do not know,” was the first response of union minister Nirmala Sitharaman when asked to react to his remarks. She, however, added, “It is not a new statement. It has been said several times. BJP definitely believes Ram Temple should be built sometime.” Bhagwat, however, found a tacit supporter in spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who said on Thursday that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya should be constructed, but with everyone’s consent. He was speaking at an event in the Capital. (Indian Express 4/12/15)

Action sought against Hindu Mahasabha president (26)

BELAGAVI: The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to take stringent action against Kamlesh Tiwari, working president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha for his alleged blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad. In a memorandum submitted to Mr. Yadav through the office of the Deputy Commissioner here on Saturday, IUML district president K.F. Gorikhan said that 25 crore Muslims living in India were deeply hurt by the derogatory remarks allegedly made by Mr. Tiwari in a public speech in Lucknow on Tuesday. Mr. Tiwari also allegedly distributed pamphlets with derogatory remarks to the public. He said that actions by persons like Mr. Tiwari were dividing the plural society. Of late, ever since the new government headed by members of Sangh Pariwar came to power at the centre, an anti-Muslim atmosphere was building up all over the country and not willing to learn lessons from its recent humiliating defeat in Bihar assembly elections. (The Hindu 6/12/15)

VHP setting up village committees to enlist support for Ram Temple (26)

MEERUT: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has re-launched the movement for the creation of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a movement which led to the meteoric rise of its late founder Ashok Singhal in saffron ranks in the late 1980s. The VHP’s Shamli unit has been setting up ‘village committees’ that will hold village-level meetings to enlist the people’s support for the demand. The VHP is planning a stir in January if the Central government does not make its stand clear. “We have started the process of setting these committees. The process began in November. These committees will consist of VHP workers and locals. The aim will be just to have discussions with people on the ground. The people want a Ram Temple in Ayodhya and we ask them to join our movement. Very soon, there will be a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Ram at his birthplace,” said Subhash Malik, Shamli district president of the VHP. Malik echoed the views of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat who had said that a Ram Temple would be the best tribute to Ashok Singhal. “Ashok Singhal Ji dedicated his entire life to the nation and the Ram Janmbhoomi movement. It would have been ideal if the temple was built in his lifetime but if a temple is built now, it would a tribute to him as well as it would honor the sentiments of the Hindus.” He also said the 2010 Allahabad HC order dividing the disputed land in Ayodhya into three parts was not acceptable to them. “Some people are demanding that the Babri Mosque be rebuilt at the spot. That is unacceptable to us. The entire land is the birthplace of our lord and there is no question of a Mosque at the location.” (Times of India 7/12/15)

Bhopal: Admin reluctant to act against VHP activists who wielded swords (26)

Bhopal: The Bhopal district administration has developed cold feet in the face of the Opposition and Civil Society members’ demand to take action against VHP activists who brandished swords during a procession in Bhopal on December 6 to mark Shourya Diwas. Despite the fact that the saffron brigade observe the day as Shourya Diwas to mark the anniversary of disputed shrine demolition at Ayodhya in 1992, the district administration approved the permission to perform puja of as many as 150 swords. As per official sources, the administrative officials forgot the fact that as per Hindu rituals, Dussehra is the occasion when ‘shastra puja’ is performed and not December 6. Sources further said that none of the authorities checked the fact as to from where these 150 swords had surfaced and later disappeared. On Tuesday, Congress MLA from Bhopal Arif Aqueel had raised the issue in the state assembly and accused the government for being soft towards those who wished to disturb peace in society. Bhopal collector Nishant Warwade was not available for his comments. However, ADM Bhopal BS Jamod said the permission was granted on the recommendations of the police. SP (North), Bhopal Arvind Saxena said there was no aggressive stance or provocation or aberration during the procession. It was absolutely peaceful. The permission for event was granted as per social customs. (Times of India 10/12/15)

Opposition attacks Govt over Hindutva issue (26)

New Delhi: The Left and Congress on Friday attacked the government on the intolerance issue, saying the Hindutva agenda is not an example of tolerance and the country will not move forward with majoritarianism. Rejecting the charge, the Government said tolerance is the essence of India’s culture and values and the country belongs equally to Hindus and Muslims or any other religion. It alleged that the “so-called” intellectuals with Left ideology were “giving lessons on intolerance” as they were unable to digest BJP’s victory. Congress and Left claimed the Bihar poll verdict was the result of the Narendra Modi Government’s “skewed policies” and a “reverse wave” has started against BJP, which rejected it saying the opposition is unable to digest its victory. “Waves don’t stop, they keep moving. They have now started in the reverse against BJP. Narendra Modi and BJP promised the moon to people of the country before polls and they are feeling cheated today as none of the promises were fulfilled,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said while participating in a debate on “Has Modi wave waned?” at an ‘Agenda AajTak’ event. Sharma also asked the government to hear out those who returned their awards over the issue of intolerance. Attacking the government, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said its policies were not right and it has been proved by the results of Bihar Assembly election and Gujarat civic poll. She alleged that the government’s priorities do not include the poor and the marginalised. “If intolerance and majoritarianism is brought in, then how will India move forward. You are not an example of tolerance. Your Hindutva agenda is not an example of tolerance,” she said. Citing the example of a question on intolerance asked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a press conference in London, she said, “First time in decades the Prime Minister had to answer such a question at an international press conference.” Countering them, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked the “so-called intellectuals” with Left leanings for tarnishing the country’s image by raising the issue of intolerance. “Tolerance is the very essence of India. It is part of our culture and values. This country belongs equally to Hindus, Muslims or Christians or any other religion. But suddenly so-called intellectuals are trying to tarnish India’s image by talking of intolerance. What worries us is that they are unable to digest our victory and that is why they are giving us lessons on intolerance,” he said. He added that earlier it was all parties against the Congress, now all are against the BJP. “This is our victory,” he said. (The Statesman 11/12/15)

Row over anti-prophet statement: Amid protests, Hindu outfit denounces remarks (26)

Lucknow: The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) has distanced itself from self-proclaimed Hindutva activist Kamlesh Tiwari, whose alleged remarks against Prophet Muhammad led to massive countrywide protests by Muslims. Tiwari claims to be the working president of ABHM. “Any disrespect to the Prophet is not appropriate. ABHM does not agree with Tiwari and it is his personal view. We respect all religions and their leaders. We are committed for Akhand Hindu Rashtra, Hindu, Hindi and Hindustan. We are a supporter of development of all communities,” said a written statement by Munna Kumar Sharma, who claims to be the national general secretary of the ABHM. Angry over Tiwari’s alleged remarks, Muslims have held large protest rallies in Ludhiana, Indore, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Bhopal and other regions over the last few days. On Sunday, there were protests in Hyderabad and Lucknow, with protesters blocking the Lucknow-Hardoi road for hours. In UP, protests have been held in at least a dozen districts so far. On Friday, large scale protests were held in Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Moradabad, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Farrukhabad, Lucknow and several other districts. At Deoband, students of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, too, joined the protests. Earlier, on December 5, All India Muslim Personal Law Board President and Rector of Islamic Seminary Nadwatul Uloom, Maulana Rabey Hasan Nadwi, had written to CM Akhilesh Yadav asking him to formulate a policy for punishing those who issued statements against other religions. Later, in his meeting with prominent Muslim clerics on December 9, the CM assured stern action against Tiwari. Subsequently, the Lucknow police invoked NSA against Tiwari on December 10. In a sharp reaction to a reported attack on RSS members by the state’s minority welfare minister Azam Khan on November 29, Tiwari issued his statement that was widely circulated on the social media for at least two days. After the statement was reported in the Urdu media, it triggered the first massive protest in Saharanpur on December 2. Tiwari was arrested the same day, and continues to be in jail. “We condemn his statement. He should not have given such a statement. He does not hold any post in the organisation and there is no need for giving him importance,” Munna Kumar Sharma told The Indian Express. At a press conference in Lucknow on Friday, Tiwari’s supporters had claimed that he had issued the statement in reaction to Azam Khan’s comments against RSS leaders. Even Tiwari’s lawyer, Mahadev Singh, said that while his client had indeed issued the statement on November 30, “he did not mean” to comment on the Prophet….. (Indian Express 24/12/15)

RSS has grown, its critics have shrunk, says UP governor (26)

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik said that despite criticism since the days of Pandit Nehru, the RSS has continued to grow even as the credibility, capacity and numbers of those ‘angry’ with the sangh have been going down. He was replying to questions at the ‘Coffee with Hindustan Times’ session held on its office premises in Lucknow on Tuesday. On being asked about his RSS connection and why the sangh was being blamed for the growing intolerance in the country, he said, “Criticism against RSS is not new. It has been there since the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru accused the RSS. Then Indira and Rajiv did the same. Now, Sonia (Gandhi) and Rahul are also doing this. Despite the criticism, RSS has continued to grow and gain credibility. I feel the RSS is a nationalist organisation.” Commenting on Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s recent remark on the growing intolerance in the country, Naik said top Bollywood actors were the ‘shaan’ (pride) of Mumbai but not everything they said was ‘shaandar’. “India is a tolerant country which is why people still go to watch their movies despite the remarks made by them. Why should the image of Mumbai or the country be spoiled because of a few stray remarks,” said Naik, who has been a three-time MLA from a Mumbai constituency and five-time MP from the Maharashtra capital. Asked to comment on the fact that most of the writers who returned their awards or spoke about intolerance were from Maharashtra, Naik said such people were in a minority. Rejecting the notion that there was a growing chorus against intolerance, the governor said, “Check how many people have received literary awards so far and how many out of them are alive. Then you decide how many of them have actually returned their awards. You will find that the protesters are in a minority. I agree that the minority can express itself and should be allowed to express its views, but it certainly can’t rule.” To corroborate his point on intolerance, governor Ram Naik said, “I don’t know much about films, but I believe that when Salman Khan was recently acquitted in the 2002 hit-and-run case, not just his family and friends but many others across the country celebrated his acquittal. That is why I say that India is a tolerant country.” (Hindustan Times 15/12/15)

BJP, VHP, Bajarang Dal protest against ‘Dilwale’ (26)

The Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha held a protest against the screening of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Dilwale’ in Jabalpur. The reason for the agitation is the statement made by Shah Rukh Khan, film’s lead actor and producer, against rising ‘intolerance’ in India last month. Right Wing groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajarang Dal, have also been protesting against the Shah Rukh Khan starrer in Rajasthan over the last few days for the same reason. Two people, allegedly from Bajarang Dal also filed a memorandum against the release of ‘Dilwale’ to the local administration. Meanwhile, the BJP Yuva Morcha also held protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’, which led to the cancellation of three shows in Pune’s City Pride theatre. They were also joined by the descendants of Peshwa and Chhatrasal dynasty. The protestors have alleged that the film has distorted history regarding the life of Peshwa Bajirao, which, they feel, is ‘hurting’ the sentiments of his followers. (Times of India 18/12/15)

VHP gathers stones for Ram temple, Ayodhya litigants see poll ploy (26)

Ayidhya: Fresh lots of stones meant for construction of Ram Temple arrived at the office of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Ayodhya, prompting the stakeholders of the Ayodhya dispute to speak out against what they called was a political stunt. Two trucks of stones were unloaded at Ram Sewak Puram, a VHP property, on Sunday and nearly 75,000 cubic feet of stones were still awaited, according to representatives of the right-wing party. A ceremony was performed by Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Mahanta Nritya Gopal Das shortly afterwards. Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the case, said the ‘shila pujan’ performed on the new stones may harm the atmosphere and asserted that he wanted peace to prevail in the country. Ansari said the issue was being used to generate political heat on the directions of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat. Another plaintiff Haji Mehboob said both Hindus and Muslims could see through the drama being enacted by the VHP. “Everybody knows that the final decision will be that of the Supreme Court. Accelerating the stone carving process is just a political stunt,” he added. VHP state spokesman Sharad Sharma told HT that “the dreams of Ashok Singhal and Ramchandra Paramhansa Das to construct a grand Ram temple would come true very soon”. To a question, Sharma said stone carving work was being done at the Ayodhya workshop regularly since 1990 except for a short break been 2007-2010. He added that about 65% of the carving work had been completed. Rejecting any political motive behind the arrival of a fresh lot of stones, he said it happened after a gap of eight years since there were either no funds to buy the stones or they were unavailable. (Hindustan Times 22/12/15)

RSS spreads Hindu culture globally (26)

Bengaluru, Dec 22: In a major expansion, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has spread its wing to 39 countries, according to media reports. As per a report published in TOI, the RSS is popularly known as Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS). RSS Many Indians living on the foreign soil remain connected to the Indian roots, as they have joined the RSS shakhas in the countries they live in. Ramesh Subramaniam, coordinator of RSS’s overseas work from Mumbai helped in establishing shakhas in Mauritius from 1996 to 2004. HSS also works in close assosiation with other Hindu organisations like Chinmaya and Ramakrishna missions. The saffron surge of RSS is actively present in the US, UK and five in the Middle East. The first RSS shakha that was held outside India was in 1946 on a ship in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city. Unlike their uniform consisting of white shirt and khaki shorts, the uniform outside comprises of black pants and a white shirt and RSS members chant “Vishwa Dharma Ki Jai” on the foreign soil, to keep their culture alive and vibrant. Another country, Finland conducts e-shakhas via-video-conferencing. Outside India, Nepal has the highest number of RSS shakhas and the US comes on second slot with 146 shakhas. The UK has 84 shakhas. In US, shakhas take place inside university campuses on hired parking lots, an RSS member said. In Kenya, RSS was earlier known as Bharat Swayamsevak Sangh (BSS) and later it spread its ideology to other South African countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe Uganda and Mauritius. The UK will celebrate 50 years of RSS in 2016. (One India 22/12/15)

RSS wants temple work to start before UP polls: VHP trust (26)

Lucknow: Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas member and former BJP MP Ram Vilas Vedanti Wednesday said that collection of stones for the proposed Ram temple will continue and more artisans will be engaged to step up the carving work so that construction can be undertaken before the 2017 assembly polls in UP. “Required quantity of stones will arrive at the workshop in the next three months… The RSS and the saints’ fraternity are of the view that construction of the Ram temple should begin before the 2017 assembly polls in UP,” Vedanti told The Indian Express.“New machines will be installed and more artisans will be engaged soon to speed up the work at the workshop,” Vedanti said. He claimed he recently met BJP MPs in Delhi who told him that they want the Centre to call a joint session of Parliament to pass a bill paving the way for construction of the temple. Work on carving stones to make structures is underway at the workshop of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas in Ayodhya. The work is being overseen by VHP secretary general Champat Rai, according to VHP Awadh Prant Sah-Mantri Umesh Pandey. (Indian Express 24/12/15)

Awakened’ Hindus can lead world on path of peace: RSS (26)

Indore: RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi on Tuesday said that an “awakened” Hindu community can lead the entire world on a path of happiness, peace and harmony. Inaugurating ‘Vishwa Sangh Shivir’, Joshi said, “The world will awaken when the Hindus awaken, and this awakening will ensure the human liberty. The Hindus can lead the world on a path of happiness, peace and harmony. “We Hindus want to influence the world with our thoughts. We do not want to enslave the world. Our lifestyle and practises are full of love for everybody. We do not harbour hatred for anyone,” he said. The senior RSS leader cited Swami Vivekanand to add that both India and Hinduism must be saved from flaws, and the religion in India must be safeguarded for the sake of the welfare of the world. While there are and would always be some or other problems in the country, we must have faith in our philosophies, he said. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who also spoke on the occasion called the participants of the camp “India’s cultural ambassadors”.She noted that people of Indian-origin were members of many Parliaments world over, and they are raising people’s issues in those houses. “Whenever Indians went to other countries, they didn’t go with the intention of conquest, but went to spread the good things from our country outside,” she said. The Indian traditions and religious rituals are closely connected with the nature, and a tradition such as worship of trees has underlying message of environmental protection, the Speaker stressed. Some 700 delegates from various countries are taking part in the camp, organised by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, a cultural outfit. It will conclude on January 3. (IBN Live 30/12/15)

TERRORISM

Islamic State’s latest manifesto vows to expand war to India (12)

New Delhi: The Islamic State has vowed to expand its fight to India, citing prophecies that refer to a global war. The threat is made in a new manifesto — Black Flags from the Islamic State — released online on jihadist platforms Tuesday. “The Islamic State would now expand beyond Iraq and Syria,” states the manifesto. “It would now expand into… India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan (and several other countries).” In a first, the organisation also offers an analysis of the political situation in India. It notes that “a movement of Hindus is growing who kill Muslims who eat beef. The people who fund these organisations want to grow a huge following of Islam-haters who can turn into potential recruits for future wars in their countries”. It states that “President Narender Modi (sic) is a right-wing Hindu nationalist who worships weapons and is preparing his people for a future war against Muslims”. “They have a political wing for the propaganda to get more recruits, and armed militia who can start a terror campaign against their number 1 enemy — the Muslims,” it states. Future Islamic State battles, it claims, “will rage in every country, and this is why there is (sic) over one-and-a-half billion Muslims in the world”. “They will fight the New World Order in every land and every place. The peak of this war against the New World Order will be the battle against al-Dajjal (the Antichrist),” it states. “You will be sucked into the New World Order if you stay in your comfort zone and accept submission to the oppressors, or you can emigrate and fight to defend your religion and your life,” it states. In the manifesto, the Islamic State describes its theory of how insurgencies against regimes can be developed, and gives supporters detailed instructions on how to operate covert cells, build explosives, and maintain operational secrecy to defeat security service surveillance. The Islamic State’s strategy, the manifesto states, is to “do hit and run tactics and then go into hiding so (the world) can waste millions or billions of Euros on 100,000-plus police, investigators, and it can shut down its major cities and lose its money”. It claims that the shutdown after the Paris terror attack cost Belgium 53 million Euros per day. “For what,” it asks. “To hunt 20 people who have basic AK-47 rifles which cost a few thousand dollars maximum.” Future attacks, it states, “will make groups in the West attack Islam and Muslims in Europe, forcing Muslims in the West to pick up weapons and start a fight to defend themselves”. The key to building successful covert cells, it states, is recruiting individuals whose commitment can be vouched for, and not using electronic devices. Fugitive Paris attack mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, it states, did not use phones or e-mail to communicate with other members of the cell, which carried out the plot. (Indian Express 3/12/15)

Obama vows to defeat ISIS, rules out sending ground troops (12)

Washington: Reaffirming his commitment to destroy the Islamic State, US President Barack Obama said America will destroy any militant organisation that tried to harm its people but ruled out sending large scale troops on the ground as done in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq. In a rare address to the nation from his Oval Office of the White House, Obama said his strategy to destroy ISIS is designed and supported by US military commanders and counter-terrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition. Obama said the threat from terrorism is real, but US will overcome it. “We will destroy ISIL (another name for ISIS) and any other organisation that tries to harm us,” he said. “Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power,” he added. In his speech, Obama ruled out sending large scale troops on the ground. “We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield. ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq,” he said. “But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops and draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits,” said the US President. “The strategy that we are using now — air strikes, special forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory, and it won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil,” Obama said. This was Obama’s only third speech from the Oval House in seven years. The previous two addresses, both in 2010, covered the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the end of combat operations in Iraq. Stating that the US military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary, he said, “In Iraq and Syria, air strikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.” “And since attacks in Paris, our closest allies, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL,” said the US President. “Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens,” he said. In both countries, the US is deploying special operations forces who can accelerate that offensive. “We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and will continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground. Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations, to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters,” he said. “And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done,” he said. Obama said if the Republican-majority Congress believes, that the US is at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorise the continued use of military force against these terrorists. Obama said he believes that the United States is at war with ISIL. “For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of air strikes against ISIL targets. I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed to this fight,” he said, but ruled out sending large-scale troops on the ground. Further in his address to the nation, Obama said, “Over the last few years, however, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase.” “As we’ve become better at preventing complex multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society. It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009, in Chattanooga earlier this year, and now in San Bernardino,” he said. The US President decided to address the nation in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack by a radicalised couple Pakistani national Tashfeen Malik, and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, of Pakistan origin. “This was an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people. Our nation has been at war with terrorists since Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11,” he said. “In the process, we’ve hardened our defences, from airports, to financial centres, to other critical infrastructure. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas and worked around the clock to keep us safe,” he said. “Our military and counter-terrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas, disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama Bin Laden, and decimating Al Qaeda’s leadership,” he added. Noting that over the last few years the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase, Obama said: “As groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers.” Stating that for seven years he has confronted this evolving threat every morning in his intelligence briefing, Obama said since the day he took over the President’s office, he has authorised US forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because he knows how real the danger is. “As commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people. As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and co-workers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris,” he said. “And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure,” Obama said. (Deccan Herald 7/12/15)

ISIS planning to build a ‘state’ in Iraq and Syria: Report (12)

London: A leaked dossier of Islamic State terror group published on Tuesday in a leading newspaper show the sophisticated plans of the militant group in building a state in Iraq and Syria complete with government departments, a treasury and an economic programme for self-sufficiency. The 24-page dossier outlines how the terror group is trying to build a state complete with guidelines for education, natural resources, industry, diplomacy, propaganda and the military. The 10 chapter-long document titled ‘Principles in the administration of the Islamic State (ISIS) dated some time between July and October 2014, was obtained by the ‘Guardian’ newspaper. It is written by an Egyptian called Abu Abdullah al-Masri and gives an insight into the well-funded regime and outlines how fighters must receive “training on bearing light arms”.Charlie Winter, a senior researcher for Georgia State University told the newspaper: “Far from being an army of irrational, bloodthirsty fanatics, ISIS is a deeply calculating political organisation with an extremely complex, well-planned infrastructure behind it.” Abdullah also calls for a single identity for the terror group to unite both foreigners and locals and makes the case for establishing independent “factories for local military and food production” in the dossier. “The preparatory camp is the first home and school of the mujahid in which his military and jihadi training sessions take place and he undergoes sufficient education in matters of his religion, life and jihad,” says chapter three titled ‘Administration of the Camps’. “The camp includes sharia sessions in fiqh of doctrine and rulings, with special sessions in Islamic society and manners, and training on bearing light arms and the principles of use,” it said. It opens with the explanation that “on the expansion of the Islamic State, the state requires an Islamic system of life” and the document intends to “deal with each one of the many challenges and difficulties” in the establishment of an Islamic State. (Zee News 8/12/15)

LeT operative arrested in Mumbai; prominent Bengaluru citizens were on radar (12)

Mumbai: The NIA has arrested a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Asadullah from Mumbai airport on Wednesday. The operative was apparently held in connection with criminal conspiracy to kill prominent citizens in Bengaluru, as per ANI. Meanwhile, a terror plot by two suconfectionspected LeT operatives to carry out ‘fidayeen’ (suicide) attacks in the national capital targeting “high profile personalities” was unearthed by the Delhi Police, as per reports on December 05. The alleged conspiracy came to light when the Special Cell of Delhi Police received an intelligence input about two suspected LeT operatives, identified as Dujana and Ukasha, who allegedly infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), following which an FIR was registered, police sources had said, as per PTI. The FIR was registered on December 1 at the Special Cell office in Lodhi Colony in Delhi under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC and relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and doesn’t name any suspects. It was submitted at the concerned anti-terror court, sources had said. According to the complaint, LeT is conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks in Delhi and other places in the country, for which alleged handlers have infiltrated operatives in India through Jammu and Kashmir and other international borders, sources had said. In July, the Special Cell had registered an FIR against unknown persons suspected to be associated with the ISIS and allegedly conspiring terror attacks in the national capital and other cities. (Zee News 9/12/15)

 ‘Arrested IOC official was in touch with IS activists’ (12)

Jaipur: Mohammed Sirajuddin, marketing manager, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), arrested for his alleged links with Islamic State (IS), got involved in activities of the terror outfit about five months ago and was in touch with people of similar ideology from within India and abroad, police said on Friday. Sirajuddin, a native of Gulbarga in Karnataka, was arrested in Jaipur on Thursday by the Special Operation Group (SOG) and ATS of Rajasthan Police and charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The accused was very much influenced by IS ideology and was trying to draw Muslim youths into the terror outfit’s fold, Additional Director-General of Police (ATS and SOG) Alok Tripahti said. Sirajuddin was in touch with many Indian youths from outside Rajasthan, Mr. Tripathi said, adding that no links with local residents were found so far. “We are investigating his links in Gulbarga where he belongs to,” he said. Mr. Trpathi said the accused was involved in brainwashing Muslim youths through WhatsApp and Facebook. Copies of online magazines of IS were also recovered from his possession. (The Hindu 11/12/15)

Seven militants killed in Pakistan (12)

At least seven militants were killed in two separate encounters with police in Pakistan on Saturday, local media and officials said. One of the clashes took place in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi where two militants were killed when police launched an operation on a tip-off. Senior Superintendent of Police of Karachi, Rao Iftikhar, said that the slain militants were members of outlawed outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and were involved in various incidents of target killing and kidnapping for ransom in the city. In a separate incident in the country’s east Punjab province, five militants were killed in a clash with police in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Police said that the intelligence department received information that some insurgents from a banned outfit were plotting a massive terrorist attack in the province to avenge the militants killed in the ongoing military operation in tribal areas. (Business Standard 12/12/15)

Army refutes reports of NSCN ambush on AR troops (12)

GUWAHATI: Personnel of Assam Rifles were reportedly ambushed by suspected members of the banned NSCN (Khaplang) at Langka in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Myanmar on Monday night. However, the Army denied reports of ambush by any militant outfit in the area. Defence PRO Lt Col S Newton said, “There is no report of any such ambush but there are counter-insurgency operations by Assam Rifles on in the area. There was some firing at Langka in which one rebel was killed. We do not have any information regarding his identity nor the outfit to which he belongs. There is also no report of any inquiry or casualty on the part of Assam Rifles.” Security sources said the firing started on Monday night and continued till Tuesday. There are also reports of militants using RPGs on the AR personnel. The initial suspicion was on the Khaplang faction, which has its presence in the area. The group had earlier killed 18 soldiers of the Army’s Dogra Regiment in Manipur’s Chandel district on June 4, this year. On November 6, the Centre banned the outfit, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for resorting to terrorism by killing innocent civilians and security forces troops and engaging in other violent activities, including the June 4 attack on the Army convoy in Chandel district. (Indian Express 16/12/15)

Delhi, Orissa police arrest 2, bust Al Qaeda module (12)

New Delhi: The Delhi police’s special cell on Wednesday claimed to have busted an Al Qaeda module with the arrest of its 41-year-old Indian head Mohammed Asif. Another suspect, identified as Abdul Rahman, 37, was arrested in a parallel operation by the Orissa police. While Asif was picked up from northeast Delhi’s Seelampur locality, Rahman was apprehended by a joint team of the Delhi police and Bhubaneswar-Cuttack commissionerate police from his house in Jagatpur area of Cuttack in Orissa. The police said that Asif, who is believed to be one of the founding members and the Indian head (amir) of Al Qaeda in the Indian sub-continent (AQIS), floated by Ayman al Jawahiri, is the first ever detection of the module. The two have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, said special commissioner of police (special cell) Arvind Deep in Delhi. The police recovered three mobile phones, a laptop and other “incriminating articles”, including documents of indoctrination and jihadi literature (authored by Maulana Umar) from Asif’s possession. Rahman is suspected to have international links in countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Dubai. Rahman, who is married and has three children, ran a madrasa at Tangi area near Cuttack. His brother Tahir Ali was arrested in 2001 in connection with the terrorist attack on the American Centre in Kolkata, the police said. “In June 2013, Asif left Delhi, along with two other youths, for Tehran in Iran, where they met Qasim, who arranged tickets for Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran, from where they further headed towards the Iran-Pakistan border and crossed it over foot,” Mr Deep said. “After reaching Pakistan, they continued their journey and crossed south Waziristan to reach Sumali in north Waziristan, where Asif met his long-emigrated Indian friend, Usman (code name Assad).” (Asian Age 17/12/15)

Delhi Court acquits Babbar Khalsa India head (12)

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court has acquitted the India head of the terrorist outfit, Babbar Khalsa International, in a case registered under the Explosive Substance Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2006. Additional Sessions Judge Reetesh Singh acquitted Paramjeet Singh Behora, stating that a different judge had earlier acquitted two members of the terrorist outfit charged with the same offences in the case, disbelieving their arrest and recovery of arms and ammunition from them. The Judge said Behora could not be convicted on the basis of the witnesses and evidence on which the two accused were earlier acquitted in the case. “The witnesses and evidences relied upon by the prosecution against Paramjeet Singh Behora are indivisible and inseparable from the witnesses and evidences relied upon qua Jasbir Singh and Bhupinder Singh ( who were earlier acquitted) which stands disbelieved. In view of the ratio and law laid down by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, benefit of acquittal of Jasbir Singh and Bhupinder Singh will have to be extended to Paramjeet Singh Behora as well,’’ the Judge said acquitting Behora. “The co-accused apprehended… have been acquitted of similar charges as framed against Paramjeet Singh by the predecessor of this court on the same set of evidence relied upon in the present trial. There are contradictions and gaps in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses examined in the present trial against Paramjeet Singh. These contradictions and gaps stand amplified in view of the fact that there are no public witnesses associated with the police teams in their proceedings that led to the apprehension of Paramjeet Singh and recoveries made from him,’’ the Judge further said. (The Hindu 18/12/15)

Govt: Two absconding IM members joined IS (12)

New Delhi: Two absconding members of the banned Indian Mujahideen (IM) have joined the terrorist group Islamic State (IS), Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday. “There are intelligence inputs of one or two members of the Indian Mujahideen, who were absconding from India since many years, having joined the ISIS/ISIL,” Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha. Mr. Chaudhary said there are no intelligence inputs of members of SIMI seeking shelter in Nepal. “However, the members of the Indian Mujahideen have been known to have hideouts in Nepal, the Gulf and in Pakistan,” he said. (The Hindu 22/12/15)

Khalistanis raise funds to foil terrorist’s deportation (12)

NEW DELHI: Alleged pro-Khalistan elements including Sikhs for Justice (SFS) have stepped up efforts to prevent the deportation of Babbar Khalsa International terrorist Paramjeet Singh ‘Pamma’, arrested in Portugal last week, to India. According to intelligence reports, around Rs 25 lakh has been raised from gurudwaras in France and UK over the past few days, apparently to help Paramjeet engage a formidable legal defence to contest his deportation. The intelligence agencies have reported that one Avtar Singh of Sikhs for Justice, a New-York based Sikh rights outfit, arrived in Paris from Canada on December 20, a couple of days after Paramjeet–wanted for 2010 twin bomb blasts in Patiala and Ambala and murder of Rashriya Sikh Sangat leader Rulda Singh in 2009–was nabbed by the Portugal police. He was facilitated by Shamsher Singh who is reported to have handed to Avtar around Rs 4.4 lakh in euros, raised from members of Gurudwara Singh Sabha, Bobigny, France. The money, according to the Indian intelligence agencies, was meant to prevent the deportation of Paramjeet to India.Apart from this, over Rs 21 lakh was reportedly collected at Gurudwara Arjun Dev, Leicester, UK, on December 20 as part of efforts to prevent deportation of the ex-BKI militant from Portugal. A senior officer of the Indian security establishment told TOI that the Sikhs for Justice was under the radar of the intelligence agencies for aiding terrorists and funding of terror, and that the governments of Canada and UK would be contacted to act against the outfit. India is likely to initiate the process of deportation of Paramjeet Singh from Portugal. It is expected to be a long-drawn affair and may involve the furnishing of a sovereign guarantee to Portuguese authorities that Paramjeet would not be handed death sentence by the Indian courts, as was done in the case of underworld gangster Abu Salem before he was deported from Portugal. Paramjeet was reportedly based in England on ‘political asylum’ since 1994-95. An Interpol red corner notice subject, he was tracked while staying at a hotel in Portugal. Paramjeet was reportedly the main fundraiser for BKI and later associated with Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) headed by Jagtar Singh Tara, one of the assassins of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh. (Times of India 23/12/15)

Naga insurgent arrested (12)

BENGALURU: The National Investigation Agency on Friday arrested a 27-year-old Naga insurgent from a lodge here for the attack on Assam Rifles per sonnel in Kohi ma in March this year. This is the third ar rest in connec tion with the firing on Assam Rifles personnel at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Kohima.One person was killed and three others were wounded. According to NIA sources, Atoshe son of Zuhushe from Zunheboto district of Nagaland, a member of the banned Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland Khaplang (NSCN-K), was arrested from a lodge near MG Road, a major commercial hub. NIA officials said he in wanted under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Acting on a tip off, the NIA made the arrest in association with the Central Crime Branch of city police. Sources in the city police said he had produced fake identity proof to the lodge management for his stay. “The arrested person has been produced before the city magistrate and preparations are on to shift him to Nagaland by obtaining transit warrant,” the official added. According to sources in the NIA, he came to Bengaluru six months ago and was working in a hotel. “He used to shift his accommodation frequently and there were reports about his staying in places like Ejipura and Neelasandra before shifting to a lodge near MG Road. His sister also used to stay in Bengaluru but she has moved out now,” said an official. In May cops arrested Khekaho Rochill (34), the self-styled finance secretary of NSCN, from Dimapur in Nagaland. (Times of India 26/12/15)

NAXALS/ MAOISTS

Naxal couple surrenders in Khammam (12)

KHAMMAM: Gare Ravi alias Ganesh, 25, and his wife Rajeshwari alias Nirumala, 23, underground cadres of the Chandranna group, parted ways with the outfit due to disillusionment with the armed struggle, the police sources said. The couple hails from Pagideru village in Manuguru mandal of Palvancha division. The Police sources said that the duo were inducted into Sudhakar Dalam of Yellendu area and given weapon training by the naxal leaders over a year ago. The couple reportedly handed over their weapons – a Springfield rifle and a sten gun to the dalam commander before surrendering to the police on Friday. (The Hindu 4/12/15)

Hard core Maoist with reward of Rs 5 lakh held in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: A hard core Maoist with a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head and accused of major Maoist attacks including killing of a journalist and massacre of 11 CRPF jawans, was arrested on Sunday from forests of Darbha in Bastar division. In a joint search operation conducted by district Reserve Guard and Central Reserve Police Force arrested the member of Kaanger Valley Area Committee and president of DKMS, Aayta Madkami was arrested along with his rifle and eight kilogram tiffin bomb from forests of Chandameta in Darbha region. Bastar SP RN Dash said that Aayta was active since past seven years and had almost ruled over 15 villages in the region due to his terror among people. Besides being involved into extortion of money and threatening the locals, Aayta played major role in major incidents like massacre of 11 CRPF men on June 21, 2009 and Jheeram valley attack that killed frontline Congress leaders on May 25, 2013, he played leading role in killing of five jawans on March 11, 2014 at Netanar and 16 jawans at Tehakwada in Tongpal Sukma district on March 11, 2014. Aayta was a prominent cadre of Darbha Division, tagged among the powerful wings of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) in Bastar region, which had executed several deadly naxal incidents. SP said that Aayta was also involved in murder of scribe Nemichand Jain in February 2013 including eight major attacks of ambush in the region. Dash said that Bastar police were considering it as second achievement with arrest of Aayta after recent arrest of another Aayta, president of Jantana Sarkar, Southnar. Police hopes that further interrogation with the rebel would reveal important details on the Maoist movement in the region. (Times of India 6/12/15)

Ch’garh sees rise in Maoist attacks (12)

New Delhi: Chhattisgarh has witnessed a surge in Maoist attacks this year at a time when other Naxal-affected states have shown a decrease. The country as a whole has shown a marginal decrease in Maoist incidents this year — 972 incidents until November 20 this year as against 977 during the same period last year. Apart from Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, all the other 11 states, which have presence of Maoists, have shown a declining trend in Maoist violence. Chhattisgarh has witnessed 411 incidents this year as against 291 during the corresponding period last year and this spike in numbers has resulted in keeping the country’s yearly figure almost similar to that of last year. Jharkhand, which is usually on the top of the list, has shown a decrease in incidents this year — from 338 incidents last year to 287 this year. This tribal state has recorded the most number of incidents in the past years but this time, Chhattisgarh has overtaken it. Though the number of incidents has shown a 141 per cent increase in Chhattisgarh, the number of civilian and security personnel deaths is steady. This year, 44 civilians were killed as against 48 last year while the number of security personnel killed in action remained at 45 both years. Overall, there were 972 incidents in the country this year as against 977 last year. However, the civilian casualty has come down to 154 from 202. The number of security personnel killed has also come down from 72 to 56. The Union Home Ministry does not accept that there is an increase in Maoist attacks. In a written reply in Lok Sabha last week, Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said that Naxal activities have been declining since 2011. (Deccan Herald 7/12/15)

26 Maoists surrender, one rebel held (12)

Raipur: In a major success for Chhattisgarh police in its fight against Naxalism in Bastar region, 26 ultras, including seven hardened rebels, surrendered in Chhattisgarh’s worst insurgency-hit Sukma district in Bastar. Five of them carried cash rewards on their heads. They turned themselves in before Sukma collector Neeraj Bansod, senior police and CRPF officials at Polamapalli police station citing disappointment with the ideology of the outlawed Maoist movement. This is a yet another achievement for Bastar police whose morale was up in the wake of success achieved in the operations against Maoists last month, Bastar IG SRP Kalluri said. Security forces had gunned down 18 rebels in separate gun-battles across Bastar last month. Those carrying rewards for their arrest are Rama head of Janatana Sarkar (Rs 4,000 reward), Ashish (Rs 5,000) and members of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan (DAKMS)- a frontal outfit of the outlawed CPI (Maoist)- Deva (Rs 5,000), Ganga (Rs 5,000) and Joga (Rs 1,000), he said. The surrendered rebels were aged between 20-45 years and involved in several incidents of crime, including loot, arson, attacks on the police party in the region, the IG said. They were working for different sub-groups and frontal outfits of outlawed CPI (Maoist), including Jantana Sarkar (people’s government), janmilitia, sangham member. Cash Rs 10,000 was also given to each of the surrendered rebels as encouragement money. As per the policy of Chhattisgarh government, necessary assistance will be provided to them. In another development, Kondagaon police arrested a Maoist carrying cash reward of Rs 8 lakh from Chotedonger in Narayanpur district on Tuesday. Maoist Ramdhar Korram, presently active as head of Janatana Sarkar, has been active for past 12 years and was involved in major Maoist attacks in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. (Times of India 9/12/15)

Maoists trying to regain stronghold areas in Araku (12)

VISAKHAPATNAM: CPI Maoists are aiming to regain their stronghold areas in the interior pockets of Araku, which shares borders with the Koraput district of Odisha. Sources said the Maoist movement has been visible for the past one year in the area, especially in Pottangi block that comes under Koraput district and is close to Vizianagaram district. After gaining the confidence of the tribals through the anti-bauxite movement in the Visakha Agency, the Red rebels have allegedly chalked out a plan to penetrate the border areas and build a Maoist network in Araku, where they currently have minimal presence. “Organisational activity of the Maoists has been going on in the borders of Araku for the past one year. But they are on the other side of the border. So, our forces are keeping a watch on their movements,” a senior anti-naxal personnel said, adding that the naxals’ strong presence was visible in Galikonda and Korukonda, besides Pedabayalu, Munchingput and G Maudugula mandal of Vizag district. According to the personnel, the exchange of fire near Pachipenta area between Vizianagaram forces and naxals last month is a proof of the Maoist movement in the area. Noticing the suspected movement of the naxals, the Visakha rural cops have alerted the Vizianagram and Odisha security personnel as well. “They are seriously building up the network at Araku area that has been used till date as a shelter zone. Now, they are converting those areas as base areas,” a police officer of Visakha Agency said. (Times of India 12/12/15)

Maoist sympathisers’ get bail (12)

COIMBATORE: The Principal District Judge, Coimbatore, R. Pongiappan on Monday granted bail to Masanamuthu (21), a fisherman from Vellalore, and Nagamanickam (20), a painter from Sowripalayam. They were arrested in June this year for allegedly threatening the ‘Q’ Branch policemen following the arrest of Maoist leader Roopesh, wife Shyna, and three others in May. At the time of their arrest, the police claimed that they had seized materials from them to prove their pro-Maoist ideologies. The police had registered a case against them under sections 294(b) (reciting or uttering obscene songs or words in or near a public place), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge his duty) and 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code and 10 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The judge granted the bail to the youth for a surety of Rs. 1 lakh. They were asked to appear in Peelamedu Police Station at 10.30 a.m. every day. A few weeks ago, the court had quashed the invocation of provisions under the Goondas Act against them. Peelamedu Police Station Inspector J.K. Gobi said that the charge sheet against Masanamuthu and Nagamanickam will be filed soon. (The Hindu 15/12/15)

Maoists condemn ‘fake surrender’, death of naxal leader in Chhattisgarh (12)

RAIPUR: Terming the recent surrender of 26 Maoists as fake and alleging police atrocities, South Bastar Divisional Committee CPI (Maoists) has stated via pamphlets that Bastar police was framing wrong information of death of naxal leader Papa Rao due to snake bite. Pamphlets were found strewn at roads in Sukma district on Tuesday. Addressing the public, Maoists said that police have been making tall claims of large number of rebels surrendered in past three months and have got hold of 26 common men from weekly market at Pollampalli market to label them as hardcore Maoists before public. “Many other fake encounters were also propagated by police claiming to have killed a rebel with reward of Rs 8 lakh on his head, who was actually a farmer at Adlempalli. Moreover, there’s no truth in security forces’ claim on death of Papa Rao or that our party was going weak,” reads the note. It further mentions that those fighting strongly against the system and atrocities of police were being forced to weaken by police through fake surrenders. Maoists further allege that forces, on the pretext of search operations, visit villages and have raped and assaulted women and girls in the past. Mentioning the recent encounter – on December 8 at forests of Tetemadgu, Maoists said that the police had also made false claims of killing 20 rebels who were transported on tractors to remote villages for cremation. Soon after finding pamphlets from several parts in Sukma district, police and security forces have become more vigilant and have launched combing operations in the region. (Times of India 15/12/15)

Jharkhand police gun down wanted PLFI area commander (12)

Ranchi: The police on Thursday gunned down a People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) area commander Dinesh Sahu, wanted in at least 29 cases in Khunti district, said Khunti superintendent of police Anish Gupta. Twenty-eight-year-old Sahu was infamous for unleashing a reign of terror on villagers of Khunti. The encounter took place at Bandha village in Tupudana block at 9.30 am on Thursday and Sahu was taken down by a team of one officer in-charge, five jawans and a driver in an over 30-minute firing in the dense jungles of Ranchi-Khunti highway. “He (Sahu) was wanted in several cases of rape, murder and extortion. Reacting on a tip-off by one of our informers, we found him and shot him dead,” said Gupta. Four of Sahu’s accomplices, however, managed to escape. A massive search operation has been launched to apprehend them, said Ranchi senior superintendent of police Prabhat Kumar. Arms and ammunition were recovered from Sahu, Kumar said, adding that a detailed seizure list was being prepared. In another incident, an alleged arms supplier was arrested soon after he got off a train at Badajamda station in Maoist-hit West Singhbhum district on Wednesday, said superintendent of police Michael Raj S. The SP said 10 wireless sets and Maoist literature were recovered from the possession of the arrested supplier, identified as Bhaskar Chakraborty, who was coming from Kolkata on the Howrah-Barbil Jansatabdi express. Chakraborty allegedly used to supply the material and arms to the Maoists in Saranda forest of the district, the SP said. (Hindustan Times 17/12/15)

Chhattsgarh to set up secretary-level panel to protect scribes in Maoist conflict zones (12)

RAIPUR: Amid accusations of police victimizing journalists in the Maoist conflict zones, Chhattisgarh government has decided to set up a high level committee, comprising secretaries and senior editors, that will examine all complaints pertaining to media personnel and decide within 72 hours whether any legal action is warranted in specific cases. The joint committee of top government secretaries and senior editors, apparently a first of its kind initiative in the country, is being set up at a time when it is being felt that the Journalists working in the conflict zone, particularly in tribal Bastar region, are being caught in crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists. “You’re either with us, or against us”—is the dictum adopted by both the police and the Maoists with regard to Journalists reporting from the conflict zones. The Raman Singh government’s announcement about setting up the high level committee came when a group of journalists organised an agitation at Jagdalpur, divisional head headquarters of Bastar to draw attention to the plight of media persons working in the strife-torn Bastar zone and seek “protection” of press freedom. Chief Minister Raman Singh also spoke to the agitating journalists and assured that the government would ensure all steps to protect the journalists. “Media persons in the seven districts of Bastar region are reporting under the extremely precarious conditions. We are increasingly being targeted both by the police and the Maoists”, says Kamal Shukla, general secretary of Patrakar Suraksha Kanoon Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, umbrella organisation created to safeguard the rights of journalists in the conflict areas. The issue had cropped up after Santosh Yadav, a correspondent in Bastar, was arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA), which allows the police to detain a person without producing a charge sheet for as long as 90 days. Police claimed that Yadav was an allay of the Maoists and they have sufficient material to establish the charges. Few years ago, Sai Reddy, a journalist, was arrested and jailed under the same law but later the police case against him collapsed in the court of law and he was released. While the police had always accused him of being a Maoist allay, Sai Reddy was later killed in the Maoists. (Tims of India 21/12/15)

6 Naxals surrender before MoS home (12)

Nagpur: Two major developments marked the visit of Minister of state for home (rural) Ram Shinde to Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district on Tuesday. Apart from six senior Naxal cadres, who had rewards of 26 lakh on them, surrendering before the minister, out-of-turn promotions were also accorded to 34 C-60 commandos for outstanding contribution in battling Naxalites. Shinde also formally inaugurated the police outpost of Hedri that had been set up earlier this year at a strategic location in sensitive Etapalli division. The opening of the post had already turned fruitful for the police helping extending their dominance in the core area of red rebels.Shinde, who also reviewed the law and order situation and Naxal operations in the district, also assured to take up the issues of expediting the procurement of sophisticated bullet-proof jackets for jawans. The minister promised to look into the requirement of more helicopters for Naxal operations and grievances of the martyr families and their demands. Superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, Sandip Patil said the minister sounded keen to intervene into the long-standing issues of the district police that are now being processed at the government level but were yet to pick up momentum. “District police have ensured that the number of surrenders under the latest scheme of the government reached 52, which is highest in last five years. The Naxals surrendering before the minister had been involved in several offences and sabotages related to the movement,” he said. Deputy commander of platoon 10, Sainu Hedi, having reward of Rs 10 lakh on him, was among the ones to surrender along with wife Roshni alias Jano Atram who too was a member of the same formation. Other members of platoon 10, dalam members Sandesh Mattami of Kasansur and Nagesh Pada of Gatta also surrendered. SP Patil said some C-60 commandos had received awards in the past while many others could not make it. “There was a grievance among the C-60 commandos regarding rewards that was addressed by prompt promotions. Proposal of 45 names were sent,” he said. (Times of India 23/12/15)

Delhi University Professor Saibaba With Alleged Naxal Links Surrenders (12)

Nagpur:  Suspended Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba, accused of having links with Maoists, has surrendered before the Central Jail authorities in Nagpur as per the directive of the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. Professor Saibaba, who was on bail till December 31, gave himself up to jail authorities last night, prison sources said today. On December 23, the bench had rejected his regular bail application and directed him to surrender within 48 hours. Justice Arun Choudhary had declined the request to grant more time to Professor Saibaba to surrender and directed the police to arrest him if he failed to turn up within two days. The high court cited a medical report which clearly stated that proper medical aid was extended to Professor Saibaba by doctors when he was lodged in the Nagpur prison. Lawyers of the wheelchair-bound Professor had pleaded for extension of bail on health grounds. He was arrested in May 2014 by Gadchiroli Police of Maharashtra for alleged active links with Naxals. Pournima Upadhyay, an activist, had written a letter to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court which was treated as PIL and thereafter temporary bail was granted to Professor Saibaba for three months on health grounds by the Principal Bench based in Mumbai. (NDTV 26/12/15)

23 Naxals surrender in Chhattisgarh

Raipur: 23 Naxals, who were allegedly active in Darbha region — known for Maoist activities, Tuesday surrendered before Chhattisgarh officials in Bastar district. Altogether 23 cadres, including 3 women, turned themselves in before senior police and administrative officials citing the surrender policy of the state government and disappointment with the Maoist ideology, Bastar Superintendent of Police R N Dash said. Of those who surrendered, six belong to Kudum Khodra village, five to Chandragiri village, 11 to Biaspur village and another to Pungarpa village, he said. As per their statement, they were largely influenced by the messages spread in the recent anti-Maoist rallies in Bastar region besides provisions of the surrender policy that prompted them to quit arms, he said. Most of them were lower rung cadres working as ‘janmilitia’ and CNM (Chetna Natya Mandli — a cultural outfit of Maoists) members in Darbha division committee of the banned outfit, the officer said. Two of them — Madkami Hidmo and Ando Markam — were carrying a reward of Rs 1 lakh each on their heads, Dash said. Rs 10,000 each was given to the surrendered rebels as encouragement money, the officer said, adding that as per the policy of the Chhattisgarh government, necessary assistance will be provided to them. Last week, 70 Naxals had surrendered in Chintalnar area of neighbouring Sukma district. (Zee News 29/12/15)

TRAFFICKING

Girl from Odisha raped in Haryana, rescued by police (1)

FARIDABAD: A 12-year-old girl, who was allegedly trafficked from her village in Orissa on the pretext of marriage and sold off to various men who then gang-raped her, was rescued by the Palwal Police on Monday. Four persons have been arrested connection with this, police said. According to an FIR, the Class VI student was trafficked from her village by one Suresh on the pretext of marrying her four months ago. Initially, the girl was confined at Suresh’s house in Chauma village, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh and was sold off a month later to some men in the same city for Rs.50,000. They reportedly sexually exploited and physically abused her. On November 29, the girl somehow managed to escape from her captors and was looking for conveyance on a road around 8 p.m. when two men, later identified as Goverdhan and Jitender, in an auto-rickshaw, forcibly pushed her inside the vehicle, took her to a field and allegedly gang-raped her. The duo then abandoned her in the fields. The next morning, a passer-by noticed the teen lying unconscious and took her to Women Police Station in Palwal. A case was registered under various sections of IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences(POCSO) Act. She was later admitted to a shelter home. Taking cognisance of the matter, Shaki Vahini, an NGO working in the area of child-trafficking, informed the matter to the Secretary of Home Department with the U.P government. The NGO, in its letter to the Home Secretary, requested the official to direct the officers concerned to conduct an extensive inter-State probe, as the crime had taken place in Odisha, U.P. and Haryana, in order to bust what is believed to be a child-trafficking syndicate. (The Hindu 3/12/15)

Two tribal minor girls rescued in J’suguda (1)

Bhubaneswar: GRP arrested the agent of a placement agency on Friday for allegedly trafficking two tribal minor girls aged 17 years. The police claimed that the agent was taking them to Delhi where they were to be employed as domestic helps. The girls were rescued from the Utkal Express train. The placement agency agent had promised them white-collared jobs. The agent was identified as Bhagwati Prasad of Chakradharpur and the girls were from village Roudia in Chakradharpur of Jharkhand. The Jharsuguda District Child Protection Unit was actively involved in the rescue operation, which was initiated after receiving a tipoff from District Child Protection Officer Sunanda Maharana. Prasad was booked under IPC Sections 374 (unlawful compulsory labour) and also Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and Section 26 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act. The rescued girls were sent to the Reform Swadhar Centre before being sent back to their families, said Jharsuguda GRP IIC M Hansda. (The Pioneer 6/12/15)

11 pc increase in human trafficking (1)

New Delhi: Cases of trafficking of girls are increasing year after year with 2015 alone showing an 11 per cent rise even as investigators fail to get convictions in more than half of such cases. DH illustration Cases of trafficking of girls are increasing year after year with 2015 alone showing an 11 per cent rise even as investigators fail to get convictions in more than half of such cases. This year until October, there were 6,082 cases reported across the country and this number could rise, as several states have not come up with full details of cases. There is an 11 per cent increase of cases involving human trafficking of girls, including buying and selling of minors for prostitution and trafficking of girls from foreign countries, from last year’s figure of 5,466. There were 3,940 cases in 2013 and 3,554 in 2012. This year, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with the bulk of the cases under its belt. It had 2,192 cases until August, while Gujarat with (546 cases until September) and Assam (525 cases until June) take the top spots on the list. Karnataka came fourth with 423 cases until September while last year it had 472 cases. The most number of cases were under the head of immoral traffic where 4,462 cases were reported this year while there were 1,449 cases of procuring minor girls, according to home ministry’s admission in Parliament last week. However, one of the main issues is that in 55 per cent of the human trafficking cases in which court trials have been completed, the prosecution fails to get conviction. Though the figure for 2015 is not available yet, the statistics for 2014 showed that the conviction rate was just 45.1 per cent, though the recent years have shown an increasing trend. While in 2012, the conviction rate was 35.9 per cent, it marginally rose to 36.4 per cent. Last year,trials were completed in 2,284 cases while the convictions happened only in 1,029 cases. According to statistics, 2,323 people were found guilty of human trafficking as against 1,688 in 2013 and 1,611 in 2012. Officials and activists believe that the problem lies in ground investigations. (Deccan Herald 7/12/15)

Trafficking: a horrific tale of brutality (1)

NEW DELHI: Fighting for life at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital here, a girl from West Bengal on Wednesday shared with The Hindu her horrific tale of brutality for nearly a year. Between her abduction from her native Belgachia village in South 24 Parganas district in December 2014 and her admission to the hospital with deep injuries late last month, she was gang-raped, at times by 20 men on a single day. Some of these men are suspected to be HIV positive. On Wednesday, Aslam, a man who had allegedly pushed her into prostitution, was caught by a team of an NGO Shakti Vahini, led by Ravi Kant. The accused had come to enquire about the victim’s health at the hospital, where he left her on November 23. The signs of repeated sexual assaults and physical violence that met her at the first hint of protest are visible all over her body. She was ‘bought’ and ‘sold’ several times over for a few thousand rupees and taken to places as far and wide as Manali and Mangalore. Some of the other places she recalled being taken to include Rishikesh, Haridwar and at least three different locations in the Capital besides neighbouring Ghaziabad, according to the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal who paid her a visit on Wednesday evening. Yet, the Delhi Police did not deem it fit to register a case and start investigations and instead cited her last registered mobile tower location as the basis of transferring the case to Ghaziabad. The Hindu also contacted senior officers at Ghaziabad who said they were not aware of the development of the case. It was then left to the West Bengal police who initially registered a case of abduction and are yet to send a team to the Capital. Meanwhile, a mention of her family caused the girl to break down at the hospital and Mr. Kant continued the story from there. He explained how locations changed but unbridled exploitation did not until her body could no longer bear the assault and she was admitted, or as, “dumped” at the GTB Hospital on November 23 by Aslam and a woman. “Deep cuts, lacerations, almost a defunct lower half of the body and partly damaged private part is what the doctors at the hospital told us when we enquired about her health. Litres of puss had to be injected out of her right leg and even for basic movements she needs help,” said Mr. Kant describing the state of her health. (The Hindu 10/12/15)

DGP pill to control traffickers (1)

Guwahati, Dec. 10: Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay today asked railway police personnel to take the help of porters, guards and vendors to prevent child trafficking from the Northeast. “The improvement in railways in the Northeast has no doubt benefited us but it has been beneficial for criminals too. Criminal gangs are increasingly using the railway to traffick girls and children from our region to New Delhi, Mumbai and other cities. “Although it is difficult to keep track of movement of such criminals, the coolies (porters), TTEs, guards and vendors can give us vital information about movement of such criminals. You should take them on board for information and make sure that you can detain the criminals without causing inconvenience to innocent passengers,” Sahay said at a capacity building workshop for police officers on child-related issues organised by Child Care Centre of National Law University, Assam, here. “The railway stations are hubs of transport and travel for us but are shelter/homes for hundreds of orphan children and those in distress. We have to be very alert and careful so that these children do not fall victim to trafficking,” Sahay said. Altogether 25 junior-level officers who man the railway police stations in the state are taking part in the two-day workshop that began today. They are being trained on effective implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act 1956 and Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, among others, that deals with children in distress and those in conflict with laws, associate professor of law and head of the Child Care Centre Vijay Pratap Tiwari said. The Railways has been found to be a favourite route for inter-state gangs of criminals who are trafficking children and women out of the Northeast. Police and NGOs have rescued many child victims of trafficking from cities who were taken out with the promise of jobs but were physically, mentally and sexually exploited. Delhi police and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO, recently rescued four minor girls and two boys, hailing from Udalguri district, who were engaged as domestic help in New Delhi. The girls told the police that they had been sexually exploited. Additional director-general of police (railways) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said railway police recently opened a helpline number (1512), where passengers could lodge a complaint or give information about missing/trafficked children. Police officers on the train will address these on the train itself. National Law University vice-chancellor Vijender Kumar hoped that the Centre’s move to open child care centres in at least 200 railway stations across the country would help prevent child trafficking, rescue the missing ones and take care of the juveniles as per laws meant for children. Representatives from Unicef, Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, State Child Protection Society, social welfare department as well as the university are providing training to the railway police personnel. Neuro-psychiatrist Sangeeta Datta, during a session on child psychology, talked about the stress experienced by juveniles, a child in need of care and protection and victims of sexual abuse. (The Telegraph 11/12/15)

Tackling India’s shame of human trafficking for forced labor (1)

New Deli: Ramesh Bhagat was 10 years old when he came to New Delhi, trafficked by an agent who promised his family that he would be given a suitable job. Fighting with poverty in eastern Indian Jharkhand state, Bhagat’s family had hoped for a bright future for their son. Little did they know what the future had in store for their little boy. Five years and three jobs later, Bhagat was rescued from a house in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh state on Oct. 24 where he had been working as a servant. In all those years not only was he not paid anything for his work, he was not allowed to have any contact with his family. “He seems to have been threatened and was in a state of shock. Even after nearly two months of his rescue, he has not uttered a single word about his ordeal,” Gaurav Tomar, legal officer of the Domestic Workers’ Forum who led the rescue, told ucanews.com. The forum is part of Chetnalaya, the social wing of the Delhi Archdiocese, and is active in rescuing those trafficked from different parts of the country.  In 2015 alone the forum rescued 51 trafficked children, the majority of them girls. In India, young girls and boys are trafficked or “sold” mostly from tribal areas of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal states to be child laborers, domestic helpers or for sex work. “These areas are very backward and people struggle with poverty, lack of education and jobs. They are easy target as they also agree to work for very low wages,” Tomar said. According to government data, 2,295 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2014, while more than 2,300 cases were reported this year through September. The Supreme Court of India on Dec. 9 directed the Indian government to set up an Organized Crime Investigating Agency by Dec. 1 2016 to exclusively investigate human trafficking cases in the country. It also asked the government to draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation within six months to check this problem and for the rehabilitation of trafficked children. ………. ( UCA News 12/12/15)

 68 Malayali women trafficked to Dubai (1)

KOCHI: The special team probing the online flesh trade has secured information about 68 Malayali women who were trafficked to Dubai. Police have initiated steps to rescue them, under custody of a racket there, with the support of Dubai police. According to police, the trafficked women are currently under the custody of Mujeeb of Aluva and Muhammed Basheer of Trikkaderi in Dubai. The two are wanted by the CBI in connection with Nedumbassery human trafficking case. Police said Joyce Joshy, a key accused in the online sex racket case, had played a role in trafficking some of these women abroad. They said Joyce had acted as a middleman to some of the absconding accused in the Nedumbassery human trafficking case. Four women aged below 20 were also trafficked to Dubai via Chennai airport recently, they said. “The women are currently under the custody of Basheer and Mujeeb who are operating a network supplying women. The addresses and other details of the trafficked women have been identified. Some of them are lodged in a high-rise apartment in Dubai now,” an officer said. The women were trafficked to Dubai via Sharjah from Cochin and Chennai airports. They were recruited for low-income jobs and Mujeeb and Basheer had seized their passports on their arrival in Dubai. “The women are accommodated in a highrise apartment. Once the rate is fixed, customers will be taken to the flat after frisking them. They are not allowed to take mobile phones into the flat,” the officer added. The racket had recruited the four women aged below 20 with the help of a woman from Kollam. They were taken out of country through Chennai airport last week and they are also suspected to be under the custody of the same racket.tnnK V Suresh, the prime accused in Nedumbassery human trafficking case, was part of the racket. Dubai police had arrested him in an immoral trafficking case and deported to India in October this year. (Times of India 15/12/15)

Human trafficking: SSB arrests 51, rescues 83 (1)

Lucknow: THE SASHASTRA Seema Bal (SSB) have arrested 51 people allegedly involved in human trafficking, and rescued 83 victims, including 47 women and 31 minors, since the devastating earthquake in Nepal in April. The figures were released by SSB Lucknow Frontier IG V H Deshmukh on Sunday, the 52nd raising day of the border guarding force. “Human trafficking from Nepal remains one of the biggest challenges… To detect the victims of human trafficking at the border, the SSB has deployed interaction teams, which include women jawans, in plainclothes at the border,” said Deshmukh. Besides coordinating with anti-human trafficking NGOs working in Nepal and India, he said, the SSB is also taking support from Unicef. “Its volunteers will visit the SSB officials on border outposts in the coming days. They will train officials about identifying human trafficking cases and dealing with the victims afterwards,” said the IG. Between January and November, the Lucknow Frontier had also seized various contraband worth Rs 69.31 crore from the Indo-Nepal border. Moreover, 1025 smugglers, involved in wildlife smuggling, narcotic items, antiques, fake currency notes and arms and ammunition, have been apprehended, Deshmukh said. (Indian Express 21/12/15)

Child trafficking: Newborn sold for Rs 90k, five get jail (1)

Bijnor: Five people were sent to jail following their arrests on Thursday in a child trafficking racket. The arrests were made following investigations in an alleged child trafficking incident on December 7, when a new born baby went missing from the Bijnor district hospital. A case was filed in the connection by the baby’s father Tejpal Singh, a resident of Pakhanpur in Bijnor. After a tip-off was received on December 22, police rescued a baby from the house of one Reena Devi, in Nehtaur, Bijnor. Devi’s informed police that she had bought the baby for Rs 90,000 from one Lakhanpal Singh and his wife. Police are, however, yet to ascertain the baby’s paternity. Senior sub-inspector, Bijnor, Jaspal Singh said, “During investigations, Reena Devi said that she got the baby from a nursing home in Chandpur where she met Lakhanpal Singh, his wife Chandravati, Khemchand, a primary health centre employee, his wife Deewani Devi alias Guddi and Mukendra. Guddi said that they had given away their fourth baby to Lakhanpal Singh and his wife, who in turn sold the child.” The inspector, however, informed that it has not been clear whether Khemchand and Guddi sold their baby or there was a middleman’s involvement in the racket as well. “We have send the child for a DNA test to ascertain paternity,” he said. K K Kanaujia, station officer, anti-human trafficking police station, said, “A case against the five accused has been filed under relevant sections of human trafficking.” (Times of India 25/12/15)

Number of girls rescued from flesh trade doubles (1)

Mumbai: The Mumbai Crime Branch rescued more than twice the number of minor girls this year who were allegedly forced into flesh trade than it did last year. Around 23 minor girls have been rescued till date while last year nine minor girls were rescued. Two rescued girls are aged 13 and 14 years while rest are aged between 16 and 17 years. Their medical tests have proved they are minors. Deputy commissioner of police, enforcement, Pravinkumar Patil said, “Our focus from the beginning of the year was to rescue minor girls from sex trade. We are applying the stringent human trafficking for sexual exploitation charge against the accused. I had given instructions to my team to tap all their sources to find out if minor girls are being pushed into flesh trade. The results have finally shown. Next year too our focus will be the same.” Assistant commissioner of police, SS Branch, Rajdhoot Rupawate said, “There are a few methods used by pimps to push minors into flesh trade. The victim knows some of the pimps while others are their lovers who bring them to the city under the false pretext of love, marriage and jobs. Many a time they have no idea what they are getting into. In bars their female friends lure the victims. They lure them with a lot of money, saying their parents will get a better livelihood in their villages and it will also cover education fees for their siblings.” The 23 minors have been rescued from areas like Chembur and Govandi in eastern suburbs, DB marg in south Mumbai, Nagpada and VB nagar in Central Mumbai, Powai, Khar and MIDC in western suburbs, Malwani in Malad and Charkop in Kandivali both areas being in northern suburbs. In 2013, a total of 13 cases were registered wherein 13 women and 23 minors were rescued from prostitution. Around 21 pimps who brought them from other parts of the country have been arrested under relevant sections of human trafficking of the IPC, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. Last year in seven cases, 20 women and nine minors were rescued and 14 pimps arrested. (Asian Age 26/12/15)

Operation Muskaan to begin new rescue mission (1)

RANCHI: ‘Operation Muskaan’, a special campaign to trace missing children, will begin a new chapter in the new year. Around 100 police personnel, 10 teams comprising 6-10 of them, from the state will be sent to various states across the country in the first week of January to inspect shelter homes, railway stations, bus stands, religious sites and tea shops to verify the identity of and rescue 464 missing children of the state. “The home affairs ministry has directed all states to launch ‘Operation Smile-II’ from January 1 to January 31. We have already started preparing for the mission,” said the campaign’s nodal officer and CID IG Sampat Meena. The various district superintendents of police, on the direction of Meena, have submitted an up-to-date list of missing children in their respective districts the IG. “The SPs have submitted a list containing 464 missing children from police records, along with a photograph of each child. Special training will be given to officers who are part of the operation. We will soon be holding meetings with the social welfare and labour departments, who play a crucial role in reuniting the children with their families,” said Meena. The missing children’s list, along with their photographs, will be sent to the various nodal officers of ‘Operation Muskaan’ in all states to ensure that Jharkhand police is informed if any of the children from the state are identified and rescued. Meena said the teams will visit Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan – the states where children were rescued from in phase I of the operation. “I have asked all SPs to submit a list of those places from where children were rescued in individual rescue operations in the past so that teams can visit them,” she added.Meena also said that if tribal children are rescued, each team will have two police officers who will be fluent in Santhali and Mundari to ensure there is no communication gap. Operation Smile-I was organized in two phases, the first phase in April and second phase in July. In phase I, Jharkhand police rescued 153 children, of which 77 were from Jharkhand and 76 from other states.Also, in a bid to locate missing children rescues where done even in Jharkhand in which police found 501 children, 410 of whom were from Jharkhand and 91 from other states. The good work of Jharkhand police in operation smile was appreciated by the Home Ministry and Sampat Meena and three police inspectors who played a commendable role in the Operation were felicitated by home ministry at National Conference on Anti Human Trafficking held in Delhi on October 7, along with officers from other states. (Times of India 30/12/15)

CORRUPTION

Delhi Assembly: BJP moves ten amendments to Janlokapal Bill (5)

New Delhi: Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta’s recommendations for amendment to the Bill involve its important provisions related to appointment of Janlokpal, qualification of a member, removal of chairperson or members, constitution of special courts and transfer or suspension of public servant. Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta on Wednesday moved ten amendments to the Janlokapal Bill, 2015, which was tabled by the AAP government in the House on November 30. Gupta said he will also meet Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to tell him about the need for “adopting” these amendments. “I will meet the Chief Minister to impress upon him the need for adopting these amendments in order to make the Janlokpal Bill compliant to the Constitution of India and an effective instrument against fighting the corruption,” he said. His recommendations for amendment to the Bill involve its important provisions related to appointment of Janlokpal, qualification of a member, removal of chairperson or members, constitution of special courts and transfer or suspension of public servant. Gupta’s amendment on appointment of Janlokpal calls for sending recommendation of the Janlokpal Selection Committee to the President through the Lt Governor who will take a final decision regarding the appointment. “Section – 3 ( c ) of the Janlokpal Bill on appointment of Janlokpal clearly makes Lt Governor a mere puppet,” he said. With regard to transfer or suspension of “public servants” by proposed Janlokpal, he has moved amendment that the word “public servant” will include only such Central Government Employees who are on deputation to Delhi Government. He has also moved amendment concerning provision of Special Courts as per Section 18 of the Bill, adding it is against Article 239 AA 3(a) of the Constitution of India. “The Government, may request the Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi, to designate any court of competent jurisdiction as special court, for any proceedings initiated under this Act,” he said. Other amendments moved by the Leader of Opposition in the Janlokpal Bill pertain to role of the Lt Governor, Presidential assent for appointing Janlokpal and suspension of chairperson or members. (DNA 2/12/15)

Delhi assembly passes Jan Lokpal Bill (5)

NEW DELHI: Delhi assembly on Friday passed the Janlokpal Bill, incorporating suggestions of Anna Hazare, which provides for an ombudsman with powers to act against any government functionary including those of the Centre even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal warned the NDA dispensation against any move to put a spanner on making it a law. Kejriwal termed it as a “historic moment” for the Janlokpal movement and offered his tribute to veteran activist Hazare recounting his days with the 2011 India Against Corruption (IAC) movement. The bill received 64 votes in its favour in the 70-member Delhi assembly. Reacting to allegations that the bill was a diluted version of the one that was tabled in 2014, Kejriwal wondered whether BJP or Congress-ruled states would be able to pass any such legislation. “Few people are saying it’s weak. So try and pass a weak law only in BJP or Congress ruled-states. If Centre does not approve the bill than we will have to bend our fingers and BJP will face the same situation like Congress,” he said. As per the changes, there will be a provision for one more high court judge, one eminent person and one former chairperson in the selection panel of Janlokpal. While the impeachment process for removal will begin only after a higher court monitored probe of any allegation against the Lokpal. A strong Janlokpal is important to ensure that such drive against graft continues even if we are not in power, Kejriwal said. He also alleged that the Centre had made the Anti-Corruption Branch dysfunctional. “The biggest step we took in our first term was that we had filed FIR against Mukesh Ambani. But since June 8, when the ACB was taken over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there has not been a single notice against Ambani. We had even started summoning Reliance officials,” he said. Kejriwal also defended the provision which brings even Union government ministers and officials under the ambit of the bill. As per provisions of the bill, Lokpal will have powers to even probe acts of corruption against Union ministers and central government officials working in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, which may trigger another round of confrontation between the Kejriwal government and the Centre. “If the Prime Minister commits any crime an SHO can take action, but if he indulges in corruption there is no one to take action in such cases. This is why need a Janlokpal,” Kejriwal said. (Times of India 4/12/15)

Graft bill sent to select committee (5)

New Delhi: The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, pending before the Rajya Sabha for long, was on Monday referred to the select committee after some members raised objections over certain clauses, arguing that these overlap with the provisions of the Lokpal Act and more clarity was needed on these. The bill provides for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery, both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It seeks to enhance penalty for graft to a maximum of seven years from five years now, among other new provisions to check the menace. On December 3 when the bill was moved in the Upper House, opposition parties had advocated caution on the measure saying the new law, instead of checking the menace, will increase corruption and make elected representatives more vulnerable. As the House took up the bill for discussion on Monday, SP’s Naresh Agarwal said powers vested by amendments, which the government wants to bring in the bill, have already been given to Lokpal by the Supreme Court. (Asian Age 8/12/15)

Corruption is a national economic terror: SC (5)

NEW DELHI: Terming corruption as a national economic terror, the Supreme Court on Thursday held that the government is entitled to bring special laws to control the “social calamity” which is eating away the fundamental core of elective democracy and the constitutional governance. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant upheld laws passed by Bihar and Odisha legislative assembly authorizing the probe agency to confiscate ill-gotten properties including house of the corrupt public officials even before their conviction in corruption case. The law was framed to deal with cases involving high public office or political office. The bench held that there was no infirmities in laws and turned down a bunch of petitions filed by accused whose properties was confiscated under the Act. “In a way, corruption becomes a national economic terror. This social calamity warrants a different control and hence, the legislature comes up with special legislation with stringent provisions,” the bench said. The accused pleaded that they cannot be treated as a special class for allegedly involved in corruption cases and they should be treated like other accused. “That apart, in the context of the present Orissa Act it is associated with high public office or with political office which are occupied by people who control the essential dynamics of power which can be a useful weapon to amass wealth adopting illegal means. In such a situation, the argument that they being put in a different class and tried in a separate special court solely because the alleged offence, if nothing else, is a self-defeating one,” the bench said. “We are unable to accept the submission of the learned counsel for the appellants that the words high public or political office not being defined, creates a dent in the provision. The said words, we are absolutely certain, convey a category of public servants which is well understood and there is no room for arbitrariness,” it said.Referring to its earlier verdicts, the apex court said immoral acquisition of wealth destroys the energy of the people believing in honesty, and history records with agony how they have suffered. It said that there should be zero tolerance towards any kind of corruption bereft of its degree. “A democratic republic polity hopes and aspires to be governed by a government which is run by the elected representatives who do not have any involvement in serious criminal offences or offences relating to corruption, casteism, societal problems, affecting the sovereignty of the nation and many other offences,” the bench said. It said that corruption should not be judged by degree as corruption causes disorder, destroys societal will to progress and paralyses the economic health of a country. (Times of India 10/12/15)

Pesticides scam: Former agri director gets bail (5)

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday granted bail to former director of Punjab agriculture department Mangal Singh Sandhu, who was behind bars in relation to the pesticide scam and corruption charges. “Keeping in view the contentions raised before this court, period of incarceration of the petitioner, and the fact that trial is yet to commence, I am of the considered view that no useful purpose will be served by detaining the petitioner in custody any longer,” Justice Rajan Gupta observed while allowing his bail plea. “Thus, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, this petition is allowed and the petitioner is directed to be released on bail to the satisfaction of chief judicial magistrate/duty magistrate, Bathinda,” held the court. Sandhu allegedly took Rs 8 lakh as bribe from Shubham Goyal and Vijay Kumar for allowing them to keep spurious pesticides and insecticides. His counsel argued that allegations against the former director were on the basis of hearsay. The counsel also submitted that Sandhu was already behind bars since October 5, and investigation of the case was still pending and trial was yet to commence. Punjab government, however, strongly opposed the bail plea on the grounds that allegations against the petitioner were serious. Sandhu was been booked under Section 7 (1) of Essential Commodities Act, 1955; Section 13, 18 and 21-B of Insecticides Act, 1968; Sections 420, 186 and 120-B of the IPC; Section 35 of Fertilizers Control Order, 1985; and Section 7 and 13(1) D of Prevention of Corruption Act. These cases were registered at Raman police station of Bathinda district on September 2. (Times of India 12/12/15)

U.P. gets two days to appoint Lokayukta (5)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday set a 48-hour deadline for the Uttar Pradesh government to appoint the Lokayukta, annoyed at the administration’s lacklustre efforts to appoint the anti-corruption ombudsman despite court directives. “Why don’t you appoint the Lokayukta? Why has our order not been complied with? Why can’t the Chief Minister, the Governor and the Chief Justice [of the High Court] sort this out,” a Bench led by Justice Ranajan Gogoi asked counsel for the State. “We don’t mince words… you make the appointment by Wednesday [December 16],” the court said, voicing scepticism at the Advocate-General’s assurance to it to do the needful. “Last time too, you had said the same thing,” the Bench observed. It was hearing a petition by Mahendra Kumar and advocate Radhakanta Tripathi for a directive to appoint the Lokayukta. What attracted the court’s ire seems to have been the State’s attitude even after it issued notice on December 4 while hearing a separate petition to open contempt proceedings for the State’s failure to comply with the order to appoint a new Lokayukta. (The Hindu 15/12/15)

Arvind Kejriwal should have checked secretary’s antecedents: Anna Hazare (5)

Mumbai: Arvind Kejriwal should have checked the antecedents of his principal secretary Rajender Kumar, whose office was raided by the CBI on Tuesday over alleged graft, social activist Anna Hazare said on Wednesday amid the face-off between the Centre and Delhi chief minister on the issue. “Instead of fending off allegations now, Mr Kejriwal should have checked his background earlier. Arvind has always been fighting against corruption and I have always told him to have people of good character around him,” Mr Hazare told the media at Ralegan Siddhi. “Mr Kejriwal should have done a background check on Rajender and found out about his character and his position in society earlier,” Mr Hazare said. Mr Hazare, however, questioned the timing of the raid. “Mr Kejriwal and the BJP are blaming each other over the CBI raid on Rajender’s office and the checking of files in Mr Kejriwal’s chambers. But my question is over the timing of this entire incident.” “CBI has had this case for so long and the BJP has been in power for one-and-a-half-years and they did not think of doing this before. Action should have been taken the moment the problem was discovered,” he said. The office of Kejriwal’s Principal Secretary was raided by CBI yesterday in a corruption case triggering a fresh face-off between the AAP and Centre and a vicious political slugfest in which the AAP chief lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him “coward” and a “psychopath”.Kejriwal claimed his office too was raided, a charge denied by CBI as well as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha where the Opposition created an uproar. The Chief Minister claimed he was in fact the target of the raid and Kumar was just an “excuse”. (Asian Age 17/12/15)

Kerala in 2015: Scams, controversies rocked the state (5)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala was hit by a series of scams in 2015, one of which led to the ignominious exit of Finance Minister K M Mani, and among other headlines was one over the exclusion of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy from a function of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which also had its echo in Parliament. Chandy, who was invited to attend the statue unveiling function of late chief minister R Sankar at Kollam, was later politely asked by the organisers — Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the backward Hindu Ezhva community, to stay away from the function, triggering a huge controversy. Kerala was also be the venue of the Combined Commanders conference of the three services held on board India’s largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in Kochi. Inaugurated by Modi, this was the first time that the conference was held outside the national capital. Modi also visited the Sivagiri mutt and paid respects to social reformer and spiritual leader Sree Narayana guru by planting a sampling. The bar scam, in which Mani was allegedly involved, dominated the political scenario in Kerala throughout the year. Mani, against whom vigilance sleuths had registered an FIR in the bar scam, was forced to resign a day after Kerala High court made some stinging observations. Though the 82-year-old strongman from Pala and supremo of Kerala Congress (M) tried to hold on, luck seemed to have given away after Chandy and other UDF partners put pressure on him to quit. A reluctant Mani finally had to give in and submit his resignation. Mani, who has mass base, especially in central Travancore area dominated by Christan community, represented the Pala constituency for 50 years continuously. His resignation came as a big blow to the Chandy government as he is the second minister who was forced to quit from the Cabinet. Earlier, K B Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B) had resigned after his estranged wife complained of domestic violence. Ganeshkumar and his party led by his father R Balakrishna Pillai, later left the UDF. For Chandy, more trouble seems to be brewing in the bar scam, with a vigilance court now ordering a quick verification against another minister, K Babu, handling Excise and Ports. The development came as an embarrassment for Chandy as Babu is a Congress minister and close confidant of his. The CPI(M)-led LDF opposition has already begun demanding both in the assembly and outside that Babu should quit and face probe…… (Asian Age 18/12/15)

PM Modi misusing CBI: Arvind Kejriwal (5)

New Delhi, Dec 22 : Demanding his resignation, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as he attacked the PM over the issue of CBI raids in his office and the clean chit to Arun Jaitley on his role in cricket administration. Speaking in Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal said the BJP government is not cooperating with them but could commit something unprecedented by conducting a CBI raid in his office on Dec 15. He said Modi is using CBI to destroy the Opposition. Defamation cases were filed against Kejriwal and AAP leaders by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over allegations against the latter. He said even after eight days passed since the raids, he would like to know what they found against him though BJP said it was not aimed at him but his principal secretary. He said the BJP can tomorrow raid the offices of chief ministers of states like Assam or West Bengal or Maharashtra. He said either the PM is travelling abroad in a jet or misusing CBI when in India. Earlier, throwing his weight behind Arun Jaitley, who is embroiled in DDCA corruption controversy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his Finance Minister will come through flying colours. Arun Jaitley will come through with flying colours in the same manner as L K Advani did in Hawala case, the Prime Minister said at a weekly meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party. This is Modis first response to the controversy that has come as a big threat to the BJP. Jaitley has been accused by the Aam Aadmi Party, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, of shielding those guilty in the alleged corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) which he headed for 13 years. What compounded the crisis for Jaitley and his party was the attack by BJP lawmaker Kirti Azad on the issue. Azad, in a press conference on Sunday, stopped just short of naming the Finance Minister in his allegations of corruption in the DDCA and also challenged Jaitley publicly to sue him too. (New Kerala 22/12/15)

Bank scam accused to be served notice (5)

NAGPUR: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) bigwigs, battling corruption charges, now have another issue on hand. The state government on Tuesday announced that the former board of directors of the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank Limited will be sent property attachment notices. The apex bank of all co-operative banks in the state was reeling from losses, allegedly because of unlawful decisions and sanctions by the board of directors over the past few years. The bank’s losses are pegged at Rs 1,600 crores. Taking note of the allegations, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had initiated an inquiry and dissolved the board by appointing an administrator. Prominent political leaders in the list of directors include NCP leaders Ajit Pawar, Hasan Mushrif, Amarsinh Pandit; Congress’ Vijay Vadettivar, Madhukar Chavan; BJP’s Pandurang Fundkar and Shiv Sena leader Anand Adsul. State’s co-operative minister Chandrakant Patil, while replying to the attention motion called by BJP MLA Anil Gote, said the inquiry into the Rs 1,600 crore scam is over. “As per the co-operation act, the inquiry, which will get over on May 22, 2016, can be given a two-year extension. This government will not give further extension,” said Mr Patil. He informed the house that notice of property attachment will be sent to all directors who are found responsible for the scam after May 22. “Notice under section 90 of co-operation act will be sent to all 77 responsible directors. Each director will be held responsible for the deeds. Inquiry officers have submitted the report to the government and as a result, no one will be spared,” said Mr Patil. Among a number of decisions that led the bank to losses include loan allotment to co-operative sugar and cotton factories, which were running at a loss, loans without mortgage and negligence on loan recovery. Following Mr Patil’s reply, NCP leader Ajit Pawar said the present inquiry is during the term 2007-2011, but there have been instances of sale of sugar factories at rates less than the market value even after 2011 when the administrator was running the bank. “Will that also be part of the inquiry?” asked Mr Pawar, to which the minister replied saying action will be taken as per co-operative act. (The Hindu 23/12/15)

Bombay High Court to hear on whistleblower (5)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has decided to first hear the matter of providing protection to the family of late whistleblower Kasim Khan, who had filmed 36 policemen taking bribe, before hearing the main petition filed by him seeking to regularise five refugee colonies in Mumbai. Kasim Khan died of massive heart attack earlier this month and his sons Rizwan and Imran are now pursuing the petition filed by their father. Rizwan, while speaking to The Asian Age said, “Since our father died this month and we have decided to pursue the petition first of all the court has issued direction for amendment in the petition so that our names could be added in the petition.” He also said, “The court has decided also to first solve the problem of our security because our father had complained about harassment by policemen deployed for our security.” The family is seeking security from some central agency. In the meantime, the division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere has appointed senior counsel Mihir Desai as amicus curiae (friend of court) to assist the court in this matter because the petitioners are appearing in person. It may be recalled that Kasim Khan had conducted a sting operation in 2013 in Kurla (east) where 36 policemen from Nehru Nagar police station were caught on camera taking bribe and were subsequently suspended. The policemen were taking bribes to allow an illegal construction. Khan had approached the Bombay high court seeking protection for himself and his family members, saying he received threats by police. During hearing of his petition he also sought directions for state to regularise five refugee colonies in Mumbai. He contended that just like the government used its powers and issued special ordinance to regularise refugee colony in Ulhasnagar, it should also regularise the other five refugee colonies too. This petition is pending before the court and will come up for hearing in the first week of January 2016. (Asian Age 28/12/15)

Kirti Azad now asks for CBI probe on DDCA row (5)

Asserting that his fight was against corruption in sports bodies and not directed at any individual, suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad on Monday rejected his party’s argument that a SFIO probe had found no scam in Delhi and District Cricket Association affairs and sought a comprehensive probe by Central agencies, including the CBI and ED. The Delhi government, meanwhile, rejected the BJP’s stand that Union finance minister Arun Jaitley was given a clean chit by an inquiry committee it had appointed to investigate alleged irregularities in DDCA affairs, which was headed by him for around 13 years till 2013. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made it clear he would not apologise for targeting Mr Jaitley as his government’s panel had not given anyone a clean chit. He chastised the BJP for “almost begging” for an apology from the AAP for targeting Mr Jaitley, who he claimed was “running away” from the investigation initiated by the Delhi government. While promising a fair probe into the alleged DDCA irregularities, senior advocate Gopal Subramanium has informed the Delhi CM that the inquiry commission set up by the city government was legally valid. He also said that in order to ensure transparency, all proceedings of the commission will be telecast live so that the whole world could see how the panel was tackling the issue. In a letter to Mr Kejriwal, Mr Subramanium accepted the offer to head the one-man commission and also disputed the reported stand of Delhi lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung that the commission appointed by the Delhi government was not legally valid as it has to be done only with the Centre’s approval. In his opinion, Mr Subramanium said it would also be contrary to the Constitution that a democratically-elected body, that was empowered by the Constitution to deal with matters within the State List as well as the Concurrent List, could not set up a commission of inquiry. As for the live telecast, Mr Subramanium in his letter of December 27 pointed out that in many parts of the world where court proceedings have been televised, such as in Britain and Canada, the judiciary has only stood to gain by being utterly transparent. Meanwhile, making it clear that he was not targeting Mr Jaitley, the suspended BJP MP sought to drag Congress leaders into the row, alleging that the previous UPA government did not take action as many of its nominees were working as DDCA directors and were “party to the wrongdoing and remiss in their duties”. “Without due diligence crores of rupees were transferred in bank accounts having fake addresses. It was a monumental fraud as the same people for the same work were paid again and again. I have evidence… I fail to understand where I have targeted the finance minister. I have said nothing against the party. I have always been a loyal soldier. But I will continue to fight against corruption. The CBI and probe agencies like the ED and DRI should carry out an extensive inquiry into DDCA affairs,” said the suspended BJP MP. On the SFIO’s findings, he said: “The SFIO committee only saw the papers that were given to them. It did not go into finding out whether the companies that were paid several crores of rupees even existed.” He also alleged that many firms were involved in pocketing money running into crores of rupees and were “linked” with DDCA officials. (Asian Age 29/12/15)

ENVIRONMENT/ CLIMATE CHANGE

Negotiators from 150 nations began talks to reach climate deal (9)

Bitterly divided negotiators from nearly 150 countries began talks on Tuesday on a landmark deal to cut Earth-warming greenhouse gas, amid rising emissions and 2015 threatening to be the hottest year ever recorded in history. The talks started on Tuesday a day after the heads of over 150 nations, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gathered in France  in a bid to provide a political push for a powerful climate deal. The summit is being held under the shadow of the deadly Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people two weeks ago. About 2,800 police and soldiers have been deployed around the conference site and over 6,000 have been deployed in the city. The 12-day conference will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 C over pre-industrial temperatures. Scientists estimate that if the world warms by more than 2 C on average above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, the effects of climate change will become catastrophic and irreversible. A 2 C limit has long been the goal of UN climate summits, and current pledges from all countries are estimated to lead to warming of 2.7 C to 3 C, although the proposed deal has a provision for increased emissions cuts in future. Countries like China and India have laid out plans for cuts or curbs to their emissions. These will form the centrepiece of any historic climate deal. The most difficult issues include working out how to share the burden of taking action between rich and poor nations, how to finance the cost of adapting to global warming and the legal format of any final text. More than 180 countries have submitted their plans to reduce the harmful emissions that cause climate change. The UN climate process concerns the use of fossil fuels, the backbone of the world’s energy supply — and that puts the interests of developing nations at stake. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cautioned against any unilateral steps that will lead to an economic barrier in the battle against climate change and hoped that the developed countries would mobilise USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation. “The principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities must remain the bedrock of our collective enterprise,” Modi told the world leaders yesterday addressing the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as the COP21, which stands for the 21st annual “Conference of Parties”. (DNA 1/12/15)

Chennai rains a result of global warming: Experts (9)

With torrential rains in Chennai disrupting normal life, Indian environment experts attending the Paris climate change summit on Wednesday said the downpour in the city was an outcome of global warming. “We are now experiencing the full blown impacts of climate change. The extreme rainfalls that Chennai is experiencing is a direct outcome of our ever warming planet,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director-general of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. “The global average temperature has increased by less than 1 degrees. Think what will happen at 2 degree temperature increase,” he said. Torrential rains have pounded several parts of Chennai and its suburbs along with Puducherry, triggering a deluge that has completely disrupted normal life as Army was deployed in two suburban areas to undertake rescue on a war-footing. Harjeet Singh of Action Aid India, said, “Climate change has always been a contributing factor. We cannot say that it is 100 per cent because of climate change. Here we are talking about the scale of destruction and such rains which have happened after 100 years.” (Asian Age 3/12/15)

Congress MP’s novel protest to highlight Delhi’s pollution (9)

New Delhi: A Congress member on Monday came to Parliament wearing a mask to draw attention to deteriorating air quality and pollution in Delhi. “Today, I thought I will walk to Parliament, but after reading reports in the newspaper that PM (particulate matter) level has increased drastically, I came wearing the mask,” Congress MP from Assam Gourav Gogoi told reporters. He said he had also raised the issue of air quality in Delhi in the last session. “We had asked the central minister last year about the air quality index. And that time we had said that only measuring the air quality won’t be enough. We have to make the people aware so that they can decide on how much time they want to spend outside and inside,” he said. (The Hindu 7/12/15)

‘Citizens Targeted Mercilessly,’ Says Petition Challenging AAP’s Odd-Even Rule To Check Pollution

New Delhi:  The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s anti-pollution plan of allowing odd or even numbered cars on alternate days in Delhi has been challenged in Delhi High Court. Shweta Kapoor, a lawyer, has said in her petition that “imposition of such a policy/law would be contrary to public interest and has been imposed without any public debate or discussion and without understanding the situation and facts and circumstances in India”.The government, she says, has “failed to check the main cause of concern of pollution in Delhi and is targeting mercilessly and arbitrarily the helpless citizens of this city.” The Delhi government has said that from January 1, odd-numbered vehicles will be allowed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and even-numbered cars on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The system will not apply to public and commercial vehicles. The announcement came days after the high court compared the city to a gas chamber. Confronting criticism over lack of planning, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that the formula will be tested for 15 days and will be scrapped if it is hard on citizens. The petition questions whether the AAP government has the power to modify vehicular movement in the national capital. Describing Delhi’s public transport system as “undeveloped and unsafe”, the petitioner has said that it would create problems for women who travel alone as well as differently-abled persons who use modified vehicles to commute. Ms Kapoor also argues that “curtailing the constitutional rights of citizens by following unreasonable and arbitrary measures” will only “add to the chaos and not actually uproot the actual causes of pollution from the city which include dust, entry of trucks inside the city and traditional ways of waste disposal”.She said the government has not paid any attention to dust from construction sites and has focused only “on a limited question of private vehicular pollution”.The petition says: “Simple measures which could have caused the pollution to reduce in the city are better management of traffic and traffic signals and their synchronization, and better road construction technology in Delhi.” (NDTV 8/12/15)

Air pollution ‘falls’ in Delhi, harmful microscopic particles have decreased ‘very significantly’

New Delhi: The level of suspended particulate matters, PM 2.5 and PM 10, have seen a “steady fall” in Delhi’s air despite a drastic fall in temperature over the last four days, which has the potential to elevate the quantity of such pollutants. A System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) study termed it as the “first good indicator” of the season and said a “sudden fall in influx of emissions” may explain the fall. Gufran Beig, Chief Project Scientist of SAFAR, said that PM 2.5, harmful microscopic particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, have decreased “very significantly” in the last two-three days. “This is another indicator that indeed something worked in favour of relatively much better PM figures for this time of the year with such cooler weather conditions. There is one rider though, the wind speed is not high but at the same time, it is not really as calm as it should have been at this time,” said a report, prepared by Beig. PM 2.5 was at 96 micrograms per cubic metre at around 6 PM in Anand Vihar, one of the Delhi’s majorly polluted spots. In areas such Punjabi Bagh and Mandir Marg, the corresponding figures were 83 and 22 around the same time. The average level of PM 2.5 has been 129 microgram per cubic metre of late, still “very poor”, which at this time in was 196 with not only the minimum temperature in the same range but also much lesser maximum temperature (16 degrees Celsius as opposed to 2014, 24 degrees Celsius). A dip has also been observed in the real-time readings of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), SAFAR and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) figures where the air quality index hovered between ‘moderate’, ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’. PM 2.5 was at 96 micrograms per cubic metre at around 6 PM in Anand Vihar, one of the Delhi’s majorly polluted spots. In areas such Punjabi Bagh and Mandir Marg, the corresponding figures were 83 and 22 around the same time. The safe limits of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are 60 and 100 and anything beyond that poses threat to a healthy respiratory system. They have been consistently high, at times multiple times, in the capital, prompting the government to resort to a host of anti-pollution measures. Beig said the fall was noteworthy as the weather conditions, “drop in temperature, normal wind flow pattern and relatively calm local wind”, were congenial for the formation of off-white (light brownish) haze. “The haze which has contribution of both fog and particulate matter reduces visibility faster and last longer which is not the case so far,” he said. SAFAR has also observed a slight increase in the level of gaseous pollutants like Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Ozone (O3) “although, still well within the permissible limit.” (IBN Live 14/12/15)

87% of Himalayan glaciers stable since 2001: Javadekar (9)

NEW DELHI: As many as 248 of 2,018 or 12.3% of Himalayan glaciers are “retreating” while 18 are advancing, environment minister, Prakash Javadekar told the Rajya Sabha on Monday in a written reply. The minister’s reply, however, also revealed that a majority or about 86% of glaciers have remaned stable. The minister said the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in collaboration with the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had conducted a study on a part of the glaciated region of Himalayas between 2004 and 2011 which threw up these results. The results were also published last year in Current Science journal which stated that 2018 glaciers “representing climatically diverse terrains in the Himalaya were mapped and monitored. It includes glaciers of Karakoram, Himachal, Zanskar, Uttarakhand,Nepal and Sikkim regions. Among these, 1752 glaciers (86.8%) were observed having stable fronts or having no change in the snout position.” The study had also inferred that the number and rate of glacier retreat have come down in the last decade compared to the results of other studies conducted before 2001. The authors from Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development and many others had concluded that one reason for their findings could be that an interval of one decade is too small for the changes in glaciers to be reflected. AL Ramanathan, professor of environmental geology and glaciology laboratory, school of environmental sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who was part of a similar study with ISRO said the findings are based on remote sensing data. “Only two or three field observations were conducted for the study and they definitely showed partial retreat. We have not yet studied the impact of black carbon on our glaciers. We know for sure several Tibetan glaciers are retreating because there are published studies in various journals. I think the government should start ground studies now to verify the remote sensing findings.” Responding to a separate question on the impact of biomass burning on air quality in cities, especially Delhi-NCR, Javadekar said, “There is no conclusive study available that biomass burning in neighbouring states would always impact quality of air in Delhi.” He, however, agreed that biomass, stubble or agriculture burning impacts air quality in the vicinity. However, movement of plume of fine particles or various gaseous pollutants from biomass burning depends upon meteorological factors such as wind speed, wind direction, mixing height and humidity, he explained. (Times of India 15/12/15)

Air pollution causes 30,000 deaths in Delhi annually, fifth leading cause of death in India

New Delhi: Air pollution is responsible for 10,000 to 30,000 deaths annually in Delhi as it is the fifth leading cause of death in India, a report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) today said. The publication ‘Body Burden 2015: State of India’s Health’ released today also said that climate change is leading to greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.The publication, which comprehensively examines the linkage between environment and health, said that a number of public health catastrophes arising out of environmental reasons are staring people of India in the face. “The report has gone into areas such as vehicular pollution, industrial pollution, polluting cook stoves that cause indoor pollution, and related issues. The report states that death toll due to uncontrolled air pollution-related illnesses alone has increased worldwide by a whopping 300 per cent in the last decade… “…from 800,000 in year 2000 to 3.2 million in 2012. In Delhi, which was named as the most polluted city of the world by WHO in 2014, air pollution is responsible for 10,000 to 30,000 annual deaths,” it said. CSE said that air pollution is one of the top 10 killers in the world and is the fifth leading cause of death in India. “It results in about 6,20,000 premature deaths which are caused by stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections and trachea, bronchus and lung cancer, among others,” the statement said, adding that the report highlights the heightened vulnerability of the poor and calls for stringent actions. “The way forward would be to reduce the source of air pollution mainly revamping our transportation systems and forcing the industry to come up with cleaner technologies. But people are not aware of these linkages and continue to junk public transport,” CSE DG Sunita Narain. The report said that climate change is leading to greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and simultaneously, India has seen an increase in vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. The report states that the potential period of spread of malaria has increased to 10-12 months (almost the whole year) which is up from 4 to 6 months. In Kolkata, dengue transmission takes place for 44 weeks in a year. With a 2.4 degree Celsius rise in temperature, transmission may continue for 53 weeks, increasing the risk of more people getting affected, it said. The report also said that about 600 people died due to heat waves in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in 2015. Noting that local solutions can help, the report also referred to one such example in Ahmedabad where shifting of a maternity ward from the top to the ground floor helped in reduction of heat- related problems in new-born babies. “The report shows us that we must focus on prevention and not treatment. We need to improve the environment, reduce the disease burden and save money in private or public healthcare. The report informs of the impact of climate change on agriculture and the crop loss suffered by farmers in recent years. “We are seeing an increased severity and frequency of extreme weather events. Farmers in India are facing the double blow of agrarian distress and extreme weather events as a result of climate change,” she said. The report was released by Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). (First Post 16/12/15)

Nearly 60 Percent Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy Sector: Government (9)

NEW DELHI: Energy sector contributes for nearly 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by electricity, industry, agriculture and other sectors, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said today. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Javadekar said greenhouse gas emissions from energy sector constituted 58 per cent, followed by electricity 37.8 per cent, industry 22 per cent, agriculture 17 per cent, transport 7.5 per cent, cement 6.8 per cent, iron and steel 6.2 per cent, waste 3 per cent of the net Carbon Dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions. “As per a report on India: Greenhouse Gas Inventory-2007 the net Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission from India in 2007 with Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) were 1727.71 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Out of which, CO2 emissions were 1221.76 million tons, methane emissions were 20.56 million tons and Nitrous Oxide emissions were 0.24 million tons,” the minister said. He said a scientific study to assess the impacts of climate change has been undertaken. Javadekar said a report titled Climate Change and India: 4X4 Assessment- A Sectoral and Regional Analysis for 2030s, published in 2010, projected a variable rate of change in agriculture production including reduction in yield of crops namely, rice, maize and sorghum and increase in the yield of coconut for western ghats, coastal and north-eastern regions with increasing temperature. “Further, it is anticipated that there may be an all round decrease in apple production in the Himalayan region, and the line of production may shift to higher altitude,” he said in a reply to another question on climate change. (New Indian Express 21/12/15)

No adverse impact on India due to climate change pact: Centre (9)

New Delhi: Government today assured the Lok Sabha that there would be no adverse impact on India’s development due to commitments made at the Paris climate summit as the country will attain sustainable growth even while reducing its carbon emissions. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the outcome of the Paris climate summit was a victory for India and the country would reduce its carbon emissions. “We will work on carbon efficiency path,” he said in reply to questions. Earlier this month, 195 countries reached a deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degree celsius at the climate change summit in Paris. Whatever India has agreed to at the Paris (summit) would not have any adverse impact on the country’s development and poverty alleviation efforts, he noted. Elaborating on the outcome of the Paris climate talks, the Minister said it has been decided that differentiated action would be taken by developed and developing countries with respect to reducing carbon emissions. A target has been set to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in forests, he added. Besides, efforts are being made to increase the forest cover to 33 per cent in the long term. “We will walk the talk… We will not stop (on our) growth path. We will attain sustainable growth,” he said. As per the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS), India aims to have 40 per cent of total installed power generation capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The renewable energy generation capacity is projected to increase to 1,75,000 MW by 2022 from 35,000 MW as on March this year. “India is aiming to generate 100 GW of solar power, 60 GW of power from wind, 10 GW bio mass power and 5 GW small hydro power by 2022,” Javadekar said. (Asian Age 22/12/15)

India’s environment report card (9)

New Delhi: India witnessed a challenging year in terms of its environmental conditions, starting the year with a title, the capital city New Delhi earned last year — the world’s most polluted city according to the World Health Organisation — which it retained this year as well. Delhi and cities surrounding it have surpassed the pollution levels of Beijing, which was the most polluted in the world until Delhi took its spot. Pollution surfaced in unexpected ways — like a lake in Bengaluru turning toxic and frothy with the industrial pollutants being mixed with the water. This incident caught not just national attention but that of the whole world. The country’s northern part was known to have exceeded pollution levels at many times of the year, which should have triggered a ‘red alert’ had it been in another country, according to environment body Greenpeace. “If India had an air quality monitoring system as robust as that of Beijing, a large portion of north India would have been on red alert for as many as 33 days,” the NGO said recently, pointing to the necessity to establish stronger air monitoring systems across the country. Even before the start of winter, which usually greets the northern states with hazy skies and smog covered days, the entire belt of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh choked in smoke due to the paddy field fires — the smoke which affected the country’s climate even later for weeks, according to environmentalists. But, according to Delhi-based environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, the year also saw the issue of air pollution being heard on a national and global level. Tongad said India never had such an “active” stance at the crucial UN Climate Change Conference, in standing up for the developing countries, as it had this year at the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP 21) held in Paris, he said. There are however some gaps in the deal signed, he added. India, which had committed to cut its greenhouse emissions up to 35 percent by 2030, also pioneered the alliance of 120-odd nations to form the grand solar alliance, a move to harness solar energy better. India also bore a stern face in saying that the developed nations must contribute their part to reducing emissions and raising $100 billion a year to help developing ones. These rains, which lasted for over a week, lashed Chennai and other areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Besides drowning a major portion of Chennai in flood water, many parts of Tamil Nadu were severely affected due to flooding. These rains, which were the heaviest Tamil Nadu received in over a century left at least 169 people dead in the state, and 54 dead in Andhra Pradesh. With public transport, residences, office buildings and crops affected, Tamil Nadu has been struggling to get life back to normalcy. Union Minister for Forests, Environment and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar termed the floods as “not a part of climate change” and said that they were a “localised event” and a “natural calamity”, which the environmental groups rejected. According to CSE, “unregulated urbanisation and climate change-induced extreme weather” were the reason behind the flood crisis in Tamil Nadu and other states. The Supreme Court’s recent decision to ban diesel vehicle registrations in the National Capital Region for three months and surrounding towns is also a much needed move, environment groups said. Following the Delhi High Court’s orders, the Delhi government undertook the initiative in the capital to ration road space, allowing even and odd numbered vehicles to ply only on alternative days. But an initiative like this needs to be thought through, as it could lead to the people going for a second car, the National Green Tribunal said.IANS (The Hindu 30/12/15)

The beginning of 2016 is expected to bring relief from air pollution for Delhi residents.

The Met office predicted the air quality to be between “moderate to very poor” in the next few days — a small improvement. The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has forecast that suspended particulate matter PM10 would touch a “new low” — which is a good sign — of the season in the next three days and settle in the moderate category. The PM2.5 level, the smaller particles that had been the lead pollutant in Delhi for the last two months, would also dip, but continue to remain in the “very poor” category. “Very poor category of PM2.5 is only as per recent Indian Air Quality Index guidelines, but as per US-EPA/WHO guidelines it is ‘poor’,” said Gurfan Beig, Project Director, SAFAR. On the eve of 2016 (Dec 31), PM10 is likely to be between 220240 micorgram per cubic metre and that of PM 2.5 would be between 130-148 micorgram per cubic metre. According to Beig, the improvement in the air quality is due to favourable weather conditions. (Hindustan Times 30/12/15)

AGRICULTURE/ FARMERS SUICIDES

34 farmers, farm hands committed suicide every day in 2014 (20)

New Delhi: 34 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide on an average every day in 2014, for reasons including indebtedness and crop failure, reflecting the deepening agrarian distress in several parts of the country. The number of people committing suicide in the farming community– farmers and agriculture labourers — increased to 12,360 in 2014 from 11,772 the previous year, Parliament was informed today. In 2012, the number of suicides committed by people whose profession was mentioned as ‘self employment-farming or agriculture’ was 13,754. “According to the NCRB report of 2014, the major causes of suicides by farmers are: bankruptcy or indebtedness, farming related issues (failure of crops, distress due to natural calamities, inability to sell produce), poverty, family problems, illness and other causes,” Minister of State for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundaria said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. Quoting the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures Kundaria said, 5,650 farmers and 6,710 agricultural labourers ended their lives in 2014. Earlier, NCRB was reporting the suicide cases under the profession ‘self employment — farming/agriculture’. However for 2014, it delineated for the first time the number of suicides under two categories — farmers and agricultural labourers, the minister added. On whether the centre has taken corrective measures to prevent farmers suicides, the minister said state governments are primarily responsible for the development of the agriculture sector. The Centre considers agriculture and allied sectors as highly critical for the welfare of farmers and supplements the efforts of the states through appropriate policy support, schemes and budgetary support. Asked if funding to states for agriculture development has failed to address the problems of farmers, the minister said the Centre has allocated Rs 9,453.76 crore to them under various agri-schemes for the 2015-16 fiscal. Several states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha frequently report suicide by distressed farmers. (Zee News 1/12/15)

122 farmers killed selves in kharif season, says govt (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy on Wednesday said a total of 122 farmers allegedly committed suicide in the last kharif season. “The collectors and superintendent of police (SP) jointly inquired into each case. According to a preliminary report, it was found that no farmers committed suicide due to crop loss or debt burden,” said Maharathy. The minister, however, received flak from the opposition parties for not mentioning the reasons for such a large number of farmers committing suicides in the past three months. Criticizing the state government, Congress MLA Naba Kishore Das said the state government is trying to conceal the facts behind the farmer suicides. “If the state government claims that the deaths were not due to farm-related issues, why is it hesitating to mention the reasons. If the farmer suicides were not due to debt-burden, why have a large number of farmers suddenly committed suicides?” Das said. Stating the ministers reply as unfortunate, BJP MLA Dilip Ray said, “Instead of tackling the situation by taking the opposition parties and the Centre into confidence, the state government is trying to suppress the facts,” he added. In the reply, Maharathy said the highest numbers of farmers – 21- had committed suicide in Bargarh district. The number of farmer deaths in other districts were 10 in Balangir, seven in Balasore, three in Bhadrak, nine in Cuttack, six in Dhenkanal, three in Ganjam, six in Jajpur, two in Jharsuguda, five in Kalahandi, five in Kendrapada, five in Keonjhar, two each in Khurda and Koraput, four in Mayurbhanj, five in Nabarangapur, three in Nayagarh, five in Nuapada, four in Sambalpur, two in Sonepur and one each in Boudh, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Jagatsinghpur, Sundargarh and Deogarh districts. The maximum farmers ended their lives in the month of October and November, the minister said in the reply. Replying to another supplementary question, the agriculture minister said a total of 63,1495 hectares of agricultural land in 173 blocks of 25 districts was affected by the drought in the last kharif season. When asked, Maharathy refused to comment as to why the government did not mention the reasons of farmer suicides in the reply. (Times of India 3/12/15)

Congress seeks power bill, loan waiver to farmers (20)

New Delhi: The prevailing drought situation in various parts of the country found mention in Lok Sabha on Monday as several members raised concern on the matter with the Opposition Congress demanding a waiver of bank loans and electricity bills for farmers as part of relief measures. Initiating a debate over the issue of drought in the House, Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress said farmers across the country are facing tough conditions and, therefore, their bank loans and electricity bills should be waived off. “If you want to learn how to waive off debt, you should learn from our leader Sonia Gandhi,” the Congress chief whip said, apparently referring to the 2008 decision of the Congress-led UPA government to give agricultural debt waiver and debt relief worth Rs 70,000 crore.Observing that 50 per cent of the country has been hit by drought, Mr Scindia said that 18 states witnessed poor to no rainfall this year. This is the second consecutive year when the country received deficient monsoon, he added. Expressing dismay over the government’s policies, Mr Scindia said high prices of food items, including pulses, coupled with low yield due to drought have broken the back of the farmers. Targeting the government, the Congress leader said it is maintaining silence over the sufferings of farmers like it did over the issue of “intolerance”. Countering this, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said, “We are not sleeping. we are at work.” To this Mr Scindia said, “There is a saying in English that ‘there is many a slip between the cup and the lip’.” (Asian Age 8/12/15)

26 p.c. increase in farmers’ suicides in united AP: study (20)

VIJYAWADA: There has been an increase of 26 per cent in farmers’ suicide in the United Andhra Pradesh, a book titled ‘Maarutnna Grameena Jeevanam—Oka Adhyayanam’ which was released here on Wednesday by Acharya Nagarjuna University former Vice-Chancellor K. Viyanna Rao suggests. The book is the outcome of a two-year survey conducted by the Sundaraiah Vignana Kendram (SVK), Rythu, Agriculture coolie and Tenant farmers associations conducted across the undivided Andhra Pradesh. About 500 enumerators went around 74 villages in the united AP to gather information about agricultural scenario in the State. The study results were compiled by C. Sambi Reddy, K. Veeraiah and Y. Siddhaiah. The book depicts rural life vis a vis agriculture in 11 selected villages from Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari, Vizianagaram, Prakasam, Anantapur, Kadapa districts and Medak and Karimnagar districts in Telangana. Listing out the details of study, MBVK Secretary P. Muralikrishna said that agriculture sector was in deep crisis as there was a gross mismatch between production cost and remunerative prices. (The Hindu 10/12/15)

Advise farmers on crop choice: Bombay HC (20)

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Thursday suggested that the government of Maharashtra should start a campaign to advise farmers of Maharashtra what to grow in their fields so that they do not suffer losses due to water deficiency caused by insufficient rains. “How can you have a single policy for the whole of Maharashtra? Each district in the state is facing different problem so it is not necessary that one policy across the state will be helpful for everybody,’’ said the division bench of Justice N.H. Patil and Justice S.B. Shukre. The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation on the issue of farmers’ suicide in Maharashtra. “You have to change your approach,’’ the bench said to the state government. The judges have advised the state to form advisory committees of experts in all districts to advice farmers about what should be grown in their fields according to their weather conditions. Also, according to the judges, if in the current situation farmers continue to grow sugarcanes then Marathwada region will become a desert. ‘’Today people, including children in Marathwada, walk upto five kilometers to fetch water and only after securing water for the day do they begin with other works,’’ observed the bench. Apart from agricultural issues the bench also asked the state to come up with policies to encourage children of farmers to take up education and stop dropping out of schools. The bench has asked the government to keep the joint director of concerned departments present who can later take decisions on the basis of these suggestions. The matter has now been adjourned for further hearing on this petition on December 18. Earlier, the court also suggested that government should come out with a disaster policy for farmers in case there is scanty or no rainfall. It also suggested the state to consider having group insurance for farmers and provide advice from the horticulture department regarding the pattern of crops that are ideal for their weather and soil conditions. (Asian Age 11/12/15)

Farmers’ suicides: AAP wants minister Tota Singh to resign (20)

BATHINDA: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has accused the SAD-BJP government of not taking care of families of small farmers who had committed suicides in the Malwa region’s cotton belt due to crop failure. The party said it would stand by the aggrieved families of farmers and farm labourers who had ended their lives in Punjab due to crop failure or other reasons associated with agriculture. AAP also accused Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and agriculture minister Tota Singh for the rise in farm suicides in the past three months. The party claimed that spurious pesticides provided by the state agriculture department turned out suicidal for cotton growers and gave rise to suicides when pesticides miserably failed to control whitefly attack. AAP spokesperson and Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh said in Bathinda on Friday, “Badal and Tota Singh are responsible for rising farm suicides in the cotton belt as Oberon pesticide provided by the state government failed to control the pest attack. Many of the cotton growers who suffered losses committed suicide.” He said as many as 150 farmers committed suicide in Punjab in a year. Sanjay said, “We have decided to prepare a database of families whose members have committed suicides. We demand resignation of Tota Singh and will hold protests across the state on December 15. If he fails to resign, we will gherao (lay siege to) his residence at Moga after December 15.” Sanjay Singh and other AAP leaders visited the family of a Mansa farmer who committed suicide on December 5. Meanwhile, SAD leader and Punjab rural development minister Sikander Singh Maluka termed AAP plans as “political gimmick to reap political benefits.” He said, “CM Badal is making earnest efforts to get benefits for farmers and has approached the prime minister for that.” (Times of India 13/12/15)

Farmers’ organisations oppose WTO conference at Nairobi (20)

Hassan: Members of a few farmers’ organisations joined hands here on Tuesday to take out a rally in protest against the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) being held at Nairobi. The conference plans to deliberate on the implementation of certain economic policies which would be detrimental to farming community, the protesters alleged. The rally in which leaders of the Karnataka Pranta Raitha Sangha, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Hasiru Sene and the Karnataka Growers’ Federation participated, began at the Hemavati Statue Circle here and culminated on the premises of the Deputy Commissioner’s office, where they staged a dharna. The protesters said that the economic policies introduced in recent years were all in favour of the corporate sector at the cost of farmers. The Nairobi meeting was aimed at speeding up the implementation of various anti-farmer policies. Successive governments had failed to address the problems of farmers, who were reeling under crop and financial losses and committing suicides, alleged the protesters. They submitted an appeal to the Deputy Commissioner. Their demands included proper relief to farmers who were suffering losses owing to vagaries of weather and irregular supply of power. Seeking continuous supply of power for at least 12 hours a day, the protesters demanded that land be provided to landless farmers, agriculture loans be waived to prevent farmers from committing suicide and salary of workers enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act be increased. They submitted a memorandum in this regard to Deputy Commissioner K.M. Janaki. H.R. Naveen Kumar, district president of KPRS; B.S. Jayaram of the Karnataka Growers’ Federation; and Kottur Srinivas, district president of KRRS, were among those present. (The Hindu 16/12/15)

No farmer suicides in Chhattisgarh in 12 years: Minister (20)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Brijmohan Agrawal drew sharp reactions from the Opposition in the Assembly on Thursday when he claimed that not a single farmer had killed himself due to agrarian reasons or mounting debts during the 12-year reign of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party. “Those who are talking of farmer suicides in Chhattisgarh are defaming the State. Chhattisgarh has won the ‘Rashtriya Krishi Karman Award’ thrice for promoting agriculture. Every scheme of the Raman Singh government is centered on farmers. Not a single farmer has committed suicide in the State due to farm-related causes or government’s apathy in the last 12 years of the BJP rule. There may be other reasons behind those suicides,” said Mr. Agrawal. He was speaking on the adjournment motion moved by the Congress on the farmer suicides. Mr. Agrawal’s statement also belittled the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) earlier this year, which put Chhattisgarh at fourth place among the States with highest farmer suicides — with 443 farmer suicides in 2014. According to the NCRB, the State witnessed 4,701 farmer suicides between 2008 and 2010. But, Mr. Agrawal had been calling the NCRB numbers as “wrong and misleading” and based on “faulty analysis.” The State has witnessed more than 30 farmer suicides in the last 50 days, prompting the Opposition Congress to bring an adjournment motion on Thursday. However, the Raman Singh government has been refusing to link the suicides to “farm-related causes or debt burden.” State Congress president and Patan MLA Bhupesh Baghel claimed that more than 200 farmers killed themselves in Rajnandgaon district in the last 11 months. (The Hindu 18/12/15)

Maharashtra reports highest ever farmer suicides in 2015 (20)

NAGPUR: Last week, a day after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a Rs 10,512 crore package for Maharashtra’s farmers while refusing to declare complete loan waiver, Vishal Pawar, a farmer in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district ended his life on Thursday. Pawar left a suicide note addressed to the district’s guardian minister, Sanjay Rathod, in which he mentioned the burden of crop failure and expressed his last wish — a loan waiver. Around 2,590 farmers across Mahrashtra have committed suicide from January to October 2015 — the highest number of suicides since 2001. Data of the last two months is yet to be compiled. In 2006, around 2,376 farmers ended their lives. Official data obtained by The Hindu from 2001 to 2014 shows that over 17,276 farmers committed suicide due to issues ranging from crop failure, inability to repay loans, over dependence on market forces that mostly work in favour of traders. “There is a need to introduce sustainable agriculture in Maharashtra. Money has to be pumped into the rural economy. Unless we do that, farmers will not gain much needed confidence,” said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), who was recently roped in by the State government to head a mission to reduce farm distress. According to Mr. Tiwari, who has been systematically documenting agrarian distress for several years, the government needs to indulge in long-term relief instead of short term measures like loan waivers. While the state opposition agrees that long-term measures are important, it wants the government to look in to short term remedies as well. “We are not asking the government to not invest for future. But what about the present situation? Loan waiver was one of the most important ways to give immediate relief to farmers,” said Prithviraj Chavan, former Maharashtra Chief Minister. Mr. Fadnavis, however, has always been against loan waivers saying it benefits banks and not farmers. The Chief Minister had also informed the Assembly that the State had made the same allocation of Rs 10,512 crore last year also. However, a close look at the package announced reveals that the government has given more money to the schemes or relief work that was already in progress. The only new addition is the allocation of Rs. 250 crore for the new farm pond scheme. In last three to four years, Maharashtra has witnessed extreme weather conditions that have either destroyed crops or left them damaged. Depleting production and monopoly of traders has hit returns and added to farmers’ debt. With banks refraining from extending loans to farmers, many seek loans from private money lenders at exorbitant rates of interest. According to Mr. Tiwari, apart from bringing money into agriculture through banks and government schemes, health and education needs of the farmers should be taken care of. “These are presently very expensive areas. Farmers can be supported if money is invested in these sectors,” he said, adding that the previous government did not focus on this aspect. A government official said that lack of supplementary sources of income other than farming has left farmers helpless in times of crop failure. “Successive years of drought have posed a big question on cattle grazing, which affected the capacities of these animals. It also impacts rural economy,” said the officer. The Congress has claimed that the 2008 farm loan waiver, announced when they were in power, did manage to curb farmer suicides and seven years later, the present government must replicate it. “It could have given confidence to the farmer. The government lost on the opportunity,” said Mr. Chavan. (The Hindu 21/12/5)

Rs 100 Crore More Subsidy for Drought-hit Farmers (20)

BHUBANESWAR: Odisha Government on Tuesday announced an additional input subsidy worth Rs 100 crore for farmers in drought-affected areas of the State. “As part of the drought assistance, the State Government has already provided Rs 113 crore input subsidy to affected farmers. In view of the demand for more input subsidy, the Government will provide additional Rs 100 crore out of its own fund,” Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra told mediapersons here. Asked if share coppers will benefit from this assistance, Mohapatra said the Government has already made it clear that the aid will be extended to actual cultivators. Clarifying the confusion over Rs 380 crore Central assistance approved by the high level committee (HLC) meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday, Mohapatra said the Natural Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) aid was for Phailin. The HLC reviewed the decision in the case of Odisha and approved an assistance of Rs 380 crore as against Rs 399.83 crore demanded by the State. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in November to sanction Rs 399.83 crore Phailin assistance from NDRF which was pending due to an erroneous assessment. After the State Government pointed out the error, the Union Home Ministry in September, 2014 informed that Rs 399.83 crore had been approved. The Centre sanctioned the pending amount on Monday. The SRC further said the Centre has not released any drought assistance to the State yet. The Central team, which visited the State recently, submitted its report to the Centre on December 19. The exact amount of assistance will be known after the report is reviewed in two stages, Mohapatra said. In the first stage, the report will be reviewed by the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) in a meeting to be presided by the Union Agriculture Minister. “Most likely, I will be called to attend the meeting where the report of the Central team will be discussed. The IMG will seek the opinion of the State Government on the report of the Central team,” he said. After the IMG review, the report will be placed before the HLC for a final decision, he said. The Government will submit its final report on crop damage by January 15 on the basis of crop cutting report. There will be hardly any changes in the final report as the number of affected blocks has remained same, the SRC said. The Government will issue a notification mentioning the total number of blocks affected by drought in the State after obtaining the crop cutting reports. Replying to a question on farmer suicide cases, Mohapatra said investigation into death of 122 farmers has been completed. The few cases of alleged suicide that were reported in the last couple of days have been sent to the Home Department. (New Indian Express 23/12/15)

Farmer suicide: Second consecutive death in Chhattisgarh, state ranks fourth in country (20)

Raipur: On the day when Chhattisgarh chief minister inaugurated three-day long national Krishi Mela on Saturday, yet another debt-ridden farmer committed suicide by hanging himself to death at Premnagar area of Chhattisgarh’s Surajpur district allegedly under pressure to pay off loan to bank. This is the second consecutive death as another farmer at Abhanpur committed suicide on Friday, reportedly due to crop failure and debt. Premanagar area has been recently declared drought-hit by state government and is one among several tehsils in state with deficient rainfall in the Kharif season this year. Body of deceased farmer Lalchand,30, was found hanging to the ceiling on Saturday at his residence at Kotal village of Surajpur district in Surguja division. According to preliminary information, Lalchand was under pressure to pay off Rs 53,399 to Central Bank of India and was receiving notices from the bank. The crop failure and debt with notices had apparently triggered the farmer take extreme step. Talking to TOI, Surajpur ASP Manisha Thakur said, “Lalchand was a farmer and has committed suicide but the reason of extreme step is yet to be ascertained. Moreover, locals in Kotal village said during police investigation that Lalchand was behaving very abnormal for last few days and wasn’t mentally sound for past few years.” Sources said that a suicide note was recovered from the spot that mentions that farmer had taken loan from bank to purchase borewell which he couldn’t pay off hence, committing suicide. Recently, Chhattisgarh has witnessed deaths of nearly 35 farmers while state government despite declaring over 100 tehsils as drought hit and proposing relief package of Rs 4000 crore, continue to deny farmer suicides due to crop failure or debt-ridden. Rather the deaths are reasoned as caused due to personal or health issues. Pradeep Sharma, convener Krishak Biradari, who is working at 500 villages with his team for farmers told TOI, “Main problem at regions where suicides are occurring is social incoherence. As crops fail sudden pressure mounts of loan accompanied with family stress. Family members start questioning about whys and hows of loans which becomes major cause of suicide.” Meanwhile, most important is to organize counselling for distressed farmers and drought mitigation technique should be initiated under vocational training provider for social and motivational upscale, this may give them alternatives, Sharma said. Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh recently described the incidents of farmers’ suicide as a challenge saying that his government was making all efforts to provide relief to the farmers affected by this year’s drought situation. There may be many reasons such as debt, illness, crop failure and strained family relations for farmers taking extreme step. But, these suicides are a challenge. One can have two crops a year, but life is only once, he had said. According to the National Crime records Bureau (NCRB), the state has witnessed 443 farmer suicides in 2014, which is fourth highest in the country after Maharashtra, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh. Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said that the opposition has been demanding that mere declaration of tehsils as drought-hit won’t suffice, state government needs to ensure that no bank notices are sent to these affected regions that mounts pressure on farmers commit suicide. “With such situation, government should waver off the loan taken by poor farmers as they lose life over petty loans that range between 30,000 to 1 lakh. So many suicides are an alarm call take necessary steps,” Trivedi said. (Times of India 26/12/15)

No Meetings Held on Farmer Suicides, Reveals RTI (20)

BENGALURU: Though a series of farmers’ suicides have reported across the state this year, the state agriculture minister seems to have turned a blind eye. As per information obtained through the Right to Information Act, Agriculture Minister Krishna Byregowda had not convened a single meeting so far to discuss farmers’ suicide. Documents provided by the director of Agriculture Department states: “No documents available in this regard at our office.” According to information from the department, so far, over 700 farmers have committed suicide across the state. As many as 158 farmers killed themselves in July alone. RTI activist Marilinga Gowda Malipatil, who got the information through RTI, told Express, “If any meeting was conducted on the issue, the proceedings would have been recorded. When they gave it in writing that they do not have any documents regarding meetings convened by the minister, that means no meetings have not been conducted.” “I had clearly asked for information on the meetings conducted by the agriculture minister on farmers suicides. But, they said they do not have any document related the meetings,” he added. Reacting to this, minister Krishna Byregowda told Express, “We have conducted many meetings across several departments. Even the Chief Minister convened many meetings. But I don’t know whether the proceedings have been officially recorded or not.” (New Indian Express 30/12/15)

LAND ACQUISITION/ DISPLACEMENT

Affected farmers to protest for better compensation (4)

Shimla: Unhappy with the less compensation being paid to them for the acquisition of land for four laning of Mandi-Manali stretch of NH-21, farmers will hold a rally outside Himachal Pradesh assembly in Tapovan, Dharamshala, on Thursday. Kargil veteran Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur, under the banner of Four Lane Sangharash Samiti, will lead the agitation. Farmers affected by the four-laning project have planned a protest-cum-agitation against inadequate compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement benefits and lack of transparency in the land acquisition process. Thakur said the failure of Congress government to implement the Land Acquisition Act passed during the UPA government in 2013 has left farmers surprised as the state is denying four times compensation to its farmers. “Moreover, the entire expenditure of compensation would be borne by the Centre. It seems that the government is adamant in pursuing anti-farmer and anti-poor policies,” said Thakur, who is also the president of Sangarsh Samiti. “Earlier, Four Lane Sangharash Samiti had given a memorandum to chief minister Virbhadra Singh at Kullu in October and despite his assurance, nothing has been done on ground to resolve our problems,” he added. He said they have now decided to take up the issue at the state level so that the government takes the matter seriously and with urgency. Thakur said that according to the new Act, the state government was to give two to four times compensation for land, but by its notification dated April 1 this year, it has arbitrarily decided to give only two times compensation. “Farmers in Himachal Pradesh will be compelled to commit suicides like those of their ilk in other states. The state has not even undertaken any exercise to identify persons, who would be displaced or dislocated and would be entitled for benefits as per schedule 2 and 3 of the Land Act 2015,” he added. He said there were no rehabilitation and resettlement plans and schemes worked out so far which were to be notified along with preliminary notification issued by the NHAI. (Times of India 2/12/15)

 ‘PESA panels resolve against bauxite mining’ (4)

VISAKHAPATNAM: At least seven PESA (Panchayat Extension in Scheduled Areas) committees have passed resolutions not to allow mining of bauxite in the Agency areas, it is learnt. The members of all tribes in the area where the government proposes to take up bauxite mining in Chintapalli, Jerrila Reserve Forests are opposed to bauxite mining. “They are highly aware of the issues involved and also about the problems of displacement,” former sarpanch of Jerrila Gram Panchayat S.V. Ramana told The Hindu in Chintapalli. There are a large number of PVTGs who faced displacement due to mining and other projects in Odisha and they have been sharing their experience and apprehensions, he explained. After the GO 97 was issued by the State government the PESA Committees have passed resolutions against bauxite mining, the former sarpanch said. The opposition to mining is beyond political parties. The political parties have been visiting and expressing their support, he added. It is not as though any single tribe is backing it. All the five tribes – Bhagata, Valmiki, Konda Dora, Kammara and Kondu (PVTG) – in the Jerrila area are against bauxite mining. The APMDC had sent teams of tribal employees to try and explain the advantage of bauxite mining, but they have not succeeded. After the Maoists burnt down their homes they have stopped coming. “Everyone is afraid that once mining is allowed it would be the end of the way of life as we know it,” Mr Ramana said. “The forest sustains us and we are never short of food,” he added. Most families produce millets and some rice, and now many of them are into coffee cultivation. (The Hindu 2/12/15)

Independent regulator is needed on land acquisition (4)

The debate on the land acquisition law has turned full circle with the centre now asking states to make their own laws. It is important to understand that land is a hereditary asset and a means of livelihood not only for many owners but also those dependent on it. On the other hand, there are critical issues of jobs to be created for around 12 million people each year. Land is essential for industrialisation and infrastructure. Leaving aside rhetoric and politics, it is critical now to understand the crux of the matter, and adopt the best way forward. If the current land acquisition law does not allow for effective implementation, then it may be time for states to go back to the drawing board. Several solutions have been suggested, such as reforming land records; BJD’s suggestion of making losing land owners partners in the business; Maharashtra working towards digitisation of land records; holding land auctions or the Uttar Pradesh model of mutual agreement between buyer and seller; or the suggestion of the Niti Aayog to use lease agreements. In order to push ahead with reforms many states, such as Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, are already framing their own land laws. A universal solution that could be explored is the establishment of an independent regulator for land at the state level. Though government involvement may be essential to ensure a fair deal, their involvement should be kept to a minimum and acquisition should be the last resort. Faster acquisition and fair compensation (including rehabilitation and resettlement) are the basic tenets of an effective land acquisition mechanism and should be the objectives of the regulator. However, merely creating a regulator would not be sufficient. The regulator needs to be independent and operate at arm’s length from the legislative and executive bodies. Such a regulator would act as a facilitator between parties and ensure a balance of the interests of all stakeholders. The government has recently brought in a bill to establish a regulator for the realty sector to bring in greater credibility and transparency, as well as to protect home buyers. A regulator for land acquisition can also bring in stability and trust, protecting the interests of land-owners and fostering confidence among investors. The ideal solution would be a market based model with direct interaction between the buyers and sellers. However, unlike many other transactions, the actual market price cannot be known accurately as stamp duties never reflect real values. Then there are serious issues of lack of accurate land records, hugely fragmented land holding, emergence of the land mafia and hoarding, all of which can create further roadblocks. Detailing waste-land, government owned land, land-use patterns and digitising accurate land records should be on the priority list of the regulator as this would be beneficial to ensure available land is used prior to acquisition and agricultural land is acquired as a last resort. Several have suggested that many farmers do not want their children to continue in the same profession, thus logically they would welcome such an exit. However, we have seen countless issues arising during land acquisition which indicate some critical concern areas. The major issues seem to be the delay in providing compensation and its inadequacy. The regulator needs to critically examine why a farmer is unwilling to part with his land, when it appears to be in his and the country’s best interest to do so. This could be a good starting point to draft the necessary processes to overcome the hurdles. The Andhra Pradesh government has managed to convince thousands of farmers to voluntarily give up their land to build the new capital Amaravati. The farmers there would have evaluated the costs and benefits of taking such a decision, which just goes to show that the benefits need to outweigh the costs for both parties. The process of land acquisition can neither be pro-poor nor pro-industry unless the needs of all the stakeholders are addressed. It is often stated that the current government had approved LARR 2013 so as to not appear anti-poor before the elections and the Opposition is now protesting only for political mileage. This further strengthens the need for an independent regulator to implement its functions, take impartial decisions and operate with integrity. The process needs to be transparent and issues of conflict resolved in a fair and just manner. Another issue that is often raised is the need to right some of the wrongs of the past. LARR 2013 seems to have gone too far to the other side, creating extensive requirements and procedures which seem fair on paper but can thereby potentially cause significant time and cost overruns, once again creating a business unfriendly environment. In many cases, the major concern is the implementation of the provision rather than the provision itself, and once the problem is clear the solutions can be devised accordingly. For instance, social impact assessment has its benefits but the process is said to be both cumbersome and time consuming. Here we can draw lessons from the process of environmental impact assessment and apply it to reach the objective while incurring the minimum time and cost. The regulator should work towards reducing the transaction cost of acquiring land without diluting the objectives of the provisions in place. The state governments have been working to ease doing business; simplifying the land acquisition process can further improve their image as a business-friendly nation. The eventual objective and aim is a faster and fair land acquisition process at the lowest possible cost, where both parties believe they got the best deal. The answer is an independent and impartial system with clearly laid out functions and processes. Thus, it may be time to evaluate and assess the adoption of a regulator.  (Asian Age 8/12/15)

SEZs end up non-starters as 2,044 ha of 2,048 notified lie vacant (4)

Visakhapatnam: At a time when land acquisition for different projects is facing opposition from various quarters, only 4.13 hectares out of the notified 2048.20 hectares has been utilised in the last five years and the current year in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) of Andhra Pradesh. As much as 2044.15 hectares, which translates to 5051.2 acres, is lying vacant in SEZs of AP. These SEZs were notified during the last five years and the current year, as per the reply given by Union minister of state for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman to a question in the Lok Sabha yesterday. Overall, across 15 states of the country, only 362.25 hectares has been utilised out of the 4842.38 hectares notified (about 7.4 per cent) in the last five years and the current year, the minister said in her reply. AP tops all other states in terms of total area notified for SEZs followed by Maharashtra, which has utilized 35.86 hectares out of 571.99 hectares notified SEZ area. The minister also said, “Land is a state subject. Land for SEZs is procured as per the policy and procedures of the respective state governments. The central government does not allot any land for SEZs. The board of approval for SEZs only considers those proposals, which have been duly recommended by the state government.” The reply issued by the minister also states that while unified AP had recorded exports of Rs 18163.8 crore in 2011-12, it was Rs 27687.71 crore in 2012-13, Rs 33291.07 in 2013-14. However, in the 2014-15 fiscal, while SEZs in AP registered exports to the tune of Rs 7887.61 crore, Telangana registered Rs 37,108 crore. Similarly, in 2015-16 fiscal upto September 30, Telangana registered exports of Rs 24,032 crore whereas it was Rs 3847.1 crore in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, employment generation from SEZs was 1.17 lakh in 2011-12, 1.44 lakh in 2012-13, 1.57 lakh in 2013-14 in combined AP. However, following bifurcation, in 2014-15 the employment from SEZs in AP was 47,506 whereas it was 1.54 lakh in Telangana. At the same time, in 2015-16 fiscal upto September 30, 2015, employment recorded in AP was 58,335 whereas in Telangana, it was 1.70 lakh. According to sources, many of the SEZs have been lying vacant because of the gloomy market conditions in the previous years and also because recently developed SEZs are still being promoted by the developers. The source said that in addition to this issues related to minimum alternate tax is also a cause of concern among investors. (Times of India 9/12/15)

Land acquisition stalled in Dholera SIR after HC order (4)

AHMEDABAD: The state go vernment suffered a fresh setback as land acquisition process for Dholera Special Invest ment Region (SIR) went on hold on Thursday, with the Gujarat high court ordering sta tus quo until further hearing of a PIL. The next hearing of the petition filed by disgruntled farmers is scheduled on January 16. Thursday’s hearing however, made it clear that the HC was in no mood to go easy with the state, which, apparently, is showing the rulebook to acquire land of farmers wit hout paying any compensa tion. Dholera SIR, 60 km from Ahmedabad, is being planned as part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) The government has moved to acquire land from 22 villages in Dholera block across an area of 900 sq km. It has also is sued notices to over 200 farmers in the area telling them to vacate 50% of their agricultu ral land as part of the Town Planning Scheme. The state’s application of Town Planning Scheme to the rural area, and the incorporation of the Gujarat Town Planning & Urban Develepment Act (GTUD) in the SIR Act, was questioned by a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel on Thursday . The statutes enable the government to acquire 50% land of farmers without paying compensation, The court expressed that a Town Planning Scheme could not ordinarily be applied to land that doesn’t fall under a declared municipal area. The bench was also sceptical of the use of the GTUD Act in the instant case.It said the law was passed in 1976 with the President’s assent, when Gujarat had been under President’s rule. To incorporate it in the new legislation for SIR, the state government required a fresh nod from the President. The court asked Advocate General Kamal Trivedi whether the state government was ready to stall the land acquisition process till final outcome of the litigation. In reply, the government filed an affidavit and informed the court that stalling the process would have far reaching effects on development, because the project was beneficial for the entire country. … (Times of India 11/12/15)

New rules set to bring windfall for land owners near Bengaluru (4)

BENGALURU: Farmers in the vicinity of Bengaluru city are set for a windfall with the state government all set to implement the The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 in Karnataka. “We are ready with new rules and regulations and the act will come into force from 2016,” said B Basavaraju, principal secretary, revenue department. The biggest beneficiaries would be those who own land in Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts, Bidadi (Ramanagaram) and parts of Chikkaballapur districts. For instance, land owners near the Kempegowda International Airport will get Rs 40 crore per acre – four times the current market value. If the land is located in BBMP limits, the payoff could be bigger since an acre here cost not less than Rs 25 crore. The state government and the Centre have jointly proposed to acquire about 25,000 acres around Bengaluru, especially close to the KIA, for various projects including the 10,000 acre Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR). With the Narendra Modi-led NDA government not able to make any headway in getting controversial amendments cleared in Parliament, the state government has decided to implement the act to send a message to investors ahead of of its muchhyped Invest Karnataka 2016 event which seeks to tap global investors. “Since ordinances promulgated by the central government have lapsed, the government has initiated the process of implementing the act in Karnataka,” Basavaraju added. Under the act, land owners should get up to four times the market value in rural areas and twice in urban areas. Chapter ii of the 2013 Act also makes it compulsory to carry out the Social Impact Analysis (SIA) for land acquisition for all projects and offer rehabilitation and resettlement scheme for displaced persons. Given limited government resources, this also raises questions about financing projects and the time taken to acquire huge tracts of land mainly for road, irrigation and other infrastructure projects. “The new act will not only make land acquisition an expensive proposition but also time consuming since the SIA alone requires about six months,” said Satish Poojar, a senior executive with an affordable housing project. Basavaraju, however, said the new act may also encourage farmers to give up their land not only because they will get good money but also because the government will take care of resettlement and rehabilitation issues. (Times of India 14/12/15)

Ensure no violence against Shakur Basti displaced, HC tells police (4)

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the police to ensure there was no further “violence” against the displaced residents of Shakur Basti in west Delhi. It also directed the city government to ensure children of the slum dwellers were assured of education during the rehabilitation programme. A division bench of Justice S. Murlidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhru appointed Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to carry out a survey of people affected by the demolition drive there on December 12 and share the findings with the Centre, city government and other agencies so that relief materials was given to them. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was also asked to depute an official in the area to coordinate with government agencies and prepare a report on relief materials provided to the affected people. The court also asked the NHRC to submit a report on the issue. The court’s direction came while hearing a plea filed by Congress leader Ajay Maken to seek directions to authorities for the rehabilitation of the displaced in temporary relief camps and shelter homes. More than 500 hutments were demolished by railways authorities on Saturday, leaving hundreds homeless in the winter chill. An infant allegedly died during the drive. Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi government, told the bench that steps were taken to provide relief materials to the people in the slum. “Around 700-800 families have been affected by the demolition drive. As many as 3,000 blankets have been provided to them and 60 big tents set up,” he told the court. The court posted the matter for further hearing on December 22. (Business Standard 16/12/15)

Farmers urge Centre to implement Forest Rights Act (4)

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of landless farmers, agricultural workers and labourers from across 20 States assembled at Jantar Mantar here on Tuesday under a joint platform ‘Bhumi Adhikar Andolan’ (Land Rights Movement) and observed December 15 (Forest Rights Day) as ‘Chetavni Divas’ — day of challenge and warning. Addressing a gathering, social activist Medha Patkar said the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was enacted in 2006, but successive governments have never taken efforts to implement the Act. “Rather things are moving in opposite direction. The NDA government has introduced two dangerous moves by declaring a cut-off date for claiming of rights and also to involve corporates in plantation activities in degraded forest areas,” said Ms. Patkar, adding that both these steps were against the rules and provisions of the FRA and would endanger the rights of communities. Social activists who participated in the event pointed out that attempts were being made to dilute the Environment Law (Amendment) Bill 2015. “Environment impact assessment and public hearing form the only basis for communities to participate in the development process and now this very right is being taken away from them,” said Jarjum, a farmer leader. Several other leaders pointed out that Schedule Tribe and other Forest Dwellers, Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 which were meant to transfer the rights of resources back to people have not been implemented. It was important to note that the comprehensive report of high level committee (HLC) on the status of Adivasis submitted in 2014 says that the implementation of these Acts have been weak despite the promising provisions, they said. “The NDA government is keen to alter the spirit and basic features of these Acts. The fate of altered Land Acquisition Act, 2013 is hanging in legislature and the basic tenets of Forest Rights Act, 2006 are being diluted through executive orders to avoid being answerable to the people of the country,” Ms. Patkar said. The members of the movement submitted a memorandum to the Centre asking implementation of Forest Rights Act to ensure collective rights of communities. (The Hindu 16/12/15)

Land acquisition: Gohana farmers line up to sell their land (4)

Amid allegations and counter-allegations between the Opposition and the ruling party on the land acquisition bill, farmers in Gohana are in a hurry to sell their agriculture land for the setting up of the proposed Industrial Model Township in Lath village of Sonepat district. Around 500 farmers from Lath, Jauli and Bighal, Kathwal and Bhianswal villages have expressed their consent to give their land for the project. They reached Gohana tehsildar office to offer their land for the project saying they don’t want their sons to commit suicide due to crop failure and mounting losses. Groups of elderly farmers, who are actual owners of the land in Ladh, Jauli and Bhigal village of this sub-division were seen at the tehsil office from early morning to prepare an affidavit mentioning that they were ready to give their land as per the rate fixed by the government. “I have decided to give my over 13 acres of land for the project as I have heard that they will pay `51 lakh per acre. I think a farmer can never earn such a huge amount for one acre,” said a Dharambir, a farmer from Lath village. “This will help me and my children to live a happy life a start a business which is not possible for a small farmer,” he added. “Most of the farmers are ready to give their land for the project,” said another farmer Ram Chandra. However, farmer leaders say the government’s apathy to address farmers’ issue had led to such a situation where they are ready to sell their fertile land. “We have talked to the farmers and they said that they cannot see their children committing suicide or live under debt. Land acquisition has given them an opportunity to sell the land without social shame, like those lakhs of farmers of this state are ready to sell their ancestral land,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Satyawan of Gohana. When contacted, district revenue officer Suresh Kumar said: “I came to know that farmers are willing to offer their land for acquisition. Around 3,300 acres will be required for the first phase of the IMT and the farmers will get around `51 lakh (no-litigation) for an acre.” (Hindustan Times 20/12/15)

 ‘Forcible acquisition of farmland leads to socio-economic crisis’ (4)

Shivamogga: Social activist S.R. Hiremath has said that the forcible acquisition of agricultural land in the name of industrialisation will create socio-economic crisis. Mr. Hiremath was speaking at a programme organised by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) to pay homage to farmers’ leader late N.D. Sundaresh here on Monday. Mr. Hiremath said that the acquisition of large tracts of agricultural land in the name of special economic zone and industrial corridors had rendered many farmers unemployed. The farmers, who had lost their land were forced to work for paltry sums as wages in urban areas. The acquisition of agricultural land had also put food security of the nation at stake, he said. He said that the multinational companies were exerting pressure on the government to dilute the existing laws related to land acquisition. The raitha sangha should create awareness among farmers against this conspiracy. The framing of and amendment to laws related to land acquisition should be done after consulting the farmers, he said. Addressing the gathering, leader of raitha sangha Badagalapura Nagendra said that the urban-rural divide was widening owing to flawed economic policies of the government. The failure of the government to ensure remunerative prices for agricultural produce was responsible for the present crisis in agricultural sector, he said. Meanwhile, the KRRS activists staged a protest at MRS Circle here urging the government to waive off all forms of loans taken by farmers from nationalised and cooperative banks. Farmers’ leaders H.R. Basavarajappa and Kadidal Shamanna took part in the protest.(The Hindu 22/12/15)

Observe Dec 24 as PESA Act day, says tribal leader (4)

RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh state scheduled tribes commission has appealed to observe December 24 as PESA Act day saying that its implementation was a milestone in the empowerment of tribals. State commission chairman Devalala Dugga said in a statement that PESA Act has vested vast powers on panchayat bodies and gram Sabha in protecting the rich culture and traditions of tribal areas. He said gram sabhas have a right to take decision on land acquisition and mining and exploitation of mineral resources in the region. PESA Act, which came into force on December 24, 1996, is an important milestone in the administration of scheduled areas, Dugga said adding that it is in force in nine states- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan where Fifth Schedule of the Constitution is in force. (Times of India 24/12/15)

8 years on, hope for tribals hit by Lendi irrigation project (4)

MUMBAI: Almost eight years after tribals in the then Thane district’s Jawhar tehsil lost their land to the Lendi Irrigation project, the government has accepted that the official land acquisition process was not followed. After a relentless struggle through the years, paper work for official land acquisition will be completed in 2016 under new the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, as land has already been used to construct a dam. The dam is now part of newly formed Palghar district  “The official procedure was not completed while acquiring the land. Meanwhile, notices issued to acquire the land lapsed, but the construction of the dam started. Even though the dam has been constructed, no official acquisition has taken place. I have asked for all files and the official process of land acquisition will be completed as per the new Act,” said Abhijit Bangar, Collector, Palghar. Mr. Bangar said that he has sought an explanation from the officers on how work on the dam began without officially acquiring land from the tribals. Almost 75 per cent of the work is over. However, it has currently been halted. The Collector did not confirm whether the tribals will be given compensation with retrospective effect since their land was taken in 2007. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too has agreed to conduct an inquiry into the irregularities in awarding compensation to the tribals. On Tuesday, over 75 tribals from Bhotadpada in Jawhar reached Mumbai, covering the 180-kilometre distance on foot in four days to demand a compensation package with retrospective effect and action against government officers who snatched away their land and livelihood. “Our only source of living was agriculture. Once they took away our land, we were displaced from the village in search of money,” said Vitthal Dambale from Bhotadpada. The tribals who once grew paddy in this village moved to Bhiwandi and Kalyan where they worked as labourers — after their land was snatched and no compensation given. (The Hindu 30/12/15)

RIGHT TO HEALTH

Five state health portals make it to NHSRC list (3)

JAIPUR: The state is using a lot of technology – both IT and non-IT based, which has placed it in the top states with innovative portals in the country to deal with problems such as malnutrition, maternal deaths, female feticide. With that National Health System Resource Centre (NHSRC) is all set to add five more Rajasthan portals in the list of innovative portals of the country. As of now, among the 61 listed innovative portals of the country, five were introduced in the health sector in the state. Now, the state is ready with another five innovative portals to be added in the list. NHSRC public health planning advisor, Dr Satish Kumar, visited the city recently, who expressed his intention to include the recently innovated portals in the NHSRC, so that other states could take some learning from the portals. “We have introduced the portals as it is the requirement of the state, which is the largest in the country and has a huge population. Innovation is the need of the hour. These innovations are not a fancy idea. They are designed to solve the problems and to serve the people,” national health mission (NHM) director Navin Jain told TOI on Sunday. The five new portals, which he was talking about included, ASHA Soft, Kuposhan Watch, e-Upkaran, C-mam (community management acute malnutrition) and Kushal Mangal Karyakram. Two of these five portals were made with an aim to intensify fight malnutrition. These are kuposhan watch, which is an IT-based tracking system for children with malnutrition coming to malnutrition treatment centres (MTCs), and Cmam is a community based approach treatment of malnourished children. Besides, what has attracted the NHSRC is e-upkaran (equipment management & maintenance system) portal. The portal is designed to monitor all the equipments at government hospitals and it is instrumental in keeping the equipments well-maintained and functional through proper monitoring. Also, an innovative portal – Kushal Mangal Karyakram was introduced in the state to monitor high risk pregnancies in the state. Its aim is to bring down the maternal mortality rate in the state. Besides, through innovative portal, which is IT-based – ASHA Soft, has become quite popular as it was launched with an aim for timely payments to more than 45,000 Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers. The ASHA workers help the health authorities to implement various national and state health programmes intended to reduce maternal mortality ratio (MMR), infant mortality rate (IMR) and to increase immunization coverage. (Times of India 1/12/15)

Indian cities among most toxic air category, says WHO report (3)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to release a new report with more Indian cities in the “most toxic air” category even as health experts warned on Wednesday that fresh evidence shows polluted air kills more people than tobacco. Last year, 13 Indian cities including Delhi were among the top 20 most-polluted ones in the world, a year after a Lancet report described air pollution as the sixth biggest killer in the country. The air quality in the national capital and neighbouring areas has worsened this year despite more favourable weather conditions. Carlos Dora, head of the WHO’s air pollution analysis unit, told Hindustan Times the pollution problem in cities like Delhi was because of lack of awareness among the local population about its health impact. “Though you and I may know what air pollution does to our health, people on the streets of Delhi or Mumbai may not know it. That prevents creating a political momentum for improving air quality,” he said. “Our data clearly shows that air pollution is an increasing health hazard on which local authorities need to act.” Sources say the report of 2,000 cities is likely to have more Indian cities in the top bracket, pointing to a surge in the spread of toxicity in the air above urban Indian areas housing around 36% of the country’s population. Dora said they will soon launch an awareness campaign in Asian cities including some in India on the effects of air pollution. The WHO will come out with its new ranking of the most-polluted cities in the world by February 2016. (Hindustan Times 3/12/15)

5-in-1 vaccine to save 20,000 kids every yr (3)

LUCKNOW: The inclusion of pentavalent vaccine in the routine immunisation regimen will save the lives of more than 20,000 children every year in the state. “Pneumonia is one the biggest causes of infant mortality rate in the state. The 5-in-1 vaccine can bring down pneumonia deaths at least by one-third, which means that some 17,364 children could be saved annually,” said principal secretary, health and family welfare, Arvind Kumar. Official figures show more than 52,000 children die of pneumonia in the state each year. Pentavalentvaccine provides protection to a child against five life threatening diseases — diptheria , pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae-type B (HiB). While diptheria, pertussis, tetanus (called DPT) and hepatitis B are already included in the routine immunisation programme, HiB vaccine is the new addition. “Inclusion of Hib will provide protection from a range of infections including pneumonia, meningitis, bacteremia, epiglottitis and septic arthritis,” Kumar said, adding, “the outcomes for meningitis (90% reduction in the cases) were promising.” Meningitis is the cause of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in a small proportion of cases. AES affects more than 3,000 children each year and claims lives of 500 kids annually as per data from national vector borne diseases control programme. East UP districts are primarily affected by it. (Times of India 8/12/15)

To lower MMR, health dept switches to PPP mode (3)

BHOPAL: State health department has switched over to public private partnership (PPP) mode to lower Madhya Pradesh’s maternal mortality rate. In a first, a caesarean delivery, also known as a C-section, was performed at a community health centre (CHC) at Prithvipur in Tikamgarh district, some 150 km from Gwalior on Sunday. It was the first such operation since the hospital was upgraded into a CHC nearly a decade back. The planned operation was successfully performed on a 25-year-old woman expecting her second child. On paper, like most government health care centres in MP, CHC Tikamgarh should also have been offering a C-section facility. However, lack of gynaecologists and equipment has often failed the hopes of many. In MP, an estimated 11 lakh women rely on government centres for child birth and some 3.5 lakh females opt for home delivery every year. Some 227 women per lakh deliveries die in child birth in Madhya Pradesh. The region’s MMR is even worse. PPP mode intervention and outsourcing was reformulated into policy by health department. Tikamgarh chief medical and health officer (CMHO) Dr AK Tiwari came across the same some eight months ago. This simple equipment upgradation, costing around Rs 2.5 lakh, is now expected to save hundreds of lives. “Both mother and child are healthy. It was a successful operation performed by a private gynaecologist and anaesthesiologist from Jhansi,” said Dr Tiwari. Outsourcing of a single operation costs the government Rs 5,000. MP’s MMR is a far cry from the millennium development goal (MDG) target of reducing it to 109 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. “Most of the healthcare facilities, apart from district hospitals, are even struggling to meet union government’s norm of five C-sections in a month,” said a health department official, seeking anonymity. There are 51 district hospitals in MP, of which five are grappling to find gynaecologists for round-the-clock duty. A recent internal circular even hinted at government gynaecologists not being able to perform caesarean deliveries in some places. “The reality is private hospitals too are struggling or missing in the area. We plan to start a similar facility in yet another CHC soon. Things will change and expecting mothers will need not travel to urban areas for a simple delivery,” said Dr Tiwari. (Times of India  8/12/15)

Experts Bat for Health Rights (3)

BHUBANESWAR:  Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is the fundamental right of every citizen in the country and all States must ensure that essential health services including skilled yet affordable medical personnel are accessible to one and all, Director of Chhattisgarh State Health Resource Centre Dr Prabir Chatterjee said here on Saturday. Addressing  a panel discussion on the occasion of UHC Day held at Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies (NCCDS), Chatterjee said in order to give an impetus to medical services in remote pockets of the State, skill development training for ground level health workers, midwives and pharmacists should be a basic practice. Though health indicators of the State have improved, the infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate and malaria-related deaths are higher than the national average, NCCDS Director Prof Srijit Mishra said. Health Activist Jagannath Chatterjee said Odisha having the second highest proportion of scheduled caste and tribal people in the country, there continues to be significant difference in the socio-economic conditions. In most of the southern and western districts, inaccessibility, social disparities and shortage of skilled health workers have been a major impediment in medical service delivery, he added. Almost 70 per cent of infant deaths take place in the first month of child’s life largely due to preventable causes. Low skill level of medical and paramedical staff pose a major challenge for quality service delivery, he said. (New Indian Express 13/12/15)

True count of infant deaths is anybody’s guess (3)

Bengaluru: Since only a third of the number is reported, govt. directs all pvt. hospitals to mandatorily report each death from January 1 Last year, Karnataka recorded 12,621 infant deaths (within a year of birth), including 9,008 neonatal deaths (within 28 days of birth). But, the death toll could be much higher since more than two-thirds of infant deaths in the State go entirely unreported every year. Based on the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) 2013 that has recorded infant mortality rate at 31 per 1,000 live births, the State should have reported about 34,000 infant deaths a year. Most of the deaths in private hospitals have not been reported, say department officials. The same holds true for newborns that die while they are being transported from primary healthcare centres to more well-equipped hospitals. In fact, going by official records, neonatal mortality in Karnataka, which constitutes 70 per cent of infant deaths, has remained almost at the same level for the last five years. From 25 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009, it has come down marginally to 22 per 1,000 live births in 2013 ranking the State fourth lowest in India in terms of reduction in neonatal mortality. “To ensure that all infant deaths are recorded, we have now directed all private hospitals to mandatorily report every infant death from January,” said M.V. Vijay Kumar, State Deputy Director (Child Health). Hospitals have been given the instruction through the State unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Karnataka Medical Council (KMC), Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), National Neonatal Federation and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics and Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (FOGSI). Sowjanya, State Mission Director, National Health Mission, said this new method will not only serve as an effective child mortality indicator, but also reduce discrepancies in the State’s official records when it comes to infant, neonatal and child deaths. Half the deaths that are reported are from rural areas. State Adviser (Child Health) K. Vimochana said this could be because of the severe shortage of specialists, especially gynaecologists, anaesthetists and paediatricians in rural areas. “While we need to improve labour room care during delivery, and prevent deaths during neonatal transport, it is also important for an increased awareness in the community. General duty medical officers (MBBS) can be trained to handle maternity and neonatal care in areas where there are no specialists,” she said. But, why are private hospitals not reporting infant deaths? “This could be an additional burden on them as they think that their job is only to provide care and treatment. But, they also have an equal share in helping the State improve its health indicators,” said Health Commissioner P.S. Vastrad. He said although it is difficult for the department to ensure that all private hospitals are ethical in their data collection, the department would be more vigilant. Agreeing with the Commissioner, president of the State unit of the IMA, Prabhakar G.N., said that “unless reporting was made compulsory, hospitals will not do it”. He said the IMA will coordinate with the department and send a circular to all private hospitals to follow the rule. (The Hindu 14/12/15)

 ‘Cardiovascular disease top killer’ (3)

NEW DELHI: For the population as a whole, non-communicable diseases including cancers and digestive disease are bigger killers while infant mortality and diarrhoeal disease are reducing in impact, the data shows. Suicide and road accidents are the leading cause of death among young women and men respectively, new data from the Registrar General of India shows. For the population as a whole, non-communicable diseases including cancers and digestive disease are bigger killers while infant mortality and diarrhoeal disease are reducing in impact, the data shows. Since death certification in India is rare, restricted to urban areas and of poor quality, the RGI’s office has been conducting “verbal autopsies” on a sample group across the country every few years. The last such ‘causes of death study’ was conducted in 2004-6, and the RGI’s office released data for 2010-13 on Tuesday. The sample consisted of 1.8 lakh deaths across the country, and the cause of death was established by interviewing the household, followed by analysis by a team of medical professionals. The data shows that overall, cardiovascular disease is the top killer of Indians, accounting for 23 per cent of all deaths in 2010-13 as compared to 20 per cent in 2004-06. The proportion of infant and child deaths to total deaths has come down substantially, and improved healthcare has meant more deaths in the 70+ age group instead. Noncommunicable diseases account for more deaths in India’s richer states than in its poorer states. Among neonatal and infant deaths, prematurity and low birth weight has become a progressively biggest cause of death as more institutional deliveries have meant fewer birth trauma-related deaths. However there is a substantial difference between India’s richer and poorer states; deaths of children under the age of 4 account for nearly 40 per cent of all deaths in the poorest states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, and just 17 per cent of deaths in the other states. The burden of child death is also higher in rural than in urban areas. Injuries have now surpassed diarrhoeal disease as the leading cause of death among boys aged 1-4 years. “Unintentional injuries” have also become the leading killers of young boys and girls aged 5-14. Among young adults aged 15-29, road accidents have surpassed suicides as the leading cause of death of young men, while suicides are not responsible for an even larger proportion of young female deaths. Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of older adults, followed by cancers. Suicides are particularly high in the south; it is the sixth largest cause of death across age groups in the four southern states, while it does not figure among the top ten causes of death in any other region. (The Hindu 16/12/15)

Drinking Water in 17 Chhattisgarh Districts Contains Fluoride: Government (3)

RAIPUR: Drinking water in 395 villages across 17 out of total 27 districts in Chhattisgarh contains fluoride beyond permissible limit, the state Assembly was told today. “Complaints were received regarding fluoride contamination beyond normal limit in drinking water from 17 districts of the state where 395 villages are affected,” Public Health Engineering Minister, Ramsewak Paikra said in a written reply to a question of BJP MLA Santosh Bafna. While Surguja district tops the list with 67 such villages, it is followed by districts of Bastar (56), Surajpur (39), Dhamtari (35), Koriya (32), Balod (30), Kondagaon (30), Mahasamund (27), Balrampur (25), Korba (19), Kanker (13), Bijapur (8), Durg (7), Raigarh (4) and a village each in districts of Bemetara, Kabirdham and Gariyaband. To a query, the minister clarified that no complaint about villagers falling ill after consuming fluoride-contaminated water was received from Bastar region. Through installing fluoride removal plant (FRP), “Nal-Jal Scheme” and other optional sources, clean potable water is being provided in the fluoride-affected villages, the reply said. According to World Health Organisation, ingestion of excess fluoride, most commonly in drinking water, can cause fluorosis which affects the teeth and bones and potentially severe skeletal problems in case of long-term ingestion. (New Indian Express 21/12/15)

US to fight multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (3)

Washington : The White House released a plan to combat “global rise” of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). The plan released on Tuesday identified actions the US government will take in the next three or five years. It included ensuring that all patients with TB are promptly detected and treated and people in close contact with such patients are identified, monitored, and if necessary, treated, Xinhua reported. “Although any transmission of TB is of public health importance, an outbreak sparked by an individual with undiagnosed MDR-TB or XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant TB) could have serious consequences due to the difficulty and costs associated with treating patients infected with these resistant strains,” a statement said. The plan also included a goal of improving international capacity and collaboration to combat the disease, which will be done through “strategic investments” to broaden access to diagnosis and treatment in the most affected communities. In addition, the White House called for accelerating research to combat MDR-TB, including developing rapid tests to diagnose TB, novel therapies and drug regimens to cure TB and MDR-TB within weeks, and new vaccines with the potential to prevent all forms of TB. TB has caused more deaths than any other single infectious disease worldwide, killing over 1.5 million people each year, the White House said. Each year, over 9.5 million people develop active TB and about 480,000 people develop MDR-TB. However, fewer than 20 percent of individuals with MDR-TB receive the drugs they need to combat the disease and of them, less than half are cured. The toll of TB on the global economy is estimated to be $12 billion each year. In countries with a high-prevalence of TB, the disease is estimated to decrease gross domestic product by four to seven percent. In the US, it costs about $17,000 to treat a patient with drug-susceptible TB, $150,000 to treat a single patient with MDR-TB, and $482,000 to treat a single patient with XDR-TB. (Business Standard 23/12/15)

Medical Negligence: Bombay HC asks BMC to pay Rs 21 lakh to patient (3)

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court recently directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to pay compensation of around Rs 21 lakh to a man who had lost fingers of his right hand “due to gross and direct negligence on the part of doctors and nursing staff of Rajawadi Hospital.” “There has been gross negligence on part of the authorities in performing duties. The petitioner is certainly entitled to compensation in the nature of exemplary damages,” said Justices A S Oka and Justice Gautam Patel. Umakant Mane, a resident of Ghatkopar, was admitted to Rajawadi Hospital in 2002 as he was suffering from seizures, but according to his petition, due to negligence on the part of the doctors and the members of the staff of the hospital, all the fingers of the right hand had to be amputated. Mane, who suffered from a seizure on October 1, 2002, was taken to Rajawadi Hospital. His skin had begun changing colour due to wrongly administered intravenous fluids, according to the petition. The HC observed that if medication had been given properly in the vein and doctors and nurses were not negligent, gangrene would not have set in and the fingers could have been saved. The Bench said that from the report of the inquiry committee, it appeared that the doctors were negligent in informing relatives of the petitioner about the nature of the ailment and the nature of the operation. “We also find it rather strange that when public visiting hours in the hospital are restricted and duty to take care of the patient is that of the employees how were the relatives asked to look after the patient. In any event, that would not lessen the duty of the doctors and nurses treating the patient. We find the conduct of the doctors and the nurses to be outrageous. It shocks the conscience of this court. There has been wanton disregard on the part of the doctors, the nurses,” said the HC. (Indian Express 23/12/15)

106 more drugs added to list of essential meds (3)

New Delhi: To make drugs for diseases like cancer, HIV and Hepatitis C more affordable, the government has added 106 drugs to the list of essential medicines, taking the total to 376. At the same time, 70 other drugs have been taken off the list. Pharma industry experts feel many of the medicines in the new list may be brought under price control, as was done earlier. Terming it a “best fit list”, an expert committee under the chairmanship of former Indian Council of Medical Research chief V.M. Katoch, upgrading the National List of Essential Medicines for the third time since it was first compiled in 1996, added 106 medicines and deleted 70 after a series of consultations across the country. The list was expanded to 376 from 348 by including drugs from analgesics, antivirals to contraceptives, cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis drugs. “Drawing an essential medicines list (EML) is expected to result in better quality of medical care, better management of medicines and cost-effective use of healthcare resources,” a report said. “NLEM 2015 has been prepared adhering to the basic principles of efficacy, safety, cost-effectiveness, consideration of diseases as public health problems in India,” it noted. The essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population and are listed with reference to the levels of healthcare-primary, secondary and tertiary. They are based on the country’s disease burden, priority health concerns, affordability concerns. Interestingly, considering the emergence of resistance, many medicines have been included in NLEM 2015. However, availability of drugs have been given priority in this regard. The committee recommended that the list, which comes into effect immediately, be revised every three years. (Asian Age 25/12/15)

2017 target to curb maternal mortality (3)

Ranchi, Dec. 25: The state has set a target to reduce maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to 100 per 100,000 live births by the end of 2017. Though Jharkhand has already cut the MMR by almost 50 per cent from 400 in 2000-01 to 208 in 2013-14, the figure is still higher than the national average of 181 (in 2013-14). MMR is the number of women who die during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy due to causes related to or aggravated by pregnancy, per 100,000 live births. Principal secretary (health) K. Vidyasagar said preventing maternal deaths had been a great challenge. “But the government is committed to bring down the number to 100 by 2017,” he added. To achieve the target, the health department has tapped around 44,000 sahiyas and around 8,000 ANMs, giving incentives to these frontline workers for reporting maternal deaths from August. “As a result, unreported maternal deaths have become visible now and the department is able to prepare a holistic plan to fight the menace,” the secretary said. State nodal officer for maternal health Dr A.K. Choudhary said the department was not getting the clear picture of the situation at the grassroots level. But, giving incentives has certainly increased the maternal death reporting. “Earlier maternal deaths were being under-reported as a result we were unable to know the causes of the deaths. Now, we are getting verbal autopsy done in each case. So we can know the reasons behind every death. We are in a better position to assess the deaths and plan precautionary measures accordingly,” he added. Choudhary said they were now quiet confident of achieving the target. State programme coordinator of National Health Mission, Jharkhand, Akay Minz said the frontline workers were being paid Rs 200 for reporting each maternal death. “A note has also been circulated among them and health centres that no punitive action will be taken against them after reporting the deaths. Earlier, there was no reporting or low reporting because the frontline workers were afraid of punitive actions,” said Minz. An official associated with the maternal health cell said the state also had a toll-free helpline number 104 for reporting maternal deaths. “But along with that, verbal autopsy and filing up forms are must,” said the official. (The Telegraph 26/12/15)

HIV/AIDS

Rajasthan at 13th place in list of states with high prevalence of HIV: Survey (3)

JAIPUR: Rajasthan does not have good health indicators like maternal mortality ratios and infant mortality rates, but in terms of prevalence of HIV, it is far better than more than 11 states of the country, shows the HIV sentinel surveillance (HSS) 2012-13 (a technical brief) prepared by department of Aids control, ministry of health and family welfare. The state is among the states which recorded prevalence slightly lower than the national average— Bihar (0.33%), Rajasthan (0.32%) and Odisha (0.31%). The HSS shows that national average is 0.35%. The figures of HIV prevalence are collected from ANC sites (2012-13). In Rajasthan, the HIV prevalence has decreased. It was 0.38% as per HIV sentinel surveillance (2010-11). But, now it has reduced to 0.32% as per the new HSS 2012-13. Besides, the states with HIV prevalence higher than the national average are Andhra Pradesh (0.59%), Karnataka (0.53%), Maharashtra (0.40%) and Tamil Nadu (0.36%).However, 11 states recorded higher prevalence than the national average including the four low/moderate prevalence states of Punjab (0.37%), Delhi (0.40%), Gujarat (0.50%), and Chhattisgarh (0.51%).Various awareness programmes will take place in the state on World AIDS day, which is held on December 1 every year. (Times of India 1/12/15)

79 AIDS deaths since 1992 in Andaman and Nicobar islands (3)

Port Blair: Altogether 79 deaths due to HIV-AIDS were reported since 1992 in Andaman and Nicobar islands, an official of the A & N AIDS Control Society (ANACS) said. As per official records 79 people 66 Indians and 13 foreign nationals – perished in the attack since 1992, the ANACS said on Wednesday. Sharing the combined data since 1992 to Oct 2015, the official said 573 HIV+ve positive cases have been detected in these islands till date which include 369 Indians and 2014 foreign nationals. Also blood samples of 287498 persons – 283557 Indians and 3941 foreigners – were tested at different ICTCs during the period, he said. In this year itself, 19 HIV positive cases were reported of which, 16 are of Indians and 3 foreign nationals (Myanmarese poachers), the official said. The tests were conducted in Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres located in different parts of the islands. He said 21303 of the total blood samples tested are of Indian nationals, while 497 blood samples were of foreign nationals in this year. (DNA 2/12/15)

HIV Couple Struggles for Odisha Government Benefit (3)

RAYAGADA: The HIV/AIDS affected persons continue to suffer from social stigma associated with the disease. Even as several welfare schemes are launched for the benefit of affected persons, those remain out of reach of the beneficiaries. In one such case, a HIV affected couple of Dimiri street of Chelianalo village under Muniguda block have been running from pillar to post from over a year and a half to enrol themselves under the social security schemes of the Government but to no avail. The couple was detected HIV positive in July 2014. On learning that homeless HIV infected patients would be provided houses under ‘Mo Kudia’ and ‘Madhu Babu Pension’ schemes of the State Government, the couple applied for the benefit at Muniguda Block Development Office (BDO). But, as their repeated pleas went unheard, they approached former Collector Sasi Bhusan Pandhi at his grievance cell in December last year. Though the Collector directed the BDO to get the couple enrolled, the orders were not implemented. The couple again applied to the BDO Muniguda in May this year but with no action coming forth, they again approached present Collector Jagannath Mohanty last month. Mohanty too directed them to meet Muniguda BDO Rajib Kumar Behera. While the couple claim that they are yet to avail the benefits, Behera said, “The application of the couple was sent to Collectorate for approval as is the routine process”.District Social Welfare Officer, Bhagyasabita Bijayananda Das, who looks after the affairs at the Collectorate said they have not received application of the couple. With the man’s condition worsening, his wife approached ADM Laxmikant Behera on November 24 over the issue but here too she failed to receive any positive response. (New Indian Express 3/12/15)

State cuts a sorry figure at NACO’s review meet (3)

Bengaluru: Karnataka, which had been doing fairly well in HIV/AIDS prevention programme till 2012-2013, cut a sorry figure at the just-concluded National AIDS Control Organisation’s (NACO) two-day annual review of Care, Support and Treatment held in Goa from December 4. Reason: The State did not have data pertaining to the prevention programme (such as number of people tested, number of new infections detected, information on the stock of drugs and testing kits, among other issues) from nearly 200 testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) centres. This resulted in the State failing to make even a presentation. This is because employees, who were on a strike demanding regular payment of salaries among other incentives and regularisation of their services, have not submitted monthly reports since June. The implication is that Karnataka, which usually had the pride of presenting its performance report last at every annual review meet (for being among the better performing States), lost it to Gujarat this time. The meeting, chaired by NACO Additional Secretary Navreet Singh Kang, concluded on Saturday. At the meet, the performance of States that are doing bad are reviewed first and the better performing ones are allowed to present last. Sources in Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS) told The Hindu : “Karnataka’s programme was usually lauded by NACO and it was considered a model for poor performing States. We had to cut a sorry figure this time, thanks to our striking employees.” KSAPS Project Director S.G. Raveendra said a section of the 2,400 employees affiliated to KSAPS Contract Workers’ Association had withheld monthly reports on prevention programme taken up in the jurisdiction of their centres since June. “Although we have managed to get clearance from the Health Ministry and paid the seven months pending salaries of 86 employees, who continued work despite their contract ending early this year, the association is now demanding regularisation of the services of all 2,400 contract employees,” he said. HIV prevention in the State has taken a beating in the last two years resulting in a rise in the prevalence and lost to follow up (LFU) cases. This is mainly because of the delay in release of funds by the NACO, along with closure of several projects supported by international funders such as Clinton Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation and USAID. The delay in release of funds has resulted in irregular payment of salaries to contractual employees coupled with frequent stock-out of drugs and testing kits. (The Hndu 6/12/15)

HIV positive youth helps people cope with AIDS in Balasore (3)

BALASORE: At a time when the state government and several private agencies are going all out to spread awareness about AIDS, an HIV positive youth in Balasore district is making their job easier by informing people in remote, rural places about the disease and coming to the help of HIV-affected people. Sanjay (name changed), a 35-year-old resident of Bahanaga area in the coastal Balasore district, has been on a mission for the last couple of years to spread awareness about various aspects of AIDS and the HIV virus. He has, in fact, become an icon for hundreds of AIDS affected people in the region. Apart from looking out for HIV positive people and helping them as and when required, he has been attending awareness workshops and campaigns in the districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara. While on the occasion of World AIDS Day on December 1, government and private organizations were busy holding closed door meetings and seminars at upmarket hotels in the cities, Sanjay, who is attached to a non-government organization, was spreading awareness in remote villages. “I have met more than 500 HIV patients during such programmes and interacted with them. I feel it is an opportunity for me to make people aware about the dos and don’ts of the disease. Even though I am an HIV patient, I have never felt ashamed. My aim is to make our society HIV free,” he said. As there is social stigma attached to the disease, HIV positive people face censure and humiliation from villagers and even family members in remote villages. Through his mission, Sanjay has been trying to make them familiar with the life and problems faced by an AIDS or HIV-affected person. He visits hospitals, collects data about HIV positive people and meets them personally to enquire whether they are facing any problems. Life was good for Sanjay till he completed Plus II and left for Mumbai in 1998 to work in a private company. He unknowingly came in contact with an HIV positive person from whom he is believed to have been affected with the disease. He had to return home in 2011 after he was diagnosed to be HIV positive. “I felt like the sky broke down on me. However, I tried to get over the trauma and got myself treated. My family supported me a lot to overcome the stress and stigma attached to the disease. Later, I came in contact with volunteers who taught me how to have the patience to lead life,” he said. In awareness meetings, he appeals to people not to worry or feel ashamed of being HIV positive or suffering from AIDS. “Just lead a normal life and live happily till the end of your days,” he advises them, besides letting them know about various social security schemes launched by the government for HIV patients. (Times of India 10/12/15)

Social protection of HIV-affected sought (3)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  Policy frameworks which give more accent on social protection of HIV-affected should be given priority, the Deputy Speaker, Palode Ravi, has said. He was speaking at a national conference on HIV-sensitive Social Protection, organised jointly by the National AIDS Control Organisation and United Nations Development Programme here on Thursday. The session on Influencing Policies/systems for sustainable changes, chaired by the Deputy Director General NACO, MoHFW, Naresh Goel while Shoba Koshy, Chairperson, Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, led the session on Responding to the needs of the infected and affected young population. Legal literacy and Legal aid for the infected and the affected and Building Inclusive Response for Transgender Community also came up for discussion. A compendium on the social protection policies of the AIDS Control Societies of Kerala and Tamil Nadu was released on the occasion by Mr. Ravi. Alka Narang, Asst. Country Director-UNDP-India, Health Secretary (AYUSH), M. Beena, also spoke on the occasion. Representatives from various State AIDS Control Societies, HIV-positive persons, representatives of transgender community and NGOs working in the sector participated in the two-day conference. (The Hindu 11/12/15)

HIV-positive woman returns to old job as lab technician during deluge (3)

CHENNAI: It was while working as a lab technician in Oman 18 years ago that Daisy David tested HIV positive. She was later sent back to India with a ‘contagious disease’ tag on her visa. Daisy has been swimming against the flow since then, working with many NGOs in Tamil Nadu. TOI is naming Daisy since she wanted to be identified. When the recent flood wreaked havoc with the lives of many in the city, Daisy got an opportunity to return to her old job which she had to quit after testing HIV positive. She tested blood samples of flood-affected people in the medical camps organised by an NGO in many parts of the city. Back in 1997, after the blood bank of the hospital where Daisy worked ran out of stock during an emergency operation, the staff was requested to donate blood. The donors were tested and Daisy’s blood turned out to be HIV positive. “I was clueless about how I got infected until I saw my husband’s medical report at our home in Vellore. He was sick. And one day he told me that he was HIV positive. It was the most shocking moment in my life,” she said. Worse, Daisy’s husband even spoiled her plan to return to Oman in many ways. He threatened her and tore her passport. But Daisy managed to go back to Oman with a new passport. Her husband reacted furiously by writing to the management of the hospital where she worked. The management asked her to undergo one more test, and unfortunately that too turned out to be positive. As she was getting ready for her return, she got a telegram. “It said my husband was no more, but it was too late. I had to leave the place with a ‘contagious disease’ tag on my visa. I was made to sit inside the aircraft with three rows in front of and behind me kept vacant,” Daisy said. Back home, life has finally taken a positive turn for Daisy. “HIV is a gift from God. I take it positively. I am happy that I could save people during this natural calamity,” she said. (Times of India 13/12/15)

Indian-American’s ‘Super Condom’ can help combat AIDS (3)

HOUSTON: Aiming to increase global use of condoms as a way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, researchers including an Indian-American professor have developed a new non-latex condom which contains antioxidants and can kill the deadly virus even after breaking. Mahua Choudhery and her team of researchers at Texas A&M University have come up with the hydrogel condom which could help in the global fight against HIV. The condom is made of an elastic polymer called hydrogel, and includes plant-based antioxidants that have anti-HIV properties. Choudhury, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, is t. “We are not only making a novel material for condoms to prevent the HIV infection, but we are also aiming to eradicate this infection if possible,” Choudhury, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, said .”Supercondom could help fight against HIV infection and may as well prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases and If we succeed, it will revolutionize the HIV prevention initiative,” said Choudhury, the lead researcher.Choudhury, who studied Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Genetics in India before getting her PhD in the US, has been researching diabetes and the obesity epidemic. She was one of 54 people awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Grand Challenge in Global Health” grant. This year’s initiative asked winning recipients to create an affordable, latex-free condom to help battle the HIV epidemic, which is currently affecting 35 million people in the world. “If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing,” Choudhury said. The condom material already exists as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses, researchers said. In addition to protecting against STDs and pregnancy, researchers enmeshed in the hydrogel design the antioxidant quercetin, which can prevent the replication of HIV and if the condom breaks, the quercetin would be released for additional protection. Researchers hope the condom will enjoy greater use and have a stronger effect at preventing the spread of HIV as the new design is more comfortable and also heightens sexual pleasure. The condom has already been created and now the only thing keeping it from going to market is an approval on its patent application. The researchers hope to test the condom within the next six months. Once released, the new condom will eventually be made available to everyone, including those in rural areas, where these types of resources are limited, Choudhury said. Since its outbreak in 1981, HIV virus has killed 39 million people. (Times of India 16/12/15)

30 years of India’s fight against AIDS (3)

MYSURU: This year marks 30 years of India’s fight against AIDS; and it is the first time we are witnessing the strongest evidence-based World Health Organisation (WHO) HIV guidelines to provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) to all those testing positive for HIV, regardless of the CD4 count. Inaugurating HIVe Mysore – ART Update-2015 here on Saturday, I.S. Gilada, president, AIDS Society of India (ASI), Mumbai, said that India has, along with other countries, committed to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development 2030 in the 70th UN General Assembly held in September 2015. One of the goals is to end AIDS (along with tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases) by 2030. “It is important to take stock whether we are progressing towards ending AIDS by 2030 fast enough or receding backwards, looking at our National AIDS programme. The HIVe Conference is one such effort,” Dr. Gilada said. The global AIDS epidemic has completed 34 years of its devastating presence. But there is hope to the millions of sufferers, thanks to India and its pharmaceutical sector for making HIV a manageable and affordable disorder like diabetes and hypertension, he said. A release from the ASI said the UNAIDS puts India as the third worst HIV-affected country (21 lakh sufferers) after South Africa (60 lakh) and Nigeria (29 lakh). Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, and Nagaland are the top HIV-affected States. (The Hindu 20/12/15)

Spread of HIV checked in Mizoram (3)

AIZAWL, Dec 21 – No fresh HIV positive cases were detected in Mizoram during July to October last, according to Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS). Although the State is the second highest in the country in terms of HIV prevalence, mass awareness and education have resulted in checking further spread of the dreaded disease, MSACS officials said today. The MSACS has detected 10,448 HIV cases since October 1990 till June this year. The officials, however, maintained that the recent trend in the HIV cases was alarming as 69.31 per cent of HIV patients had been infected through intercourse, while earlier sharing of needles and syringes among drug abusers was the main cause of the infections. – PTI (The Assam Tribune 22/12/15)

Lack of penalty increases HIV threat (3)

Mumbai: Every year, hundreds fall prey to HIV infection through blood transfusion, states the data given by National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco). However, medical experts said many infected patients do not reveal their medical condition while donating blood. But government bodies that monitor transfusion don’t have any regulations to curb such incidences. As per a Right to Information application in possession with The Asian Age, the central government body, Naco along with Mumbai Districts AIDS Control Society (MDACS) that function under it don’t have any penal provision under the blood policy. The person who filed the RTI application did not want to reveal his identity. “We don’t have any penal provision to stop such activities. If a donor deliberately donates his infected blood, the medical expert on field won’t know about it. So, there is no way to control such activities,” said Dr Srikala Acharya, director of Mumbai State AIDS Control Society (Msacs). “After blood test, if we find any donor positive, we dispose the blood and contact the donor for counseling. We advice such donors not to donate their blood again and take precautionary measures,” she added. As per an RTI application filed by this reporter in 2014, around 1,000 people contracted HIV in Maharashtra through blood transfusion between 2010-14. In the same period, around 9,000 people got infected across India. The application was submitted to the health ministry that passed it on to Naco. Section Officer and CPIO (blood safety) V.K. Govil, in his reply provided data related to all states. If a donor is detected HIV positive, the blood bank concerned contacts the donor and informs about any sero reactive result of transfusion transmitted infection, and then he is referred to Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre for further post donation confirmation and counseling. But lack of stringent provision, fails to curb such infected donations, said the RTI applicant who did not want to be named. “Though such cases are limited it does happen when a person knowing that he is HIV positive, he deliberately donates the blood. This is most common during emergency time, when a needy family of a patient buy matching blood group in exchange of money,” he said. To meet the demand of rising blood transfusion, many hospitals are now focusing on blood exchange policy. (Asian Age 28/12/15)

 

 

Posted by admin at 30 November 2015

Category: Uncategorized

 HR NEWS: OCTOBER 21 TO NOVEMBER 10, 2015

 DALITS/SCHEDULED CASTES

1. 2 die as Dalit family set afire in Haryana (2)

FARIDABAD: A Dalit family of four, including two children, was set afire inside their house allegedly by members of the Rajput community in Sun Perh village in Ballabgarh, Faridabad district of Haryana, early on Tuesday. While Vaibhav (2 years) and Divya (10 months) died before reaching the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, their mother Rekha (22) was admitted to the ICU with serious burns. Rekha’s husband, Jitender (26), a medical attendant at a hospital, escaped with minor burns on his hands. The police have booked 11 persons in the case and arrested three so far. “A case has been registered under the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against 11 persons and three — Balwant, Dharam Singh and Kartar — have been arrested,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Prithla) Vishnu Dayal. The attack on the Dalit family has its history in the murder of three persons of the Rajput community on October 5 last year following an altercation over a mobile phone. Twelve members of Jitender’s family were named in the case and are currently in jail. Two weeks ago, the accused had allegedly threatened Jitender’s family with dire consequences if they did not leave the village. Jitender, who has been given police protection since October last year, said he had informed the local police about the threat, but no action was taken. “The Rajputs had threatened my wife of dire consequences. We gave a written complaint to the Station House Officer, Sadar police station, Ballabgarh, on October 6, but the police did not take congnisance of it. Had they taken our complaint seriously, the lives of my children could have been saved,” said Jitender, demanding action against the police for their inaction. Recalling the attack, Jitender said he, his wife and two children were sleeping on a bed near a window that was kept open. The other members of the family had gone to attend a jagran, a religious function, in the neighbourhood. “Around 3 a.m., a few men poured petrol on us from the window. I felt some liquid on my hands and got up. It was dark in the room. Even before I could figure out anything, somebody threw a lighted match stick inside and we were engulfed in flames,” said Jitender. The three policemen in-charge of Jitender family’s security were at the jagran when the incident took place. All three — constables Bali Mohamad, Vikas and Sandeep — have been suspended for dereliction of duty. Inspector Anil Kumar, Officer-In-charge of Sadar police station, has also been suspended for not taking action on Jitender’s compliant. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced Rs.10 lakh to Jitender’s family. (The Hindu 20/10/15)

2. Dalit writer assaulted for ‘anti-Hindu’ writings (2)

BENGALURU: Amid continuing countrywide protests by writers over “rising intolerance”, a young dalit activist and writer was allegedly attacked by unidentified men whom he suspects to be right-wing activists, for his “anti-Hindu” writings at Davangere in central Karnataka. Huchangi Prasad, a 23-year-old student and author of a book “Odala Kichchu” which speaks against the caste system, alleged that he was assaulted on Wednesday and threatened that his fingers would be cut for writing against Hinduism. “On October 21, late night, a group of eight to nine people came to SC/ST hostel where I reside and told me that my mother was unwell. Worried, I followed them. They took me to a place and started threatening and assaulting me for writing against Hinduism and caste system,” Prasad told PTI. Prasad, a journalism student, alleged, “They also smeared kumkum on my face and threatened to cut my fingers for my writings.” Prasad said he received some minor injuries in the attack, adding, “They (the attackers) said I’m born as dalit, because of sins I had committed in my previous life.” Asked whether the men belonged to any particular group, Prasad said, “From their words it was almost clear that they are from some right-wing group but I’m not completely sure.” A case has been registered against unidentified people at RMC Yard police station in this regard. Police said they are on a lookout for the suspects. “A complaint was filed by Prasad yesterday (Thursday) alleging eight to ten people had attacked him and attempted to kill him,” a police official involved in the investigation said. He said case has been registered under various sections of Indian Penal Code, including 307 (attempt to murder), as also under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The incident has occurred at a time when at least 35 writers from across the country have announced their decision to return their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest the “rising intolerance” in the country and the killing of Kannada writer and rationalist MM Kalburgi at Dharwad in north Karnataka….  (Times of India 23/10/15)

3. Another Dalit dies in Haryana, blames cops in suicide note (2)

CHANDIGARH: Almost a week after two Dalit children were burnt alive at Haryana’s Sunped village in Faridabad district and the mysterious death of a 14-year-old scheduled caste boy in Gohana town, another Dalit died in the state when a tailor committed suicide by hanging himself in his house at Bhatla village in Hisar district on Saturday night and blamed the cops for his death. Two cops were suspended in the case. In a suicide note, Badan Singh, who was in his mid-forties and a witness in his cousin Gurbachan Singh’s suicide case, stated that he was being pressurized by cops not to give any statement in the case.Gurbachan, 50, had died under mysterious circumstances following a dispute with his employers, Rajbir, Lila and Raj Kumar. He was found hanging in a field on the outskirts of adjoining Chainat village on October 8. His family alleged that he was murdered but cops registered a case of suicide, and that too only on Sunday. According to sources, Badan was being pressurized to give a statement in favour of Gurbachan’s employers. Sadar police on Sunday arrested Rajbir, Lila and Kumar under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC. Hisar SP Jaipal Singh suspended Sadar SHO Jagbir Singh and sub-inspector Ramesh Kumar for delay in taking action in both the cases as well as for threatening Badan. “The court remanded the trio in police custody. We have initiated departmental proceedings against Jagbir Singh and Ramesh Kumar. If required, we can initiate criminal action against them,” said Jaipal Singh, who is heading a five-member special investigation team formed to probe the matter.Doctors performed Badan’s autopsy amid protests by Dalits outside the civil hospital. Initially, villagers refused to cremate the body but relented after an assurance from district administration officials that the guilty would be punished. Two Dalit children were burnt alive when their house in Faridabad district was set afire on October 20. (Times of India 26/10/15)

4. Dalit priests presiding over UP temple for past 200 years (2)

KANPUR: Amid reports of atrocities against dalits from some parts of the country, a nondescript temple on the banks of the Yamuna in Lakhna town in Etawah district stands out as a ray of hope with its unique 200-year-old tradition. Here, devotees — be they brahmin, thakur, vaishya or from any other caste — bow in front of dalit priests and perform puja and other rituals with their help. “Since the past 200 years, only dalits have been priests at Kali Mata temple,” said priest Akhilesh Kumar and his brother Ashok Kumar. One of their ancestors, Chotey Lal, was the temple’s first priest. Brahmins, thakurs and vaishyas in and around Etawah and from as far as neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan visit the temple through the year. “The priests of the temple are revered by all upper-caste people, who offer them garlands and offerings of fruits during rituals,” said Tribhuvan Singh, former block pramukh of the area. “The dalit priest, who sits at the ‘hawan kund’, prays and blesses people by offering ‘prasad’.” Legend has it that in 1820, local ruler Jaswant Rao built the temple and appointed Chotey Lal as the first dalit priest to show respect towards lower-caste people. “King Jaswant Rao, who got the temple constructed, made it mandatory that the temple priest would only be a dalit,” said Dashrath Singh, a grocery shop owner in Lakhna. Ram Sumer, a resident, told another tale associated with the custom. “Our ancestors used to tell us that during construction of the temple, King Jaswant Rao had got angry when he saw a group of upper-caste men beat up a dalit labourer, Chotey Lal, for touching the idol that was to be installed in the temple,” he said. “He issued a diktat that only Chotey Lal and his future generations would take care of the temple.” Residents of Lakhna seek out dalit priests even for weddings, ‘mundan’ (tonsure ceremony) or other rituals. “During these disturbing times, one only needs to look to this 200-year-old place — where priests belonging to the dalit community are held in high esteem — for inspiration,” said Ram Das, another local of Lakhna. (Times of India 30/10/15)

5. ‘One Dalit complained being denied entry, standing on temple premises’ (2)

KALABURAGI: Pejawar Mutt seer Sri Visvesha Tirtha Swami has clarified that Dalits of Duttargoan village had not complained to him about being denied entry to a temple and only one Dalit leader, Kalyan Rao Siddramappa Bhavimani, had raised the issue but he had replied to him before leaving the temple. Referring to reports appearing in the media about an incident at Duttargoan village in Aland taluk in Kalaburagi district on Saturday, the seer told presspersons here on Sunday that when Mr. Bhavimani told him that Dalits were prevented from entering the temple, “I replied that he (Mr. Bhavimani) was speaking about prevention of Dalits from entering the temple, on a temple premises itself and offered that he (the seer) would lead Dalits into the temple if the complaint was true.” The seer said that except Mr. Bhavimani, no other Dalit had made a complaint and it was also not true that the Dalits of the village had surrounded him forcing him to give up his intended padayatra to appeal to people to shun consumption of liquor and seek introduction of total prohibition in the village. “On my way to the temple, I came in a padayatra,” he said. However, the seer did not reply why the intended padayatra in the village did not take place. “Everyone knows about my work for the uplift of Dalits. I am ready to take up the cause of Dalits and fight against their exploitation. Today, I visited the houses of two Dalits and they (Dalits) showered love on me and performed pada puja,” he said. The seer, who would be ascending the Paryaya Peetha of the Ashta Mutts in Udupi for a record fifth time on January 18, 2016, said that he had plans for taking up several works during his Paryaya period. Work on a world class educational centre in a 40-acre land in the birth place of Madhwacharya, 10 km from Udupi, would be completed. At present, classes up to seventh standard were being run in a residential school. Translation of religious books into other languages and improving amenities for pilgrims visiting Udupi would be taken up. The seer had ascended the Paryaya Peetha in 1952, 1968, 1984 and 2000. (The Hindu 2/11/15)

6. Yet another Dalit-caste Hindu clash at temple festival (2)

Madurai: In yet another temple festival-related clash between caste Hindus and Dalits near Tirumangalam, an unruly mob pelted stones on police personnel and damaged the windscreen of the official car of Madurai Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari on Wednesday evening. Five police personnel sustained minor injuries in the incident, the SP said. The police had arrested 12 persons, he added. A large posse of police personnel have been deployed at Keezha Urapanur. The police said that Dalits who had taken part in Vadakkuvatchi Selliamman Temple festival along with caste Hindus complained that they were not properly treated at the two-day temple function that began on Tuesday. After a scuffle, Tirumangalam Tahsildar S. Gopalakrishnan locked the temple on Tuesday and stopped further celebration. Dalits said that they were boycotting the rituals at the temple. Usilampatti Revenue Divisional Officer M. Balasubramaniam said that caste Hindus wanted to resume the rituals of sprouts procession and ‘puravi eduppu’ and do it outside the temple on Wednesday. However, Dalits objected to sprouts procession being taken out on Wednesday. The SP said that the police averted a possible attack on the women from the other side. Later, some 200 Dalits blocked Tirumangalam-Sholavandan Road blocking the van carrying sprouts procession en route a tank. The SP, who held talks with the protestors, asked them to disperse. However, the situation worsened when some persons started pelting stones on the police. The windscreen of the SP’s vehicle developed cracks after a stone hit it. The situation was calm and no untoward incidents were reported, the police added. (The Hindu 5/11/15)

7. Dalit Woman Beaten Up for Refusing to be Maid (2)

THANJAVUR: Three caste Hindus were booked for allegedly thrashing a Dalit woman who refused to work as a servant maid in the house of one of the accused. Sources said, Samikannu, of Pattuviduthi asked Palaniyammal (38), a Dalit, of the same village, to work as a servant maid in his house. As Palaniyammal refused, Samikannu and his two associates went to the house of Palaniyammal on Oct 31.  Even as Samikannu abused Palaniyammal in front of her house using her caste name, the two others assaulted Palaniyammal with a spade.  The Orathanadu DSP Sengamalakkannan on Wednesday registered a case under various sections of SC, ST Act against the three. (New Indian Express 6/11/15)

8. Jaipur School Warns Dalit Students to Sweep the Floor or Take TC (2)

A class III student claims that he uses the buara (broom) twice daily, once in the morning, and then before the meals. His classmate reminds him that they also clean, and set the garbage pile on fire, whenever the school gets too dirty. “Sweep the floor or we’ll give you a TC”, is a threat that a 12-year-old often hears at school.  They are all the Dalit students of Rajkiya Ucch Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Benada village on the outskirts of Jaipur.  Last year, following a PIL, the Rajastan High Court had directed an NGO, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), to review the status of toilets in about hundred schools in and around Jaipur. The NGO reported that the girl children from SC communities were made to clean toilets by the teachers and administration. These children face discrimination because they belong to SC communities, thereby reinforcing untouchability and caste roles of traditional societies. The kids of Rajkiya Ucch Madhyamik Vidyalaya, where the Gujjars outnumber the Dalit students, do not clean toilets. However, the work they are made to do, does reinforce the caste roles.  Parents of these Dalit children told to Delhi-based Indian Express that their kids are made to fetch water for their teachers, are given smaller portions of food at mid-day meals compared to their Gujjar counterparts, and bear the duty of cleaning the school premises. The school principal, however, denies that the children are made to clean the school. He claims that they pay a “Dalit woman” to clean both the toilet and the school premises.  The children say that she comes only once a month and only cleans the toilets. Even the Gujjars acknowledge the difference between them and their counterparts when it comes to cleaning duty. They claim that they are made to clean the classroom only as punishment for coming late for class.   (New Indian Express 9/11/15)

TRIBALS

9. Tribal village in Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s district has no literates (6)

SEMALIYA PATHAR (Sehore): A village in foreign minister’s constituency and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s home district, 60km from state capital, doesn’t have a single literate. Every time, residents of village receive a letter they walk 5km to know about its content. Inhabitants of this village are Korku tribals, an endangered tribe. The village is home to more than 500 tribals and 50 children aged between 5 and 14. Even Centre’s flagship, Right to Education Act, means nothing for them. As there’s no school in the village, they would have to walk through hilly terrain for at least 7km to reach the nearest primary school. “This is our condition after so many years of independence. How will our kids be educated and lead a better life,” asks 55-year old Kaleram. Another tribal, Karan Singh, who is father of 11-year old Ajay, said, “If my child could study, I would have brought books and pencils from Sehore.” Many politicians came to the village and assured that a school would be built, but to no avail, said Singh. Primary education is a big hurdle, say villagers. “If there is at least a primary school, our children will be able to study,” said Singh. Majority youth of this village are unemployed. “Every time, I saw a policemen, I wanted to be one. Today, I know my dream is shattered as I am illiterate and will never be able to become a cop,” said Pehlad, 20. (Times of India 21/10/15)

10. ‘Bauxite mining will cost tribals dear’ (6)

VISAKHAPATNAM: Urging the state government to implement the 1/70 Act properly, Araku MLA Kidari Sarweswara Rao said bauxite mining would prove to be costly to the lives of tribals in the Visakha Agency. Addressing a gathering of more than 6,000 people from Balapam and other panchayats at Gopuramkonda, the bauxite reserves site between Jerrela and Korukonda on Thursday, the MLA assured the tribals that he would also be a part of the anti-bauxite agitations. The local people’s representatives also threatened to resign from their posts if the state government did not scrap the bauxite mining proposal at the earliest. They also demanded proper implementation of the 1/70 Act. The MLA said the area was backward and people were dying due to lack of proper medical facilities. “Deaths from malaria have become regular in the Agency area and the state government has been furnishing false records. Lack of basic amenities and medical facilities have been leading to deaths of scores of tribals every year. As a result, the population in the Agency areas is also not increasing,” he said. He said that if bauxite was excavated in the Agency area tribals would suffer from new diseases. “These are not my words. Experts and scientists have been saying this. Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had written to the governor demanding cancellation of bauxite mining when YS Rajasekhar Reddy was the chief minister. But now, he has backed the same proposal,” Sarweswara Rao alleged. He said that tribals had stopped the Kala Committee, appointed to examine the feasibility of the proposal, when the panel members tried to visit the bauxite reserves area by road. “Because of severe opposition and fear, the committee conducted an aerial survey,” he said, adding that the chief minister’s statement during the World Tribals’ Day last year in this regard had spread fear among the tribals. The Araku MLA assured the tribals that he would bring the issue to the notice of the state government once again and warn the authorities about the resistance by tribals. Meanwhile, MPTCs, sarpanches, vice-sarpanches and MPPs attended the meeting, for which the MLA had to walk for nearly three hours to reach the meeting venue due to the lack of a proper road. YSRCP’s Paderu MLA Giddi Eswari, on the other hand, lost her way on the way to the meeting venue and was able to meet the crowd returning from the meeting. Police sources said the meeting was organised by Maoists. (Times of India 24/10/15)

11. Tribal no to rural polls (6)

Ranchi, Oct. 25: Around 250 tribal youths today staged a demonstration outside Raj Bhavan to protest against the upcoming panchayat elections in the state, beginning November 22. Agitating under the banner of Adivasi Chhatra Sangh, the youths alleged that the rural elections were against the letter and spirit of PESA – the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996. Later, they submitted a memorandum to governor Droupadi Murmu, seeking her intervene to protect the rights of indigenous people. The outfit’s president Sushil Oraon alleged that the proposed panchyat elections would abolish the traditional systems of governance prevalent in tribal society. According to him, the traditional systems of governance like Manki Munda, Pahara, Pahnai, Manjhi Pargana, Doklo, Sohor and Munda Khutkatti – prevalent among different tribal groups – vest administrative and revenue rights in gram sabha. Further, as per the provisions of the PESA, the state cannot formulate any law that would infringe on socio-religious and community traditions of tribal society. “According to the tribal systems, villagers choose one among themselves as their mukhiya. Under PESA, too, there is no provision for election of mukhiyas. Jharkhand is a tribal state where rules can be framed only in accordance with PESA. But this is not happening,” said the outfit’s spokesperson Prabhakar Kujur. He added that even notified areas like Ranchi, Gumla, Lohardaga, Latehar, West Singhbhum and East Singhbhum had been brought under the three-tier panchayati raj system, which would undermine the objective of PESA and abolish tribal traditions. “We tried to draw the government’s attention towards the flaws in the polling system a couple of times but they were ignored,” said Oraon. The state poll panel has already announced the elections for 64,700 posts under the three-tier system that comprises gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad. The polling will be held on November 22 and 28 and December 5 and 12. (The Telegraph 26/10/15)

12. Centre to Set up National Tribal Advisory Council Under PM’s Chairmanship (6)

NEW DELHI: The NDA government has decided to set up National Tribal Advisory Council under chairmanship of the Prime Minister for real time monitoring of various tribal development programmes and schemes in the country. This was announced by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram while addressing the conference of senior officers of tribal welfare from states here. “A National Tribal Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be set up for real time monitoring of the ongoing programmes and schemes aimed at welfare of tribal people and development of tribal areas. The Council will meet once or twice a year,” Oram said. The Minister also stressed the need for more effective community participation for the success of various tribal welfare schemes. He said though there has been significant improvement in terms of infrastructure in education sector for tribals but the quality of education has not improved in the same way. Oram said the same is true with reference to primary health care for tribals. Referring to the problems of sixth scheduled states of northeast, Oram said their problems are quite different in nature and we should hold a regional conference for them in Guwahati. The Minister directed his Ministry officials to release 50 per cent of the tribal welfare funds to the states in the first quarter of the next financial year. He said by third quarter of the financial year 80 per cent of the funds should be released to the states. The Minister urged the state governments to release the funds received from the centre in the same way for various tribal welfare schemes. On the rights of tribals, Oram said states need to expedite proposals for declaration or rationalisation of scheduled areas by making them co-terminus with the tribal sub-plan areas. States should also safeguard against sale of land to non tribals, he added. Under Forest Rights Act, states need to take steps for vesting of forest rights, both in individual capacity as well as for the community as a whole. (New Indian Express 30/10/15)

13. 40 tribal women complain of molestation by Bijapur police (6)

RAIPUR: Nearly 40 tribal women from three villages in the restive Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh have accused police jawans of molestation. The women belong to Peddagelur, Budgicheru and Gundam villages of Basaguda block. Soni Sori, tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader, who visited the villages with a team of woman activists, said the harassment took place when security forces from Bijapur were carrying out an operation in the area between October 19 and 24. “The women told us that around 40 of them were molested by the policemen. Two of them said they were raped. The policemen stripped many women and indulged in indecent behaviour,” Ms. Sori told The Hindu. “These villages are situated deep inside the forest. We were able to bring four women to Bijapur district headquarters today [Sunday] and they have testified in front of District Collector Yashwant Kumar,” she said. Mr. Kumar confirmed that he had received complaints from the four women, but denied there were allegations of rape. “We took statements from the four women and they have complained of beating by the policemen. An FIR has been lodged. Inquiry is going on and strict action will be taken against anyone found guilty. They [tribal women] have not complained of rape, but we are looking into all angles,” he said. But Ms. Sori insisted that the two women did complain of rape. “They recounted every detail of the incident. Perhaps the Collector did not understand everything because the women were speaking Gondi,” she said. Superintendent of Police K.L. Dhruw said: “An operation did take place in the area and a force of around 500 men was there. These boys ventured into that Maoist sensitive area as a road is to be built there. The Maoists don’t want the road. So more than eight days after the operation, they conspired to make such allegations against the policemen to demoralise them,” he said. (The Hindu 2/11/15)

14. Tribals unite again to oppose mining in Niyamgiri hills (6)

BERHAMPUR: Organisations like Niyamgiri Surakshya Samity (NSS), Lok Sangram Manch (LSM) and All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) have decided to restart organising people’s movement against alleged attempt of Odisha government to revive proposal of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hill range. These organisations had played a key role during the agitation of Dongria Kondh tribals against the mining of this hill range. As per some reports in media, the State government is planning to reconvene gram sabhas in Niyamgiri region with an aim to get permission for bauxite mining. It may be noted that in July and August 2013, gram sabhas had been held in villages of Niyamgiri hill range under judicial supervision because of direction of the Supreme Court. Tribal inhabitants of this region had rejected bauxite mining plan in the region for Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL). NSS leader Subas Kulisika, who is from the Dongria Kondh community, said they would again try to thwart attempt of government to mine Niyamgiri region, which is their source of life and livelihood. The NSS will again reorganise the tribals of the regions who have become too conscious about the issue. AIKMS national committee member B. C. Sadangi said it is an irony that the State government has failed to provide benefits of implementation of Forest Rights Act to the tribals living in Niyamgiri region but is continuing with backdoor efforts to benefit private company. This peasants’ organisation has decided to provide all possible support to the NSS and tribals if the government proposes to hold gram sabha meetings again. Tribal organisation LSM has also opposed the government’s attempt to allow bauxite mining in the region. The LSM plans to start mass movement to increase public awareness against mining project in Niyamgiri region, said its leader Ganesh Jakesika. Convenor of Lok Shakti Abhijan Prafulla Samantra, the petitioner in the Vedanta case in the Supreme Court, has also opposed recent reports that the Odisha government has started preparation to restart process to enable mining in Niyamgiri Hills. According to him, this attempt was demeaning the judiciary of the country. (The Hindu 2/11/15)

15. Soni Sori-led AAP protests police atrocities in Bastar, Cong forms probe team (6)

RAIPUR: Amid allegations of sexual assault by security forces during anti-Naxalite operations in Bastar, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has threatened to intensify agitation against police excesses, alleging that police were also implicating local tribals in false cases. branding them as Maoists. Civil rights and women’s groups have stepped up a campaign against the recent incident of CRPF personnel and district force personnel allegedly molesting tribal women during an anti-Maoist operation in Bijapur district. Strongly condemning sexual assault, rape and molestation of tribal women and a minor, Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori on Tuesday alleged that tribals have become the soft targets for police and security forces in Bastar and that AAP will intensify the movement in the state to bring justice for the unprivileged. Addressing media in Raipur, Sori said that it took around 10 days for the incident to come in light as the local media is also under tremendous police pressure. “Three tribal women were stripped off at Chinnagelur, Godem, Bhurgicheru, Pedaglur areas of Bijapur district few days back by the security personnel. Of them, one woman died ”of atrocities” and the fourth one was a minor girl who was gang-raped after being blindfolded. She had fainted and was later rescued later by a family member, said Sori, adding that there were pregnant women among those molested and mothers of newborns too. About 40 women were reportedly molested. While the men were chased out of the villages, others ran away for fear of being branded Maoists, Sori said. The personnel also looted the villagers of their cash and belongings, Sori added. AAP convener Sanket Thakur said tribal people are sandwiched between the extremists and the police and are often arrested over false allegations of being Maoists or are shot down by rebels for being police informers. But even after being acquitted by court, the Bastar police continue to harass them. Although the Bijapur police have lodged an FIR over the rape of four tribal women on Monday, the opposition Congress party has formed an 11-member investigation committee led by Konta legislator Kawasi Lakhma, Kondagaon MLA Mohan Markam, Chitrakoot MLA Deepak Baij and other members of Congress in the Bastar division. The team will visit the crime spot, meet survivors and present a probe report within a week to the state Congress committee. (Times of India 3/11/15)

16. Tribal woman paraded naked in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa village (6)

INDORE: A 35-year-old tribal woman was paraded naked and beaten up by villagers in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh on suspicion of witchcraft on Friday evening. The victim sustained critical injuries in the attack by residents of Bakhar village under Khalwa police station. Khalwa police told TOI that as many as 8 persons, including women, were booked for attacking the victim. The victim, who hailed from Korku tribe, was cornered by a group of women, who initially beat her up and tore her clothes off. The men later joined in thrashing her around. The victim was paraded naked in the village. Attackers threw dirt at her after tying her to a tree. Victim’s husband escaped the onslaught and reached Khalwa police station to seek help, police said adding a team of policemen were sent to the village to rescue the woman. She was taken to a primary care centre in Khalwa and later referred to district hospital in Khandwa on late Friday night. Police said that the attackers also hail from the same tribe and were suspecting that the victim was indulging in witchcraft to hurt others. Additional police force was deployed in the village to prevent any flare-up. (Times of India 7/11/15)

17. Tribal Leader Shot Dead in W. Godavari (6)

BUTTAYAGUDEM (WEST GODAVARI):Guruguntla Subba Reddy, a 50-year-old tribal leader, was shot dead by unknown persons near Inumuru village in Buttayagudem mandal of West Godavari district late on Saturday night. Subba Reddy of Reddy Bodderu village was acting as the Agency Kondareddy tribe elder. Around 10 pm on Saturday he was returning to his village from Jangareddigudem along with his nephew Buchireddy on a Moped. As soon as they reached Inumuru village some unknown persons, who were following them on a motorcycle for a while, shot Subba Reddy with a country-made rifle from behind. Subba Reddy, who was riding on the pillion of the Moped, died on the spot. However, Buchireddy escaped from the spot and informed the matter to the villagers, who in turn lodged a complaint with the Buttayagudem police. The Buttayagudem police then alerted Jangareddigudem CI and accompanied him to  Inumuru village and conducted an inquiry after registering a case. (New Indian Express 9/11/15)

WOMEN

18. 80% of over 23K adolescent girls claim lack of dignity: Survey (8)

New Delhi: Nearly 80 per cent of 23,801 adolescent girls from 13 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, claim that they suffer from lack of privacy and dignity at home as well as relief camps after a disaster, according to a sample survey . According to ‘State of the Girl Child in India Report 2015 – The state of the girls: what next?’, compiled by NGO ‘Plan India’, 45-58 per cent of 32,311 adolescents — 23,801 girls and 8510 boys — feared of being married off early. The report highlights that gender bias in terms of access to food was reported by about one-third adolescent girls while 60 per cent of the respondents complained of being unable to attend schools post a disaster. Twenty-five per cent girls also feared being sold or trafficked after a disaster. They also claimed lack of sanitation facilities with only 17 per cent boys or girls having access to functional toilets. As far as education and gaining skills were concerned, poverty, household chores, seasonal disturbances, child labour and preference to educate a son were found to be the factors which were keeping girls out of school. More than 95 per cent adolescent girls of the sample size claimed to be engaged in domestic work. 54 per cent girls in the poorest households and 16 per cent girls in the richest households were found to be child brides, the survey claimed. Underlining the key findings of the report, Plan India’s executive director Bhagyashri Dengle said even though there has been improvement in the status of girl child, a lot more needs to be done because a majority of girls in India still experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Arti Kirloskar, Chair, Plan India Governing Board, said that communities and countries should ensure that their girls and women are safe and secure. “The call for commitment is from all stakeholders at various levels who are in a position to encourage gender equality in the spirit as articulated in the SDGs. “Corporates are a very significant player in this context. Gender transformative work cultures and CSR programmes and policies will have a dual impact: one on their own efficiencies and work environment and second on the value for investments made in community development programs,” Kirloskar said. The other states which were covered during the study were West Bengal, Odisha, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttarakhand. (Zee News 21/10/15)

19. More girls dying before age 5 than boys in India: UN report (8)

UNITED NATIONS: India is among the countries with the largest surplus of men and a worrying under-five sex ratio with more girls dying before the age of five than boys, according to a UN report. “The World’s Women 2015″ report launched said men outnumber women in eastern Asia, southern Asia, Oceania, and western Asia. The three regions have the highest surplus of men in absolute numbers: 50.5 million in Eastern Asia (mainly due to China), 49.5 million in Southern Asia (mainly due to India), and 12.1 million in western Asia (mainly due to Saudi Arabia and the UAE). In absolute terms, countries with the largest surplus of men are China (52 million), in eastern Asia, and India (43 million), in southern Asia. The ratio of men to women and the surplus of men in these two most populous countries largely determine the surplus of men observed at the global level, the report said. The report said that in India, while sex-selective abortions have been technically illegal since 1996, the law has had “little effect so far on the sex ratio at birth”.India has the lowest sex ratio in under-5 mortality, with a ratio of 93 (93 boys die before age 5 for 100 girls that die by that age). “This is also the only country with an under-5 mortality sex ratio under 100 (more girls die than boys),” it said. India alone accounted for 21 per cent of all under-5 deaths in 2013 and this low sex ratio in under-5 mortality is pulling down the average for Southern Asia as a whole and the entire world. “Higher mortality among girls can be closely related to a general preference for sons in India, which is expressed in special treatment for boys in terms of parental investment in nutrition, vaccinations, access to health treatment and parental care in general,” the report said. It further said that in China and India, between 1995 and 2013, women’s participation in the labour force declined from 72 to 64 per cent and from 35 to 27 per cent, respectively. Child marriage is also most common in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with India accounting for one-third of the global total of child brides. (Times of India 22/10/15)

20. Govt to okay factory night shifts for women with safety shields (8)

New Delhi: The government is all set for changing the law to allow women to work night shifts in factories, currently restricted to a 7pm pack-up time, while employers will have to ensure their workplace safety and drop them home safely as well. It is unlikely to accept a parliamentary panel’s objections to a proposed bill for amending the factories act, 1948, that limits women’s working hours to daytime or till just a little after sundown. The committee has asked the government to consider all safety angles before ratifying the changes because of mounting incidents of crime against women working late into the night. “In view of a spate of events all over the country where women working at odd hours have been subjected to physical harassment and brutality as well as mental trauma, the committee would like to caution the ministry not to undermine the importance of safety provisions and leave any loopholes in the safeguard and protective clauses for such vulnerable women workers,” it said. But the objections looked a little tenuous as women are already allowed to work night shifts in call centres, hospitals and other white collar jobs. Labour ministry officials said the revised bill, likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, intends to give equal opportunities to all workers and employers will be legally responsible for providing safety to women workers working night shifts. “In case of night shifts for women worker, the occupier shall be fully responsible for safety within the factory premises and during transit from workplace to their home,” a note on the revised bill states. It maintains that night duty for women shall be voluntary, with written consent on record. The government has sought to change the legislation as part of a drive to reform archaic labour laws. Sectors such as textile and handicraft that have a sizeable number of women in their workforce will benefit from the amended law. The proposed amendment will make it mandatory for the employer to ensure “adequate safeguards exist in the factory as regards to occupational safety and health, provision of shelter, restrooms, lunch rooms, night crèches and ladies’ toilets, and equal opportunity for women workers”. There has to be adequate protection from sexual harassment and safe transportation from the factory to the doorstep of their home. (Hindustan Times 26/10/15)

21. Women’s panel opposes commercial surrogacy (8)

HYDERABAD: The State Commission for Women (SCW) said on Wednesday that it is strongly opposed to commercial surrogacy and wants a new Act that opposes commercialisation of women’s womb and regulates activities of the industry. Commission chairperson Tripurana Venkata Ratnam, who recently attended a consultation meeting by the National Commission for Women on Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, will soon hold consultations with women’s groups and send recommendations to the National Women’s Commission as well as the ministry of health and family welfare. The draft ART Bill proposes to formulate a minimum compensation rule for surrogate mothers. “We are demanding that treating a woman’s womb as a commodity should be stopped. During the consultation meet held in New Delhi, we felt surrogacy has become a commercial activity and needs to be checked. Commercialisation of surrogacy violates the basic human rights of women,” Ratnam said at a press conference. The official pointed out that IVF clinics are found to be largely concentrating on surrogacy as it contributes to more earnings. There are a large number of foreign nationals coming to India for surrogate babies as it is cheaper here. “In the whole process, it is women who suffer. These are mostly poor, illiterate, dalit and tribal women who are recruited through agents visiting their villages. Also, the process of obtaining informed consent from the surrogate mother is often treated as a mere technicality, reduced to a one-off session on the costs and procedures,” she added. Currently, there is no law that looks into the issues of surrogacy. As a result, once the surrogate baby is born, there is no support for the surrogate mother. Women are found to be much less informed than their partners about their exact diagnosis and the procedural details. In the absence of norms, price quoted varies widely. Surrogate mothers get between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1 lakh. Lack of treatment protocol also impacts the mother’s health. “There have been studies which have established that repeated surrogacy can result in cancer. In such cases, who will take care of the mother? We have to stop surrogacy as a business activity,” she said, adding that a childless couple should take help from family members. “Let relatives come forward to become surrogate mothers,” she added. (Times of India 30/10/15)

22. Conviction Rate Low, Says DCW as Delhi Sexual Crimes Hit 15-year High (8)

NEW DELHI: Twentyone cases of sexual abuse of women, on an average, are reported in the capital every day, according to the latest figures released by the police. These include six cases of rape and 15 of molestation. This year 1,750 cases of rape and 4,406 of molestation were reported by October 15. This is the highest number of such crimes in 15 years for the same period. However, Delhi Police top brass say the rising rape and molestation cases were a sign of its “zero-tolerance policy in filing cases”. Police also claim to have solved almost 90 percent of rape and molestation cases.Senior Delhi Police officers refused to comment on the issue, but they said that the rising number shows an attempt not to hide any offence. “We follow a zero-tolerance policy in registering rape and molestation cases. We don’t bother whether the crime graph is rising or falling. Our priority is to register cases and act promptly,” an officer, who did not want to be named, told IANS.Although Delhi Police claim that an overwhelming majority of sexual crime cases were solved, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) says the conviction rate is very low. DCW chief Swati Maliwal agreed that the police were filing cases of atrocities against women in a more proactive way. But she questioned the force’s investigation process. “I met the Delhi Police Commissioner a few weeks ago and asked him about the cases of atrocities registered against Delhi women in 2014. I was surprised that the police had filed 11,000 such cases in 2014, but charge-sheet was filed in only 3,500 cases and only nine persons were convicted,” Maliwal told IANS. Maliwal said that only registration of cases of crimes against women was not enough, the police should file the charge-sheet in each and every case promptly, and the victims should be given proper counseling so that they do not become hostile. “Speedy forensic science laboratory reports are crucial in solving such cases. Finally, more fast-track courts for sexual crimes should be set up in the capital to hear such cases,” Maliwal said. Last year, 1,725 rape cases and 3,487 molestation cases were reported for the same corresponding period (January-October 15, 2014). A total of 2,166 cases of rape and 4,322 cases of molestation were registered in the full year. In 2013, at least 1,636 rape cases and 3,515 molestation cases were reported in the national capital. In 2012, the numbers were 706 rape and 727 molestation. The officer said the prevention of rapes by policing was difficult as in 95 percent cases the accused is someone the victim knows well. “Only a small percentage of the rapes are committed by strangers,” the officer said. (New Indian Express 1/11/15)

23. NGO to hold fund-raising initiative for rural women’s empowerment (8)

KOLHAPUR: The city-based NGO, Reflections foundation, started by a group of students in 2008 to encourage and promote reading among women in rural areas, will be organising a fund-raising event at Tarabai Park in the city on November 6 and 7. Under the event, the foundation members will sell various handmade Diwali decorations by the rural women. Aparna Patil, founder member, said that the group has been involved in various activities, which primarily focus on the development of non-academic skills among girls and women in rural areas. (Times of India 5/11/15)

24. Woman magistrate alleges sexual harassment by lawyer inside courtroom (8)

New Delhi: A woman magistrate at a traffic court in New Delhi has alleged that she was sexually harassed by a lawyer inside the courtroom during a hearing of a case, police said on Thursday. The incident took place on October 30 and was reported to the police the next day. A case was registered under Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 169 (public servant unlawfully buying or bidding for property), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his/her duty), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC, said police. The accused lawyer has not been arrested yet. In her complaint, the magistrate told the police that the lawyer had used abusive language in the court. His behaviour compelled the magistrate to adjourn the court. And when she did so, the lawyer continued using allegedly filthy and abusive language addressing her, she said. An FIR was registered based on the woman’s complaint at Farsh Bazar police station in East Delhi, said police. On October 30, the advocate had appeared before the magistrate in connection with a vehicle impound case in a drunken driving matter and moved a plea to release it. “The court imposed a fine on my client while disposing off the application and the vehicle-owner sought 30 minutes’ time to deposit the entire amount,” said the accused advocate. “Later, when the owner returned with the money, the magistrate returned the challan and asked my client to deposit it the next day, which was opposed by me,” said the advocate. “I told her that she should follow the due process of law and an argument took place and she rudely asked me and my client to leave the court. The same day at 4pm, I gave my complaint to the district judge and the bar association against the behaviour of the magistrate and when she came to know about it, she lodged a false case against against me with the police the next morning,” the advocate claimed. (DNA 6/11/15)

25. ‘Beti Bachao’ programme effective, says Haryana CM (8)

Yamunanagar: Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday expressed happiness over achieving “positive results” in promoting education of girl child and curbing female foeticide under the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme in the last one year. Mr Khattar said that three families improve because of an educated and cultured woman. The Haryana government implemented the programme under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi in an effective manner and everyone should contribute towards this effort, he said. The CM was speaking as the chief guest during the 28th annual function of the Gujjar Kanya Gurukul Sansthan at Deodhar in Yamunanagar district on Sunday. He planted a sapling in the courtyard of the institution and laid the foundation stones of “Vigyan Bhavan” and women’s hostel “Yash-oda Bhavan”. Apart from this, the CM also launched a programme for visitors and tourists in Kalesar National Park and flagged off a convoy of four vehicles deployed in the programme. With a view to encourage the instution’s efforts to promote women’s education since 1984, Mr Khattar announced a sum of Rs 1 crore from his fund, of which Rs 50 lakh would be made available during this financial year and the rest would be made available during the next financial year. Accepting the institution’s demand for 24-hour power supply, the chief minister said that this would be done by connecting the villages surrounding the institute to a separate special feeder under the “Mhara Gaon, Jagmag Gaon” scheme of the state government. Presiding over the function, Haryana Assembly Speaker Kanwar Pal announced a sum of Rs 11 lakh for the Gujjar Kanya Gurukul Sansthan from his fund for the promotion of education. The chief minister said that the quality-oriented education should be imparted to children, which would instill the feeling of patriotism in them. (Asian Age 9/11/15)

CHILDREN/ CHILD LABOUR

26. Child rights activists plan stir (14)

CHENNAI: Child rights activists have proposed to protest in front of the office and residence of the Social Welfare Minister if the Integrated Child Protection Scheme is not implemented. According to them, ever since an agreement was signed with the Centre in 2012, there have been problems. Funds allocated for the programme was not spent properly between 2012 and 2014; and funds have not been received for 2014-15 and 2015-16. Neither has the appraisal board met so far. Though 40 children were identified in each district for sponsorship scheme, lack of funds allocation has prevented conduct of awareness programmes, capacity building and skill enhancement efforts, said A. Narayanan, director of non-governmental organisation Change India. “There is no monitoring of whether the Juvenile Justice Act, POCSO Act and the Right to Education Act were being implemented or if the district child protection unit had conducted awareness programmes about these Acts,” he said. Though the mahila courts try sexual crimes against children, they do not order interim relief and compensation in most cases, said K. Shanmugavelayudam of Legal Resource Centre for Child Rights. There is no clarity or guideline on the use of Nirbhaya funds in the State. Nor does the department hire the services of child psychologists, he added. (The Hindu 23/10/15)

27. Sharp increase in number of child marriages (14)

MADURAI: Calls to the Madurai Childline, which operates at the helpline number 1098, has revealed that there has been a sharp increase in the number of instances of child marriage being reported during the last four years. Data indicates that while between April 2012 and March 2013, there were only seven calls made to the helpline to report child marriages, this had drastically risen in April 2014 to March 2015 where 51 instances were reported and members of the District Social Welfare Department and Childline intervened. From April 2015 till October, the Childline has already received 57 distress calls of child marriages taking places and have intervened to stop them from happening. “This indicates that over the years, more people have become aware of the redressal measures in place and are using the helpline. More than 80 per cent of the calls we receive about child marriages going to take place are from the children themselves,” said Jim Jesudoss, Director of Childline, Madurai. The district administration has been constantly making people in rural areas aware of the ills of child marriages and addressing them at gram sabha meetings on not to marry off young girls, he added. In a bid to take more awareness to the rural areas, Collector L. Subramanian flagged off a series of awareness programmes which include street theatre, folk music and dance performances based on the theme of prevention of child marriages. Through the five-day programme, the Childline and the district administration, with the support of the District Social Welfare Department, District Child Protection Unit and Department of Social Defense expect to target nine blocks comprising Chellampatti, Usilampatti, Sedapatti, Tirupparankundram, Tirumangalam, Kalligudi, T. Kallupatti, Kottampatti and Melur from where they have recorded the maximum number of complaints of child marriages. (The Hindu 25/10/15)

28. Castrating child rapists best solution for sex offences, says Madras HC (14)

CHENNAI: Castration. This is Madras high court’s one-word solution for curbing spiralling sex offences against children. “Traditional laws are not stringent enough to yield any desired positive result. Suggestion of castration looks barbaric, but barbaric crimes should definitely attract barbaric model of punishment. Many may not agree with this. Still, everyone needs to understand the stark reality in society and appreciate the punishment suggested,” said Justice N Kirubakaran, pointing to the fact that the conviction rate in cases of sex offence against children is a mere 2.4% and that between 2008 and 2014, crimes against children had increased by 400 per cent. “This court is sure that additional punishment of castration of child rapists would fetch magical results in preventing and containing child abuses,” said the judge while pointing out that chemical castration had come into force in several countries including the US. The judge was passing orders on a plea from a foreigner facing pedophile charges in TN for quashing the case. Turning down the plea, the judge, however, stayed the red corner notice issued against him making it clear it was being done to facilitate his participation in a criminal trial. … (Times of India 26/10/15)

29. Childline rescues 325 children in six months (14)

MADURAI: Between April and September this year, the Childline had rescued as many as 325 children who were exposed to or exploited under various circumstances, including child marriage and child labour. Disclosing the information at a Childline advisory meeting chaired by Collector L. Subramanian here on Thursday, the officials appealed to the public to utilise Childline number 1098 to put an end to exploitation of children. ‘Childline 1098,’ established in Madurai in 2002, is engaged in sensitising children, parents and others. Expressing concern over the rise in number of child marriage cases reported over the years, the officials said that they stopped 55 such marriages . Before booking marriage halls, their managers or owners should check the birth certificate of the bride, Dr. Subramanian said and added that forcing children to beg should also be viewed seriously. Childline director P. Premalatha said that since the 24-hour free phone service was available, people must inform the Childline whenever they came across any child in difficult circumstances. It could be a street child or a lost child or runaway child or a child in need of medical assistance.A trained team of volunteers would take care of the victim, she said. Faculty members from Madurai Institute of Social Sciences and Jim Jesudoss of Sakti Vidiyal said that sensitising children in schools had produced good results. The plan to establish clubs to disseminate child rights in schools would go a long way in sensitising the children. Apart from stopping child marriages, the Childline team also intervened on time and prevented five children from being sexually exploited. The teams saved nine children from falling prey to drugs. The most visible menace was begging in major intersections in the city. The police had been told to alert the Childline about begging. “Without harming the children, the parents had to be educated on the harm of begging,” the speakers said.The Collector said that apart from Childline volunteers, officials from Social Welfare Department should keep a tab on school dropouts. He said that school dropouts should be given vocational training. Deputy Director (Social Security) S. Dhanasekarapandian, Social Welfare Officer R. Anandavalli, Assistant Commissioner (Labour) S.P. Santhi and others participated. (The Hndu 30/10/15)

30. Over 4700 child still missing in Assam (14)

Guwahati: Over 4700 children are still missing in Assam, who are untraced since 2012, a report said. The recently published report of Assam State Commission for Child Rights revealed that since 2012 to the month of October in 2014, a total of 4754 child are still untraced in the state. The commission said in its report that the child missing incidents have increased in Assam. The child labour rate in Assam is higher than national average. It is a very concern issue. The child labour rate in the state is 4.9pc against the national average 4.5pc , Runumi Gogoi, the chairman of the commission said. The report revealed that the child marriage incidents increased in several districts of the state in past years. The child marriage rate in Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Dhubri district are higher against the national rate, Gogoi said. The state commission and UNICEF had jointly organized a state level seminar of child rights issue in Kaziranga on Saturday. (New Kerala 1/11/15)

31. Child Labour Act challenged in HC (14)

GUWAHATI, Nov 2 – The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and MM Sengar, child rights activist, have challenged in the Gauhati High Court the constitutional validity of the Child Labour Act -1986, highlighting the fact that the said Act is ultra vires on the basis of constitutional provisions, international laws and Supreme Court judgements. The petitioners highlighted in detail the plight of children in Assam as well as in the rest of the country and prayed to the court to direct the Government of India to eliminate the difference in the definition of a child by age as prescribed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and Child Labour ( Prohibition and Regulation) Act,1986 to a conformity of 18 years, as per the commitment to the UN Committee on Rights of the Child . The matter will be heard again on December 11. Advocate Debasmita Ghosh represented the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, while Sengar represented himself (petitioner in person). Chief Justice (Acting) T Vaiphei and Justice PK Saikia issued notice to the Government of India, asking it to file a reply on the same before December 11. The petitioners had filed the writ petition in public interest under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 2(ii), Part II and Part III of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and calling for upholding the provisions of the Constitution of India for protection of children by eliminating unlawful child labour practices across the country and preventing commercial and other exploitation of children from hazardous and other work, which becomes a hindrance to their comprehensive development and leads to deprivation of primary, secondary and higher education. (The Assam Tribune 3/11/15)

32. POCSO shocker: Chhattisgarh clocks 2,708 child sexual abuse cases (14)

RAIPUR: Though Chhattisgarh hugs fourth rung in rogue’s gallery on crime against children in 2014 contributing to 4.9% to all-India figure, shocking numbers of incidents have been registered under Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) since its inception. On an average, three children are sexually molested everyday in Chhattisgarh. TOI accessed data of incidents registered under POCSO in state from November 2012 to March 2015, according to which 2,708 cases were reported from 27 districts for child molestation. State capital recorded maximum number of 288 cases under POCSO, followed by Durg with 256 cases while 190 incidents were reported in Raigarh district. Among the vulnerable remote districts, Koriya recorded 165 cases, followed by Jashpur district with 157 incidents of child assault. At a place where people hesitate in reporting about such incidents to police, number of incidents recorded is quite high. This indicates that there are a number of cases which still go unreported, a senior police officer said. Incidentally, of 2708 cases registered, accused in only 193 incidents have gone behind the bars while, of 2,377 cases presented before court, 1,732 are still pending and alleged accused in 452 cases have been acquitted. The situation not only calls for justice through fast-track courts, but creating awareness about newly formed Act among children and parents. Besides, proper training to police officials for imposing appropriate sections of the Act is also essential. CID child cell has been imparting training to police in several districts in collaboration with Delhi-based NGOs, but the need for more is always felt amid ignorance. Talking to TOI, Vikram Srivastava, prominent advocate and founder of Independent Thought in Delhi said, “High number of cases signifies that children and parents are gaining confidence in terms of reporting. It’s very important to inform children in schools about protection and its mechanisms like ChildLine number.” He added that children in conflict zones at residential schools at both government and non-government institutions are most vulnerable, unaware and ignorant of right and wrong. “Hence, it’s very important to implement effective legal mechanisms under juvenile justice Act and ICPS,” Vikram said. (Times of India 6/11/15)

33. Satyarthi calls for new anti-child labour laws (14)

CUTTACK: Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Saturday made a fervent plea to leaders of all political parties to immediately pass the pending Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill in Parliament that is seeking a complete ban on all forms of child labour in the country. “Since the only law prevailing in the country on child labour for the last 30 years has become obsolete and ineffective in achieving its desired goal, we need to have a new and good anti-child labour law to abolish all forms of child labour in the country,” Mr. Satyarthi said while delivering the first Foundation Day lecture of National Law University here. Amid thunderous applaud from law students, Mr. Satyarthi, who jointly won the Nobel Peace prize last year for his fight against oppression of children across the world, said much of his achievements have come for the support his organisation ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’ received from the courts. “Indian judiciary and legal mechanisms are in safe hands but a lot needs to be done as challenges are plenty,” he said urging the law students to work hard to free child labourers in the country. Currently there are over 4.3 million child labourers in India and last year, only 147 cases were filed against their employers that saw an abysmal low conviction rate of only two per cent. He was also equally worried over the huge cases of child sexual abuse allegations pending in different courts. Presided over by University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Srikrishna Deva Rao, the Foundation Day lecture was also addressed by senior judge of Supreme Court Justice Dipak Misra and Orissa High Court Chief Justice D. H. Waghela. Many legal luminaries of the State including judges of the High Court were also present on the occasion. (The Hindu 8/11/15)

MINORITIES – GENERAL

34. Centre to modernise education of minorities (7)

Vijayapura: With an objective of modernising the education of minorities, the State government has decided to establish a centre after Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan, one of the founders of Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh. A government order issued recently aims at improving the educational standard of minorities, focusing primarily on higher education. “Modernisation of education of minorities is the need of the hour. The government, which has realized its importance, has decided to set up a study and research centre in Bengaluru,” said Sabir Mulla, the Head of the Centre. Speaking to The Hindu , he said the government chose to name the centre after Sir Sayed because of his enormous contribution to the education sector, mainly towards minorities. “Sir Sayed was a pioneer in bringing the concept of modernisation in the education of Muslims, which is the majority among the minorities,” he said. The full-fledged centre is yet to come up, but Mr. Mulla elaborated the salient features of the centre and projects to improve the education of minorities. He said the centre plans to introduce the concept of digital classes or e-education. Noting that the percentage of Muslims in higher education was weak compared to other religious minorities, Mr. Mulla said the focus would be on increasing attendance. “One of the reasons for the poor higher education percentage is that many students are unable to cope up with English as a medium of education after studying in Urdu. We will try to evolve methodologies on bridging the lacuna,” he said. He said the centre would also try to set up a chair in the name of Sir Sayed in all the universities of the State. “We will also offer financial aid to the students doing research on various issues related to minorities,” he said. Welcoming the step, Rafi Bhandri, member, Karnataka Urdu Academy and former Syndicate member of the Karnataka State Women’s University, said the centre should focus more on higher education. “Since Sir Sayed was giving importance to education of women among the minorities, the centre should work to meet his aspirations,” he said. Mr. Mulla said the centre was at present working out of the Director of Minorities Office until it opens its own office. (The Hindu 21/10/15)

35. ‘Pre-meditated planning’ behind Dadri lynching: Minorities panel (7)

NEW DELHI: National Commission for Minorities suspects there was “pre-meditated planning” behind the Dadri lynching incident and termed “disturbing” controversial statements by politicians to “make capital out of such outrages”.In an apparent criticism of BJP leaders who made controversial comments after visiting Bishada village, where 52-year-old Mohd Iqlakh was lynched over a rumour that he had eaten and stored beef, NCM said such statements further “vitiate” the relations between different communities.These should be stopped at all cost or “things will go out of hand”, added NCM, which had a three-member team headed by its chairperson Naseem Ahmad making a visit to Bishada village. “The team feels that a crowd of large numbers appearing within minutes of an announcement from temple’s loudspeaker and at a time when most villagers claimed they were asleep seems to point to some pre-meditated planning. “The facts as reported to the NCM team point strongly that the whole episode was the result of planning in which a sacred place like temple was used for exhorting people of one community to attack a hapless family,” says a report prepared by the three-member team. NCM said it will be “quite an understatement” to say that the killing was merely an accident “as has been claimed even by some persons in authority” — a clear reference to a statement by Union Minister Mahesh Sharma and some other BJP leaders. It added that what is more disturbing is that responsible persons converge at the place of any such incident and make irresponsible statements that further vitiates relations between communities. “All the political establishments need to counsel their cadres and sympathisers to desist from making irresponsible statements and making capital out of such outrages,” it said. “The malaise of moral policing” is spreading fast, especially in western UP, it said while seeking vigilance of and curbs on the use of social media, claiming it was being extensively used to flare up communal passions. (Times of India 22/10/15)

36. RSS meet to flag population ‘imbalance’ (7)

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is expected to flag the issue of population tilt – allegedly away from the Hindus – at a high-level meeting that begins in Ranchi tomorrow. The RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Karyakarani Mandal (All India Executive Council) is gathering in the Jharkhand capital for three days for the annual meeting. This time, the alleged imbalance in the Hindu population and the “increase” in that of Muslims is likely to dominate the deliberations and yield in a resolution, demanding a national population policy, which the RSS hopes will “restore parity” in the religious demographic count. The issue was pegged on the Census 2011 data on population by religious communities released in August this year by the registrar-general and census commissioner. The data claimed that the proportion of Hindu population to total population declined by 0.7 percentage point, that of Sikhs by 0.2 percentage points and of Buddhists by 0.1 percentage points during 2001-11. It said the proportion of Muslim population to total population rose by 0.8 percentage points while there was no significant change in that of Christians and Jains. Stating that the population growth rate in the same decade was 17. 7 per cent, the data put the growth rate of Hindus at 16.8 per cent, of Muslims at 24.6 per cent, of Christians at 15.5 per cent, Sikhs at 8.4 per cent, Buddhists at 6.1 per cent and Jains at 5.4 per cent. Sangh spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya told The Telegraph, “Yes, we are concerned with such findings. Society and the government should be equally worried by this imbalance. That is why it is a focus area for our meeting.” However, political observers have not missed the larger political implications of a potentially inflammable issue. Ranchi is next door to Bihar. The RSS’s resolution, the Bihar opposition fears, will be exploited by the BJP in its campaign for the remaining two phases of the Assembly elections in that state to try and stoke fears in Hindus about their supposed shrinking numbers in proportion to a purported rise in those of the Muslims. Already, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratcheted the communal pitch by raking up the matter of religion-based reservations in one of his speeches while today, BJP president Amit Shah, addressing a rally, warned that a victory for the Lalu Prasad-Nitish Kumar combine would trigger celebrations in Pakistan…. (The Telegraph 29/10/15)

37. India would become weak if minorities feel insecure: Teesta (7)

Aligarh: The Centre must understand that if minorities were feeling insecure, India would become weak and divisive forces would gather strength, activist Teesta Setalvad said in Aligarh. “We are witnessing a very determined bid by fascist forces to denigrate the country’s Constitution and the entire socio-justice system which safeguards the interests of the weakest and most vulnerable sections of society,” she alleged, while delivering a lecture at the Aligarh Muslim University. Accusing BJP leaders of using words loaded with communal overtones, she said that government should know that without social justice there is no democracy. She also said that the minorities should act with some restraint. “I urge you not to be provoked by the actions and hate speeches of the communal forces….Instead channelise energies for building bridges of understanding with Hindus and all sections of society…. This is the only way to remove the narrative of hatred.” She was speaking on Preamble to India’s Constitution and the Equality Challenger to Constitutional Government organised by AMU last evening. Delivering the presidential address, historian Professor Emeritus Irfan Habib said there was reason for hope as Indian civil society had in recent weeks “displayed an unprecedented courage by registering their concern”. “Remember that all those who are raising their voices in your defence are Hindus and if you want to strengthen their hands, then your hands too will have to be clean.” He reminded that all three rationalists and writers who had been killed in recent months were Hindus. He said that “minority communalism” would be an inappropriate response to the “communal polarisation” (Hindustan Times 1/11/15

38. There’s extreme intolerance in India: Shah Rukh Khan on 50th birthday (7)

Mumbai: Actor Shah Rukh Khan Monday joined the chorus against “growing intolerance” in the country, saying that “religious intolerance and not being secular…is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot”. At a press conference in Mumbai, when asked whether he would return an award — on the lines of what writers and filmmakers have been doing as a form of protest — he said, “No one can force me to do anything I don’t want to, but let me get a National Award, and then I will return it.” He added that he respected the writers for what they are doing. Earlier, talking to India Today TV, he said, “There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance… there is, I think… there is growing intolerance.”“It is stupid… It is stupid to be intolerant and this is our biggest issue, not just an issue… Religious intolerance and not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot,” he said.He added, “People put words into the air even before thinking and here is a secular country. Here’s a country perhaps for the last 10 years that is on the cusp of going beyond what we think.” On writers and filmmakers returning their awards, he told the TV channel, “I respect those who returned awards, but I don’t have to.” However, he admitted that being a celebrity, it was tough for him to take a stand on every issue. “We may talk about freedom of speech, but people come outside my house and throw stones,” he said. He added that no one should question his patriotism. “We will never be a superpower if we are not going to believe that all religions are equal,” he said. At the press conference, too, he said, “Creativity is secular. Creativity ke andar koi jaat paat, koi dharm nahin aata hai. Kis religion ke hain. Humein kalaakaar se pyaar hai, na ke kahaan se aayein hain (Creativity does not involve caste or religion. We love the artist, not where he is from),” said the actor, who turned 50 Monday. (Indian Express 3/11/15)

39. BJP hits back: Intolerance campaign to derail development (7)

New Delhi: BJP on Thursday termed the intensifying campaign against “rising intolerance” as an attempt to “derail the development” momentum created by the Narendra Modi government. Hitting back at the Congress and the Left, the party — which released a booklet to counter the campaign — said that “maintaining peace in the country” was its “vested interest” as peace was necessary for development. “The entire campaign is a clear effort to derail the development momentum created by the energetic efforts of the Prime Minister. We have vested interest in keeping atmosphere of tolerance in our country because without peace no development can take place. Why should we ourselves destroy our mission for development?” asked Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who addressed the media with party chief Amit Shah. Questioning the motives of those behind the protest, Naidu said: “Why were the so-called intellectuals silent then, and violent now?”Shah released a compilation of articles titled “Know the truth: Some are misled, some are misleading” that defended the government and questioned the protesting intellectuals. While Shah said he would speak on the matter on November 8 — the day of the Bihar election results — Naidu alleged that the ongoing protests were a joint campaign by Congress and Left-leaning intellectuals. The BJP, he said, had no problem with some of them returning their awards, but it had an issue with their efforts to project that there was growing intolerance and the Centre was to be blamed for that. “It is being seen by many as a well-organised effort to defame our cultural ethos,” he added. Reacting to Naidu’s allegations, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “The RSS point of view has always been there in the academic and intellectual discourse of India. The current intolerance in the country is highlighted by the growth of violence and intimidation between opposing points of view unleashed by the RSS and the various tentacles of the communal octopus.” He said the RSS “has not retracted or apologised for MS Golwalkar’s observation that we should learn from the methods used by Hitlerite fascism and that India should ‘learn and profit’ from this.” (Indian Express 6/11/15)

40. Agnivesh to lead peace march against intolerance (7)

Kolkata: Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “deafening silence” on the raging issue of “intolerance” as an endorsement of the “communal statements” of Union Ministers and BJP leaders, social activist Swami Agnivesh has announced that he would lead a peace march from the house of the Dadri victim on November 27. The march, in which religious leaders and peace activists of all communities would participate, is set to conclude at the Gandhi memorial at Rajghat in Delhi on November 29 and a peace meeting would be held on November 30. The march would start from the house of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched by a mob in a village in Dadri area of Uttar Pradesh following rumours that he ate and stored beef. “Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, everybody would be there in the march,” he said, denouncing the killing of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi, and the Dadri lynching. “On the one hand, these killings have taken place in India. And on the other, secular bloggers are being killed in Bangladesh. It is time we speak up, stand up and be ready to be counted,” said Swami Agnivesh, who was in the city as a speaker on inter-faith dialogue at an international conference organised by Council for World Mission (Singapore) and Bishop’s College. Targeting Mr Modi, he said: “Our Prime Minister, who claims to be the PM of 125 crore Indians, is in complete silence even as various BJP leaders and Hindutva activists have been making communal statements. “His deafening silence is an endorsement of the statements. It is an orchestration. An orchestra is on and the cabinet ministers and leading MPs are saying so many things. But there is no action. So I am saying the Prime Minister’s silence is an endorsement of such statements.” Referring to scientists, literary figures and artists returning their awards, Swami Agnivesh said “the sort of intolerance we see around us is unacceptable”. Assailing the RSS, he said: “The Hindutva lobby has found itself in the seat of power now with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. The RSS is feeling uncomfortable and they can’t just wait to declare India as a ‘Hindu rashtra’. This is height of intolerance.” Swami Agnivesh said the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha election slogan of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” now seemed hollow, saying its real meaning as come out in the RSS resolution recently passed in Ranchi, which clearly states that the word ‘sabka’ means those religions which have originated in India like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and leaving out Islam and Christianity. – IANSThe march would start from the house of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched by a mob in a village in Dadri area of Uttar Pradesh following rumours that he ate and stored beef. (The Hindu 9/11/15)

MINORITIES – MUSLIMS

41. No uniform civil code please: Muslim women’s group (7)

New Delhi: A Muslim women’s group on Tuesday opposed attempts to impose a uniform civil code but said “a gender just reform” was needed in the Muslim personal law. Any move to introduce a uniform civil code without taking into account the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion would be wrong, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan said. “Article 25 the constitution gives the right to all, including minorities, to have personal laws based on respective tenets of different religious communities,” the group said in a statement. “Under this provision, we demand a gender just reform in the Muslim personal law based on the Quranic values of equality and justice, in line with article 25 of the constitution.” The group pointed out that the Supreme Court observation on the need to bring about a gender just legal framework was not aimed at imposing anything on different communities. “As per the BJP manifesto, the NDA government wants to impose a family law on all communities with the intention of national integration,” it said. “It is important to point out that national integration cannot happen by a common family law but by treating all citizens equally. “There can be no imposition of any kind as this would impinge on the religious freedom and secularism principles enshrined in the constitution. Nor would different socio-religious communities accept this. “Like all religious majority and minority community in India, Muslims must also have a codified Muslim personal law based on its religious text. “Just as there is a Hindu Marriage Act for Hindus, just as there is a Indian Christian Marriage Act for Christians, just as there is a Parsi Marriage and Divorce (Amendment) Act for the Parsis, Muslims too should have an amended Shariat Application Act to ensure a law for the Muslim community which is in consonance with the Islamic and constitutional values of justice and equality.” The group said the recent targeted violence on minorites “have led to an atmosphere of insecurity and deep sense of fear within the Muslim community and amongst all minorities. “Any talk of a uniform civil code is only adding to the strongly felt sense of hurt and alienation. “This atmosphere of intimidation does not help the cause of women’s demand for justice at all. “It appears that for the fringe right-wing groups, uniform civil code is another stick to beat the community with,” the group said. (Deccan Herald 21/10/15)

42. Muslims groups hit out at ‘communal’ acts (7)

GUWAHATI: Condemning the recent incidents of cow body parts being recovered from temple premises in different parts of the state, three Assamese Muslim organizations cautioned that such incidents prove how vested groups are trying to create communal clashes in the state for political gains. The three organizations – Sadou Asom Garia Yuva Parishad (SAGYP), Asomiya Muslim Kalyan Parishad (AMKP) and Ujoni Asom Muslim Kalyan Parishad – in a joint statement said the incidents were orchestrated as part of a conspiracy ahead the 2016 assembly election. “We condemn the incidents of desecration of temples by throwing cow body parts. People of the state have to maintain communal harmony at all cost,” said AMKP president Rahamsa Ali. SAGYP president Abdul Hamid warned that unless these communal forces are nipped in the bud, the situation in coming days may turn more violent. The three groups also alleged that the AIUDF has failed to champion the causes of indigenous Assamese Muslims. (Times of India 21/10/15)

43. Muslim body asks govt. to allot land for burial (7)

MANGALURU: The Muslim community residing in and around Jeppu in the city categorically stated that it has sought allotment of about 26 cents of vacant government land at Attavar-Nandigudda for a burial ground and not burial land being used by other communities, including the Hindus. J. Sadique, president of Muhyideen Juma Masjid and Dars, Noorul Islam Madrasa, Jeppu, in a release here said that the government may also allot any other suitable land other than the Nandigudda land as every human being is entitled for an honourable burial. Recently residents of Jeppu, Attavar and surrounding areas under the banner of Vishwa Hindu Parishad had held a demonstration protesting the decision of the government to allot certain portion of the land in Nandigudda for Muslim burial ground. Following the protest, the assistant commissioner of Mangaluru Revenue Sub Division heard both the parties and reserved his order on the issue. Mr. Sadique said the government burial land in Nandigudda has been offered to various communities, including 2.32 acres to Hindus, 59 cents to Brahmo Samaj, 2.28 acres to Christians, 1 acre to Mescom, 7 cents to Syrian Christians, 10 cents to Jehovah’s Witnesses and 43 cents for roads. There remains another 26 cents of government land which has been vacant, which the Muslim community has claimed, he said. Mr. Sadique said Jeppu area houses about 50,000 Muslims, while the available burial ground is on just 21 cents of land, which is being used for over a century and the community is facing a severe shortage of space. (The Hindu 29/10/15)

44. RSS seeks review of population policy to counter Muslim growth (7)

Ranchi: The RSS on Saturday sought a review of the population policy to counter “severe demographic changes” in India, flagging what it considers a high rate of growth among Muslims in the country. The Hindutva outfit – considered the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP at the Centre – passed a resolution on the contentious issue at its three-day national executive in Jharkhand’s capital. The RSS and its affiliated organisations have been citing the last census figures to claim that the Hindus are facing the threat of being swamped by Muslims, though the minority community accounts for only 14.2% of the country’s population while their population is growing at a slower rate. The Hindu population was pegged at 79.8% of the population by the religion data of Census 2011. “The share of population of religions of Bharatiya origin has slipped from 88% to 83.5% between 1951-2011 censuses while Muslim population has increased from 9.8% to 14.23% in the intervening period,” said the resolution, a copy of which was released to the media. The RSS considers the Hindus as Bharatiyas (Indians) to make a distinction with Muslims and Christians whom the organisation claims arrived with “invaders” like the Mughals and British. Expressing concern over the “demographic imbalances”, the RSS urged the Centre to reformulate the national population policy keeping in view the availability of resources in the country and future needs, the same idea floated by the outfit’s top leader Mohan Bhagwat in his Vijaya Dashami speech in Nagpur on October 22. It also pointed out alleged abnormal rise in population of Muslims and Christians in some Northeast states like Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. “The Muslim population growth rate has been higher than the national average in border states of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar indicating unabated infiltration from Bangladesh which is corroborated by the Upamanyu Hazarika commission report and judicial pronouncements from time to time,” the resolution read, adding that the infiltrators were usurping the rights of the natives and resulting in socio-cultural and economic tensions. The organisation said that the “unnatural growth of Christian population in many districts of the country indicates targeted religious conversion activity by some vested interests” and threatening the unity, integrity and cultural identity of the country. RSS leader Krishna Gopal said though India was one of the early countries in the world to announce as early as 1952 that it will have population planning measures, it was only in 2000 that a comprehensive population policy was formulated and a population commission was formed. In January this year, BJP leader Sakshi Maharaj had asked all Hindu women to bear four children to protect the religion, which was slammed by women rights activists and minority organisations. (Hindustan Times 1/11/15

45. Rajasthan: Highest school dropout rates among Muslims, SCs/STs (7)

Jaipur: Children of scheduled caste/scheduled tribes and Muslim communities in Rajasthan are the worst affected in cases of school dropouts, a report of a joint survey by district information system for education (DISE) and independent bodies has revealed. The survey report was presented by educationalist Ganesh Nigam at the two-day national consultation on right to education (RTE) organised jointly by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)and Ajit foundation on Saturday. According to the report, the annual average dropout rate at primary level for the state was at 8.39% in 2013-14 and 18.50% for the Muslim community. Similarly, the dropout rate was higher in SC and ST communities with 9.57% and 10.04% respectively. In the upper primary level, Muslim dropouts form the highest average with 20.59% as compared to the state average of 6.03%. SC and ST communities mark steep averages of 7.51% and 7% respectively. Muslim students have the lowest transition rate (from primary to upper primary level of education) with 70.46% as compared to the state average of 88.23%. SC/ST kids have lower transition rates of 87.70% and 81.60% respectively. “Children of SC/ST and Muslim communities have the lowest attendance in schools. Unless education is inclusive to all communities, the RTE act is nothing but a failure,” said Nigam. “Government schools provide free education. But disdain by teachers and an inactive administration force parents to pull out their kids from schools. Economic disparity is the biggest reason behind this trend,” said Sayyed Masood Akhtar, state president, Rajasthan Madarsa Education Helpers’ Association (RMEHA). “Access to public schools is anyway very limited to this community due to poverty but the dropouts can join madarsas,” said Saeed Ahmed, additional director, Madarsa Board. Dalit activists, however, believe that social disparity is the reason behind the increasing dropouts among the SC/ST and Muslim sections. “Teachers have a negative mindset against the deprived sections and discourage children at the initial level. Children of Valmiki community have stopped going to school as they were asked to be manual scavengers there,” said PL Minroth, chief functionary, center for Dalit rights. The report adds that Muslim girls constitute 22.90 % of annual average dropout rate at the upper primary level as compared to that of boys at 18.77%, citing lack of safety assurances from the government and societal bodies as the reason for this trend. “Numerous reasons including patriarchy, lack of safety and poverty are responsible for this trend. Parents are not usually willing to send their daughters to distant schools. If more female staff are included in government schools, then we can certainly improve this figure,” said Ameen Kayamkhani, patron, RMEHA. (Hindustan Times 3/11/15)

46. Clerics take on joblessness among Muslims (7)

BAREILLY: The clerics of Dargah Aala Hazrat have decided to launch a campaign on the last day of the annual Urs-e-Razvi to combat unemployment in the community. In invitation posters to the annual Urs next month, visitors have been told to give the total amount of zakat money (mandatory alms) to one unemployed and poor person for setting up a business, rather than distributing it among scores of poor people. The posters of invitation have been sent to followers of the Barelvi school of Islamic theology across the world on behalf of Hazrat Subhan Raza Khan alias Subhani Miyan, chairperson of the shrine. The poster mentions that the rate of unemployment among youth, and not just in the community, has been rising. India is counted among poor and backward countries of the world because of the high unemployment, the poster explains. “However, nothing could be a better service to the country than if our community could come together to combat unemployment. Every person attending Urs should promise that they will donate the zakat to an unemployed and needy person, to assist him in setting up a business,” Subhani Miyan told TOI. A mandatory donation in Islam, equal to 2.5% of a follower’s wealth, is collected from all those whose wealth and income exceed 52 tolas of silver a year. This is called zakat. Maulana Mohammed Ehsan Raza Khan, the Sajjadanasheen (hereditary head) of the shrine said, “If an unemployed person becomes employed, he would be able to help other poor people. However, if the same amount is distributed among many poor people, it will not help in eradicating poverty.” Besides the invitation posters which have been printed in Urdu, pamphlets in English and Hindi are also being readied for distribution among visitors to the Urs, set to begin from December 6. “On the last day of the Urs, December 8, we will ask other clerics and followers to agree that they follow this advice for fighting unemployment among Muslim youth. We will ask them to raise their hands to confirm that they would give their zakat to an unemployed youth,” said Mufti Mohammed Salim Noori, who will be among the speakers at the event. Noori said that instead of waiting for the government to create job opportunities, the community must begin to help itself. The clerics have also planned a special workshop for Muslim women, to make them better aware of their rights on December 6. On the second day of the Urs, December 7, a conference will be organized to counter proposed changes to Muslim Personal Law and ensure better security for Indian Muslims. The 97th Urs-e-Razvi of Aala Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza, founder of the Barelvi movement, will be organized from December 6-8. Lakhs of followers routinely converge at Bareilly for this annual event. Nearly 50,000 clerics from across the country are expected to congregate at the Urs this year. (Times of India 8/11/15)

MINORITIES – CHRISTIANS

47. ‘Caste-based Oppression has Continued’ (7)

BENGALURU: Former member of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Rev Dr Godwin Shiri has stated that caste oppression of Christian dalits has continued in South India. On Tuesday, Shiri’s book Christian Dalit Women under Unabated Caste and Gender Oppression – A South India Case Study, was released by pastor and dalit writer Rev Dr Manohar Chandraprasad. “Caste-based oppression, social degradations, economic disabilities, restrictions and other issues continue. Ironically, all of these issues are being treated as common occurrence, while the society or the government and even the Church are not doing anything about it,” Shiri says in the book. Shiri has also said that the living condition of Christian Dalit women have not remained stagnant as change is taking place, albeit slowly. Later, Chandraprasad said that it is necessary to understand and identify the problems in the hundreds of sub-castes in Christianity so that they can be eradicated. “There are eminent persons who are speaking about the various societal ills, which is a good step. However, this is just the beginning, and more such efforts must be undertaken. Similarly, efforts must be taken to understand and identify the ills in Christianity, which has over 400 sub-castes, so that they can be addressed,” said Chandraprasad. (New Indian Express 21/10/15)

48. Indian church leaders call for calm in Punjab state (7)

New Delhi: Church leaders in India’s Punjab state are pleading for calm as angry protests spread across Sikhism’s homeland following reports of a series of desecrations of the Sikh holy book. “We have condemned the incidents and appealed for calm,” Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, whose diocese covers most of the state in northern India, said Oct. 22. By mid-October, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, who are a majority in Punjab, blocked roads demanding the arrest of those responsible for desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s sacred book.Local media and police reports recorded at least five incidents of the book being destroyed. The trouble began Oct. 12 in Faridkot, with the discovery of torn pages of the Sikh holy book in Bargadi village. At least four more incidents of such desecration were recorded by Oct. 17. The protests increased in size and intensity after an Oct. 14 incident, when police opened fire on protesters, killing two people. As tensions escalated, paramilitary forces and the Punjab police tried to restore order by cordoning off sensitive areas in the affected districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Faridkot and Bathinda on Oct. 21. “People are really angry and upset. They want their demands met as early as possible,” said Father Peter Kavumpuram, the public relations officer of Jalandhar Diocese. He said the Sikhs are “deeply spiritual people” and “very friendly” especially with Christians, who number 300,000 in the state with a population of 24 million people. “We have expressed solidarity with the grieving community,” he told ucanews.com. Indian media reported that at least six people linked to the desecrations remain in police custody. Sikhism began in northern India’s Punjab region in the 15th century. The Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book of hymns, stresses equality, fraternity and service and is as significant to Sikhs as the Bible is for Christians. (Uca News 22/10/15)

49. Christians must move with times: Pope (7)

Vatican City: Christians must adapt as times change, protected by their unwavering faith in Jesus, Pope Francis has said. “Times are changing and we Christians must change continuously,” Francis said on Friday in his homily at the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence, where he lives. “We must change whilst remaining fixed to our faith in Jesus Christ, fixed to the truth of the Gospel but we must adapt our attitude continuously according to the signs of the times,” Francis added. “Do this freely, without fear,” he said. “Our job is to look at what is happening within us, discern our feelings, our thoughts and what is happening around us and discern the signs of the times — through silence, reflection and prayer,” Francis stated. The pontiff’s comments came amid the ongoing Vatican summit on the family, which has been grappling with flashpoint issue such as the Catholic Church’s stance on divorcees, people who remarry and gays. The three-week meeting, which ends this weekend, is unlikely to change Catholic doctrine on the family but is focussing instead on how the Church’s teachings can be adapted to modern lifestyles, observers say. Nearly 300 Catholic church leaders have been attending the synod on the family, the most highly anticipated meeting since the Second Vatican Council half a century ago. (Zee News 24/10/15)

50. City church expresses concern over intolerance (7)

MADURAI: The Madurai Archdiocese of Roman Catholic Church expressed concern over the growing intolerance and hatred in the country stating that it will destroy the pluralistic nature of the country. In a statement, Archbishop Antony Pappusamy expressed fears that hate crimes unleashed across the country will destroy the very roots of democracy in the country. The pluralistic nature of the Indian society has been put under enormous pressure by the forces trying to bring in hegemony. Hatred is nurtured in planned manner to destroy the identity of indigenous groups and the freedom of expression – the most important right of democracy – is made a mockery. People decide to stand different to the opinion of rulers are projected as enemy of state and are threatened and eliminated. The archbishop cited the cases of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and M M Kalburgi who were brutally assassinated for voicing their differences. The crux of democracy is to nurture pluralism. In the name of cow protection, the campaign against beef eating has attained momentum. Deciding to eat something is individual’s personal desire, he said. Communalistic ideology is against free and scientific society. Understanding the communalism is vital to protect democratic values of the society. Religious minorities are most threatened by the idea of communalism and they are projected as enemies since the religious values followed by them are different from the religion of majority people. There is nothing wrong to differ and it is one’s right. Christian community believing this should be ready to face the threat by communalism, he stated and appreciated the writers who registered their protest by returning the awards. (The Times of India 30/10/15)

51. Pope ‘Greatly Concerned’ Over New Central Africa Violence (7)

VATICAN: Pope Francis today voiced “great concern” over a fresh outbreak of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, four weeks ahead of a planned visit to the troubled country. “The painful events that have worsened an already delicate situation in the Central African Republic in recent days are of great concern to me,” the pope told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square. Yesterday, Muslim militants killed at least two people and wounded several in a Christian neighbourhood of the capital Bangui. The military said several hundred people fled the area fearing further violence. The fresh unrest came two days after four people were killed and around 20 wounded in Bangui in a reprisal attack avenging the deaths of two Muslims. One of the poorest and most unstable countries in Africa, the landlocked former French colony plunged into chaos after president Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013. The mainly Muslim Seleka rebels behind the coup went on a bloody rampage that triggered the emergence of equally dangerous anti-balaka (anti-machete) militias in mostly Christian communities. “I appeal to all those involved to put an end to this cycle of violence,” Francis said after his regular Sunday recitation of the Angelus prayer. The 78-year-old pontiff then confirmed that he planned to visit Bangui on November 29, saying he “hoped” the visit would go ahead. The pontiff plans a six-day African tour, his first to the continent, that will also take him to Kenya and Uganda, beginning on November 25. (New Indian Express 1/11/15)

52. Christian leaders condemn ‘growing’ intolerance in India (7)

New Delhi: Christians from across the country on Monday condemned the “growing” intolerance in India and criticised “sinister attempts” to do away with the reservation policy. “In unequivocal terms we denounce the growing intolerance in the country. We also denounce the sinister attempts to do away with reservation policy and ultimately the attempt to undermine the constitution,” reads a statement, signed by over 100 Christian community leaders and activists. The community leaders have signed the statement to express their anger over violence against Dalits, Adivasis, women, religious minorities and even “ghar-wapsi” (a programme to convert non-Hindus to Hinduism). Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Fr. Felix Raj, former Karnataka Police chief Francis Colaso and former Delhi government Minority Commission member John Dayal were among those who signed the statement. “We stand in solidarity with all those from various walks of life, faiths, traditions, backgrounds, cultures, communities, professions and orientations who have raised voice against the growing intolerance in the country and call upon all the citizens to resist every move to create crisis and conflict by some vested interest,” the statement said. (Business Standard 3/11/15)

53. Church attacks were petty crimes, not communal: RSS (7)

NEW DELHI: Armed with what it claims to be an objective report, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has decided to go aggressive on “vilification campaign” against it for stoking communal fire in the country. The issue came up during its Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal meeting in Ranchi recently. To begin with, RSS will rely on a report by the India Policy Foundation (IPF), one of the Sangh-promoted think tanks, which claims to have proof that attacks on Christians and churches were motivated and not the handiwork of saffron outfits. Senior RSS leaders Dattatreya Hosbole and Manmohan Vaidya are members of the IPF Trust while Rakesh Sinha of Delhi University is the director and Kapil Kapoor is the chairperson. The saffron outfit said IPF’s report – Big Lies – was prepared following “research and documentation” by looking at police reports and information from the ministry of home affairs. The report concludes that in most cases, the cause of the attack on churches and Christians was “petty thefts and crimes” and not “communal”.For instance, on the burning of St. Sebastian’s Church in Delhi’s Dilshad Garden in East Delhi, IPF report says that on the basis of FSL report, it can be “safely concluded that the fire had not been caused by implantation of any inflammable material or an act of vandalism.” IPF also claims that the priest of the church “did not blame any particular group” for the incident. In case of attack on Church of Our Lady Grace at Vikaspuri in West Delhi, IPF claims “three alcoholics were arrested who have no links with the Sangh Parivar”. IPF blames the media for blowing up the attack on St Alphonsa Church at Vasant Kunj in South Delhi. In the same breath, it also says investigations are still under progress. Similarly, the report claims incidents in Jasola, Rohini, Holy Child Auxilium School, Vasant Vihar and Believer’s Church in Haryana were cases of petty crimes. IPF says the idea behind the report was to investigate the role of individuals and groups; to know whether the incidents were planned, organized violence, anti-minority drive; and find out the role of clandestine groups. (Times of India 4/11/15)

54. ISIS frees 37 kidnapped Syrian Christians: NGO (7)

BEIRUT: The Islamic State group on Saturday released 37 Syrian Christians, most of them women, who were among more than 200 people kidnapped more than eight months ago, an NGO said. The Assyrian Observatory for Human Rights said the group of freed Assyrian Christians included 27 women and 10 men, most of them elderly. They arrived on Saturday morning in the town of Tal Tamr in the Khabur region of Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria, the group said. The releases were confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which said most of those freed were from other towns elsewhere in the Khabur region. The former hostages were among a group of 220 Assyrians captured by IS when they overran parts of the Khabur region in February. Since then, a trickle of the prisoners have been released, with between 140 and 150 believed to still be held by IS. The Assyrian Observatory said the releases were the result of negotiations carried out by the church, but other reports suggest IS has been paid to free the hostages. Assyrians numbered about 30,000 among Syria’s 1.2 million Christians before the country’s conflict began. They lived mostly in 35 villages in Hasakeh. In February, IS overran many of the villages, but Kurdish forces later expelled them. IS has captured hundreds of hostages, including Christians from different sects, in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq. Elsewhere, the Britain-based Observatory said the toll in Thursday’s air strikes on the town on Albu Kamal on the Syrian border with Iraq had risen to 49 people, at least 31 of them civilians. The monitoring group had previously said at least 22 people were killed in the strikes, but it was not able to confirm who was behind the attacks. Russia, Syria’s government and a US-led coalition are all carrying out air strikes on Syrian territory, sometimes operating in the same areas. (Times of India 7/11/15)

REFUGEES/ MIGRANTS

55. Refugee crisis: EU leaders to hold meeting to find solution (13)

Berlin: The European Union (EU) will hold an emergency summit of the leaders of the nations affected by the current refugee crisis to find a solution, to the plight of thousands of migrants stranded in the western Balkans in their desperate attempt to reach western Europe. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has convened the meeting for Sunday in Brussels in view of the “unfolding emergency” in the nations along the western Balkans route of the migrants, which required “much greater cooperation, more extensive consultation and immediate operational action,” a commission’s statement said yesterday. Besides German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann, the leaders of Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Rumania and Bulgaria as well as non-EU nations Serbia and Macedonia have been invited to attend the meeting, the statement said. The situation of the refugees heading to western Europe through the Balkans route has been deteriorating since Hungary last Friday closed its border with Serbia and Croatia, leaving them a journey through Croatia and Slovenia as the only alternative to reach Austria and Germany. Thousands of refugees have been stuck in Croatia and Slovenia in increasingly cold and rainy weather without proper shelter and short of food and water, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR and other aid organisations. Croatia had limited the number of people it has been taking from Serbia and diverted many of them to Slovenia. Until last week, Croatia has been transporting the refugees entering the country from Serbia to the Hungarian border and from there they were taken to the Austrian border. Overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, Slovenia set a limit of 2,500 refugees it can take from Croatia per day in order to be in a position to register them and to transport them to the Austrian border. The situation in an overcrowded Slovenian registration centre for refugees in Brezice escalated on Tuesday after some refugees set on fire their tents in protest against the conditions there, media reports said. Meanwhile, several thousand refugees are waiting on the Serbian side to enter Croatia while many more are on their way along the route from Greece to Macedonia and Serbia. Germany’s newly-appointed coordinator for refugees Peter Altmeier, who took the initiative to organise next Sunday’s summit, said it was intended to reach an understanding on joint initiatives and sharing of responsibilities to restore order in the movement of migrants and to ensure that every nation involved treated them with human dignity. The refugee crisis can be tackled only through joint efforts and therefore “our goal is to reach a common understanding on joint initiatives and sharing of responsibilities. Every country must make its contribution instead of passing on responsibilities to another,” Altmeier said. (Business Standard 22/10/15)

56. West Bengal has the highest No. of foreign prisoners (13)

KOLKATA: Almost half of the foreign prisoners in the country are lodged in different jails of Bengal. According to recent data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, nearly 47% of the foreign prisoners are lodged in Bengal jails and most of them are Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims. The Rohingya Muslims were arrested while trying to cross over to India through Bangladesh.Sources said since there’s no repatriation treaty with Bangladesh, several prisoners from the neighbouring country are still languishing in jails even after their terms are over. According the NCRB data, of the 6000-plus foreign prisoners lodged in different jails in the country, 2935 are in West Bengal. Among them, 1113 are convicts and the rest are undertrials. “There are several foreign prisoners, including those from Bangladesh and Myanmar (read Rohingyas),” said Madhurima Dhanuka, consultant with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO which works in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and fights for the release of the Bangladeshis and Rohingyas. Take the case of Yousuf, a resident of Panoor gram panchayat in Kerala’s Kannur district. He was arrested from Bongaon on January 18, 2012 while trying to cross the border. He was sentenced to prison for 650 days. Yousuf was convicted on the ground that he, being a Pakistani national, intruded on India. He has been languishing at Dum Dum Central Jail despite a release order in November 2013. Reason: Pakistan refused to recognize him as its own citizen.If this is the situation with an Indian national, think about the foreign nationals. Nearly 100 Rohingya Muslims lodged in various prisons across Bengal are staring at an uncertain future as their plea to get refugee status is yet to be heard by the Indian authorities. The Rohingyas, originally residents of Myanmar, were arrested when they were trying to cross over to India through Bangladesh. According to sources, there are 320 prisoners in Bengal jails who have completed their terms. Most of them are Bangladeshis, but two are from Nigeria, two from Myanmar, one from Ukraine and one from Lesotho. (Times of India 25/10/15)

57. At least 120,000 displaced in Syria in past month: UN (13)

At least 120,000 people have been displaced in Syria this month because of fighting, according to UN humanitarian officials. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the people fled their homes in the Aleppo, Hama and Idlib governorates between October 5 and October 22. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday that most remain in the three governorates but some have fled to camps near the Turkish border. He said most people in Aleppo moved toward villages and towns in the countryside west of the city. Dujarric said the displaced Syrians need tents, basic household items, food, water and sanitation services. He said the UN’s humanitarian partners are scaling up their response, and distribution of cooked and ready-to-eat food has started to those displaced in the three governorates but needs to be stepped up. The UN report largely matches up with a similar report yesterday by the Norwegian Refugee Council, which estimated that 100,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three weeks by the recent surge in fighting following the start of an airstrike campaign by the Russian military. The council said that this new exodus is pressuring already overcrowded and overstretched camps in the country. In a statement, the group said that the new wave of displacement is mostly from the province of Aleppo, where Syrian government and allied troops, emboldened by Russian airstrikes, began a ground offensive on October 16. The militant Islamic State group has also seized new territories in Aleppo, pushing out rival rebels and fighting with government troops. Others were displaced by the airstrikes and fighting in Hama and Homs. “This is a cry for help,” said Karl Schembri, the Refugee Council’s media adviser. He said the newly displaced are heading toward already crowded facilities along the border with Turkey. “There are already people moving day-to-day to find places” to lay their tents, while rainy season has begun, he said. Last week, a UN official in Geneva said that around 35,000 people are reported to have been displaced from just two villages on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo city. The civil war, in its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million. (DNA 27/10/15)

58. 11 dead as refugee boats sink in Aegean (13)

Athens: Four boats carrying refugees from Turkey to Greece sank in the past few hours, leaving at least 11 people dead and more than 40 others missing, Greek authorities said on Thursday. Greece’s Coast Guard retrieved 11 bodies, including eight children, and a rescue operation was underway in the Aegean Sea to search for the missing, the authorities said, Xinhua news agency reported. The sinkings occurred from Wednesday to early Thursday off the Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos and Agathonissi. From Tuesday to Thursday, the Greek Coast Guard rescued almost 1,000 people attempting to cross over from the Turkish shores in wooden vessels. Adverse weather conditions did not curb the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria. Latest data from the Greek shipping ministry, the UN High Commission for Refugees and the International Office for Migration show that since January 2015, about 500,000 refugees and migrants have reached Greece to seek a better and secure life in central and northern European countries. More than 3,000 people have died this year while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Greek Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas reiterated in a statement Athens’ plea to the European Union and the neighbouring countries to step up coordination to avoid such tragedies at sea. (Business Standard 29/10/15)

59. Election brings hope, fear for Myanmar refugees stuck in limbo (13)

MaeSot, Thailand: For refugees from Myanmar living in camps just across the border in Thailand, a landmark election in their homeland triggers mixed emotions – hope that a hated government will be defeated, and fear of the uncertain future such an upheaval might bring. Ko Chit, 45, who lives in Mae La refugee camp, the largest of the nine camps that are home to around 110,000 people, is typical of those who spoke to Reuters. He wants opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to win the Nov. 8 poll, the country’s first free and fair election in a generation, but worries that could result in being sent back to Myanmar when it remains unsafe. “The situation is not yet stable and we cannot go back because of fighting and persecution,” Ko Chit said. “If there is no non-governmental organisation to support us there, it would be better to stay in the camp.” For many who spoke to Reuters, the looming fear is that an NLD win will prompt Thailand to declare it is now safe for them to go back and shutter the camps. Some residents have been living in the camps for 30 years. Nearly 80 percent are ethnic Karen from eastern Myanmar who fled armed conflict and often persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army during decades of military rule. (Zee News 3/11/15)

60. US has the largest number of refugees settled (13)

NEW YORK: With European countries struggling to come to terms with refugees from middle-eastern countries like Syria and accepting them, the US has come out as the country which has settled the largest number of refugees. In the fiscal year 2015, the nearly 70,000 refugees arrived to the US and have settled, said the director of Refugee Admissions Office of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Lawrence Barlett on Tuesday. This is more than all other countries combined, he said. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres criticized the European Union for being slow in accepting refugees on Tuesday. “The number of arrivals currently stands at between 6,000 and 8,000 a day on Greek islands alone. The European Union has the capacity to manage this crisis, but for that to happen, a united and comprehensive regionaI approach is essential,” he said. “The decision to relocate 160,000 within the EU was a step in the right direction, but the implementation has been far too slow,” he added. Explaining the difference between refugee programs in the US and other countries like Turkey, Barlett said that refugee had the choice of becoming permanent residents or even citizens with voting rights. “Turkey would be a good example, Jordan, great example – where you’ve got a couple million, I think, refugees now in Turkey. So they’re a hosting country, but they have not agreed to resettle refugees. They’ve not agreed that Syrians can become Turkish citizens or agreed that they can have full access to services of that government,” he said. “So clearly, the international community owes Turkey a lot in terms of gratitude for what they are doing on a temporary basis for people, but that is not a permanent solution for a refugee. Many countries simply do not have the infrastructure to absorb large numbers of people; we know that,” he added. …. (Times of India 4/11/15)

61. M.K. Narayanan for ‘across the border’ citizenship for Tamil refugees (13)

Chennai: Advocating ‘across the border’ citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees presently living in India, the former National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, on Wednesday said, “it was not easy, but it should be possible.” Speaking at a colloquium ‘The Future of Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in India’ organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, he endorsed the argument that providing financial support to refugees who intend to return should help them. “By and large the Government of India can meet its obligations on returning the refugees back to their homeland with a certain amount of backup and support,” he said. “What they want is, give us a little more support, in helping those who want to go back to do so. I think this is easy,” the former NSA said. Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation treasurer S.C. Chandrahasan also emphasised the need to facilitate the return of these refugees who had spent over 30 years in India. Unlike other countries in the West, Afro-Asian nations, especially India, did not make the refugees wait in a queue and instead, accepted them as they came. The opinion of the vast majority of refugees living in India was to go back home and safeguard their lands, he said. The Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Limited, N. Ram, said the conditions in the Island had improved “significantly, if not radically” and it was the best time for the safe return of Tamil refugees to their homeland. With a new government in the island, there was a conducive atmosphere for those who were willing to return, he added. R.K. Radhakrishnan, Senior Deputy Editor, Frontline, said the conditions in the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu were bad and the accommodation provided to them had not been repaired in several years. He made a presentation on the future of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India. (The Hindu 6/11/15)

62. 4 Myanmar refugees among 6 held in Hyderabad (13)

HYDERABAD: Police have arrested six persons, including four refugees from Myanmar, for illegally obtaining Indian passports and other identity cards (ID) cards under false names. They also arrested a home guard posted at RTA office, Khairatabad, for helping the refugees in securing the Indian passport illegally. In a joint operation conducted by the Bahadurpura police along with Special Branch cops at Kishanbagh and MM Pahadi in Rajendranagar, four Rohingyas from Myanmar, Md Rafeeq, 24, Md Aziz, 35, of Kishanbagh, Abdul Kareem, 35, and Md Saleem, 22, of MM Pahadi have been arrested. Cops seized two Indian passports containing photographs of Md Rafeeq and Md Aziz with false names and local addresses. Police also seized Indian passport applications of Kareem and Saleem with fake details of their identity. Cops also seized four voter ID and Aadhaar cards containing their photographs, but fake particulars. On interrogation, the four refugees, who have United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)-issued identify cards, confessed that they wanted to go to North American, Middle East or West European countries for employment and decided to obtain Indian passports for that purpose. The four refugees have told police that home guard Nazir Khan, 40, of Kishanbagh, currently posted at RTA office in Khairatabad, had helped them to contact Md Ghouse, 32, of Hussainialam, to obtain voter ID cards with fake particulars. With the help of Ghouse, the four refugees obtained voter ID cards and then Aadhaar cards with fake particulars and then opened bank accounts. Using all the supporting documents with fake particulars, the refugees applied for Indian passports. Rafeeq and Aziz managed to obtain Indian passports, but during the antecedent verification Kareem and Saleem’s passport applications were rejected. After a detailed scrutiny of the applications, the Special Branch cops along with Bahadurpura police nabbed all the four on Sunday. Based on their confession, police also arrested Ghouse and Nazir. A case was registered against the accused by the Bahadurpura police under sections, 370, 466, 468, 474, 473, 474 r/w 109 of the IPC, sections 12(1)(b)(d) of the Indian Passport Act 1967, section 14(a)(b)(c) of the Foreigners Act 1946, sections 10 & 24 of the Immigration Act, 1983, section 3 of the Passport Re-entry Act, 1920. The arrested persons would be produced in court and remanded in judicial custody on Monday. (Times of India 9/11/15)

RIGHT TO INFORMATION

63. Many RTI Activists’ Forums Boycott SIC Convention (1)

KOCHI: Various RTI activists’ forums boycotted the convention organised by the State Information Commission here on Tuesday and alleged that it was a futile bureaucratic exercise without public participation. At a press conference here on Tuesday, the RTI activists pointed out that the four posts of state information commissioners remain vacant in the SIC, even as nearly 10,000 appeals are pending before it. Besides this, the commission was averse to taking action against officials who failed to rightly implement RTI and hold information. While corruption, red-tape and nepotism are ruling the state, the functioning of the SIC has become almost defunct. The Commission do not want to face uncomfortable questions related to its functioning and that is why it did not invite the RTI activists forums into the convention, the activists alleged. “In the absence of an active and frequent interaction with the social groups and activists, the SIC would turn out to be another bureaucratic set up,” K N K Namboodiri of Kerala RTI Federation pointed out. The state government was trying to misguide the public as well as the court regarding the appointment of information commissioners, said M A Pookoya, state coordinator of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). When the organisation approached the High Court, the government filed an affidavit saying that a committee had been formed, which was completely false. The NCPRI sought information through RTI on the committee and it was disclosed that no such committee had been constituted at all. The government is playing games and it would take at least three months to complete the mandatory procedures of appointing information commissioners. By then, the appeals and complaints before the SIC would accumulate further, he added. D B Binu of Human Rights Defence Forum, said that the organisations would launch a statewide agitation against the apathy of the government and the SIC. (New Indan Express 21/10/15)

64. Opposition attacks Devendra Fadnavis over CM Relief Fund issue (1)

New Delhi: Opposition Congress and NCP on Saturday attacked Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over sanction of funds from CM Relief Fund to a dance troupe, demanding his resignation and apology for the “travesty”.”Money meant for relief fund or relief for a particular unforeseen situation is used for all kinds of peccadillo in Bangkok. What could be a greater travesty. “This calls for the resignation of the Chief Minister. The relief fund is administered by the chief minister directly. If money has been misappropriated for a cause for which the money has not been collected, it is a very serious issue. The CM should resign or the opposition parties together must insist on his resignation,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said. The attack came even as the Chief Minister’s Office denied any wrongdoing and said that the dance troupe comprising government employees was allocated the funds meant for such activities. An RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali found that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis approved Rs 8 lakh for a government employees dance troupe to participate in a competition in Bangkok in December. He sanctioned the sum that was transferred to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for the dance contest. The issue has sparked a row with the opposition questioning the BJP-led government’s “priorities” at a time when the state is reeling under severe drought. “Maharashtra is facing severe drought and thousands of farmers are committing suicide. Thousands of application are pending before the CM. People are seeking relief for chronic diseases like cancer and heart attack. He has no time to take the decision to distribute Rs 5,000-10,000 to needy people.” “Despite that he diverted this fund to Sachivalaya Gymkhana for foreign tour for their own enjoyment. This cannot be tolerated. He should apologise for his shameful act. The money should be recovered from the people who have enjoyed. If not, Fadnavis should pay from his own pocket,” NCP leader Nawab Malik said. BJP leader Sania NC said levelling “baseless” allegations was wrong. She said Fadnavis’ “fight against corruption, his credibility, his accountability is being talked about all over the country”.She said complete information should be put in public domain.   (Zee News 24/10/15)

65. 10 years after RTI act, info under lock & key (1)

In 2005, when the country celebrated Vijayadashami to mark the symbolic triumph of good over evil, a potent tool to em power citizens and expose the often accepted sordid business of governance came into being. Ten years later, the Right to Information Act has become a whistleblower’s weapon as it seeks, though at times in theory, to bring to the light dealings in government departments otherwise shrouded in secrecy. But eight years before the Centre implemented this law, Tamil Nadu became the first country to enact a transparency law, albeit with too many loopholes. Enacted on May 4, 1997, the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Act had 21 exemptions, including 12 subclauses, and did not have an independent body to file appeals which defeated its purpose. So when the UPA government brought the RTI Act, 2005, it promised a tell-all story for just `10. In Tamil Nadu, from a mere 12,000 people using the act in 2006, more than 2.5 lakh filed pleas in 2011. According to the RTI annual reports between 2006 and 2011, 8.75 lakh pleas were filed in various departments in the state. Though there were only few highprofile exposes using the RTI Act in the state in the last 10 years, an RTI application in 2010 showed how the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) favoured judges, legislators and bureaucrats close to the ruling class while allotting plots under the discretionary quota.The law brought about changes in different ways, with implications ranging from the personal to social. It gave rise to a new breed of activists called RTI activists who asked piercing queries to the government. But after a decade, the crusaders say that the law meant to arm citizens to take on the corrupt amid the ruling class has suffered several blows. After the first two years, government departments have found ways to stonewall queries. For instance, the Tamil Nadu government is yet to place the 2012, 2013 and 2014 annual RTI reports in the assembly . V Gopalakrishnan, who exposed TNHB’s allotment irregularities, said activists are unable to access documents as officials continue to ditch queries. He said several departments cite `file missing’ as an excuse and dodge questions. RTI activists say government departments use Section 6 (3) and Section 7 (9) to deny and delay applications.Section 6 (3) says that if a public authority receives a request for information which is held by another public authority, “the authority shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority”. This eats up time. Section 7 (9) says, “An information shall be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question”.”An increasing number of public information officers (PIO) are now transferring RTI applications from one department to another with an intention to divert the queries. The information commission has failed to enforce the implementation of suo motu disclosure of information on websites of departments under section 4 of the act,” said M Thuyamurthy , who has more than 200 RTI appeals pending. .. (Times of India 29/10/15)

66. Soon, RTI adalats to clear pending cases (1)

Bengaluru: To deal with the rising number of cases, the Karnataka Information Commission is contemplating holding Right To Information (RTI) adalats across the city from next month. Currently, 30,000 cases are pending before the authority, which is struggling with reduced staff strength. “We receive close to 800 to 1,000 appeals a month and each Commissioner has to deal with 30 cases a day. We have four Commissioners and one Chief Commissioner when the sanctioned strength is seven,” L. Krishnamurthy, KIC Commissioner (RTI), said while addressing members of FKCCI on Saturday. On the nature of pending cases, Mr. Krishnamurthy told The Hindu , “The maximum cases pertain to RTI applications filed with the BBMP and BDA. We are thinking of a zonal approach to the problem where we will hold adalats and deal with as many cases as possible.” He said that instructions on holding the adalats had been issued and the time and venue was yet to be fixed. Mr. Krishnamurthy said that of the complaints related to RTI applications filed with the BBMP, around 99 per cent pertained to building violations. “Some people, who misuse the Act, file around 1,000 cases. As a result, applicants from rural areas with one or two applications are not able to get a hearing. Sometimes, it takes around nine months for the appeal to reach us in some individual cases,” he said. Mr. Krishnamurthy said that the Commission receives complaints about departments that do not upload files available under the RTI Act on their websites. “If we receive such complaints, we can direct the authorities to upload the information,” he said. (The Hindu 1/11/15)

67. Nuapada Watershed Mission fails to respond to RTI query (1)

Bhubaneswar: The Watershed Mission office in Nuapada district is regularly violating RTI rules. The first appellate authority in the district is also indifferent towards the appeal of the applicants. They are in hand in gloves with their field offices, thus do not allow transparency, said the RTI activists of Nuapada district, adding that the violation is done knowingly to suppress corruption in implementation of watershed activities. Parameswar Barik of Dhanksar village had applied to the PIO, District Watershed Mission office, seeking information on activities taken up in Dhanksar and Sardhapur villages of Khariar block under watershed development programme. He was directed by the PIO to deposit Rs27,440 as Xerox cost per page. Barik went for an appeal before the first appellate authority. The Project Director of Watershed Mission of Nuapada, as the First Appellate Authority interestingly justified the cost without mentioning any reason. “I did not go for the second appeal, because that would have taken a long time for hearing. Thus, I visited the field office of the Mission to deposit the said amount, but unfortunately, they did not accept the money stating that, the money receipt is not available in their office,” said Barik. Barik claimed that he had tried several times to deposit the information fees, but the PIO at Khariar avoided. “Such tactics are adopted by the mission office regularly,” said RTI activist Kshirasindhu Sagaria of Khariar block. “I was directed by the office to deposit Rs 52,000 for information of two watersheds in 2013. My first appeal against the direction of the PIO was not heard by the PD, thus I went for second appeal, which is still pending in the State Information Commission,” added Sagaria. Villagers in every watershed complain about lack of transparency in activities. “Most of the activities are undertaken violating minimum accounting norms. I had verified the pass book of the watershed committee of Makarchuan Nala watershed. More than Rs18 lakh has been withdrawn but activities have been undertaken for Rs13.10 lakh,” said Barik. “It reveals that, the rest amount has been misappropriated,” Barik told. He also claimed that the works undertaken are of low quality. “An earthen bund has been repaired in Dhanksar village by using machine at a cost of Rs2.10 lakh, although hardly Rs70,000 would have been spent. The papers show that the work has been done by employing labour,” added Barik. It is revealed from the verification of documents produced by the watershed committee that most case records do not have resolutions of the village, nor the implementing agency (the Khariar Mission Office) has maintained MB (Measurement Book). There are also no order sheets and technical sanctions of the concerned authority. The RTI activists of Khariar have demanded transparency in the watershed mission’s work. “There should be regular social audit by the villagers,” they said. (Pioneer 5/11/15)

68. CIC returns 12% of info appeals with little explanation (1)

NEW DELHI: New analysis by Right to Information activists confirms that the Central Information Commission is returning requests for information at a high rate to the applicants. Twelve per cent of all second appeals and complaints received by the CIC this year were returned to the senders, with reasons for the return being made available in only a fraction of cases. As reported earlier by The Hindu, the number of cases the CIC admits has crashed precipitously. Activists say it is likely that a larger number of applicants are having their requests turned down. It is difficult to track requests which have been turned down by the CIC as there isn’t any clear information about them, say the activists. Cases come before the Delhi-based CIC in two ways: if an applicant is not satisfied with the response to his or her request for information from a Central government authority, he or she can approach the CIC with a second appeal, or if a citizen has a complaint — his or her request was not taken or wrong information was given or he or she has faced threats — he or she can complain directly before the CIC. An analysis by Manisha Chachra, Venkatesh Nayak and Lakshya Thukral of the Access to Information Programme of CHRI has shown that the CIC received 71,166 second appeals and complaints between January and October, 2015, and returned 8,534 or almost 12 per cent to the sender. The rate of return spiked in August, when one out of every five requests was returned. “CHRI firmly believes that the CIC has a duty to assist the appellants and complainants to cure any technical defects in their submissions. The reasonable way to do so is to advise the appellants/complainants to send the missing documents by post instead of simply throwing back their appeal papers at them,” the researchers said in a statement. “CHRI also believes that there is no provision for returning complaints to the sender under the RTI Act. CHRI recommends that if there are technical defects, the CIC may advise the complainant to cure them and keep the complaint pending in the meantime,” they added. Simultaneously, Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri of the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information analysed the “deficiency memos” that the CIC must create for every appeal or complaint returned to the sender. Looking at one month, August 2015, alone, they found that the CIC received 6,389 pieces of incoming mail. Of these, the status for 1,048, showed that they were ‘Returned to Sender’; 183 were marked as ‘Registered’, and the remaining 5,158 were marked as ‘Fresh Dak’, meaning that they were yet unopened. Examining a random sample of five per cent of those returned to the sender, or 54 marked as such, they found that the deficiency memos could only be located for 11 of the 54 cases which were returned. “In the rest, which constitute more than 75 per cent of the samples analysed, the deficiency memos were not available online. This is extremely concerning, as it implies that no information is available on the CIC website about the reasons/basis for the sudden increase in the number of appeals/complaints being returned to senders,” Ms. Bhardwaj said. “It shows that the commission is itself not being transparent and that there is no public accountability,” Ms. Bhardwaj added. (The Hindu 7/11/15)

69. RTI Reveals Lies by Corporation Officials (1)

CHENNAI: Chennai Corporation officials are turning a blind eye to unauthorised buildings in Sowcarpet, and often provide false information under the Right to Information Act to shield illegal structures. City Express is in possession of few RTIs given by the Chennai Corporation to an RTI activist, which appears to be false. “There have been instances where Chennai Corporation officials put the blame on other departments and at times, say no inspection has been done despite clearly stating the violation,” says J Parasmal, an RTI activist. This comes when the Madras High Court has lamented about the unholy nexus between builders and officials. In one particular case, regarding a building on Thathamuthappan Street, the RTI activist had sought the reason as to why no action had been taken against the illegal building. “The public information officer stated that the appeal is pending before the housing and urban department,” said the activist. But according to the Housing and Urban Development Department, there has been no appeal pending in the government. “The building is not built as per plan. When I sought a reason as to why no action has been taken, they lied about it,” says Parasmal. Similarly, in another case, the officials replied to a query in RTI that they have not inspected the five-floor building in Narayana Mudalali Street. “If they haven’t inspected the building then how do they know it has five-floors?” he adds. Repeated attempts to contact Chennai Corporation officials have failed. Meanwhile, action is yet to be taken against a 7-storey building, which was sealed for major violation last year. Nearly 10-months later, the building, which is acknowledged by the Corporation as having violated the development regulations, is still standing tall and buzzing with activity. Corporation commissioner Vikram Kapur has submitted before the court that Chennai Corporation has conducted a detailed survey of 1,655 buildings and called for plan notices issued to 1486 buildings. He also said that the corporation has given de-occupation notice to 200 buildings. “Corporation has provided toll free number 18004251914, for public grievances and complaints. Public can also call the number to inform them about unauthorised constructions within the Corporation limits,” he said. The Corporation has stated that out of 11,304 buildings inspected in the Goerge Town area, only 72 were found to have been built in accordance with rules. “The preliminary survey revealed that merely 1% of buildings are built without any deviation,” the civic body had informed the court. (New Indian Express 9/11/15)

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

70. New education policy: Catholic Church asks govt to focus on values, inclusiveness (11)

New Delhi: The Catholic Church, which owns the second highest number of education institutions in the country, has asked the government to form its new education policy focusing on teaching values and probity in public life without being religion-specific. In its proposal to the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry for its new education policy, the Church claimed that the present system was deficient in ethical and moral components. Further, the Church said that the new policy should nurture diversity, inclusiveness and secularism as well as divergent and critical thinking among the students. The suggestions given to the government, which is expected to announce its new education policy in the coming two months, also included proposals like moderating fee structure, creating corpus scholarship fund for the marginalised, scrapping of all-promotion beyond Class III, evaluation of teachers once in three years and the creation of a national service for teachers to give them mobility on the lines of the civil services. The proposal was prepared by the Education and Cultural section of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) — the apex decision making body of the Catholic Church in India. “Amid growing incidents of intolerance in the country, it is essential that the education system focuses on value education and stands for Constitutional values,” said Father Joseph Manipadam, Secretary, Office of Education and Culture. “What we want to have is inclusive education,” he told The Indian Express. The CBCI team submitted its suggestions to Minister of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani. According to Manipadam, the minister listened to them for almost an hour and forwarded the suggestions to her office to be incorporated in the draft policy. Urging the government to protect the secular nature and minority status of the educational institutions, the document suggested that minority schools — both aided and unaided — should be exempted from Right to Education. It said that while the curriculum should be able to develop scientific temper, spirit of inquiry, sensibility to safeguard public property and abjure violence, the examinations should be made more flexible and integrated with life situations. “Scientific research, academic development, technological development etc should be based on inalienable rights of the Indian citizens of all beliefs and practices,” the document added. The suggestions also stressed on inculcating value education. “On account of deficient attention to one’s duty and responsibility vis-à-vis our people the conclusion is clear: those ethical moral components/values that everyone does his or her task and perform are deficient in our educational system,” said the document. (Indian Express 22/10/15)

71. Teachers concerned over new survey (11)

Mumbai: With the exam season getting underway for both schools and colleges, the recent decision by education minister Vinod Tawde to have a state-wide survey for out-of-school children is to be conducted from October 29-30 has teachers concerned. Teachers have said that though they will be able to conduct the theory exams in the morning and go on survey for the rest of the day, oral exams and paper assessment will be delayed and hence the results too. Following the implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act in 2010 in Maharashtra, the state government became responsible for providing free and compulsory education to children in the age of six to 14 years. However due to the large migrant and floating population that includes contractual farm and kiln workers, the state was lagging behind in covering all the children in the stipulated age group. Hence the government decided to conduct a statewide survey on July 4 wherein 47,000 out-of-school children were found and enrolled in schools close to their homes. Due to the inability of the government to find and enroll all the 87,000 out-of-school children, education minister recently held a meeting of education officials, district collectors and zilla parishad officials and asked them to conduct a two-day survey to ensure that all out-of-school children were enrolled and a report of the same was submitted to the government by October 31. Commensurate to Mr Tawde’s order, the survey has been scheduled for October 29 and 30. However, teachers say that due to the exam season they will be forced to compromise on the oral exams and assessment duty to be available for the survey. “The new survey work will further hamper the teaching time of the teachers and as exams have been scheduled in the same period they will have to either delay exams or delay declaration of results,” said Anil Bornare, Mumbai president of Maharashtra Shikshak Parishad. (Asian Age 24/10/15)

72. Bengal for scrapping no-detention clause (11)

Kolkata, Oct 24 : The West Bengal government said on Saturday it has sent a letter to union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani supporting the decision of revocation of RTE Act’s no-detention clause in schools. Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said the state has backed the HRD ministry’s decision to bring back the “pass-fail” system. The move comes after Irani’s visit to the city in September for a meeting with education ministers of Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand over the national education policy. At a Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meeting recently, 20 state ministers unanimously backed the need to amend the RTE Act to enable yearly examinations and detention of poor performers. (New Kerala 24/10/15)

73. Meeting on New Education Policy (11)

BENGALURU: After several weeks of consultations about the New Education Policy (NEP), bureaucrats of southern States put forth their views at the southern zone meeting on Thursday. The meeting was presided over by Union Minister for Human Resources Development Smriti Irani and was attended by the Education Ministers of three southern States, including Karnataka. Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education Kimmane Ratnakar said the clause on the no detention policy in the RTE Act that mandates that no child should be detained until the completion of elementary education. He also emphasised that an assessment test must be held in class seven so that the teacher and parents could gauge the learning levels of the child and take corrective measures. Among other things, he said that the Right to Education Act should cover children aged three to 16 years. He suggested that each gram panchayat have physical educators so that children, particularly in upper primary and high school, get access to physical education. (The Hindu 30/10/15)

74. Jesuits seek more transparency in new education policy (11)

Mumbai: Educationists have demanded more transparency, autonomy and equality for students of all genders in the proposed New Education Policy (NEP). The Centre should expedite the process of conferring autonomous status to colleges that have completed 25 years of existence, skill development should be embedded in the teaching-learning process and not be offered as disjointed courses, and established colleges should be allowed to run distance and online courses. These are some suggestions made by Jesuits in higher education in a letter to the Ministry of Human Resources & Development. The board, which comprises of 68 colleges in the country, including St Xavier’s College (Mumbai), met recently to discuss the themes and issues under the NEP. While several educationists have come forward to give suggestions to the MHRD, the state government has invited all stakeholders for a discussion organised at Sydenham College on Tuesday. State higher & technical education minister Vinod Tawde, who will be at the forum, said, “We are holding seminars and discussion with stakeholders and we intend to collectively present our suggestions to the Centre.” He added that according to him the Centre should ensure universities have some local area connect. “There should be stress on education with relevance. Employability of students should be of prime concern. Lastly, there should be some differentiation between educationally qualified and professionally qualified. The discussion on skill development is vast and we need to focus on that too,” said Tawde. St Xavier’s College principal Agnelo Menezes, who has written on behalf of the Jesuit institutions, stated in the letter that if an autonomous college is able to function excellently in terms of quality and is giving access to the poor and rural candidates and first generation learners, it should be free of restrictive regulations. (Times of India 2/11/15)

75. JNU council rejects courses in ‘Yoga’ and ‘Indian Culture’ (11)

New Delhi: In a rebuff to the government, Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Academic Council has rejected a proposal for introduction of short-term courses in ‘Indian Culture’ and ‘Yoga’ for propagating spiritual and mythological traditions and establishing Indian values in the world. The proposal was mooted by the varsity administration following communications from UGC and HRD ministry. However, the varsity’s Academic Council (AC), which is the top decision making body, rejected the proposal at a meeting last Friday. The proposal to introduce three short-term courses in these subjects had come against the backdrop of right-wing organisations, including BJP’s ideological mentor RSS, insisting on propagation of culture in educational campuses to promote India’s rich heritage and restore its cultural identity. “The draft for introduction of three short-term courses on Culture and Yoga was placed before the AC along with the feedback received from various departments on the same. The council unanimously resolved to reject the proposal,” an AC member told PTI. The rejection comes at a time when the government, especially the HRD ministry, is being accused of making attempts at saffronisation of education. The varsity had last month circulated a draft of three courses among various schools and departments of JNU for their feedback. According to the draft, the course on Indian culture aimed at expounding the importance of the country’s culture as well as exploring the etymological, social, spiritual, cultural and mythological aspects and establishing Indian values in the world. “The course will contain the texts, thoughts and traditions of different cultures and include things like religious systems in Indian culture among others. Besides, it will have portions from Vedas and selections from epics and Jatakas and suggestions on readings of Hindu epics like the Ramayana,” the draft reads. “There will be basic study of Indian culture to establish Indian rituals and values in the world and derive ways from these sources to make human life better,” it says. The document further says that Indian culture cannot be understood without the help of “Indian literature, which are generally written by sages”. “The course will encompass texts, thoughts and traditions of different cultures and include things like religious systems in Indian culture, among others,” it said. It also suggested reading of the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita from Gita Press Gorakhpur (the official press that prints Gita in Uttar Pradesh) , Acharya Jaidev’s Vedic Sanskriti, Tulsi Ram’s Vedas, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s Sanskriti ke Char Adhyaya, among others. (Hindustan Times 3/11/15)

76. Experts concerned over new education policy (11)

CHENNAI: Educationists have expressed apprehension over the Centre’s new education policy which, they said, was aimed at developing a skilled population without freedom to think and critically analyse issues. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has initiated a nation-wide consultation on the new education policy. The questionnaires, documents and discussions on the policy had raised serious doubts over its intentions, said educationists at a seminar organised jointly by the State Platform for Common School System and Tamil Nadu Science Forum here on Thursday. Anil Sadgopal of All India Forum for Right to Education said already in the GATS, the education was listed along with night clubs and pubs and termed service providers. “It is imperative that we fight the conceptual attack on education,” he said. “The recent withdrawal of non-NET scholarship by the MHRD is in the direction of privatisation which will dictate who will learn, what will be taught and how it will be taught. There will be no place for critical thought, asking questions, exploration which are all important components of education,” Prof. Sadgopal said. The preoccupation with rankings in the name of enhancing quality also came in for criticism. R. Ramanujam, a scientist with the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, termed it a one-dimensional approach. According to him the uniformity sought for syllabus in Central institutions was alarming. The approach to educational institutions was also managerial and not academic. Though the focus was on higher education, the government had not even taken into account some glaring facts, the educationists pointed out. For instance, though the 2011 census report had stated that only 8.4 per cent of the population had pursued higher education, the issue was never deliberated in Parliament, they pointed out. (The Hindu 7/11/15)

RIGHT TO FOOD/ HUNGER

77. Chhattisgarh tribal man dies of starvation, probe on (21)

Raipur: Alleged starvation death of a primitive tribe man in a Chhattisgarh village has rocked the state. The alleged tragedy, occurred in the village of Ladergada under Bagicha block in north Chhattisgarh district of Jashpur last month, was brought to light by the local sarpanch on Tuesday. Chief minister Raman Singh promptly ordered a probe into reports of hunger death of the primitive tribe man after Opposition Congress called for President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention in the matter. According to official sources, Lambu Ram (50), a member of Pahadi Korba tribe community, died on his way to village from Sanna, where he had gone to treat his wife Sukhni Bai at the local public health Centre for eye infection, on September 12. “We spent all our savings on my treatment. We were penniless and hungry when we were returning back to our village. My husband could not withstand hunger and passed away at Keledaragara on way to our village,” Ms Sukhni Bai told the visiting media persons. A delegation of Congress, which visited the tragedy-struck family on Tuesday, found no rice or any other foodstuff in their home. “We found that wild roots were the staple diet of not only the Sukhni Bai’s family but also of all the 20 Pahadi Korba tribe families residing in the village. No family in the village has ration card depriving them of benefits under Below Poverty Line scheme,” Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhupesh Baghel, who headed the probe team of his party, told reporters. Official sources said all the tribal families in the village eked out their living on selling fuel wood collected from the jungle. When contacted, Bagicha sub-divisional magistrate Prem Kumar Patel denied that Lambu Ram died due to starvation. (Asian Age 21/10/15)

78. Hunger death cry in tea garden (21)

JALPAIGURI: Allegations of hunger deaths are back to haunt the tea belt on north Bengal. At least eight deaths have been reported from Bagrakote tea estate in Malbazar in the last six weeks. The administration denies this. The garden was abandoned by the management in February this year, leaving nearly 1,500 workers and their families helpless. The closure of the garden, which was reeling from one crisis after another for the past few years, has left hundreds jobless and scrounging for food. Locals allege that starvation and malnutrition led to the deaths of eight persons. The latest was on Monday , when 44 year-old Mukti Santhal of Rai Line died. Bagrakote garden belongs to the Duncans group and there are 15 more gardens (13 in the Dooars and two in the Hills) which have stopped tea production since February. Four months on, nearly 25,000 tea workers are not getting wages and rations and living in endless misery. “If the Centre does not acquire these gardens as per the Plantation Labout Act, 1953, starvation and malnutrition deaths will again increase in the tea belt,” feared Chitta Dey, convener of Coordination of Tea Plantation Workers’ Unions. “We are crying out for aid but have received very little. The garden is running out of food. Pimps are already prowling the area,” said Laurentus Kerketta, a worker. The administration denies these are starvation deaths, saying that adequate steps were taken to ensure that food wasn’t a problem for workers after the tea garden was abandoned. “In all 41 sick and closed gardens in the Dooars, the administration is taking care so that no one is left unfed. Special ration are being given to expectant mothers,” said a food department official. Last year, the nation was shocked when 100 alleged starvation deaths were reported between January and July in closed tea gardens of the Dooars. Then, too, the administration had denied these were hunger deaths. In the erstwhile Left regime, when hundreds of workers were dying in closed and abandoned tea estates, the administration had never accepted starvation and malnutrition. There may be a different party in power, but the stance of the government remains the same. Workers have received loads of promises from the administration and labour unions but there is little sign of implementation. Irregularities in all the government sectors have made life hell for the, the workers say. (Times of India 27/10/15)

79. Poverty is falling fast in India, but we still measure it terribly (21)

Earlier this month, the World Bank decided to raise its global poverty line from $1.25 per day (in Purchasing Power Parity or PPP terms) to $1.90, the first major overhaul in ten years. How the Bank essentially constructs its poverty line is by taking the average of the national poverty lines of 15 of the world’s poorest countries (chiefly sub-Saharan countries and Nepal since 2005) and then converts this average into an internationally comparable number. For this number, it takes a basket of goods and services and calculates how much it would cost to buy these in various countries – think of it like a global exchange rate, essentially. What happened last week is that the World Bank decided to update the prices in this basket to 2011 prices (plus a few other tweaks) since incomes in these countries had risen, and that raised the poverty line – what was $1.25 at 2005 prices became $1.90 at 2011 prices. In aggregate numbers, this means that there were 897 million poor people globally in 2012 by the new poverty line. By the old poverty line, there were over 1 billion poor people as of 2011. (It seems strange that raising the poverty line still led to a lower number of poor people, but the fact is that incomes have grown considerably too.) In long-term trends, the updating changes really quite little. Here’s how India, China, Bangladesh and the world’s poverty levels had changed over the years according to the old poverty line.What does this mean for India? Well whichever way you look at it, poverty’s declining fast in India. By the new poverty line, in fact, the two years between 2009 and 2011 saw the fastest ever decline in India’s poverty in history. But the drawing and redrawing of poverty lines is a hugely fraught issue, and few have spoken more sharply and engagingly about it than Angus Deaton, the Scottish-born Princeton economist renowned for his work on consumption, poverty, nutrition and health – the irony of a major overhaul in global poverty lines just weeks before he was awarded the Nobel Prize would not have been lost on him. Mr. Deaton, who has long criticised the World Bank’s (and India’s, for that matter) ways of drawing poverty lines and is on a new commission to examine ways to improve it, told the Financial Times about the shift to $1.90 last month: “You’ve got a line that no one knows where to put it, PPPs that change, and underlying data that is bad.. It is sort of a statistical problem from hell.” The problems with the poverty line, as Mr. Deaton has frequently and eloquently pointed out, become sharply relevant for India. As President of the American Economic Association in 2010, Mr. Deaton gave a speech that is essential reading for anyone interested in poverty lines. In it, he pointed out that the graduation of India from the group of 15 poor countries the World Bank used to fix a poverty line in 2005 because it had now grown to middle income status perplexingly actually increased the number of poor in India. How on earth did that happen? India’s poverty line was so low that its graduation out of the group substantially raised the average poverty line – if you’ve been averaging 15 poor friends’ incomes, then when one of the poorest leaves the group, the group’s average income shoots up. Raising the global poverty line raised the number of those officially classified as poor everywhere – including in India. Mr. Deaton suggests a number of ways to improve poverty measurement, including self-reporting, of which he is a passionate advocate. Where does that leave us? Poverty in India is undeniably declining fast – perhaps faster than ever before – but the world’s newest Nobel laureate reminds us that we still do a terrible job of measuring it. (The Hindu 27/10/15)

80. Most anganwadi children don’t eat take-home ration, finds study (21)

MUMBAI: A study in three tribal districts of the state has found that 95% of children do not consume the take-home ration (THR), provided as supplementary nutrition, at anganwadis. The state spends around Rs 300 crore to the makers of these supposedly protein and micro-nutrient-rich powdered foods. Anganwadis provide cooked meals to children in the age group of 3-6 years, while children under 3 years are provided the THR packets twice a month. The findings were based on a survey in Amravati, Nandurbar and Gadchiroli by NGOs Rachna, Lokseva Sangam, Sathi, who interviewed families of 234 children. Around 98% found the sweet powdered food (sheera) unpalatable. In a previous study in 2012, around 79% had said that they fed THR to their cattle, hens or dogs. (Times of India 30/10/15)

81. Every Fourth Indian Goes Hungry, Says Vandana Shiva (21)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Environmentalist Vandana Shiva on Sunday said the country was on the decline in terms of production and consumption of healthy food. She was addressing mediapersons with regard to the announcement of the third Annam National Food and Agro biodiversity festival scheduled from December 10 to 14 in Kochi. “Every fourth Indian is hungry. Each second a child in the country is losing his or her weight and height. It’s due to lack of nourishment. The health of the younger generation is deteriorating physically and intellectually. Ever since the advent of junk food, the energy of young India is at stake.  Ayurveda which has a rich tradition and heritage in the country is not to be limited to massage parlours,” she said. It is time for a wake-up call as the youths are dying of heart attack and cancer. She  raised apprehension that number of farmer suicide had crossed 3 lakh.After the announcement of the festival that will be at Rajendra Maidan she launched the blog of a  group of techies running an NGO, Prakruthi, for promoting organic farming among the youth,in the Technopark. The festival will showcase the rich diversity of Indian food, agriculture and the native culinary ethos. Several workshops and seminars will be conducted by experts in various fields. The five-day event will be organised by Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA), an NGO working with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Food and Civil supplies. (New Indian Express 2/11/15)

82. Starvation Deaths Stalk Bengal Estates (21)

KOLKATA: With starvation deaths stalking the tea gardens in North Bengal, the state government on Monday ordered a CID probe into the issue. On Sunday, labourer Ranti Goalini (62) died at Bagrakote tea estate of the Duncans Group. His wife alleged that since wages had not been paid over the last several months, they could not even buy rice. Sources said there had been 13 starvation deaths in the last 45 days due to non-payment of wages, though the government claimed that the labourers had been suffering from ailments and the deaths were natural. The CID on Monday asked Duncans Group chairman G P Goenka to report at its headquarters here as there were charges of financial discrepancies in the tea company. Since Goenka was out of the city, another director M H Chinoy went to meet the sleuths. But he was told that Goenka should be present for questioning on Tuesday. The Duncans tea gardens cover 7,500 hectares of land spread over the Dooars, Terai and Darjeeling. (New Indian Express 3/11/15)

83. Adivasis have been reduced to eating garbage, says VS (21)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The sight of Adivasi children eating food from a garbage dump at Peravoor, a high range village, is a telling commentary on the kind of ‘development’ that the United Democratic Front (UDF) government claims to have achieved in the last four and a half years, Leader of the Opposition V. S. Achuthanandan said in a statement here on Thursday. The UDF government pretends to have spent crores of rupees of the Adivasis. In spite of this, how is it that there are hunger deaths among the Adivasis? How is it that there are stillborn Adivasi infants, a press note issued here on Thursday asked. The sad plight of tribal settlements at Attappady has figured in the media even before. It is shocking that Adivasis in Kerala have to eat garbage to quench their hunger. A case should be registered against the UDF government under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Against the SC/STs Act, Mr. Achuthanandan said. Adivasis have been reduced to eating garbage because the greedy in the UDF government have ‘swallowed’ the money meant for the welfare of the tribal people, just as they have done away with money meant for other sectors. The UDF rule by making an Adivasi woman Minister a mute witness has reduced Kerala to a deplorable State. Enlightened Kerala would never forgive this UDF government for behaving in an unconscionable manner towards the Adivasis, the press note added. (The Hindu 6/11/15)

84. Climate change could result in 100 million poor: World Bank (21)

Stockholm: Climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases, the World Bank has said in a report. Released yesterday, just weeks ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris, the report highlighted how the impact of global warming is borne unevenly, with the world’s poor woefully unprepared to deal with climate shocks such as rising seas or severe droughts.”They have fewer resources and receive less support from family, community, the financial system, and even social safety nets to prevent, cope and adapt,” the Washington-based World Bank said. How to help poor countries — and poor communities within countries — deal with climate change is one of the crunch issues in talks on a global climate accord that’s supposed to be adopted next month in Paris. Those who say that rich countries aren’t doing enough to help the poor said the report added emphasis to demands for billions of dollars in so-called climate finance to developing countries. “The statistics in the World Bank report are suitably shocking and I hope they force world leaders to sit up and take notice,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid. “The Paris deal needs to support the poor and vulnerable communities to cope with unavoidable climate crises better, and to be more resilient to a changed climate.” Despite pledges to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, climate change isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Carbon emissions are expected to rise for many years as China, India and other developing countries expand the use of fossil fuels to power their economies. But efforts to protect the poor, such as generally improving access to health care and social safety nets, and targeted measures to upgrade flood defenses and deploy more heat-tolerant crops could prevent most of the negative consequences of climate change on poverty, the bank said. “Absent such good development, climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030,” the report said. Stephane Hallegatte, one of the authors, told The Associated Press that one of the unique features of the report was that instead of analyzing the macro-economic impact of climate change it was based in part on surveys of 1.4 million people in 92 countries. “When we ask people why they fall into poverty there are three major factors,” he said. “Agricultural shocks, including an increase in food prices; natural disasters such as floods, droughts, storms; and health issues, including malaria, diarrhea. (Business Standard 9/11/15)

LABOUR/ MGNREGA

85. India adds 5.21 lakh jobs in a year (14)

New Delhi: Employment in eight sectors including IT/BPO, automobiles, gems & jewellery and textile rose by 5.21 lakh last fiscal, said a government report. However, job creation in these eight sectors which also include handloom/powerloom, leather, transport and metal remained little stressed in the January-March quarter at 64,000 over the previous quarter, as per Labour Bureau’s ‘25th Quarterly Report on Changes in Employment’. During the first three quarters of 2014-15, these sectors witnessed an overall increase in employment by 1.82 lakh, 1.58 lakh and 1.17 lakh over the previous quarters. As per the 24th report, the overall employment had reduced by 36,000 in the January-March quarter in 2013-14. The report also stated that the overall employment increased by 2.76 lakh during 2013-14, lower than 5.21 lakh in the previous fiscal. At industry level, the highest increase in employment is observed in IT/BPOs sector where jobs increased by 37,000 during January-March, over November-December, 2014, followed by textiles including apparel sector (24,000), automobiles sector (20,000) and metals sector (1,000). The largest decrease in employment was recorded in leather sector (8,000) followed by gem & jewellery (6,000), transport (2,000) and handloom/powerloom (2,000). In the direct category of workers, employment has increased by 15,000 whereas for contract category of workers, it has increased by 49,000 during the quarter ended March, 2015 over December, 2014. Employment in the exporting units has increased by 73,000 at overall level, whereas in the non-exporting units, it has decreased by 9,000 during January-March, 2015 over the previous quarter November-December, 2014. Labour Bureau has been conducting a series of quarterly quick employment surveys since January, 2009 to study the impact of global economic slowdown on employment in Indian economy. The first one was conducted to study the impact of economic slowdown on employment during the October-December quarter of 2008. (Asian Age 21/10/15)

86. Maternity Benefit Ought to Follow Basics for Workers (14)

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has recently proposed that the 12-week maternity leave granted to working women under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, should be increased to eight months. Can India, which is still struggling to ensure even basic rights for people, especially in remote areas, afford the luxury of eight months of maternity leave? With the current financial capacities, will a majority of organisations not feel that they have been saddled with eight months of pay for no work? Another million-dollar question is whether the proposed eight-month leave would really benefit women or would it ironically prove detrimental by creating yet another hiring hurdle for them? Meeting the interests of economics as well as child nutrition and women’s well-being are equally essential. The suggestion is to take the middle path by adding a couple of weeks of paid leave to the 12-week provision. Over and above this, there can be unpaid leave of another five months. In toto, the paid plus unpaid leave can together stretch up to about eight months, rather than the entire period of leave being paid for. Also, during the period when the woman is on leave, companies should be allowed to hire fixed-term employees as substitutes. A provision should be made that as soon as the woman employee rejoins work, the contract of the fixed-term employee would be automatically terminated. Currently, a woman is entitled to maternity leave as soon as she completes 80 days of service. This time period should be revised to about six months. While the proposal of eight months of paid maternity leave may not be feasible for many Indian entrepreneurs, some value-based multinationals—especially the ones headed by women—have brought out proactive gender balancing strategies that offer lucrative maternity leave of eight months. Many of them are also offering back-up child care, including for sick children. Countries like Germany, Japan and New Zealand offer 14 weeks of paid leave. Most of Europe, especially Scandinavia, offers great benefits ranging from nine months of leave to even a year. We may not be ready to adopt Scandinavian/European standards for working women in India in most sectors, but ensuring compliance of basic requirements has been inordinately delayed by our administrative and executive machineries. The most important sectors that need to be urgently catered to are the rural areas and the unorganised sector. Women in such areas should be made aware of the existing basic provisions. Women in the construction sector need special attention. Hundreds of crores of rupees in cess are lying in the government coffers in the name of workers’ welfare. This, too, can be utilised for women and child development. Further, there is a need to encourage compliance of the provision of creches, which already figure in the Factories Act and the Building and Other Construction Workers Act. Also, schemes, regulations and provisions should be framed for maternity needs of self-employed women like lawyers, doctors and other professionals as well as shopkeepers, hawkers and vendors. Another area that needs a check is the government sector, which provides for two years of leave for child care over and above six months of maternity leave as per the pay commissions. Misuse of the two-year provision for child care also needs a check. To cater to the hiring hurdle for women, especially in their marriageable and child-bearing age, a provision should be made for mandatorily keeping women employees in the interviewing committees. It’s not easy being a woman in India, though we have come quite far. Eight months of paid maternity leave may not be affordable, but other basic requirements need to be served across the country on an urgent basis. (New Indian Express 24/10/15)

87. Centre move to bring more workers under EPFO (14)

New Delhi: Aiming to bring more construction workers under the benefit of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), the Centre has asked concerned officials to visit construction sites to ensure employers open PF accounts for all workers. The Additional Provident Fund Commissioner has sent a circular to all regional PF offices instructing them that senior officials should visit construction spots, including roads, bridges, pipeline, railway line, buildings and enrol the workers for the benefit of the scheme. The circular also said that it is the principal employers’ duty to make certain that contractors, who they engage for construction, should open separate PF account for each workers. The principal employers should also monitor whether the contractors are paying his part of contribution or not. Though similar instructions to enrol construction workers were issued earlier as well, this time the labour ministry has decided to engage senior officials for the job following the complaints that contractors were evading enrollment of workers. “All construction sites which are located in your regions should be visited and photographs be taken when work is going on,” said the circular sent to regional PF offices. Regional officers were also advised to guide all the employers having more than 500 or more workers. (Deccan Herald 26/10/15)

88. Striking civic workers dump garbage on Delhi roads (14)

New Delhi: The municipal sanitation workers on Tuesday dumped garbage on the city’s roads to highlight a string of their demands, including timely payment of monthly salaries. The strike continued for the fifth day, and to highlight their agitation a union of sanitation workers dumped garbage on the roads in east Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area. “We are throwing waste on the road as a way of protest and to attract attention of the government authorities towards our demands of timely payment of salaries and other things,” Akhil Bharatiya Safai Mazdoor Congress president Rajendra Mewati said. The Delhi government on Sunday claimed that the strike by workers of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had ended, but one of the main unions said the protest was still “going on”.The sanitation workers in the national capital went on an indefinite strike last Friday, demanding, mainly, timely payment of their salaries and regular employment for those who have been working on contract for over a decade. (Zee News 28/10/15)

89. Notice to Centre for Improper Implementation of NREGA (14)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Ministry of Rural Development on a PIL alleging improper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, in terms of timely payment of wages and compensation. “States should wake up and make prompt payments,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu told advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners RTI activist Aruna Roy, social activist Nikhil Dey and ex-civil servant Lalit Mathur, seeking the setting up of independent social audit units and indexing wage rates under the NREGA higher than that of the minimum wages stipulated under the Minimum Wages Act. Maintaining that Section 22(1) of the Act mandates the Centre to release funds for the wages, the petitioners said the dues payable to rural workers have mounted to Rs 3,100 crore. The PIL sought a direction to the Centre to restore the demand-based fund-release system as envisaged in the Operational Guidelines 2008 and comply with its statutory mandate of releasing funds to match the state governments’ expenditure at all times. It also wanted the Centre to ask states to ensure that prompt compensation is paid to workers in case of any delay of over 15 days. (New Indian Express 3/11/15)

90. Odisha announces shelter assistance for construction workers (14)

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday announced the launch of the ‘Nirman Shramik Pucca Ghar Yojana’ from December to provide shelter to construction workers in the state. The government has decided to provide Rs.1 lakh as housing grant under the scheme to construction workers through the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. Workers registered for minimum five years, and aged between 18 and 60 years, will be eligible to get the grant to build houses on their own land, said a release from the Chief Minister’s Office. However, workers who have benefited from other housing schemes cannot apply. (Business Standard 3/11/15)

91. NHRC seeks answers from DM in 2014 ‘bonded labour’ probe report (14)

BAREILLY: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the district magistrate (DM) to submit a reply to a complaint of alleged discrepancies in a 2014 probe report related to bonded labourers engaged in brick kilns across the district. The DM has been asked to submit a reply within six weeks. NHRC was acting on a complaint lodged by human rights worker Rashmi Gupta, seeking an inquiry into the alleged case of more than 40 bonded labourers and sexual harassment of female workers by brick kiln owners. Gupta filed the complaint following a news report about the case in a local Hindi daily on April 2014. The report also stated that the workers had not received their due wages. Speaking to TOI, Gupta said, “The news report indicated that local police, with the help of labour department officials, had settled the issue of unpaid wages. Police authorities, thereafter, also stated that there were no cases of bonded labour. I sought the intervention of NHRC after this.” The inquiry report, dated July 2015 and conducted by district authorities, denied allegations of bonded labour. It said that complaints leveled by Gupta were unfounded since ‘recorded statements’ of the labourers denied bonded service. The report also stated that the arrear wages were paid and workers sent back to their native places. Taking note of reported discrepancies in the probe report, NHRC has now asked the DM if brick-kiln operators had licenses from competent authority and whether the monthly or fortnightly wages were in accordance with notified rates. It has also asked the DM to forward legible copies of wage registers, muster roll, wage slips and other copies of registers required to be maintained under various labour legislations. The body also questioned about caste, age and gender of labourers engaged and if they were contacted directly or an licensed agent was involved in their employment. The DM has also been asked if kiln owners had followed all provisions and rules contained in the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The body has questioned whether Vigilance Committee, as mandated under the provisions of Bonded Labour System (Abolitions) Act, 1976, was constituted or not. (Times of India 7/11/15)

92.  Centre Plea to State on EPF for Building Workers (14)

BHUBANESWAR: The Centre has requested the State Government to ensure that construction workers are provided provident funds and other benefits. The Centre has asked the State Government to ensure registration of all construction workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation and Conditions of Service) (BOCW) Act and Employees’ Provident Funds (EPF) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act so that they can get the benefits. Though there are an estimated 21 lakh construction workers in the State, 12 lakh have so far been registered. While over 7.3 lakh workers were registered under BOCW Act by 2014-15, over 12 lakh workers have already been covered by the end of October this year. A target has been fixed to ensure registration of 21 lakh workers by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the State Government has decided to launch two more welfare schemes for the construction workers. The housing and pension schemes for the construction workers will be launched in December. The housing scheme, Shramik Pucca Ghar Yojana, will be launched through the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board. Financial assistance will be provided to the workers for construction of houses on their own land. Beneficiaries will be provided assistance of ` one lakh each for construction of houses. Construction workers registered with the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board for the last five years will be eligible for getting assistance under the scheme. The Government has set a target to cover 3,000 registered workers during 2015-16 with an expenditure of `30 crore under the scheme. Besides, all construction workers above 60 years will be paid a pension of `500 per month. Steps are also being initiated to train workers to increase their efficiency for which `80 crore has been earmarked. (New Indian Express 9/11/15)

RESERVATION

93. Keep MPs, MLAs out of OBC creamy layer, demand netas (25)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel on OBC welfare has taken exception to the proposal that elected representatives be included in the “creamy layer” ineligible for Mandal reservations in central jobs and educational institutions. It also demanded that the income ceiling to weed out the “creamy layer” from quota benefits be raised to Rs 20 lakh annually. The present ceiling stands at Rs 6 lakh, while a hike has been proposed to Rs 10.5 lakh. The twin demands reflect the unease of backward politicians over the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to the Centre for the periodic review of “creamy layer”.In a first, the ‘parliamentary committee on welfare of OBCs’ recently took up the NCBC report for a thorough discussion and expressed dissatisfaction with its proposals. It is reliably learnt that it has asked the NCBC to withdraw and reconsider the report (which TOI reported exclusively in a series of articles in May). According to sources, the discussion was stormy as members argued that the stringent restrictions of “creamy layer” were responsible for the OBC presence in government being less than half of the 27% quota in operation for over two decades. The tug of war revolves around the NCBC’s radical suggestion that past and present MPs and MLAs should not be eligible for reservation, arguing that election to “high offices” like legislatures showed that the said individual had achieved “social elevation” to fall in the “creamy layer”.The NCBC has also proposed that wards of a ‘Class I’ officer in state/Centre be excluded from reservation benefits, irrespective of the officer being a “direct recruit” or a “promotee”. Presently, only “direct recruits” fall in the “creamy layer”.At the meeting, the members of the OBC parliamentary panel questioned how elected representatives could be put in the “creamy layer” when not all of them were educated or rich, and were elected for a short term. Citing the low figures of OBC workforce in the government, the MPs lamented that it had not reached even half of 27%.In this context, the panel members argued the NCBC’s suggested income bar of Rs 10.5 lakh was restrictive as it would keep out a big chunk of backwards from availing quota. The red flag is significant since the present income bar stands at Rs 6 lakh. According to them, the leap in education costs makes the present and the proposed income ceiling incongruous with the competitiveness expected from OBCs to avail quotas. “The income for creamy layer should be Rs 20 lakh annually,” the panel said. (Times of India 21/10/15)

94. Give OBC tag or will convert, warn 500 Patel families in Gujarat (25)

AHMEDABAD: As many as 500 Surat-based Patel families have threatened to convert from Hinduism if the community is not granted OBC status and reservation in jobs and education. All the families reside in Pasodara village near Surat city. Local Patel leaders described the move as a “symbolic protest” against the state government, which “has denied the community reservation benefits under OBC category”.”We have conveyed our wish to convert to various Hindu organisations and leaders of our religion,” said Raju Bodara, a prominent member of Akhil Bharatiya Patidar Sena, a Patel group, in Surat district. Vijay Patel, a local, said the families had been “compelled” to take such a step. “Looking at the current situation, where the government is terrorising Patels by various means, we are left with no other option but to convert. We are compelled to do so. This government and our religious leaders should introspect,” he said. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the self-styled torchbearer of the Patel quota stir, Hardik Patel, may attend a rally of O P Chautalaled Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) on November 1 at Rohtak. Hardik is currently jailed under sedition charges. “Hardik had confirmed to me that he would come (before the arrest). If he gets bail, I am sure he will attend the rally ,” senior INLD member Abhay Singh Chautala said. (Times of India 26/10/15)

95. SC panel chief dubs RSS ‘anti-Dalit’ (25)

NEW DELHI: Weeks after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat courted a controversy by calling for a committee to look into “which categories require reservation and for how long,” the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, has dubbed the Sangh “anti-Dalit.” “Mr. Bhagwat has said this two-three times. The RSS and the BJP are anti-Dalit and anti-reservation. They [the government] have no commitment to the pending Bill on reservation in promotion, too. The constitutional amendment Bill is pending, why don’t they push for it,” he asked in a conversation with The Hindu. He is also a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress. “The Prime Minister’s speech on terminating interview for Group B, C and D jobs smacks of obsession with ‘merit.’ They talk about Dr. Ambedkar. Mr. Bhagwat praised Dr. Ambedkar in his Dussehra speech. But he did not say a word about his previous comment on reservation. He made no clarification. And the BJP hasn’t said once that it disagrees with him — they have just said they agree with the present policy.” The BJP strongly disagreed with this view. “The PM has made it clear that none can finish quotas till he lives. Our party chief Amit Shah has also upheld quotas as they exist. Even the RSS chief had said these may continue for a 100 years. Mr. Punia’s comments are motivated,” BJP spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri said. “He is in a constitutional position. He should clarify whether he is acting as SC Commission chief or a Congress spokesperson.” Mr. Punia had days ago strongly reacted to Union Minister Gen. (retd.) V.K. Singh’s “dog” analogy in the deaths of two Dalit children in Haryana, and has called for cases to be registered against him under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the IPC.Asked whether there should be exclusion of the creamy layer among Dalits from the purview of reservation, Mr. Punia said this did not seem legally possible but he did not have any personal objection to it. “The creamy layer concept was discussed in detail by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case. It said creamy layer exclusion would apply only in relation to OBCs. So, legally speaking, the SCs are a special class and different from OBCs,” he said. “But so far as my personal opinion is concerned, I don’t have a problem in the exclusion of the very well-to-do, who have benefited from the reservation in the past.” Asked about Congress leader Jitin Prasada seeking a debate on Mandal and asking for quotas for the poor among the upper castes and a focus on the most backward castes, Mr. Punia said: “Our 2014 manifesto said we can consider other proposals without prejudice to the existent 50 per cent quota for the SCs and STs and the OBCs. All Congressmen are committed to this. This is both my individual and party position.” (The Hindu 27/10/15)

96. India’s reservation structure correct, quota issue shouldn’t be politicised: RSS (25)

New Delhi: Days after Mohan Bhagwat kicked up a political storm with his quota remarks, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has clarified its stand on reservation policy. While clearing its stance on the issue, the RSS said it is not against reservations and the concept of quota is an article of faith for them, according to a report of news channel IBNLIVE. “The current reservation structure in India is right in itself,” RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale said, adding that “the issue of reservation must not be politicised.” RSS’ statement comes a month after its chief Mohan Bhagwat called for ending caste discrimination and said only an equitable society can lead to a strong and proud community. “Interest groups are formed because we have certain aspirations in democracy. At the same time, we should remember that through interest groups we should not strive to address those aspirations at the cost of others,” he had said. “We should have integral approach of welfare for all. It is sensible to realise that my interest lies in larger national interest. Government also has to be sensitive to these issues that there should not be any agitations for them,” Bhagwat told Sangh mouthpiece “Organiser” and “Panchjanya” in an interview. A political row broke out over RSS chief’s call for review of reservation policy with BJP opposing it and distancing itself from its ideological mentor and shared the stand taken by Bihar-based parties which said reservation in India is a “settled issue”.BJP said it respected 100 per cent the reservation rights of SCs, STs and other backward castes as it was essential for their social and economic development and empowerment. The BJP was taken aback with Bhagwat’s comments and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had to turn the reservation row on its head during an election rally in Bihar. “I come from an extremely backward class and understand the pain of having been born to a poor woman. I will not allow this to happen. I pledge to protect the rights of dalits, mahadalits and backwards, even if it means sacrificing my life,” he said addressing an election rally in Buxar on Tuesday. RSS had also clarified that Bhagwat did not speak about existing quota system but said everybody should try to ensure that all weaker sections reap its benefits. (Zee News 30/10/15)

97. U’khand cabinet nod for bill on 10% reservation to statehood activists (25)

DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand state assembly, which begins its four-day supplementary budget session today in Gairsain, may take up as one of its first activities, the bill to grant 10% horizontal reservation to the over 10,000 statehood activists and their children in state government jobs. The bill received a nod from the state cabinet in a meeting chaired by chief minister Harish Rawat late on Saturday night. Confirming that the bill, which seeks to fulfill the longstanding demand made by statehood activists , would be tabled on priority, assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, who will preside over the proceedings of the session, told TOI that “in all likelihood, the bill should be placed on the floor of the House either on Monday or Tuesday.” The provision of horizontal reservation stipulates that if a person in the reserved category is a member of SC, ST or OBC, he/she should get the benefits of the reservation entitled to these categories. If from the general category, he/she should get the declared reservation under the horizontal reservation provision. Notably, the state government had to draft the bill for proposed reservation after the Supreme Court issued a directive to it to this effect about two months ago. This followed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government to challenge the Uttarakhand HC order quashing a government order (GO) that was passed by the Harish Rawat government which accorded reservation to statehood activists. Meanwhile, statehood activists say they are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. “The day this bill becomes an Act, it will be major victory on the part of all statehood activists who have been fighting for their demand for such a long time,” said Pradeep Kukreti, general secretary of Rajya Andolankari Manch. (Times of India 1/11/15)

98. Patels to protest against Modi in Britain (25)

Ahmedabad: Patel community activists have sought Britain’s permission to stage protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visits there this month, a Patel leader said on Monday. They want to hold the demonstration to press their demand for reservations for Patels in jobs and educational institutions in Gujarat. Said Varun Patel, a Patidar leader in Ahmedabad: “We have written to British Prime Minister David Cameron to allow us to exercise our right to protest in their great democracy since we are not allowed to do so in our very own state by our own government.” Patel, who is the Ahmedabad convenor of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), was referring to the sedition charges slapped on PAAS chief Hardik Patel and his supporters. “Hardik and his close associates are being tossed from one set of policemen in one city to another in another city,” he added. Varun Patel said: “We wish to highlight before the Indian community in Britain the plight of the Patel community which is being targeted for raising its voice in the prime minister’s home state Gujarat.” He wondered how other political parties and groups are allowed to take out processions and stage protests, “but no Patidar gets permission to hold a public function in this state”. Modi is scheduled to visit Britain from November 12 to 14 before leaving for Turkey to attend the G-20 summit. Patel said the agitating Patels had decided to vote against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates, irrespective of their caste, in the ensuing elections to 323 local bodies, including six municipal corporations, on November 22 and 29. “Kamal ne kachdi nakhishu (We will crush the lotus)”, Varun Patel said, referring to the BJP election symbol. (Business Stadard 2/11/15)

99. Tribunal Orders in Favour of Disabled Candidate (25)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Administrative Tribunal’s (KAT) order to include a physically handicapped (PH) candidate who succeeded in the  Prelims and Final written tests in the rank list for the post of Deputy Collector in the Land Revenue Department is likely to put an end to the PSC practice of conducting ‘suitability assessment’ of PH candidates. Madhu K of Sreepadam, Patturaikal, Thrissur, an alumnus of IIT, Kharagpur and presently employed with IIT Ahmedabad had moved KAT against the denial of justice and discrimination meted out to him. Madhu, who completed MTech in Electrical Engineering from IIT, Kharagpur had been shortlisted, but the PSC found him unfit for outdoor work after the interview. “It was a denial of equal opportunity and rights enshrined in the Constitution. As per the Central Act, physically handicapped persons considered for posts reserved for them should not be subjected to the ‘suitability assessment’ on the basis of an interview. The Central Act passed in 1995  emphasises the need for giving the disabled a quota,” he pointed out. KAT sitting chaired by Justice T R Ramachandran Nair and member K Cyriac Joseph after analysing various provisions of the Act,   held that having considered the physically handicapped for posts reserved for them as per the Act, they should not have been subjected to the suitability assessment on the basis of an interview. KAT setting aside the PSC’s contention of non suitability, directed it to include him in the rank list within a month without affecting the already included persons and not disturbing the reservation turns if any. Though Madhu had been certified with 42 per cent orthopaedic disability, he should not have been excluded from the list as the government had included the Deputy Collector’s post in the Land Revenue Department for 3 per cent reservation for persons with disability as per the provisions for the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and  Full Participation) Act of 1995. The PH candidates can have a sigh of relief that PSC will not be able to discriminate  against them in future.When contacted PSC Secretary Saju George told ‘Express’ on Thursday that PSC had received the copy of the verdict and he had written to the Commission on complying with the order.“The KAT order will clear the road blocks of PH candidates. The Supreme Court had pointed out that once the government had stipulated the quota and  passed the relevant Act, the PSC had no business to object it, but there was a provision to conduct suitability assessment that will no more be relevant,” he said. (New Indian Express 6/11/15)

100. Bihar election results: Dalit, Dadri cost BJP dear (25)

New Delhi: Did RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s comments on reservation and controversial remarks, including on the Dadri lynching and Faridabad Dalit incident, by saffron leaders cost the BJP-led NDA in the Bihar Assembly elections. Both the BJP and the RSS on Sunday rejected that Mr Bhagwat’s remarks had any impact on the elections, with the Sangh claiming that the Grand Alliance leaders used the “anti-RSS” plank to “hide the shame of caste-based political polarisation and consolidation of reactionary politics.” Incidentally, Mr Bhagwat is camping in Delhi and senior BJP leader and Union minister Rajnath Singh met him on Sunday morning.It could be recalled here that BJP leadership had to reprimand its leaders for their controversial remarks after the party came under fire for trying to “polarise” the votes on “communal lines.” BJP president Amit Shah’s remarks that firecrackers will go off in Pakistan if the Grand Alliance won also backfired for the NDA, which had claimed that development was its main poll plank. Rejecting suggestions that Mr Bhagwat’s remarks had a negative impact on the saffron party’s poll prospects, senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravishankar Prasad said “Absolutely not.” RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha maintained that Mr Bhagwat had only given a “rational assessment of reservation policy which is meant to empower SC/ST/OBC who failed to get the reservation benefits.” He infact questioned the BJP as to why it failed to consolidate the pro-BJP sentiments in Bihar despite “unmatched popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and enough representation from the state in PM’s council of ministers. He added that “elitism” has become a “bane” for the BJP. “This (reservation) issue has been blown out of proportion and had no impact on voting pattern…What he (Bhagwat) meant was to highlight the capacity building of SC/ST/OBC so that larger number of people could take the benefit of the policy of positive discrimination,” said Mr. Sinha. (Asian Age 9/11/15)

HUMAN RIGHTS/ CIVIL SOCIETY/ NHRC

101. Rights group urges India not to welcome Sudanese president (1)

Nairobi: India should not welcome Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, 21 international and African NGOs said on Tuesday. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has warrants out for his arrest to face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, Human Rights Watch quoted these groups as saying. India has invited al-Bashir and other African heads of state to attend the India-Africa Forum Summit from October 26 to 29 in New Delhi. “Al-Bashir is an alleged war criminal on the run from the law,” said Oby Nwankwo, steering committee member at the Nigerian Coalition of the ICC. “Hosting al-Bashir would tarnish India’s global standing and be an affront to the victims.” Al-Bashir faces two ICC arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010 over attacks that systematically targeted civilians in violation of international law as part of the Sudan government’s counterinsurgency policy in Darfur. The attacks have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people to refugee camps in Chad and to camps for internally displaced people in Darfur. India, which has not joined the ICC, is not bound by the treaty that establishes the court to cooperate. But the UN Security Council has urged every country to cooperate with the Darfur cases. Security Council Resolution 1593 of 2005, which referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, “urges all States and concerned regional and other international organisations to cooperate fully” in the ICC investigation. “Many countries have avoided a visit from al-Bashir, and India should do the same,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “India has said that it wants to play a leadership role on global issues, and this is an opportunity to be on the right side of history.” Activists across Africa have campaigned for al-Bashir’s surrender, and his movements have been restricted. Trips to ICC member countries have been cancelled or curtailed, including to Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic and Nigeria. Countries such as Botswana have made clear he is not welcome. Trips to countries that have not joined the ICC have also been cancelled, including Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. In some instances, governments have invited Sudan to send other representatives. In June 2015, al-Bashir travelled to South Africa amid diplomatic and public outcry. A domestic court issued an order that barred his movement, but he nevertheless left the country. The visit remains the subject of litigation in South Africa and before the ICC. (Business Standafrd 21/10/15)

102. NHRC notice to UP government over alleged gang rape of woman constable by colleagues (1)

LUCKNOW: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of a reported gang rape of a woman constable by her colleagues in Maoranipur in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh. The Commission issued a notice to the senior superintendent of police (SSP), Jhansi, calling for a report within two weeks. The Commission has observed that the contents of the report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim. According to the media report published on October 6, 2015, the woman constable, a resident of Mainpuri, was posted at Etawah police line. She was assigned duty at a fair in Moranipur’s Jal Vihar for 15 days. While she was returning from her duty at the fair on September 28, two of her constable colleagues offered her lift in a car driven by another person. She was allegedly gang-raped inside the car before being let off. She was admitted to a district hospital in Etawah in critical condition. (Times of India 23/10/15)

103. NHRC notice to Odisha over death of woman, baby in hospital (1)

Bhubaneswar: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday directed the Odisha government to submit a report over the death of a pregnant woman and her baby after allegedly being badly assaulted by a nurse on duty in Mayurbhanj district. Taking suo motu cognizance of a media report that an expecting mother delivered a still-born child after a nurse abused and kicked her, the commission has asked the state chief secretary to furnish a report on the matter within four weeks, an NHRC release said. The woman and her child died after being allegedly kicked and slapped by the nurse at a government-run hospital at Baripada on October 5. The nurse has been suspended. Justice D. Murugesan, an NHRC member, observed that the contents of the press report, if true, indicated negligence and prevailing lawlessness in the government-run hospital in the Mayurbhanj district and raises serious questions of violation of human rights. The woman was admitted to the district hospital at the Baripada town on October 4. However, the doctor on duty reportedly asked her to wait till October 5 for the delivery. At 2 a.m., when she went into labour, the nurse allegedly abused the victim for screaming in pain and asked an attendant to take her to the labour room, said the release. “She then got enraged over the delay and allegedly hit the pregnant woman with her ‘chappal’ and also kicked her,” the release added. Subsequently, the woman was taken by a doctor to the labour room where she gave birth to a still-born child and herself died a few hours later. An FIR about the incident has been lodged at the Baripada town police station. (Business Standard 26/10/15)

104. Pakistan loses UN Human Rights Council election (1)

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan failed to win a re-election to the top UN human rights body, garnering just 105 votes in the 193-member General Assembly. The General Assembly on Wednesday elected 18 members of the UN Human Rights Council through a secret ballot. Pakistan’s current term at the council is set to expire on December 31 and it was seeking re-election to the 47-member Human Rights Council. Sources said the loss came as a setback to the Pakistani delegation that had appeared confident of winning the seat. The sources attributed the loss to the way the Pakistani delegation fought the election, adding that it could not lobby effectively for the vote. The new members, who will start their three-year terms beginning January 1 next year, are Belgium, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Kenya, Panama, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Togo, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Pakistan lost the seat in the Asia-Pacific category in which five seats were vacant. India is also a member of the council and its term will end in 2017. Members of the council are elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly. Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group UN Watch welcomed the defeat of Pakistan, terming it as a “major surprise.”Days before the vote, several human rights bodies had opposed the re-election of Venezuela, Pakistan and UAE to the UN Human Rights Council due to widespread criticism of these governments for egregious human rights violations.According to a report by UN Watch, Human Rights Foundations, and the Lantos Foundation, Pakistan, UAE, Burundi and Ecuador were cited by human rights groups for having committed serious violations of numerous articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including curbs on the freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly, along with disregard for fundamental due process.The candidate countries were also found to have voted against UN resolutions taking action for victims of human rights abuses in various hotspots, UN watch said. Sources in the Indian mission to the UN here welcomed the election of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan against the backdrop of historical visits undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to these nations earlier this year. (Times of India 29/10/15)

105. NHRC summons DM and SSP in juvenile beating case (1)

Meerut: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued summons to the district magistrate and the senior superintendent of police (SSP) for failing to produce medical reports of a juvenile inmate, who was allegedly beaten up at a reformatory home earlier this year. The commission asked them to appear in person before it on December 14. Taking suo-motu cognizance of the juvenile being beaten up in January earlier this year, the commission had sought medical reports but the administration remained fail to produce the same even after the NHRC’s reminder. The summon issued to the district magistrate read, “In the matter of beating a juvenile at the reformatory house situated at Suraj Kund Road, the NHRC had directed the district administration on February 2, 2015 to forward the medical report of the injured inmate by April 20. However the requisite report has not yet been received despite a reminder on May 25.” However, their personal attendance stands dispensed if they submit the requisite report on or before December 7. Srinivas Kamath, deputy registrar of NHRC, stated in the summon, “While considering the matter on September 28, the commission noted that Satish Kumar Sharma, secretary general of Global Humanitarian and Environment Protection Trust of Meerut had forwarded a copy of a news article which reported that the juvenile was beaten up after covering him in a blanket. As per the report, the juvenile was assaulted, tortured and physically abused. The victim was reported to have been admitted to the medical college hospital following protest by his family members. The victim disclosed to his family that he was forced to administer drugs and when he refused to do so, he was assaulted by the other inmates of the home.” The NHRC, earlier this year, had issued a notice to the chief secretary of UP government to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The SSP and DM forwarded a report by the circle officer, Civil Lines. The commission later on directed the SSP and DM to forward the injured inmate’s medical report, which they faield to do so despite a reminder.  (Times of India 2/11/15)

106. Human rights bodies appeal to sever ties with Punjab CM Badal (1)

AMRITSAR: As if the chain of protests by various Sikh bodies against SAD(B) during the recent Sikh religious crisis was not enough, a group of human rights organizations on Wednesday appealed to people to cut ties with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the then Punjab police chief KPS Gill for allegedly killing innocent Sikh youth in false police encounters. The appeal holds significance for it is a crucial time with various Sikh leaders from around the world getting ready to meet in Amritsar during the proposed Sarbat Khalsa being convened on November 10. The appeal could further add fuel to the fire against SAD(B) leadership. Not only have these human right bodies sought social boycott of Badal but going a step ahead, the recently concluded World Sikh Summit has passed a resolution to award Badal with the title of Gadar-e-Quam. Human rights body Khalra Mission Organization (KMO) that has taken up the case of justice for 25000 deaths of innocent persons during heydays of militancy, held a meeting with other similar organizations and urged people to socially boycott Badal and Gill. “We have also demanded their excommunication from Sikh panth,” said patron of KMO Paramjit Kaur Khalra while talking to TOI on Wednesday. Besides KMO, the meeting was attended by representatives of other bodies including Manukhi Adhikar Insaaf Sangarash Committee, Punjab Manukhi Adhikar Sangathan, Lawyes for Justice and Democratic Rights. (Times of India 4/11/15)

107. Nepal PM Attacks India for Raising Human Rights Abuses at UN Meet (1)

Kathmandu:  Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today criticised India for raking up human rights abuses in the Himalayan nation at a UN Human Rights Council meet in Geneva. India, for the first time, raised the issue of war crimes committed during the decade-long conflict in any international forum and urged Nepal to carry out the transitional justice mechanisms in an effective way. Speaking to the media, Mr Oli demanded to know how India could be ignorant that the UN was involved in Nepal’s peace process. He said India had not made its position public earlier on Nepal’s transitional justice mechanisms or their efficacy but raised the issue at an international body. The Indian representative said in Geneva that Nepal should “ensure the effective functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and full implementation of its recommendations, including prosecution of those responsible for violent insurgency”.This has been widely interpreted in Kathmandu as another example of India’s harsh stand vis-a-vis Nepal. Without taking any name, Mr Oli said: “Some days back, one of the leaders from our neighbourhood publicly warned that India will show its mettle against Nepal. “Now, they are digging out a decade-old-issue,” he added. The prime minister said Nepal had formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and another commission to probe the disappeared people to address war crime issues such as killings, torture and rape. “We faced war in the past. Then we realized it was not possible to have war all the time. So we initiated the peace process,” said Mr Oli, adding Kathmandu also invited the UN to resolve the armed conflict. “The conflicting parties in the past are together today and carrying out democratic and peaceful reforms, whether they are in the government or not,” he said. (NDTV 6/11/15)

108. Civil society brings anti-BJP parties together (1)

New Delhi: Civil society is bringing anti-BJP parties together on the issue of secularism. While the role of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP in this fight is not clear, at least five parties — the Congress, JD(U), RJD, Trinamul Con-gress and the Left — cannot go with the BJP. On the other hand, the BJP cannot take the support of the AIADMK, DMK, BJD, TRS and even the TDP and the PDP for granted. The TDP and PDP are sharing power with the BJP in Andhra, Jammu and Kashmir respectively. The civil society raised its voice against growing intolerance in the country after the regime change at the Centre. While writers, film and theatre personalities are returning their awards in protest, scientists, industrialists, even the RBI governor have disapproved of intolerance. The civil society is demanding political parties to be proactive but some of the CMs who are friendly with the BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are maintaining silence on this issue after realising that a debate on secularism versus communalism may not affect their political constitu-ency in their states. Meanwhile, the Congress on Saturday faced criticism of pursuing “reluctant and apologetic secularism” from activists and academicians who asked it to shed its “defensive” approach towards communalism. Activist Sh-abnam Hashmi said that if the CM of BJP-ruled Goa can say that beef cannot be banned there, why can’t Congress CMs barring Karnataka, not take the same stand. “How many of us have challenged the Sangh terror. It has beco-me a habit to play defensive politics. Why be defensive?” she said. Academician Ram Puni-yani stressed the need for the coming together of secular forces, saying, “Fascist forces are few, but they are together while those fighting them are totally divided.” (Asian Age 8/11/15)

JUDICIARY/ LAW

109. SC against civil society role in judges’ selection (19)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has disapproved any effective role for civil society in appointment of judges in the higher judiciary. Though the civil society saw its upsurge in Anna Hazare movement in 2012, it has not evolved as much to give any direction to the political executive in the country, the apex court said. A five-judge Constitution bench quashed the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act enabling formation of National Judicial Appointment Commission  with two eminent persons from civil society. “It (civil society) is not yet sufficiently motivated, nor adequately determined, to be in a position to act as a directional deterrent, for the political-executive establishment,”Justice J S Khehar said, adding, it is the higher judiciary, which is the savior of the fundamental rights of the citizens and must continue to act as the protector of the civil society. During the arguments, the government, through Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, submitted that it was imperative for the court, to take into consideration the existing socio-political conditions, the ground realities pertaining to the awareness of the civil society, and the relevant surrounding circumstances. “In India, the organic development of civil society, has not as yet sufficiently evolved. The expectation from the judiciary, to safeguard the rights of the citizens of this country, can only be ensured, by keeping it absolutely insulated and independent, from the other organs of governance,” Justice Khehar said. The government has claimed induction of civil society representation will bring about critically desirable transparency, commitment and participation of the ultimate stakeholders – the people. In his separate judgment, Justice Adarsh K Goel, however, said there is no bar to an expert feedback from the civil society through the constitutional functionaries involved in the process of appointment of judges. “Thus, there is transparency as well as checks and balances. These considerations do not justify interference with the final initiation of proposal by the judiciary or in taking a final view in the matter by the judiciary, consistent with the mandate of the Constitution,” he said. It was the only minority view of Justice J Chelameswar who said there is abundance of opinion (in discerning and responsible quarters of the civil society in the legal fraternity, jurists, political theorists and scholars) that primacy to the opinion of judiciary is not a normative or constitutional fundamental for establishment of an independent and efficient judiciary. “Various democratic societies have and are experimenting with models involving association of civil society representation in such selection process,” he said, adding “the fiasco” created in several cases in over 20 years working of collegium system could justify participation of civil society members.  (Deccan Herald 21/10/15)

110. Labour ministry working on 6 bills for passage in winter session (19)

NEW DELHI: Pushing to fast track reforms, the labour ministry plans to place as many as six bills before Parliament in the winter ession starting next month. “A lot of work has been done on six legislations under the labour reform process. Ministry is keen to push all of them for passage in the Winter Session of Parliament next month,” said a source. They include Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012 and Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which have already been approved by the Cabinet, the source added. The ministry has also completed tripartite consultations on the Labour Code on Industrial Relations, 2015; Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, 2014 and Labour Code on Wages. These are with Law Ministry for vetting, the source said. Once approved, these bills will be sent to the Cabinet for approval and then to Parliament for passage. The ministry will soon prepare a draft Cabinet proposal on an amendment bill for the Employees’ Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Bill for inter-ministerial consultation. After that, it will be sent to the Law Ministry and subsequently to Union Cabinet for approval. Once the mandatory approvals are through, it will be placed before the Parliament for passage. Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had last month said: “Child Labour Amendment Bill, EPF Bill and Payment of Bonus Bill would come in winter session for passage.” He had also said: “If time permits we will bring in Code on Wages and Code on industrial relations. Once again we will go for consultation (on these bills) and then go to Cabinet to proceed with these legislations.” The Labour Code on Wages seeks to amalgamate and simplify provisions of four laws — Minimum Wage Act 1948, Payment of Wages Act 1936, Payment of Bonus Act 1965 and Equal Remuneration Act 1976. Even as the labour ministry is working to push these bills, the central trade unions are not on board on the industrial code, small factories bill and EPF amendment bill. They have strongly opposed some of the amendments that include norms related to easing retrenchment, lay offs and closure of units provision and forming unions under the proposed New Industrial Relations Code. The bill allows companies employing up to 300 workers to lay off staff without seeking official sanction. At present, industries hiring up to 100 workers are allowed to lay off without permission. (Times of India 22/10/15)

111. High Court set to wrap up petition on Delhi rent law (19)

NEW DELHI: The Delhi high court has begun hearing the final arguments on the validity of the archaic Delhi Rent Control Act (DRCA). A bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva is proceeding towards a verdict on the constitutional soundness of the Act as it recently heard a group of women property owners on the issue. The petitioners attacked the DRC Act pointing out that most of the provisions were redundant. The petitioners highlighted that two parts of the Act – relating to rates of hotelslodging houses, and for the lease of vacant premises to the government in certain areas – are dead laws as there are no reported cases under these provisions in the Act. Moreover, the petitioners argued that Sections 4, 6 and 9 of the Act relating to the control of rent have already been de rent have already been de clared unconstitutional by the HC in 2002 and the only part of the DRC Act that survives is the control of eviction. The petitioners alleged that tenants protected under the Act are determined by historical accident and not by need due to the peculiar nature of the legislation. “In fact, the poor are not getting any benefit out of the Act.” Advocate Shobha Aggarwal, the lead petitioner in the case, drew HC’s attention on various amendments to the Act.She pointed out that the 1976 Amendment to the Act provided for limited inheritance of tenancy rights by legal heirs of tenants but the implementation of the Act has ensured unlimited succession rights to the tenants of both residential and commercial premises including big companies such as Life Insurance Corporation in perpetuity. The petitioners further argued that even after the 1988 Amendment, the object of expediting disputes between landlords and tenants was not achieved and cited a chart showing that as of December 2014, 10.15% of all civil cases pending before the district courts in Delhi were as a result of the DRCA. (TYimes of India 27/10/15)

112. HC orders govt to increase strength of judges in lower judiciary (19)

ALLAHABAD: A seven-judge bench of Allahabad High Court on Thursday directed the state government to increase the strength of judges in lower judiciary by 25% by the next year. The court also directed the state chief secretary to file a report regarding steps taken to enhance the security arrangements of the High Court and all the district courts in the state. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, directed the state government to complete the security work of High Court before celebration of 150 years of its establishment, i.e., by March 2016. The court also took cognizance of manhandling of a police officer on the Allahabad District Court premises on October 28 and restrained two lawyers from entering the court premises till the next date of hearing. The court also issued notices to the president and secretary of the Allahabad District Bar Association and fixed November 18 as next date of hearing. The court was hearing the matter regarding security as well as issuance of bio-metric cards to the lawyers. On Thursday, the chief secretary, principal secretary (finance) and additional secretary law appeared before the court to apprise it about the status of work done so far. The chief secretary apprised the court that video-conferencing facility has made available in nine district courts so far and the work is going on in 52 other districts. Further, CCTVs, door-frame metal detectors, etc., will be installed in court premises to ensure security and safety of advocates and litigants. This seven-judge bench was constituted by the Chief Justice following killing of a lawyer, Nabi Ahmed, by police sub-inspector Shailendra Singh on March 10 in Allahabad District Court compound. The incident had rocked the state and this bench was set up to ensure the security in district courts across the state. (Times of India 30/10/15)

113. Supreme Court sets 2005 cut-off on women right to ancestral property (19)

New Delhi : The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, originally did not give daughters inheritance rights in ancestral property. They could only ask for a right to sustenance from a joint Hindu family. But this disparity was removed by an amendment to the Act on September 9, 2005. The apex court judgment has now added another disqualification for women regarding their right of inheritance. Until now, they could not ask for a share if the property had been alienated or partitioned before December 20, 2004, the date the Bill was introduced. This judgment makes it imperative for the father to have been alive when the amendment came into force. Settling the law in the wake of a clutch of appeals arising out of high court judgments, a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel recently held that the date of a daughter becoming coparcener (having equal right in an ancestral property) is “on and from the commencement of the Act”. The bench overruled the view taken by some high courts that the amendment being a gender legislation that aimed at according equal rights to the daughter in ancestral property by removing discrimination, should be applied retrospectively. Interpreting statutory provisions, the top court shot down the argument that a daughter acquires right by birth, and even if her father had died prior to the amendment, the shares of the parties were required to be redefined. “The text of the amendment itself clearly provides that the right conferred on a ‘daughter of a coparcener’ is ‘on and from the commencement’ of the amendment Act. In view of plain language of the statute, there is no scope for a different interpretation than the one suggested by the text,” it said. Further, there is neither any express provision for giving retrospective effect to the amended provision nor necessary intent, noted the court, adding “even a social legislation cannot be given retrospective effect unless so provided for or so intended by the legislature”. About applicability of the amendment to the daughters born before it was brought, the bench held that the new law would apply irrespective of the date of birth. “All that is required is that the daughter should be alive and her father should also be alive on the date of the amendment,” it said. The court also held that alienation of ancestral property, including its partition, which may have taken place before December 20, 2004, in accordance with the law applicable at that time, would remain unaffected by the 2005 amendment, and those partitions can no longer be reopened by daughters. (Indian Express 1/11/15)

114. High Court imposes cost on advocate for moving PIL plea (19)

CHENNAI: Noting that a PIL moved by an advocate against a public notice issued by the State government informing the compulsory helmet rule as directed by the court, is nothing but a “publicity stunt,” the Madras High Court on Tuesday imposed Rs. 10,000 as cost on the lawyer. Advocate Muthukrishnan, approached the high court through a PIL seeking to declare that the public notice issued by the Tamil Nadu Department of Home Secretary informing the public that wearing of helmet by two wheeler riders is compulsory from July 1 is without authority and improper, illegal and unconstitutional. When the petition came up for hearing before the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, the petitioner contended that the rule had created an emergency like situation among the 1.5 crore two-wheeler riders in the State. Recording his submissions, the Bench said, “The petition is misconceived and meritless. What the government was doing was in pursuance to the direction issued by the court and petitioner was very much conscious of the fact.” Despite the aforesaid fact, the present petition was sought to be separately filed to rake up the same issue again. Since, the petitioner was an advocate, he knew very well the legal procedure and consequences there of. To once again raising the issue was nothing but a “publicity stunt”, the Bench added. (The Hindu 4/11/15)

115. Delhi high court dismisses PIL against cow slaughter (19)

NEW DEAR: Calling it a ” misconceived petition”, the Delhi high court on Friday dismissed a PIL seeking enactment of a law to prohibit slaughter of cows and sale of beef across the NCR. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath tossed out the PIL after the AAP government said that Delhi already had a stringent law, Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, in place. Additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose called the PIL a “publicity stunt” that should be dismissed with exemplary costs. Ghosh told the court the Act stipulates that “no person shall transport or offer for transport or cause to be transported agricultural cattle from any place within Delhi to any place outside Delhi, for the purpose of its slaughter, knowing that it is likely to be slaughtered”.He said the Delhi government had five cattle shelter homes, with a combined capacity of 23,000, where 10,000 animals were currently housed. “If the petitioner has any such cattle, he can send them to us,” the counsel said. Taking note of the submissions of Delhi govern ment’s counsel, the bench said, “The writ petition is misconceived and is dismissed.” During the brief hearing, the bench also observed it cannot issue any direction for enactment of any law and it is for the state and Centre to decide. “Let them take a decision on the issue. We are not inclined to entertain the same,” the court added. The petition, filed by Swami Satyananda Chakradhari, who claimed to be a monk, had sought directions to the state government to enact a law similar to the 1932 Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, which states that slaughter of cows and “like animals” was punishable with up to 10 years of imprisonment as well as a financial penalty. Filed through advocate Na wal Kishore Jha, the petition also sought directions to the state government to set up a “Gokul Gram” where old cows, bulls and bullocks could be rehabilitated. (Times of India 7/11/15)

116. Justice still not accessible to poor: Law minister (19)

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the rising cost of litigation, Union law minister Sadananda Gowda on Saturday said justice remains inaccessible to the poor as they cannot afford to approach the courts. Speaking at a function of National Legal Services Authority, he said that economic barrier coming in the way of justice had to be shattered by providing quality free legal aid to the poor. He said the fees charged by leading advocates in the Supreme Court, high courts and district level courts are unaffordable for large sections of the society. “First and foremost concern and barrier to access to justice is that of economic barrier. Cost of litigation consisting of cost of advocacy and court fee is a major obstacle for majority of the litigants in India,” the minister said. “This problem gets pronounced when the poor litigant is pitted against a very rich and mighty opponent. In such scenarios, the result of the adjudication might go against the poor litigant.” He said that quality of free legal aid given to poor litigants was not up to the mark as well established lawyers did not volunteer to provide their services and fate of those litigants was decided by inexperienced lawyers. “It is common knowledge that not many senior advocates volunteer for the legal aid services and even if some of them are entrusted with this work either by the court or by the legal services authority, they do not effectively handle the case as these cases are not economically attractive for them,” he said. “This is a major challenge, and we must debate and come out with creative solutions so that adequate number of efficient and senior advocates do volunteer for legal aid services in the country,” he said. (Times of India 8/11/15)

POLICE/ AFSPA/ CUSTODIAL DEATHS

117. 80 Tirupur Cops to Stand in Identification Parade in Custodial Rape Case (1)

CHENNAI/COIMBATORE: Around 80 police personnel serving in Tirupur district will soon stand in an identification parade for a 50-year-old woman to identify the cops accused of torturing and raping her under illegal custody. The brutal case of police excess came to light last August when the victim’s daughter approached Madras High Court seeking a CBI inquiry. On finding that the medical tests suggested torture faced by the woman in Udumalpet police station, the High Court ordered a CBI enquiry and also `2 lakh as interim compensation to the victim. The woman’s counsel had submitted that she was kept in illegal custody in the police station for three days, after her arrest on August 11, 2014, as a suspect in her landlady’s murder. Over a year after the CBI was ordered to probe the custodial torture case, the agency arrested and produced three police personnel, including a sub-inspector, before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Coimbatore on Tuesday. Senior CBI officers told Express that the investigations have proved that the victim was kept in police custody beyond 24 hours, a gross violation of rules, and assaulted by the policemen in the station. “But we are yet to confirm the allegations of rape,” said the officer. On Monday night, a CBI team arrested sub inspector K Vijay Kumar (33),now serving in the Alangiyam Police Station in Tirupur district, and constables S Tilak Kumar (29), at present in Thally Police Station in Krishnagiri district and S Ranganayagam in Udumalpet police station. Four other policemen are suspected to be involved in the case. The CBI is planning to conduct an identification parade of the policemen serving in Udumalpet and surrounding stations. The victim would identify the policemen who tortured her in the presence of a magistrate. “There are 80 police personnel in the region. The identification parade would be conducted before a magistrate. The court would decide the date and venue,” said the CBI officer. The CBI has registered the case under charges of rape, causing grievous hurt with the intention of extorting confession and illegal confinement. The three arrested policemen are ordered to be kept in judicial custody until November 3, by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Coimbatore. (New Indian Express 21/10/15)

118. HRW claims Lanka police torturing criminal suspects in custody (1)

Colombo, Oct. 24: The Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights organisation stated that Sri Lanka’s police forces are regularly torturing and ill-treating criminal suspects in custody. The report named ‘We Live in Constant Fear’: Lack of Accountability for Police Abuse in Sri Lanka, stated severe beating, electric shock, rubbing chili paste in the genitals and suspension from ropes in painful positions are among the various methods used by the Sri Lanka police, the LankaPage reported. HRW Asia director Brad Adams said that even though Sri Lanka has decent laws to protect against such abuse, unfortunately these laws are treated as mere suggestions. The research was conducted in greater Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka in 2014 and 2015. It stated that suspects are usually not informed of the reason for their arrest and are often not produced before a magistrate with 24 hours as required by the law. Even the family members sometimes are neither informed about the arrest nor allowed to meet the suspects. Even if the victims and their families files cases against the misconduct by the police, there is little possibility of justice and accountability. In rural areas, policemen many times threaten against victims if they file any kind of complaint against them. The Sri Lanka police can only gain the trust of the people only if it end the barbaric practice of torture. Strict punishment should be taken against those who use such method of abuse, Brad Adams said. (New Kerala 24/10/15)

119. Ceasefire violations continue in Samba (1)

SRINAGAR: Even as the Jammu and Kashmir government asked people living on the Jammu border to remain vigilant, Pakistan firing continued for the third consecutive day on Sunday. Fresh shelling and firing started around 9 p.m. on Saturday and continued till 3 a.m. on Sunday. “The fire was aimed at 14 BSF posts in the Samba sector,” a BSF official said. The fresh wave of ceasefire violation has left seven injured, as two more civilians were injured on Sunday. A civilian died in the firing on Friday. Meanwhile, Minister for Industries and Commerce Chander Prakash Ganga assessed the damage due to mortar shelling in Mawa and Bainglarg villages. “The administration and the police are vigilant in the areas and immediately respond at times of border shelling. People have been asked to remain vigilant,” said Mr. Ganga. Dozens of family continue to stay away from their residences. Despite the ongoing firing on the LoC, Mr. Ganga said, “The Centre is committed to expanding cross-LoC trade despite the roadblocks being created by Pakistan.” The Minister said the entire cross-LoC trade is an investment in peace and every effort would be made to keep it thriving. “Our Chief Minister is particularly interested in this trade and he has already ordered to improve the facilities and repair the approach roads,” the Minister said. He called for cross-LoC tourism. “People coming from the other side or going from this side would be doing so according to rules and regulations and there shouldn’t be any problem in enhancing tourism,” he added. (The Hindu 26/10/15)

120. Two cops of Odisha’s Bheden police station held for murder (1)

BHUBANESWAR: It was a day of embarrassment for Odisha police as a sub-inspector (SI) and an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of Bheden police station in Bargarh district were on Wednesday arrested on charges of murder. The police have also launched a manhunt for the officer-in-charge (OIC) of Bheden police station Sunil Naik in the murder case. The Sonepur police arrested Soumya Ranjan Patra (SI) and Pitambar Behera (ASI) in connection with the alleged custodial death of Makhnu Bag, 57 of Bargarh. Makhnu’s skeleton was found in a forest in Sonepur district on September 24. Bheden police had taken Makhnu into custody on July 17 for interrogation in a rape case against his son. Prima facie, police said the accused allegedly beat Makhnu to death in the custody and disposed the body in Metakani forest in the neighbouring Sonepur district to destroy evidence. Role of Bheden police came under scanner as Makhnu went missing since he was taken to the police station for questioning. “His son lodged a complaint after the recovery of Makhnu’s skeleton in Ulunda forest. A DNA test confirmed Makhnu’s identity. We registered a murder case against Bheden police,” said DIG (northern range) Prateek Mohanty. After registration of the case, most of the personnel of the police station, including OIC Sunil Naik absconded. Naik is still on the run, police said. “Prima facie, we have strong evidence against Patra and Behera, who have been arrested. They have been booked for murder (302 of IPC). Four personnel of the police station, including Patra, Behera, Naik and one lady constable Gitanjali Bhoi have been suspended,” said Mohanty. Bargarh district SP Ashish Kumar Singh wrote to district judge, requesting a judicial probe into the incident. “We will not spare anyone involved in the case,” Singh told media persons. On August 21, police arrested four personnel of Special Operation Group (SOG), an elite anti-Maoist force of Odisha government, on charges of lynching a youth in its custody in Nuapada district. (Times of India 28/10/15)

121. Army set to punish 4 soldiers for encounter killings in J-K (1)

New Delhi: Four soldiers are likely to be tried by a military court for killing two teenagers and injuring their two friends in a case of mistaken identity in Kashmir’s Budgam last November that triggered a wave of protests and saw the army issue a rare apology. An army probe found charges of use of excessive force against the soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer, to be true but a court martial would be initiated only after the Jammu and Kashmir government shares its inquiry report with the army, sources said. If found guilty, the four men face a maximum of life imprisonment. “Civilian casualties will not be tolerated. Procedures have been tightened to ensure such incidents never happen again,” northern army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said. The army often finds itself at the receiving end of public anger, with its men being accused of using excessive force. In recent years, it has tried to correct the perception by acting against soldiers. The Budgam probe is said to be one of the quickest to be conducted in the Valley. On November 3, 2014, a patrol belonging to 53 Rashtriya Rifles opened fire on a white Maruti car after it allegedly evaded two check points, fuelling suspicions that there were terrorists inside. However, it later turned out that the occupants were five teenagers returning from a Muharram procession. The probe investigated 14 soldiers but only four were found guilty of violating standard operating procedures, sources said. Five days after the shooting, the army had — in a rare move — admitted that the killing of Faisal Yusuf Bhat and Mehrajuddin Dar was a mistake. The incident had unleashed a wave of protests in the state where an anti-army sentiment prevails due to the controversial armed forces special powers act that gives the forces a free hand in search and arrests. The army paid a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each the families of the deceased and Rs 5 lakh each to the injured Shaker Bhat and Zahid Naqash. The brother of one of the two boys killed is now employed with a goodwill school run by the army, while Bhat and Naqash were offered jobs by the Border Roads Organisation. The news of the possible court martial comes two months after confirmation of life sentence awarded to six soldiers, including a colonel and a captain, for staging the killing of three Kashmiri civilians in 2010 and passing them off as Pakistani terrorists trying to sneak into India. The civilians were lured to Machil on the pretext of jobs, but were later shot dead by troops on April 29, 2010. The Machil killings triggered widespread protests and also led to bloodshed in the Valley. (Hindustan Times 2/11/15

122. 40 tribal women complain of molestation by Bijapur police (1)

RAIPUR: Nearly 40 tribal women from three villages in the restive Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh have accused police jawans of molestation. The women belong to Peddagelur, Budgicheru and Gundam villages of Basaguda block. Soni Sori, tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader, who visited the villages with a team of woman activists, said the harassment took place when security forces from Bijapur were carrying out an operation in the area between October 19 and 24. “The women told us that around 40 of them were molested by the policemen. Two of them said they were raped. The policemen stripped many women and indulged in indecent behaviour,” Ms. Sori told The Hindu. “These villages are situated deep inside the forest. We were able to bring four women to Bijapur district headquarters today [Sunday] and they have testified in front of District Collector Yashwant Kumar,” she said. Mr. Kumar confirmed that he had received complaints from the four women, but denied there were allegations of rape. “We took statements from the four women and they have complained of beating by the policemen. An FIR has been lodged. Inquiry is going on and strict action will be taken against anyone found guilty. They [tribal women] have not complained of rape, but we are looking into all angles,” he said. But Ms. Sori insisted that the two women did complain of rape. “They recounted every detail of the incident. Perhaps the Collector did not understand everything because the women were speaking Gondi,” she said. Superintendent of Police K.L. Dhruw said: “An operation did take place in the area and a force of around 500 men was there. These boys ventured into that Maoist sensitive area as a road is to be built there. The Maoists don’t want the road. So more than eight days after the operation, they conspired to make such allegations against the policemen to demoralise them,” he said. (The Hindu 2/11/15)

123. NEFIS condems Meghalaya HC’s recommendation to impose AFSPA in Garo Hills (1)

NEW DELHI: North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS) organized a candle light vigil on Thursday to mark the 15th year of Irom Sharmila’s formal commencing of her hunger strike against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The organization also condemns the recent Meghalaya High Court’s recommendation to implement this Act in the Garo hills area. The candle light vigil was organized at Vishwavidyalaya Metro station, Delhi University to express solidarity with Sharmila’s struggle and saw large number of North East people as well as students from other parts of the country. On November 2, 2000 ten civilians were shot dead by paramilitary forces at a local bus-stop in Malom, Manipur. Among the deceased was an 18-year old National Bravery Award winner. The incident triggered angry protests across Manipur and led to Sharmila going on her epic fast a few days later. As victims of Malom shooting and others still wait for justice, Sharmila continues to be heckled by cases filed against her and periodic arrests. NEFIS pledged to take forward the nation-wide struggle against the “draconian and anti-people” AFSPA. NEFIS alleged that AFSPA has historically been used to subjugate the North East people and HC in recommending this Act for Garo Hills im Meghalaya has shown itself to be “a stooge of Indian Government. At a time when there is a growing demand to revoke this draconian Act, Meghalaya high court instead of upholding justice, is itself partaking of injustice and allowing it to prevail.” AFSPA has been enforced in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as in the North East states. Under the provisions of AFSPA the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be ‘disturbed’ is not subject to judicial review. Similarly, there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law, except with the sanction of the Central Government. Moreover, this controversial law provides impunity to the armed forces for detaining, using lethal force and entering and searching premises without warrant. “Since armed soldiers trained in combat and in war have no training in civilian law or policing procedures, atrocities under AFSPA are inevitable and are growing. Hence, NEFIS demands that AFSPA should be repealed at the earliest from all states, thereby ending the miseries of the people,” said a statement. AFSPA has been condemned nationally and internationally and government-appointed commissions (including the recent Justice Verma Committee) and human rights organizations have pressed for the withdrawal of the Act. (Times of India 6/11/15)

124. Bad condition of Bihar prisons exposed (1)

KOLKATA: A couple of years ago, prisoner Devi [name changed] of the Seikhpura prison in south Bihar was alone in the woman ward, when Devendra Ram, a jail staff member, came in and groped her. According to Devi, she rushed to the gate only to find that two other inmates (Sanjay and Rama Singh) were standing outside the gate. She says the two were “standing there with the intention of guarding the gate to facilitate the rape.” Despite her many requests, the jailor refused to meet her. Ms. Devi says no action has been taken so far, and her medical examination was conducted after a delay of 14 days. Allegations are plenty in many of Bihar’s 58 prisons, according to a voluminous report commissioned by the Bihar State Legal Services Authority (BSLSA) and endorsed by the senior-most judge of the State. The 1,800-page report, perhaps the first of its kind to make it to the public domain, has graphically described many cases of custodial torture. On the basis of testimonials, five reasons are cited as “area of concern” in the cases of torture. Those are “delay of nearly two weeks in conducting medical examination; delay of nearly two years in filing of charge sheet and two years in framing of charges.” Besides, the victims told an investigation committee that they could not “afford private lawyers;” legal aid panel lawyers refused to fight cases of custodial rape and torture. Moreover, the “victim [is] unaware of the case status and the lawyer,” says the survey titled ‘Status Report-2015, Based on Survey, Inspection and Analysis.’ The committee visited 58 jails and interviewed 30,070 prisoners, including 26 terminally ill and 102 mentally challenged. The number of prisoners in need of medical attention was 176. Besides custodial torture and denial of justice, the report focuses on the physical condition of the inmates, the condition of juveniles and aged prisoners, remission and prison punishments. “A majority of the prisoners said they were brought from police stations to the court for production. In the court, they were kept in the court lockup and were not taken to the magistrate,” according to a case scenario. Another scenario under the chapter on inmates’ access to the judicial process says many prisoners were brought from police stations to courts. Then they “were kept standing at the back side of the court room and the magistrate did not interact with them.” Then, they were sent to “court lock up…kept there for hours and brought to prison.” Going by such testimonials, the report concludes that at least 2,799 prisoners are “in need” of legal aid. “In most cases, they do not have access to lawyers, [and] there actually exists no mechanism for prisoners to meet lawyers. However, the prisoners are at the centre of the criminal justice system but they are denied access to justice, and this is perhaps true for all jails of the country,” said Smita Chakraburtty, who headed the committee that produced the report on behalf of Human Rights Law Network, a Delhi-based legal aid group. The report, howsoever commendable, indicates that the State has failed to provide justice to prisoners in many ways. But the senior-most judge of Bihar, Justice V. N. Sinha, as the head of the BSLSA, commissioned the report and even brought it to the public domain. Arguing why he has commissioned the report, Justice Sinha said in the foreword that as the BSLSA chairperson, he was “conscious” of his “responsibilities towards prisoners as they were not only entitled to legal services…but also access to justice” and the BSLSA is required to “at least hear their voice in person.” He, however, acknowledges that justice could not be delivered. “For a prisoner to step into the Legal Aid Clinic and ask for a lawyer, he has to cross socio-economic and psychological hurdle(s). Given the demography of the prisoners, it is but obvious that the Legal Aid Clinic, though fully functional in its capacity, fail to reach out to each of the prisoners.” (The Hindu 8/11/15)

MEDIA/ FREEDOM OF SPEECH

125. Returning Akademi awards a courageous act: Sharmila Tagore (1)

New Delhi: Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore today backed writers, who are returning their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest against rising intolerance, calling it spontaneous and brave move. “It’s a challenging time for India. There is a conflict between modernity and serious threat of regression and there is kind of ban on freedom of speech as the Akademi awards are being returned,” the 68-year-old National Award-winning actress said at the CII Big Picture Summit 2015 here. “It is a courageous act, because dissent is now violent, it is not just verbal disagreement. There is a physical assault involved. People are standing up against that and countering. I feel this a very positive and spontaneousresponse,” she said when asked about her view on the issue. The rationale behind returning the awards has been questioned by some, but the “Amar Prem” star said the protest is giving us an ultimatum about the damage the intolerance will cause to the country. “…It is my personal point of view that what the writers, who are returning their awards, are doing is a spontaneous movement. What is happening is reminding us of Emergency and Babri Masjid. We are reminded that this is a serious threat to the fabric of our country. It is a spontaneous protest,” she said. Calling the Dadri mob lynching incident as “scary”, Sharmila demanded justice for the victim. “What happened in Dadri was scary. It was actually crossing the line. Nobody has condemned it strongly enough. I would like to hear some kind of justice being done, convicts being punished. Because if we do not do that, a wrong message will go out. Every time their is silence, the ambit of impunity is increasing.” The “Aradhana” actress, who started her career at the age of 13 with Satyajit Ray’s “Apur Sansar” before making it big in Bollywood, finds the entertainment industry a perfect example of India’s tradition of unity and diversity. She feels the ongoing protest is the best way to guard and take forward the image of the country. “We have a very robust tradition of unity and diversity, which I have experienced working in films, look at the titles of the movies. People from different culture work together for one future. Many people will stand by the Constitution and not allow this robust idea of India to disappear forever,” she said. (Indian Express 21/10/15)

126. Kanpur: Two journalists attacked in Kannauj (1)

KANPUR: Two journalists were attacked near Sheikhpura village while returning home in Kannauj on Saturday night, where tension has been simmering since violence at Lakhan Tiraha (tri-section) four days ago. They were attacked by a mob wielding lathis and sharp-edged weapons. The attackers tried to set ablaze their two-wheelers and threw a vehicle into a nullah. The people of the area informed the police. The journalists were admitted at the district hospital. A case has been registered. No arrests have been made so far. The police said the motive for the murderous attack remains unknown. The police said that Subhash Saxena, the scribe of a local Hindi daily, residing at Sarai Meera crossing and his journalist friend Prince Srivastava of Chowdhary Sarai, were returning home after the day-long coverage in violence-hit areas of Kannauj on two-wheelers, when they were allegedly attacked near Sheikhpura on Saturday night. “Subhash was found with injuries in a ‘nullah’ while Prince, who also sustained wounds, managed to escape and alerted people of Kanshiram Colony, who informed police. The attackers also tried to set ablaze their two-wheelers, which has been recovered from the spot,” superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani said. The two were rushed to district hospital where their condition is stated to be out of danger. “A case has been lodged and the circle officer has been instructed to conduct a probe and arrest the accused responsible for the attack,” district magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said. Tension has been running high after the death of a man in a clash between two communities near Lakhan Tiraha over throwing of colours during idol procession on Thursday. BSF, PAC and Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed to restore peace. (Times of India 26/10/15)

127. Arun Jaitley bats for freedom of speech, says age of bans is over (1)

NEW DELHI: The government should refrain from placing curbs on freedom of speech as the “age of bans” is over, said information & broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Monday. At the same time, he counselled restraint in the interest of public order, especially by the social media when it crosses the “lakshman rekha”.Speaking on the expanding role of media as enunciated in successive court rulings and because of technological advancements, Jaitley said the misuse of free speech has also continued. “Should the state step in? As far as possible, no…Many believe, and I am one of those who do believe, that the age of bans is now over. It is literally impossible to implement them,” he said while delivering the Sardar Patel lecture organised by All India Radio. The minister noted that while print media, and to an extent the electronic media, exercise judgment in their content, social media lacks such a mechanism. “The two areas where we are concerned – because of the character of India – are our multi-cultural, multi-religious character where sensitivities involved relate to sovereignty, integrity, public order…In the context of social media, where there is caste or communal trouble and frenzy is created resulting in (breakdown of) public order…restraint has been placed,” he said. He pointed out that makers of the Constitution rightly held that freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and subject to reasonable restrictions which were specifically defined. “In a society where because of multi-religious, multi-cultural reasons there are sensitivities, what do we do if somebody crosses the Lakshman Rekha?What would the Indian society have done if instead of the Danish cartoonist, it would have been an Indian cartoonist. These are questions which will continue to loom,” he said. “And therefore we have provisions in criminal laws (which are used) in extreme cases.” Jaitley said that in a changing media landscape with the arrival of electronic media, news has become more sensational. While the medium has expanded the right to free speech, electronic media has changed the definition of news. “News was what television cameras could capture. What cameras can’t capture won’t be news. A major Africa summit will be some news, but a young girl returning home from Pakistan would be big news because TV captures it differently,” he added. He said that there was now actual news and channel driven news. The minister said that while journalists have the right to conceal and protect their sources in public interest, when it comes to national security, secrecy of sources cannot be of higher importance. “I think the way courts world over have moved, is the correct direction. There is no fundamental right to conceal your sources but there is public interest which enables you to conceal your sources. And that public interest therefore will always have to be balanced with competing public interest,” Jaitley said. (Times of India 27/10/15)

128. Citing Threat to Freedom of Expression, Filmmakers Return National Awards (1)

MUMBAI: Toeing writers’ line that their freedom of expression was in danger, 10 filmmakers on Wednesday announced here that they will return their National Awards. Their announcement came on a day when the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students decided to call off their 139-day-long strike. Dibakar Banerjee addresses the media after returning his National Award in Mumbai on Wednesday | pti A statement issued by the protesting filmmakers urged the Union government to reveal its commitment towards freedom of expression and extended their support to the FTII students. The filmmakers include Dibakar Banerjee, Anand Patwardhan, Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai. Banerjee said the decision was not politically motivated. “I never thought I would return my award. I can say this, that if FTII’s ethos is protected and strengthened, then not only will I think of taking back my award but will also hand out 10 other awards in joy.” He claimed that he was returning the award to capture public attention. “They may also dismiss me. But this is what I can do and I am doing it.” Patwardhan said there were roving gangs looking to commit  violence against anyone who speaks out. “Our appeal is to the people, not the government. We want to be a part of the awakening that is happening in the country, like the scientists, artists and writers returning their awards.” (New Indian Express 29/10/15)

129. Newspaper editors’ body concerned by growing “intolerance” (1)

NEW DELHI: A newspaper editors’ body expressed serious concern over growing “atmosphere of intolerance” in the country and urged the government to maintain peace and unity among various communities. The All India Newspaper Editors’ Conference (AINEC) also noted with “great satisfaction” the comments made by President Pranab Mukherjee appealing people to preserve India’s “multiplicity”.At its general body meeting held on Sunday under presidentship of Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, the AINEC also expressed concern over growing incidents of violence against media and asked the central as well as state governments to take stringent action against the guilty. Gupta is a Congress member and part of its media team. The body said that ensuring safety and security of the journalists carrying out their professional duties was very important for freedom of press and democracy. On the current situation, the meeting passed a resolution which said it “viewed with great concern, the growing atmosphere of intolerance in our country. It is also noted with great satisfaction, the comments made by our President Pranab Mukherjee for preserving the multiplicity of our country.” In the last three weeks, Mukherjee had on a number of occasions spoken against growing intolerance and called for preserving the multiplicity and pluralistic character of the country. (Times of India 3/11/15)

130. Journalist shot dead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (1)

Peshawar: A Pakistani journalist was shot dead by unknown attackers in the troubled northwest Tuesday, the police said, a region where reporters are frequently targeted by Islamist militants. Zaman Mehsud, 40, was killed while riding his motorcycle to the remote Tank district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “Zaman Mehsud was riding his motorcycle when gunmen awaiting along the road opened fire,” Rasool Shah, a senior police official in Tank, told AFP. He was critically wounded and died of his injuries in hospital, Shah added. He had been working for three Urdu-language newspapers covering the South Waziristan tribal district and surrounding areas. Zafrul Islam, another senior government official, confirmed the incident and said Mehsud was hit by five bullets including one in the head. The police would not comment on the motive for the killing, but journalists in the region work under constant threat from Islamist rebels, mainly the Taliban. The powerful military also stands accused of using its intelligence agencies to regularly harass and sometimes kill journalists. — AFP (The Hindu 4/11/15)

131. Police stop media coverage of Kovan case proceedings (1)

CHENNAI: Police on Wednesday tried to prevent journalists from reporting court proceedings as folk singer S Sivadas alias Kovan, 45, arrested last week on sedition charges, was produced before a magistrate. Kovan has been detained for allegedly making derogatory remarks against chief minister J Jayalalithaa in a song pillorying the state’s liquor policy. Around 2.30pm police brought the singer to the metropolitan magistrate court in Moore Market complex. Instead of the usual route to take prisoners, police took a detour in Kovan’s case. Once inside the court premises, policemen locked the gates. When journalists wanted to go inside, a police team, including CCB personnel in plainclothes refused. After an argument, reporters were allowed inside, albeit for a brief while. Journalists’ had a chat with Kovan who was waiting outside the court hall for proceedings to begin. But as proceedings begun, the CCB team formed a human chain and prevented journalists from entering the hall. A woman journalist said the policemen were rude to her. “The policemen were abusive. They even pushed us. One of the policemen even flashed his biceps to indicate his physical prowess. He challenged us to fight with him,” she said. Some journalists entered the court hall to complain about the police behaviour. “A few advocates supported us and we were able to file an oral complaint. This was an open court proceeding. According to rules, journalists can’t be prevented from reporting such matters,” a journalist said. (Times of India 5/11/5)

132. ‘Suppressing free speech’: Greenpeace told to dissolve in a month (1)

New Delhi: The Tamil Nadu government has scrapped Greenpeace India Society’s registration and ordered the environmental group to shut down its operations in the country. Greenpeace India responded by accusing the state’s registrar of society of acting at the behest of the ministry of home affairs (MHA) that has targeted the green NGO over the past two years. “The MHA’s clumsy tactics to suppress free speech and dissenting voices are turning into a major national and international embarrassment for this government,” Greenpeace India executive director Vinuta Gopal said in a statement. “This is an extension of the deep intolerance for differing viewpoints that sections of this government seem to harbour,” Gopal said, insisting that the group was “on strong legal ground”. Thursday’s order cancelling the society’s registration gave Greenpeace India one month to pass a special resolution to dissolve itself. It said if this wasn’t done, the registrar of societies would appoint an official liquidator to wind up the society. The NGO can appeal against the decision before the appellate authority in the government before it moves the court. Greenpeace executive director also accused the registrar of passing the order without granting Greenpeace a hearing and complying with the Madras High Court order to address each of their points and queries. “This is a blatant attempt to circumvent the legal process and shows no respect for the law. We are confident that we are on strong legal ground. We have faith in the legal process and are confident of overcoming this order,” she added. In September, the home ministry had told the Delhi high court that the government had cancelled its license to get foreign funding. (Hindustan Times 7/11/15)

COMMUNAL RIOTS

133. Maintain peace, communal harmony must be ensured: Harsimrat Kaur (7)

Bathinda: Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Tuesday appealed for peace and communal harmony as she condemned desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in various places in the state. The minister for food processing industry and SAD MP demanded harsh penalties for the guilty. Noting the repetitive nature of desecrations, she said: “It was clear that some external agencies were trying to destabilise the Punjab government”.She warned people of the state to remain wary of such “elements” and warned them against believing rumours. She assured them the state government would catch the guilty. She said: “Being a humble and devout Sikh, my sentiments have been deeply outraged by recent desecrations of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji and subsequent happenings have left me emotionally shattered”.”These sacrilegious acts are an unpardonable offence and no one associated with this ghastly crime will be spared at any cost,” she said. She also told people to remain vigilant and report suspicious activities immediately. — PTI (The Tribune 20/10/15)

134. Communal tension in Kanpur over jagran posters (7)

Lucknow: Communal tension was reported in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh when some Hindu groups took to the streets on Saturday after some posters and banners of Bhagwati Jagran were found ripped off the walls in a locality. Police said some posters of a Jagran were found torn in Babupurwa locality late Friday night, triggering protests in many parts of the city on Saturday. The agitated groups demanded the guilty should be booked. Agitated people jammed the road where Muslims’ Tazia procession was to be taken out. “Some people were injured when stones were pelted and angry groups vandalised property. Following this, district administration clamped prohibitory orders across the city and security was stepped up,” a police official said. A home department official said the situation was tense but under control. The BJP state unit accused the Samajwadi Party-led Uttar Pradesh government of failing to maintain communal harmony. “This type of callousness has been the hallmark of the Akhilesh Yadav government over the past three years. They have not only publicly sided with one community but have also allowed small issues to spiral out of control into major flash points,” BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said. Meanwhile, security has been beefed up across the state following communal flash points in many parts of the state over the week. Violence had erupted in Banda, Ambedkarnagar, Kannauj and Fatehpur following communal clashes. (Zee News 24/10/15)

135. Communal tension in Rajasthan cities (7)

Jaipur: Tension gripped the cities of Sri Dungargarh and Bhilwara in Rajasthan since Friday night after the occurrence of separate incidents of communal tension in the two cities. In Sri Dungargarh in Bikaner district an incident of communal clash was reported on Friday night when groups from two communities collided while they were undertaking their individual religious processions. The clash began over loud music being used by one group and soon the people from both communities began pelting stones. Police force was deployed after violence broke in Sri Dungargarh. Some shops were looted, few others were set ablaze after which the police resorted to lathi-charge and lobbed tear gas shells to bring the situation under control. Bikaner district collector Punam said that arrests were made on Friday night and Saturday, and an indefinite curfew had been imposed in the city. Over 50 arrests had been made till Saturday evening, Ms. Punam said. In Bhilwara, at a distance of about 430 kilometres from Sri Dungargarh, the situation remained tense after the alleged killing of 20-year-old Islamuddin on Friday night. On Saturday, around 500 Muslims collected in the hospital where Islamuddin’s body was kept for post-mortem and prohibited the authorities from sending the body for post-mortem until the suspected persons were arrested, a source in the Bhilwara police station said. On Saturday, an FIR was registered in the Bhilwara police station by Islamuddin’s family, Bhilwara district Collector Tina Kumar said. On Saturday evening Ms Kumar said to told The Hindu, “The situation has been brought under control and Islamuddin’s body will now be sent for a post-mortem. However, Section 144 [of the Criminal Procedure Code] remains imposed [in Bhilwara] and internet services will remain suspended for 24 hours.” (The Hindu 25/10/15)

136. Riot breaks out after Muslim barber refuses to shut shop on Tuesday (7)

Bengaluru: A Muslim barber refused to shut shop “as per custom”, triggering a riot by indignant members of the Hindu community at Nelliyadi village, 70 km from Mangalore, in Karnataka on Tuesday. Though the violence was brought under control a few hours after it erupted around 4 pm, dozens of people were injured and property worth lakhs destroyed in the melee. Bajrang Dal leader Ravi Ballya told HT that the trouble started when the barber, Salman, refused to “respect local sentiments” and keep his shop shut on Tuesdays. “It is well-known that Hindus don’t cut their hair on Tuesdays. Salman was initially a nice boy. He used to respect our wishes and close his shop then. But in the last few weeks, he stopped doing that because some PFI (Popular Front of India) leaders filled his head with poison,” Ballya said. Thukrappa Shetty, the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, had a similar story to tell. “Uday Kumar, the leader of the barbers’ association, went to Salman’s shop and politely asked him to shut shop. But Salman and some others abused him instead. It was a clear provocation. What happened next was a spontaneous reaction from local Hindus who had been hurt by their behaviour.” According to Superintendent of Police Dr SD Sharanappa, a large mob led by Ballya then attacked Salman’s shop as well as other Muslim-owned establishments in the Nelliyadi Jumma Masjid complex. In retaliation, another mob led by the PFI simultaneously indulged in arson and vandalism. Kempi Mustafa, the head of the local masjid, said this was not the first time Kumar and Ballya had stoked communal tension in the area. Alleging that both are accused in criminal cases, he said this was just the latest in a string of incidents aimed at disrupting the communal harmony of coastal Karnataka. Though available on the phone, Ballya was reported absconding by the police. Meanwhile, the situation continued to be tense in at least four villages near Nelliyadi – Kokkada, Patrame, Golithottu and Ballya. The police have so far arrested nine men from both communities, and imposed curfew in the area. The coastal region of Karnataka has witnessed at least 153 incidents of communal violence since January this year. (Hindustan Times 28/10/15)

137. SAD to Centre: Ensure justice for kin of 1984 riot victims (7)

CHANDIGARH: The Shiromani Akali Dal on Tuesday urged the Centre to ensure that justice is being served to the kin of innocent Sikhs killed in Delhi and other parts of the country during November 1984 riots. In a resolution passed by the Core committee of the party at a meeting held here under the chairmanship of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Party President Sukhbir Singh Badal, the party expressed grave concern over the fact that even after more than three decades, the culprits have not been punished as per the expectation of the aggrieved families. The party also demanded that along with exemplary punishment to the guilty, the Union government should also expose the complete “conspiracy” hatched at the behast of Congress party, the resolution stated. Party Secretary and Spokesman Daljeet Singh Cheeman said that the core committee appreciated the strong efforts put in by the Punjab Chief Minister as well as the Deputy Chief Minister for maintaining peace and communal harmony in the state. The committee reassured the people of the state that SAD will not allow any body to disturb the hard-earned peace of Punjab at any cost, Cheeman said. The committee also appealed to the people of the state to be beware of the nefarious designs of certain anti-social elements, who are hell bent on disturbing peace in the state, he said. He further said that the core committee also lauded various decisions taken by the state government to ensure peace and communal harmony in the state. In an important decision taken by the core committee, the party will hold “Sadhbhawna Rally” in each district of Punjab. Giving details of the rallies, Cheeman said that first such rally will be organized at Bathinda on November 23, followed by Moga on November 28, in Gurdaspur on December 1, Jalandhar December 4, Tarn Taran December 7 and Sri Amritsar on December 20. The schedule for the remaining district will be announced later on. The core committee also appreciated the procurement of paddy as well as the distribution of relief for cotton to the affected farmers, the statement said. In a special resolution passed in the meeting, the core committee facilitated the Chief Minister as well as the Deputy chief Minister for the successful completion of Progressive Punjab Summit-2015 and praised the hard work and efforts done by the Deputy CM to make it is successful, the statement added. (Times of India 3/11/15)

138. BJP man threatens to behead Karnataka CM over beef, held (7)

SHIVAMOGGA/BENGALURU: Politics over beef plumbed new depths on Tuesday when a BJP functionary from Shivamogga threatened to “behead” Karnataka’s Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah and “play football with his severed head” if he ate cow meat. S N Channabasappa, Shivamogga BJP secretary and a former municipal councilor, was promptly arrested. He made the remarks on Monday in reaction to the CM’s statement that no one can stop him “from eating beef, pork or any other meat”. A red-faced BJP sought to play down his statement saying Channabasappa was an “inconsequential” figure. Instead, it targeted Siddaramaiah for “endorsing” beef-eating. Channabasappa was arrested following complaints by Shivamogga Congress chief R Prasanna Kumar and youth wing chief K Ranganath. Doddapet police arrested Channabasappa and charged him under sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of IPC. Channabasappa had made the statement at a protest organized by BJP on Monday night daring Siddaramaiah to come to Shivamogga and eat beef. “I will behead him and play football with his severed head,” he had threatened. BJP state chief and Dharwad MP Prahlad Joshi said, “BJP condemns the statement made by our leader from Shivamogga. We also condemn the CM’s provocative statement. Statements from people like Channabasappa are deplorable and the party disowns such utterances. That said, the CM’s public statement of planning to eat beef or pork is also condemnable. It has hurt the feelings of lakhs of people.” A week ago, Siddaramaiah had said no one can stop him from eating beef, pork or any other meat. “Till date, I have not eaten beef. If it suits me, I’ll do so. Nobody can stop me. I am not one to be cowed down by BJP’s protests,” he had said. On Tuesday, the CM stood by his statement. “I have not seen the video (of Channabasappa making the statement). If he has said this, I will mull legal proceedings,” Siddaramaiah said. “I never said I eat beef or pork. I have never eaten till now. I had said no one can stop me if I want to eat meat.” .. (Times of India 3/11/15)

139. Headmaster lynched for ‘stealing cow’; shutdown call in Manipur (7)

Guwahati: A Muslim organisation’s refusal to bury a madrasa headmaster lynched on Monday for allegedly stealing cattle has put the Congress-led Manipur government in a fix. The organisation has also sought the centre’s intervention in what it calls a Dadri-style killing besides calling for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday. Md Hasmat Ali alias Babu, 55, was clobbered to death by a mob near a village in Manipur’s Imphal East district early Monday morning. Villagers had allegedly spotted him with a calf that went missing from one Khumallambam Brojen’s shed. Ali’s body was taken to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) in state capital Imphal for autopsy while the calf is being kept at the local Irilbung police station. “Ali, a kind-hearted and honest teacher, was killed after being accused of a crime he could not have committed. The police know who his assailants are but are not taking action. We will not take his body from JNIMS for burial until justice is done,” Md Rajauddin, convenor of a joint action com